March 26, 1896 - Elizabeth Bassett

Who needs holidays? When I was younger they were often joyful events, filled with treats and special guests. Now they are just as often lonely days filled with unwanted reminders of how cruel fate can be. The letter I received from father on Friday was such a reminder.

Were it not for the envelope it arrived in I would not dignify it with the title of letter. It was a note, merely an afterthought., which it seems is all I have become to my father and family. I do not mind spending the holiday away from home. What I do mind is waiting to be told such a thing on the day I could expect to leave. Surely the decision was reached weeks ago?

At least I did not find myself alone in the Carrington household, Penelope remained as well. Her presence however, was easier explained than my own. Her home is far enough away a trip home and back in a week’s time would be difficult if not impossible. I pretended my father was away on business and as such a journey home would have been fruitless. I am getting too good at lying.

Friday evening was most enjoyable. Jonathon Goulding proved an excellent escort. I would have gladly secreted away with him but he is far too proper for that kind of behavior. I realize I should be as well. There is something about him which I cannot define but it leaves me feeling very safe in his presence. I noticed him gaze at Penelope more than once during the evening and although he denied it, I believe he fancies her rather than me. Such is the story of my romantic life.

I had held some small hope to hear from him again after the party but as yet there has been nothing. As father would undoubtedly say, Jonathon seems another in a long line of bad investments. I saw him in church on Sunday and he did not so much as look my direction. I will save my tears for a more worthy cause.

The fifty cents my father sent is the first allowance I have received in months. I know father would have me ignorant of the family finances but I am no fool. I can and do read the newspaper. I have little difficulty understanding how the trade tariffs and shortage of dollars negatively effects my father’s import business. I wonder how he would react to a n acknowledgement of the situation from me?

Mrs. Carrington was kind enough to allow a small amount of freedom for those of us who have stayed for the week. The respite from daily chores was more than welcome. I have nothing against doing my chores but they do interfere with my ability to do much for improving my finances.

However, with my free time for the week I have begun working in the city. Using the bicycle provided by the Carrington’s, I am making laundry deliveries for a dollar and ten cents per day. By the end of the week I will have earned more than ten times what my father has sent. If I can keep my work a secret from Mrs. Carrington that is.

There were two close calls this very day. The first was in the morning. I had only just started to make deliveries and not a block away from my first destination I nearly was seen by Penelope. She was up to her usual tricks, flirting with two young men at once. I nearly crashed into a young man myself when I saw her. Fortunately I was able to hide unseen in an alleyway while she walked past. As they did pass I noticed one of the young men with her was none other than Jonathon Goulding.

I am not surprised really. It was only a matter of time before he noticed how much more attractive Penelope is. I could be angry with her but I value our friendship more than I fancy a relation with a boy such as Goulding. I did notice a slight swell of anger in myself but I doused it quickly.

Once I was certain they were gone from sight, I continued on with my deliveries. After hiding as long as I did, I had to ride twice as quickly to make up time. Many of the recipients were kindly letting me know my tardiness was a disruption for them. I do not think any will report it to Mr. Caldwell, the owner of the laundry shop.

Shortly after midday came the closer encounter. I was fortunate to have only a single package with me for delivery when I crossed paths with Mr. Carrington and Edith Bowen.

“Lovely afternoon, Miss Bassett.” He greeted me cordially.

“Yes, indeed sir.”

“Miss Bowen and I were just discussing some intriguing possibilities for next term.”

“Very intriguing.” Edith said.

“If you are not in a hurry perhaps you would care to share your opinions with me?”

I looked fleetingly at my remaining delivery. Fortunately it was tied in brown paper and gave no obvious outward sign of the interior contents.

“Were you headed someplace important?” Mr. Carrington queried my slow response.

“No, I was headed to the post to send a package home.” I ventured as a most convincing lie.

“The post is this way.” He pointed in the opposite direction I had been heading. “We will walk with you.”

I sighed quietly and dismounted the bicycle. No doubt I would be late with my delivery. I only prayed I would not find myself trapped into mailing my mother a stranger’s shirts.

“Very good.” I said.

“Miss Bowen and I have been discussing the possibility of some young men attending a few classes at Primrose.”

“What young man would consent to do so?” I asked.

“I am quite certain many of the young men at Brown would have no objection.”

“I was under the impression all of the Primrose classes relevant to the educational pursuits of young men are already present at Brown?”

“Financial considerations have created a situation in which the teaching staff must be reduced. It has been suggested to combine certain core classes, such as Grammar, Composition, and Arithmetic which could be maintained at Primrose with Brown and Primrose students attending the classes.”

“At the same time?” I tried to keep the incredulousness out of my voice.

“Yes, does that disturb you?”

“No, sir. It surprises me that anyone would have though of it.”

“Not just anyone has thought of it. It was a brilliant suggestion.”

For some reason Edith blushed as Mr. Carrington spoke.

“Do you think any of the young women at Primrose would have objection to males attending class with them?”

“No, sir. Quite the contrary.”

“Thank you for your time, Miss Bassett. I am afraid I have a meeting I must attend now. I will see you both at supper.” Mr. Carrington said looking at his watch.

“A pleasure sir. Good afternoon.” I said.

I wondered what excuse I would need to give to Edith. She however was as eager to exit my presence as I was to exit hers. She started down the street following Mr. Carrington and only paused in after thought to say, “Good afternoon, Elizabeth.”

I was two blocks from where I was supposed to be and several minutes late. I might have otherwise been slightly offended at Edith’s off hand dismissal. I re-mounted the bicycle and quickly made my way back in the proper direction for my delivery.

Needless to say, I was quite late for my final delivery. I may well have to explain my tardiness to Mr. Caldwell in the morning. I hope he will not reconsider our arrangement as a result.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another fine instalment. I wonder if the life of a student ever changes, really? There are many modern parallels.

Mr R Fane