This Night Only

"Rebecca," He said, his voice quiet like a whisper, but devoid of the warmth with which he customarily addressed her.

His hand grasped her wrist, forcing her to stop walking away. Her breath caught in her throat when she found the firmness of his hold prevented her from simply pulling free. She turned to face him, raising her free hand to slap him for his audacity, but he was waiting and grabbed her other wrist before her effort approached anything akin to success. The smile on her lips fell flat.

Untwisting his arms, he spun her around and pulled her back into his body where he could hold her pinned to his chest with a single arm wrapped around her. Far from accepting his superior strength as superiority, she struggled against his hold until he turned her loose with a push toward the wall. Wobbling on her stilettos, feet scrambling as if the tile had turned to ice, Rebecca steadied herself against the wall and glared up at him. With the index finger and thumb of his right hand he pulled a neatly folded, white handkerchief from his jacket pocket and held it out in the air between them. She looked from it to his eyes and when their eyes met, he opened his fingers allowing the cloth to fall freely to the floor.

"Pick it up," He ordered.

A Lack Of Evidence

February 16, 1897
Edith Bowen

“What evidence do you have?” The sheriff asked.

The question should have been asked two days ago. If Elizabeth Bassett were a first year student it would have been because first years have a habit of leaving suddenly and unexpectedly. Miss Bassett, of course, is no first year but her family’s troubles are hardly a secret despite her attempts to keep them as such. My first and immediate conclusion when I heard she was gone, was she had left. Miss Waters had a different opinion.

Over the course of the weekend, Carrington Manor was turned upside down searching for clues as to where our wayward peer had gone. The assumption was she had been taken against her will, but all evidence was to the contrary. On the word of Miss Waters, the sheriff had pursued an illogical investigation doomed to failure. I made my thoughts clear early on and surprisingly found myself in total agreement with the Carrington’s; students leave Primrose all the time for hundreds of reasons and they never say goodbye or give any explanation for those of us left behind.

So, there we stood in Mr. Carrington’s study. Miss Waters, Mister and Misses Carrington, and the sheriff. The five of us were exhausted, but at last it was time for truth and explanations. Miss Waters stared at the ground and shook her head. I think perhaps she was doubting herself for the first time since it all began on Friday afternoon. I have respect for her, make no mistake, but she was wrong and for that, there is always a price to be paid.

“Nothing.” Miss Waters said.

Her voice was little more than a hoarse whisper, but it was clear enough. I am certain she knew something, heard something, but whatever it was, she was unwilling to divulge it. Without finding anything to support her claims, it left us with little choice.

“Then on what basis, have you wasted all our time?” I demanded.

Perhaps it was cruel, but if it was not said by me, it would have been said by someone.

“Elizabeth would not have left without a word to anyone. It is not in her nature.” Miss Waters said.

“Keeping secrets is precisely Miss Bassett’s nature. It has been the single most consistent trait in her behavior since she first arrived here. You clearly do not know her as well as you think.” Mr. Carrington said.

“Why would she leave and where would she go?” Miss Waters asked.

“Only she could answer why but as to where, she undoubtedly went home, wherever that might be for her now.” The sheriff said.

“But…” Miss Waters began.

“Enough, Miss Waters. You have wasted enough of the sheriff’s time and there is nothing to support your wild theory. If you know something to alter the situation, now is the time to speak. Otherwise, you would be wise to apologize to the sheriff and keep your head down.” Mrs. Carrington said.

All eyes were on Miss Waters. She bit at her lip and fidgeted her hands for a moment while staring at the floor. She raised her head for a moment to look at me and when she did not find the support she expected, she looked back at the floor.

“I am sorry to have wasted your time. I must have been mistaken.” Miss Waters said.

The words sounded strained and I can only imagine how difficult it was to say them. Miss Waters is not in the habit of apologizing nor doing what others have told her to do. I am proud of her for swallowing her pride for once. Perhaps even she has learned a thing or two in the weeks since our return.

The sheriff nodded.

“Quite alright, Miss Waters. I hope at the very least our diligence has set your mind at ease.” The sheriff said.

“Thank you sheriff. You have done ample to set all our minds at ease.” Mr. Carrington said.

Miss Waters, wisely remained silent and merely nodded her head in agreement with Mr. Carrington.

“If there is nothing else then, I will be off.” The sheriff said.

Mr. Carrington nodded and offered his hand to the sheriff. The two men shook hands and then walked out toward the front door. Mrs. Carrington turned to Miss Waters and I could see there was anger in her eyes. I decided it would be best for all if I spoke first.

“Miss Waters you will wait for me in the hall outside my room.” I ordered.

She looked up at me in surprise.

“Now, Miss Waters.” I said.

She decided not to argue and left quietly. Mrs. Carrington looked at me and shook her head like a disappointed mother.

“Why do you protect her?” She asked.

“I am not.” I replied.

“That girl needs to a learn a serious lesson here.”

“I agree and she will, I promise.”

“A lecture will not be sufficient.” Mr. Carrington said.

He returned alone.

“I will take care of it.” I said.

“You had better, because if you do not I will and it will not just be Miss Waters to whom I will be attending. Are we clear?” Mr. Carrington said.

“Yes, sir.” I replied.

Our eyes met. Mr. Carrington’s stern expression softened as he realized I was as serious as he. Miss Waters will soon learn just how serious that is.

Everything Wrong

February 13, 1897
Sarah Waters

Mr. Stark raised his arm high in the air and held it there for a moment. I think he was admiring the view and he was not alone in it. I held my breath almost without knowing and waited for the inevitable fall of his arm and the loud crack of leather on naked flesh which would accompany it. No one made a sound.

Then it happened. Over and over, the strap rose and fell leaving behind a neat series of blazing, red stripes, pulsating with stinging pain. Ten I counted in all, but it was only a meager justice if the truth be told. Had the choice been mine it would have been double that at the least. Fortunately for Miss Ferguson, I was only a spectator in the crowd with no influence to call upon.

Gossiping was her crime. Stupid, gossiping in the middle of class had her marched to the front of the room, dress and undergarments removed for a proper striping and shaming of the silly girl. Still, it felt a little like justice for me. She is after all, the girl who has been doing her best to undermine my reputation with twisted tales of last May. If she had any concept of how much she hurt me by dragging that past into the present, she gave no sign of remorse. She seems almost proud of herself.

Justice is not always easy to find, but I will take what I can get and be happy it is more than nothing.

At the end of the day, I descended the steps to the street watching Miss Ferguson wincing as she did the same. She cried to her friends about the injustice and for a change, I was smart enough to keep my thoughts to myself. Besides, Mr. Goulding was waiting at the street along with another young man I recognized as Miss Sumter’s brother, Wilbur.

“Are you looking for Penelope?” I asked.

Mr. Sumter looked confused for a moment before replying.

“No. Have you seen Miss Bassett?” Mr. Sumter asked.

“Not since breakfast. I am sure she will be back at the manor within the hour though.” I replied.

Mr. Sumter nodded and gave a quick smile of thanks.

“Miss Waters, might I have a word?” Mr. Goulding asked.

“I’m in such a good mood, I’ll even let you have two.” I replied.

Mr. Sumter fell into a coughing fit, no doubt brought about by the cold February air. Mr. Goulding offered me his arm and I took it without a thought. We walked down the sidewalk until we were far enough away that no one would hear us.

“What do you know?” Mr. Goulding asked.

His words had the sound of accusation in them.

“More than some, less than others.” I replied.

“Elizabeth Bassett is missing and somehow I doubt you are ignorant of it.”


The shock on my face must have convinced him he was wrong, because immediately his tone changed.

“You really don’t know. I’m sorry.”

“You can’t just leave it at that. What is going on?” I asked.

“Miss Bassett left for school as usual this morning but all indications are she never arrived. She missed all her classes. Her room looks like she packed all her things and left, but if she did, she seems to have told no one.”

“Have you talked to Miss Sumter?”

“Of course, she swears nothing was out of place this morning when she left.”

“The man I shot, he told me there was someone still after her.” I said.

“You spoke to him? When?”

“A few days ago. He was trying to scare me out of town and I think he wanted me to take Elizabeth with me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Who are you that I should tell?”

“I’m trying to help.”

“Maybe, but you have too many secrets and you often do as you just did.”

“What did I do?”

“You avoid my questions and try to distract me from noticing.”

“You need to trust me. I can help.”

“If it is my trust you want, you will have to earn it first. I’ve told you what I know in any case.”

Mr. Goulding nodded. He looked at me as if he was going to tell me something, but then he changed his mind. I could see it in his eyes, the trust he wanted from me was also lacking from him. I almost followed him when he turned and walked away, but whatever it is between the two of us will have to wait for another time.

Looking For Tears

February 12, 1897
Elizabeth Bassett

So, there I was.

I trembled because it was expected, not out of some misguided fear. The classroom seems infinitely larger from the front and the students, infinitely more intimidating. The boys sat with their smug grins, hidden behind stoic expressions of feigned disapproval. It is all in contrast of truth, just like me.

It is getting hard to breathe.

Deception is not me but it is what I have become. I do not even know where the lies end and the truth begins anymore, but the world I have constructed is coming tumbling down. Nothing can stop it now, the light will shine on the dark shadows and all my secrets will be revealed. Maybe Penelope is right, maybe it is time to run.

It began with the little things and I suppose that is how all things begin. One lie leads to another and another and each step is small in its taking and rationalized easily by the standards of the step before. Still, there comes a point when you look back at where you have come from and realize it is such a long way to fall. I do not know where it went from insignificant to wrong, perhaps it never did or always was, but it is not the issue now in any regard.

What happened to me?

The face in the mirror is no longer me. The innocent girl with the grand dreams of a fairytale life haunts me with the disappointment showing sadly in her eyes. I thought I knew right from wrong. Somewhere in the twists and turns I have lost my sense of direction. I thought by holding onto a purpose I could find my way, but without direction, a purpose can lose its luster until all that was once good and right slips away.


The pain is right and good. I would cry if I could, perhaps before it is over I will. My upside down view of the room seems more right than the upright view for which I traded it. Smiles are like frowns and that means something although I do not know quite what. Expression is in the eyes and mine are vacant.


The sound was hollow as my soul. I knew there was trouble on the horizon and I pretended not to care. My father had been so secretive in the summer months and strangely silent since I returned to school. I should have known in September, but it was not until late in November I began to worry in the slightest. Self absorption is my only excuse and it is a wretched one.


Even after Sylvia’s letter I told myself all was fine. I knew better, but I liked the fantasy. I flirted with Mr. Sumter, as if I had not another care in the world and shamefully, I did not. I took joy in the annoyed expressions of my friend, Penelope and when she spoke of family I changed the subject to avoid talking about mine.


I did nothing wrong I told myself. I did nothing right either, myself told I. Now, it is too late and there is nothing to do but wait and hope and pray. Father’s business is no more, the apartment is as it was, full and empty. Mother is gone, father is gone and I am here.


Something terrible has happened and I think it might be all my fault.


“Do you think you can behave now?” Dr. Phallic asked.

My eyes were tearless. My heart held an honest answer, but I compromised once again and said the sensible words. They were another lie, but what is one more?

“Yes, sir. Sorry sir.” I said.

“Good, then take your seat, Miss Bassett.”

I have my reasons for what I have done, but they seem less just now and more selfish. I thought if my goal was to help others it would naturally follow that I would help myself, but that is wrong. If I cannot help myself, then I can help no one at all. It was arrogant to think otherwise.

I righted myself once again and sat rigid in my chair. The sting was comforting but nowhere near what I deserved. I wonder what he would do if I wadded up a page and threw it at him in class tomorrow? Perhaps then he will make me cry.

The Perplexity Of Family

February 10, 1897
Penelope Sumter

February 2, 1897

Dearest Penelope,

I realize this letter will arrive too late to be of any use beyond the comfort it brings me to pen it. At long last I am leaving for Providence and will be with you soon after this letter arrives or possibly even before. What a laugh that would be!

I should have left with you and never looked back, but even though I know I will never meet with father’s approval, I still find myself trying. No more though, not for me. It is past time I stood on my own and made my own way in this world. In Providence I have the opportunity and means to do so and I get to be close to you while I am about it. I do not expect you will understand, not because you are a woman but because you are not a second born son.

I leave our childhood home today with the realization I left it for the last time, months ago when I first accompanied you to Primrose College. Had I known then all that I know now, I would never have come back at all. Father and James cut me out of affairs a long time ago for reasons I may never understand. Today, I cut them off and for reason they will likely never understand, know or think to know. Shed no tears for me little sister, I am happy for once and that alone tells me I am doing what it right for me.

Although I am aware you tire of my mentioning her name, please tell Elizabeth I will see her soon. There is much to be discussed, much to be done, and a world to change.

Wilbur Sumter


February 3, 1897

Dear Penelope,

It is my sad duty to inform you our brother Wilbur is no longer a welcome member of our family. His obsession with Miss Bassett has irreparably clouded his judgment and blinded him to the realities of this world. When Mother attempted to talk some sense into him, he flew into a rage and beat her with his bare fists. Mother is strong and will recover in time, but there is no room in our home for such a monster.

Father had a warrant sworn out on Wilbur this morning, but it seems he has already fled. Should he contact you, as he well might because of your proximity to Miss Bassett, send a message to me at once and do not let him know you are aware of what he has done or he might harm you as well. I have no affection for Miss Basset but I would not wish our demented brother on anyone, it would be best if you could keep her away from him if at all possible.

A man by the name of William Howe is on his way to Providence now. It would be most wise of you to assist him in convincing Miss Basset to accompany him out of Providence until such time as Wilbur can be apprehended. Mr. Howe will contact you when he arrive, but it is imperative you keep your contact discreet. Above all, Miss Waters must not be aware of his presence or she will undoubtedly complicate matters and endanger the lives of everyone.

Wilbur has lost his head and there is no sadder duty than to confront your own blood in the way we must. You are a strong woman like our mother and I know you will do what you must. Father and I are very proud of you, little sister.

J. Sumter

Water Under A Bridge

February 9, 1897
Edith Bowen

“You care too much Edith.” She said.

“I could say you do not care enough, but then you would take offense.” I replied.

I sipped cautiously from the teacup she handed me. It felt strange and comfortable all at the same time. A year ago it all would have been a normal day, but so much has happened since then. We have both said and done things to be regretted.

“You are young and prudence may appear as callousness to your eyes but that does not make it so.” Mrs. Carrington said.

“I make no accusations of callousness. I do not agree that your actions are always prudent though. Perhaps I am not fully aware of all that I should be, but I can not imagine what state of affairs would support turning a blind eye to the morale of the girls.”

“I do not turn a blind eye. These girls, as you should well know, carry a heavier burden than most of them are aware. Their actions whether intentional or not can and do have far reaching consequences not just for themselves but for young women all across this country, maybe even the world.”

“I dare say you exaggerate.”

“Do I? I think you underestimate the example being set here. You fought for the joint classes with Brown and, as my husband said so clearly at the time, you do not have the slightest comprehension of what you began.”

“You and your husband underestimate my comprehension. Change does not occur easily and when the opportunities for great change present themselves we must be prepared to seize those moments.”

“No matter the consequences?” She asked.

“No matter the consequences.” I replied.

I am not certain I believed the words I uttered instinctually, but I was not prepared to surrender my convictions for the sake of being amiable. Mrs. Carrington sipped her tea quietly, considering me and my words and then, to my shock, she nodded.

“What is done, is done. I will not dwell any further on whether you were right or wrong in that choice. In any case, I invited you here not to discuss the past but the present and future.” Mrs. Carrington said.

“You are concerned about the behavior of the girls since our return.” I said.

It was fact. I sipped my tea, confident I knew where the conversation was going.

“Four of them in particular, maybe five.” She said.

I raised my eyebrows at the thought. How could she have narrowed her concerns down to four or five girls when I myself could count a dozen first years alone that needed watching?

“I assume you are going to tell me their names.” I said.

“Of course. Two of them are your responsibility, Miss Ferguson and Miss Cushing, the others, Miss Bassett, Miss Sumter, and Miss Spooner are mine.”

“I do not think we will be having any more trouble from Miss Cushing or Miss Ferguson. Both have been especially quiet since your husband dealt with them on Friday.”

“It is likely the quiet before the storm. The conflict between them represents not just their own feelings and emotions but that of the other girls as well. Miss Waters, and you, have become something of a role model to the other girls here. Your past is less than endearing but it does not have the controversy which is rooted in Miss Waters’.”

“Miss Waters is not a role model nor should she be one. I fail to see why her past, controversial or not, should have any bearing on the behavior of the girls.”

“Whether you accept her role with the girls or not, it is a reality and her past is more relevant than even she knows. Miss Cushing is digging into that past and what she finds will divide the girls.”

“You obviously know more than you are sharing.”

“I only know that Miss Cushing is adept at deception. She will stir up trouble in the hopes she can come out on top.”

“And what of Miss Ferguson?”

“She sees through Miss Cushing well enough but she seems blind to Miss Waters’ flaws. At some point this will unravel and I do not know how she will effect the others when it does.”

“What should I do about it?” I asked.

“Let your head decide what to do about them, not your heart. I am confident you will find a way to diffuse the situation without matters getting out of hand.”

“I appreciate the confidence but I remain open to suggestions. What of the others? Is there anything I need to know?”

“Miss Bassett is clearly distracted from her studies and Miss Sumter has become increasingly daring in recent weeks. There are rumors she is flirting with one of the teachers and if they turn out to be true, it could be a devastating blow to Primrose. Miss Spooner, I am concerned about for more private reasons but how she deals with those matters could well effect us all.” She said.

I let the ambiguities stand. Today was a big step toward repairing the fractured relationship I have with Mrs. Carrington and I am happy for what she did choose to share with me. There is still a matter of trust to be regained between us, but the road is open once more and while the conversation is strained and guarded it is better than the silence which has reigned for so long now.

Men On The Side (Part Two)

February 6, 1897
Sarah Waters

“Are you okay?” I asked.

I knew the answer was no, but I was at a loss for words to say. She is my friend.

“I’ll be fine.” She said.

Her eyes were still red and she winced with every move. It was no secret what had happened or why, but the details were a maze of contradictions. The only thing I am certain of is I was the reason.

“Why would you fight with someone over me?” I asked.

Anna looked at me and for a moment I thought she was going to cry again. She cried all through the night, quietly, as if she was ashamed of it. I wanted to provide some form of comfort but I knew I could only make it worse.

“It isn’t true is it?” She said.


“You would never kill anyone would you?” She asked.

I saw all their faces again. Angry, desperate men, but men with wives and children depending on them. They were dead because of me, some by my own hand and all with a terrifying question on their lips, “Why?” I closed my eyes, but they would not go away and then there was the one face which answered it all, but he is not dead, not yet.

“Why do you ask?” I said.

She fumbled in her pocket for a moment and then produced a folded clipping from the Denver Post. I did not need to read the words on the page, I knew the story well enough, I lived it.

“It’s all true.” I said.

My voice was hoarse and the words came out at barely a whisper, but she heard them just the same. The disappointment was obvious in her eyes and in her stance. She swallowed and said nothing at all. The weight of silence rested heavy in my chest.

“I’ll understand if you hate me.” I said.

“Why Sarah?” She asked.

The question echoed in my head with the voices of all those men. What answer can I give?

“I…I…” I said, trying to find something to say.

“It doesn’t matter. You are here now and all of that is behind you, in the past where it will remain.” She said.

I nodded, tears in my own eyes. She wrapped me in an embrace and together we shed tears of regret and pain. It was something we both needed to do. The shame and guilt will never slip away, but there is comfort in the sharing and in the knowing there are days ahead in which we might find the way to make right all our wrongs.


I never saw him coming. He grabbed my arm from behind and before I could even make a sound his other hand covered my mouth and nose. I struggled of course but he had me. Dragged from the street in broad daylight, he threw me against a wall in a shady alleyway. His hands released me and only then did I know him.

“Quiet or you’ll attract attention.” He said.

I considered my options and decided talking was the best.

“Why would I not want it?” I asked.

“Because then you’ll never know what I have to tell you.” He said.

“Are you certain I wish to know?”

“That’ll be your choice Miss Waters, but you don’t strike me as the kind of woman who prefers to remain ignorant.”

“You know my name.”

“When a woman shoots you and then saves your life, you make it a point of learning her name.”

I nodded.

“Are you going to kill me?” I asked.

“If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead. I came to warn you.”


“Because I owe you and I don’t owe anyone anything, ever.”

“So what’s your warning?” I asked.

“The man who wants your friend, isn’t giving up. There’ll be men coming for her and no one can protect her all the time.”

“Who is he?”

“I can’t say.”

“That’s not very helpful.”

“Ask your friend, she probably knows. I’ve never met the man myself, he sends me work from time to time and goes by the name, Mr. S.” He said.

“What makes you think she knows?”

“The people he sends me for, they’ve always done something. She looks innocent enough but if he is after her, she most likely did something to him.”

“What do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing. I sent you a package, you’ll receive it next week and inside you’ll find information on the men that are coming. Maybe it will help you.”

“Why didn’t you just tell the sheriff? I can’t stop them on my own.”

“I did tell the sheriff and he’ll do what he can, but they aren’t coming just for your friend anymore. The contract includes me and you now, dead or alive.”

“And you? What are you going to do?”

“I on my way out of town and you’d be wise to do the same, but I reckon you won’t.”

“So you are just going to run like a coward?”

“Call it what you will, but I like living.”

“You men are all the same. You stay on the side and pretend you are not involved. Why should I believe a word you say?”

“Because I got no reason to lie and frankly, I don’t care if you do or don’t. I’m giving you the information that can save your life. What you do with it is up to you.”

The Power Of Ink

February 5, 1897
Edith Bowen

The pen is mightier than the sword.

In 1839 Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote those words, but he was not the first nor the last to express such sentiment. It is even rumored Thomas Jefferson himself expressed the very same concept in a 1792 letter to Thomas Paine. Words alone can make a brave man cower in fear, turn a traitor to a hero, or give honor to a common band of thieves. Such is the power of ink to mold our views and rarely will we question their veracity or their purpose, be it to nourish our minds or corrupt our souls.

The trouble began with a simple newspaper clipping. The facts reported within were true enough, but lies are not always told with untruths. The omission of pertinent facts or details can maliciously alter perceptions. Therefore, by what measure do we discern truth from deception?

There is no easy answer.

The growing feud between Miss Ferguson and Miss Cushing is evidence enough. The blindly faithful and the perpetually skeptical have always been a grievous pairing. In hindsight, I should have done more to separate the girls, but I had optimistically hoped they could resolve matters amongst themselves.

Fighting was not what I had in mind.

"What were you thinking?" I asked.

I paced the width of the rug in Mrs. Carrington's den. The two sorrowful looking girls stood downtrodden before me. I kept my hands clasped behind my back for fear if I did not, I would strike one or both of them. Their shameful display, at the base of the college steps no less, will be a blight on all of Primrose for weeks and months if not years.

"She started it." Miss Ferguson said.

I stopped pacing and stepped close to the girls. My hot breath fanned wisps of their disheveled air. Neither dared to look me in the eye.

"Shut up!" I shouted.

Miss Cushing's lips began to move as if she was going to mention she had not spoke, but she must have thought better of it. A single tear ran down Miss Ferguson's cheek. I did not care.

I turned my back on them and walked to Mrs. Carrington's desk. I stared down at the crumpled and torn newspaper clipping. The words told a story about a girl accused of murder and set free not by acquittal of guilt but by national politics playing out in a small town. I turned back to face the girls holding the paper up in my hand.

"Where did you get this?" I asked.

The girls remained silent.

"It is irrelevant anyway. Why either of you are concerned about the words written here is beyond my comprehension. How you could believe the scribbling of someone you don't know about someone you barely know are worthy of disgracing yourselves, the college, this house, and all the girls herein, astounds me." I said.

"We are living with a killer and you expect us not to care?" Miss Cushing said.

"I do not recall giving you permission to speak. In any case, you should know better than to blindly accept as truth anything that is written." I replied.

"It is a newspaper clipping based on facts. You can choose to ignore them but ignorance protects no one." Miss Cushing said.

"It's all lies. You are only doing this because you are jealous." Miss Ferguson said.

"Jealous? I could never be jealous of a peasant like her." Miss Cushing said.

"You are the peasant!" Miss Ferguson said.

They were about to come to blows again and a small part of me was tempted to let them. Violence will not settle their differences and I would be as guilty as they, were I to allow my personal feelings to dictate my actions.

"Enough!" I said.

They both glared at me but smartly closed their mouths.

"As you well know, Mr. Carrington will deal with you both for fighting. I cannot alter this nor do I have any desire to do so. Never before have two girls behaved so despicably while at this school. I sincerely hope you each learn a severe lesson today so that we will never again need to speak of this. As for Miss Waters, If I ever learn of the two of you discussing her again you will think Mr. Carrington a light hand compared to what I will do. Are we clear?" I said.

They meekly nodded and then there was a knock on the door. Mr. Carrington entered the room carrying his heavy strap. I left him to it, gently closing the door behind. As I ascended the stairs, I could hear the girls each screaming in turn as they no doubt felt the sting of his leather. I have always pitied those poor girls trapped inside that den, but not today, not these girls, not this time. I wished them all the pain for all the girls, becauseMr. Stark was right; we must teach them to make good decisions because if we do not, everything Primrose College stands for will fall.

Painful As It Is

February 3, 1897
Edith Bowen

My evenings are filled with tending to the girls unfortunate enough to have crossed a teacher during their day at school. Most tell stories of being punished for minor and inconsequential mistakes and the administration of further discipline from me merely adds insult to injury. Even the best behaved of girls seem unable to avoid the wrath of the Primrose teachers in recent days. Where hope and excitement had accompanied our return, all is quickly becoming bleak despair.

For myself, I could smell it coming like rain in the air on a cloudy day. From the moment I sat up in bed I knew it was going to be a difficult one. I dropped my hairbrush whilst brushing my hair and then as I dressed, two of the buttons came off my dress. If that were not enough, I left the buckles on my shoes undone and nearly fell down the stairs as I stepped out of them on my way to breakfast.

The school day started out surprisingly well in contrast to my morning. It was not until the afternoon when my feeling of dread returned. At first, I attributed it to my mixed emotions in regards to Mr. Stark. Our time together gave me new insight into his character which has left me confused as to my own feelings toward him. When his condescending tone falls upon me and his egotistical words berate me I find myself as likely to smile as frown in response.

“In all my years teaching I have never encountered a more pathetic student.” Mr. Stark said.

There was no doubt in anyone’s minds of whom he was referring. He slapped his open palm on my desk making everyone jump. He barely glanced at me, but instead paced the floor in front of me like a caged lion. It was plain enough to see, he was working himself up to something.

Unfair as it is, I have become accustomed to being the target of his verbal assaults in class. I am after all the only female in his senior English course. While I will not be the first Primrose Girl to graduate, there are not many who have come before me and I am the only one who will do so this year. I comfort myself with those facts and the pride that comes with them.

“Your penmanship is on par with a two year old and your vocabulary is only slightly better. If you have an original thought in your head, you have failed miserably to express it on any level.” Mr. Stark continued.

I might have shed tears for such comments prior to the Christmas holiday, but now I understand. He attacks my work because it is unacceptable for my work to ever be better than the young men’s whom I share the classroom with. Every insult is a compliment in disguise.

I smiled despite the sour words.

“Why are you smiling? Are you an idiot? Do you find your failures amusing or do you think a pretty smile will make it all better? I have news for you little girl; in my classroom, brains matter more than beauty.” Mr. Stark said.

My smile faded, but only slightly. Mr. Stark took notice.

“Am I getting through?” He asked.

Everyone waited to hear what I would say. I considered my options carefully, but I did not think I had much to worry about.

“Yes, sir. I will try harder.” I replied.

“No matter how hard you try, you will always fail because a woman simply does not have the brains.” The young man sitting next to me said.

“Precisely.” Mr. Stark said. “Why do you waste our time, Miss Bowen?”

Anger welled up inside me.

“Why do you? You know damn well my work is superior to that of these apes you call students.” I said.

As soon as the words had left my lips I was sorry to have said them. Some thoughts are not meant to have a voice. The slap across my face only served as confirmation.

“Insolent girl! How dare you talk like that in my classroom.” Mr. Stark said.

I chose silence as the lesser of evils.

“Stand up girl.” Mr. Stark ordered.

I did not even think to disobey. A moment later, I was bent over my own desk, facing the classroom and Mr. Stark raised my skirts and lowered my bloomers, giving him alone a view of my nakedness. I blushed for the boys, but did not look at their grinning faces nor meet their intense stares.

I could not see, but from the first stroke, I knew the implement to be his trusty ruler. The modest thwack of the wood against my exposed flesh stung like cold water on a warm day. There were six delivered before tears stung at the corners of my eyes and eight before the first spilled onto my cheeks. At a dozen, my feet were stomping as if the act could help ease the pain and by the eighteenth and final stroke I was a pitiful girl with a blazing bottom. I sobbed remorse whilst staring at the pool of my tears, collected on the chair to my desk.

Mr. Stark sent me to stand the rest of the class in the corner. My red, throbbing, buttocks remained naked and visible for all in the class to see. I was ashamed for the spectacle. Every noise, every breath in the room felt like a commentary on my state and none of it was positive in my thoughts.

When it was all over and the classroom was empty except for the two of us, I decided it was time for truth. I turned to Mr. Stark. His eyes shown with remorse but his expression remained strict.

“I was out of line.” I said.

“Yes, you were.” He replied.

“Why did you bait me?” I asked.

His eyebrow raised.

“Bait you? I did no such thing.” He said.

“I do not mean to be contrarian, but you did indeed and we both know it.” I said.

“Do not presume to know what I know. Arrogance does not suit you Edith.”

“Were it just today and only between you and I, I would not presume anything at all. However, what happened here is only a new version of the same tale I have been hearing from every girl at Primrose. I am not a simpleton.”

“Your behavior today would say otherwise.”

“You are avoiding the subject.”

“Which subject is that?”

“There is something going on with the teachers here at Primrose and I will know what it is whether from you or elsewhere.”

“If you only look to see what you know, you will not see that which is plain to be seen.” Mr. Stark said.

I blinked as I tried to follow his logic or lack of it.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means, your assumptions blind you to the truth at your feet.”

“What truth is that?”

“It is the girls and not the teachers who bring trouble to Primrose.”

“Your phrases are more eloquent but your words are as transparent as Mr. Carrington’s. Ever since we returned from holiday, there has been a surge of discipline, brought about with weak excuses.”

“Your outburst in class was not a weak excuse. Your behavior was uncalled for and inappropriate.”

“Inappropriate, I will concede, but uncalled for I will not. You baited me with absurd accusations of failings and shortcomings you know I do not possess. You insulted me repeatedly until you succeeded in angering me. Had I not said what I did, you would have continued until I said or did something else. Admit it, you were bent on punishing me today.”

“Will it make your words any less wrong?”

“No, but it will make yours easier to bare, if I knew why you spoke them.”

“The reasons are varied and not readily explained. Suffice to say, just as you are not certain you are ready for the world, the world is not certain it is ready for you.”

“Then you have been told to discipline us?”

“Not in so many words, but the fate of Primrose hangs on the actions of a few. If we are harsh and strict, perhaps those few will make the right choices when the time comes.”

“If you would just tell me the whole truth, I could help.”

“You would try, but the ability to make good decisions is something one must learn for themselves.”

I could have pressed on, but I could tell he had said as much as he was going to say. There was truth in his words and wisdom as well. For all the complaints of all the girls, there is one undeniable truth, we are not innocent bystanders, but active participants making choices both wise and unwise. It might well be true, painful as it is, the actions of our teachers may well be for our own good.

Men On The Side (Part One)

February 2, 1897
Sarah Waters

Jonathon Goulding was waiting on the steps for me when I left Carrington Manor this morning. I watched as Elizabeth Bassett passed him on the steps and there was a glance between them which spoke volumes about a story of which I know nothing more than curious rumors. Someday, I will ask her directly, but for now it is only one of many questions and nowhere near the top of the list. With her gone, his eyes were only for me and he barely grunted polite greetings to the other girls as they went. I took my time descending, observing him for some clue as to his purpose this time.

He tipped his hat and lowered his head at me, as if the social conventions of the privileged would matter to me. I took his arm when he offered it and smiled politely. We began the walk toward Primrose Hall and for a moment I felt like all was right in the world. If only we could live our lives in such moments, then nothing else would ever matter.

But, everything matters.

“We have only so many steps to take before we must part. Tell me, what brings you to me on this day?” I said.

“I am not certain I wish to tell you.” He replied.

I giggled at the thought.

“You are a strange man.” I said.

“How so?”

“Do you often come to tell people things you do not wish to tell them?”


“And you do not find the concept strange?”

“I do not. Unusual perhaps, but not strange.”

“Are they not synonyms?”

He opened his mouth and then closed it before speaking.

“Would it be so painful to admit I am right?”

“Not if it would make you happy.” He said.

I laughed again.

“My happiness is not dependent upon you.” I said.

“The man you shot, he is free.” He said.

There was a somberness in his tone and the abrupt change in subject left me feeling off balance. The lighthearted conversation was suddenly heavy. I took a measured breath before speaking again.

“Why should I care?” I asked.

“I think you know.”

I nodded.

“Tell me anyway, just to be sure.” I said.

“He will be coming for you and Miss Bassett as well I think.”

“So, you did know who they were after.” I said.

“Not at first, but I have learned the truth.” He replied.

“What do they want with her?” I asked.

“I do not know.”

“Who are they?”

“I cannot say.”

“Always questions with you and never answers. What good are you to me, Mr. Goulding?”

“I am trying to protect you.”

“Should I run away in fear? Cower beneath some stone in the forest? If that is your expectation, you shall be disappointed.”

“I am only asking you to be cautious. There is trouble enough at Primrose these days and even a little more could cause irreparable damage.”

“Why don’t you tell me everything?”

“Because I cannot.”

“I am sure that is convenient for you, but it means nothing to me.”

“If I told you all that I know, you would turn this delicate situation into an explosive one. There are more lives at stake, than yours and Miss Bassett’s. Try to understand.”

We reached the steps to Primrose Hall and stopped walking. I let go of his arm and turned to face him. There was frustration in his face again and I could feel it within myself as well. Perhaps we are on the same side and even want the same things, but I do not fully trust him and I can see he feels the same by the look in his eyes.

“You were right, you should not have told me anything at all. All I really want is to walk up these stairs and attend my classes in peace.” I said.

“And you say you do not want to runaway and hide? I am not so foolish or so gullible as to believe you are nothing more than a simple schoolgirl, Miss Waters.”

“Whatever you think you know about me Mr. Goulding, you are wrong.”

“Perhaps, but maybe I see you better than you see yourself.”

“So, this man, will he come for me?” I asked.

“He will.”

“What would you have me do?”

“Simply be aware. I will do what I can to stop him but do not make yourself an easy target.”

“And Miss Bassett?”

“I think it best if she does not know.”


“Because unlike you, she will only act more foolishly not less.”

“So, you think me a fool.” I said.

“I…” He stammered.

“Go on Mr. Goulding, I have classes to attend and you obviously have pressing matters as well.” I said.

I left his presence before he could say anymore. For all the trouble he wished to save me, he caused enough of his own. I slipped into Mr. Bard’s classroom only a moment after the bell chimed, but late is late. Mr. Bard made certain I understood.

“Nice of you to join us Miss Waters.” Mr. Bard said.

“My apologies, sir. I was unavoidably detained.” I replied.

“Flirting on the steps of the Hall is not unavoidable detainment.”

“Yes, sir.” I said.

I stared at floor, embarrassed to be caught in a misleading statement.

“Come here.” He ordered.

Reluctantly I walked to the front of the classroom. When I stood before him he turned and walked to the corner. He brought the stool from it and set it to rest in front of me.

“Bend over it.” He said.

I bit my lip and then decided to do as I was told without comment. It felt more than a little awkward and even more so when he raised my skirts and parted my bloomers to bare my backside for the class to see.

He walked over to his desk and picked up his paddle. He swung it in the air as he walked back over to me. I closed my eyes as I felt the swoosh of air flow over my body. My bottom was still rather tender from Mr. Carrington’s strap on Friday evening.

The first swat made me gasp and tears sprang from my eyes.

“I think ten swats should be enough. Do you agree Miss Waters?”

“Yes, sir.” I said.

“Excellent, you may count the rest.” He said.

He waited a mere heartbeat before swinging again.

“Two, sir.” I said.

The next came before I even finished speaking.

“Three, sir.”

Mr. Bard took a moment to walk in a circle around me and then swung the paddle hard, just as he reached the completion of it. I cried out and tears fell freely from my eyes.

“Four, sir.” I said.

He swung again.
“Five, sir.” I counted.

He paced from side to side.

“Let this be a lesson to all of you ladies, I will not tolerate tardiness.” Mr. Bard lectured.

He stopped off to my left side again and then raised the paddle high in the air only to bring it crashing down with such force, my legs went flying up in the air. I screamed as the burning pain rippled through my buttocks.

“Six, sir.” I managed after a moment.

The next two were given one after the other with such speed and force I could not count them separately. My legs kicked in the air and I wriggled against the stool, gasping for air.

“Seven, eight, sir.” I said between sobs.

He swung again before I could brace myself for it. My legs flailed in the air and grabbed the legs of the stool until my knuckles were white, just to stay down upon it.

“Nine, sir.” I said.

The final one was low and caught the back of legs. The force of it tipped me off balance on the stool and I landing on my side on the floor with the stool tipped over as well. My hands grabbed my tortured bottom and I sobbed.

“That makes ten I believe.” Mr. Bard said.

I could only nod. He allowed me a few moments to collect myself although I only used them for tears and massaging my bottom. His strong arms lifted me off the ground and righted the stool. He placed the dunce cap on my head and gestured for me to sit on the stool.

Wiping tears from my eyes, I sat upon the stool and winced as I did. The only thing which made it alright was the silence in the room. The other girls were not laughing at me, or the situation. I would be angry at Mr. Bard, but the fault is not his alone.

Class was understandably long and afterward it was nice to have some sympathy.

“Was it worth it?” Anna asked.

“No.” I replied.

“Interesting, I would have thought Mr. Goulding would be worth any price.” She said.

The girls around us giggled at the thought, although I am not sure any of them would willingly trade a sore bottom and the humiliation of sitting on the dunce stool for an evening with Mr. Goulding let alone a few minutes of conversation on the school’s steps. I rubbed my bottom ruefully.

“The only things worth so much are the ones we want but cannot have.” I said.

Anna’s eyes narrowed to slits and her cheeks flushed with a hint of anger, but she laughed with the rest of the girls and said nothing more. Clearly she has the wrong idea of Mr. Goulding’s interest in me. There is no romance of which to be jealous.

One For All

January 30, 1897
Sarah Waters

“May I have your attention, young ladies.” Mr. Carrington said.

Breakfast was being cleared away, but the dining hall doors were closed, ensuring no one had left early as some girls will do. The room had been filled with chatter and the sense of excitement which seems to have accompanied us on our return to school. I was keeping quiet even though several girls attempted to bring me into their conversations. My run-in with Mr. Bard earlier in the week had dampened my taste for gossip.

The room fell silent in pockets as each table came to the realization we were being addressed as a group. Ordinarily, I give little thought and less attention to the Carrington’s, but something drew my eye to Mrs. Carrington. She was sitting quietly with a stern look on her face. It all seemed typical enough until I noticed her eyes. They were red, as though she had been crying.

“Quiet down.” Mr. Carrington said.

The room was already quiet and he knew it. The man was always puffed up in his own importance. Some find it appealing in a man. I find it annoying. I had childish visions of sticking my tongue out at him for no other reason than to distract him from his purpose. Perhaps I should have tried, but the moment passed and the opportunity was lost.

“The young ladies of this house are always expected to represent themselves and this house with pride and dignity. Those who fall short in this task have always been disciplined and will always be disciplined. You and your parents accepted and agreed to these terms before you ever arrived here.” Mr. Carrington said.

He looked around the room, his gaze seeming to single out particular girls for a moment, bring each into his spotlight. In the moment his eyes locked with mine, I knew it was not for praise that he singled some out.

“I have not often been disappointed in the young ladies of this house. However, in recent days it as been brought to my attention, not all the young ladies in this house have been meeting this standard of behavior. It appears some of you have brought the frivolity of your holidays back with you to school. This is not appropriate and the accompanying behavior is not appropriate.” Mr. Carrington continued.

The atmosphere in the room turned from relaxed to tense. Girls shifted in their seats. Some were nervous, having guessed where Mr. Carrington’s speech was heading. Others were angry having sensed the deeper meaning in his spoken words; you are not meant to be happy. I understood it all, and was numb for it.

“It is clear to me, I must take steps to rectify this situation before it becomes completely out of control. Therefore, beginning today, any young lady who requires the discipline of the teachers or administrators of Primrose College more than one time in a week will be disciplined further by me on Friday.” Mr. Carrington said.

There was a collective gasp in the room.

“Those unfortunate enough to require my attention, will report themselves to the main hall of the manor in their nightgowns immediately following their final class for the day. They will line up, facing the wall and wait with their skirts raised above their buttocks and I will deal with each of them in turn. Any young lady who does not report as instructed or who attempts to resist her discipline will be subject to expulsion, without exception. For any of you who may be uncertain as to whether you should be reporting to the main hall this afternoon, Mrs. Carrington has a list.” Mr. Carrington said.

“That is not fair.” I said.

My words echoed the consensus of every other girl in the room. The words left my mouth louder than I expected, but it did not change my conviction in their truth.

“The acts of a few poorly behaved girls staining the reputations of all those who reside here, is fair? I think not, Miss Waters.” Mr. Carrington said.

I could feel eyes of every girl in the room on me. What they expected from me I do not know.
“I only meant we should have a knowing opportunity to avoid your discipline. I am certain everyone in this room will take you at your word.” I said.

“I am not so confidant as you, but I am not unwilling to compromise.” He said.

There was a slight smile on his lips and a glint in his eye.

“Compromise?” I asked.

“Yes, I think a single example could serve the purpose. You seem to be so willing to speak for everyone, perhaps you would also be willing to take their place in the hall this afternoon and serve as that example?” Mr. Carrington said.

Too late, I realized he had just maneuvered me into his trap. I could have said no, but I chose to be brave and stupid instead.

“Will you give me your word that no other girl will be discipline for behavior from before today?” I asked.

He nodded.

“You have it.” He said.

“Then we have an accord.” I said.

The day was long from that point on. Many of the girls thanked me, others told me I was insane. My classes were nothing more than a blur as I wondered just what horrors Mr. Carrington had in store for me. When the final bell of the day rang and I descended the steps of Primrose Hall to return to Carrington Manor, Edith, Elizabeth, Anna, and Penelope were waiting for me.

Ws walked in silence, but I could feel their strength and support being offered to me. I considered asking them what I should expect, but decided I would really rather not know. The journey to the manor felt as if it were a walk to the gallows.

I quickly changed into my nightgown and went to the main hall. I raised my skirts and forced myself not to blush. I pressed my nose against the wall and stared at the plaster. I counted things to keep my mind from straying too far; cracks in the paint, ticks of the clock, creaks on the stairs, footsteps in the hall, anything and everything.

At long last, Mr. Carrington grabbed my arm and pulled me into Mrs. Carrington’s private den. I knew my fate was upon me, but I let the fear drift away and faced it with the calm of the sea. I smiled at him as he lifted his heavy strap of leather and pointed it at me. He tried to hide it, but there was a hint of fear in his eyes. I am not so foolish as to believe it was me he was me of who he was afraid. I knew then, there was more to the circumstances than met the casual eye. Strings had been pulled and the puppet was in play.

“Remove you gown.” He said.

I lifted it over my head in a single motion and tossed it to the floor. Naked, I faced him without a hint of shame or embarrassment. There was nothing, but the coldness of the room between us. I did not try to cover myself or hide from his view. I think it shocked him.

“Bend over the desk.” He ordered.

And I did.

He wasted no time. The strap bit down hard into my buttocks, forcing my hips into the edge of desk and causing me to grunt despite my resolve to remain stoic. The burn of the first stroke built to a high and then the second the stroke came slicing down. I gripped the far edge of desk and gritted my teeth through the force of it. The initial pain was nothing to burn building, but there was nothing to be done except to bare it.

The next stroke brought tears to my eyes, but I held them in place. Not a drop would spill I told myself as I lay waiting for the more that would surely come. Through two more strokes I kept my promise. Then the sixth stroke fell on only my right buttock. I screamed and the tears began to fall. The next stroke followed closely and only struck my left cheek. I screamed again. He continued alternating from cheek to cheek until I had fifteen in all.

I lay sobbing on the desk.

Mr. Carrington grabbed my arm roughly and dragged me up. Without a word he pulled me out of the privacy of the den and into the dining hall where all the girls were seated and waiting for dinner to be served. I felt totally, utterly ashamed and I had done nothing, but take responsibility for the actions of others. I shook with the force of my sobs and wished they would all just look away, but they did not, could not, do anything else except stare.

“Take a good look, ladies. This is what will happen to you if your behavior does not improve immediately.” Mr. Carrington said.

There was not a sound in the room but my crying.

“Go and stand against the wall Miss Waters and do not even think about rubbing your bottom.” Mr. Carrington ordered.

Reluctantly, I obeyed.

Like I Care

Edith Bowen
January 29, 1897

"I swear it wasn't me!" Belinda Ferguson said.

The whine in her voice was irritating. On most days I would have ignored her.

"Tell me then, who?" I replied.

The look of shock on her face almost made me regret the indulgence immediately. She grasped for words, starting and stopping several times, before at last speaking in something resembling a coherent pattern.

"I'm not a tattle. I would not finger anyone, but someone has to know. Besides, you are one of us." She said.

Since my chastisement at the hands of Mr. Carrington, I have noticed a smugness with some of the girls or maybe it is my imagination. Either way, Miss Ferguson's statement brought those too recent memories to the surface. Fortunately for her, I detected no smugness in her tone.

"Continue." I said.

Miss Ferguson looked at me with uncertainty. I sighed, realizing she would need more coaxing.

"Tell me what happened." I said.

"It is complicated." She said.

I rolled my eyes and then hoped she had not noticed.

"Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then start from the beginning." I said.

Part of me was honestly curious although mostly, I did not care. I was only indulging her need to make excuses because of the guilt I felt for having ignored her legitimate claims of unfairness earlier in the week. Whether my guilty feelings will outlast my patience remains to be seen.

"Well, it all began on the morning walk to Primrose Hall. Miss Cushing and Miss Sumter were walking ahead of me and talking. And their voices carried on the wind. It would of been rude not to listen, so naturally, I did." She said.

She paused and looked at me as if expecting to be scolded. I remained silent and waited for her to continue.

"They were speaking about Sarah, saying the most awful things. I know she does not have the best of roots and the west is yet to be properly civilized, but that is no excuse to make up stories. Sarah would never kill no one, she is not that sort. What she did for that man who tried to take Miss Basset is proof enough." Miss Ferguson said.

At the time, I gave little consideration to the subject matter being discussed. I nodded impatiently for her to continue, but later I would wonder how Miss Cushing or Miss Sumter could be aware of those unfortunate incidents in Miss Waters' past. It was only through reading Miss Waters' letters from home that I was aware.

"It would not be appropriate to have allowed such vicious babble to go on unanswered. After everything Sarah did for all of us, I simply could not hold my tongue." She said.

I was still unclear as to how a conversation between two unrelated girls, related to the trouble Miss Ferguson found herself in. Clearly, she felt there was some obvious connection and that I should understand everything.

"What does this have to do with your knocking Mr. Birchwood down on the school hall steps?" I asked.

"Obviously, it was Miss Cushing's fault."

"How so?"

"When I told her to stop spreading lies about Sarah, she got angry. She had the audacity to call me a busybody. Me!"

"And?" I prodded.

"Naturally, I slapped her."

I nodded, finally beginning to understand.

"The stupid cow shoved me. That is how I ended up colliding with Mr. Birchwood and we then ended up on top of each other at the bottom of the stairs. I didn't tell, but it really wasn't my fault. It should have been Miss Cushing feeling Mr. Birchwood's strap and not me." she said.

Against my better judgement, I made a decision.

"Go back to your room, but if you tell anyone I let you off, you'll get double what you otherwise would have. Understood?" I said.

Miss Ferguson stared at me with tears in her eyes and vigorously nodded her head in the affirmative.

"Go on then." I said.

As I watched her leave, I had the nagging feeling I would not only regret letting her off, but also the entire situation was likely more serious than it seemed. Miss Ferguson is a typical enough girl here at Primrose and I should not be callous to her woes, but she always has excuses. If I act like I care too much then none of them will respect me. It is a fine line I must walk and I fear I have misstepped.

For All To See

January 27, 1897
Sarah Waters

It was after class. The two of us were alone in the dimly lit room which suddenly seemed cold and large. I sat straight in my desk, not daring to move or even shift my gaze from the front wall. Mr. Bard paced the room behind me, keeping my nerves on edge and muscles tensed. I expected the worst because expecting more is often folly.

“Who do you think you are?” Mr. Bard asked.

His voice rang with irritation and the emphasis on the individual words gave me a hint of just how upset he was. The question itself, echoed in my ears and my brain scrambled to find an answer which could be spoken without making the situation all the worse.

“A student.” I said.

Safe, simple, short. What more could I say? Tell him my name and he will think me to be impudent.

“Is that what you call yourself?” Mr. Bard said.

Having just said as much, I felt the answer was obvious and the question rhetorical. The long silence with his question hanging in the air made me doubt myself. I counted to ten in my head and decided he was waiting for an answer, obvious or not.

“Yes.” I replied.

“Yes, what?” He said.

“Um, yes sir?” I said.

Perhaps it was unwise to respond in a questioning manner, but his manner had left me off-balance and uncertain to what he expected.

“Am I not your teacher?” He asked.

“You are.”

“Do I not deserve your respect?”

“You do.”

“Then why must I ask for it before you choose to give it?”

Are teachers taught to ask unanswerable questions? Perhaps they are not, but they all seem to be inherently good at it.

“You do not.” I replied.

I knew it was not the best answer, but it was the best answer I could come up with or at least the best of what I am brave enough to give voice.

“I see. Then your remarks about the monotony of my voice and the tiresomeness of my lectures was meant to be respectful?” He said.

Speaking of impossible questions to answer…

I could feel him standing close behind me. His warm breath fell on my neck and raised my hackles. I wished he would get it over with and spank me. Anything would be better than the delicate dance of answering his indelicate questions. I considered arguing for my first amendment right to speak freely, but discarded the idea as useless. Only men have rights under the Constitution in Mr. Bard’s view and to argue otherwise would only deepen the hole I have dug for myself.

Wish as I might that it were not true, I had said the words in gossip with other girls in the hallway. We were not in class and I had not thought to be cautious or quiet. Mr. Bard had heard although it was not my intention for him to hear, but I suppose that makes little difference in any regard.

He leaned down so his mouth was next to my ear.

“Nothing to say?” He asked.

“My comments were inappropriate, rude and perhaps worst of all, disrespectful. I am deeply sorry, sir.” I said.

The words ached coming out, but in someway it felt good to have said them. They were a cleansing of sorts, an acceptance of responsibility for myself and my actions which will allow me to learn and better myself from the unavoidable consequences.

“Very fine words, Ms. Waters. I even believe you mean them. Still, discipline must be maintained. You may now stand and strip.” He said.

I blinked at the command.

“But…” I started to protest.

“NOW!” He commanded.

I resigned myself to it. My hands shook at the task of undressing. My face flushed with embarrassment as I felt his gaze on my naked flesh. My hands and arms contorted themselves in a futile attempt to preserve my modesty. Mr. Bard enjoyed the spectacle with a wicked smile.

“Hands at your sides.” He said. “ You have nothing I have not seen before and unless your attitude and behavior have a marked improvement, I will see it many more times.”

Blushing to the bone, I complied and rested my hands by my sides. He stared at me in silence. I could feel his eyes taking in every part of me. He is not the first man to see me naked, and he will not be the last, but the experience remains a humiliating one, each and every time. It is not the exposure of my private flesh, but my utter compliance in its exposure that leaves me ashamed.

“Touch your toes.” He said.

I was only too glad to do so.

Mr. Bard took his time in securing the paddle from his desk. As much as I was hating every second, he was enjoying them. It is how it is meant to be, how it has always been and how it will always be.

The first crack of the paddle against my bare bottom rippled through my body. From my upside down view, I watched my naked breasts bounce and Mr. Bard watch them bounce. Just as they came to rest, he swung again, repeating the scene and increasing my blush both in face and bottom. He continued the cycle, making no attempt to hide his enjoyment while I conversely, tried to hide the pain and shame.

With fifteen swats delivered and my butt burning, Mr. Bard brought the paddle to rest against his leg. The look of satisfaction on his face was clear as the embarrassment on my own. Deserved as the spanking was, it felt all the worse because I knew he enjoyed every moment of it. I might have only myself to blame, but it would be easy to blame him as well.

I stayed in position, my fingers stretching to connect with my toes. Mr. Bard sat down on a nearby desktop and quietly drank in the view. It was only then, I began to cry. The burning pain in my bottom combined with the helplessness of my position finally broke through and I sobbed. I think he knew it would and he had waited for it.

“Stand up.” He said.

I did. My hands went immediately to my bottom.

“Hands at your side.” He commanded.

I complied although it was ever more difficult than the first time he had ordered it.

“Go and put your nose to the wall outside in the hallway. Keep your hands at your side and you can stay there until I tell you.” He said.

I began to collect my clothing to dress, thankful that the ordeal was mostly over.

“Naked, Ms. Waters. You publicly humiliated me and I intend to return the favor. You will stand naked in the hallway, so that everyone who passes by knows precisely what happens to naughty girls like you.” Mr. Bard said.

And so it was.

Life Is Not Fair

January 26, 1897
Edith Bowen

Belinda Ferguson is no stranger to my room in the after dinner hours. Like Mrs. Carrington, I have adopted the familiar tradition of providing reinforcing discipline for those young ladies who have required it during the school day. The girls in my charge are now well aware of my expectations and present themselves in an orderly line facing the wall outside my room. Miss Ferguson, being a frequent visitor, is often the first to arrive.

Naturally, I was not surprised to see her this evening. And keeping with her usual antics, Miss Ferguson blames her misfortune on the grumpiness of teachers. Perhaps if I had listened closer I might have realized then something was amiss. However, her story was so typical I brushed it aside as an empty excuse.

I raised and lowered my ruler a fitting dozen times while she lay bare bottomed over my knees. Her cries fell on deaf ears as did her complaints of unfairness. You would think I would know better than to ignore such complaints. I suppose it is to be expected my perspective has been permanently altered to reflect that of the disciplinarian rather than the disciplined. It was therefore only when I escorted Miss Ferguson out, I realized something was wrong. Later I would feel guilty about her tear stained cheeks and the way she held her bottom when she ran to her room. In the moment, I was too shocked by the sheer number of girls awaiting my attention. During the worst of weeks I have attended to a dozen girls or less. More then twenty girls stood waiting for me on this one night.

Were it only troublemakers I might have shrugged it off as a bad day, but most of them were quite the opposite. Gazing over them, I decided it was time to solicit information.

It took only a few moments for me to realize their stories were almost all identical. Each girl had committed only the most minor infractions or in many cases none at all. Irregardless, they had each been subsequently punished.

I was torn between letting the girls off for the seemingly injustice and protecting my reputation as a stern figure of authority. I instructed the girls to wait as they were and make my way downstairs to seek Mrs. Carrington’s advice.

"Have the teachers lost their minds?" I asked.

"Whatever are you talking about?" Mrs. Carrington replied.

"More then twenty of my girls have been disciplined today. Besides that being a record for a week not to mention a day, the stories they tell sound as if breathing has become a crime."

Sometime while I was speaking, Mr. Carrington entered the room.

"You should know better than to be so gullible. " Mr. Carrington said.

"Were I to listen to a single girl then gullible I would be, but when so many tell so similar a tale it would be foolish not to listen." I said.

"You are not fit for the position you hold if you will take the word of your girls over that of their teachers." Mr. Carrington said.

"If I had wanted your advice I would have sought you out. I came for Mrs. Carrington, not you."

"I have had about enough of your insolence." Mr. Carrington said.

"It is not insolence to deal in facts rather than fantasy."

I do not know what words I expected in response, but I did not expect silence. I faced him smugly thinking I had won. I should have known by the glint in his eye that I had not. The resounding slap of his open palm against my cheek set me straight.

Surprised, I stood gaping at Mr. Carrington. I think it was in that moment control shifted from me to him. My former meekness came rushing back and the confident person I have become was temporarily lost. I stood paralyzed in the familiar role of one who had pushed too far only to find there remain consequences.

What happened next was only a blur. Despite my every effort to protest I was soon head down over the back of the chair. My skirts were lifted up and left dangling around my head. If Mrs. Carrington had any objections she kept them to herself and instead, held me down.

"You-" Mr. Carrington said.

His infamous strap came crashing down on my up-turned posterior.


A second blow made my predicament crystal clear. I was getting a spanking.


The strap continued to impart its biting sting, emphasizing Mr. Carrington' s every word.


As the strap bit down once again, I squirmed and kicked trying to break free.


I cried out as much in frustration as for the burning pain in my bottom. Mr. Carrington relentlessly swung his strap once more for good measure.


Tears stung at my eyes as the strap made its point yet again.


Involuntarily, my legs kicked as the strap connected with my thighs instead of my bottom.


The futility of my situation became clear when the strap struck my thighs again despite my wild struggles to break free. I lay limp, resigned to my fate.


The strap fell not once, not twice, but four more times. When I was younger I would have cried and screamed and begged, for mercy. Now I simply closed my eyes and did my best to accept what was and will be.

At long last, Mrs. Carrington released her hold and I was able to stand. More like a naughty little girl than a grown women, I sheepishly stared at the floor. what further words were spoken I do not recall, but my responses were understandably more respectful.

The sting in my bottom was foremost on my mind as I climbed the stairs to my room. only when I reached the top of the stairs did I remember the line of girls in the hall. Right then I decided they would each share in my discomfort. It was not fair, but life is not fair, so why should I be?

What Lies Beneath

January 23, 1897
Edith Bowen

Although the days remain cool and there remain countless storms on the horizon, I feel we left winter back on the road to Primrose. It is impossible to walk through the halls of Carrington Manor without being affected by the hopeful energy surrounding all the girls. Even Mrs Carrington appears to be possessed by our new found energy. I have not forgotten the threats or dangers upon us, but right here, right now I am confident we will meet them and prevail above them.

From the outside, everything must seem as normal. The girls go about their business from Primose Hall to the library, to Carrington Manor. They spend their time studying the lessons they wish to learn and performing the chores they wish they left behind. It is just how things have always been.

But, It is only an illusion as thin as winters ice on a thawing pond in the early days of spring.

The irony is not lost on me. Only now, in my final months at Primrose, I understand the significance of the journey I have taken. When i first arrived I thought my life was over, but with time and perspective I can see now that was the day it began. Where I will go from here I do not know, but part of me will always remain etched in the history these walls surely hold.

I must remind myself, while the future is promising, the burdens of today remain. There are questions to be asked and answered by friends and foes alike. I was not always so bold, but more then the seasons have changed in my time at Primrose. where once I might have stood silence I can no longer hold my tongue.

I had the good sense to wait until we were alone. The classroom felt oddly cold as though the walls themselves knew are confrontation was as unavoidable as are flaring tempers.

"Was there something you needed Miss Bowen?" Mr Stark said.

"Did you know?" I asked

I tried to keep the accusation out of my tongue. If the look on Mr Stark's face was any indication, I failed.

"Know what?"

"Do not dare to play dumb with me."

"If you have something to say, then say it."

"Did you think you would never see me again? Is that why you invited me to your home?"

"Why do you ask questions when you have already decided on their answers?"

"Do not presume to know my thoughts."

"If they where not written on your face, I would not. "

"Then tell me I am wrong. Tell me you didn't know."

"The truth is not so simple. I did know and yes, I sent you to your fate anyway."

I wanted to cry. I wanted to flee from the room. There was no longer any place to hide from what I know to be true. His steady voice held no remorse nor did his words offer any excuse. I had prepared myself for anything but I had not expected this. There was only one thing left to say, only one question left to ask.

"Why?" I asked.

"Does it matter?"

"It does to me."

"Because those girls needed you more then I."

Between Trust And Truth

January 22, 1897
Sarah Waters

He is handsome. There is no doubt about it, and his attentions would otherwise be flattering were I not aware his motivations are anything but honorable. I can dream though and a wonderful dream it is when he stands before me. His eyes seem to be for me alone in those moments like this very afternoon. At the steps to Primrose Hall he waited for me.

A sharp blue sky and crisp air were the trappings of the day. The piles of snow melted in the warm gaze of the sun, leaving a rising steam coming from everywhere and nowhere. Bundled in a warm coat with only the collar visible and a hint of a black tie, Jonathon Goulding stood waiting. His eyes followed my every movement while my own avoided his gaze.

Another woman might have easily assumed his unfaltering gaze to be simple adoration. She might have fretted about hairs undoubtedly out of place or rumpled skirts from the long hours spent sitting in desks too small for adults. I was not so afflicted. I only wondered if the look on his face was joy or anger. In the subtle nuances I am coming to know as life, I realized the expression was very likely a portion of each emotion conflicted and conflicting within the man.

He offered his arm as I approached. I hesitated before taking it, but there was no reason to be impolite. I would have heard the gasps and awes of my peers had I not ignored them. We began to walk toward Carrington Manor as if it were the most natural thing for the two of us to do.

“It is good you made it back.” He said.

“No thanks to you.” I replied.

“I had nothing to do with what happened.”

“I never accused you.”

“I only meant to say I am glad to see you.”

“And now that you have said it?”

“Are you not glad to see me as well?”

“If I said I were, I think you would be unduly pleased with yourself and if I were to say I am not, I think you would be unduly saddened. What would you have me say?”

“Whatever words would come from your heart will do for me.”

“My heart has no words of its own.”

“Then cold silence shall reign.”

“Why must it be cold? Silence is not inherently so, or am I wrong?”

“You are not.”

“Then why do you call it cold?”

“Because when a woman’s heart is absent of words, she has no warmth.”

“Then you think me cold?”

“I think you bewilder me.”

“Yes I suppose you are unaccustomed to women bearing a brain as well as a heart.”

“I think you know better than to believe those words.”

“Perhaps. Was there more you wished from me than to express your gladness?” I asked.

“Indeed. The man you shot, what did he want with you?” He asked.

I stopped walking and withdrew my arm from his. I turned to face him and our questioning gazes met and locked. You can truly see a man for who he is within his eyes, but Jonathon’s were a maze of conflicts which revealed all and nothing at all.

“Are you asking to learn what I know or to know what I learned?” I replied.

“Do not play games with me Sarah. I can help you but I need to know the truth.”

“For there to be truth, there must be trust and I do not trust you.”

“The man you shot is dangerous, but he is a mere pawn to the men he works for. None of this makes any sense though, you should be nobody to them.”

“Maybe I am. I never said they were after me.”

He blinked in surprise.


“I think you already know but if you don’t you will not learn it from me.”

“This is not a game. You will not be safe until they have what or who they want.”

“Will we be safe after they have succeeded? I think not.”

Jonathon Goulding walked away, frustrated. I entered Carrington manor, confused.

Sticks And Stones

January 20, 1897
Edith Bowen

They had all known. It was written on their faces when we, the Primrose Girls, climbed the steps of Primrose Hall and entered the classrooms on the first day of classes in the new year. I do not believe they were directly involved, at least not all of them. Regardless, I took pride in the shock in their eyes. No one expected mere girls, like us, to make the journey alone.

The unspoken words filled the air in the classrooms. I think it was mostly praise but I am certain there was some grumbling as well from those who would have rather seen the end of Primrose with the hopes of Brown being expanded. They no doubt fail to understand, as a teacher of women they are as marked as those of us who attend as students.

There has been talk of Primrose closing since the first day I arrived within the gates, but until these recent days I had never understood the power behind such talk. I once thought of it as words used to discourage those who were not certain they wished to be here. Now, I realize they are words meant to discourage us all, but it is not the words which hurt.

Mr. Carrington’s failure to keep his word and the action of leaving us waiting without any knowledge of why, now that is hurtful. The surprise on Mrs. Carrington face was barely greater than her obvious jubilation at seeing us. In contrast, Mr. Carrington looked fit to be tied. His abrupt greeting was further evidence.

“What are you doing here?” He asked.

I nearly laughed in his face.

“School begins tomorrow.” Miss Bassett answered for all.

I would have left matters at that. The burning anger in my chest would have dissipated in time and I had no true need for confrontation, but there was that sigh. It was more of a huff and a puff, but unlike for the big bad wolf, we were not straw houses to be blown down. The way he rolled his eyes at Miss Bassett’s answer and the danger he left her in particular in was more than I could allow to pass.

“Yes, we are here. No thanks to you as you know. Do you have an excuse for us?” I demanded.

His eyes narrows as he turned to me.

“What excuse do you have for recklessly leading these young ladies into danger? It is no less than fortunate you arrived without disaster.” He said.

“I did what I had to do because you did not do what you promised to do. It is not I who endangered them, it is you.” I replied.

“There was a storm and with the fresh snow pack it was not safe to travel. It is a miracle you made it through.”

“Do not think to tell me lies. I will not believe them when I know the truth first hand. We weathered the storm in a barn because you sent no word of your plans or lack thereof. We crossed the miles of icy terrain on horseback and it was neither treacherous nor dangerous. The only treachery was yours and the only danger was men.” I said.

“In my house you will keep a more respectful tongue, girl!”

“If threats are all you know, understand this; if you ever so recklessly endanger even one of these girls again, I will be your worst nightmare.” I said.

“You already are.”

“Then just think how much worse it could get.” I said.

I turned my back on him, not because I had nothing more to say but because I did not want to waste my breath and also, I wanted him to know I am not afraid of him. It is not always the truth, but the look in his eyes told me he is afraid of something and I know better than to think it is me. Whatever it is, it makes me realize he is but a puppet on the stage and I will never fear a puppet.

“Come on girls, let’s get settled back into our rooms. Tomorrow is a big day.” I said.