August 28, 1896
My head was spinning by the time we arrived in Providence. Edgar was serious about getting married. He was so serious he wanted the event planned for the holidays between semester. How I am supposed to plan a wedding and attend classes I do not know. Edgar seems to think my mother could do an exemplary job for us. Apparently he fails to recall my mother and I fail to agree about anything more complicated than the time and date. There is simply no way I can allow my mother to plan our wedding and expect I will have any enjoyment from the day.
My thoughts were of such complicated things as we exited the train and I joined the girls heading to Carrington Manor on the platform. Edgar was of course not allowed to accompany me, so in a flagrant violation of rules he chose to kiss me on the platform just before I headed over to the line. Mrs. Carrington did not fail to notice, although I was somewhat beyond caring that she did.
It seemed as though there were a lot more girls than last year. None of the faces really looked familiar to me, but then I have such a hard time remembering any of them. As it was, if not in the group I would certainly have lost my way walking to Carrington Manor. Not many things attract my attention on such mundane walks but there was something new along the way. Every few feet a pole had been erected and at it’s top there were wires strung from it to the next one and it seemed the wires were either coming from or going to each and every building. The purpose eluded me.
“Miss Spooner, I can see the summer did nothing to improve your behavior. Wait outside my den, I will see you when I done with Miss Waters.” Mrs. Carrington said as ascended the steps of the dormitory.
“Yes, ma’am.” I replied.
It was more out of force of habit than any actual agreement with her words. The wait was rather long. I could have unpacked and settled into my room in the time she took with Miss Waters, whomever that is. At least the quiet time alone did allow me to gather my thoughts better and thus I was more prepared when the door to the den opened and a grungy girl exited, followed by a tearful Mrs. Carrington.
In past experience, it was always the girls leaving her den that were crying not, Mrs. Carrington herself. For an instant I had the image of the exiting girl holding Mrs. Carrington over her lap and spanking her for having the audacity to expect perfect behavior on a travel day. It was a nice fantasy while it lasted.
Once inside the den with the door closed, I expected to be quickly ordered over the desk or something of the sort. Mrs. Carrington took a seat though which then changed my thoughts to actually lying over her lap. So, I was naturally surprised when she invited me to sit down first.
“Margaret, I am fully aware you are a woman old enough to be married and I do not begrudge you the ability to court a good man, but must you blatantly violate the rules of this house, in the presence of all those new girls?” She began.
“It was not my intention, ma’am and I did not think it a violation of the rules since I had not yet entered your custody.” I replied.
“That you had not yet spoken to me makes only the slightest difference. I would think if the gentleman valued your honor at all he would not be so flagrant with his affection in any case. I would highly recommend you cease your involvement with this boy before he ruins your chances with any respectable man.”
“Edgar is respectable and I would thank you for not insulting my future husband in my presence!” I bristled at her attack.
“Your f-future husband?” She stuttered.
“Yes, Edgar proposed to me and I have accepted. He was merely kissing me goodbye on the platform as any respectable husband would do.” My anger was far from dissipating.
“I see. I am mistaken twice in one day. I am sorry Margaret. May I offer you my congratulations?”
“You may go, I am sorry to have wasted your time.” She said.
Her voice was strained like she might cry and her eyes were all ready wet. I stood before my heart softened and I found myself apologizing to her.
Upstairs, there was a bit of commotion coming from the bath room. I stopped to peer inside as curiosity got the better of me. The girl I had seen leaving Mrs. Carrington’s den was there and she was surrounded by three other girls I had never seen before. It appeared they were attacking the poor girl. They had filled the tub with warm water and were struggling to push her into it as well.
It took all three of them but they did eventually get her in, tattered clothing and all. The girls was sputtering and the others were laughing. They threw a bar of soap at her and a cloth.
“Scrub yourself clean and then maybe we will let you back in the room.” One of them said.
They stared at me as they walked out but said nothing to me directly. When they were gone I stepped inside.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Just leave me alone.” She replied.
“I’m sorry.” I said and turned to leave.
“No, I’m sorry. It’s just you’re the first person that has been civil to me all day. I shouldn’t have --” She started to cry.
I turned around again. I do not know why but I felt an immediate connection with this girl. She was clearly not from money and while there was an appearance of vulnerability to her, I also felt a strong sense of resolve and determination. Her tears were more likely those of frustration and anger than of self pity.
“Come on now, let’s get you out of these clothes. Might as well take advantage and enjoy a nice warm bath.”
She gave a half hearted smile and then helped me undress her. Beneath the old clothing and dirt, there was a very pretty young girl. With the right clothing and attitude she would put the rest of the girls to shame.