Better Late

June 28, 1896
Charles Birchwood

“Caroline, we are gong to be late.” I said.

I was pacing the bedroom floor at a speed commiserate with the rush I felt. Caroline was still lacking her dress and seemed completely oblivious to the fact it was ten minutes until eight.

“You cannot be late to your own dinner, Charles.” She replied in far too calm a tone.

“That is precisely my point.”

“Yes, I can see that it is, but as usual, you have missed mine.”

“That is because you rarely have one and even rarer still is when you have one that actually makes sense.”

“You cannot be late to your own dinner because until you arrive the dinner cannot begin. Therefore whatever time you arrive, you will be right on time. Now do you understand?”

“I understand you are attempting to justify your tardiness with distorted versions of reality.”
“How can reality be distorted?”

“Just finish getting ready, dear. We do not have time for a lengthy discussion.”

“We have all the time we need.”

“If you are not ready in five minutes, I will make you go as you are. Is that clear enough?”

“You don’t have to get huffy about it.”

I sighed. When a woman twists the rules of the universe in her favor there is no telling her she has done so.

Fortunately for us both, Caroline chose not to test my patience further and was ready to go in four minutes. We were still late but only a few minutes and no one mentioned it when we arrived.

The dinner was pleasant, the food was prepared to perfection, and the wine was exquisite. I had in truth been dreading the evening. I have never much liked social events of any magnitude beyond the intimate and I am never quite certain how Caroline will represent herself in the company of strangers. The fact that these strangers held my career in their hands made it even more worrisome

To my surprise Caroline behaved wonderfully. She instantly became the center of attention, allowing me to sit back, relax and watch. You would have thought our move to Primrose was entirely her doing or at the very least her idea. Mr. Carrington was kind enough not to mention the pouting brat who stepped off the train.

My assistant was invited as well and had I not given her some encouragement to attend I think she would have skipped the meal. I had hoped she would bring something interesting to the evening at the very least a discussion about young ladies at the school my ensue around her, but I was entirely wrong. She sat as quietly as I did, perhaps more so.

After dinner I was able to approach her without calling attention to either of us. Caroline was keeping the attentions of everyone else with stories of my teaching in Massachusetts. They all laughed at the boy who burped his way through the national anthem, perfectly on key, at least that is how Caroline tells it.

“I thought you would enjoy the evening. You didn’t have other plans did you?” I said to Edith in a private corner of the sitting room.

No doubt I should have thought of that before now.

“I am enjoying the evening and no, I did not have other plans.”

“But you have been so quiet.”

“I am normally quiet.”

“Not since I have met you.”

“You bring out the talkative side of me I suppose. I am normally more reserved.”

She was blushing a little and shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

“I would never have suspected you of being shy, Edith.”

“I am not shy. I am not comfortable in large groups.”

And I am not old, I have just been around a lot longer than you.

“Has it occurred to your goal of becoming a teacher will place you in front of large groups on a daily basis?”

“Of course, but it is different with children.”

“How so?”

“They are not intimidating.”

“Who here is intimidating?”

“Besides you?”

“Me? My dear girl, that is a wonderful compliment but I have never been intimidating for a single moment in my entire life.”

“Next time you pick up a strap, look in the mirror.”

I chuckled. She had a point.

“Very well, but I do not mean it as intimidation. I will never raise a strap toward you again if it would help.”

“I thought helping was the reason you raised it in the first place.”

“It is but the point of discipline is to teach good behavior from bad, not to intimidate you. What good would that do?”

“Fear can keep a person in line.”

“Yes, but only for so long as the fear remains.”

“Some fears can last a lifetime.”

“Yes, but as a teacher there will always be times when I am no longer involved in my students’ lives. It is better they have learned right from wrong than simply choose right in my presence for fear of what will come from choosing wrong.”

“How can you tell the difference?”

“It is simple, when I raise my hand to you, you do not cower in fear but welcome the release of guilt through just punishment. I can see the difference in this way.”

“I never thought of it like that."

“You should. You are not afraid to be disciplined, Edith. You accept it willingly when you have been a bad girl. You know you need the correction to ease your conscience.”

“Are you going to ignore me all evening, Charles?” Caroline asked, suddenly standing beside me.

“Of course not. I was merely talking with my assistant.” I replied.

Edith took the opportunity to escaped and settled next to Mr. Carrington for quiet whispers. Caroline had apparently ran out of stories to tell and was bored with being the center of attention.

“Shall we dance?” I asked Caroline.

She smiled and nodded.

Ms. Maple was playing the piano, although not perfectly, she was doing a proficient job and dancing has never been about the music in any case. I took Caroline in my arms and twirled her around the room. I must admit to hold my wife in this way and see her bright face, fills me with love. The rest of the room faded away until we stopped and then it was to a polite round of applause, which left Caroline blushing.

“Welcome to Primrose College, Mr. Birchwood.” Dean Steadward said at the end of the applause.
There were nods and smiles all around the room. I knew it was not me they were taken with but Caroline and I have to say, I know just how they feel.. Of course I will still have to warm her backside over making me late…

1 comment:

Paul said...

Melanie, nice post and interesting.
Warm hugs,