A Cold Winter's Morning

November 30, 1896
Charles Birchwood

There is nothing like the taste of a hot cup of tea on a cold winter’s morning. I know it is not quite winter yet, but the white snow on the ground outside argues convincingly otherwise. I lit the fireplace in the living room and with Phillip’s help, the dining table was relocated in place of the sofa and table normally occupying the space nearby. It was not strictly necessary, but I saw no reason why we should not enjoy the warmth of the fire through breakfast and afterward. Caroline had exams to prepare for and I exams to prepare.

I sipped my tea, enjoying the inner warmth it provided. Caroline sat across from me at the table and did likewise. Her books were neatly stacked beside her on the table as my music sheets were gathered near me. Neither of us were eager to get started with the necessary work despite knowing procrastination would not lessen the load nor ease the related stress.

“Another cup?” Caroline asked.

I glanced inside my cup to notice it was indeed empty. I nodded in the affirmative and sighed as I picked up the stack of music to begin my work. Caroline rose from the table, placing our cups on the tray with the teapot and disappeared into the kitchen.

As often happens, I quickly became lost in my work. Time slipped by without being noticed until I realized I had completed a substantial portion of my work and Caroline had yet to return. She was still in the kitchen. I could hear her moving about.

“Caroline?” I called.

“Yes, dear?”

“Have you received word back from England on our tea yet?”

“Pardon me?”

“You have been a long time in preparing the tea, dear.” I clarified. “Is there a problem?”

“Oh, no. It’s almost ready.”

I could have pursued the matter further, but I chose otherwise. After all what purpose would be served by my calling attention to facts of which she is all ready aware? Moments later she returned with the tray and poured me a fresh cup which I immediately began sipping.

Caroline grudgingly opened one of her books and began reading. I turned my attention back to my own work knowing she need no distractions from me. It was strangely comforting to know she was there nearby with her own tasks to accomplish but still with me. Never before had I realized how much I enjoy the simplicity of proximity to my wife. My work load suddenly became lighter and smiling became easier.

That was all until I noticed, quite by accident, Caroline’s book was upside down. I must admit the situation gave me pause. Did she expect me to catch her and do something? Was she manipulating me or was this a cry for help? Should I ignore it and allow her to face the consequences of failure in her studies? There were no easy answers.

“Are you attempting to fool me or yourself?” I asked.

“Whatever do you mean?” She replied, all innocence.

“Your book is upside down and I find it hard to believe you are not so aware.”

“Oh.” She blushed.

“Are you going to answer me?”

“Do I have a choice?”


“Then I believe I will answer you.”

“And yet you still have not.”

“I don’t feel like studying.” She whined

“We must often do things we do not feel like doing.”

“Could we not snuggle in front of the fire for awhile first?”

“We can do that when we have each finished.”

“But I want to do it now.”

“Then you should have ample encouragement to do complete your work.”

“A few minutes won’t make any difference.”

“If such is true then why do you persist in arguing with me?”

“Because I want a break.”

“How could you possibly need a break when you have yet to begin?”


“Turn the book right side up and do your work.”


“What did you say?”

“You heard me.”

“You had better hope I heard you wrong.”

“I said, no.”

I pushed my chair back and stood up without a further word. Walking around the table, I grabbed Caroline by the wrist and pulled her out of her chair. She protested, but I ignored her and half dragged, half pulled her to the front door. I pulled it open and propelled her outside.

Dressed in only her nightgown and robe, she looked at me as though I had lost my mind. She shivered as soon as her feet hit the snow on our doorstep. I did not wait for her to protest more than she all ready had, but instead closed the door and turned the lock.

A moment later there was pounding on the door.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Charles you open this door this minute or you’ll be sleeping on the sofa for the rest of the year!” Caroline shouted through the closed door.

“Do you really think I am going to tolerate your threats or that they will motivate me to open the door any sooner?”

“I’ll freeze!”

“Are you going to do your school work if I let you back in?”

There was a noticeable pause and silence as she considered her options and response.

“Yes.” She finally answered.

“Why don’t you think about it for a few more minutes and I’ll check back to see if you are certain.” I said.

“Charles, it’s cold out here!”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

She started pounding on the door again.

“The sooner you stop pounding on the door the sooner I’ll think about opening the door.” I said.


“You are going to stand out there for ten minutes of quiet whether it starts now or an hour from now is entirely up to you.”

Amazingly, there was silence. I sat back down by the fire and watched the clock tick away the minutes. Phillip came downstairs while I was waiting and sipping my tea.

“Where is Mommy?”

“She had to step out for a few minutes.” I said.

“I want some milk.” He said.

“I think we can manage that without her.” I replied.

The two of us went to the kitchen and I heated some milk on the stove for him and his sister. Phillip happily carried the glasses upstairs without a second thought about his mother, but I know the boy is far from dumb and most likely heard more than enough to know precisely where his mother was and why.

I glanced at the clock and decided it was time to bring her in even though it had only been seven minutes. I opened the door to find Caroline shivering quietly with her arms wrapped around herself.

“Are you ready to do your schoolwork?” I asked.

“Y-yes.” She said through jittering teeth.

I guided her back inside and sat her back down at the table with her books. Her seat was close to the fireplace so there was no doubt she would quickly be warmed by the flame. She turned toward the fire to warm her hands more directly.

“Schoolwork.” I ordered.

“Let me warm my hands.” She pleaded.

“Do you want to go back outside?” I asked.


“Schoolwork.” I ordered.

“Yes, Charles.”

Peace at last. I am sure she expected a different reaction from me, but it is never good to be too predictable. No doubt the cold was far more effective than any additional warmth would have been on a cold winter’s morning like this one.

A Least Expected Letter

November 29, 1896
Margaret Spooner

November 21, 1896

Dear Margaret,

With a little luck this letter will reach you in time to wish you a warm Thanksgiving but if it is late know I was thinking of you. I wish you would write more often, but I understand you are very busy at school. We do not talk enough when you are home and it is only while you are away I realize just how much I have to say.

I am proud of you. I know you do not think I am. You always think I do not understand you and sometimes you are right. The medical books are beyond my abilities, but I do know what it feels like to want something more for your life than the role dictated by society.

I saw so much of myself in you while you were growing up and I have tried to protect you from the disappointments I suffered. I can see now it was a mistake for many reasons. Most of all it was wrong because you are not me, you are more. I shared your dreams as a girl, but I never had your passion or your perseverance. I did not believe you as you do and that was my flaw.

When I met your father, my dreams were dying and I made the choice to be with him and let them fade away forever. Only they never left, they haunt me as what ifs. Watching you fight for yourself despite every obstacle in your path has made my memories all the more painful. It is not your burden though, it is mine and I apologize for not explaining all of this a long time ago. You deserved to know.

With all the turmoil in the nation right now, I worry about your safety. It is unavoidable because I love you and I will not ask you to surrender your dreams so that I might sleep knowing you are safe. You are a grown woman and you know full well the risks you take. This is your life to live and it should not be stolen from you for the fears of others. I think you know to what whom and what I refer.

In this spirit I want assure you if you choose not to marry at this time your father and I would understand. Edgar is a good enough man, his family is well connected and his future is undoubtedly bright, but none of that means he is the best choice for you. You have chosen a unique path for your life and only you can know if Edgar will be an asset or hindrance to it. The choice is always yours, but then I believe you know that all ready.

Warmest Wishes,


November 28, 1896
Sarah Waters

“Edith wants to see you.” Emma said.

I had only just walked into our room with the thoughts on nothing more than curling up beneath my warm covers and falling asleep at the end of a long day. Emma’s tone was just smug enough in what she thought she knew to make me want to slap her. I did not give into the temptation although a wicked voice whispered in the back of my thoughts about how much better I would feel if I did.

Instead, I turned around and left as quickly as I had entered. I knocked softly on Edith’s door so as not to attract attention. The door flew open and I could see she had been impatiently waiting for me. I stepped inside and she closed the door behind me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She looked nervous. She did not look me in the eye but instead looked down at the floor. She shifter her wait from foot to foot like a naughty child waiting for parents to pass judgment. When my patience was reaching its limits, she finally spoke.

“I’ve done something and you are most likely going to be mad.” She said.

“What?” I asked.

“Just promise me you will listen to everything before you say anything.”

I regarded her carefully. My mind spun circles wondering what she could be talking about and how it would effect me and why it would anger me. Her eyes gave no clue except she was truly afraid I would not understand. I wanted to reassure her but I realized it could leave me in an awkward position if she was indeed correct.

“I will listen.” I said.

She nodded and gave me a brief smile.

“It started before I knew you well. There were the letters you received and I watched you tear them and discard them without ever reading them. You seemed so unhappy when you arrived and I tried to talk to you but you were always so defensive. I felt I had no choice.” She began.

I could have said many things as I began to understand just where the conversation was headed but I chose to bite my tongue and honor my promise to hear her out. She licked her lips and swallowed before continuing.

“I thought reading by reading the letters I would come to understand you better and maybe I would be able to help. Of course as you know, nothing ever goes according to plan.” She said.

She bit her lip as she paused and looked at me, perhaps searching for some sense that I understood.

“What have you done?” I asked.

“Nothing. Everything. They are only words on a page, but they come every week. That says something even if you don’t want to hear it or aren’t ready to hear it. I know it is none of my business and I had no right to invade your privacy like this, but you should really read this letter.”

She handed me the page, unfolded. There was no attempt to disguise she had read it. I took the page from her and held it in my hand. My hand shook with anger or fear or maybe both. I wanted to read the words and at the same time I wanted to throw it into the fire and forget I had ever known of it. In the end, it was the look in Edith’s eyes that made me read it.

November 18, 1896

Dearest Sarah,

I miss you more with each passing week and I do not know what more I can say to win back your affection. I am sorry for how I behaved after father’s death and for how I shunned you when you needed me the most. You were right about everything, but I was too stubborn to acknowledge it. If you could see your way to forgiveness and offer me another chance to be the brother you deserve, I will not fail you again.

I have given up hoping you will one day send me a letter. I wonder if you even read the pages I send, but I will never stop trying to make things right between us. Like it or not you are my little sister and I will always love you no matter where you are or what you have done. I was as broken as you at father’s passing, but unlike you I did not manage my grief. I made mistakes I would do anything to correct if only you will give me the chance.

Enclosed, I had sent you a ticket home for your Christmas break. I do not know if you are willing to come home, but I will wait at the station for you and pray you find your way. If you do not come I will understand how you feel. I know not all wrongs can be righted and not all sins can be forgiven and if I have crossed that line with you, it will forever be my shame.

As always, I hope this letter finds you well and that you are happy in all things. Mother and Deborah send their love and I send mine as well. I know you are more than capable of taking care of yourself, but I still worry about you everyday.

All my love,

I finished reading the letter and Edith shoved the train ticket into my hand. I was torn between anger and sadness. A tear dripped from my eye as I remember my brother from long ago, not the man who had shouted at me in anger in his attic, but the boy who had always stood by me.

“Go home for Christmas.” Edith said.

“You don’t understand.”

“No, I do understand. I can’t ever go home again because my family is gone forever. Yours is waiting for you and because of a tiff you are casting them off as though they are dead. Don’t wait until they really are gone before giving them another chance.” Edith said.

“It’s not that simple.” I said.

“Yes, it is. He’s apologized for what happened between you in every letter he has sent. The man knows he made a mistake now it’s up to you to forgive.”

“Some things can’t be forgiven.”

“Most things can be. Go home and give your brother a chance.”

“It’s not your business. You’ve had no right to interfere.”

“You’re right, but you are my friend and I’m only trying to help you. The longer you wait to go home the more likely you never will. Take a chance and give them one more.”

She was adamant about it. There was no swaying her opinion. She knew the facts well enough, the letters undoubtedly made it all clear. I wanted to be angry at her, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew she was right and that made it impossible to be angry.

“All right. I’ll go.” I said.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 1896
Edith Bowen

It snowed overnight. I looked out my window and it was as if the world beyond was a perfect portrait of a winter holiday. The ground was covered with a thick blanket of powdery white snow. It glistened in the morning sunlight without even a single set of footprints to mar the vision.

Every year since my parents death, I have dreaded the holiday season. While everyone else gathers with family I sit by a fire in solitude. Smiles, hugs and kisses are passed around and I have only myself to wrap my arms around. The tears cried are of joy and happiness, but not mine. Mine are sad and lonely tears longing for the days long past when I too had a family to love.

This year is different. I still miss my family but for the first time I am understanding family is more than blood. My friends are my family now, and for a change I have some. Sarah and Anna met me in the hall just outside my room. They were both smiling and so was I.

“Have you looked outside?” Anna asked.

“Yes, it’s beautiful.” I said.

“It’s almost like being home.” Sarah said.

“Does it snow often in Colorado?” I asked.

“Only half the year.” She replied.

We started down the stairs together.

“Where are you from, Edith?” Sarah asked.

It has been a long time since anyone asked me that question and an even longer time since I had thought about home. I was in too good a mood to allow bad memories to ruin it.

“I don’t remember.” I lied.

“That’s so sad.” Anna said.

I smiled at her and squeezed her hand.

“All of that was a long time ago, this is my home now.” I said.

“You’re right. Home is where the heart is.” Sarah said.

“I like that.” Anna replied.

“My mother used to say that when I was small.” Sarah said.

“I wonder why.” I said.

“She was far from any home she had ever known.” Sarah replied.

I nodded thinking of the simple truth in the words. We take with us all that we are in every step. Home is not a place but a feeling and the feeling comes from within us, from our strengths and weaknesses, and our hopes and dreams. If we cannot find peace and comfort in our own skin then we never shall.

I joined the kitchen staff for the day. It was Mr. Rollings suggestion I continue to practice what I had learned about measurements by helping with the large meal for Thanksgiving. I had no objection, surprising, I enjoyed the experience of baking. Not only did I learn, but I had fun doing it. Perhaps someday I will have a kitchen of my own.

The kitchen was busy all day long. Our girls rotated in and out helping in bits and pieces until at last the grand meal was prepared. Potatoes were mashed, gravy was boiled, turkeys were roasted, corn was shucked, pies were baked and rolls were buttered. It smelled like heaven. Of course no such day can go without incident and there were several to be sure, but I think one in particular will always belong to this Thanksgiving.

Victoria arrived late for her turn in the kitchen. No one wanted to make an issue of it so her tardiness was ignored although far from unnoticed. Timing being an issue, it should have been no surprise she burned her apple pie. It would have been ignored as well had she not thrown it across the room hitting Belinda square in the chest.

Belinda screamed as the hot fruit and juices soaked through her dress and burned her skin. I would have sent Victoria to her room and had Margaret tend to Belinda were it left up to me, but unfortunately for Victoria, Mr. Carrington was standing in the doorway at the exact moment she threw.

“Edith tend to Belinda. I will deal with Miss Mathewson.” He ordered.

I had not the courage to argue although I firmly believe holidays should be free of punishments. Deep down I knew Mr. Carrington was correct not to overlook such ridiculous behavior but would it really matter to wait until tomorrow? I think not but it is his kitchen.

I enlisted Margaret to assist Belinda and the two of the disappeared into the wash room. Meanwhile Victoria shrank back against the wall as if it could protect her from Mr. Carrington’s wrath. If anything it merely ensured she had no place left to go. Mr. Carrington grabbed a large wooden spoon off the counter as he closed in on the frightened Victoria.

“Turn around.” He commanded.

“Please, I’m sorry sir.” She pleaded.

“Turn around.”

She turned to face the wall. Mr. Carrington reached down and grabbed the hem of her skirt and pulled it up in the air. He then raised the spoon high in the air and swung it down to connect with a loud clap underneath her skirts. She jumped in response.

Mr. Carrington repeated the effort a dozen times leaving Victoria in tears and massaging her buttocks while jumping up and down like a little girl. Mr. Carrington stood there in front of her with the spoon still in his hand, lecturing her about safety in the kitchen, when Mrs. Carrington walked in.

“Mm… It smells good in here ladies. What’s cooking now?” She asked.

She was clearly oblivious to Mr. Carrington and Victoria by the wall. Without thinking I replied.

Mrs. Carrington looked confused until her eyes found Mr. Carrington holding the spoon menacingly at Victoria. Mr. Carrington turned around to look at me, shocked by what I said I think and when his eyes met with Mrs. Carrington’s they both smirked. The other girls began laughing and even Victoria had a rueful smile on her face. I blushed, embarrassed by my thoughtless remark.

A short while later, with the tables sat and everyone gathered, the meal was served. Mr. Carrington appeared happy and Mrs. Carrington was too. I looked around the room feeling content myself and I noticed not all the girls were smiling. Several of the freshman girls were not only sad but crying quietly in their seats.

I should have realized before, but I had not. Many of these girls were experiencing their first holiday away from home and family. I felt their tears as if they were my own because in a way they were. I glanced at Mrs. Carrington and her eyes shared my concern. In past years there had never been so many girls and as a result these days had been better managed. I pushed my chair back and stood up to the room.

“On the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims were far from home. They huddled in a dining room with friends and strangers, taking refuge from the cold winter outside, much as we are doing today. While there are no native Indians offering us food, there is a native family from these parts who offers us this shelter and the food on our table. The customs here may be different from those you are used to, and the scents and sounds may not be those which are familiar, but that is no different than those early Pilgrims either. They learned today was a day to be thankful not mournful.

And so, we should all remember no matter who or what we are missing today we have much to be thankful for as well. Be thankful, those you love are warm and safe. Be thankful, you are with friends. Be thankful for the warmth and food provided here for us all. Be thankful, for all that you have, not just today, but everyday.” I said.

Glasses were raised and clinked and while the sad looks did not disappear, there were less teardrops falling. Dinner was served and all was well. We laughed and we cried and we smiled and we frowned, but most of all we were thankful for each other.

After dinner I gathered with my new friends, Sarah and Anna, Elizabeth and Penelope, and Margaret. We talked about school and teachers and the futures we hope for. I listened with warmth in my heart and for the first time in a very long time, I felt at ease. All these years alone and finally I have a new family to call my own. Our sisterhood shall last long after we leave the halls of Carrington Manor and no matter the miles that come between us or the choices we make in the years to come, we will always have each other, sisters by choice, Primrose Girls forever.

Turkey Tears

November 26, 1896
Charles Birchwood

Josephine cried and Phillip smiled. The difference between boys and girls is as simple as that. Whatever makes a boy happy will inevitably make a girl sad and the reverse is almost certainly true as well. Boys however are not permitted tears in their sadness so in manhood we, some men more than others, learn to brood, but more on that later.

The event of duality for the day was our annual selection of the Thanksgiving Turkey. I promise myself every year I will leave Josephine home the next year and yet she always manages to convince me to take her when the time comes again. Were she not a mere child I might consider her willingness to go each and every year some sign of a masochistic need, but I suspect it is a different, more elemental need the act expresses; the love of her father. She need not worry, I could not love her more if she were a neighbor’s daughter.

This year was no different, Phillip and I were on the doorstep to leave and Josephine came bouncing down the stairs. She held Rosie, her favored doll, in her left arm and gazed up at me with the saddest of eyes. They were big and brown and beautiful and wet with unwept tears. Her lower lip quivered and while her head was tilted down, her eyes were looking up. She inhaled a deep sniffling breath and held it for a moment before exhaling it in a wordless pout. Then she blinked and a single tear rolled down her soft cheek.

What was I to do? I am supposed to be indifferent to these feminine wiles and in most circumstances I am, but Josephine is not just any girl. She is my daughter and I her father. I shook my head and knelt down to her so I could look her in the eyes. I lifted a single finger and wiped the tear from her cheek and placed the finger in mouth for a moment as though tasting soup.

“Still the sweetest tears I ever tasted.” I said.

She tried not to smile but it was no use.

“They’re salty!” She exclaimed.

I crossed my arms in front of me and donned a firm expression.

“Sweet.” I said.

She pushed her lower lip up over the upper one and stared at me.

“Oh all right, they’re salty sweet.” I said.

She broke out into a smile and threw her arms around me. I nearly fell backward from her enthusiasm, but I returned the hug and kissed her ear. She giggled happy at last.

“Can I come daddy?” She asked.

“If you really want to.” I replied.

She bounced out the door to join Phillip on the doorstep. He rolled his eyes to the sky and Caroline laughed at me from the kitchen. I shook my head with a smile and left for the market, a child’s hand in each of mine. It was pure happiness until the moment of selection came.

On the way home, I carried a crying Josephine in my arms, much like the doll she carried in her own. I patted her back gently and kissed her wet cheeks with fatherly love. I swore to myself never again, but I know even now if it were tomorrow I would still take her with me because being right here with my little girl is better than being any place without her.

Joy In A Letter

November 25, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

November 17, 1896

Dearest Lizzie,

I am still shaking my head in amazement over how you and your friends handled that riot. A fire cart? Truly? I always knew they had to be good for something since they never seem to work on the fires. It speaks volumes to think three women and one hose could put down a massive riot like that. Of course the newspapers have a different version of events, but I suppose it is to be expected.

I am completely jealous to hear you voted. David would not let me try because he was too afraid if I was caught, there would be no one to take care of Thomas. It makes sense but it still felt completely unfair. It is too bad your votes were not enough to sway the election but I often wonder if these elections are not smoke and mirrors in any regard. You must admit it would be a clever ploy to let the common man think his voice was being heard when in reality the decision was made without his input at all.

David has been working long hours lately. He sends his love to you and I am almost jealous because he often forgets to send me any. Some nights he does not even come home anymore, but I understand because I have been there with him before. Once an idea starts coming together it can be impossible to put it down or let it go. You get to the point you feel if you stop working you will lose the flicker of brilliance at the edge of your vision. He promises to come home while you and your parents are visiting for Christmas, but we shall see if he remembers.

Thomas has been growing so quickly you will not believe it when you see him. He has David’s eyes and your father’s nose, but I think he has my smarts. Nothing is safe from his curiosity and my mother tells me I was the same when I was a baby. He has all ready figured out how to work latches, no place is safe.

David was going to send you a ticket, but your father insisted he would arrange your travels to us. We worry about your parents though, it seems times have only become worse for them and the business is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Your father is a proud man and simply refuses to accept any assistance from us. Please wire us if you do not receive a ticket from your father soon. David and I will arrange your travels discreetly if necessary because we really want you to be here.

I would sit and write pages but I would rather talk in person when you arrive. Instead, I will come to an end here and wish you luck on your exams.

Sylivia Bassett

A Little Bit Of Home In A Letter

November 24, 1896
Anna Cushing

November 18, 1896

Dearest Anna,

Warmest greetings from your father and I. We received your letter yesterday and took turns reading it last night by the fire. Your father smiled for the first time in weeks reading your passages and hearing of your adventures at school. The house is so empty without you. We miss you terribly, although your father will likely never admit it is so.

On Sunday, I had tea with Mrs. Kellogg. She was boasting, as usual, about her daughter Barbara having the attentions of three suitors. As you surely recall, Barbara seems to be constantly surrounded by suitors for years now, but she has yet to fetch a single proposal of marriage. I mentioned you were off to college and how proud your father and I are of your accomplishment in gaining acceptance to such a prestigious institution and she merely sighed. Clearly she knows nothing of education nor what achievements merit pride in a daughter.

I am pleased to hear you have made friends. I know it can be dreadfully lonely so far from home and good friends can help you forget, if only for a moment, you are alone. I worry about you constantly, you will understand when you have children of your own, and this Sarah Waters you mention sounds to be of questionable heritage. I know I do not need to say it, but be careful in your associations. They can come to haunt you when you least expect it.

I am relieved the riots we heard about were of little consequence to you. The newspapers had your father ready to board a train and bring you home. We are confounded your friends could have had anything to do with quelling the violence. No doubt it is your active imagination at work again. When you come home for Christmas your father intends to have a word with you on truthfulness.

With this letter your father has enclosed your ticket for traveling home. The attendant told him the first class cars could be overbooked. You should be sure to arrive at the station early and be clear with the attendants your father will not tolerate your travels being any different than your ticket. We are as eagerly anticipating your return home as I am certain you are eager to come. Have patience and the day will be upon us sooner than expected.

I hope you continue to be well and your Thanksgiving Day is a joyful one. We have much to remain thankful for even though there are far too many miles between us. As you spend this day far from home, know that we love you, are proud of you, and missing you.

All our love,
Peter & Georgina

Lecture By Post

November 23, 1896
Penelope Sumter

November 17, 1896

Dear Miss Penelope Sumter,

I would have written sooner were it not for pressing matters of greater importance. Your mother and James miss you and wish for me to send their greetings to you. I would extend the same from myself, but I do not condone deceptions and I think you well know I am not happy with you, unless you believe me ignorant of your recent activities.

The fact I am disappointed in you yet again, should be of know surprise to you. For years I have endeavored to impart on you good manners, common sense and some shred of decency. At last I must accept my utter failure in these regards and indeed as your father.

Your actions during the riots in Providence are beyond reason. To believe you have any responsibility or right to intercede in the political and social methods of men defies all sense of rational thought. Not only did you put yourself and your friends at risk, but you did so without the slightest knowledge of what you were involving yourself.

The blame does not lie solely with you though as I understand Wilbur was at your side during this debacle. Were you not my own flesh and blood I would believe you both out to ruin me. I am sickened to know the two you are not only free of shame, but prideful of your actions.

I have for the last time interceded to protect you from the consequences of your careless actions. I cannot guarantee your friends will be so fortunate and I can only hope you will learn from their suffering as if it were your own.

Were it not for your mother’s pleadings I would not welcome you home at all this Christmas. Fortunately for you, I consider the well being of my family before the well being of myself. Although you may find it difficult, I would ask you leave your wild tendencies and radical politics at school. You are well aware of my thoughts on these matters and there is no purpose to their further discussion.

Wilbur will bring you home. I suggest on the way the two of you decide if you wish to continue calling this place home or want to leave it for good. I realize I cannot control you nor can I force you to believe in things which you do not. You are young and naïve, but that remains a mere excuse for the inexcusable betrayals. Ultimately your path and your life is your own. I have done what I can for you to choose right over wrong, good over evil, but I cannot make the choices for you. It remains for you to decide.

Your Loving Father,
Radcliffe Sumter

PS. I am aware you and your friends voted in the Presidential election with Wilbur’s help.

The Right Priorities

November 22, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

“The sheriff says it was an accident.” Penelope said.

We were walking past the still smoldering remains of what had one been Union Station of Providence, Rhode Island. The air remained hazy and smelled of wood and oil. I could not take my eyes from the charred ashes and images of Sarah surrounded by flames invaded my thoughts for what must have been the tenth time since I had heard the news.

“I believe Sarah.” I said.

“I wasn’t suggesting otherwise. I am wondering why the sheriff would lie.” Penelope replied.

The question was a good one indeed. Edith had told me he was a man to be trusted, but the evidence at hand suggested he was either inept at his job or lying. Neither possibility is flattering for the sheriff nor do they inspire confidence in him.

“There are only two reasons men lie; to benefit themselves or to benefit someone they care about.” I said.

“Unless he started the fire himself I don’t see what benefit befalls him for lying.”

“Unfortunately, men like that Mr. Parker make finding the benefits harder because they introduce greed and coercion into the equation.”

“I think we should try to find out the truth.” Penelope said.

“To what end?” I asked.

“For the same reason we attend Primrose.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Knowledge is power, Lizzie. The more we know about the sheriff and his weaknesses the better off we’ll be.”

“You almost sound as ruthless as Rockefeller.” I said.

Penelope giggled.

“How would you know?” She asked with a smile.

Before I could answer we were interrupted by the obnoxious honking of Mr. Sumter’s horn. We spun around to the street to find him sitting in his automobile waving at us. I smiled and waved back.

“Miss Bassett, Penelope, I’ve been looking for you.” He said.

We stepped to the side of the auto.

“Unless I’m mistaken you seem to have found us.” I said.

Wilbur donned a lopsided grin and beckoned us to get in.

“That I have. Come on, I want to talk to you both.” He said.

We climbed aboard and he sped off toward his apartment. Twenty minutes later we were sitting in his living room sipping hot tea. Mr. Sumter alternated between sitting down and pacing the floor while scratching his chin.

“You’re nervous about something.” Penelope said.

“No.” He replied.

“Then sit down and tell us why we are here.” Penelope said.

He looked at her for a moment and then decided to stand still rather than sit.

“Have you come to Primrose College to be educated or to become social activists?” He asked.
Penelope and I shared a confused look.

“I think perhaps this is a conversation you should be having alone with your sister.” I said.

“No, I’ve come to realize you and my sister are intertwined in matters.”

“I am my own person, Wilbur.” Penelope stated.

“I am not going to argue the point. There is an obvious connection between the two of you and it is straying toward the dangerous.”

“Why would you say that?” I asked.

“Because this town and your college are a powder keg and you are playing with matches.” He said.

“I can’t speak for Lizzie, but I’m here to learn.” Penelope said.

“The problem is once you learn the difference between right and wrong, you can’t pretend you don’t notice the difference.” I said.

“Did you ever consider the problem might be that you have learned just enough to be dangerous and not enough to be wise?” Mr. Sumter asked.

“What are you saying?” Penelope asked.

“Only that you have a very narrow view of right and wrong. Before you go judging how things should be maybe you should learn more about why things are the way they are.” He said.

“So you want us to focus on our studies?” I said.

“Yes.” He replied.

“I realize it might have escaped you, but I don’t answer to you, Mr. Sumter.” I said.

“True enough, but Penelope does.”

“What does that mean?” Penelope said.

“It means that one way or another the two of you are going stop messing around with those feminists and start focusing on your studies.” He said.

“You can’t make me do anything Mr. Sumter.” I said.

“I can punish Penelope for your indiscretions as well as her own.” He said.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Penelope shouted.

“I would and will.” He replied.

“Not only is that cruel, it is unfair.” I said.

“You could always agree to cooperate and accept punishment for your own indiscretions.” He said.

“What makes you think I care?” I asked.

“You’re still here.” He replied.

Kindle In My Pocket

November 21, 1896
Sarah Waters

URGENT: Meet me on the platform at Union Station. 10PM Tonight. J. Goulding

The cryptic note had mysteriously appeared folded into my pocket. My first instinct was to discard it as trash and I nearly did so. What stopped me can only be described as an intuition because there was no other reason to keep it, let alone make the rendezvous it suggested. I think someone was watching me though and it was that feeling which piqued my curiosity to the point of caring.

In the past I would have gone out alone without a second thought to my safety or return, but that was before I learned there were others who could be trusted. Just prior to dinner I knocked on Edith’s door.

“Come in.” She called from inside.

I slipped into her room and closed the door behind me.

“Sarah,” She said, “what brings you here?”

“I am going out after dinner.” I said.

Edith raised a questioning eyebrow in my direction.

“My presence has been requested at the train station and I think it is important I go.” I explained.

“Who asked for you?”

“Mr. Goulding.”

Edith’s eyes narrowed.

“You should not trust him.” She said.

“I don’t trust him. That is why I’m here, but tell me why do you distrust him?”

“I barely know him, but Elizabeth and I dealt with him last year and I am still uncertain as to whether he was helping us or using us.”

“I would hear the entire story if you would share it.” I said.

“Perhaps another time.”

I nodded my understanding.

“How will you get out?” Edith asked.

“It is my night to assist with after dinner cleanup. I will slip out the side door when it is finished.” I said.

“And getting back?”

“If you could arrange to leave a window open in the study, I should be back by eleven.” I said.

“I will.”

“Thank you.”

“Stop in here when you get back. If I haven’t seen you by midnight, I will alert the Carrington’s you are missing.” Edith said.

“Fair enough.”

I turned to leave.

“Sarah.” She said.

I paused with my hand on the doorknob.

“Be careful.”

I turned my head back to her.

“Always.” I said and slipped back out into the hall.

It was hard to see by the moonlight as I approached Union Station, but a lantern would have left me vulnerable and easily seen from every dark corner. I crept up the steps and by the closed ticket window. There did not appear to be anyone around and even the mice were being unusually quiet.

I found a spot in the shadows from which I could peer out onto the platform without being seen and waited. The clock on the platform ticked to 10PM and still there was no one to be seen. I waited until five past and then decided it was possible Mr. Goulding was hiding himself and waiting for me to show. It is typical of men to assume a woman would not be cautious.

I walked out so that I stood illuminated by a dim circle of lantern light. I was hesitant to move further and give up any hope of escaping should the meeting be nothing more than a trap. Another minute ticked by and it occurred to me that the note might have been from another day meaning the tonight referred to had already come and gone.

Then I heard the voices.

They were barely more than whispers. In the quiet I was able to understand them although not well enough to identify to whom the whispers belonged. I stepped out of the light and back into the shadows, hoping I had not yet been seen.

“Your late.” A man said.

“The station isn’t going nowhere.” Another said.

“Did you bring it?”


“Are you sure this a good idea?”

“You getting cold feet?”


“Then just get to work.”

“Shut up! Both of you. Now make sure it looks like an accident.”

I am not certain whether I saw the flames or heard the breaking glass first. Either way, before I could react I was surrounded by fire and the flames were growing taller by the second. The fire eradicated the shadows in which I had been hiding. Through the flames I saw one of the men and he saw me.

He was short for a man and young too. No more than a boy really, fourteen or fifteen years old. His sloppy hair was plastered to his head with sweat and the orange glow of the fire glistened like fear in his eyes. He froze for a moment staring at me, mouth agape.

“There’s a girl in here!” he shouted.

“What the hell?” Someone responded.

“There wasn’t supposed to be anyone here.” The boy said.

“It’s too late now, come on!”

The boy turned to look at someone else and then turned back to look at me. He closed his eyes and turned and ran. I was left alone with the raging fire. The smoke was causing me to cough and where I would have shouted for help, it sucked away all my air. I fell to my knees and raised up my skirt to cover my mouth and nose.

I looked around trying to find my best chance for survival. With the smoke and flames all I could see was the platform and it was ablaze itself. If I could make it to the tracks though I thought I would be safe. The only problem was the wall of fire guarding the path.

I sucked a last breath through the fabric of my skirt and then gathered it in my hand and ran. The heat blasted my face, but I kept running and just as I reached the wall I jumped hoping there was something beside flames beyond.

I landed on the wood of the platform with a thud and a creak. There was still fire all around me and my skirt was alight. I tried to yank the flaming material away from myself and ended up throwing myself to the floor. The wood of the platform creaked again and then gave way. I fell through to the dirt nearly four feet below. I grabbed the waist of my skirt and ripped it free, throwing the flaming garment back at the platform above.

On hands and knees I crawled in the dirt below the fire until I reached the edge of the platform. I kicked the wood blocking me in several times before the wood finally splintered and allowed me to rip a hole large enough to squeeze through. I ran from the station up the tracks until I was far enough away the heat no longer scorched my skin and eyes.

Looking back at the station it began to crumble in on itself collapsing as the fire destroyed each and every support from the inside. It looked like a camp fire for the gods, flames sparking to a point high above the station and the low crackles of fire all round. It was too late to save the station but the fire brigade arrived anyway.

I looked around to see where the men who had started it had gone and I nearly missed them. On a hill to the west a half dozen horse paused on the top of a hill. They were illuminated only by the dim glow of moonlight, making them more shadows than real. A thunderous boom from the final collapse of Union Station turned my head for a moment and when I looked back at the hilltop, it was empty.

A short while later, Edith opened her door to my quiet knock from the hallway. She was stunned by my appearance but quickly pulled me inside and closed the door.

“What happened?” She asked.

“He tried to kill me.” I replied.

“These look like burns.” She said.

He fingers lightly touched the skin my forehead. I shrank back from her touch.

“They are. They burned the station down.” I said.

“He tried to burn you alive?” She asked in horror.

Up until that very moment I had not made the connection with the Paper we had received. The article had suggest we be burned at the stake like witches and so now it seemed someone had tried. We did not need to speak a word. We both understood the significance and the threat.

“I’ll get Margaret. She can better tend to these burns than I.” Edith said.

“Better get the rest, we have matters to discuss.” I said.

Edith nodded and left. I sat on the edge of her bed and looked at her window. The reflection staring back at me made me shiver as if I had seen a ghost. I looked away again, afraid I could lose myself in the darkness.

Making Spirits Bright

November 20, 1896
Anna Cushing

“Ladies, the next carol is something a little more modern written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857. You will note the influence of Mozart during the chorus. The carol is entitled, 'One Horse Open Sleigh'. Let us begin by learning the music.” Mr. Birchwood said.

On a normal day I dread music class. I do not dislike music, but my heart is not in creating it. Someone, somewhere once made the mistake of suggesting all ladies must be talented in the art of music. God only has female angels playing harps, therefore it follows that all women must be educated so that they may one day take their place in His orchestra. If I have to play the violin in Heaven, then I think I would rather spend eternity in Hell or rather Heaven would be Hell.

However, Christmas carols are a true source of joy. What child does not frolic whilst singing the songs of Christmas? The warm thoughts of a crackling fire, the fresh scent of pine wafting through the air and the glimmer of ribbons on neatly wrapped packages beneath the tree; it is all Christmas and yet it is empty without the gleeful singing of carols.

I was therefore quite happy to be selected to sing rather than insult the song with my meager skills as a violinist. Mr. Birchwood surprised me with the introduction of a carol of such recent origin, but it is a pleasant surprise and one I hope to share with my family around the Christmas tree when the time comes next month.

It took only a few minutes of practice for Mr. Birchwood’s selected orchestra to master the notes and nuances of the melody. It is pleasant and joyful and wonderful. The tune captures the wonder and excitement of children on Christmas morning. It was not just me either, I could see it in the smiles around the room and feel it in the air around me.

Then it was time to sing,

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Hear our voices ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side,
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And then we—we got upsot

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

A day or two ago,
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow,
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh,
He laughed as there I sprawling lie,
But quickly drove away

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

Now the ground is white
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight
and sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bob tailed bay
Two forty for his speed
And hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! you'll take the lead

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what joy it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

Mr. Birchwood applauded as we finished. He was beaming like a new father and we all felt it. I think I began the laughing but there is no proof. Once it started though, it was contagious, even Mr. Birchwood enjoyed a chuckle. Then in the far off distance the tower bell began to ring, reminding us it was not Christmas Day but a school day.

Caroling Lessons

November 19, 1896
Charles Birchwood

“Good morning, ladies.”

They all beamed smiles at me as I entered the classroom nearly five minutes tardy. I am not accustomed to being so, but I awoke with a fervent idea for the day’s lesson and could not leave until I found the appropriate sheets which Caroline must have tucked away in the wrong book at the end of last year.

“Good morning Mr. Birchwood.” The ladies replied.

I quickly removed my outer jacket and hung it on the rack behind my desk and then opened my satchel to remove the sheets I had brought with. Tossing the satchel beneath my desk I moved with a light gate to my podium. I do so enjoy this time of year.

“I have made a last minute lesson plan change for today and I trust no one shall mind. When I was creating the fall schedule this summer, I neglected to insert time for indulging in seasonal music.” I announced.

The ladies murmured amongst themselves no doubt confused and excited by the last minute change. Miss Mathewson raised her arm to gain my attention.

“Yes?” I responded.

“Are you referring to Christmas Carols?” She asked.

I could not help the wide smile on my face as I replied, “Precisely.”

From there, the classroom erupted into a gay discussion of everyone’s favorite carols. It took me several moments to quiet them down but being in a good mood for the day I did not resort to any chastisement for their sudden lack of propriety. They did settle down when I cleared my throat a couple of times.

“Before we begin I think it is appropriate we learn about the origins of our modern carols. Caroling is not as new as many of you might think. The earliest carols were first sung around the year 1150 in France. The first carols were related to festivals and not religious in nature. The original purpose was celebration and carols were sung in circles accompanied by dancing. Then when the Protestant Reformation began in 1517 carols nearly became extinct. Then as a result of our Revolution from Britain in 1776 a revival of carols began as an accompaniment to the religious freedoms insured by our Bill of Rights.” I lectured.

The ladies were surprisingly attentive despite the monotone of my voice. I give them credit for their interest in the history of such trivial pursuits as Christmas carols. Some of the ladies even seemed to leaning forward and eager to hear more. I was happy to oblige.

“Most of today’s carols are remnants of rural carols which had little or no religious significance. In the early years of this century many of our churches adapted new lyrics to the music to give them their current form as Christmas carols. Are there any questions?” I said.

The ladies sat still and quiet.

“Excellent. Let us move on then to the first carol I wish to teach you. Miss Mathewson if would please step up to the piano.”

Miss Mathewson nearly skipped from her seat to the piano bench. For the first time since I began teaching at Primrose I felt I was connecting with all my students. Pride does not adequately describe the feeling of satisfaction and happiness buoying my own spirit. I handed the appropriate music sheet to Miss Mathewson and she began to play.

“Does anyone recognize the song?” I asked.

An army of hands shot up in the air.

“Miss Waters, please sing for us.” I requested.

Miss Waters stood and straightened her back. She seemed suddenly taller than I ever thought she was and then I noticed she was smiling. Not just upturned lips but a real and beautiful smile of happiness and with it I realized I had never before seen the young woman to be happy.

She began to sing.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so vibrant!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so vibrant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so vibrant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure does thou bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure does thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure does thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

As Miss Waters concluded, Miss Cushing’s hand was waving through the air.

“Yes, Miss Cushing?” I said.

“Those aren’t the lyrics.” She stated.

I chuckled.

“Aren’t they?” I said.

“No!” She said.

“Then perhaps you could sing the correct lyrics for us?”

Miss Cushing stood and began to sing her version.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
They're green when summer days are bright;
They're green when winter snow is white.
O, Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!
How oft at Christmas tide the sight,
O green fir tree, gives us delight!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
They're green when summer days are bright;
They're green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
Forever true your color
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
Forever true your color
Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
Forever true your color

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
You fill my heart with music
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
You fill my heart with music
Reminding me on Christmas day
To think of you and then be gay
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree
You fill my heart with music

Upon her conclusion I instructed Miss Mathewson to cease playing. The ladies began to argue amongst themselves as to which version of the lyrics was correct. I find it amusing how something so simple can create such conflict.

“Ladies, ladies, quiet please.” I said.

They ignored me. I slammed my fist down on the podium and half of them nearly jumped out of their seats. The room quieted instantly.

“Perhaps none of you were paying attention earlier when I explained the songs have been given new lyrics. Both Miss Waters and Miss Cushing were correct and there are nearly a dozen other variations. The verses learned are dependent upon where, geographically speaking, one learns the carol. The music is always the same, it is only the vocal accompaniment which changes. The lesson my dear ladies is simple, words come and go but music is forever.”

After Math

November 18, 1896
Edith Bowen

If there is a subject I despise more than mathematics, I have yet to meet it. It is not the solving of sums, differences, quotients, or products which baffle me, those things make sense. No, the concept of measurements is the real problem. Only men could create a numerical system of divisional units of size which are based on randomly assigned functions of disconnected numbers.

An inch can be divided into 32 smaller pieces but 32 inches is 4 inches short of a yard which is equivalent to 3 feet where each foot is 12 inches or 384/32’s and that is just for length. Do not even get me started on tea spoons, table spoons, cups, quarts, pints and gallons! Suffice to say the confusion of these illogical systems defies the very definition of mathematics.

Mr. Rollings walked the front of the classroom slapping his yardstick against the side of his leg as he went. He was lecturing about the importance of understanding measurements in the kitchen, which I agree is an invaluable skill. I however cannot agree that the system is intuitive as he claims.

“A recipe requires 2 eggs, 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, ½ cup of milk, and 2 tablespoons of butter. The result is for a gathering of 4. Assuming you had a gathering of 32, convert the recipe as needed and adjust the units of measurements to best reflect the quantities needed.” Mr. Rollings said.

Inwardly, I groaned. I wrote the recipe down on my slate while I could still recall it and set to work doing the necessary math. As for converting units, that was a little more difficult. I have my notes for that but Mr. Rollings is insistent we learn the conversions without notes.

Mr. Rollings walked up and down the aisles of desks. He looked over all our shoulders one by one, gauging us and our command of the arithmetic and definitions required. Naturally, he paused when he came to my desk.

“Still having difficulty with units Miss Bowen?” He asked.

“Yes, sir.” I replied.

“I realize this material is difficult for you, but you must put forth the effort if you hope to teach others.”

“I am trying, sir.”

“Of that I have no doubt. Still, you are the only one in the class still struggling with this. Perhaps you should stay after class.” He said.

“Yes, sir.” I said resigned to my fate.

It seemed hardly a blink later and the tower bell was ringing. I gathered my things like the other girls but remained seated whilst they walked out the door. I expected a physical lesson soon, the kind most teachers call motivational. At least, he spared me the humiliation of suffering it in front of the others.

“Ah, Miss Bowen, alone at last.” Mr. Rollings said.

He sat on the desktop of the student desk directly in front of my and place his feet up on the chair. He folded his hands over his knees and looked at me through his wire spectacles. I twitched nervously with the feeling he was silently laughing at me.

“Now, how can I help you?” He asked.

I fluttered my eyelashes, shocked at the question.

“I-ah- I don’t know.” I said.

He nodded at me with a slight smile on his thin lips.

“You are not in trouble, Miss Bowen. I only wish to help you and barring a better suggestion from you, I do have a proposal.”

I had to swallow the lump in my throat before replying.

“Thank you. I welcome any help you can offer.” I said.

“I have found that some students learn best with practical experience. It is not always possible in the classroom to provide the real world examples necessary to make the connections between theory and practice. Therefore, I suggest we solicit Mrs. Carrington to allow us access to her kitchen.”

“The kitchen? I don’t understand.”

“Within the manor food is prepared for a great deal more people than most recipes are designed. By taking the mathematics lesson into the kitchen I can provide you a practical situation to connect with the lessons.”

“You’re going to teach me measuring unit conversions while cooking?” I asked.

I hope the incredulousness I was feeling stayed out of my tone.

“Yes, although I believe it is called baking.” Mr. Rollings replied.

“You know how?” I asked.

I know it was a rude question but it exited my lips before my brain could catch up.

“Shocking as it must seem, I do indeed Miss Bowen.”

I could not help but smile as the image of Mr. Rollings wearing an apron and covered in flour passed before my mental eyes.

“I will speak with Mrs. Carrington and make the arrangements.” I said.

He nodded and reached out to pat the top of my hand. I looked up at him still smiling and feeling relieved that my worst fears remained unrealized. Mr. Rollings winked at me.

“You see, I really don’t bite.” He said.

Isn't It Poetic?

November 17, 1896
Penelope Sumter

Poets are poetic. The fact would seem obvious enough, but then obvious is only a perspective. Of more importance, and more interest, I am not a poet. The conclusion of which should reveal I am not poetic. This is of the obvious to those with perspective on such matters. Mr. Stark should have been among those aware, but as fate would have it, he was far from aware and the obvious was not.

There was a soft round of applause as Elizabeth finished her reading. The classroom was a solemn environment for the afternoon as each of us in turn would stand before our peers and reveal our deepest emotions in the form of moving text strung symbolically in rhyme. The page containing my attempt sat folded on my desk before me. Soon it would be my turn and it was apprehension alone sitting heavily in my chair, whilst my mind traveled the corridors to the outside where it rested peacefully underneath a willow tree.

“Miss Sumter.” Mr. Stark called.

My mind traveled back to the classroom and the task ahead. Nervously, I pushed myself upward on leaden legs and walked stiffly to the podium at the front. Upon arrival, I realized my first mistake, the folded page still sat waiting on the desktop I left behind. Mr. Stark raised an eyebrow as I turned around to retrieve it. The second journey forward was no easier than the first. The lead in my legs was joined by butterflies in my tummy.

I faced my peers with determination to survive the ordeal. Unfolding the page, I cleared my throat to clear the way. I looked downward at the page and for a moment I swear it was blank. The words came swimming back and I took a deep breath before I read aloud.

Gentle Breezes

Gentle breezes blowing through summer’s sweet grass
Pollen, cotton, wheezing, swinging, sitting on my ass
Bourbon in the study, tobacco smoke swirling thoughts best not ask
Behind closed doors, whooshing, thumping, swishing, being brought to task

Gentle breezes blowing through summer’s windows open
Pleading, crying, whining, stomping, writing with a pen
Flowers in the garden, water droplets falling, peace shall not last
Hot tea for two, sitting, sweating, sipping, remembering the past

Gentle breezes blowing through summer’s timely ending
Packing, cheering, waiting, singing, rejoicing with the sending
Smiles in the station, hugs and kisses coming, goodbyes are not forever
Step up, trembling, waving, jumping, needing the binding ties to sever

The End

I looked up from the podium wondering what the response would be. My peers were silent, not even a gentle applause for the effort. Mr. Stark stared speechless at me for a moment before suddenly slapping me across the face. I staggered back from the podium, stunned.

“That has to be the most disgusting and perverse attempt at poetry I have ever heard.” He said.
“I only did what you asked.” I replied.

He slapped me again. I cowered close to the floor.

“How dare you blame me for your vulgarity.” He said.

“I am sorry, sir.” I said.

It was instinct to plead forgiveness despite the certainty in my heart I had done nothing wrong. I wrote what came to me. I constructed the prose so as to rhyme. Is it my fault the result is less than spectacular? I think not, it is what it is. Poetry is not my choice for expressing myself and its rules made my attempt what it was not my heart or soul or mind.

Mr. Stark took the page from the podium where it lay and tore it to shreds before my eyes. He sprinkled the pieces on me like salt on an open wound. I would have cried but I knew the worst was yet to come.

“Forgiveness must be earned, Miss Sumter. Your disrespect for me, the assignment, and your classmates leaves me no choice but to discipline you and you should be thankful if I do not refer this matter to the Dean.” He said.

I stared at the ground, wrapped my arms around my knees. My chest felt like it would burst from the sadness.

“Prepare yourself.” He ordered.

I looked up at him questioning what it was he meant. His unblinking gaze revealed nothing, but made me look away.

“Sir?” I asked.

“Strip.” He said.

I flushed red in the face. There were boys in the class and they looked at me with greedy eyes.

“Please sir.” I begged.

“Strip.” He repeated.

And so I did.

I laid naked over Mr. Stark’s desk. My white buttocks plainly visible to my peers, one and all. I wanted to cry but there were no tears in my eyes. I pressed myself harder against the desk until its edges bit into my skin. The pain was only enough to dull my awareness of the scene I presented, not enough to hide within.

Mr. Stark swung a yardstick a dozen times. I kept my quiet and my tears. Unlike so many times, I felt no remorse, no sadness for my deeds. I felt only angry at the sting. The spanking was over soon enough but the humiliation is what never truly leaves.

When it was done I stood against the wall, my bare, red bottom on display. My hands quivered at my sides, struggling against the urge to provide comfort. Mr. Stark continued with the class as though I was not present at all. When at last the bell rang I had begun to imagine I was merely a part of the wall.

“Gather your things, Miss Sumter.” Mr. Stark ordered.

I turned around to find the room empty except for the two of us. I quickly knelt to the ground by his desk and retrieved my discarded clothes. Mr. Stark stepped to the side wall and opened a window to the outside. The cool air made me shiver.

“Throw them out here.” He ordered.

“Sir, no.” I said.

I backed away toward the door with my things held tightly to my chest.

“Throw them out the window, now.” He said.

I shook my head, no and continued toward the door. My fingers closed around the knob and turned it to open. I stepped out into the corridor and ran. I was almost at the stairs when I collided with Mr. Birchwood and we both tumbled to the floor.

“Miss Sumter?” Mr. Birchwood said.

I scrambled to collect my clothes afraid Mr. Stark would not be far behind. Mr. Birchwood grabbed my arm and helped me up.

“What has happened to you?” He asked.

It sounded like genuine concern in his voice. I shook my head too embarrassed to respond with the truth.

“Come with me.” He said.

He guided me forcefully by the arm into his private office and closed the door. I shuddered as I heard it lock. I backed away from him afraid matters had just become even worse.

“Get dressed.” He said.

I was surprised, but I wasted no time in obeying.

“Now, tell me what happened and who sent you out like that.” Mr. Birchwood commanded.

And so I did.

The Divide

November 16, 1896
Margaret Spooner

I have a new routine. Studying at Edgar’s apartment was supposed to be a good thing. No distractions, like hours of gossip, and plenty of space and light. But, it seems theory and practice are worlds apart even when it comes to something so mundane. I was trying to study math and Edgar was trying to wear the rug out.

“Would you mind sitting down?” I asked.

Edgar grunted an unintelligible response and continued his back and forth wandering across the floor.

“Edgar!” I said.

He stopped and pivoted toward me like a soldier snapping to attention.

“What?” He asked.

“I can’t concentrate with you running a marathon in front of me.”

“What? Oh, I am sorry, dear.”

He was clearly distracted by something not me.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.

He pulled out the chair across the table from me and sat down in it. He folded his hands on the table in front of him and his wavered from side to side as if it were a pendulum counting seconds on a clock. Then he stopped and settled an intense gaze upon me.

“We should talk.” He said.

“I’m listening.”

“I followed you.”

I was taken aback by the confession. Should I have been angry?

“When?” I asked.

“To your feminist meeting.” He said.

The word “feminist” spat from his lips like a curse. I shuddered at the obvious hatred in his tone.

“I would never have gone if you had not made such an issue of the note inviting me.”

It was the truth. He would not like it, but had he not made issue of it and accused me of lying I would have never given the note another thought. I had at the time completely forgotten of it and it was only his reaction to finding the note which peaked my curiosity.

“I am not a fool, Margaret. You would not have received an invitation if you were not a part of the movement.”

“I have not lied to you. I had no connection to them before.”

“But now you do?”

“Would it be such a horrible thing?”

“Yes.” He replied.

“They are only asking for women to be given the same rights and protections as men under the law.”

“To make these things the same is to take away from women, not to give them more. Surely, you must see how the law is designed to protect women from the dangers of the world?”

“I thought you of all men would have understood the disparity which exists is unjustified. You know me and what I dream of becoming, do you think me less capable than any man?”

“It is not about what you are capable of, it is about what you are. God created men and women to be different, unequal, for a reason.”

“And what reason is that?”

“So that we would all appreciate the gift that is life. It is my duty as a man to protect you and I will do so even if it is from yourself.”

“Do you think I need protecting from myself?”

“Are you going to endanger yourself by joining the feminists?”

“So now you believe me?”

“I do. I am sorry I did not listen before. I was only looking out for your best interests but I should have listened to you.”

“I forgive you because I do love you, Edgar.”

“And the feminists?”

“I will not band with a political group, but I cannot change who I am.”

“What does that mean?”

“Being a woman is not like joining a political group. I will always be a woman and I hope you do not consider it to be a bad thing.”

“Never.” He said.

He took my hand into his and leaned across the table to kiss it. It these moments with Edgar I cherish. I wonder though, as I look into his loving eyes, will they be enough? Or, will there come a day when the differences between us leave such an expansive divide no bridge can span the distance?

Curious Wilbur

November 15, 1896
Penelope Sumter

“Tell me.” Wilbur ordered.

“It’s not important.” I said.

“Then tell me and I will know for myself.” He said.

“I can’t.” I said.

“Why not?” He said.

“You would not understand.” I said.

“Because of you or because of him?” He said.

“It’s complicated.” I said.

“So explain it.” He said.

“Wilbur!” I said.

“I know there is a problem. He singles you out. I want to know why.” He said.

“Maybe I don’t know.” I said.

“I think you do.” He said.

“You think it’s all my fault.” I said.

“Is it?” He said.

“Does it even matter?” I said.

“It does to me.” He said.

“Can we just forget about it? Please.” I said.

“Whether you like it or not, it is my responsibility to look out for you.” He said.

“I can take care of myself.” I said.

“But you should not have to.” He said.

“It’s not like I’m failing.” I said.

“I’m not going away and I’m not dropping the subject just because you don’t want to talk about it. You have a choice, you can either tell me what is going on with Dr. Phallic and you or you can go over my knee and then tell me what is going on. It’s your choice but you are going to make it right now.” He said.

“He thinks I’m capable of more and he tries to push me to try harder because he thinks I don’t try hard enough on my own.” I said.

“Is he right?” He said.

“There was a time when he was.” I said.

“But not now?” He said.

“Last year I was more interested in other pursuits. I am more focused now.” I said.

“You know father would not approve of your focus.” He said.

“He didn’t approve much of it last year either.” I said.

“If you are trying harder this year, why does Dr. Phallic continue to single you out in class?” He said.

“Maybe you should ask him.” I said.

“I’m asking you.” He said.

“I don’t know.” I said.

“What do you think his reasons might be?” He said.

“If you are leading to something why don’t you just say it?” I said.

“Do you want to go over my knee?” He said.

“No! I don’t know what you want from me.” I said.

“The truth, Penelope.” He said.

“I’m telling you the truth.” I said.

“But not all of it.” He said.

“What do you think you know?” I said.

“Why don’t you tell me?” He said.

“If I knew, I would.” I said.

“Fine, I’ll talk to Dr. Phallic. If I find out you’ve been holding back, you’ll be sorry.” He said.

“And when you find out I’m be forthright, I expect an apology for the accusations.” I said.

Art Is Joy

November 14, 1896
Anna Cushing

If ever there was a subject meant for boys and not girls it is art. Seriously, how dare Mr. Carlton expect us to lay our hands in such filth as clay or paint or chalk? My father would never have allowed me near such things in my youth. It seems doubly odd to me as it is now that which boys played with in their early years that women are meant to mold and form into something of beauty in our collegiate years.

If the ability to create art is the woman’s domain then surely I am more man than woman. My art says it loudly enough that not only can I hear it but indeed, Mr. Carlton feels comfortable informing anyone and everyone who might not have heard.

“Are you daft girl?” He bellowed.

I jerked from the potter’s wheel, startled by his presence. Wet clay sailed through air and splattered in Mr. Carlton’s red beard. From a distance no one would notice but at such close range the dribble was unmistakable. I choked back laughter as he spat the goop from his mouth.

I stopped pedaling and tried to look sorrowful. Unfortunately for me, Mr. Carlton believes there is no such thing as accidents and so he perceives every action as deliberate. While I admit throwing mud in his face has occurred to me more than once in his classroom, I would never have acted on the impulse intentionally. Then again, it did happen.

“I’m sorry sir. You startled me.” I said.

“So, I see and did I also cause you to create that, that, that repulsive cylinder of slime?” He said.

I considered his question. Did he want the truth because if the truth was wanted he had most certainly caused me to make the slumping bit of mud on the wheel? It was supposed to be a vase but it looked more like excrement to be polite. Were it not for his insistence that every girl knows instinctively how to create a vase, I would certainly have never attempted the project.

Wisdom interceded before my tongue did irreparable damage.

“I fear I am without any artistic sense.” I said.

“Or is it you are without any willingness to put forth the necessary effort to succeed?” He asked.

I quickly became aware I was then the center of attention in the room. Every one of my classmates was staring and Emma even had the nerve to stick her tongue out at me as though she fancied the thought of me in peril.

“I would happily put forth whatever effort you require sir. I am your humble student for as long as you will have me.” I said.

Mr. Carlton stared hard at me for a long moment. I think he was trying to decide whether I was being sincere or not. In the end he no doubt decided I lacked the necessary aptitude for deceit, fool that he is. I fluttered my eyelashes as his expression softened.

“Very well Miss Cushing. Your attitude is more than acceptable even if your work is not.” He replied.

I blushed appropriately and pretended to attempt to hide a smile he must have thought was reserved just for him. He smiled beneath his red beard and then turned his head away from me and back toward the rest of the class. I took the opportunity to stick my own tongue out at Emma who was looking disappointed right at that moment. Her face darkened.

“Smile Miss Chesterfield, art is joy.” Mr. Carlton said.

My cheeks bulged as I fought back laughter. Emma seemed to take my bulging cheeks as a further attempt to ridicule her and she lost control of her rather short temper. She stopped pedaling at her wheel and with a wild swipe of her hand propelled the wet clay off the wheel and into the air. No doubt I was the intended target, but poor Mr. Carlton was in the way.

For the second time in a matter of minutes he was splattered with wet, slimy clay. This time it caught him not just in the beard and mouth but his entire face and hair. He spat and shook his head all at the same time sending a spray of clay and water all around him like a wet dog.

“Chesterfield! How dare you?” He boomed.

She jumped to her feet, face red from anger more than embarrassment it seemed to me and pointed her finger at me like I was a Salem witch. I blinked innocence and feigned an expression of disdain.

“It’s her fault!” Emma shouted.

Mr. Carlton closed the distance between himself and my indignant roommate in just two giant steps. I am sure it was just a trick of the light but I swear I saw steam rising out of his red hair. He towered over Emma but it was only when she looked up and saw his giant red face dripping with muddy clay that she realized just what she had done. Her fury abated and her red cheeks turned white.

“Outside.” He ordered.

Emma gave one last glare to me before she slipped outside of the classroom into the hallway. Mr. Carlton watched her until the door closed and then preceded to the sink. I decided being nice to him was in my best interest. I stood up and joined him at the sink. I picked up the cloth as he was reaching for it. He tilted his head at me in surprise.

“I may not be much use in shaping clay but I have plenty of practice cleaning up.” I said.

His anger noticeably abated. I began softly scrubbing his face clean with the cloth, careful to avoid getting anything in eyes, mouth and nose. It took the rest of the class period, which was fine with me, to clean the slime off of him. As the bell began ringing in the distance I wondered just what he was going to do with Emma.

I passed her in the hall as I left and she had the good sense to be embarrassed as we all walked past. A few of the girls looked sympathetic but most like me felt it was about time the haughty brat learned a lesson. She was always so smug about staying out of trouble with the teachers it seemed justice was finally being done to most of us. The only regret was that we would not be there to witness it or so we thought.

On the front steps of Primrose Hall a few of us gathered to gossip before the short walk back to Carrington Manor. It was serendipity that we waited because only a few minutes later, Emma was dragged out before us all, clad in nothing more than her bloomers. I think we all blushed at the sight. Mr. Carlton paid no attention to his rapt audience as he tossed Emma over the center rail for the stairs and withdrew a short strip of leather from his jacket pocket.

Wasting no time, he whipped it down on her white bloomers eliciting a yelp from Emma and a wild kicking of her suspended legs and a flailing of her arms. Mr. Carlton did not pause between strokes at all; rather he whipped her buttocks in time with horse at full gallop. Her yelps and flailing about became an almost comical routine unless one recalled just how much sting leather could impart on the backside.

Still it was hard not to smile when he let her up. She landed on her feet and immediately bounced back up in the air. Her hands grabbed her buttocks which were glowing red through her white bloomers and with a single sniffle she was off running back inside the building. Mr. Carlton followed her at a much slower pace.

The History Of Our World

November 13, 1896
Sarah Waters

“It has come to my attention that some young women here believe they should have the right to vote alongside men.” Mr. Bard said.

I noticed Caroline Birchwood shift uncomfortably in her seat and felt a twinge of sympathy for her. She had endeavored on her own to do that which I and my new friends had succeeded, vote. Everyone knew she had been caught, arrested and dragged before the Judge to face penalties and further we knew her husband, our music teacher, had paid the fine without complaint and left with her smiling on his arm. Mr. Birchwood is a difficult man to know, but the incident with Caroline causes me to believe he is more friend than foe.

“Therefore, our esteemed Dean has requested I remind you of why women are not the equals of men.” Mr. Bard continued, “ There are of course the physical difference between men and women as designed by our Lord and Creator. Women’s bodies are obviously for the continued population of our species. In these regards a woman’s body is sacred, but she was not provided the strength or endurance to protect or defend herself. Men provide this role. Just as the woman’s body is dependent upon the man for protection so is her mind. The female brain is designed to nurture and teach the young but it lacks the necessary logic and reasoning to comprehend the political complexities of government which serves to protect us all.”

My father once told me, water always travels the path of least resistance and because it is one of the building blocks of life we as people are often inclined to do the very same. Of course that does not mean we are adverse to change, quite the contrary in fact, just as water will slowly erode a new path over hundreds of years, so shall people change the course of society. It was meant to be a lesson about patience, but then a man named Alfred Nobel invented something called dynamite.

Sometimes, you see, a new path is of such urgency you have to do a little more than wait for nature to take its course. Alfred Nobel understood that and he also understood that sometimes the path needing carving is not through the soft rock but instead straight through the hardened and entrenched rock. Those are the times you light a match to lead the way and plug your ears so as not to be dissuaded by the desperate cries for mercy in the face of inevitable and immediate change.

Dad said someday I would find my place in this world and Sam told me I was meant to change it. I think they might have been both saying the same thing and just now, I am starting to believe them. Suffice to say, Mr. Bard’s classroom seemed as good a place to light a match as any other. Patience and consequences be damned.

“Some of the greatest leaders in the history of the world have been women. I cannot believe you would dismiss them all as failing to understand the complexities of government. Nor would it seem appropriate to say they are unable to defend themselves.” I said.

Mr. Bard was not amused. He scowled at me like a naughty schoolgirl.

“I do not recall giving you permission to speak, Miss Waters.” He said.

“You did not and I would not ask you for it.” I replied.

“In my classroom you will pay me the respect I am due. In this room, I decide who speaks and who does not.”

“Then I shall await you in the corridor to discuss the fallacy of your grandiose statements.”

I pushed my chair back and stood as if to leave. The girls around the room were staring at me with a mix of horror and delight. I curbed my impulse to smile and kept my lips flat. I heard another chair scrape on the floor behind me.

“I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m with Sarah. If we cannot debate in civil fashion the merits of our sex then this classroom holds no lessons worth learning.” Anna Cushing said.

It took only a moment. Every girl in the room was on her feet. Most were smiling at the liberating feeling of standing up against oppression. I felt a surge of pride but did my best to keep it at bay. This was not the time nor the place for gloating. No battles had been won.

“Sit down. All of you.” Mr. Bard ordered.

“Why should we?” I asked.

Our eyes met across the room. He was scared. I was emboldened. The truth was laid open between us and while I will likely always see him as a small man, I must grant him some credit for his courage.

“If everyone will just sit down, we will discuss Miss Waters’ views.” He said.

All eyes turned to me. I think they expected me to march out the door, but it was in truth never my goal. I had wanted him to blink and now that he had, it was my turn to be gracious. I sat down in my seat and turned my attention back to Mr. Bard. Slowly, reluctantly, the girls followed my lead.

“Now that everyone has stretched their legs, are we ready to continue?” Mr. Bard said.

The classroom remained silent.

“Good. Now Miss Waters, you say some of the greatest leaders in history were women. Please identify some of these to whom you refer.” He said.

“Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Catherine II of Russia, and Queen Victoria of England.” I said.

“Cleopatra? An interesting choice to be sure, the woman responsible for the downfall and end of the Ancient Egyptian Empire. She was in fact so overwhelmed by the disasters she wrought that in the end the woman killed herself.” Mr. Bard said.

“The downfall of Egypt was assured long before she became the final Pharaoh. It was through her actions and alliances with Rome that Egyptian culture survived at all. She took the time to learn the language of her people, something no Pharaoh had done in over 100 years before her, so that she could understand for herself their needs and concerns. In my estimation, that is a great leader.” I responded.

“Your views are clearly tainted by your sex, but let us continue. Joan of Arc. If the stories are to be believed, she was a mere messenger from God. It is not to belittle God’s choice of a girl to carry his message but it was the power of God which lifted her above men, not the power of womanhood.” Mr. Bard said.

“God chooses a girl to lead in a time of war and you think he simply overlooked her gender? She gave hope to the French at a time when it was crucial and restored their faith as it was failing. God may well have been responsible for all that she did but is he any less responsible for the acts of any of us?” I said.

Mr. Bard appeared as if he would like nothing more than to beat his idea of sense into me.

“I will concede that their have existed women who have defied their station in life, but surely you have noted that they all end in death and destruction.” Mr. Bard said.

“Surely you would not call Queen Victoria dead or Britain in the throws of disaster?” I said.

“The Queen knows her place and relies on men for what they know best.”

“I believe she might take offense at your suggestion that she does not rule Britain.”

“Miss Waters you are but young and naïve.” Mr. Bard said.

“Perhaps, but I could as easily call you old and senile, though I shall not.”

Off in the distance the bell rang, ending our discussion and the class. Mr. Bard was boiling with anger but there was also relief in his eyes. I suppose there will come a day when I must face the consequences for my arguments but it is not this day.

It's Not Just Physics

November 12, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

There are days when I do not think the differences between Penelope and I could be more stark and then there are surprising moments when I am amazed by our similarities. Our approach to life is so different and yet I think we come from nearly the same place. Where she is free and unburdened I feel the weight of societies expectations upon me.

If I were only different, I might find the courage to say what I really want to say to the likes of Dr. Phallic among others. In truth it is not he who occupies my thoughts but Penelope’s adorable brother Wilbur. Sitting in Dr. Phallic’s physic class he was the only thing on my mind and the science was more chemistry than physics.

“Can anyone tell me one of Newton’s three laws?” Dr. Phallic asked.

He paced the front of the classroom in his white lab coat looking completely distracted from the day’s lesson. Several of the boys raised their hands for an opportunity to answer his question but he ignored them all in favor of calling on Penelope who was staring very hard at her desktop rather than volunteering to answer questions.

“Miss Sumter, name one of Newton’s laws.” He said.

Penelope looked up in surprise. She should know better by now but clearly she was still living in the fantasy land of her own creation. It is a wonderful place where nothing ever happens unless you want it to. I would never tell her but I envy her that confidence.

“An object in motion will continue unless it is acted upon by an outside force.” Penelope said.

I nearly fell out of my chair as the outside force of Penelope’s thoughts stunned me. Not only had she answered but she had answered correctly. Dr. Phallic might have been more surprised than me. He stopped his pacing and turned to look at her with a curious expression which seemed to me to reflect both disbelief and pride all in the same moment.

“Very good, Miss Sumter. Now can you tell me what force is acting on a wheel to cause it stop turning?” He asked.

Penelope looked thoughtful for a moment. I was sitting on the edge of my seat hoping she would get it wrong so that I might have the opportunity to reaffirm myself as the most intelligent woman in the room.

“I believe there would be at least two, sir. Gravity and friction.” Penelope said.

The boys around the room were becoming more interested in Penelope by the second and quickly forgetting I existed at all. Why want the girl with a brain, when there is one with beauty and a brain?

“Excellent, Miss Sumter. It seems you have done your reading for a change. Miss Bassett, another of Newton’s laws if you please.”

My mind raced for an answer that had only moments before been on the tip of my tongue. Something about being put on the spot makes my brain slow to respond. Finally, another of the laws came to me. I felt extremely self-conscious as I spoke.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I said.

“Thank you Miss Bassett. Now, what is the equal and opposite reaction to your walking by on the sidewalk?” Dr. Phallic asked.

I wanted to say I did not know because that was in fact the truth, but being out done by Penelope was too distasteful for me not to try and salvage what I could. I considered the forces at work and began to imagine what could possibly be the reactive forces. The class was silent in anticipation of me blundering a response.

“I know if you were referring to me walking by, it would be all these boys turning their heads to watch.” Penelope said.

The classroom erupted in laughter.

“Thank you, Miss Sumter. I can see while you have grasped the material for the week you have not lost your unique ability to ridicule science at every level. We will discuss your interruption further after class.” Dr. Phallic said.

He turned back to me clearly still waiting for my answer.

“Wind?” I said hopefully.

“Thank you, Miss Bassett.”

The bell began to ring from the tower signaling the end of class. I felt relieved knowing I was at least out of the spotlight for another day. Penelope looked sour at the prospect of remaining behind as I exited the room. I would not wish to be in her shoes but when will she learn to guard her words?

Walking down the corridor I was struck by the illogic of my own thoughts. Was it not our very point in voting that we should not be forced to hide our opinions and thoughts from the world? Perhaps I am more the fool than Penelope will ever be for I am unable to make myself heard unless someone else gives me the permission to do so. Consequences or not, I think it might be time for a change.

“Where is Penelope?” Wilbur asked, coming in through the front door.

I smiled at him and then hid my face as I realized I was blushing just to look at him.

“Dr. Phallic kept her after.” I replied.

“What did she do this time?” He asked.

“She was smarter than he likes.” I replied before my brain realized it might not have been the best choice of words.

“Indeed?” He asked.

I bit my lip and scurried away before he could ask me to explain further. I think maybe I am not quite as ready for change as I wish to be. In the meantime, I can still dream and, watching Wilbur walk into Dr. Phallic‘s classroom, what a dream it is.