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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great episode.