Cigars, Whiskey, and Women

June 12, 1896
Charles Birchwood

“Discipline, Charles.” Dean Steadward paused to sip his whiskey. “It is the foundation of every respectable educational facility in the world and doubly important to a woman’s college.”

I nodded in agreement and sipped from my own glass of single malt.

“Miss Bowen indicated you would have a set of guidelines for me on the subject.”

“Not anymore. I have had to throw the entire thing out the window.”

“Really? There must be an interesting story behind that decision.”

“Yes, indeed. I am certain you have heard the rumors all ready.”

“Rumors? Indeed not, I pay no attention to the ladies’ gossiping. I find it incurably disorienting.”

We shared a chuckle and sipped a little more from our respective glasses.

“Beginning in the fall, Primrose College will be invaded by the occasional boy from Brown.”

“For what purpose?”

“For the purpose of flirtation no doubt, but it shall be disguised as taking classes which are unavailable in a convenient time slot for the boys.”

“I fail to see the connection to your discipline routine.”

“The Board, in its infinite wisdom, has elected that no boy shall be disciplined inside the walls of Primrose Hall.”

“Perhaps we should whip them in the streets then.” I suggested.

Sebastian Steadward looked at me for a moment as if trying to decide whether I was serious or not. He tipped his glass back and drained it in a single gulp. He grabbed the bottle and refilled his and topped mine off.

“I can see how the boys could be troublesome but I see no reason to stop disciplining the girls regardless.” I said.

“Have you not heard of the women’s suffrage movement?”

“Is that not the exclusive club for men with undisciplined wives?”

Sebastian roared with laughter. I enjoyed a chuckle myself.

“If only it were. Unfortunately, it is a catching trend among women to demand more and more equality. Primrose College is in fact a testament to their lobbying power. If they learn we are stricter with girls than boys inside the same classrooms over the same offenses they will have us for lunch in the press.”

“Then the trick would be for them to either not learn of the imbalance or perhaps tilt the imbalance in the opposite direction.”

“In the opposite direction? How?”

“Simply erect higher standards of behavior for the boys while inside Primrose Hall with severe consequences such as expulsion.”

“We cannot expel boys from Brown for minor mischief!”

“Of course not but you could expel them from Primrose College.”

Sebastian’s eyes opened wide as he suddenly understood. He nodded his head and slowly a large almost deviant smile spread across his face.

“I like how you think, Charles.” He said.

“Thank you.”

We quietly sipped our whiskey. Sebastian pulled out a pair of cigars and offered me one. It was finely rolled and had a pleasant scent. I took it graciously and lit it.

“A girl’s father sent these to me in thanks for my looking the other way on a discipline issue with her.” He said.

“It is not a bad cigar, but I cannot say I approve of looking the other way when a girl needs discipline.”

“You misunderstand, I looked the other way so he could handle her discipline in his own manner. Some of the fathers take a very active role especially in larger issues.”


I puffed a cloud of smoke and deeply inhaled the aroma. My eye caught on the gold band seal of the cigar. It read “Sumter”.

“Before I forget, I wanted to speak with you about Miss Bowen.”


“My understanding was she is strictly my assistant for the summer?”

“That is correct. Is there a problem?”

“Twice since I have arrived Ms. Maple has appropriated her services. I do not mind sharing if there is a legitimate need but it is my impression, Ms. Maple is simply lazy.”

“I see. Yes, I have had conversations with Ms. Maple before on the very subject of laziness. I suppose I must do so again. My apologies for any inconvenience she has caused you.”

“With your permission, I would be inclined to handle the matter more directly.”

“Certainly, you have my full support to handle it anyway you see fit.”

“Thank you.”

I smiled and sat back in the armchair. The cigar would take a good while to burn and there was still plenty of whiskey in my glass. I decided to enjoy both without the burden of further conversation. It was far more entertaining to think of Ms. Maple and how I might deal with her laziness.

It was a short while later when I left the Dean’s office with the understanding I had his full support in disciplinary matters. Interestingly enough the guidelines for punishing the young women of Primrose College were rather ambiguous and after a few well asked questions I determined it was purposeful.

In this way the teaching staff has the flexibility to deal with the young women as their attitude, demeanor, and past history suggests is wisest. No need to worry about keeping things fair as long as the standards of behavior are uniformly enforced the punishments can be custom tailored to each student as is most advantageous.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Melanie, nice gentle post, I hope that we see more of Charles an interesting character.
Warm hugs,