"Bless me Father, for I have sinned."
Father Johnston heard the familiar words for the umpteenth time that day. He had thought that all the penitents had by now left his church but here was yet one more sinner whom he could help find absolution in the eyes of God and the Church.
"When did you last come to confession, my daughter?"
"Last week, Father. I have sinned grievously!"
"No one but One is perfect and without sin, my child. Confess and perform the act of contrition which I prescribe and you will surely be forgiven. Now what is your sin, my daughter?"
The priest had recognised his parishioner's voice. It was Christine Shannon, a young woman in her late twenties who, he knew, was a teacher at a local school. The woman began her confession.
"Father I am a teacher at a boys' school. This week the headmaster lent me a valuable book from his collection. I accidentally damaged it and tore two of its pages. It is going to cost a fortune to have it restored. I didn't know what to do. I was frightened to tell Mr Hill what I had done to his book. I decided to do something wicked. There is a boy in my class called John Laing, he's not too bright. I gave him the book and made him think he'd torn it. Then I returned the book to the headmaster and reported John for tearing it.
"Mr Hill was annoyed with me, but he was really angry with John. He called him to his office and caned him severely - eight strokes. It really hurt him and he was in tears afterwards. He still can't sit down properly. I never meant him to be punished and I certainly didn't expect he would be hurt so much. I didn't realise Mr Hill still used the cane, but he said it was still the most effective punishment for eighteen year olds. How can I be forgiven?"
Father Johnston paused before replying. He had been expecting some minor sexual peccadillo. This, he decided, was more serious.
"My daughter," he began, "you have sinned grievously. You did not take proper care of valuable property entrusted to you, you have lied and entered into a campaign of deceit and worst of all you have caused a defenceless and innocent youngster to suffer a great deal of pain.
"There are two paths available through which I can grant absolution. The first is the more preferable. You must tell the truth to both John Laing and Mr Hill, apologise and offer to pay for the restoration. Can you do this, my child?"
"No, Father," muttered the girl, "I can't! What is the other way?"
"A painful one, my daughter. You must accept on your own body the same punishment suffered by the boy, John. Eight strokes of the cane. Can you bear this, my child?"
Another pause. Then quietly. "Yes, Father. If you punish me yourself and no one ever knows."
"There is no reason for anyone to know. Return here at eight o'clock tomorrow night when the church will be empty. Can you bring a cane from your school?"
"Yes, Father, I can do that. What must I wear? Shall I be punished on my clothes or my bare flesh?"
Father Johnston considered. He was a celibate and did not wish to lay himself open to undue temptation.
"You must wear a pair of thin trousers with no undergarments. This will protect your modesty but ensure that you feel the caning properly," he pronounced.
Christine left still unshriven and Father Johnston wondered if he had made the right choices.
The next evening at eight the priest stood waiting in the cold and otherwise empty church, wondering if Christine would come. He didn't have to wait long. He saw her arrive a tall raven-haired beauty of a girl. She wore a long coat and was carrying a large shopping bag. The young teacher caught sight of the priest and blushed deeply. She walked slowly up to him and, opening her bag, handed Father Johnston a long slender rod which he recognised as a senior school cane.
"Let's get this over with" he said. He went to the church door and locked it. Normally the church always stood open, this had to be an exception. "Take your coat off, bend over and hold on to your legs as low down as possible!"
As Christine bent he hefted the cane. He was not unused to such instruments. As a teacher in a Catholic boys' school he had frequently used a cane on the behinds of naughty boys. But never on a girl and certainly never on a fully mature woman. Her curvy bottom swelled out the seat of her light-brown trousers as she leaned down but no sexual feelings were aroused in the priest. He merely noted with approval that the trousers did, indeed, appear to be thin and that he could see no sign that Christine was wearing any undergarments.
"Are you ready?"
The priest lifted the cane high. Then he brought it down with all his strength. It hissed down to lash into Christine's trouser-clad behind at great speed. The tip buried itself deeply into her right flank. It was the first time Christine's behind had felt anything more painful than the half-hearted slaps her mother had given her when she'd been a little girl. It hurt much more than she'd expected. She yelled out loud and almost straightened, but at the last moment she managed to stay bent over.
Father Johnston allowed her a few seconds and then, just as the pain in her bottom rose to a crescendo he delivered the second stroke. It was just as powerful as the first and landed parallel and just below it. Now Christine knew a little better what to expect and the shock was less; but the intense stinging was unbearable and she felt tears come to her eyes. She grasped the material of her trouser legs tighter and tried to think of the sufferings of Mary the mother of God.
The priest waited for a few moments, deciding where to place the third stroke. Then he released it to smash viciously across the lowest part of the young woman's bottom. He saw how the lithe cane bit deeply into the trouser-covered flesh and then bounced out again. Christine yelled at the top of her voice and her body shook in pain.
As Father Johnston watched the wrigglings of the anguished girl's behind he experienced unfamiliar feelings. He was a life-long celibate who had cut himself off from the things of this world, but the sight of those brown trousers stretched tight by the curvaceous bottom of the young teacher whose nubile body was wriggling from the pain he was imparting had began to arouse the old Adam in him.
He wanted to put such profane thoughts from him and to punish the wicked thing that had aroused such feelings, and he delivered the next stroke with more than his usual strength. Father Johnston was a strong man and the cane whipped down with religious ferocity. It landed on Christine's bottom with devastating effect. Emitting a wild war-whoop of pain she jumped a foot into the air and straightened, her hands going to her outraged buttocks.
She stood there, moving from one foot to the other, her long, thin fingers tenderly caressing her stinging behind with tears literally pouring down her face. As Father Johnston watched her he felt pity replace his anger.
"Come, my child," he said, "you have only accomplished half your penance. I must deliver another four strokes. You must be brave. Perhaps it would be better if you held on to something. We'll go over to the pulpit and you can hold on to the rail at the bottom."
Christine hobbled unsteadily, still cradling her buttocks in her hands and sobbing to herself. She bent down as she had been told and grasped the rail as tightly as she could. As her stinging buttocks once more swelled out the material of her trousers Father Johnston felt his righteous anger increase again.
He intended to make the last four strokes land as closely as possible on top of the first four. And he decided to make sure that they were even harder - after all this was not really a child, it was a young woman ten years older than John Laing.
The fifth stroke came lashing down, burning furiously across Christine's bottom. She screamed and her whole body shook convulsively. She had never, ever, believed that such pain could exist; it seemed as though the fires of hell itself were burning her. Her hands whitened as they gripped the rail.
The sixth stroke was the hardest one yet. Christine was praying silently in her pain but couldn't help yelling as the cane landed. Tears streamed down her pretty face and dripped to the floor.
The cane contacted the undercurves of the tightly trousered behind with a loud concussion. Father Johnston felt the force of the impact all the way up his arm. The writhings of Christine's anguished behind became even more pronounced. The priest waited a while before delivering the last stroke and tried to drive back his feelings of arousal as he contemplated the wriggling feminine buttocks in front of him. He intended the last stroke to be the most effective of all.
Father Johnston's aim was poor, or Christine's squirmings threw it out, and the cane landed lower down than he'd intended, across the tops of her thighs. Her head shot back, her fine black hair flying wildly and she screamed a scream of agony. But there was joy too in the scream. Joy that she had accomplished her penance and was once more in a state of grace.
"Stand up, my daughter!"
Christine started to rise and the priest helped her to her feet. She winced a couple of times and turned to face he confessor but did not speak. She was still crying and he took out his handkerchief and offered it to her. He let her have a few moments to pull herself together and then said "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit I absolve you. Go in peace, my child!"
Christine found that she could only walk taking short steps and that even these caused spasms of increased pain as her tortured buttocks rubbed together. The priest handed her back the cane and she stuffed it quickly back into her bag.
As she walked slowly and painfully back to her flat Christine resolved that she would never send a boy to Mr Hill for the cane again. She had never imagined that it could hurt so much!