The Art Of Manipulation

April 30, 1896
Penelope Sumter
“Might I have a word?” Mr. Carrington asked.

“Yes, of course.” I replied.

He took my arm, his grip was firm but not unkind, and guided me into his private study. I had never been inside it before. When he closed the door behind us and released his hold on me, I looked around.

The far wall was lined with an oak bookcase, stained in a dark color. The shelves were mostly packed with volumes of reference materials but on the far left at the top was a shelf full of new fiction. I recognized a few of the titles as being the more controversial books published in the last decade. Perhaps Mr. Carrington is not as conservative as he seems.

Mr. Carrington cleared his throat behind me to gain my attention once more. I turned to face him and smiled.

“A singular collection, sir.” I said referring to his private library.

“I have read them all. If you see something of interest, you may borrow it or I can suggest a few if you prefer.” He replied although the books were clearly not the subject on his mind.

“Yes, what would you suggest?”

He stepped further into the room coming very close to me. He paused only inches from my face. I should have stepped back and gave him room to pass but something about his nervous manner made me stay. He peered into my eyes and for an instant I imagined him grasping my shoulders and kissing me violently, passionately.

He stepped to the side and turned away from me to face his collection of books. He hesitated a moment before moving to the left side and reaching up to the top shelf. His fingers wrapped around the spine of a volume and pulled from its resting place. He flipped open the cover and read silently to himself for a moment.

“Yes, this is the one.” He said to himself before turning to me with the book simply offered.

“I think you will appreciate this in a manner few can.” He said.

I took the book from him and read the title aloud, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

“If I am not mistaken this book was banned from the Library.” I said.

“Indeed it is. I think you will agree it is a most impressive work despite the controversy surrounding its author.”

I nodded.

“Thank you. I will begin reading it this evening.”

“You are welcome. If you enjoy it, I can suggest another when you are done.”

“Most kind, sir.”

I gave a small curtsey before turning toward the door.

“Penelope.”

I stopped mid step.

“That was not what I wished to discuss.”

I had known of course he had something more on his mind. Another man might have forgotten his purpose after my veiled distraction. Mr. Carrington is not so easily distracted.

“Oh yes, I had forgotten. You wanted a word?” I said turning to face him.

“Yes. Please take a seat.” His hand gestured toward a small chair to the side of a reading table.

“Thank you.”

I seated myself and waited for him to continue.

He paced in front of me for a moment as though he was unsure how to proceed. He sat down opposite me at last and his nervousness seemed to edge away.

“I had a conversation with the Dean yesterday on a most serious matter.” He began.

By the look on his face as he paused I determined he was quite sure I knew what he was talking about. In fact, I did but it would not do to allow him the comfort of knowing he was correct.

“More on the class mergers for the coming fall term? How can I help?” I asked in all innocence.

“No, nothing to do with that. Our conversation was centered on your roommate, Miss Jennifer Abbott.”

“Oh, I see. How dreadful.”

“You are familiar with the details, I presume.”

“Yes, I was present when she was exposed.”

“Does it not seem out of character for her?”

“I must confess,” I paused enjoying his reaction as he leaned toward the edge of his seat. “I was devastated she would do such a thing and from my own work as well.”

“Yes it is devastating. I did not believe Miss Abbott was the type.”

His expression was accusatory. I feigned ignorance and continued to smile.

“I agree. I would never have left my study work so accessible had I suspected her of such treachery.”

“I find the timing disturbing.”

“How so?”

“Only days after you have a falling out with her, she is caught cheating off your work.”

“Oh I know. It is as though she was trying to get me expelled. She must truly hate me for my views, to do such a thing.”

I lowered my head a little and quivered my lower lip as though I were about to burst into tears. Mr. Carrington shifted uncomfortably in his seat. I sniffled and wiped at my eyes.

“I am sorry, sir. I am just so saddened by all of this.”

“Quite all right, it is very sad. Do you think it is possible she was setup as she claims?”

“I would like to believe she was, but who would do such a thing?”

“I was hoping you might have an idea.”

“I cannot think of a soul.”

“The Dean has elected to administer a public birching on Friday and expel her from Primrose. If no one comes forward before then, it will be irreversible.”

“Do you suspect someone? Lucy or Elizabeth? Should I try to gain their confidence for a confession?”

“If you think one would be forthcoming. Perhaps you know of someone else who might have had a hand?”

“I will consider it carefully but I can think of no one else at the moment. Do you really think she was framed?”

“I believe the truth of the matter is far from being revealed and only the good conscience of others will bring it forth.”

“I will do whatever I can to help. Jenny is a friend despite our disagreements.”

“Well then I believe I have taken enough of your time. Enjoy the book.”

Mr. Carrington stood up. I sniffled away false tears and slowly rose from my seat. As I stepped forward to walk past him he reached out for me with a handkerchief. He dabbed delicately at my eyes, a stern expression on his face.

I held my breath.

He looked surprised when he pulled the handkerchief away and discovered it was wet. He smiled softly at me as though suddenly he was unsure of his convictions. He opened the door for me and I left.

I Detect A Spot Of Trouble

April 29, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett
I have spent much of the last year at Primrose College convincing myself I am not lonely, I am happy. Fortunately, there are a lot of positives at Primrose which have made the line easier to sell and simpler to swallow. It all fell away though when daddy walked through the front door of Carrington Manor on Saturday.

His cryptic telegram aside, I was ecstatic to see him. I was studying downstairs when he arrived. My chair nearly toppled over in my rush to see him. In fact, it still teetered as my arms wrapped around him and my lips kissed his cheek. Certainly my enthusiasm was not one-sided, he wrapped his arms tightly around me and held on longer than I can remember in recent years. Daddy has never been given to public affections so his response was more than pleasing.

We smiled at each other. Despite months of letter writing between us I felt I had volumes to tell him just bubbling to the surface. Surely if I said a word I would say a thousand thousands.

“Elizabeth.” He said.

The coolness of his voice belied the excitement we both felt. My name sounded of forgotten pleasantness as it echoed in the hall. It was as though I had not heard it spoken aloud in so many months as to have forgotten it entirely. My longing for the comforts of home faded away in the moment as if his presence alone was enough to declare the walls of Carrington Manor home.

“Daddy.” I replied.

His head lowered a notch. His face shone with a touch of disapproval at my affectionate reference. His eyes betrayed the front of disapproval, they were joyous and delighted. For his sake I corrected myself.

“Father, then if it must be.” I said.

“I trust you are well?” He asked as though such niceties were necessary between us.

“Very, and you father?” I replied falling to our old banter.

“Well enough.”

“The meeting you requested with the Dean is scheduled. We should leave soon. His office is a short distance and it would not do to be late.”

“Your presence is not necessary.”

“Surely this meeting concerns me?”

“Indeed it does.”

“Then why should I not participate?”

“If it means enough to you, you may of course. Be warned, you may not find the conversation or its subjects agreeable.”

“A risk I am willing to take. Mr. Carrington has graciously allowed us the use of his carriage and driver.”

“Thank him for me, but I believe we have sufficient time to walk and my legs are stiff from the journey.”

“Yes, of course, father.”

An hour late we sat in the Dean’s private study. Daddy and Dean Steadward shared a bottle of sherry while I sipped a glass of wine. The room quickly filled with smoke from the Dean’s characteristic puffing on his pipe. As I watched him converse with my father I realized the Dean held an uncanny resemblance to my imagination’s rendering of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

After pleasantries had been exchanged the conversation settled to what I had suspected was the cause of daddy’s concern.

“Tell me what truth is there to the rumors of Primrose College playing host to the boys of Brown?” Daddy asked.

“None at all.”

My eyes bulged at the Dean’s response. My father was visibly calmed by the answer. The Dean appeared to be sizing my father up.

“Good. Oh that is good, good news, Dean..” Daddy replied.

“However, we are considering such a change for the fall.” The Dean continued.

Daddy’s face was not amused.

“Allow me to explain, Mr. Bassett.”

Daddy nodded, “Please, by all means.”

“No doubt you have heard of the economic pressures facing America?”

Daddy nodded.

“Much as we all wish Brown and Primrose to be above such things, they are not. In order to maintain the high level of education expected of us we have had to make some very hard choices to weather the economic stresses of modern times.”

“Would it not be wiser to simply close Primrose College? Surely there are not enough students warrant your struggle to keep its doors open?”

“It may surprise you to know, Primrose College is more financially sound than Brown.”

Daddy might have fallen down had he not be sitting. Instead, he began a fit of coughing at the news and nearly spilled his drink.

“Quite in fact we have encouraged the school’s most expensive asset to leave at the conclusion of this semester. Our records show with the new music professor coming in, Primrose will be well more than flush in the bank.” The Dean continued through father’s coughing fit.

“How could this have happened?” Daddy asked.

“While the economic times have grown sour, Brown’s need to compete for students has grown as well. Our teaching staff is second to none and our varied curriculum has grown beyond imagination and still we struggle to compete with the offerings of other universities. Brown has been operating at an annual loss for three years now. We have no choice but to begin cutting what fat we can.”

The Dean settle back in his seat and puffed on his pipe. Daddy seemed lost in thought for a moment. I kept quiet.

“You believe this course of action will not deter admissions?”

“It is certain to deter them. We have little other choice, though. We had to trim from our staff and if we do not send the boys to Primrose for the classes as planned we will simply be forced to offer them less.”

“Perhaps such action is wiser?”

“I see no harm coming from a few boys sitting through classes with their female counter parts.”

“What about propriety?”

“No need to worry. We will have any disciplinary issues sent directly to me rather than be handled by Primrose Instructors.”

“I am not comfortable with this.” Daddy said.

“Nor am I. However, the girls themselves seem not to mind. Is that not correct Elizabeth?” The Dean turned to me for the first time since filling my glass.

I silently cursed him. I had wanted to hear this conversation but had no desire to become a part of it. With my father sitting near I would have to choose my words carefully.

“The students of Primrose are not all comfortable with the situation.” I replied.

“Interesting. I was given to understand the girls of Primrose favored the idea of competing with Brown students.”

“Some certainly are in that frame of mind but not all.”

“This will be disastrous.” Daddy added.

“Tell us Elizabeth, how do you feel about the inclusion of Brown students in your classes?”

There it was. The question I had prayed not be asked was asked. Cue the spotlights and bring up the music. If only I could exit stage left and never answer.

Daddy turned toward me. He seemed to genuinely want to know what I thought as did the Dean. Edith’s words of a week before floated back to me. “I want you to stand up for what you believe in.”

“I think any concern is an overreaction of a too conservative mind. With more and more women attending colleges like Primrose and studying similar academics it was and is only a matter of time before cooperative learning is common place.”

“My concerns are far from an overreaction, Elizabeth.” Daddy said to me.

“Yes, sir. I did not mean to insinuate you are overreacting or too conservative.”

“And yet that is what you have said.”

“By any concern, I meant those who stand steadfastly opposed.”

“Indeed. I see your time away from home has done little to temper your spirits or wizen your tongue.”

I sighed.

“Perhaps, I should wait outside?” The Dean asked.

“No, do not be silly. I will not waste your time with chastising my daughter.” Daddy replied.

I did not like the sounds of his intentions but kept my quiet.

“Let us conclude then.” The Dean inserted himself.

“Yes, of course. I am certain you have much to keep you busy. Do you feel absolutely this course is necessary?”

“I do.”

“Can I trust you will monitor the situation closely and cancel it should such cooperative learning prove to be incompatible?”

“I will monitor extensively and make changes as needed to ensure compatibility and the prosperity of both schools.”

“Very well. I will trust these complicated matters to be managed in your hands. I would be most appreciative if you would see to it that I am informed of any further changes of this nature first hand.”

“I will see to it personally, Mr. Bassett.”

The return walk to Carrington Manor was quiet. Daddy seemed not to know what to say to me and I him. The warmth of a spring day lay on our backs but the cold of winter seemed to have settled on our souls. I would have cried but I feared disappointing him further. To have him so close and yet so far away was an indescribable torture.

At the manor, Mrs. Carrington met us at the door.

“I trust your meeting went well?” She asked politely.

“Well enough, Misses. May I impose upon you for a private place to hold a discussion with my daughter?”

“You are welcome to my den, this way.”

“Come along Elizabeth.”

Alone in the den with my father I stood nervous in front of him.

“Remove that cumbersome dress and get over my knee.” He ordered having taken a seat in Mrs. Carrington’s armless chair.

“Yes, daddy.”

Moments later I was settle comfortably on his lap. His left arm wrapped around me and held me to him while his right rested on my bottom. I felt safe despite the obvious danger to my backside.

His hand slapped my buttocks slowly, alternating from side to side. Daddy was clearly set to deliver a long spanking. I knew the relative comfort of the moment would not last and by the spanking’s end I would be wriggling in an hopeless effort to ease away the burn.

“I am sorry, daddy.” I said while I could say it without choking on tears.

“I know you are and you will be more sorry by the time I am done.”

How To Win Arguments And Make Friends

April 28, 1896
Sarah Waters

I am unsure when it happened, but the entire town now seems turned against us. I can feel it in their stares and the way they turn away whenever I approach. Then of course there was more obvious, when mother and I were fired from the laundry house today. Neither of us had done anything wrong but that did not seem to matter. Mother of course blames me.

“The whole town is mad at us because I wanted my father released from jail?” I asked.

“Watch your tone young lady.”

“Seriously, mother! This is all William Howe’s doing.”

“What were you doing socializing with him in the middle of town?” Mother asked.

She is a master at manipulating conversations and changing subjects to bring up old and previously settled arguments. I should know better than to bite by now but somehow she always manages to rattle me just enough to make me say something I will regret.

“I already told you, we weren’t socializing. He was threatening me.”

“Of course he was dear, because you are so dangerous to him.”

“No, but father is.”

Mother rolled her eyes in the same way I have been known to, only when I do it to her I usually end up with a sore backside.

“Besides, Mrs. Gallagher said you two were socializing scandalously.”

“The only thing scandalous is Mrs. Gallagher’s lies.”

“How dare you insult Mrs. Gallagher.”

“How dare she insult me!”

The slap of mother’s palm across my face silenced me from saying anything further. As usual mother took advantage of her authority over me to win the argument.

“Go to your room and don’t even think about coming out until I tell you otherwise!” She shouted as though she had a right to be outraged.

I sulked on my bed. Really there was nothing better to do. It was that or have more frustrating daydreams about Mr. Stone. Since he left me off the hook he has barely acknowledged my presence. Perhaps he thinks I should be grateful for being let off?

I know it is a sin to want for a married man but my heart knows no better. What I would not give for a torrid moment in his arms. Perhaps discreetly in the school house or wildly reckless under the moonlight in the woods. I imagine his soft fingers caressing, tickling, my accentuated skin. Just the mere thought makes the hair on my arms stand straight and a cold shiver run down my spine.

His lips brush softly against my neck, teasing my every nerve. His hands explore my body, slowly with confidence. His eyes sparkle with amusement as I shudder in his arms. He takes his hands away and steps back. I start to pursue him to call him back to me.

My bedroom door swings open and slams into the wall behind it with a thud. I jump up from laying on my bed to see mother standing in the doorway with a disapproving gaze. I cannot help but blush, certain she knows every illicit detail of my thoughts from a moment ago.

“What in Heaven’s name are you doing in here?”

“Nothing.” I replied too quickly.

“The blush on your cheeks says different. I’m sure I don’t want to know what rancorous thoughts were pulsing through your head.” Mother said while looking me up and down.
I blushed deeper.

“It seems it is past time I blistered your delicate butt. Get undressed and wait at the foot of your bed. I’ll return in a few minutes and you better be there if you know what is good for you.”
She left my room, leaving the door wide open. I began to undress myself, obeying without question or thought as to why.

“We can have tea in the garden once I’ve dealt with Sarah.” Mother said.
I gasped, startled to learn we were not alone.

“Would you like to watch? After all it is fitting since it was your character she deemed to impugn.”

“I don’t want to intrude but if you think it would be beneficial…” Mrs. Gallagher’s voice trailed off.

“I certainly do.” Mother said.

I turned my attention back to myself, realizing I had little time left to finish the job of undressing. I let my dress fall to the floor, quickly followed by my dressing gown and undergarments. I knelt down and scooped them all up in my arms to carry them to my bed.

Mrs. Gallagher and mother walked in. I was halfway to the bed, but stopped in my tracks when I saw them. Mother frowned. Mrs. Gallagher shook her head as if to scold me.

“Don’t dawdle anymore than you already have, young lady.” Mother said.

I finished my task and placed my things on top of my bed. I moved to the end of the bed and stood straight. My arms ached to cover my indecency, my face and more flushed red with shame. I desired only to stare at the floor but forced myself to keep my head up and meet their gazes.

The two ladies took their time looking me up and down with scornful eyes. I felt like a defective doll set out for all its flaws to be identified and corrected.

“Turn around.” Mother ordered.

I turned and faced my bed. At first I thought it would be better but the collection of my garments laying empty and unused only served to accentuated my nakedness. I longed for the comfort of a shoe even but knew it was not to be.

My chair scraped on the wooden floor as it was pulled out from my desk. I imagined mother sitting down in it, straightening her dress over her legs. Mrs. Gallagher walked around to the side of my bed. Our eyes met and if she could read my thoughts she would have fled the room, the house, and the town, but instead she smiled. She sat on the edge of my bed and turned just so she would have an excellent view of the scene soon to unfold.

“Bring me your hairbrush.” Mother ordered.

I hesitated a breath before moving to my dresser to comply. My hairbrush lay innocently on top of the dresser. Its white bristles pointed upward and long strings of my hair lay intertwined through them. The brush is a prized possession, expensive and finer than anything else I can call my own. Dark red in coloring with a blue velvet holding the bristles in place, it was beautiful to look upon. I still remember the day father gave it to me.

Holding it in my palm I shuddered to think of the stinging pain it would soon inflict. Such terror in such a beautiful thing seems a contraction, an incompatibility. I carried it with deliberate slowness to my mother. I offered it to her with a reluctance far deeper than the imminent pain evoked. I have always felt it the greatest inconsideration of my mother to use a prized possession of mine in this way.

Mother took the brush from my hand and then patted her lap. No words were needed. We have been here many times before and will likely be here many times again. I laid myself across her lap, feeling foolishly childlike. I dared not think of what Mrs. Gallagher would see.

Mother began straight away. She did not bring the brush down hard but it was a rapid pace. The light slaps began to build slowly on top of each other. I tried to keep my legs and bottom relaxed, but as the fast pace slaps built up their burn it became a more difficult struggle.

My anger at the unfairness of my position kept the tears from falling for longer than normal. I know mother will not stop until she is convinced I am sufficiently contrite. For some reason I cannot fake contriteness in a believable manner. Fortunately, I have the good sense not to try anymore.

Mother’s wrist must have been getting tired because her fast flicks became slower and then the slaps became more deliberate and harder. She took aim at my thighs and with each slap my legs kicked involuntarily. Back and forth she continued from right thigh to left thigh, over and over. Just when I thought I could stand no more she began at a rapid rate again and the fire she lighted had me kicking so fast I would have been running to keep up with Jasper, had I been standing.

At last the tears began to fall. I sobbed. I wanted desperately to beg forgiveness and plead for mercy. Foolish pride swallowed my words before they were heard. Stubbornly, I clenched my fists, gritted my teeth and stared hard at the floor. I told myself if I just held out a little longer she would stop and I would win.

Mother might have read my thoughts or perhaps it is the same thoughts that every woman has when over her mother’s knee. She stopped her assault.

“Stand up.” She ordered.

I pushed myself shakily up off her lap and stood silent at her side. She stood up.

“Mrs. Gallagher perhaps you would like a turn?”

“It would be my pleasure.” She replied.

Mother handed her my hairbrush as they switched places. My stomach turned in knots as I contemplated the woman now sitting before me. To think a woman who gossips, no, lies, about me and sullies my reputation would be allowed to witness my chastisement was angering enough to consider she would soon be wielding my own hairbrush against me in a farce of discipline was untenable.

“Over.” She barked.

I hesitated. She grabbed my arm and pulled. I started to pull back but she pinched my skin and caused me to lose my balance. A moment later I was upended over her lap.

“You sure are a feisty one.” Mrs. Gallagher said.

She rested the hairbrush on my enflamed flesh. Anger swallowed my tears again and I swore I would not let her make me cry.

She wasted no time in breaking my promise. She swung the brush hard and fast, landing it repeatedly in the same spot. Her target was the crease between my right buttock and thigh. She did not miss. Only when I let out a sob did she stop and move on to the left side.

I pounded my fists on the floor in hatred of myself as the tear flowed out uncontrolled. I kicked my legs desperate to avoid her onslaught. I wiggled on her lap trying to roll free and spare my burning flesh further torment. She thwarted me at every turn. I sobbed like a teething baby. She continued swinging the brush, never hitting anywhere but that crease between buttocks and thighs.

I exhausted myself over her lap. I could think of nothing but the burning pain. My humiliation faded to the background like a distant murmur. All I desired was a peak to the pain, an end to my suffering. It came in time but not before I slobbered apologies I did not mean and beg forgiveness I did not want.

I laid limp on her lap when she finally ceased the spanking. I cried a puddle of tears to the floor, I sniffled as my body shook with the weight of my surrender. Mrs. Gallagher had no mercy in her. She pushed me from her lap to land on the floor at her feet.

I curled up into myself. My hands grabbed at my blazing flesh, helpless to assuage the burning or provide comfort to the tortured flesh. Mrs. Gallagher stood above me. She dropped my hairbrush down on me and it bounced on the floor by my face.

In my thoughts I picked it up and hurled it at her while screaming. I beat my fist into her until she collapsed to the floor and then I kicked her and stood upon her chest until she admitted her deceptions. In reality I laid helpless at her feet.

“Get up.” Mother ordered.

I knew better than to hesitate again. I pushed myself wearily from the floor and stood with shoulders slouched.

“You remember this moment the next time you think to argue with me. Understood?”

“Yes, mother.” I replied as though I would say no?

“Rather than sulking in here, you can serve Mrs. Gallagher and I tea in the garden.”

“Yes, mother.”

I moved toward the bed and my things.

“You don’t need those.” Mrs. Gallagher said.

“Quite true, you can serve us as you are.” Mother said.

I fought back another wave of sobs and made my way to the kitchen to make their tea.

April 1896

Date: April 25, 1896

Student:
Jennifer Abbott

Reason:
Cheating.

Punishment:
Birching. Dunce Stool. Referral to Dean.

Administered by:
Mr. Bard
-----------------------------
Date: April 24, 1896

Student:
Edith Bowen

Reason:
Unlady like attitude.

Punishment:
Ruler on the hands. Paddled. Dunce Cap on stool.

Administered by:
Ms. Maple
-----------------------------
Date: April 21, 1896

Student:
Penelope Sumter

Reason:
Disgracing herself, Carrington Manor, and Primrose College in Public.

Punishment:
Public Strapping

Administered by:
Mr. Carrington
-----------------------------
Date: April 17, 1896

Student:
Jennifer Abbott

Reason:
Skipping in the library.

Punishment:
Strapped and banned from library.

Administered by:
Mr. Keeper
-----------------------------
Date: April 14, 1896

Student:
Elizabeth Bassett

Reason:
Not paying attention during class.

Punishment:
Paddled.

Administered by:
Dr. Phallic
-----------------------------
Date: April 8, 1896

Student: Penelope Sumter

Reason: Slouching in music class.

Punishment: Ruler on the hands and buttocks.

Administered by: Mr. Green
-----------------------------
Date: April 4, 1896

Student:
Edith Bowen

Reason:
Late to breakfast

Punishment:
Birching, 20 minutes stool time in main hall.

Administered by:
Mrs. Carrington
-----------------------------
Date: April 4, 1896

Student: Elizabeth Bassett

Reason: Late to breakfast

Punishment: Birching, 20 minutes stool time in main hall.

Administered by: Mrs. Carrington

April 21st - 25th, 1896

[Click on Dates to View Full Story]


April 21, 1896 “Carriaged Away”

  • Can the real Remington live up to Penelope’s imaginary version?
  • A night on the town ends in a public strapping for Penelope.


April 22, 1896 “Lend Me Your Bottom”

  • Edith attempts to inspire Elizabeth to fight for Primrose College
  • Elizabeth’s father telegrams. Will she soon be leaving for good?



April 23, 1896 “Iron Bars, Iron Will”

  • Sarah and her father plot to escape from jail but will they have to?
  • The corrupt sheriff is headed out of town but for how long?



April 24, 1896 “Call Me Dunce”

  • Three young men attend grammar class at Primrose as part of an experiment.
  • Edith helps Ms. Maple demonstrate just how discipline is maintained.



April 25, 1896 “A Birch Too Far”

  • Penelope springs a trap on Jenny as part of a scheme for revenge after her public strapping.
  • A birching for Jenny followed by a trip to the Dean? What’s next?

A Birch Too Far



April 25, 1896
Penelope Sumter

“Good morning, Penny.” Lucy and Jenny chorused when I arrived at breakfast.

I smiled graciously biting my bitter tongue all the while.

“Good morning.” I replied taking my seat across from them.

My stomach turned just to look at them and I could only manage to nibble at my breakfast. I had no doubt they were still laughing at me. Neither had the guts to do it to my face but that is just as well. It is easier to ignore the ridicule behind your back.

“Not eating this morning?” Mr. Carrington asked.

Ever since the night of the strapping he has gone out of his way to be kind to me. In the past he would hardly give me a second look but it is as though there was some new kind of respect exchanged between us that night. I have the feeling he agreed with my actions if not in principle at least in deed.

“I am not very hungry is all.” I replied.

“You are not coming down with something are you?” Mrs. Carrington piped in.

“Oh no. I am fine.”

“Maybe I should check your temperature just the same. You have been a little flushed lately.”

Jenny and Lucy were each covering their mouths with their hands and giggling. Undoubtedly they considered themselves to be discreet.

“Please, I am feeling fine.” I replied hoping she would soon drop the subject.

“Very well.” Mrs. Carrington replied after a glance from Mr. Carrington.

Observing the two giggling girls across from me actually reinvigorated my appetite. I had felt the tiniest twinges of guilt for my plans soon to unfold. Guilt is a funny thing though, it only has teeth when the conscience is not clear. Little did they know but their indiscreet giggles at my expense cleared mine for good.

“I am heading into town this morning. My carriage has room to drop some of you off at Primrose Hall if desired.” Mr. Carrington offered as we were finishing the meal.

“If it is not an imposition, I would be most grateful.” I replied first.

“Not at all.” He said with a nod of his head. “The carriage will be out front in ten minutes.”

I nodded my understanding and a few of the other girls also accepted his gracious invitation, including Elizabeth. I was somewhat surprised Edith had not taken him up, but perhaps she is still uneasy to be in my presence. I am quite over the incident myself and I must admit I am even a little impressed with Edith’s role in recent events. Of course I have no intention of telling her such, at least for now anyway.

Mr. Carrington could not have picked a better day to be generous. For my current plan to unfold properly, I needed to arrive at Primrose Hall before Jenny. The carriage ride insured I would.
It was in fact a quiet ride. Not a word was spoken beyond customary politeness. I have sensed since my late night strapping the girls have become more fearful of our Master. Strange that I on the receiving end would feel less. I have never feared consequences for my actions only action without consequence, perhaps that is what sets me apart.

Mr. Carrington held me back when we arrived and the other girls exited.

“You have a dangerous look about you today.” He said boldly.

“I do?” I fluttered my eyelashes in imitation of innocence.

“Most certainly. I have already asked Mrs. Carrington to have a word with Lucy and Jenny. Their behavior at breakfast was appalling.”

“I am certain that is not my concern.” I replied.

“Indeed. They have undoubtedly teased you to no end since Monday night.”

“It is to be expected.”

“Not in my house.”

“In any house. Whether in the open or behind the back it is a custom older than time.”

He smiled.

“Please, for your own sake, do nothing foolish today.”

“I promise, I will do nothing foolish at all.”

I smiled back at him as our eyes met. I blinked and looked away as I felt as though through his gaze he would read my thoughts.

“Very well, Penelope. I will see you this evening. Pleasant day.”

“Pleasant day.”

I stepped from the carriage and hurried up the steps of Primrose Hall without a look backward.

I waited in the hall around the corner of Mr. Bard’s classroom. From my position I could see the entrance to the class but was not easily seen from hall approaching it. It was not long before Jenny and Lucy strolled up. When they did, I rushed down the hall and entered the class behind them. As they maneuvered for seats I subtly picked a desk directly forward of the one Jenny sat in.

I smiled back at the two girls and waved politely. They pretended to smile and wave back. Elizabeth sat diagonally forward of me and turned toward me.

“Why do you bother with them?” She whispered.

“Are you jealous?” I whispered back.

“Not of you or them. Not ever.” She hissed back.

I smiled at the hint of anger in her voice. I would have replied but it was then, Mr. Bard entered.

“Good morning, ladies.”

“Good morning, Mr. Bard.” We replied in near perfect unison.

The moment of my preparation arrived and I surprised myself with the steadiness of my nerves and the calmness of my heart.

“Pass forward your essays.” Mr. Bard instructed as he opened his case and placed the books within on his otherwise barren desktop.

I sat mine atop my desk and waited for the stack from behind me to arrive. After a moment they did and I added my pages to the stack while subtly removing Jenny’s. I passed the pages on ahead with hardly a pause and quickly folded the evidence in my hands away. I stashed it fittingly within the sheets of music in my book basket.

Mr. Bard collected the sheets from the front row students. Our order of business for the day was a test which he began distributing after setting the stack of essays on his desk.

It was about an hour into the exam when my plan began to unfold perfectly.

“Penelope.” Mr. Bard called.

“Yes, sir.”

“What is the name of the mountain top where the Greek gods were rumored to live upon?”

“Mount Olympus, sir.” I replied without a pause.

“I see, and Aphrodite is the Greek god of?”

“She is the goddess of love, sir.”

“Quite true. Jenny.” His voice was near a bark when he uttered her name.

I struggled not to smile in delight.

“Who is the Greek god of the seas?”

“Um, Sirens?” Her voice quivered.

“As I suspected. Front of the class now Miss Abbott.” He ordered Jenny.

She visibly swallowed before rising from her seat and standing at attention in the front of the room. All pretense of exam taking fell away as the entire class watched and listened to the scene unfolding before them.

“Do you think me an idiot, Miss Abbott?”

“No, sir.”

“Then why do you think you can hand in your classmates work as your own?”

“I would never do that!” She nearly shouted at him.

“I have the proof right here. Clearly in your own handwriting and just as clearly copied word for word from Miss Sumter’s essay.”

Jenny stared at the page. Her mouth opened and shut without sound like a fish out of water. Elizabeth turned back to look at me as though she suspected the truth. I fluttered my eyelashes and shrugged at her. Elizabeth smiled back at me before facing front again.

“That is not my essay.” Jenny finally said.

“I am glad we can agree on that.”

“No, you do not understand. That is not what I turned in. I did not copy that I swear. I am being set up.” She whined to him.

“That is ridiculous, Miss Abbot. Have at least the small amount of courage to admit what you have done.”

“But I didn’t. Penelope hates me, she is doing this! I’m sure of it.” Her perfect English faltered as she became more desperate.

“How could Miss Sumter have written an essay in your handwriting?”

How indeed? I spent two whole nights carefully crafting the forgery by candlelight. I studied her every nuance of writing and practiced for hours before setting forth to copy my own text in her pen. She would never be able to prove it was not hers. I smiled internally, satisfied with a job well done.

“I don’t know, but it must be true, sir.”

“Absolutely ridiculous, young lady. Cheating is unacceptable and you will be severely punished for it. Our last cheater at Primrose was birched publicly in the main hall by the Dean himself.”

“Oh please, no sir! Not that please, I will do anything. I beg you have mercy.” Jenny fell to her knees before him.

“If you will not admit your guilt, I have no choice but to turn it over to the Dean.”

“But I did not do it.” She whined.

“Remove your dress, Miss Abbott.”

“Sir!”

“Now! Miss Abbott.” He thundered.

Jenny began to cry as she removed her dress. Mr. Bard made her strip naked before us which was more than I had hoped for. She stood in a ridiculous pose attempting to preserve modesty. I struggled not to laugh.

Mr. Bard produced a birch from within his desk.

“I swear I am innocent, sir.”

He ignored her.

“Miss Sumter would you join me here.”

It was not a question.

“Yes, sir.”

I stood carefully and made my way to the front.

“As the offended party you are entitled to help deliver justice.”
I tried to look sad.

“Yes, sir.”

“I think a total of 24 strokes appropriate given the seriousness of the affair and her lack of contrition.”

“No, sir!” Jenny screamed.

“Silence! Have you no self respect? Anymore whining and I will double the strokes. Clear?”

Jenny trembled as tears fell freely down her cheeks.

“Yes, sir.” She replied after a quiet moment.

“Bend over my desk and grip the far edge, Miss Abbott.”

She complied without further fuss. I could see the terror in her eyes and it was all I could do contain my giddiness.

“I will allow you the first 12 Miss Sumter. I will hold her down and then we will switch for the second 12.”

“Yes, sir.” I replied and took the proffered birch from his hand.

I savored every stroke. I kept them low and remembered to flick my wrist on impact, just as father had taught me at home. Jenny kicked and struggled more after each successive stroke.

The class was lively with muffled giggles. I relished in her kicks knowing the view she was shamefully affording to all. By the fourth stroke she was no longer crying but wailing. I almost felt sorry for her, but then I recalled being bound to a post in the night air. My heart hardened and I swung again.

When all 12 were delivered I found I had to dab sweat from forehead. Birching is such hard work.

I switched places with Mr. Bard but it was hardly necessary for me to hold her down anymore. She was exhausted from fighting and lay limp on the desktop. Her wails continued as did her kicks but any effort she made to rise was half-hearted at best. I easily held her in place.

When it was over I helped lift her up to stand. Our eyes met and I could see the fuming hatred directed at me. I wondered if she would ever realize the justice served here today was fitting and deserved.
Mr. Bard forced her to sit naked on the stool for the remainder of class. Her buttocks were welted and spotted with prickles of blood. Her face stained with tears and her body wracked with uncontrolled sobbing.

At the end of class I expected all would be over. Mr. Bard apparently took greater offense to cheating than I anticipated.

I heard him say, “Come along Miss Abbott, we will pay a visit to the Dean now.”

I walked out the door and wondered briefly if I had gone too far.


Call Me Dunce

April 24, 1896
Edith Bowen

“Edith, come to the front.” Ms. Maple ordered.

I had only just arrived in the classroom and class was not set to begin for another three minutes. I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach as I complied.


Ms. Maple then proceeded to ignore me. I stood quiet, unsure what was expected of me. Ever since the story in The Paper I have been finding my relations increasingly strained. As the rumors circulate and more and more of my peers and educators learn of my involvement, it seems the more contentious my presence becomes.

Wrong of me to assume I suppose, but my present position smacks of another encounter with the ever expanding wave of destruction my one time innocent comment has created. Had I any real doubt it would have vacated at the moment Ms. Maple pulled the stool from the corner and sat the white dunce cap on top. My stomach turned in knots as I considered the likely significance.

“Edith, I have been informed through a reliable source, you are the student responsible for suggesting the merging of classes with Brown?” She asked.

I considered her question more of a statement and wondered briefly if it would matter if I said no. I looked at the stool and closed my eyes before responding.

“Yes, Miss.”

“Excellent. We have three guests from Brown who will be observing our class today. They will be composing essays which will be shared with the board in two weeks time.”

She paused to let me absorb the information.

“I have been asked to have a young woman also compose an essay on her thoughts regarding the young men attending the class. Would you agree you are the best candidate to write that essay in a positive light?”

I have never been good at reading people. Ms. Maple had led me to believe she was dissatisfied with me when our conversation had begun. However the question now dangled before me seemed indicative of approval and perhaps support.

I breathed a sigh of relief and allowed myself a small smile.

“Yes, Miss. I would be honored to represent the class in essay to the board.”

“Excellent. Take your seat for now, I will call you up a little later to assist me in a full demonstration of the scope of the class. I believe your involvement will give you an especially beneficial perspective for your essay.”

She smiled at me as she spoke. It was strange though because I had the impression she was almost laughing at me. I took my seat as expected and while I felt a little unsettled seeing the stool and dunce cap so prominently displayed I reminded myself it was most likely there as an unspoken warning to our imminent guests.

I briefly imagined a young man sitting on the stool with a sore bottom and the dunce cap balanced precariously on his head. If the boys are as badly behaved as rumors suggest I might want to take up drawing again. I smirked quietly in my seat daydreaming of the remote possibilities.

Once the class had settled in Ms. Maple informed the entire class of the day’s main event. Just as she concluded there was a soft knock at the door before it opened and three young men entered.

They appeared nervous. Their foreheads glistened with sweat and I had the impression they were a touch embarrassed to be present. One of them stepped forward more than the other two.

“Miss Maple?” He asked.

“Yes, do come in gentlemen. I have reserved three desks here at the front for you today.”

“Yes, Miss.” They replied together in disjointed harmony.

The young men seated themselves quickly and quietly. I was impressed by their respectful attitude.

“Before I begin with today’s lecture, I think it appropriate we discuss discipline. In my classroom these young ladies understand they are expected to behave with the utmost decorum. You will sit up straight and face forward. Your eyes will keep to me or your desktop. There is no talking unless I have given express permission for it.”

The young men nodded their understanding. No doubt the rules of behavior in classes at Primrose is of little difference from that of Brown.

“I see you understand. Good. Edith would you come to the front please.”

I rose from my desk and walked to the front of the room. I trembled slightly in nervousness as I wondered what I would be asked to demonstrate.

“So, there is no misunderstanding I will start the lesson by punishing Edith.”

My jaw dropped and I let out an involuntary gasp, as did many of my peers.

“Young ladies in this classroom are always punished on bare skin. Is that not correct, Edith?”

I felt so totally betrayed I hardly heard her speaking. My mind was too numb to formulate even the simple response she required.

“Edith!” She said sharply.

“Yes, Miss.” I blurted out in automatic response.

“Quite right. You may begin by removing your clothing now.”

I blinked.

“Yes, Miss.” I whispered.

My hands felt twice the size of normal as I fumbled with the buttons and ties of my dress. As I shed each item I blushed brighter and brighter until I was certain the blood was soon to be seeping through my skin. Stark naked I kept my back to the classroom and stared at the hardwood floor. ‘How could I have read her so wrong?’ I thought to myself.

“No need to be shy, Edith. Come here.” Ms. Maple ordered.

I moved to the center of the front of the room where she stood waiting for me with a foot long ruler in her hand.

“I use a variety of methods depending upon the nature of the behavior problems and the frequency of behavior problems from the young lady. We will start with a more mild discipline.” She paused to look at me.

“Face the class, Edith.” She said without kindness.

I turned slowly wishing the room would be vacant when I was finished.

“Hold your right hand out.”

Shaking, I did as I was told. The ruler cracked down on my upturned palm. I blinked away the stinging and held my hand steady as I knew she expected. The ruler cracked down again and was rapidly followed by three more. I shamed myself and cried out on the last.

“Left hand.” Ms. Maple ordered with hardly a pause.

I lowered my right hand shaking it slightly in a futile attempt to ease the stinging. My left hand shook in the air in front of me.

“Steady or shall I have one of these kind young men hold your arm?”

I took a deep breath and steadied my hand in response.

Ms. Maple’s response was to send the ruler cracking down on my palm. Tears stung at my eyes. She repeated her viciousness as before with my right hand. Again I cried out on the last.

“You may lower your hand.”

Relieved I did so and began shaking both of my hands vigorously at my sides. The classroom erupted with laughter and I blushed even hotter as I realized I had been bouncing my breasts around.

Ms. Maple traded the ruler in for her long paddle. She showed it to the visitors before turning to me.

“Turn around, bend over, and touch your toes.” She ordered.

I was happy to put my back to the class again and did so quickly despite knowing the paddle would soon be blistering my backside. I leaned down and touched my toes. My delight at turning from the class quickly faded as I realized I had an upside down view of the three young men and they had a perfect view of any part of me they desired.

Fortunately, Ms. Maple spared me a long contemplation of my humiliation. She swung the paddle hard. The resulting impact sounded like thunder as it echoed in the room. The young men twitched slightly as they watched it impact.

I grunted and sniffled.

Smack!

I cried out and choked on tears.

Smack!

I began to cry in earnest.

Smack!

My tears dripped from the corners of my eyes up my forehead and into my hair.

Smack!

I twitched my legs and nearly sprang upright as the burning incensed my nerves to involuntary reactions.

Smack!

I squeezed my eyes shut and mumbled a pathetic plea for mercy.
Smack!

I jumped up right. I grabbed my burning butt with both sore hands and jumped around in a circle making a complete fool of myself. I did not care though, I only desired this cruelest moment in my life to end.

“Get back down!” Ms. Maple shouted.

I ignored her until she grabbed hold of my arm. She propelled me toward the center desk of the three young men. He jumped out of his seat as she bent me over his desktop.

“Put your hands here and hold her down.” She ordered.

I felt cold hands press into my back. I struggled to push myself up but I did not have the strength to do it. She began swinging the paddle again but more rapidly so that the sound became an overlapping roar of thunder. I kicked my legs wildly and swung my fists back trying desperately to escape the barrage of swats.

I wailed and cried and sobbed. There was no relief, no mercy only unforgiving swats and fiery flesh twitching in uncontrolled response.

When my words became the blubbering of a child begging forgiveness and promising angelic behavior, the paddling ceased. I wanted only to lay there unmoving on the desktop until such time as the end of the world, but Ms. Maple had other plans.

I was hauled roughly to my feet by the young man who had held me down. Ms. Maple lifted the dunce cap from the stool and the young man sat me down hard upon it. I experienced a new level of pain as the hard surface met my tortured buttocks. The dunce cap was sat atop my head so that all the class could read it.

I stared down at myself, ashamed.

“Head up, face your peers, Edith. Keep your arms down at your sides and consider your behavior and choices for the rest of the day.”

I stared at my classmates through watery eyes. My body twitched from time to time as new sobs wracked my body. The young men were visibly more relaxed than when they had arrived. They each sported grins from ear to ear and as I looked at my fellow Primrose Girls I became more aware than ever of how alone I am.

Ms. Maple continued with class as normal. The rest of the day’s lesson revolved around the plays of William Shakespeare. At the conclusion of class I alone remained still on my perch waiting for the required permission to dress and leave.

“I hope you learned something of what having boys in classes at Primrose would mean today.” She said from behind me.

“Yes, Miss.” I sniffled.

“Good. I expect you will write an appropriate essay for the board then.”

“Yes, Miss.”

“I have two more classes here today. Just to be sure you have plenty of time to think about it, you will stay put until they are over.”

I closed my eyes and fought back the angry retorts on the tip of my tongue.

“Yes, Miss.”

Iron Bars, Iron Will

April 23, 1896
Sarah Waters

I had not planned on spending the weekend in jail. I really had not planned on spending any time in jail. Fortunately I know better than to rely on plans proceeding perfectly and had therefore had the good sense to have a backup.

Father exhausted himself the first night by yelling and ordering the sheriff in every imaginable manner to release me. I tried to calm him but his helplessness to protect me was driving him mad. After that first night he did learn to accept our situation and while he remained angry he kept himself much better controlled from then onward.

“What did you think you were doing?” Father asked.

“Whatever I could.”

“Obviously less than you thought.” He replied but there was a weary smile on his face.

“Obviously.” I replied and returned the smile.

“What about your mother?”

“I sent her home.”

“Did you? Did she listen?”

“Good question. I suppose we’ll find out.”

He nodded.

“At least I know your safe in here with me for now.”

“Yes, and probably safer here than at home.”

“Has something happened?”

“I had a run in with William Howe.”

“If the bastard hurt you…”

“No, I think I injured him though or more pointedly, his ego.”

“Sarah, you shouldn’t take risks like that.”

“It wasn’t a risk. It was in the middle of town and he and his gang are too yellow to have done anything in the open.”

“Maybe right now they are but they’re drumming up support in town. If things go as they have, it won’t be long before we’re being run out of town or worse.”

“People in this town won’t all turn on you, Daddy. Most of them look to you for leadership. That’s why they’re keeping you locked up in here. They’re afraid of you.”
He chuckled.

“I’m not so important as you think, little one.”

“You’re more than you think you are. I saw that at the mine the day…” I trailed off unwilling to finish my sentence.

“The day Uncle Mike died.” He finished for me.

I nodded. We sat in silence then for a short time. I think neither of us was sure what more to say if there was anything that even needed to be said. When I could bare the silence no more I stood up and began to pace my small cell.

“Better to save your energy.” Father said.

“You’re right, but I’m restless.”

“Focus your mind on figuring out how we’re gonna get out of here. That’ll help.”

I stopped pacing and stood staring down on him from the bars closest to his cell.

“Escape?” I mouthed afraid of being overheard.

Father nodded his head in the affirmative. My eyes grew wide.

“How?” I whispered.

“That’s the question, isn’t it?”

And so it was that I began thinking of escape. I studied the iron bars and how they were hinged. I examined the way they were set in concrete and brick. I ran my fingers carefully along the mortar between bricks pushing here and there to check for looseness.

Father watched the door and warned me whenever the sheriff or his deputy approached. When they did I would sit relaxed on the bed. I stared at the ground and only spoke when spoken too.
After a day of examination I concluded the only way we were getting out was through the doors. The only way we were getting through the doors was if someone opened them. The only way we could open them was with a key. The only way we could gain a key was to take it from the sheriff or the deputy.

On the second day I spent my time wondering how I might get the key from either without them knowing. I considered the deputy and whether he was completely on board with his bosses illegal activity. I finally concluded the best way would be to lure one of them into my cell under the guise of needing assistance. Rather than attempting to escape I would focus on getting my hands on the key. With a small amount of luck they would never notice.

We would then wait until nightfall when the sheriff and deputy were gone home. The cells would be easy to open with the key and we could then quickly make our way home and then head for Denver where we could get help. Of course the hitch in that is we had no physical evidence to support us. We might find ourselves permanent fugitives from the law.

I decided this would be the best course of action if Samuel did not arrive soon. I had not mentioned that part of my plan to father. Father and Samuel have had a number of disagreements in recent years and while no doubt there is still love between them, it is strained by distrust and disappointment on both sides. I was certain Samuel would come through for us but I knew father would not share my faith.

I awoke this morning convinced Samuel was not coming. I began preparing myself to execute our escape plan and father agreed it was nearing time that we did something. Our situation was clearly not improving and we had thus far sat in jail for five going on six days without seeing a judge or anyone other than the sheriff and his deputy.

I was just about to feign injury when we heard the front door of the office slam open. Father motioned for me to wait, but I had already decided to do so myself. We listened carefully.

“You in a hurry mister?” The sheriff asked sounding annoyed.

“Are you holding one Daniel Waters in custody?” A stranger’s voice asked.

“You want to tell me who you are?”

“I am his lawyer. Answer the question sheriff.”

“I might be. What is your business here?”

“I have a letter from the Governor of Colorado, ordering his immediate release into my custody.”

“Let me see it.”

There was a pause and a moment of silence.

“I’ll have to have this verified.” The sheriff finally spoke.

“Then do so with haste. I have not all day, sheriff. In the meantime I would like to see my client.”

“You can have a seat over there and wait. No one is seeing anyone until this is confirmed.”

“You are only making things harder but as you wish sheriff.”

It was quiet for a long time after. I would guess an hour but without a clock it was hard to tell. We heard the deputy come back and moment later we knew the letter must have been verified.

“GOD DAMN IT TO HELL!” The sheriff roared.

Father and I smiled.

“Now I expect you will release, Mr. Waters?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll release him.”

The door opened and the sheriff walked to father’s cell and opened the door.

“Go on get out of here. You’re free to go by order of the Governor himself, but take my advice and end this strike before people get hurt.”

“If you weren’t wearing that star I’d shove your advice right down your throat. Now get my daughter out of there.” Father stood nose to nose with the sheriff as he spoke.

“The release is only for you. She assaulted me and she stays.”

“Is there a problem?” The lawyer asked stepping into the room.

“There is.” Father replied. “My daughter is still locked up by this maggot.”

“She assaulted me.” The sheriff sounded desperate to my ears.

“A girl of 17, 18 assaulted a big man like you? Tell me you don’t really expect a judge to believe that?”

The sheriff stared at the lawyer and glanced at me and then moved to open the door. He threw it open quickly causing the lawyer to jump back to avoid being hit by the iron bars.

“Get out before I change my mind. All of you.” The sheriff ordered.

His face was nearly purple with barely contained rage. I could see his jaw quivering like a man on the edge. I almost felt sorry for him but then I remembered where I was. If father had not been standing there I would have slapped the bastard a second time.

As father and I stepped out into the daylight, the lawyer turned to the sheriff once more. He pulled a sealed envelope out of his coat and offered it to the sheriff.

“What’s this?” The sheriff asked.

“Orders from the Governor for you to report to Denver for a review. Confirm them if you like but if you are not in Denver by sundown tomorrow you will not be a sheriff anymore.”

The lawyer walked out behind me then and closed the door.

In the street we stood blinking. It had been days since either of us had been in the sunlight. In the glare a man in a suit approached us.

“Father, Sarah, you’re safe.”

“Sam!” I cried and threw myself into his arms.

Father turned to the lawyer.

“I owe you a debt Mister.” He said.

“Nonsense, your son has already paid and too much considering the pleasure I take in bringing down sheriff’s who think they are above the law.”

They shook hands and then it was time to head to the house. I noticed rather particularly the lack of words between my father and brother. No doubt, father would find some fault in Samuel’s handling of matters.

Lend Me Your Bottom...

April 22, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett
“Have you seen this?” Edith asked.

She held out a recent copy of The Paper. I nodded.

“Did you know Mr. Keeper has now banned all women from the library?”

Again I nodded.

“Does it not matter to you?” She asked.

“What would you have me do, Edith?”

“I would have you stand up for what you believe, not sit in seclusion and pretend none of it matters.”

“I have spent most of this last year trying to convince my roommates it is acceptable to want to be here to learn. All evidence to date indicates I have failed. Lucy and Jenny will not be returning next year and as for Penelope, I suspect she feels the same as them except she is missing a ring.”

Edith’s face contorted into a perfect replica of school teacher’s strictness. Were she any older I would have cringed in response. Instead I sighed.

“Do you think they are the only ones at Primrose? If they were then the college would not deserve existence. There are as many girls here who are pouring their hearts into books as into courting young men. They only need someone to stand up for them and they will come forward.”

“Maybe I am one of those who is waiting?”

Edith laughed at me.

“You are not a conformist, Elizabeth Bassett.” She said.

“But you are. So, why do you care?”

“When I first came here, I didn’t. It was an escape for me, nothing more. All that changed the longer I was here. I didn’t come here to learn but I did anyway and once I started learning I found it was impossible to stop. This place has made me into someone I am proud to be. Everyone who comes here deserves that opportunity and there are plenty just like us waiting for their chance. This college represents the future and we can’t let it die without a fight.”

Edith spoke with a passion I had never seen in her before. It awakened my own anger which I had been burying deep inside.

“You have a plan?”

“No, but we will.”

“Are there others who can help?”

“There will be in time. It is best that it is just us two to begin.”

“The Carrington’s will not approve.”

“They don’t need to know.”

“They will find out sooner or later.”

“Then let it be later than sooner. Once a thing is done it is much harder to be undone.”

“We will need a private place, there are too many ears in this house. I don’t suppose you could get us into the school house again?”

“No, Mrs. Carrington was certain to inform Mrs. Berry of my activities there with Penelope. There is an empty room in the basement of Primrose Hall. It is small and only has a single window to the street for light but it will be private.”

“Are you sure it is unused?”

“Completely. There is only one small problem.”

Edith paused. Our eyes met for a moment before she looked away.

“Go on.” I prompted.

“It is locked.”

I nodded.

“Who has the key?”

“Mr. Green. It was supposed to be a storage room for his instruments but he refused to use it on account of the sunlight. He felt it would damage the wooden instruments.”

“Do you know where he keeps it?”

“In his desk drawer, the one just under the center of the desk.”

“You have a plan to get it?”

“Yes, but you won’t like it.”

“Tell me.”

“If you can get him to bend you over his desk…” Edith trailed off.

My eyes widened and I gave my best ‘you’ve got to be joking’ look to her.

Edith shook her head and shrugged at me.

“There must be someplace else we can do this.”

“If you know of a place, I’m all ears.”

We sat in silence.

Mrs. Carrington entered the room without warning. Edith and I jumped in surprise like two girls caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. Mrs. Carrington cocked her head at us.

“What are you two conspiring about in here?” She asked.

“Nothing.” We replied in unison.

Mrs. Carrington regarded our guilty faces for a moment.

“If nothing becomes something, remember I keep a birch rod downstairs.”

We nodded. She shook her head at us.

“Elizabeth, there is a messenger with a wire from your father downstairs.” Mrs. Carrington said after a moment of quizzical looks.

I quickly headed downstairs and met the messenger at the door where he waited impatiently.

“Elizabeth Bassett?” He asked in a whiny voice.

“Yes.” I replied.

“Here.”

He thrust a small slip of paper at me and let it go before my fingers could close on it. I looked down on it even as the boy rushed away.

STOP…WILL ARRIVE IN FOUR DAYS…STOP…SET MEETING WITH DEAN FOR 11AM…STOP…PACK BAGS TO COME HOME…STOP…EDWARD BASSETT…STOP

I walked back upstairs in a daze. Edith approached me as I headed toward my room.

“Will you do it?” She whispered.

I handed her the message from my father. She read it and read it again just as I had. Our eyes locked again. There was nothing left to say.

Carriaged Away

April 21,1896
Penelope Sumter

The carriage arrived promptly at seven. Lucy and Jenny were primping still in front of the hall mirror when the bell rang. I myself was hiding in the wash closet.

Despite being completely taken by surprise by Jenny’s announcement she had met Remington, I had managed to keep calm until now. I had studied the faces and expressions of Lucy and Jenny as they filled me in on the details of our dinner date and came to the conclusion neither one of them was playing me. They were both convinced they had finally met my dream man, only that was clearly impossible. My Remington does not exist because I made him up.

In the wash closet I pretended to be busy preening myself which fell naturally into the expected behavior of preparing to meet Remington for the night. I was really too nervous to be concerned about my appearance. Questions rattled in my head like, who is this guy and what nerve he must have to pretend to be my Remington! Then again according to Jenny this was the only Remington attending Brown this year. Much as I would enjoy exposing the young man as a fraud, I would also be exposing myself.

“Hurry up Penny, they are waiting downstairs.” Lucy called to me from the other side of the door.

I took several deep breaths, convinced myself I was prepared for anything, and opened the door. Jenny was practically bouncing up and down in her excitement. I smiled at Lucy as though I could not have been happier. I really must consider a career on the stage.

The three of us descended the stairs together, Lucy and Jenny side by side and me just behind them. I tried to keep my breath even in a futile attempt to steady my racing heartbeat. Lucy and Jenny seemed to be measuring each step down the staircase and proceeding with the utmost caution. Our descent lasted for hours worth of trepidation in the span of only a minute.

I recognized him immediately. His lopsided smile and slightly unkempt hair seemed fitting to his demeanor and stance. His eyes twinkled as they met mine. I remember a night not so long ago in a tavern not so far away when his hair fell in front of those eyes while he leaned haphazardly over the edge of a billiard table. I had not known his name then and if I had I might have fainted on the spot.

We came to rest in the foyer, standing just in front of our respective escorts for the evening. Mr. Carrington stood by the door ready to chaperone us for the evening. Remington offered me his arm and I took it. I breathed easily for the first time since Jenny had announced our imminent dinner plans. I could tell he was no more likely to reveal our true past than I and for that I was thankful.

Dinner was the most enjoyable experience. Remington was a perfect gentleman and even though we had only spent one previous night together we miraculously avoided any awkward moments. That was until the subject of next term came up. Jenny and Lucy have both made it clear they will not be returning. They are engaged and plan to spend the whole of next year planning their respective weddings. Their fianc├ęs are very supportive of those plans. I however am planning on attending again next term regardless of how the whole class merging scenario is worked out. Remington made his position clear as well.

“Primrose College is a financial burden on Brown which will collapse it if not addressed. There is no sane argument but to close the women’s college. If you had any sense at all, Penny, you would follow the example of your friends and withdraw yourself.” He said.

“I do not concern myself with the politics of attending college. I am here to stay until my father says I am not or the school is closed. Neither event has occurred nor do I believe either to be imminent.”

“If it is your father who requires the convincing I will wire him straight away. He is a Brown alumnus if I am not mistaken. Surely, he will see the reason which eludes your simple mind.”
The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I could feel my stubborn streak rearing up as all my muscles tensed. My smile faded and my eyes hardened in their gaze. I took a shallow breath pausing and collecting my thoughts before replying.

“Simple mind?” I laughed a dangerous laugh. “I wonder what know you of the things you speak so brazenly? Have you perused the ledgers of Brown or Primrose? Do you claim to have a superior knowledge of the intricacies of college management than the esteemed members of the Board? For unless my simple mind is mistaken they voted in favor of the actions which you disapprove. Perhaps it is your simple mind which cannot see beyond its prejudices or do you honestly believe you are a better judge than the twelve men who sit on the Board?” I sipped at my wine as I finished my tirade.

I could see Remington’s anger boiling just below the surface. Then I looked around the table and realized I had angered all those present with the exception of Mr. Carrington. He looked on me with something akin to shock. I suppose it might well have been the most honest glimpse I had ever given him, or anyone at Primrose, of the true me.

My heart was pounding again as I sat there in the silence of my aftermath. Nervously I picked up my flute to sip again only to have it snatched away by Remington. I opened my mouth to ask what he thought he was doing but his voice cut through the air between us first.

“I have come to expect better manners from you. I think you may have had too much to drink. Have some water instead.” He offered a glass to me.

“You first.”

I took the glass and threw its contents on him. The table echoed with gasps as Remington nearly fell over backward jumping up from the table. The expression on his face made me think of a cat in water and I would have laughed at him were it not for Mr. Carrington’s sudden grip on my hair.

I was yanked from my chair so hard my feet left the ground for a moment. I yelped in pain as my hair felt like it was being torn from its roots.

“March!” Mr. Carrington ordered.

He did not wait for me to comply but started in the direction of the exit and pulled me along behind him. I tripped and would have fallen but for his firm grip on my hair. Quickly I regained my feet under me but lost my shoes in the rush. A moment later I felt the cool air of night as we burst through the doors.

Mr. Carrington did not pause a beat. He headed for the carriage at a deliberate gate which left me off balance in a hopeless attempt to catch up. The driver was sipping from a flask which he tried to hide as he noticed our sudden approach. Mr. Carrington either did not notice or did not care at the time.

With his free hand, Mr. Carrington opened the carriage’s door and propelled me inside with little regard for my safety. I landed half on the back seat, half off, and then fell to the floor. Before I could even grunt the door slammed closed.

“Take her back to the manor and tell Mrs. Carrington I want her prepared for a public strapping by the time I return. As soon as you have delivered her and the message you may return here to take the rest of us home. Understood?” Mr. Carrington’s voice was harsh and commanding as he spoke.

“Yes, sir.” Was the driver’s only response.

Mrs. Carrington’s face went from shock, when we arrived, to horror as the driver delivered Mr. Carrington’s instructions. I bit my lip nervously. We had all heard about the possibility of a public strapping for serious offenses but I had never seen one and I think most of the girls could say the same.

Mrs. Carrington led me by ear into her den. I was then stripped to my dressing gown in silence. I have never felt relaxed or particularly safe in Mrs. Carrington’s presence but in the weight of the silence I found myself wanting for a hug or a few words of encouragement. Even a lecture would have soothed my nerves but she gave me nothing.

My things removed and put away she grabbed hold of my ear again and led me out the side entrance toward the stables. There stands a tall post in the middle of the path which I had never before given much thought to but as it became obvious it was our destination, its purpose became clear.

Mrs. Carrington fastened my hands with a rope that hung down from a metal loop mounted high up on the pole. When done, she pulled on the other end of the rope until my arms were stretched high above my head and I was forced to stand on the tips of my toes. She tied the other end to a notch and then moved behind me. She lifted the back hem of my dressing gown and pinned it up on my back so that my naked buttocks were exposed.

I began to cry as I heard her walk away. It seemed a lifetime passed by as I waited in the cool night air unable to escape. I heard the carriage roll up. I heard the voices of my dinner companions. I heard laughing and assumed it was at me. I continued to wait, helpless to do otherwise.

At first it was eerily quiet. Then there were footsteps. Only a pair at first but followed by more and more. I tried to look back toward the manor and could only catch a glimpse from the corner of my eye. It was enough though. They were all coming. Every girl in the dormitory was being marched out to witness my humiliation. The three men from dinner were there as well, each looking smug and full of themselves.

Not a word was said to me, but the murmur behind me told me they were all talking about me. I choked back tears and hardened my heart for the inevitable. With acceptance comes strength, that is something my father taught me and it has served me well. Accept the things one cannot change. I repeated it like a mantra in my head.

The first blow from strap was low and stung my thighs like fire. I grunted in surprise but bit my tongue to avoid giving the bastard the satisfaction of eliciting a scream. The second one felt like it cut my flesh but I braced myself against the rope and gritted my teeth through the burn. The third was much the same as the second only the heat was intensifying and I shuffled my legs in a reflexive response.

The fourth struck on top of the first and I bit down hard on my tongue until I tasted blood. I will not cry I swore to God and myself. The fifth caught only my left thigh and my leg kicked up in the air and dangled their for a moment leaving me hopping on my right leg. The crowd laughed. I grunted and forced my leg back down.

The sixth stroke was a repeat of the fight but on my right leg. I expected it and kept myself planted on the ground despite every screaming nerve in my leg. There was silence behind me now and I my lips turned upward in the satisfaction of it. The seventh stroke fell covering across the middle of my bottom. Before the burn registered the eighth and ninth fell on the same place.
There was a pause then. I fought off the stinging tears in my eyes and balled my hands into fists to fight the urge to dance the burn away. I braced myself expecting another stroke to fall at any moment.

“Let that be a lesson to every girl present. If you choose to not represent this house and Primrose College with dignity you will find yourself here without dignity.” Mr. Carrington spoke to everyone.

The sound of retreating footsteps soon followed. I felt the stinging of pride, knowing that the strap had not beaten me.

It was sometime before Mr. Carrington untied me and let me free from the post. By the time he did my muscles were exhausted and I would have fallen to the ground were it not for his strong arms lifting me up.

He carried my limp body inside and up the stairs to my room. My roommates were fast asleep and he was careful not wake them as he laid me gently in my bed. He pulled my covers up over me to my neck and smiled down on me. I looked him in the eyes and thought I saw compassion.

“I am not sorry.” I whispered.

He leaned down and kissed my forehead.

“I am.” He said.