A Natural Hierarchy

September 12, 1896
Charles Birchwood

“I need some advice.” Edith said.

It was late in the afternoon and my last class had just left. She had stood tentatively in the hallway, no doubt thinking I would not notice her during the last minutes of my lesson. I ignored her but her presence had an unsettling effect on me, my thoughts wandering primarily to Caroline. Could it be the honorable Miss Bowen had something she should not have to her?

“In regards to what?” I asked.

“Whom.” She replied.

I raised an eyebrow at her. She looked at the floor like a nervous schoolgirl. That is of course all she is now, a schoolgirl. I had the distinct impression I was being played for a fool and while I do not mind games in theory I do not like being the fool under any circumstances.

“Are you going to explain yourself or shall I start with a reminder lesson about directness in conversations?”

She shifted in place and I do believe she was honestly considering her answer. There is something very attractive about that.

“Her name is Sarah Waters. She is a first year student here and therefore under my charge at Carrington Manor. Are you familiar with her?”

“Yes, she has a class with me. She is not particularly gifted but her effort is sufficient to impress me.”

“Have you noticed an attitude about her?”

“No, I cannot say that I have.”

“At the Manor she is somewhat rebellious.”

“Are you asking me how to deal with rebelliousness?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then please get to your point, if you have one.”

“I do. She is not typical. I know things about her that perhaps jade my opinions. She is intelligent, hardworking, but stubborn. Her recent family life has been traumatic, loss of her father in the late spring. Most of the time she follows the rules to perfection but then there are times where she throws them out the window like they do not apply to her and her logic at those times is difficult to counter. Mrs. Carrington even allowed her to walk out of her den on one occasion with out any disciplinary action.”

“Am I to assume you have discussed Miss Waters with Mrs. Carrington and not came to a satisfactory conclusion?”

“Our discussion regarding Miss Waters was rather short and not at all helpful.”

Edith was holding something back but as the hour was growing late I did not feel up to the task of dragging out particulates which were likely of no or little bearing to her difficulty.

“If I am to understand correctly, you have sympathies with the girl for her unfortunate recent history and are therefore allowing yourself to forego punishing her despite your clear knowledge that discipline is needed?”

“That is a rather simplified way of putting it. There is more though. She will not accept discipline if she feels she has not done wrong.”

“It is not for her to decide if she need discipline or not.”

“I realize that, but she has even stood up to Mr. Carrington. I have never seen a girl do that successfully before.”

“Mr. Carrington backed down from punishing this girl?”



“I think because he is afraid of her. Truthfully, I think we all are.”

I laughed. It was perhaps not as funny to Edith but even she smiled the longer I laughed. The idea of a small girl like Sarah Waters, making a grown man afraid was ludicrous and to think she had succeeded not only with Mr. Carrington but apparently with every other person residing in the dormitory was hysterical to me.

“Can you help me?” Edith asked.

“No. Miss Waters is not under your authority or the Carrington’s for that matter. You are all under hers and until you reverse that, there is nothing anyone can do.”

“How do I reverse it?”

“She has to be afraid of you and you cannot be afraid of her. It is that simple and that hard.”

Edith nodded but her attention was inward. No doubt she was considering her options and searching to find the strength necessary within herself. Knowing Edith as I do, she will find she is stronger than she believes but as for Miss Waters, she will not scare easily and she seems to know just how deep her own strength runs.

As Edith started to leave a thought occurred to me.

“Edith, there is another approach you might want to try instead.” I said.

She turned back to face me, her head tilted to one side in curiosity.


“You could simply try talking to her and explaining your dilemma to her.”

“What good would that do?”

“She’s a smart girl, she might just be willing to help you if she understands why.”

“I’ll think about it. Thank you, Charles.”

“Goodnight, Edith.”

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