Western Fiction posted October 17, 2012 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 

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Corporal punishment in 19th century schools

A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO

Chapter One - Part Three -

by c_lucas

This will be the story of Caitlin Anna Wiley. Her name will change to Jo Wiley when, as an orphan, she will be arrested for stealing an apple, valued at two cents.

APRIL, 1877
Ending of the last post:  “You’re lying, and I thought we were friends!” Lila started sobbing. She jumped up and ran from the room.
Caitlin watched her run out the front door. I thought we were, too.
“Caitlin, close the door, pull up your dress and lean over my desk.”
Caitlin winced when she saw the Reverend Mother holding her leather strap.
There was a sharp rap at the office door. “Come in.” The Reverend Mother beckoned and pointed toward her desktop.
Caitlin bit back her tears, raised her dress, and lay across the Reverend Mother’s desk.
“So she admitted to talking the forbidden language, hitting and tripping poor little Lila.”  Sister Abigail walked up and took the leather strap from the Reverend Mother’s hand.
“She admitted hitting Lila, but after Lila tried to hit her. Also, she said Lila tried to push her down and tripped. She didn’t admit to speaking the forbidden language.” The Reverend-Mother shook her head.

“They don’t know how to tell the truth. How many, four or five lashes?” Sister Abigail asked, as she gently lashed her own legs.
“Three will do, one for tardiness, one for trying to change the deed and placing the blame on Lila and one for being unrepentant.”
Caitlin, knowing she would get no pity from Sister Abigail, bit her lower lip and closed her eyes. In her ears the lashing sounded loud and she bit her lip harder, almost to the point of drawing blood.
To the young girl’s ears, the second lash sounded louder and landed with much more pain.
A bitter laugh past through the nun’s lips. “Trying to be a tough one, eh.” The last blow came down harder than the first two, and Caitlin felt herself urinating, soiling her bloomers and making a puddle on the floor.
“Of all the blasphemous things to do, soiling the Reverend-Mother’s floor!” Sister Abigail placed her hand on Caitlin’s shoulder.
Caitlin felt a hand pushing down on her back and knew Sister Abigail wasn’t finished.
“That will be enough. I said three and that’s all the girl earned. Take her with you and send her back with two towels and a bucket of water.”
Caitlin knew her dry eyes made Sister Abigail angry.  Other children punished by the nun left the room crying, be it boy or girl. She’s not finished with me, yet.
The nun relieved her associate, took the ruler and glared at Caitlin. “What are you doing?”
“Obeying the Reverend-Mothers instructions. I’m getting two towels and a bucket of water,” Caitlin said as calmly as she could.
A tall boy in the back of the room made a comment too low for Caitlin to hear.  Children around him laughed.
Sister Abigail must have heard. “That’s right. She’s not house broken, yet.”
Ida Sullivan, in the fifth grade section, stood and started toward Caitlin, who was struggling with the bucket of water and the two towels.
“Where do you think you are going, Miss Sullivan? Take your seat,”  Sister Abigail ordered.
“My friend needs help.” Ida continued walking toward Caitlin.
Sister Abigail started to head off the rebellious girl, but Ida reached Caitlin first. “Let me carry the bucket, Caitlin.”
Caitlin willingly released her hold on the bucket and stepped in front of Ida, placing her friend in front of Sister Abigail. They stopped when they reached the Reverend-Mother’s office door and Caitlin glanced at Ida.
“It’s okay. I’m with you,” Ida spoke softly to her friend, set the bucket down to knock on the Reverend-Mother’s door. When she heard the word, “Enter,” Ida opened the door and entered, followed closely by Caitlin.
“We’ve come to clean up Caitlin’s mess, Reverend-Mother.”
The Reverend-Mother glared at the two girls. “Caitlin, get busy.”
Caitlin took one of the towels and cleaned up the urine. Ida dipped the other into the bucket. She used it to mop the wet part of the floor, then she took the other towel and placed them in the bucket.
“The mess has been cleaned up ma’am,” Ida said to the Reverend-Mother, as she picked up the bucket.
The Reverend-Mother glanced at Caitlin. “Return to your desk. Miss Sullivan, I would like you to remain.”
Caitlin went to take the bucket, but Ida refused to release it. She looked at the smaller girl. “Do as the Reverend-Mother asked.”
As Caitlin left, Sister Abigail, with her back to the Reverend-Mother, smirked at Ida, who did not acknowledge the nun. Ida kept her attention on the Reverend-Mother.
“Do you have something to say to me, Ma’am?” Ida asked. She continued to ignore Sister Abigail and kept eye contact with the Mother Superior.
“Helping Caitlin was a brave thing to do, but do not think you can defy me.” She picked up the strap.
Ida gulped when she saw the Reverend-Mother hand the strap to Sister Abigail. “You can't scare or threaten me as you did Caitlin. You took the word of a liar over Caitlin’s. Mrs. Wiley has taught her daughter to speak the truth. You punished the wrong girl, and you’ll not be punishing me for coming to Caitlin’s aid.” Ida turned to leave and spied Sister Abigail holding the strap and blocking the door.
“Put the bucket down, go over to the Reverend-Mother’s desk, raise your dress and lean over the desk.”
Ida, doing her best to control her fear, turned toward the Reverend-Mother. “What do you say, ma’am? My father gives more money to the Church than any other member and he is friends with the Bishop. He’ll not be pleased if you whip me for trying to right a wrong.”
“You are a brave young girl, Ida, but you misjudge your father. He will not go against the authority of the church, nor deny my right to punish you.  Obey Sister Abigail.”
Realizing she has lost her argument, Ida shifted her hands and placed one under the bucket. Without warning, she turned and threw the water in Sister Abigail’s face, opened the door and ran toward the front entrance.
Ida's bid for freedom was stopped by the big boy nearest the door. He grabbed her and wrestled her to the floor.
Caitlin overcame her surprise of Ida's breaking out of the Reverend-Mother’s office and jumped up to follow her. Seeing Ida in trouble with the big kid, she kicked him in the groin.
The boy released Ida and she took off running toward the side street. Riley, Ida’s youngest brother, seeing his sister leave, jumped over the moaning boy, and ran after her with Caitlin right behind him.
The three children did not stop running until they came to their flat. They tip-toed past the infirmary and Ida knocked softly at the door beyond it. Joleen, who was enjoying her free time painting, opened the door and went to speak.
Ida held her finger to her lips and whispered, “We be in a wee bit of trouble.”
Joleen stepped aside and let the three fugitives in. “What type of trouble?” she whispered.
Ida quickly explained, stopping only when Joleen interrupted her asking for clarification.  All stopped when they heard Lila's voice pleading and the infirmary door crashed open.
Brianna Sullivan and her four assistants sat at the table, relaxing with cups of tea, and holding her granddaughter, when the front door burst open and Mrs. Doyle walked in pulling her struggling daughter, Lila.
“Mammy, please, I don’t want to….She might hurt me, again.” Lila pleaded with her mother.
Breanna stood and handed the baby to Ragan Crawford, who readily accepted it from her mentor. “What seems to be the problem, Mrs. Doyle?”
“It be Mrs. Wiley that I choose to speak with.”  She stopped by Kathleen and pulled Lila in front of her. Look at what your daughter be doing to my daughter. She struck her in the stomach and knocked her to the ground…then tried to blame me Lila when the Reverend-Mother took them to her office…..My God, what be happening to you?” Mrs. Doyle stopped when she saw Kathleen's bandaged face.
“Sean is what be happening to me,” Kathleen remained seated. “He be breaking me nose and bursting me ribs.” She looked at Lila and examined her hands, before turning to Sarah Crawford. “Mrs. Crawford, would yeh be kind enough to tend to Lila’s hands, while I be talking to her mudder?”
Breanna walked to the kitchen area, poured a cup of tea, and offered it to Mrs. Doyle. “Why don’t yeh sit down and we’ll be discussing this matter.”
The angry woman calmed down and accepted the cup of tea. “Thank you, Mrs. Sullivan….”
“Yeh can call me ‘Breanna,’” Breanna interjected. “Please tell us what happened.”
The women around the table kept their silence as Mrs. Doyle repeated what Lila had told her.
When she finished, Breanna looked at Kathleen. “That doesn’t sound like Caitlin.”
"Too bad my cailin not be here to tell her side of the story….”
The side door opened and Caitlin, Ida, and Riley walked in followed by Joleen.
“I be here, mammy,” Caitlin announced.
History of Catholic education in the United States - Wikipedia, the ...
Catholic school system in the 19th century
Corporal punishment in British schools
Punishment in the 19th century school system


Thank you, Reuven Azachi, for the use of your image, "Forgotten."

It is the author's intention to do away with the dialect by the end of this book. Until then;
Cailin = Irish for girl.
Divil = Devil
Fader - Father
Help = hep
Me = my
Mammy = mother
Mudder = mother
Ta = to
Tay = tea
Th' = the
Yer = your
Yeh = you
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