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.
“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?”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.
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.”