Mixed Messages

July 10, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

Dearest Elizabeth,

I have longed for your company over these empty weeks at sea. Not a sunrise has come in which you were not my first thought of the day. I see your face in every wisp of cloud and every glimmer of light. I need only close my eyes to see you standing before me, but it seems an empty vision when I open them to find you not here.

I was a fool when last we met. I pride myself on my calmness, confidence, and steadiness, yet when I am with you everything I know fails me. I stutter for words and tremble for strength. Can you forgive me for my thoughtless behavior? I pray you will.

Should it please you to see me again, I will send wire to your father and ask his permission. I have empty time to spend until the new term begins. It would be my pleasure to spend that time with you, getting to know you better and letting you know me. I know I have not acted as forthcoming as you have expected but believe me when I say you are the only woman who I feel this way about.

I anticipate your response and pray it be soon.

Yours truly,

The letter came in this morning’s mail. I had almost allowed myself to forget him. It is not that I do not desire his attentions but I was certain he did not desire mine. Perhaps I have misread the man or perhaps he does not yet know his own heart. Either way his short note has left me giddy.

My mother was shocked to point of speechlessness when I showed her the letter. She gaped like a fish out of water.

“Do not look so surprised mother. I was there to meet a man was I not?” I said.

“You were, but I had thought you had ignored that purpose in favor of your own agenda.” She replied at last.

“Maybe I did, but Jonathon found me.”

“These things always happen when least expected. Will you invite him?”

“Most certainly if father approves.”

“I am certain he will. We should pay him a visit at the docks. The news should brighten his day.”

I smiled and giggled at the thought. It was not long after we were walking the streets to the docks. Mother was nearly as happy as I which is the first I have seen in a long time. It was steamy hot in the streets and the sidewalks were crowded. Still it was nice to be outside and the walk was not so bad, especially in the shade.

We found father at the docks rather easily. He was arguing with a man when we approached and they both grew quiet over our presence. There was something vaguely familiar about the man, like something out of a dream but he did not stay long enough for me to place him.

“If you can’t control matters, we have ways of controlling them for you.” The man said to my father.

He shoved a folded up newspaper into his hands and walked away, but not before giving me a menacing look. I shivered at it, there was something about his eyes which left me cold.

Father turned to us with an annoyed look on his face.

“What are you two doing down here?” He asked.

“Lizzie has some important news and a question to ask you. I thought it was best we came to you rather than waiting for you to come home.”

“Well? What is it?”

I hand my father Jonathon’s letter. He barely looked at it before turning back to me.

“He would like to come for a visit, father. I would like him to.” I said.

He looked back at the letter.

“I was not aware you had met anyone at school. Why have you not mentioned him before?”

“I thought he was not interested after our last encounter.” I replied.

“He insulted you and now you want him to come to our home so he may insult all of us?” My father replied.

“No, it was a misunderstanding is all. Jonathon is very reserved and I mistook it for indifference.”

“If I say no?”

“Please father, I want you to meet him.”

“The timing could be better.”

“The timing could always be better, but it never is.”

“Keep your tongue if you know what is good for you.” Father scolded.

“I’m sorry, sir.” I said.

“We will discuss this more when I get home.” Father said.

“Please, father, can I at least send a wire to Jonathon letting him know he is welcome?”

“The answer is no, Elizabeth. Now both of you, run along home.”

“But father!”

“Now Elizabeth.” He responded with a hint of anger in his face.

Mother grabbed my arm and pulled me away before my mouth ran away any further. We walked home in silence although there was much I wanted to say. Fortunately, I remembered it is best to say nothing if you have nothing nice to say.

Father was rather late coming home. He immediately grabbed me from my place in the sitting room and dragged me to my bedroom. By the look on his face I knew I was in trouble but I could hardly fathom why.

A moment later I was lying over his lap with my bare buttocks in the air. Father’s hand slapped down with a stinging ferocity. At first it was little more than an irritation which gave me plenty of time for thoughts.

What did I do?

Was it something I said?

Is it because I did not tell him about Jonathon before?

Did I roll me eyes?

Did I curse under my breath?


That’s when it started really hurting. Probably because he stopped using his hand and started using my hairbrush. I wished we could talk about it but that was apparently not an option.

Smack! Smack!

The hairbrush alternated from left to right and right to left. I could not help but squirm and kick my legs in response.

“Ouch! Please father, I am sorry.” I cried.

I do not know what I am sorry for but I swear if you just tell me I will be sorry about it. He seemed not to care at all and continued smacking my bottom until I was certain breakfast could be cooked upon it, eggs, bacon and toast.

At last, he stopped. He rolled me off his lap an onto the floor. I laid at his feet crying and grabbing my sore backside in a fruitless effort to put out the fire. He stood up, tossed my hairbrush down on the bed and walked to the door. He turned to look down at me with the door open.

“Let that be a lesson to you, young lady. Either you start behaving or I’ll be doing this a lot more often.” He said.

He walked out and slammed the door closed behind him.

“What did I do?” I asked in a whisper to the closed door.

There was no answer except the echo of my sobs. In time, the tears faded away and I slowly pushed myself up off the floor with the intention of going to bed. I reached to pick up my hairbrush to put it away and my hand brushed against something else. It was the newspaper the man had shoved in my father’s hands earlier in the day.

I picked up the paper, it was folded to highlight a singled story. The headline took my breath and new tears welled in my eyes again.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Ashley, I've lost the thread, why was Lizzie spanked?
Warm hugs,