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.

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