Surprise, Surprise

July 31, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

Someone forgot to tell me or perhaps it was supposed to be a surprise. When I came home from my paper route I was greeted by a young woman at the door. She was pretty and pregnant, very pregnant.

“Hi. I’m Sylvia.” She said sweetly as I came inside.

“I’m Elizabeth. I guess that ring means we are sisters.” I replied.

“Something like that. David has told me all about you, I feel as if I know you.”

“God, I hope he left some things out.”

We both laughed.

“When are you due?” I asked.

She smiled and rubbed her obnoxious belly.

“Any day now.” She said.

“I take it you can hardly wait?”

“I’ve waited long enough, I think. Nine months do not pass as quickly as you might think.”

“So what’s the consensus, girl or boy?”

“Well, my mother and David are convinced it is a boy, your mother and I think it is a girl. Cast your vote and we can have a consensus.”

She giggled a little.

“One of each.” I said.

She groaned.

“This way I’ll be half right no matter what.” I said.

“And if you are totally right, I will hunt you down.” She replied with a devious smile.

I took off my hat, suddenly remembering I looked more like a boy than a girl.

“I should change into something more appropriate.” I said.

“Yes, for a moment I thought you might have been Robert.”

“You have yet to meet him still?” I asked while heading to my room.

“I only just met your mother this morning. I still have to meet your father even.”

“I’m shocked.” I replied loudly from my room so she could still hear me.

“I was a little nervous about not meeting them before the wedding, but David said they would never understand about our little surprise package.”

“Were you showing all ready?”

“Enough so, my mother knew.”

“That must have been interesting.”

“You have odd interests.” She giggled. “Mother nearly skinned me alive.”

“I can imagine. My mother would be much the same if not worse.”

I slipped into a comfortable dress and made my way back out to the main room to join Sylvia. We sat down on the sofa.

“Your mother was not worried about hurting the baby?”

Sylvia giggled some more and blushed a delightful pink.

“She wasn’t hitting my stomach.” She said with a wink.

It was my turn to laugh.

“I assume David and Mother went out?”

“Yes, your mother insisted she needed to shop for a few things and David insisted on going with her. I think he was worried she might spend more than she should.”

“Mother is used to spending without limits.” I nodded.

“Must be nice.”

“It was while it lasted. Now things are different.”

“The depression?”

“Father is an imported and ever since the McKinley tariff the business has been less profitable but things have gotten worse since the banking mess and the devaluation of the dollar.”

She smiled. For a moment I wondered what she was thinking.

“David said you were smart. I have had few friends I could have a conversation about such things with.”

“I generally don’t venture into politics at home, father does not approve, but knowing you are scientist I just assumed you would not mind.”

“Quite so. We should keep in touch.”

“I would love to. Are you staying here long?”

“David is going back to Florida after the baby is born, but I am going to stay with your parents for a few months until he can arrange a proper home for us.”

“Your parents could not help out?”

“They could, they just don’t want to.”


“It’s all right. They will get over it eventually.”

“Like the first time they see their grandchild.” I said.

“Probably.” She agreed.

“I will give you the address from Carrington Manor, that is where I stay at college. You can write me there anytime and I heard a rumor they may have a telephone installed over the summer so we could possibly talk on it sometime while you are here.”

“You attend Primrose College, correct?”


“I’ve heard of them. I understand they allow men in some classes?”

“This coming year will be the first time, but yes, they will be.”

“Aren’t you worried about that?”

‘Why should I be?”

“Well, I mean what if you get in trouble during class?”

“Me get in trouble?” I gave her my best innocent look.

She laughed.

“Okay, he did tell you all about me.” I said.

We both laughed and that was when the door opened to reveal mother and David. I jumped up and gave him a big. It has been over a year since I had last seen him.

“I see you’ve met my wife.” He said.

“Yes, and I’ve filled her in on the parts of your childhood you left out.” I said.
David’s face went a little pale for a moment as he looked to Sylvia, who played along with a serious look of disapproval on her face. Of course it could not last she ended up laughing again.
A moment later she was clutching her belly, and while our smiles did not fade, the laughter did.

“Oh my God, the baby is coming!”

Desperately Seeking Absolution

July 30, 1896
Penelope Sumter

“May I have a word, father?” I timidly asked.

He was looking busy at his desk, but then he always does. I had debated for weeks on whether to approach him or to wait for him to approach me. With my father it is always a game of sorts and I cannot help but feel I have lost this one. He has been distant from me since my return from school and although he certainly felt he had cause to be angry with me, I expected forgiveness. It did not have to be immediate, but so much time has passed, I fear I will return to school and still not have it.

I did my best to appear to wait patiently just inside the door. Internally, I was tapping my foot and huffing at being ignored. Father continued writing on a page in front of him, looking up occasionally when he dipped his pen for more ink. His gaze seemed to pass through me and I began to feel like I was wasting my time.

“No doubt you will give me no peace until I say yes.” He said, still writing and pointedly not looking at me.

“If now is not a good time, I can return later.” I replied.

Only then did he really look at me. I shifted uncomfortably under his gazed. He sat his pen aside and placed the page he was working inside a drawer. He pushed his chair back and stood up behind his desk. He gestured toward one of the visitor chairs in front of it.

“Sit down, Penelope.”

I did so with a slight hesitancy. It is unusual for him to offer me a seat in his study. In most circumstances he keeps me on my feet so as to disrupt him less. Clearly he expected this conversation to be longer than usual. He sat back and folded his hands together in front of him on the desk, after I was seated.

“What is it you wish to discuss?” He asked.

“You are angry with me.” I said.

I had given a lot of thought to how I would breach the subject and in the end I decided on directness, although it would certainly rile my father some, it seemed the only way to get to the bottom of the matter in a reasonable time frame.

“I am not.” He replied.

“I do not mean to contradict you, sir, but you punished me when I arrived and have ignored my presence since. Perhaps angry is a poor choice of words on my part, but your behavior toward me is surely not one of adoration.”

“Yes, and what have you done of late which is worthy of my adoration?”

“I will readily concede I have disappointed you, but I am still your daughter. Disappointing you was never my goal. I wanted you to be proud of me, I thought you would be.”

“It is my sincere hope, you are now aware that such is not the case. I expect you to behave like a proper lady and to refrain from politics and political statements at all times.”

“I am. I am truly sorry for the embarrassment I caused you.”

“As you should be.”

“So, why will you not forgive me?”

“What makes you think I have not forgiven you?”

“Your general behavior toward me this summer. The fact you barely even look at me and ever less often speak a work to me and never has it been a kind one since I returned home.”
“You are nearly a grown woman, I did not think you still required coddling.”

“I do not. I just need reassurance.”

“You are so narrow minded. You seem to think the entire world revolves around you. Let me assure you, it does not. If I am not the father you have come to expect me to be, did it ever occur to you that the reasons for my inattention might have nothing to do with you at all?”

“It has, but you make time to speak with James and Wilbur.”

“They are my heirs. James in particular is very involved in our family’s affairs. The time I make with them is not for reassurance, but business. Can you understand ?”

“Yes, of course. I am sorry I disrupted you. I only wanted to ensure we are on good terms.”

“You made mistakes during your first term at Primrose. I suppose it was to be expected, a young woman in particular can easily be given too much freedom. It was as much my mistake as yours.”

“I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

“As you should, and you should know there are consequences.”

“I have suffered them without complaint.” I said, blushing slightly at the memories.

“What you speak of was punishment, not consequences. Consequences are the results of your actions, not the punishments you incur for them. “

“I am not certain I understand.”

“I am certain you do not. A woman’s mind has difficulty grasping this concept and I do not expect you to understand.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I am sending Wilbur with you, when you go back to school. He will stay in Providence and assist with some business there as well as keep an eye on you.”

I was not sure what to say to the revelation, so I said nothing at all.

“If you recall, the most important reason I sent you to Primrose College was for you to find a suitable husband. Seeing as you ignored this purpose, I will expect Wilbur to arrange appropriate meetings for you. He will also determine which young women you may interact with and which you will stay away from.”

“I thought you were approving of Remington?” I said, confused.

“We all know your relationship with him was nothing more than a hoax.”


“Yes, I allowed him to punish you because it was fitting that you fall prey to your own hoax. Do not think there is anything you have done while at school that I am not fully aware of.”

My memory pondered a few things, most significantly Lucy, who was expelled over what was supposed to have been a minor bit of revenge on her. She had pushed the limits of the issue but it was still ultimately on my conscience what happened to her.

Father must have read my mind.

“Yes, even your scheming against the Meyers girl.”

I swallowed.

“Do not look so worried, if anything, your actions in that situation give me faith in your ability to do what must be done.”

“If you have faith in me, then why Wilbur?”

“Again not everything is all about you. Wilbur is not content to serve our family under James. He needs his own responsibilities and the space to become a man in his own right. I am giving him an opportunity to prove himself and at the same time he can help me look after you. Whether you agree or not, you do need looking after. Trouble has a way of finding you.”

I nodded ruefully at the truth of his words.

“I still think I can determine for myself who my friends should be.”

“Because you chose so well last year?”

I sighed. There was little point in arguing. Every point I could make would only further support his own views.

“Now if there is nothing more, I have work waiting.” Father said.

“Thank you, for the time, sir.” I said and left my father to his work.


July 29, 1896
Edith Bowen

Dear Edith,

It was with great sadness in which I heard about your recent ordeal at the hands of lawless thugs. I am presently away on business, but can certainly make my way back to you, should you desire it.

I would have come straight away, only I realized you might think me odd as we have only recently become acquainted at all. I wish to assure you my attentions and intentions are strictly of the honorable variety. If you require anything, it would be my sincere pleasure to assist you.


Thomas Parker

The note was short, unexpected and quite charming in its inferences if not its purpose. I had not given much further thought to Mr. Parker after our chance meeting in the city. The note renewed my interest in the man, but probably not in the way he imagined.

It gave me pause to consider the coincidences. It was utterly improbable that we should ever meet at all considering we do not revolve around the same circles. What are the calculable odds of meeting a stranger who will; 1. Mistakenly recognize me as my mother. 2. Happen upon me on the one day I go out shopping in months.

Then of course is the timing. They do say timing is everything and in this case I must agree it is true. Had I met Mr. Parker a year ago, I would not have any reason to be suspicious, but having just met him only a short time before being abducted calls to mind a scenario of connections. Albeit, I have no proof.

Still it stands to reason that I should be suspicious. His conveniently timed business trip might have been all about identifying me. Of course why would he use a ruse of knowing my mother? Perhaps he did and I should consider the death of my parents more carefully? Was it not truly an accident? I was far too young at the time to even recall if there were rumors.

And then of course comes the note itself. Innocent in appearance until one asks through what manner of news did he learn of what happened to me? I was not named by the newspapers reporting the story, only Ms. Maple was. How then would he have known that it had involved me at all? Has he been in contact with someone locally? Who and why?

The only reason I can extrapolate is he is keeping tabs on me. Which begs the question why he is doing so. His reasons could be many I suppose but they must in essence come down to one of two, either he has nefarious or innocent reasons. I am leaning toward nefarious. I think I will reply to his letter and see what more I can learn.

The Enemy Within

July, 28, 1896
Sarah Waters

The news of Deb’s pregnancy had clearly lifted what I can only describe as a mood of depression from mother. I am happy about that. She deserves to be happy and I hope somehow the birth of a grandchild will help fill the emptiness my father’s passing has left within her. For myself, I do not know what will fill that emptiness, but a little nephew or niece will not hurt.

Mother and I have become rather good at avoiding each other. Sam and Deb have pretended not to notice. I suppose it is out of politeness, but sometimes I feel it is because they all would rather I was not here at all. It is not like mother and I having completely opposite opinions is anything new. In fact, it has been many years since our relationship was an easy one. Father was always good at keeping the peace between, but now he is not here to do so.

Avoidance has seemed the best policy, for what we will never see the events surrounding his death in the same light. Father often, told me it was my responsibility as a daughter to try to place myself in the shoes of my mother and see things as they are for her. I have done so in the past, but this time, I feel it is she who needs to widen her perspective and not I. It not that I do not understand her views, it is that I cannot accept them.

It was therefore by accident I discovered her meeting with Mr. Parker. I was to be out running errands for Sam and Deb. Unfortunately, I was too efficient at it and home nearly an hour before I was expected.

My blood boiled when I entered the door and heard his voice. I stalked into the living room and discovered them sitting there. They were closer than strictly appropriate and as my eyes focused in on them I realized they were holding hands as well. Barely controlled raged started at my toes and worked its way through my until the tops of my ears were burning. It was all I could do to stand my ground and not attack the man.

Mr. Parker dropped my mother’s hand and jumped to his feet as he became aware of my presence. He cleared his throat uncomfortably in the silence that fell on the room. He must have felt guilty under my cold stare.

“I believe you know my daughter, Sarah.” Mother stood and motioned toward me with a forced smile.

“Yes, of course. It has been some time. How are you?” He said.

Briefly, I considered leaving the room and forgetting what I had seen. It might have been better for all of us if I had, but my demons held my feet fast.

“My father is dead. How do you think I am?” I replied.

Mr. Parker nodded his head.

“You have my condolences. Your father was a good man and he will be missed.”

“I want nothing from you, least of all your false sympathy. You are right though, my father will be missed, you will not be.” I replied.

“Sarah! Mind your manners.” Mother said.

“Not with this man. Never, with him.” I replied to her.

“Get out.” I said to him and pointed toward the door.

I felt like I was trembling with rage but my arm was steady as a rock. Mr. Parker looked uncomfortably between me and my mother. Clearly, he was trying to ascertain which of us he should cater toward.

“If you think, I wanted any of this to happen, you are mistaken. This was a simple labor dispute and I would have negotiated with your father, as I always had in the past, and we would have come to an agreement. The times are not what they were though, and all manners of resolution were stripped from me by the Government. It was their doing that caused this, not mine.”

“If those lies help you sleep at night it matters not to me.” I replied.

“Sarah, please be--” He started to say.

“Do not address me so informally, Mr. Parker. You have not the right.”

“Miss Waters, I can see we will not part as friends and I am sorry whether you believe me or not. I have business with your mother, if you will excuse us.”

“Your business with my mother is over. Get out.” I said, again pointing at the door.

It was at that moment, Deborah entered the room. She had no doubt heard my raised voice. She entered from behind me and grabbed a firm hold of my arm.

“Come on Sarah.” Deborah said, pulling at my arm.

“Not until he leaves.” I said.

Deborah pulled again, harder.

“Let go of me Deborah.” I said turning for an instant to glare at her.

“Sarah, this is not any of your business.” Deborah said.

She pulled again. I turned toward her again twisted my arm until she was forced to let go. I turned back to Mr. Parker, but Deborah was not giving up. She started to grab me again and I turned and slapped her hands away. She came at me again and I pushed her back. She lost her balance and fell to the floor on her back.

Mother ran toward Deborah in concern. I should have tried to help her, but I was too angry to think straight. I glared at Mr. Parker.

Mother got Deborah back to her feet and helped her to sit down.

“Mr. Parker, as you can see now is obviously not going to be a good time. Can we reschedule?” Mother said.

“Of course. I will be in town for a few more days. I am at your convenience during that time.” He said.

I said nothing but followed him to the door and locked it behind him as he left. Only then did I return to the living room with concern for Deborah.

“Are you all right?” I asked her.

She nodded.

“This was none of your business.” She said.

“It was none of yours but it was definitely mine.” I replied.

“Your behavior is inexcusable.” Mother said to me.

“As was yours.” I replied.

Our eyes met in a stare and for the first time mother must have realized when it comes to a battle of wills she will never win with me. She looked away and tended to Deborah as though I did not exist. I am sure she wished that was case. Certain that, Deborah was only stunned I retired to the privacy of my room and paced the floor in a futile attempt to calm myself.

Hot Cross Father

July 26, 1896
Margaret Spooner

“I thought I asked you to make peace with your mother, this summer.” Father said.

It was not a question but I could tell he expected me to treat it like one.

“Yes, Father.” I said, trying to appease him.

“Then why is it the first thing I hear from your mother is about you being a problem while I was gone?”

“It was a mistake.” I said too quickly.

Our conversation was taking place in his private study. I was stripped to my dressing gown and my lower half was exposed with the rest of the gown laying up on my back. Naturally I was leaning over his desk and holding onto the far edge as tightly as I could. The desk was not going anywhere but with the razor sharp strokes of father’s strap applied to my bottom, if I loosened my grip just a fraction I would likely be dancing around the room grabbing at my bottom. The scene was not pretty but the scene of me dancing around the room would be an embarrassing nightmare, and it certainly would do nothing to shorten the current nightmare.

Father swung six times after my too quick comment. I really should think before I speak, especially when I am in such a precarious position.

“At least we can agree on that!” Father said, while his strap added punctuation.

“I didn’t even know I’d left the book there. I thought I had put it away.” I said between sobs.

“Now you are going to accuse your sister of taking it from your room? Do you think your mother and I are fools? How many times have we had to talk to you about leaving your things around the house? How many times has your mother had to clean up after the messes leave all over the house? How many times?”

This is when a smart girl shuts up. Exhibit A; I am either not smart or not a girl.

“I am sure if I talk to Grandma she would tell me there are plenty of bad habits you had as a boy that you don’t have now.” I said.

What that has to do with my current predicament I do not know, but it sounded good in my head. Father must not have liked it though because his strap’s velocity increased and the pain in my butt tripled. No doubt everyone in the house heard me crying and carrying on like a naughty child. The thought entered my head that I would never again be able to face anyone in my family. Of course the truth was I would be facing them and I would be blushing when I did. Some things never change.

“We are not discussing your behavior from when you were 11, we are talking about your behavior last week which is of little difference from your behavior last year or the year before that or from when you were 11 for that matter. You have made no effort to change. When will you grow up Margaret?”

I almost said never. Then I bit my tongue instead. It probably hurt less.

Father stopped talking and simply concentrated on applying leather to my buttocks. He managed four ‘good’ ones on my thighs too, which nearly sent me through the desk. My fingers went numb from trying to hold on. Finally after those, stingers he stopped.

“I expect you to go and find your mother, apologize for you behavior and then it is straight to bed for you. Understood?”

I wanted to get up off the desk and face him, but I was lacking the strength or the energy or both. I laid quiet for moment as his words sunk in. I lifted my tear stained face from the desk to look at him puzzled for an instant.

“But it is only 3:00 PM.” I said.

“I have a clock, thank you.” Father said.

I closed my eyes, feeling even more embarrassed than I did when he walked in and order me to his study in my dressing gown for punishment. My siblings got a good laugh at my expense as my mother interpreted for me that my father wanted me to undress before entering his study.

“Yes, sir.” I said finally.

“And keep that gown above your backside. You can be an example for your siblings of what happens when they don’t behave and I am gone.”

Fresh tears spilled down my cheeks, but I was fresh of fight. I nodded my head and went to look for mother. Hopefully I won’t have to look long or far.

A Philosophy Of Guilt

July 25, 1896
Edith Bowen

“Do you feel guilty?” Charles asked.

“No, should I?” I replied.

We were sitting in his living room. I was enjoying red wine, while he was sipping his customary single malt. Charles is the only man I know who can savor a single glass of whiskey for more than hour. At the current rate I will have downed half the bottle of wine and he will still be on the same glass. It makes me wonder if he truly likes whiskey or just thinks he is supposed to like it.

“Guilt is a very personal thing. It is normal to feel a sense of guilt over a great many things, but especially when we make choices that are selfish in nature.” Charles said.

He was studying me. I did not even have to look at him to know it. I could feel his eyes wandering over me and while not long ago I would have mistaken it for a sexual appetite, I know better now. He was looking for truth.

“Like the choice to fight to live?” I asked.

“Perhaps. Do you think you made that choice?”


Charles smiled and studied his whiskey for a moment before replying.

“Do you think Ms. Maple made the choice not to fight for her life?” He asked.

It was a cruel question. The look on his face told me he knew it was. I wondered in the face of it, why he would ask.

“I do not know.” I whispered.

“Allow me to put it a different way. Do you think she chose to give up?”

“No.” I replied.

“You sound certain.”

“I am.”

“But you are not certain if she would choose to live. How can you be certain she did not choose to die?”

“You are saying there is no difference?”

“I am saying you can never know the internal choices of another person. What you believe about them is all you have.”

“What about truth?” I asked.

“What about it?”

“Can the truth be flexible based on what we believe?”

“Very much so. Not all truths though, some are more inflexible than others.”

“Do you think I should feel guilty because I lived and she died?”

“I think you should feel relieved.”

“You did not answer the question.”

“Of course, not. It is not my place to tell you when you should feel guilty.”

“I did not ask you to tell me when I should.”

“Didn’t you?”

“I asked what you believed.”

“Why would it matter to you?”

“I would not want you to believe me to be insensitive.”

“I do not believe you are.”

“Then why have you asked if I feel guilty?”

“Because I thought you might.”

“Feeling guilty because I lived, seems wrong.”

“I agree, but that was not what I asked. I merely asked if you felt guilty. I did not imply what you might feel guilty about. It was your own predispositions which led you to assume I was speaking of living.”

“I feel guilty about not feeling guilty?” I asked.

Charles laughed. After a moment I did as well. The entire conversation had slipped into the absurd.

“Let me simplify. I am aware of the falling out you had with Ms. Maple over the politics of this school.” He said.

“And you think I might feel guilty because I did not agree with her?”

“I think you might feel guilty because you were warned that your politics in these regards were dangerous and you ignored those warning.”

“I do not.”

Charles appeared surprised by my response, but I stand by it. I am not the guilty party here.
“You are more confidant than you seem then.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have seen you to have doubts. I have seen you to question the simplest of things, it is the nature of your very political alignment. It seems a contradiction that you would not question yourself.”

“If I question what I believe in, then what am I left with?”

“The truth.”

“Which is?”

“Only you can know that.”

Women And Politics

July 24, 1896
Charles Birchwood

Indiscretions aside, it is time for my wife to rejoin me. I sent word for her father to send her out on the next train along with our children. While I doubt the intrigue of late is settled for good, I also doubt it will pose a danger again anytime soon. Whatever elements were behind the incidents have surely realized they were calling far too much attention to themselves and have therefore decided to lie low for the time being.

All is well enough for me, I have lesson plans to complete and classroom rules to set. The latter is of the greatest interest to me. Can I for example, create rules strict enough to maintain order and craftily enough as to make it simple to catch out a young women whenever I wish too and subtle enough to appear fair? Perhaps I ask too much but what is life without an impossible goal or two?

Edith has been quite attentive of late. Her visit to my home seems to have been an isolated event. I can tell that she does indeed fail to trust in Alexander Carrington though. I share her distrust of the man and am certain he has his own agenda. He may not have been directly behind what happened to Edith and Pollyanna but he knows who was. The knowledge alone of course does not make a man guilty of anything but failing to disclose what he knows does. I shall not turn my back to him again, lest I fall flat with a knife stabbed in it.

Some might think I overstate Edith’s reticence in interactions with Mr. Carrington, particularly since she has excepted his offer of joining the dormitory staff for the coming school year. I however, see beyond the face value, clearly Edith does as well. In time her motivations will be clearer to others as well. That is if she continues to be vigilant, for I do not find comfort in Steadward’s assertion that Pollyanna was the sole target. Were that true, none would have needed bother with Edith at all.

From what history I can gather, I think Edith herself was the root of the trouble. Getting involved in school politics is not something I would do casually and certainly a student who would chose to do so, would be putting themselves and their friends at risk. Edith is naïve or rather was naïve enough to think she could meddle in such affairs and remain untouched. Such is not the way of politics.

It would be interesting to see how Edith now feels in regards to her championed cause. Knowing her as I do, I suspect she is not the least bit regretful and would (rightly so I believe) lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the men who killed Pollyanna. Under no stretch of imagination should Edith’s actions have warranted a death sentence. Perhaps a sound birching in public but not death.

I can only hope these matters are now settled and there will be no further ridiculousness on either side. For my part, I will certainly take Edith in hand should her ideals runaway with her common sense. That said, if I were to ever encounter one of the bastards who saw fit to murder a defenseless woman over ideals, I would gladly see him swing.

Edith should be arriving soon. Now that I have thought on it, I think I will give her a just reminder on why women should stay out of politics. I have a new strap, lighter weight and specifically crafted for use on errant ladies, courtesy of Dean Steadward. I do think Edith will be quite pleased to be the first to feel it. Indeed, she should be honored by it.

It Cuts Both Ways

July 23, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

“There will be a twenty dollar bill in it for each boy that brings me a 100 new subscriptions and extra five for the first one to do it.” My boss said.

I was loading my bicycle with the papers for delivery like the others and at the same time we were listening to our new mission. I really could care less about growing the subscription base for the newspaper but an extra twenty dollars was worth some effort.

After making my deliveries, I decided there was no time like the present to get started. I might even earn that extra five if I was lucky. Not that I was daring to hope for it. I thought it was likely that everyone else would be doing the door to door thing so I thought I would try something different and visit the businesses.

The first stop was a success in most respects. That is to say I actually sold three subscriptions in one stop. No one even bothered to comment on my voice which I did my best to disguise as manly. On the other hand it was a barber shop and the barber insisted on lifting my cap and imagine his shock when my far too long hair came spilling out. I was certain my secret was out.

“My God, boy! When was the last time your hair was trimmed?” The barber asked.

He sounded like he though my parents were abusing me.

“I, ah, I don’t know.” Was the best I could manage.

“Well, I’ll take care of that right now. Sit right down here, young man.”

“I couldn’t sir, please. I don’t have any money to pay for it.” I said, scrambling for any excuse to get out with my hair intact.

“Never mind that, I can’t in good conscience let you go around like that boy. Someone is liable to mistake you for a girl.”

Oh the irony.

“It really isn’t necessary, sir. I don’t want to be any trouble.”

“Sit down, boy. It not any trouble. You can plainly see I’m not busy today. Hasn’t anyone ever done anything nice for you before?”

“Not often.” I mumbled.

“It’s about time then. Sit down.”

I gave up. I sat down in the chair and closed my eyes. Fifteen minutes later my hair was bobbed and I was back on my way. I was struggling between crying and laughing when I saw my reflection in the windows on the street. I decided laughter was best, fortunately hair does grow back.

It turned out for the best really. Most of the business kept making a point about taking my hat off inside. I never realized how much of a hassle boys must go through for the stupid things. It took me about six hours going from shop to shop, but I managed to get a whole 105 new subscriptions for the paper.

When I arrived to see my boss, no one seems to know his name he is just the boss, there was all ready a boy inside with him. I felt a bit disappointed that I was not first, funny to think first thing this morning I did not even care. When I got inside and handed over my list and the envelope with the fees, the boss smiled for the first time in my presence.

“Well done, boy.” He slapped me on the back and nearly sent me to the floor.

“Thank you, sir.”

He pulled out his wallet and handed me a twenty dollar bill. I have seen them before but this was the first time I actually had one in my hand that belonged to me. I must have been smiling from ear to ear. Then he handed me a five too. I nearly started to cry. I blinked the tears back and stared up at the boss.

“I promised an extra five for the first one, and by God you came through and so then have I.” He said.

He must have taken my stare as one of surprise instead of shock.

“I thought I was not the first.” I said nodding my head to the boy who had just left.

“He didn’t take any money for the subscriptions. Foolish boy won’t go far thinking you can just take a man’s word.”

“I see. Thank you, sir.”

“Thank you. Now off you go, if you think you can manage another 100 I’ll give you another twenty for them.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll try my best, sir.”

The money in my pocket was just about worth losing my hair. That is what I thought anyway, until I arrived home.

Mother and Father were pacing the floor when I entered. They instantly stopped and ran to me. I found myself being hugged and dragged inside. Then all the nurturing came to a stop and Father grabbed me by both shoulders and looked me square in the eyes.

“Where have you been?” he asked.


“You should have been home hours ago.”

“The boss wanted us to sell subscriptions after deliveries today. It took a while longer.”

“And you could not stop by home and let your mother know?”

“I didn’t think of it.” I said.

“Your Mother was worried sick.”

Not to mention you too, father but we will keep that between us.

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

I actually meant it. I had not given a single thought to my parents or what they might be thinking of me not coming home as normal.

“It had best not. Get into some respectable clothes and join us for dinner.” Father said.

He knocked my hat off as though disgusted I was still wearing it. I was feeling a bit of a relief that he was letting me off with a warning and then when the hat fell into my hands I remembered my hair.

“What in God’s name happened?” Father nearly shouted.

“I got a haircut.” I whimpered.

“I can see that! Why, Elizabeth, why?”

“It was that or admit I was a girl.”

“You made the wrong choice.”

“It will grow back.”

“And what about in the meantime? Do you think any respectable man will give you second look when you look like a boy?”

“It isn’t that bad is it?” I asked.

My father through his hands up in the air and walked away. Mother looked at me and nodded in the affirmative.

After dinner my father escorted me to my bedroom and took my hairbrush up off my dresser. I did not need to wait for instruction and so I began preparing my bottom for the imminent spanking.

“Since you won’t be needing this for your hair anytime soon, we can put it to some other use and maybe drive some common sense into you.”

“Yes, sir.” I replied meekly.

He sat down on the edge of my bed.

“Over my lap.” He ordered.

Carefully I laid myself down on his lap. My naked bottom felt cold under his gaze. It did not last long, soon it was a fire worthy of roasting almonds. Father swung the hairbrush so hard and fast, that I thought he would break it. He did not but he did break through my resistance.

At first, I kicked and squealed. I promised I would never do anything of the like again. None of it seemed to matter until I lay perfectly still and crying over his lap while he continued to beat what he called common sense into my backside.

“I love you dearly, Elizabeth, but sometimes I do not understand a single thought that runs through your head.”

“I’m sorry. I was only doing what I thought was best.”

“Best for the immediate moment but you have to learn to think beyond the moment. Tomorrow can be more important than today.” He said.

I am not certain I agree with him, but it is something to think about.

If It Makes You Happy

July 22, 1896
Sarah Waters

It seemed like a good day to pay Jasper a visit. I have hardly seen him at all since moving to Denver. Sam did not have room for him near the house so he has been staying in a community stable on the outskirts. I managed to borrow a couple of carrots from Deborah, Jasper’s favorite snack. He was definitely happy to see me. I think he might have thought I had forgotten him, but I had not. I missed him at least as much as he missed me.

I had not planned on taking him out but after seeing him I could not just leave. He needed the exercise and the companionship, I think I needed it too. I have so many things to think about and while some probably think it odd, I do my best thinking when I am alone with Jasper. There is something about his spirit which calms me and helps me to see things more clearly. Someday I will need to learn to do that on my own, no matter where I am or who I am with but for now Jasper does the job.

Only a few more weeks and I will be a college girl. I was excited the first time I even dared to think I might become one, now that the newness has worn away, I find my excitement tempered. I have never been afraid of change, most days I welcome it, but there is something more to it this time. I realize when I set foot on that east bound train, it will be more than turning the page to a new chapter of my life, it will be more like finishing one book and beginning a whole new one, where the characters and story are just beginning. What will that new book, new life, hold for me? Only time will tell.

Then there is the business of disappearing books. Do I read too much into it or not enough? I have worried little about it, but the odd coincidences are at least intriguing. First, my father’s journal is taken by Mr. Parker’s hired guns. Next my school books, given to me by Mr. Stone, are taken from my bedroom. And if that were not enough to cause one to wonder, Samuel misplaces his ledgers or were they also taken? Samuel has always been well organized and the last thing I remember him losing was his baby teeth. The idea that all these things are connected is farfetched, but why can I not shake the thought since it entered my head?

When Jasper and I returned to the stable, Samuel was waiting for us. I gave Jasper the last of the carrots before letting the hands take care of him. Without a word, Samuel offered me his arm and we began walking toward home, his home. My home is gone and part of me wonders if I will ever have another.

“You looked happy with Jasper.” Sam said.

“I was. It has been too long since I saw him.”

“No one has kept you away.”

“I know. Why did you come out here?”

“I thought you might need some company.”

“I appreciate the though but as you can see, I was fine.”

“Yes. You were also a convenient excuse to get me out.”

“Are mother and I causing problems between you and Deborah?”

“No, not at all. Deborah likes having a full house. I seem to recall you and Deborah being inseparable not so many years ago.”

“Things change.”

“Not all things.”

“I could debate that.”

Samuel laughed at me. I tried to feign offense but in the end I laughed with him.

“Can you keep a secret, Sarah?” He asked.

“You know I can.”

“Deborah is pregnant.”

He said it so stoically, as though he was unsure he was happy about it. I regarded him carefully for a moment, wondering just what it was he was thinking and why he was telling me.

“Father would have been proud.” I said.

“He was.”

“You’ve known? Does mother know too?”

I felt betrayed.

“No, she does not. I knew when I came to get you and father out of jail, but the timing has rarely seemed right to spread the news. Deborah has been bursting at the seems to tell you and mother.”

“Why have you waited? Mother could certainly use the good news to cheer her up.”

“I thought perhaps it was inappropriate to introduce such news while she was still grieving,, but I have begun to realize she will still be grieving even when the child is born.”

“If you don’t tell her. Do you know what a grandchild will mean to mother?”

“That she is getting old?”

It was my turn to laugh at him.

“I suppose that too, but more importantly it means life goes on. It means that there is a future and even though our father is gone, his lineage will go on.”

“That is an awful burden to place on a newborn.” Samuel said with a smirk.

“It is not a burden, it is just part of what they are.”

“So, we should tell mother then?” He asked.

We both laughed at the rhetorical question. From there we walked in happy silence until we reached the from steps. I stopped and pulled Sam with me to a stop. He looked at me, puzzled and against my better judgment I asked the question which had been on the tip of my tongue.

“Are you happy, Sam?”

He gave me a wry smile and pulled me until I walked up the steps with him and into the house. The lack of an answer left me wondering, what does a child mean to Samuel?

Between Boys And Men

July 21, 1896
Penelope Sumter

James was only supposed to be gone for a few days. It ended up being so long I was truly worried about him. He has been so different since I came home for summer. There was a time when James, Wilbur and I were inseparable. Clearly those days are long gone. Even Wilbur and James are separated by this divide.

It was about midday when they arrived. James looked like he had been in a fight and lost twice. The man who accompanied him was unmarked. His gaze was cold and angry and even though he was closer to my father’s age than my brother’s he looked more than capable of having been the other man in the fight.

The way he escorted James and James’ expression were both reminiscent of a naughty boy being escorted to his father for judgment and punishment. Were it not for the bruises and my concern, I might well have laughed at the sight. Wilbur had no so such compunctions and therefore nearly roared with laughter after the door to father’s study was closed with the three men inside.

I slapped Wilbur’s arm.

“That’s not very nice, he could be hurt.” I said.

“Only his pride and it could use some bruising if you ask me.”

I gave up. There was no point in arguing about it and besides, I agreed with him in most respects. Wilbur stared at me as if daring me to continue. I shook my head and he drained his lemonade.

“I wonder what they are talking about?” I said aloud to myself more than Wilbur.

He shrugged. He looked down at his glass. He offered it to me with a devious smile. I took it with a smile of my own.

The sound through the wall and glass was muffled, but clear enough I could hear what was going on. Wilbur stood next to me. He expected a full report with all the details.

“Was it not our agreement to let things be for now?” The distinguished visitor was saying.

“Are you insinuating I have not?” My father responded.

“There is nothing to be insinuated. I found your boy in the middle of it.”

“In the middle of what? I have no patience for games.”

“Do not tell me you have not read the papers.”

“I have read it. Are you saying my boy was responsible?”

“Ask him yourself.”


There was only silence for a moment but I could imagine my brother nodding his head in shame for whatever sin it was he had committed.

“I will deal with it directly. If there is nothing else…” My father said.

“Reign your boy in Sumter or I’ll do it for you.”

Suddenly the door opened and the gentleman exited at a brisk pace leaving my father’s study open behind him. He marched out the front door without a look back and slammed it behind him. I nearly dropped the glass, but Wilbur was quick enough to steady it in my hands. We made ourselves scarce before anyone else exited the study.

“What happened?” Wilbur asked in the privacy of my bedroom.

“I don’t know. James did something that really angered that man though.”

“There must have been more?”

“Something about a story in the papers. I don’t know which one or which papers, but father seemed to know.”

“Hmmm.” Wilbur scratched his head. “I’ll have to do some snooping.”

“Let me know if you figure anything out.”

He smiled and winked at me.

A little while later I overheard a bit of yelling between father and Wilbur. From the sounds of it Wilbur was caught snooping. I must admit, I was relieved it was him and not me. No doubt I would have been bent over father’s desk. There was a time when father’s disapproval would have driven my brother to tears, but these days he does not seem to care what our father thinks of him. Maybe James is the same? Maybe that is what happens when boys become men.

The Strength To Know The Difference

July 19, 1896
Edith Bowen

Is it wise to search for the good within the bad things which befall us? It can make them more palatable, but it can also allow us to forget. Some things are not best forgotten, lest we find ourselves retracing the steps which brought us to them. Ms. Maple and possibly even Elizabeth Bassett might disagree with me, but despite all that has come to pass, I would not have done a thing different. What does that make me?

In the aftermath of my near death experience, I find I have a new passion for living. Staring death in the face has indeed changed me and not all for the better I fear. I cannot help but recall thinking of all the things I have not done, all the moments I have wasted and having survived the ordeal, it seems logical that I address my regrets.

The other night with Charles was such a moment, caution tossed to the wind, along with propriety, clothing, and at least some of my dignity. He was wonderful, I never doubted he would be, but will Caroline ever forgive me? Charles thinks she will not know but I know her well enough to know a single look of Charles and I together and she will know the truth. If she asks me, I have all ready decided I will not lie. Charles will not suffer for it but I may well find it an uncomfortable final year at Primrose College.

The morning after our sordid affair was interesting at least. I fully expected an inquisition from Mr. Carrington, but as things turned out he was preoccupied and so far seems to have forgotten the matter entirely. I cannot blame him, were it not for my fond memories with Charles, I might have forgotten as well.

The morning began normal enough, normal enough considering I was in a married man’s bed when I woke and I was not his wife. Charles made coffee, I took a quick bath and dressed. I made egg shell omelets for breakfast which Charles ate without comment. It was amusing to watch him picking shell out of his teeth, but I refrained from giggling, lest he think I did it on purpose.

Just as I was washing the dishes, a knock came on the door. I sighed, expecting it to be Mr. Carrington. I had hoped it would take him longer to discover where I had gone and even that I was missing at all. I had concocted a plausible story of rising early and going for a walk but with him at the door it was not worth any effort to hide and reappear with it later.

Charles gave me a knowing look, before going to the door. I suppose he was a touch alarmed at the prospect of having to explain my all night stay in his home while his wife and children were away. The assumptions would be made regardless of what story we told. I suppose it is at least fitting that we did indeed do that which we will be accused of doing. It goes without saying we will deny it regardless.

“Good morning, Mr. Birchwood. I am sorry to disturb you so early.”

The voice was not that of Mr. Carrington but of our esteemed Dean, Mr. Steadward. My heart pounded in my chest. Dean Steadward was supposedly taken like Ms. Maple and I. Most had assumed he was dead, as we had not heard from him in so long.

“Do come in, Dean. It is good to see you well, sir.” Charles said and stepped aside to allow him to enter.

The Dean stepped inside and lost his voice for a moment. He stared at me and I stared at him. I am not sure which of us was more surprised.

“Miss Bowen, I was intending to see you next, it is good that you are here.” The Dean said at last into the silence.

I closed my mouth and forced a smile.

“What can we do for you?” Charles asked.

“I have just arrived back in town and it seems there has been a miscommunication of sorts.”

“Back in town? From where?” I asked.

Charles’ expression seconded my question.

“The morning I left, I told you I had a family emergency arise and would be leaving immediately. I asked you to inform Ms. Maple that our meeting would have to be postponed and to inform the faculty I would be gone for an undisclosed number of days but back before the start of term in any case.”

I blinked in disbelief. That was not at all what had been said. Rather than calling him a liar, I chose silence instead.

Charles looked between us and seemed about to question the story and then apparently thought better of it. Just then, another knock came at the door. Charles turned to open the door again, but it did not wait for him. The door swung open and Mr. Carrington entered.

“Edith! What are you doing….Dean Steadward, you are alive.” Mr. Carrington said.

“Quite. I just arrived back this morning. As I was just informing Mr. Birchwood, I was away on family business. Miss Bowen was to inform everyone, but apparently misunderstood me. I was rushed and no doubt the fault is mine.”

“Have you heard about Ms. Maple?” Mr. Carrington asked.

“Yes, a very sad affair. Miss Bowen, are you recovering well?”

“Yes, thank you. It was a frightening experience but it is over now.” I said.

“I feel somewhat responsible, having sent you off with a message for Ms. Maple. I did not know there was trouble about, but Ms. Maple has had problems in the past and I should have suspected something with the strangers I noticed on campus that morning. I was simply preoccupied with other matters and did not give it the attention it deserved.”

“What do you mean by trouble?” Charles asked.

“Ms. Maple had a bit of a gambling problem. She has twice before ran up enough debt that I was forced to interfere and pay her debts to avoid an embarrassing situation. From what I have heard it seems it is likely she did so again and found more trouble than she could handle.”

“That does not explain why they bothered with me.” I said.

“I imagine you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I nodded, but I was not about to agree with him. Something was dead wrong with the whole story and all I could figure was he had made some kind of a deal for his life. There was something about the way he looked at me which was almost pleading. I think he feared I would spoil it all and refuse to accept his new version of events. I must admit I was tempted to call the whole matter out. In the end I decided it was best to keep quiet and see where things are going.

Passion's Indiscretion

July 18, 1896
Charles Birchwood

I had only just sat down at the dinner table last evening when there was a knock at the door. I was sorely tempted to ignore it, but the knocker was too persistent for that. With Caroline and the children gone, things have been quiet and peaceable at home. If not for the strange events around Primrose, I would be quite happy. So, I suppose would be the young lady who was at my door.

“Edith, what brings you by at this hour?” I asked.

“I heard you sent your wife and children away.” She replied.

Edith stepped inside without waiting for my permission. I closed the door, feeling a bit surprised at Edith’s boldness. It was a move quite unlike her and yet completely her at the same time. That is to say, Edith Bowen is a contradiction, with legs.

“Are you all right? I know it must be a difficult time for you.” I said.

“As all right as I can expect to be. I am alive after all.”

Edith walked further into the house, toward the dining room. Perhaps it was my imagination but she seemed to be teasing me with a wicked smile.

“Yes, you are that. Was there something I could do for you?”

“Can I make a confession to you?”

“I am not a priest.”

“I would never confess to one.”

I am certain she was winking at me.

“If you feel you must, let us hear it.”

“I feel safe with you, Charles.”

She unfastened the collar of her blouse. I would imagine the constriction of the material around her neck must be almost intolerable, all things considered. I would have allowed her to loosen a few more. I cleared my throat before replying.

“I am certain there are many you can feel safe with, but I am honored, nonetheless.” I said.

“If I am honest, there are few I feel safe around right now.”

“In time that will change.”

“Are you certain? I am not.”

“Yes, all wounds take time to heal and not all scars reside on the flesh.”

“Would you exam my scars?”

She fluttered her eyelashes at me. It was that moment in which I nearly forgot I was speaking with Edith, she reminded me so much of Caroline right then. Only a fool would not miss his wife when she is gone and I am no fool.

“If you think it appropriate I would, but I am not a doctor.” I said.

“I have interrupted your supper. Please sit and enjoy it.”

The smile on her face faded and it was as though she had suddenly become stricken with a dire case of seriousness.

“Will you join me?” I asked.

“No, I have all ready eaten this evening. Please enjoy your supper, we will have plenty of time afterward.”

“You can wait in the drawing room. I am certain Caroline has an elicit novel or two which may occupy your thoughts while you wait.”

“Very well.”

After escorting her to the drawing room I sat and ate my dinner in record time. I am not even certain what it was now that I think about it. Meat of some kind no doubt, but was it chicken or steak? It surely does not matter.

I rejoined Edith and took a chair opposite her. She set aside the book she had been perusing. I think she might have read three pages while waiting for me. Just enough to get interested.

“Tell me Edith, why are you here?”

“Do you not want me to be here?”

“That is not what I said.”

“But it is inferred in your question.”

“If I had intended to infer something I would have said it straight out.”


“Why are you here.”

“Because I want to be.”

“The Carrington’s will be worried.”

“They do not know I am gone.”

“You snuck out?”

“Yes, was that naughty of me?”

“You know it was.”

“Are you going to do anything about it?”

“Such as take you home?”

“Carrington manor is not my home, but no that is not what I was thinking.”

“I thought not. You do not seem to be quite yourself tonight.”

“Who am I then?” Edith asked with an almost sultry tone.

“You tell me.”

Edith stood up from her chair and walked over to me. I started to rise but just as quickly she plopped herself down in my lap.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

She wrapped an arm around the back of my neck and leaned down to whisper in my ear.

“I could be Caroline.” She whispered.

“I do not think this a good idea.”

“I thought you said I was beautiful.” She pouted.

“You are, but this is not proper.”

“And are you always proper, Charles?” She asked but her tone indicated she knew the answer.

“Of course not, but I am married.”

“I will not tell.”


She kissed me. I should have pushed her away. I should have turned her over my knee and spanked some sense into her. I should have taken her back to Carrington manor. I kissed her back and forgot everything, but how beautiful she was. An old man like me would be an imbecile to turn away a beautiful, young thing would they not?

Admittedly, I got carried away in the moment and I swooped her up in my arms. I trudged up the stairs with her smiling, giggling and kissing all the way. I dropped her on the bed so she bounced. To me, she was no longer, Edith Bowen, she was my wife and it was our wedding night. Caroline was so young and beautiful and happy.

I helped her off with her things and she nearly tore my clothing from my body. I will need new buttons on my shirt for certain. How will I explain to Caroline when she finds the buttons under the bed or in some dark corner of the bedroom? I was tired and angry and could not wait to get my shirt off? Yes, she will believe that without question and if she does not, I can always spank her until she does.

Edith was on fire. She was insatiable. I was exhausted and the first act was hardly over. She ran her finger nails, so they snagged on my arms and back. She nibbled on my chest and neck and when she kissed me it was like death sucking out my very soul. In the end we slept in exhaustion.
Morning revealed a more furtive, Edith. She was shy and quiet again. I wonder if I took advantage of her of if she took advantage of me?

The Science Of Vulgarity

July 17, 1896
Margaret Spooner

I thought summer vacations were supposed to be a time of fun. They certainly used to be. Then of course you have to grow up, go away to college, and come home to be tormented about your status as not quite an adult and not quite a child. It is not always a bad thing but with father still away, mother has become a touch testy.

“How many times have I told you not to leave your books lying around the house?” Mother asked.

She was clearly annoyed and common sense told me it had something to do with a book I left someplace other than in my room. Why she had waited to begin the inevitable conversation in its regard until I was enjoying a fair amount of sun while writing a letter to Edgar, I do not know.

“Too many.” I replied.

It was likely not the wisest choice of responses but my slight exasperation at being disturbed was more than I could contain. I immediately bit my tongue after the words came out but it was too late to take them back.

“I should think so as well.” Mother said, exasperation creeping into her own tone. “Why then did you leave this one in the living room?”

Mother held up a book and waved in the air. My eyes struggled to follow it and read the title until I started feeling dizzy and sleepy. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but it was impossible to discern which book she held. I was tempted to suggest it might not even be mine.

“I must have forgotten about it.” I said.

Mother rolled her eyes at me. I find it annoying when she does that to me considering I am not allowed to do it to her. She is my mother though and I suppose there must be some privileges that come with the territory although I doubt they are sufficient.

“Just like you have forgotten your manner around guest, and forgotten to tell the truth, and forgotten to make your bed, and forgotten to clean the tub after your baths. I could go on for hours about all the things you forget. Is that what they teach you at college, to forget everything and think only of yourself?”

“No, Mother. They teach us to remember more things than our brains can withhold and so it follows that we forget other things which are not relevant to the examinations.” I replied.

Sarcasm is not usually a good choice with Mother. It is normally lost on her and in the rare cases it is not she takes offense.

“Are you mocking me?” She queried.

There was anger in her tone and enough of it to cause me to be wary.

“No, of course not. I was trying to write a letter to Edgar and it is not coming easily. I am distracted.”

“Distracted by what?”

“By you.”

“Pardon me?”

I should have realized by her inflection and tone she did not mean it as an apology.

“It is all right, but if we could have this discussion a little later I would be appreciative.” I said before I thought it through.

Her open palm connected gently with my cheek. Okay, it was not that gently. While I gazed open mouthed and in shock, she wagged a finger at me.

“Your frivolous writing to friends will not take precedence over me or anyone else in this house. Am I understood young lady?” She scolded.

“Yes, Mother.” I said with emphasis on mother.

“Watch your tone.” She said.

“I am sorry I left the book out. I will put it away now.” I said, holding out my hand for it.

“Not so fast. This discussion is not over, Margaret Ann.”

There she goes using my middle name again.

“What more?” I asked.

“What business do you have with a book like this in the first place? It is disgusting.” Mother said.

“Which book is it?” I asked.

“Evolution, Expression, and Sensation. It is vulgar and not worthy of the title of book.”

“It is some summer reading to prepare me for my upcoming science class.” I replied.

No doubt something about it had disturbed Mother but as to which paragraph, I could not imagine.

“They actually allow this trash in a school?” She asked.

The disbelief in her voice was going to make explaining rather difficult. I gulped and decided to try.

“Well, no, it is not a school book per se. Dr. Phallic suggested I read it for some advanced theory ideas, but the book itself is banned from the campus.” I said.

I bit at my lip, waiting for the explosion.

“I can clearly see why such vulgarity would be banned, but do you honestly expect me to believe a teacher suggested you read it?”

“I am telling the truth.”

“Just as you were about Mrs. Carrington’s letter.”

“No, this is different, Dr. Phallic really suggested it to me, that is even his copy, he loaned it to me.”

“I will be checking on that, Margaret Ann, directly with your Dean.”

“You could just check the inside of the back cover. Dr. Phallic’s name is inscribed.”

“I would not put you above having done that yourself.”

I sighed. There was no use arguing.

“What is you find so disturbing about it?” I asked.

My curiosity was genuine. In reading it thus far I had uncovered nothing vulgar, although the theory of evolution might be considered sacrilegious to some, we are not an especially devout household.

“Andrea picked it up and saw this!” Mother said.

She flipped the book open and shoved the pages nearly in my face. It was a diagram of the naked male body. I laughed.

“This is not funny. This is disgusting and has no place in my home.”

“It is a medical diagram, Mother. There is nothing sinister about it.”

“I will be the judge of that in my home.”

“I do not understand why this matters to you.”

“Your little sister is staring at a drawing of a naked man in a book brought home by her older sister, and I am not to be bother by it? What world is this on which you are living?”

“It is just a diagram, what harm can come from her knowing a little about the male anatomy?”

“She is far too young for knowledge like that and you should know it.”

“Please Mother, she probably saw nothing there which she was not all ready keenly aware of.”

“You will not speak of your sister like that in my house.” Mother replied leaning nearer my face.

“Yes, Mother. I am sorry Mother.”

“I will be keeping this until I have heard back from your Dean. If it does indeed belong to your Dr. Phallic he will receive it back by mail. If not, I will burn it and remind you how liars are punished in this house. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Mother.” I replied meekly.

“As for your attitude, I will see to it your father deals with it when he arrives home. I suggest you mind your manners and not make matters worse for yourself in the meantime.”

“Yes, Mother.”

She then grabbed my partially written letter, wadded it up into a ball and walked away. If I had any courage at all I would have followed her and slapped her silly for being so mean, but she is my mother. It just would not be right to put her over my knee, even if that is what she desperately needs.

The Secrets We Keep

July 15, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

The nightmares have returned. The story about lynching in the newspaper was undoubtedly the culprit, but knowing from where they come is little comfort. Every night it is the same. The rolling clouds in the sky, the thunder in the distance drawing nearer. The wind blowing through the field of lavender and at the field’s end, the tree stands still, untouched by the wind. The girl who leads us, I know her name now, she is Sarah Waters and there is a coldness about her. Penelope swings lifeless from a branch and we are angry, but I think we are even angry at her. It is so odd and so real and yet it make no sense.

I dread the nights and I tire of sleeping. Ironic, is it not?

Father has been extremely irritable as well. Ever since that day last week when mother and I went to visit him at his work, he has been short of temper and long on lectures. If mother knows what matters are bothering him, she has excelled in fooling me. I find myself curious as to what matters could be so secret in father’s life that he will not share them with his wife.

Perhaps it is just business. The strike settlement out of Colorado is rumored to have created a ruckus throughout the labor unions. Especially those in “nationally critical” jobs who have been denied their right to strike without any concessions. The newspaper said the nation is on the verge of an unprecedented labor revolt. Of course most realize we are only a few short months from a new President and there exists hope that the change soon to come will be to the benefit of all.

Speaking of labor, father secured me a temporary job delivering newspapers. It was less than ideal but the laundry houses were fully employed and not much else is willing to hire women. The newspaper job is actually supposed to be for a boy, but father arranged for everyone to assume I am one. I am not sure I can pass for long, but there are not many weeks left before I must return to Primrose in any case.

I wear a gray cap which hides my long hair, which I pull up on top of my head. The short pants are actually easier for bicycling than my skirts and the shirt and jacket are practically a necessity to hide my more feminine assets. If only it was a few degrees cooler, all would be perfect.

Fortunately, the job only requires a few hours a day and it starts early enough in the mornings that I feel as though I have my whole day to do whatever I wish. It is almost like vacation.

The money is not bad either, I make a dollar a day. It is too bad I cannot manage a job like this one while at school. As it is I think Mrs. Carrington has been suspicious about me working. Strictly speaking it is against the rules for young ladies to have jobs while attending school, but we all have to do what we have to do.

A Reason Why

July 14, 1896
Edith Bowen

Men are always at war. It is not just the soldier in his uniform, aiming his rifle at the enemy, it is every man on everyday. He can even be his own enemy although he rarely realizes when he is. It is far simpler and easier to accept, when the enemy is someone else, something more tangible.

Am I so dangerous? Is it my ideals, my dreams for a world in which a woman can cast a vote, secure an education, and provide for herself, which endangers men? I would not choose to be man’s enemy but if he chooses me to be his, I have no choice.

It was 10 AM when we gathered at the cemetery. The morning haze had lifted, but the sky was overcast with gray clouds. There was dreary feeling in the air, like it would rain at any moment. It was hard to believe this was a summer day.

Mister and Misses Carrington were present as was the sheriff, Dean Steadward, and the majority of the faculty of Primrose. My gaze settled on Charles Birchwood for a moment. He was alone and it seemed to me he wanted to be. Caroline was not even present, but it was more than that, he stood apart from the other teachers and the Carrington’s. I could be mistaken but I have the impression there is more trouble brewing.

As we laid Pollyanna Maple to rest it was my dark thoughts which protected me from the traumatic emotions. Guilt was the strongest of all. We stood the enemy together, but in truth it was always only me. If I had listened to her, done as she had instructed, then this day would not have come to pass. Wish as I do, I cannot change the past.

It was Mr. Carrington who once told me it is possible to be wrong even when you are right. I did not understand at the time, but I have learned the lesson well enough now. I did not comprehend the hate, the anger, or the fear of men. The price of my ignorance is too great, but it has been paid in the blood of another and almost in my own. Maybe I should wish it was me lying in the grave. I do not. However, I am certain there are those who do and some of them stand next to me.

A holy man speaks of eternal life and a good soul taken far too soon. He says God will welcome her into his Kingdom and she will know his eternal love. For those of us left behind, it is comfort we should find in the mysteries of God’s eternal plan. Only it was not God’s plan that killed her, it was the plan of mortal men. They were not soldiers in God’s army, they were men of fear and hate. I find no comfort, only misery and anger.

I walked away empty. I had thought I would shed tears. My eyes burned but they were tearless. My heart did not ache, it pounded blood in my ears. If it war men want, it is war they shall have. If they thought death would dissuade me, they will live to know they were wrong.

The sheriff wants to know what I remember. He asks me if I can recognize any of the men involved. I have told him I recall little and saw nothing. The truth is I recall everything, every minute detail and I will remember every single one of their faces until the day I die. There is one in particular, which I did not connect at the time but now I know, I know him. He was Elizabeth’s friend, the one who set up the meeting with the boys from Brown, the one who took her to the junior ball, Jonathon.

I will keep what I know to myself. Men cannot be trusted and the sheriff is a man.