“I don’t believe in unnecessary risks.” As it was her right arm being talked about, the patient did not disagree. The bones had healed, and the cast could have been cut off before leaving San Francisco. The girl stated forthrightly how tired she was living with an L shaped arm that she felt sure was growing weaker by the day, but her doctor thought it best to leave the cast on for the journey. He did not want to risk any strains or something worse before physical therapy began. On a September Thursday Marianne Fallbrook flew from San Francisco to New York where she was met by her aunt and uncle, the latter being Fred Fallbrook, her father’s younger brother. The couple had last visited San Francisco seven years before and were initially afraid that they would not recognize the little girl they had known who was now sixteen, but Marianne’s father had reminded them that all they had to do was look for a tall blonde with a cast on her right arm.
The threesome dined in the uncle’s favorite steakhouse that night. Marianne ordered the one fish item on the menu, broiled salmon, to be able to eat one handed and not have to ask for help. Her aunt and uncle asked many questions in an attempt to get to know her. The girl did not know how much they knew about her recent life, and she did her best to keep the conversation on sports and music. When her uncle asked why she wished to come east to a boarding school when she was already going to one of the best public high schools in the country, the same high school that he and his brother had attended, she blandly replied that she wanted a change.
“Were you having trouble making friends?” asked Aunt Judy.
“I suppose you could say that. Some people I thought were my friends turned out not to be so friendly.”
“Were the other girls mean to you?”
“Some of them.”
“Girls can do that. A lot of insecure girls will lash out at the beautiful and the accomplished if they can get some others to go along.”
“Let’s hope that I do better beginning tomorrow.”
“I am sure you will,” said Uncle Fred. “You know it was basketball that got you admitted to Waterman so late in the academic year. When your father told me what you wanted to do, I asked all my partners who had been to prep schools whether there was any way to apply in June for admittance in September. Most said it was almost certainly too late. But one, John Clough, said there was a possibility at his old school if the boy or girl was a really good athlete. I said you were. Your father told me you were the best player on your undefeated basketball team. Clough called his old headmaster and a couple of days later he told me to have you apply to Waterman Faith Martin. They must have checked you out somehow.”
“I know you told us to send the application directly to the headmaster.”
“Yes, it must have been one of the easiest acceptances to a prep school in modern times.”
“It’s nice to know something good has come out of basketball. My parents and my piano teacher thought I was crazy when I decided to teach myself the game.”
“You didn’t think you were crazy, did you?”
“I knew I was a tall girl who could run fast. Part of it was to do something different that was completely my own doing. Part of it was to get some exercise. Part of it was to see if I could play with boys as an equal.”
“Do you play with the boys as an equal?”
“I understand that you have always had the same piano teacher.”
“Yes, Madame Cheboshova.”
“A new teacher will be a big change. Are you concerned?”
“A little. Technically, I don’t have much to learn. What I need from a teacher is critiques on how well I am bringing a piece alive and advice as to how to do that if he thinks I am a bit dull. If the teacher isn’t well trained and very good at the piano, it might be a waste of time, or even worse. But if I really am to consider myself a professional, I will have to figure out most things by myself.”
“Very wise,” said the aunt, not knowing what more to say on hearing a teenager make such a statement.
The next morning her aunt drove Marianne to the school in Connecticut. The campus, a collection of red brick buildings and wooden houses surrounded by well-tended green lawns and the occasional shade-tree sat at the northeast end of a small town. The school had begun in a pre-Revolutionary War bungalow eighty years earlier when what was now the campus was a residential neighborhood. The fields and woods to the east had quickly been bought, and gradually the houses in the neighborhood were bought as well. A few of the old wooden structures were remodeled into dormitories; the rest were torn down to make way for new school buildings and open space.
Aunt Judy followed other cars up a paved driveway to the steps of Post House, a four story plus basement brick building with four white ionic columns supporting a portico at the top of a wide and substantial set of steps. On stopping they were greeted by a sixth form girl who introduced herself as Sarah Lear. While Aunt Judy waited with the car, Sarah shepherded Marianne inside to meet the dean, Mr. Paulson, who gave out room and class assignments. The dean greeted her effusively with what struck her as a note of forced joviality as he assured her that it was wonderful that Waterman Faith Martin should have such a poised young lady coming all the way from California. Marianne thanked him, and she and her chaperone returned to the car where Sarah gave directions to Marsh House, named after an early headmistress of Faith Martin. Marianne would soon find that all the girls could not help noting its proximity to a pond full of reeds and algae. Once there, the three unloaded Marianne’s four pieces of luggage: two suitcases full of clothes; a large duffel bag with two basketballs, two pairs of athletic shoes and assorted athletic clothes; and a small suitcase containing sheet music and piano tuning tools that weighed as much as the larger bags.
Miss Earnshaw, the housemistress, stood in the center of the common room with clipboard in hand greeting all comers. Sarah introduced Marianne and her aunt. Marianne extended her left hand, and Miss Earnshaw tentatively accepted it with her right hand, giving the impression to the girl that the woman thought there was something improper about being offered a left hand even if the right was disabled. “And where are you from, Marianne?”
“San Francisco, California.”
“I don’t think we have any other California girls in the house this year. Linda Cook is from Denver. She is the only other girl from the west I can think of.”
“That’s fine. I came here for something new.”
“That’s the spirit.” Miss Earnshaw looked at her list and said, “Marianne Fallbrook. You are in room 206. Is that what Mr. Paulson told you?”
“Good. It’s always nice when the records agree. Go up the stairs, turn right, and it is down the hall on your right. Your roommate is Penny Scott. She is a returning girl and will be coming tomorrow.”
The threesome hauled the luggage up the stairs and proceeded to the room. It was a plain room with brown wainscoting on the lower half of the walls and white plaster on the upper half. It held two single beds, two small desks with chairs, two dark-stained chests of drawers, two closets and one well-upholstered easy chair and one bookcase. “The easy chair and the bookcase must belong to Penny Scott. The school does not provide those. The rest is basic Faith Martin furniture moved here a year ago from our old campus.”
“Did you go to Faith Martin before the merger?”
“Yes, I was there for two years.”
“Were you for the merger?”
“I was, although now that I have had a year with the boys, I can understand why some of the alumnae opposed it. A classroom with boys and girls together is very different from one with girls only. With boys in the room, one of them usually has to be the class clown, and the ones who are unhappy with anything are sure to let everyone else know it. Girls are better at sticking to the subject and keeping quiet about their unhappiness.”
“Why did the schools merge?”
“Money. Women don’t give to their old school like men do. Faith Martin was always begging and skimping when it wanted to do anything like build a new building or equip a new laboratory. It had no endowment to speak of. At Waterman, a lot of the sons and brothers of graduates were refusing to come here because there were no girls, and that jeopardized future contributions. So they merged. Now the women trustees don’t have to worry so much about money, and the girls get to watch the boys throw specimens at each other in biology lab.”
“I’m used to that. I’ve always gone to public schools.”
“I have to get back to the Post House steps. Do you have any questions?”
“I understand there are some piano practice rooms. Can you tell me where they are?”
“In the basement of Drew House. That is back up the hill to the north of Expedition House. Do you play?”
“I used to, but I don’t play much anymore. You know, Faith Martin was not an old fashioned finishing school, and it certainly isn’t now that it has merged with Waterman. Colleges and graduate schools have opened up and a girl can be anything she wants to be. I’m aiming for medicine, and I advise you to prepare yourself to be something more than a well turned out young lady.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry. I forgot your name.”
“I’ll remember your advice.”
The sixth form girl said, “See you later. I hope you have a good experience here.”
“Rather full of herself, I’d say,” said Aunt Judy after Sarah had closed the door behind her.
“Maybe she doesn’t like the piano.”
“Or pretty girls from California.”
“Until I get my right arm back, I have enough to worry about. It’s very hard for me to live without both hands at the piano. The left handed repertoire doesn’t do it for me. If I was Wittgenstein, I would have shot myself in 1919. Three or four hours a day just seems so natural. The composers of the great music are more real to me than somebody like Sarah Lear will ever be. ‘I advise you to prepare yourself.’ I’ve been preparing myself since I was four.”
“I know, dear. You are going to meet difficult people wherever you go. Choose your friends carefully. And in a few weeks your arm will be just as good as new. Be grateful nothing worse happened.”
“I know. This broken arm has given me some new understanding of my father.”
“Yes, your uncle says he came back from the war a changed man. But who wouldn’t be under the circumstances?”
Aunt Judy helped Marianne unpack by putting clothes on hangers and into the closet. Doing such a chore one handed was tedious. Marianne put her other clothes in drawers.
“Where did you go to school, Aunt Judy?”
“I went to Greenwich High, then Vassar, and I took an eight week course in New York about how to be a legal secretary. I had already learned typing and shorthand in high school. Then I went to work at a law firm and met your uncle and have so far lived happily ever after. If I was your age, I would probably be aiming at law school just like that girl is aiming for medicine. Not all secretaries marry the boss. Some just keep working for forty-five years for not much more money than when they started. But in those days very few women went to law school, and most of those had no hope of a job when they graduated. It was the old story that for a woman to succeed in a man’s world she had to be twice as good. A few years ago there was only one woman partner in all the major New York law firms and that woman never married and often worked six day weeks.” She paused a moment, and when Marianne did not say anything continued, “That’s not to say a young woman has to turn into a know it all or worse in getting ready to train for a profession. If that Sarah Lear behaves like that all the time, she is going to find that she needs to do some work on her bedside manner.”
“Yes, Miss Lear seems like a good one to stay away from.”
“There was a little joke that went around ten or fifteen years ago that said, ‘Be nice to the little people on your way up, so that they will be nice to you on your way back down.’ Few people have a life that is one success after another. For most people, life is a kind of bouncing around.”
“My mother was a legal secretary. Have you two ever compared stories?”
“Not really. From what I understand your father snatched her up so quickly she never got out of the typing pool.”
“Is that what happened? They never told me that.”
Aunt Judy paused for a moment. “I want to change the subject. What I am about to say may be none of my business, but I feel it needs to be stated plainly. We touched on it last night, but I would like to hear your true thoughts on the matter. From what I can see, this place is going to do nothing for you musically.”
“That’s possible, but I have reached the point where I have to figure out how and what I play for myself. Anything anyone else says is something to be considered and nothing more.”
“Are you sure that is true?”
“Yes. Trust me. I’m pretty good.”
“I haven’t heard you play since you were nine, and you were pretty good then, so I cannot know for sure. But even if your playing is perfect in all respects, what about the study of theory and composition. And you have a nice speaking voice. Have you had any singing lessons?”
“One thing at a time. I play the piano. That is my gift. I’ve studied theory with Madame. As for writing music, I don’t think I’m really meant for it. Creating new melodies does not come naturally. My enjoyment is mastering and playing the works of the greats. And I don’t want to sing. I am not a natural soprano, and that is where ninety per cent of the good roles for women are in opera.”
“O.K. No singing. No composing.”
“Did you ever see the movie, The Great Waltz?”
“Long, long ago.”
“There is a scene where the birds are chirping in the trees, and by the end of the scene Strauss has pretty well written Tales of the Vienna Woods. If only it were so easy. And I have ears that can place an accurate musical note on paper for every sound I hear, but that has nothing to do with writing a decent melody.”
“I understand. But I had to say it. You are here to get something out of this place, not just to be one of their ornaments. They don’t even know what they have in you. Don’t let this turn into two wasted years.”
“I won’t. Believe me. I won’t. But I am also here for the conventional academic experience. I don’t want to be somebody who knows a lot about music and nothing about anything else.”
Aunt Judy refrained from pointing out that she could have that out of any good high school, including the one she left behind.
The unpacking, putting away and making the bed were finished. Aunt Judy said good-bye. She assured Marianne that she looked forward to seeing her in four weeks when the whole school had a short weekend from 10:30 Saturday to 6:00 P.M. Sunday. She promised her house would have a piano when Marianne came. Marianne told her not to spend a lot of money. A used upright would be fine, as long as the keys worked. “When you buy it you might be able to get a tuning thrown in. But if you don’t, I can do it.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Alone in her room, Marianne sat down in the armchair. She could hear a group of girls in another room talking and laughing. She thought she should go and introduce herself, but knew that if she did not immediately fit in, it would be awkward to excuse herself after a few minutes to come back to an empty room. Better to stay by herself for a while until it was closer to lunch time. The solitude did not last long, however. Four knocks sounded. Marianne rose from the chair and opened the door. “Hi, I thought I saw somebody go in here. A bunch of us are getting to know each other at the end of the hall. Would you like to join in?”
“Sure. I’m Marianne Fallbrook. Excuse me if I don’t offer you my right hand.”
“Yes, I see. How long have you been in that?”
“It seems like forever, but it is actually seven weeks.”
“How awful. I’m Betty Preston. Come and meet everyone. We’re all new, too. Where do you live?”
“That’s a long way.”
“Where do you live?”
“That, I believe, is a short way.”
“Long enough. If the schools hadn’t merged, I could be a day student.”
They walked to a room at the end of the corridor that contained four other new girls. Betty introduced Marianne and the other four introduced themselves. Julie Hagen came from Short Hills, New Jersey. Bonnie Price was from New York City. Margaret Henry was from Wilmington, Delaware, and Linda Cook came from Denver and was the girl mentioned by Miss Earnshaw. The latter three were fourth formers while Marianne, Betty and Julie were in the fifth.
When Marianne had entered the room the conversation had been about whether or not the Beatles would ever get back together. After introductions Bonnie said, “I was once told that for a boy to be admitted to the fifth form at Waterman, he had to be either a very good athlete or a top student. Does that now go for Faith Martin girls?” She looked directly at Marianne as she spoke her question.
“Maybe. I understand basketball helped me be accepted.”
“So you are a good basketball player. You certainly have the height.” Marianne was the tallest of the six.
“As you can see, I am not playing much at the moment.”
“What about you, Betty?”
“I made all A’s in my last school, but so did a couple of others.”
“So, Betty is a scholar. Julie, are you athlete or scholar?”
“Athlete, I guess. Tennis.”
“What do fourth formers have to do to be admitted?”
“Have parents who can afford it.”
At one o’clock the six girls went to the dining hall and ate lunch together. Immediately after, Marianne excused herself from the group and walked over to the Drew House basement where she found six small acoustic tiled rooms containing spinet pianos. She entered one of the rooms, played a couple of scales and was pleased to find the piano in tune. She left the room and walked up and down the hall listening for anyone else who might be there. Hearing no one, she re-entered the original room and proceeded to play the piano part of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand.
That afternoon all the new students went to the Williams Exercise building, known as the Williams Ex, for a physical where height (5’11” for Marianne) and weight (146 with clothes on) were measured. “Aaah” was said for Dr. Meyers as he looked down each throat and listened to each diaphragm with his stethoscope, and every student blew into a mechanical contraption in which a cylinder rose to measure lung capacity. The device appeared to be something out of the 19th century and ready for a museum. The doctor told Marianne to come to the infirmary after lunch on Monday to have her cast removed, and she would then be sent to a physical therapy clinic in town. The master presiding over the ancient lung measurement apparatus was Mr. Bryce, a white haired piano teacher with a pronounced southern accent. He recognized Marianne as being one of the new piano students. “Yes, I remember all of the piano students’ names. You will be studying with Mr. Piera. He is a graduate of Juilliard, and he looks forward to working with beginning students.”
“Thank you. That is good to know.”
As the senior piano teacher, Mr. Bryce always grabbed the six most advanced students for himself and left the rest for the other teachers. Before the girls came, it was rare to have as many as fifteen piano students out of 650 boys, but now with 850 students, over 300 of them girls, they had thirty-four. The serious students had four sessions per week with the teacher. The other students had one session each week. The four sessions’ students were given academic credit toward graduation like any other full time course. One session classes were considered personal development and no credit was given. Parents paid extra for musical instrument classes as the teaching was one on one.
Mr. Bryce’s method for keeping his job interesting had not gone unnoticed by Mr. Brodie, the director of studies, or by the headmaster. Most of the piano teachers, other than Mr. Bryce, had come and gone at two year intervals over the years. Now that three piano teachers were needed such a turnover was going to be more difficult to deal with if it kept up. Not informing Mr. Bryce of Marianne’s abilities had been deliberate on the headmaster’s part.
After completing her physical, Marianne walked over to the basketball courts where six boys were having a half-court game. She watched for a minute secure in the knowledge that she was better than all of them. She assumed they were all sixth formers, as all the new students had been going through the physical and then receiving their locker assignments and equipment, if any, for their fall sport. Initially, at least, there would be no sport for her. First would come physical therapy, and after that she had no intention of risking her arm playing soccer or volleyball late in the term shortly before basketball season. If she was forced to do something, she figured she would run cross-country, not that she had ever done any long distance running before or had any interest in it. But if she had to, she believed she could begin with a dash, walk and trot the middle of the 2.1 mile route and finish with a dash.
The other task new students were encouraged to do that afternoon was to purchase their textbooks and supplies. The bookstore occupied a room in the basement of Post House where a master and some student helpers presided over the stacks of new and used books. A line formed at the room’s Dutch door, where the student would present the list of classes received from the dean at arrival. One of the students in the room fetched the books, the master wrote a receipt and the student signed. The dollar amount would be billed to the parents. The line of students that went down the hallway, U-turned, and came back up the other side gave evidence that it was not a particularly efficient form of retailing, but it was only once a year. After this, most of the books purchased would be the novels assigned in the English classes every two weeks.
Marianne took her place in line and silently inched her way forward. She had no desire to get to know anyone she did not have to know. The last thing she wanted was to meet someone from California who might know anyone at Monroe High. She did not even want to meet anybody who had ever heard of her old school, although she knew that was a bit much to hope for. Most of the others in the line had arrived in groups of two or three and were chatting happily with their new friends. Marianne stared at the wall or into the distance and made no eye contact with anyone.
When she had purchased her books, she saw that she was meant to take them in a pile. There were eight books in all: three for English; three for history; a geometry text and a French text. She asked if they had a bag. They said they were sorry, but they did not. She momentarily thought of using her casted arm as a base on which to balance the books, but the thought of Marsh House being a quarter of a mile away made her quickly discard such an idea. She would not do anything that would put her arm at added risk. The thought of being a two handed piano player now verged on the obsessive. It would have to be two trips, she thought. She would come back with a bag, even a suitcase if need be.
“If you can wait a couple of minutes while I run my books upstairs, I’ll be happy to carry yours to your house,” said the boy behind Marianne who had also not spoken the whole time they were there.
“Thank you. That would be very nice.”
“Give me two minutes. My room is on the second floor.”
The boy, whose name she would learn was Michael Barnfield, soon returned and took seven of the books while Marianne took the heaviest. Together, they headed for the stairs and the exit.
“Where do you live?”
“Down in the girl’s part of the campus.”
“Where do you come from?”
“I’m from Rochester, New York. Are you in the fifth form?
Having just spent forty-five minutes standing in line hoping not to have to speak to anyone, Marianne decided she had better make an effort to be friendly to someone who had offered to help her. “You are really very kind to do this. I thought I was going to have to make two trips.”
“You are most welcome. You would think they could have improvised something to help a girl with only one good arm.”
“Not very thoughtful, was it.”
“I don’t think so. Anyway, what makes someone from California come here? Haven’t you ever heard of New England winters?”
“I have. I wanted a change. Plenty of snow should fulfill that. How about you? Why did you come here?”
“They say they are going to make a big effort to make the school more friendly to those of us interested in science. Next year they will begin a third year physics course, and anyone who can handle it will be allowed to take two science classes each year. And they gave me a partial scholarship.”
“Wow. That’s pretty good.”
“Yeah, and the funny thing about it, I never even thought about going to a prep-school. They found me. They had to convince me to want to come, and they had to convince my father to pay for the non-scholarship portion.”
“That’s interesting. Obviously, your father said yes.”
“He did. But he had to think about it first. What about you? What are you interested in?”
“Music. I play the piano. I can play some other instruments, but the piano is my love.”
“I guess you are not playing much at the moment.”
“No. The cast comes off on Monday, but I have a few weeks before I will be anywhere close to normal.”
“What kind of music do you play?”
“I don’t know much about classical music.”
“Not many teenagers do.”
“Not many teenagers know much about physics, either.”
“Me included, I’m afraid.”
When they reached Marsh House, Michael put the stack of books on a table in the common room. Boys were not allowed in the girls rooms. Marianne thanked Michael profusely and carried her books up to her room in three trips. Michael left thinking that he wanted to see more of Marianne, but was not sure how to go about asking. He was too new to even be sure what the school schedule was and what time was free before classes began on Monday.
The next item on the schedule was chapel at ten minutes past six. Everyone was asked to arrive by six in order to be given their assigned seats and allow the service to begin on time. The headmaster, Mr. Seaver, ordained in the Episcopal Church, presided over the twenty minute service. He welcomed all the new students to the school, read Mathew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” and gave a little sermon based on the passage. Its message had taken on legendary proportions in the school, he said, because the term “two mile man” was part of the school vernacular. It was a lesson that he hoped and believed every Waterman boy, and now every Waterman Faith Martin girl as well, took with them through life. Going the extra mile when one does something one wants to do, or volunteers to do, is comparatively easy. Giving your all to the things you are compelled to do is much harder, but in doing so, one is a better person in so many ways. Two mile men and women are the ones who can be relied on when the going gets tough. They are the ones who see the difficult projects through to completion. They are the ones who don’t panic in a crisis. Most importantly, they know that they will fulfill their promises and know that they can be relied on by their family, friends and coworkers.
After chapel Marianne met up with the other five new girls from the second floor of her house and walked with them up the hill to Post House and the dining hall behind. It was open seating and they picked a table with no students yet there, and soon four other girls joined them. The table was Mr. Blaine’s, a math master in his fifties who until the previous year had never taught girls. He was almost tongue tied in their presence if he could not talk about mathematics. Fortunately, his wife joined them that night and managed to lead the conversation by talking about the girls’ interests. Marianne talked a little about music, but when the subject segued into rock she clammed up and let the others go to it.
After dinner all the houses had meetings. In the common room of Marsh House, the girls filled the chairs and sofas which had all been turned toward the empty fireplace. Those who arrived last stood in the rear. Miss Earnshaw entered from the door to her apartment, walked up to the hearth and began, “Good evening, girls. I have already met everyone, of course, but in case anyone has forgotten, I am Miss Earnshaw, the housemistress of Marsh House. I also teach ancient history and European history where I shall see a few of you. Seated on the couch are Miss Godowski and Miss Vincent. Miss Godowski lives on the third floor and teaches French. Next to her is Miss Vincent who teaches English and whose apartment is on the second floor. The eight girls standing to the left of the fireplace are the sixth formers. They help us run the house. In our absence, they are in charge. If you ever have a question or a problem and we are not here, go to one of them. Now, in the interest of all of you getting to know each other, and for me to refresh my memory, I would like each of you to state your name and where you live.”
Bonnie Price from New York began. In the middle of the group a girl named Felicity Elliot from Atherton introduced herself. So much for being the only girl from California, thought Marianne. Standing in the back, Marianne was next to last to give her name. When she did, Felicity turned and stared. Marianne noticed and did her best to pretend not to notice.
Miss Earnshaw proceeded to state some of the school rules. Attendance at all meals was mandatory except for sixth formers who could miss dinner and Sunday night supper if they left a note for the dean at his office, known as the sanctum. Chapel was every day at ten minutes past six on Monday through Saturday and at an announced time on Sunday. Attendance was mandatory. Those who were late were shut out and would receive five hours. Hours were the school’s method of discipline, and they were hours of work at tasks that needed doing such as cleaning classrooms, raking leaves or shoveling snow. Those who were late to class or any scheduled activity had better have a good excuse or that too could mean five hours. Everyone was awoken at seven in the morning for breakfast at 7:25, and first period began at 8:05. Being caught smoking meant expulsion, as did drinking alcohol. Being caught cheating or stealing could mean expulsion, although some cheaters and thieves were let off with a suspension or probation. Waterman had for many years expelled about twenty-five boys a year. The belief was that many of those boys no longer wanted to be at the school, and they were just acting up so that they would be thrown out. Faith Martin had a different philosophy. Any girl who was genuinely sorry and promised to behave better and follow the rules in the future was given another chance, or at least allowed to stay until the end of the school year. But on these matters of smoking, drinking, cheating and stealing Waterman’s rules are in force. Get caught smoking, drinking or cheating on an end of term exam, and the student will be gone as fast as his or her transport out could be arranged.
Miss Earnshaw went on to give some advice that she described as “the most important thing I have to say to some of you: if you get into a frame of mind where you do not want to be here, don’t do something to get yourself expelled just so you can leave. Come and talk to me about your problems, and if you don’t think I am much help, the school has counselors and the assistant headmistress and the headmaster. Most problems can be resolved. Remember, you have to get your education somewhere, and as schools go, this is a good one. The day is over where the sixteen year old dropout can go out and conquer the world. And if you think that being pretty and charming and accommodating will get you what you want in men, don’t be so sure. Men may not like their girlfriends to beat them at golf and tennis, but if you are a bonehead you won’t be any intelligent man’s girlfriend for long.
“Speaking of men and boys, boys are allowed only in the common rooms of girls’ houses and girls are allowed only in the common rooms of the boys’ houses. This house has a further rule. Boys will not loiter in the common room. If a boy comes here, it should be because he was invited by one of you. And the only reason one of you should have invited him is that you are going to walk together to somewhere else. Any boy I or Miss Godowski or Miss Vincent or the sixth formers see here by himself will be asked who invited him, and when he gives us a name, we will go right to that girl’s room to hurry her along. So if you don’t want us to barge in on you when you are applying your makeup, be ready for him when he arrives. And then off you both go. No hanging around here.
“Tomorrow will begin with the regular wakeup at seven and breakfast at 7:25. Breakfast for the girls in this part of the campus is next door in the basement of Bridge House. As you know, lunch and dinner are in the dining hall behind Post House. Returning fourth and fifth formers will arrive between nine and noon tomorrow. All of you should have had your physical this afternoon. Raise your hand if you did not.” No hands went up. “If you have not yet bought your books, the bookstore will be open this evening from eight to nine. Also, this is a school where homework is assigned before the first day of classes. Read your assignment sheets and try to get your work done at a leisurely pace. Don’t wait until Sunday night and then try to do it all at once. You won’t make it. As I said before, any questions or problems, come and see me or a sixth former. That’s enough for the first night. Get to know each other. Make friends. Walk around the campus tomorrow and Sunday. Take advantage of the athletic facilities.”
Marianne wasn’t sure whether to immediately head back to her room or say hello to the girl from Atherton. She initially decided to head for her room, but on the stairs she looked back at the common room and saw that Felicity was looking at her. Marianne made a slight motion with her head to tell Felicity to follow her. In Marianne’s room Felicity asked, “I’m sorry to be so direct, but are you the girl who was the star basketball player at Monroe last year?”
“I do have to confess to that.”
“Gee, it’s a shame about your arm. Will you be able to play this winter?”
“I should. The cast comes off Monday. I’ll have the fall term to get ready.”
“Why did you come here?”
“Why not? It’s supposed to be a good school.”
“Monroe is supposed to be the best public school in California.”
“I’ve heard that, too,” said Marianne with a smile. “Atherton is a nice town. I would think they have a good high school.”
“My mother went to Faith Martin. She convinced me to come.”
“Let me just say that I wanted a change. I had some personal problems. I would like to ask you not to tell anyone what you know about me. Let the rest of the school figure it out when basketball season begins. How do you know about me?”
“My brother saw one of your games and could talk about nothing else at dinner that night. He said you were the best high school player he had ever seen, boy or girl, and was amazed you were only a sophomore. After that I followed you in the newspaper. Monroe always won, and you were always the top scorer.”
“It’s nice to know that I had a fan in Atherton.”
“My brother is not much of an athlete. I’m not sure why he was at one of your games, but you certainly made an impression on him. He will be most impressed when I tell him that I know you.”
“If you could hold off on doing that for a while, I would be most grateful.”
“Nobody in the Bay Area knows where I have gone, and I would like to keep it that way for now.”
“O.K. Top secret. Mum’s the word. I guess there is more to the story than you are going to tell me.”
“There is. I’ll tell you someday, but for now I am just trying to lie low and mind my own business.”
“You make it sound like you are on the run from the law.”
“I know. It’s not quite that bad, but it is a bit of a mess. I’m just here to try to be a normal school girl and get myself ready for college, if I go to college. Just treat me like I’m nothing special.”
“Got it. You’re nothing special.”
“I’ll tell you something else about me, but keep this one to yourself for another few weeks, as well. I play the piano better than I play basketball. I am sure good basketball gets more respect than good piano around here, but the piano is my real passion. I’m not sure how long it will be before I can begin using my right hand again, so if I am wandering around looking lost that is the real reason.”
“Enough about me. What are your interests?”
“I play tennis. Where I want to go to college or what I want to do after college, I don’t know. Marry Mr. Right, I suppose. That is what my time here is supposed to help me figure out. My mother thought Faith Martin was a wonderful school. But of course that was a different time, different place and no boys. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the merger. She thinks girls learn more when there are no boys around.”
“A lot of people think that. It may be true, but I have to wonder. Things one really wants to know seem to stick in the brain no matter who is around. Things that don’t seem so important seem to fall away after a time, if they make their way into one’s brain in the first place.”
The two girls talked about their mothers, fathers and brothers. They compared living in the city with living in a suburb. They wondered if the school work would be harder at Waterman than at the schools they had come from. After an hour, Felicity excused herself and went up to her room on the third floor. Marianne changed to her pajamas and went off to find Miss Vincent to say goodnight. All the girls who lived on the second floor were shaking hands with her, and Marianne remembered too well the expression on Miss Earnshaw’s face that morning. I am not offering my damaged right arm in its L-shaped plaster case, she thought. “Goodnight, Miss Vincent,” said Marianne brightly with her left hand stuck out. “Goodnight, Marianne,” replied Miss Vincent taking Marianne’s left hand with her own left. That is an improvement, thought Marianne.
In her room she sat in the easy chair and looked out the window that faced south. Next to the window she could see the moon rising in the east and the main part of the campus to the west. In the chair, a few feet back from the window, she looked into darkness in the south. Two lonely lights burned softly over the entrances to the Old Gym and the Williams Ex. The darkness covered the athletic fields and the hockey rinks and the creek that bisected them and flowed into the pond next to Marsh House. Up the hill to the east were more athletic fields that she had not seen yet. The school owned over 400 acres.
She remembered the remark about Wittgenstein she made that morning to Aunt Judy. She thought of her stoic one-handed father. Now she knew what it was like to live with only one usable hand, and yes it was doable, but it still had its everyday moments of nuisance and help that needed to be asked for. These weeks of left handed piano, a little bit of left-handed basketball on an empty court, and no golf at all had made her realize that the piano was the important thing. The ability to play great music was, she now knew for certain, the greatest gift that could have been bestowed on her. Life was incomplete without it. In leaving San Francisco she had brought to an end her relationship with the only piano teacher she had ever had. Would the teacher here be any help? She hoped he would not be a hindrance.
And what was up with this place? The new girls all seemed very nice, and Michael, the science student, seemed straightforward and friendly, but she had met the dean who came across like a ham actor, a teacher who had looked at her as if she had committed a gross faux pas when she offered her left hand even though the right was obviously hindered, and a sixth form student who assumed she was some flighty girl who played piano because that is what girls from good families did in 1890. Try not to turn into one of these self-important types, she thought. Be yourself. Be normal.
She went to bed, rolled onto her left side and wondered how long it would be before she would dare to go to sleep on her right side.
After breakfast the next morning Marianne took the time from eight to nine to have a walk around the athletic fields. A hundred yards south of Marsh House Maple Street bisected the campus. The varsity football field lay directly across the street. The Old Gym stood beyond the south end of the field. Fields for football practice in the fall and baseball in the spring were on its far side. On the north side of the creek were wooden pilings for two natural hockey rinks in the winter, a football field, and an artificial hockey rink. The Williams Ex building sat to their east at the base of the hill. Up the hill was a quarter mile oval track, the interior of which held the varsity soccer field in the fall and the field events in the spring. To the south were more fields for soccer and field hockey which would be converted to baseball and softball in the spring. “Everyone should be well exercised around here,” she thought.
Marianne returned to her room shortly after nine. She wanted to be there to greet her roommate when she arrived. She looked at the assignment sheet and saw that she was supposed to read the first nine pages of a history text. She opened the book and began to read. After three pages she realized that she was not absorbing much about Bradford and the Pilgrims, and returned to the beginning and began again. After forty minutes she had completed the nine pages to her satisfaction. “Time for the real stuff,” she thought. She pulled out her bag of sheet music and took out Beethoven’s Thirty-first Sonata and began to read. After a few minutes a knock sounded, and Felicity entered after hearing Marianne’s, “Come in.”
“Is that what you do for fun?” pointing at the music on Marianne’s lap.
“Exactly. It’s a different world.”
“Do you hear the notes as you read them?”
“Amazing! I started to play the violin when I was in the fifth grade, but I wasn’t very good, so I gave it up after a year. Do you play any other instruments?”
“I learned how to play the violin and the clarinet, but I don’t really play them. I just wanted to get an idea of the difficulty of other instruments.”
At that point the door opened and in walked a brown haired girl and her mother. Marianne stood up. “Hello, I am Penny Scott and this is my mother, Joan Scott. I assume only one of you is my roommate, and they haven’t crammed three of us into this space.”
“I am your roommate: Marianne Fallbrook. This is Felicity Elliot who is upstairs. We are two Californians getting to know each other before we charge out to take on Connecticut.”
“Good for you. You never know what hidden dangers lurk around this place.”
“Oh, Penny! Don’t start that with the new girls,” said her mother.
“Mother went to Faith Martin and loved it. I went to Faith Martin and loathed it. Merging with Waterman improved it a little.”
“Oh, Penny. Stop! What will these girls think?”
“My mother went to Faith Martin. She was Grace Mortenson, class of 1947.”
“Thank you for changing the subject, Felicity. I was class of ’45. I have to admit that my memory of the girls in the forms behind have faded over the years. Which form did she begin in?”
“Well then, I should remember, but I have to be honest and confess that I do not.”
“Perfectly understandable. It was a long time ago.”
“Yes, and I have to tell you that most of us in those war years loved our school. On the weekends we were allowed to work as volunteers at the local hospital. It taught us to take responsibility out in the real world, and helped us to grow up quickly. It was so unfortunate that Penny got off to a bad start in the third form, but that is all behind her now.”
“Maybe,” said Penny.
“Please think positive, dear.”
“Yes, mother. I’ll give it the old Norman Vincent Peale try.”
Her mother looked at her with an expression that combined pity with mild disapproval. Penny looked back with teenage defiance. “Can I help you bring anything up from your car?” asked Felicity.
“Yes, let’s go get the rest,” said Penny.
All four of them went down to a Ford station wagon and brought up the rest of Penny’s luggage. Back in the room Marianne said, “Felicity and I will take a little walk while you two say your good-byes.”
“My goodness, are we that bad?” asked Mrs. Scott.
“No, not at all. I just thought maybe you needed a few minutes of privacy.”
“We just had two hours of privacy on the drive from Boston. I know how Penny feels. She knows what I think. I’m happy she has such a thoughtful roommate. I also understand that you are a good athlete.”
Marianne looked dumbstruck for a moment and then said, “Yes, I am.”
“What sports do you play?”
“Basketball and golf.”
“Why did you come here?”
“I thought I needed a change.”
“Did you come here with the idea of going to an eastern college?”
“I’ve never really thought much about it. My father went to Stanford, and I’ve always thought I could go there if I wanted to.”
“That’s fine. They say Stanford is just as good as Harvard and Yale.”
“Californians think it is even better.” Marianne smiled at her little joke, but Mrs. Scott showed no recognition of the implied humor.
“Well, it’s nice to meet a sensible girl from San Francisco. We read so much about hippies and people smoking marijuana and taking LSD that it is easy to think everyone’s lost their mind out there.”
“The drugs are there for those who want them. But it is calming down now. The riots of 1968 turned Haight Street into a dump, and a lot of the hippies went back to wherever they came from.”
“You are a very sensible girl.”
“Don’t be so nosy, mother. You’ve interrogated Marianne enough.”
“Yes, yes. I’m sorry. I asked Miss Stiles who would be rooming with Penny and she told me a girl from San Francisco who was a good athlete. I embarrass my daughter sometimes, but if I didn’t, I would never find out anything.” The three girls looked at each other and tried to suppress smiles.
“I can see the conspiracy of youth is beginning, so I’ll be on my way. I hope you like the school, Marianne. It has a lot of good points, and it does prepare its students for college.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Scott.”
“I’ll see you in four weeks, Penny.” Mrs. Scott said good-bye to Marianne and Felicity and was gone.
The three looked at each other in silence for a few seconds. “I suppose it looks like my mother and I have a strained relationship. We don’t really. It’s just that she loves Faith Martin based on close to thirty years ago, and I don’t, based on the present. But please don’t make my unhappiness your own. Some girls are very happy here. Study hard, enjoy your sports, join a club or two, find a boyfriend. You may have a great time.”
“I think I’ll take off and let you two get to know each other,” said Felicity. “I’ll see if I can find a tennis partner.”
“See you later,” said Marianne as Felicity closed the door behind her.
“Did I scare her away?”
“I don’t think so.”
“When I arrived at the old campus two years ago, my head was full of my mother’s stories about what a wonderful place it was. She was full of stories of the girls all pulling together and doing their little bit to keep the country going during the war years. I thought I was coming to a place where everyone would be friendly and encouraging and living happily. That was certainly not true in my case, and I have never gotten the feeling that the majority of the girls were particularly happy here. The boys aren’t either, but that’s another story.
“Faith Martin used to have a fairly strict dress code. To meals, chapel and classes the girls had to wear a white blouse buttoned all the way up to the top button, and a skirt of either navy blue or the Martin plaid that ended at least an inch below the knee. Third through fifth formers had to wear white socks. Sixth formers wore white socks or beige nylons. Third through fifth formers always wore flat shoes. Lace-up brown oxfords were mandatory Monday through Friday; something more stylish but still flat was allowed on weekends. Sixth formers could wear heels on Saturday night and to Sunday chapel and dinner. Allowed jewelry was one ring on a ring finger, small gold or pearl ear rings, and a cameo, or something small on a gold chain around the neck. When I arrived two years ago, that was pretty much dropped. Then we only had to wear the uniform for Sunday chapel and dinner, and even that was dropped when we moved to Waterman. Dresses, slacks, colored blouses, colored socks and nylons were allowed for all forms. Anyone could wear heels on Saturday night and Sunday. They still didn’t allow mini-skirts, but if your skirt ended an inch above your knee instead of an inch below, nothing was said.
“My mother convinced me to stick with the old uniform. ‘You know what you are going to wear every day. It will be one less thing to worry about,’ she said. So I showed up with two blue skirts, one plaid skirt, a dozen white blouses and not much else. I had a light green summer dress, totally unsuitable as the fall got colder, and a pair of blue jeans and plaid wool shirt in case I ever took a walk in the country or did any dirty work crew jobs. The first day of class I was the only one in the whole school wearing white blouse, plaid skirt, and white socks and oxfords. The second day I wore my green dress. The third day I was the only one in the whole place in a blue skirt. I called my mother and said, ‘I need some more clothes.’ ‘We will get you some when you come home for Thanksgiving,’ was her reply. That whole first term I was wearing the uniform six days a week and the dress one day a week. Every girl in the school was either laughing at me or feeling sorry for me. And the two worst offenders were a couple of girls named Ruth Larkin and Jennifer Sloane. They lived on the same floor of the same house as I did, and they formed a little clique from which I was excluded. They really are a nasty pair. Anything I said or did was grist for a snide remark. By the end of the year, I wanted nothing more to do with Faith Martin. But with the change of campus, a much larger school with boys, it was bound to be different, and mother convinced me to try it for another year.”
“How about this year?”
”I decided this place was my destiny, so I am going to let it all play out."
“On the more basic level, when I arrived yesterday, I claimed the bed by the window and put my things in the nearest dresser and closet. If you do not like what is left, we can change around. Everything here is new to me. I don’t really have any preferences yet.”
“Don’t worry. I’m fine. I am actually glad that you took the bed near the window. The center of the room tends to feel a bit warmer on a winter’s night. The cold seeps through the walls and under the windows. And sit in the easy chair anytime you wish. First come, first served.”
At that moment Penny heard some talking in the hall. She opened the door, saw a girl and her mother carrying luggage, and closed the door quietly. “That was Ruth Larkin. It looks like she will be down the hall. Another great year begins.” Penny looked out the window for a few moments and then said, “I don’t want to be too negative. There are good points. Science teaching is good for the most part. There are AP classes in biology, physics and chemistry. The food is good for a school. The athletic facilities are great. There are lots of extra-curricular clubs. The boys behave fairly well around us most of the time. They are very glad to have girls here. The downside is living with and putting up with some of the other girls, and a few of the teachers are just old lunkheads. A couple of the younger ones aren’t the greatest either, but once you are here you can request your teachers for the coming year so the new students are the ones who get stuck with the really bad ones for the most part.”
“That sounds like something I would rather not hear.”
“I know. It just has to be endured. Some of the math and French and English teachers are real bores. They have no idea how to make their subject interesting, and they just go through the lessons in a monotone. One of the history teachers is known for requiring the memorization of dozens of dates on the grounds that it trains the mind.”
“Not our housemistress, I hope.”
“No, it’s one of the men, Mr. Fossby.”
“Can one change classes?”
“Nope. Where you are on Monday morning is where you will be in May.”
There was a knock at the door. Betty Preston entered and said, “All of the old girls have arrived. We are getting together in the last room to get to know each other, just like yesterday.”
“Is Ruth Larkin there?” asked Penny.
“Yes, she’s my roommate.”
“Good luck to you,” said Penny glumly.
“Thanks Betty, but we won’t be coming,” said Marianne. “By the way, this is my roommate, Penny Scott. She and Ruth Larkin have an unpleasant history.”
“That is putting it diplomatically. I’ll leave it at that.”
“OK. You know where we are if you change your mind,” said Betty.
“Too late for that,” said Penny. After Betty left, Penny continued,” Thank you for being my friend and staying here. This school can be a very lonely place.”
“I understand. I’ll be your friend whatever happens.”
“Thank you. I believe you.”
When lunch time neared, Felicity joined Marianne and Penny and the three girls walked to Post House and the dining hall behind it. Inside they saw a group of Marsh House girls standing at a table. Penny quietly said, “Ruth is there; let’s keep going.” A large fireplace in the middle of the hall separated the huge room into two sections. “Let’s get beyond the fireplace so she can’t see us.” The two new girls obediently followed Penny. Near the far end of the hall, before the left turn to the addition that was recently built for the enlarged student body was a table with eight boys and a master.
“Hey, girls! We have three places here,” called out one of the boys.
“Why not?” said Penny.
“Why not, indeed!” stated the boy.
“We should consider this an honor, girls. Normally only boys sit at this table when it is open seating. We have been allowed to visit a very exclusive club.”
“Thank you, Penny. I am most happy to see that you appreciate our outreach effort. Of course, it is probably best if I tell you, before you figure it out for yourself, that three of our crew did not come back this year. So better three pretty girls sitting here than three boys we don’t know.”
“Thank you, Harvey. I am sure we are all feeling more welcome every moment. Who didn’t come back?”
“Ed Schuster, John Morris and Tony Prothero.”
“Any particular reasons?”
“The usual. If this place can no longer get us into Yale, Harvard and Princeton, why come here.” With this the master, M. Rucher, head of the French department, perked up and looked as if he was about to say something, but then deflated and let it pass.
The one note glockenspiel that sounded the note A, actually made for piano tuners and known at the school as the dong, reverberated over the speaker system and commanded instantaneous silence. The headmaster welcomed everyone to the new school year, reminded the returning students to have their physical that afternoon, and said grace. During the meal the boys wanted to know all about the new girls. Marianne admitted that she played basketball and golf. The subject of music never came up. One of the boys said the girls’ basketball team had not been very good last year. He asked Marianne if she was good enough to make the varsity.
“Probably,” she answered.
“That’s good. They need help,” said Dave Jenkins. One of the other boys noted that Dave was on the J.V. last year and should be on the varsity this year.
Another boy, Phil Whitman, remarked that Penny had been the smartest girl in biology the previous year. Does that mean there were smarter boys?” asked Felicity. The boys and Penny all laughed.
“A boy named Darrell Nicholson lives for science. He particularly loves physics and chemistry, but anything to do with science interests him. He always makes high A’s,” said Penny.
“He is not particularly friendly unless you want to talk about some aspect of science. I was with him at Mr. Lyle’s table last winter and he never spoke unless spoken to,” said Harvey Walters.
“That’s typical,” said one of the boys.
“That’s nothing,” said Dave Jenkins. “I sat at Mr. Wilton’s table with Nicholson and Conrad Fanning and Nicholson wouldn’t talk at all.”
“He hates Fanning.”
“I know. If he couldn’t say yes or no, he’d say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘no comment.’ After two days of that Mr. Wilton called him on it and he said, ‘I have nothing to say if I have to eat at the same table as Fanning.’ In the end, Mr. Wilton sent him to see Mr. Paulson.”
“I couldn’t stand Fanning, either,” said Phil Whitman. “At least we don’t have to put up with him anymore.”
“I guess you haven’t noticed. Look at Mr. Porter’s table.”
All the boys turned their heads and most of them muttered some short statement of amazement ranging from “Whadayaknow” to “Shit.” Fanning realized eight boys from three tables away were looking at him. He smiled and raised his glass of milk toward them in acknowledgement.
“At least he is drinking milk,” said Whitman.
Seeing that Marianne and Felicity were in the dark as to part of the story known to the others, Dave Jenkins explained, “Last February Fanning came back from a weekend at home roaring drunk. He stumbled into Ryder house and barely made it to the bathroom where he threw up. Mr. Bryce took him to the infirmary. The next day he was gone, we thought for good. He had been drinking Gordon’s gin on the train, and he left his bottle sticking up in a snow drift outside the house. As Mr. Bryce was leading him to the car, Fanning slurred, ‘I love that yellow label. It’s a great work of art.’ Mr. Bryce grabbed the bottle and said, ‘Right now, works of art are the least of your concerns, and I would be perfectly justified if I broke this bottle on your drunken head.’”
“His mother is a widow. She must have laid some sob story on the headmaster to get him back in.”
“Something worked. Fanning can act like a contrite brown-nosing you know what when he wants to.”
“This summer I met a guy who had gone to elementary school with Fanning. He said that a few times during recess Fanning would throw a pocketful of change into the dirt to watch the other kids dive in and fight over it. When the school principal found out about it and told his mother, he also insisted that Fanning go to a child psychologist.”
“What school was this?
“Lincoln in Stamford.”
At this point M. Rucher passed the attendance slip around the table. When it reached the boy directly opposite the master, he wrote his name and asked to no one in particular, “Odets or Snodgrass?”
“Snodgrass works for the first meal,” replied another boy. ‘Percival Snodgrass’ was duly entered on the slip which was then passed onto Penny. Marianne and Felicity added their names and the last two boys wrote theirs. M. Rucher looked quickly at the slip and put it down. He had yet to say a word at the lunch that was almost over.
“So what is Percival Snodgrass all about?” asked Penny.
“That’s a little joke we have with the dean,” said Walters.
“Do you ever get in trouble?”
“Not yet. Although I am sure if any of us get sent to his office for anything else it does not help. Sometimes we up the stakes and put Clifford Odets’ name down. There is a story that when Mr. Paulson graduated from Yale in the 1930’s with his head full of Shakespeare and Marlowe, he went to New York to try to make it on Broadway. One time he auditioned for a Clifford Odets play. After he did his bit and the director was saying, ‘Thank you. Don’t call us; we’ll call you,’ Odets chimed in with, ‘Who the hell sent that windbag over here’?”
“So why Snodgrass instead of Odets today?”
“A little joke among ourselves. I think it was John Morris, one of the boys who did not come back, who just wrote Snodgrass in one time. It has no real meaning –just a funny sounding extra name. Sometimes Monsieur seriously counts the names on the attendance slip, then counts the people at the table, then counts the names on the slip a second time, and then announces, usually his first words of the meal, ‘Somezing ees wrong!’ So one of the boys on either side takes the slip and has a good look and says, ‘It looks all right to me.’ This forces Monsieur to utter his second sentence, ‘There are twelve names and eleven students.’ He says that in French, but if I say it in French his ears will perk up. At that point one of the boys will jump in and say in French, ‘Yes, sir, eleven of us in the flesh plus our lifelong friend Snodgrass, always here with us in spirit: liberty, fraternity, equality, and for all eternity.’ Then Monsieur will say, ‘Non, non, non,’ and draw a line through Snodgrass. Paulson will still see the name. One time Monsieur asked us why we sit at his table every Sunday night. The real reason is that he rarely shows up to Sunday night supper and we have the table to ourselves. But I told him, in English, that we liked his calm quiet demeanor. He didn’t know what demeanor was, so I finally said savoir-faire. He didn’t say anything. Who knows what he thinks.”
When the meal was finished and M. Rucher had excused the table, Walters asked the girls if they would sit with the boys that night and every Sunday night. The girls looked at each other and nodded.
“We will be happy to,” said Penny. “How do you always get the whole table to yourselves?”
“Three or four of us make it a point to be here when they open the hall, and we grab the table and shoo away anyone who wanders up who doesn’t belong.”
“It will be nice to belong.”
Penny headed down the hill to the Williams Ex for her physical. Marianne said to Felicity, “I am going into the library to see what they have in music. Would you like to come?”
“Sure. I’d like to have a look.”
A twenty yard portico with brick arches connected the north side of Post House with the library. One entered a foyer, beyond which was an enormous reading room, with easy chairs, couches and tables around the perimeter. Record players with attached headphones sat on a few tables. The dark paneled walls had built in shelves where the fiction stood, and a dark green wall to wall carpet covered the floor. A second large room to the rear had stacks of non-fiction and long tables with four chairs per side. The librarian’s office and the record collection was housed in two much smaller rooms near the doorway that connected the two great rooms.
On finding the record collection, Marianne looked for Debussy or Satie piano pieces, but did not see any. She came across a record of Myra Hess playing Schubert’s Sonata Number 21 in B flat major and thought,” Why not?” It was a piece she had never played, and she could hear Madame Cheboshova’s voice in her head telling her never to listen more than once to a recording of anything she might learn herself someday. This would be the once. She found Felicity in the stacks and asked her if she wanted to join her. Each record player had two headphones. Felicity said no. She was going back to the house.
Marianne found a comfortable couch and spent the next half hour in the world of Schubert and Hess. When the music ended she replaced the record on the shelf and found Rachmaninoff’s record of himself playing his own third piano Concerto. She knew this piece, but she was not convinced that she would perform it publicly any time soon. Her hands were large enough that she could play the tenths, but there were other difficulties that needed study. She knew that in such a complex work notes could be left out and ninety-nine percent of the audience would never know, but she would know. She also knew that Rachmaninoff had dedicated the work to Josef Hofmann, and he had never played it publicly –possibly for the same reasons. She thought briefly of Hofmann being a famous prodigy at the age of ten, and how she might have been as well, and how different everything would have been. She certainly would not have ended up in this place. She also would never have learned to play basketball and golf. While replacing the concerto the librarian, Miss Nelson, said to her, “It is so nice to see a student who likes good music. There are so few here. It almost breaks my heart when I walk by a dorm and hear what passes for popular music now blaring out a window.”
“I know. It’s funny. There is such a rich world in music for those who are willing to take the time to really listen, but too many people never get started.”
“You’re right. It has become something to listen to in the background or in a car.”
“Do you have any sheet music in the library?”
“No, the music teachers have that. What instrument do you play?”
“The piano, when I have two hands.”
“Ask Mr. Bryce. He will tell you what he has. He has filing cabinets full of music.”
“You’re welcome. I have a small budget for new record purchases each year. If there is anything you would like to see added to the collection, let me know.”
“O.K. You don’t make that offer to all the new students, do you?”
“No, I make it to you because you are the only person in this school that I am aware of who has ever listened to that Myra Hess record. Nobody here, until you, has ever shown any interest in Schubert, and poor old Myra Hess, now that she is gone, is in danger of being forgotten, and she does not deserve that.”
“You’re right. She was one of the best.” Marianne thought of mentioning how she knew someone who had known Hess, but she was afraid of where that might lead. “As for records, buy something of Debussy or Satie. There don’t seem to be any here.”
“Good idea. I shall.”
Marianne left the library and walked down the hill towards Marsh House. As she approached a master who was walking up the hill she said, “Hello, Sir.” It was stated in the school handbook that everyone should greet each other while walking on the school paths. The master looked straight ahead, said nothing, and walked by. “Now what?” wondered Marianne.
Back in her room she found Penny had already returned from her physical.
“Are you healthy?”
“That’s good. I just had a funny thing happen. I said, ‘Hello, Sir,’ to a master, as the handbook tells me to, and he walked right by as if I didn’t exist.”
“What did he look like?”
“He was thin, glasses, dark hair, a bit shorter than me…”
“So he is well known?”
“He was my biology teacher last year.”
“You made an A in biology.”
“Yes, he is fine if you are in his class and interested in the subject. But he is known to be rude to students he doesn’t know from his classes. I’ve been told his father was a coal miner; he was the first in his family to go to college, and he thinks we are all a bunch of undeserving rich kids.”
“I’ll be sure to tell him I have a grandfather who is an auto mechanic, if we ever meet again.”
“Some of the boys hate him. Last year he was out in the pond collecting things he could display in class like moss and lichens and tadpoles and so forth. He had evidently been doing that every year since he began here fifteen years ago, but somebody started spreading the story that he was doing it as an excuse to hang out near the girls’ dorms. When the story got back to him, he stopped coming down here and there was never anything freshly harvested shown in class again.”
“I guess I should be grateful that I took biology last year.”
“He wasn’t bad if you kept your mouth shut and worked hard. Every now and then he would tell the class how much more he could be making working in industry, and how lucky we were to have him and the other science teachers who were doing such a wonderful job on our behalf. I just nodded and tried to look respectful.”
“You didn’t get so fed up that the temptation to be rude in return took over,” added Marianne.
“There are worse teachers. At least he loves his subject.”
“How come this high priced nationally known school with all its rich and famous alums has as many bad teachers as the average public high school?”
“I’ve heard that the present headmaster cannot fire anyone hired by his father, the previous headmaster. I have also heard that any teacher Mr. Seaver does not like lasts no more than four years, and from five years onward they have a kind of unofficial tenure. They have to really mess up to be fired, and being boring in class and wishing you had done something else with your life is not considered messing up.”
The two settled down with textbooks and did an hour and a half’s worth of homework. An hour before chapel Marianne said, “I have been thinking what you told me about the old dress code. What do you say we wear white blouses, navy skirts, white socks and oxford shoes?”
“As a big ‘Nuts to You’ to Ruth and her friends.”
“Gee, you really are getting into the spirit of my battles around here.”
“It seems like it would be a humorous thing to do?”
“God, I don’t know. What if it backfires, and the whole school laughs at us?”
“The boys won’t know anything is going on until it is explained to them. The girls who are on your side and were at Faith Martin two years ago will be laughing with you. And when Ruth realizes it is meant as a dig at her, she will be even more angry while you will happy and laughing.”
“If you put it like that, I guess I cannot say no.”
“One favor. Will you tie my shoes? I can put socks on one handed, but I can’t tie shoes. I cannot contort myself to get my feet up to my right fingers.”
When they met Felicity for the walk to the chapel she was well turned out in a yellow pantsuit with brown pin stripes and a black patent belt and heels. On seeing the identically dressed roommates she cried, “What are you doing?”
“Having a little fun,” said Marianne. “This is the uniform all third through fifth formers used to wear.”
“I know. My mother told me. But those days are over. Practically everything is allowed now at Waterman except blue jeans, khakis and athletic shoes.”
“They are, but we have a reason. And you look great. All the boys are going to drool when they see you, Miss yellow and shiny black. I hope you won’t be ashamed to be seen with us.”
“No, but what is the reason?” Marianne relayed a condensed version of Penny’s story of her first term at Faith Martin. She finished with, “This is a screw you to Ruth Larkin and her pals. We dare you to start running your mouths.”
“Very interesting. If you wear the uniform again, I’ll join you. I too have a navy blue skirt and brown oxfords.”
When they arrived at the chapel steps, Mr. Paulson standing guard as he always did to make sure all the students were properly dressed for the service, and thoroughly used to seeing all the girls in stylish footwear in the evening, thought the lace-up brown oxfords were a breach of the dress code. “Back to your rooms and change your shoes, girls,” he said. As there was not enough time left to do that and not be shut out, he was, in reality, telling the girls no chapel and five hours.
“What?” shrieked Penny.
At that Miss Stiles, who was also standing guard and who until Mr. Paulson had begun talking had been looking on the two girls with a benevolent smile for upholding a sliver of the old Faith Martin spirit, said, “I am sorry to have to overrule you, Mr. Paulson, but these girls are wearing the old school uniform right down to the shoes, and it is acceptable attire anytime for classes, meals and chapel.”
Abashed, Mr. Paulson said, “I am so sorry. I see I still have some things to learn in our combined school. Go right in, girls.”
As there was supposed to be no talking in chapel, and what little talking there was occurred in sotto voce whispers, Penny’s shriek at Mr. Paulson had carried right through the building. Everyone already there wondered what had happened, and enough other students arriving at the same time had seen the incident. By the time chapel finished, and they all had made the trek up to the dining hall, the whole school knew that Mr. Paulson had tried to shut out two girls from chapel for wearing the old Faith Martin uniform. As Marianne and Penny walked through the dining hall, they were met with many smiles and some boys began clapping their hands in applause until one of the masters told them that was enough. When they arrived at M. Rucher’s table and the boys already there saw them identically dressed, Phil Whitman said, “Hot damn! You were the two.”
“You are our heroines. We shall love you forever. We are so blessed that girls with your spunk have chosen to dine with us.”
“Mr. Paulson’s night must be ruined. Ten hours that he thought he would be giving have been ripped out of his hands by Miss Stiles,” said Harvey Walters.
“To give the man his due, he did seem genuinely sorry for his mistake,” said Marianne.
“Sorry for being corrected by Miss Stiles is more like it. Try not to get in any trouble for a while. He will have a bad memory of you two from this incident. No big deal, though. He has a bad memory of half the boys in the school.”
When Felicity arrived at the table, Marianne said, “Here is the real star of the evening. So beautiful and well turned out she belongs at a dinner party in New York.”
“Around here, you two are the stars,” said Felicity. “The whole school is talking about you. It is like you pulled off this great trick that made Mr. Paulson look like a fool.”
“Funny what a choice of clothes can do. That wasn’t our intention.”
“Do you see Ruth Larkin?” asked Felicity. “She is four tables down. She is standing there with a glum expression on her face.”
“Good. That was our intention.”
Once the meal was underway, Felicity asked the boys in general, “How about one of you explaining to us why you are so unhappy with the school.”
“Simple,” said Phil Whitman. “We came here thinking it would give us a big leg up on getting into Yale or another top school and it no longer does. Close to half the graduating class used to get into Yale, Harvard and Princeton, another quarter of the class would go to the rest of the Ivy League and Ivy equivalents like Amherst, Williams and Stanford, and most of the bottom quarter got in somewhere that was not too shabby like NYU, BU, Syracuse, Bowdoin or Georgetown. Two years ago, supposedly without warning to the headmaster or anyone else, Yale accepted five. Before that they usually accepted between thirty and thirty-five. So while Yale accepted five, Harvard accepted twenty-eight and Princeton accepted twenty-five. So the masters all went around last year saying that Yale was out of step and would have to come to its senses and blah, blah, blah. So last year Yale again accepted five and Harvard and Princeton each accepted four. That ended the blah blah blah. Harvard and Princeton no doubt figured if Yale was seeing something different in Waterman than what they used to see with the historic close relationship between the University and one of its favored prep schools, they weren’t going to argue.
“Bad as that was, it got worse. Schools like Penn and Brown and Dartmouth used to accept ten to fifteen, but the majority of those would be second or third choices of boys who were hoping for the big three, and only four or five applicants to each of the other Ivies would be from boys who considered those schools their first choice and really wanted to go there. So somebody who was academically in the middle of the class might apply to Yale as a first choice, and Columbia, Brown, Amherst and NYU as his other choices, and if he did not make Yale, he was certainly going to make something on that list and probably two or three. So these other schools would accept all these applicants and then have maybe a third to half of them show up. So now they get the idea into their head that they have been playing second fiddle to the top three all these years and now Yale will take only five, why should they take more than five. Back at Waterman, the boy in the middle of the class now knows he has no chance at Yale, and he also knows he has no chance at Columbia or Brown, either. And he probably has a better chance at Amherst and NYU if he was back at his local high school where he might be the only one and certainly no more than two or three who applies to those schools, unless he lives in the New York City area or in Massachusetts. So we now have a situation where most of the top ten percent of the class can still go to the top three, the next twenty percent of the class can go to the rest of the Ivy league and its equivalents, and the other seventy percent is doing very good if they get into someplace that used to be automatic out of here. Certainly the guys in the bottom quarter of the class are not getting anything for the tuition their parents are paying. They would have a better shot at the school of their choice if they went home to their local, and presumably less competitive, high school and made some good grades there.”
“Hey, you talking about me?” blurted Harvey Walters.
“You’re from Ohio, right?”
“Where are you hoping to go?”
“Based on the list you just gave, it is probably something like NYU.”
“Why don’t you just stay home and go to Ohio State or Oberlin or Case?”
“It is a good question.”
“You really want an answer?”
“The answer is that my parents drive me nuts. If I didn’t have a boarding school to go back to in September, I would probably drop out and run away from home.”
“Run away? Where would you go? What would you do?”
“Wash dishes in Las Vegas.”
“There you have it. We are not all here to get into Yale. But I was when I got here. I was the best student in my class in the eighth grade. I was no longer the smartest by a long shot when I got here, but I was safely in the upper half. But that does not mean much now. The other boys here are in much the same boat. Does anyone disagree with what I said?”
“No. You put it very well,” said Dave Jenkins. “That’s why we call ourselves the ‘We are not going to Yale bunch’.”
“That is very negative thinking,” said M. Rucher in his thick French accent. “Nothing good comes from negative thinking like that.”
“I am just facing the facts,” said Phil Whitman. “Do you disagree with the specifics of what I said?”
“It is more difficult to get into a top university than formerly, but you must face the situation you are given and do your best. If you are a good student, some good university will accept you.”
“It’s funny how the faculty now thinks there are a lot more good universities around the country than they used to. Are you sure you haven’t been drinking cognac with Professor Pangloss a few too many times?”
“Pangloss! That is a very rude thing to say. You boys are hopeless. Please sit somewhere else in the future.”
“I am sorry, Monsieur. I was trying to add a little humor to the discussion. You must understand that those of us who are suddenly not good enough for Yale feel pretty low down and are in danger of ending up on Skid Row, or washing dishes in Las Vegas.”
“It is good that girls now come to this school. When four or five girls sit at this table, we have a normal conversation. But on Sunday nights and the beginning of term when the students can sit anywhere, you boys all come to my table and talk like imbeciles.”
The whole table sat in silence for half a minute. “Anyway,” said Phil Whitman, “you now know the situation and you know why we are unhappy. Compared to our expectations when we arrived here two years ago as third formers, we feel like we have been had.”
“Why are you still here?” asked Felicity.
“My local high school is not that great. Wherever I end up in college, I should at least arrive having learned something before getting there.”
Felicity polled the other seven boys. Dave Jenkins and Roy Purcell said their fathers had gone to Waterman. Jerry Altman agreed with Whitman and felt the superior academics were worth it whatever happened with college admissions. Ben Harman said his local high school was a tough place and an academic wasteland. He and his parents agreed that he had to go to private school somewhere. Tim Sparks, a boy from Alabama, added that for him as the boy who had gone the furthest with Latin and French in the school, but also as someone who was below the middle of the class in rank because his math and science grades weren’t very good, he would have had a shot at an Ivy League college previously. Now, probably not, but there is no way he could have gone so far in Latin in an Alabama public high school or in most private schools. Walters repeated that he wanted to get away from home. Ron Mueller said he did not know. He had almost not come back, and was still wondering if he made the right choice. When asked to elaborate a little, he simply said, “I’m here. I’ll try to make the best of it.”
When the attendance slip was passed both Percival Snodgrass and Clifford Odets had been added by the time the slip reached Penny. M. Rucher, who had remained silent for the rest of the meal, did not look at it when it came back to him.
On the walk back to Marsh House Penny said, “Now you know what all the boys in the school are thinking. Nobody is happy because they all feel like the future that they expected and had a right to if they played the Waterman game has been taken from them. That Ron Mueller really looked depressed. I wonder what his real story is.”
“What was it like last spring when all the rejection letters arrived?”
“Not a happy scene. Some of the boys were convinced that the headmaster had to have known this was going to happen all along. He had an uncle who was president of Yale long ago and he went to Yale himself. His father, who is very old but still alive down in Florida, went to Harvard. The general feeling was that they had the contacts to know this was going to happen in advance. A number of boys were spreading the story that the headmaster had known that Yale was going to take only five the year before and he had kept it to himself. When all the other schools found out through the gossip mill after sending out their usual amount of acceptances, instead of being informed by someone at Waterman about its changed status with Yale, they got angry and said, ‘OK, five is good enough for us, as well.’ Masters were telling boys not to talk like that, and the boys were giving it right back to them. I heard one boy tell Mr. Owens, a Latin teacher and Yale graduate, to go to hell. The masters just took it, as far as I know. Disciplining those who received a fistful of rejection letters would have just made matters worse.”
“Do the new boys arriving this year know that the game has changed?”
“If they don’t, I am sure somebody will tell them by Monday.”
That evening there were more house meetings across the campus. On their arrival in the common room, Miss Earnshaw smilingly greeted Marianne and Penny with, “It is an honor to have such two famous girls in my house. You never know what is going to happen next around here, do you?” As the returning girls were supposed to already know the rules, it was primarily a matter of everyone introducing themselves. They learned that Ruth Larkin came from Scarsdale.
Miss Earnshaw finished with a little speech about how well the first year of the merger had gone. “Waterman has really done its best to make Faith Martin welcome. The girls’ campus, where we are now, used to be the site of the school nursery and greenhouse, and it is a beautiful spot down by the creek and the pond. The athletic facilities are first rate, and it is fun to have the boys’ varsity teams to root for. The headmaster has promised to make the girls’ teams just as competitive with good coaching and equal practice time. Being part of a larger school also means a greater range of extra-curricular clubs and activities. During the year there will be many notable guest speakers and guest clergymen at the Sunday services. The world does not stand still. If women want to be the equal of men in business and the professions they have to be willing to go through the same training and clear the same hurdles as men. The old Faith Martin gave its girls an education that was free from the pressures of being around boys with the teasing, showing off, romantic crushes and breakups and all the other problems and conflicts. There was once something to be said for that. But we now know that the idea of the man as the breadwinner and the woman as the happy housewife after a few years as a secretary or a nurse is over. There are a lot of unhappy housewives who wish they could have had a meaningful career. There are a lot of nurses who wish they had become doctors, and secretaries who wish they could have been considered for promotion in business. Those opportunities are now opening up. Someday, when some boy in biology lab holds a dissected frog right up to your nose in the hope that you will shriek and run around the room, just say, “Yes, Roscoe, isn’t he beautiful.”
After the meeting was over, Penny went over to Ruth and asked, “What happened to Jennifer?”
“What do you care?”
“Right. What do I care? I see that you haven’t changed.”
“Aren’t you clever?”
Marianne and Felicity witnessed this from about ten feet away. The three of them went up to Marianne and Penny’s room, and once inside, Marianne said, “I see what you mean.”
“Yes, she is something else. I guess Jennifer Sloane did not come back this year. Getting a clique going will be a lot harder without her faithful number two.”
“Betty Preston struck me as too smart and sweet a girl to fall for that,” said Marianne.
“I hope you are right. By the way, do you have a roommate, Felicity?”
“No, I am by myself, upstairs. That’s the way I wanted it.”
“I did that last year, but it can get lonely. Anytime you want company, come and see us.”
“Thank you. I assure you, I will be around. I am the charter member of the Marianne fan club. Has she told you how good a basketball player she is?”
“She mentioned basketball yesterday.”
“My brother saw her play last year and couldn’t stop talking about her. He said she was better than any high school boy he had ever seen.”
“Don’t jinx me, Felicity.”
“Ask her about music, too. Good night. I am going to do some homework.”
After Felicity left, Penny said, “So, basketball and music.”
“Yes, music is my main passion. I also taught myself basketball and golf.”
“How good are you?”
“In basketball I was probably the best high school girl in California last year. At golf, I usually shoot in the seventies. At piano, I am at a very high level.”
“How high? Are you ready for Carnegie Hall?”
“I could play a solo concert that would please whoever showed up. Whether or not enough people showed up to cover expenses is another matter.”
Penny said nothing.
“I hope I don’t sound like I am bragging or crazy. You asked questions and I gave honest answers. I can’t prove anything at the moment. This broken arm is a real unexpected impediment to the things that I do well and give my life some meaning. The cast comes off Monday, but I will not do anything on the piano for a few weeks. With basketball I could do some left handed practice on an empty court, but I am not going to risk being bumped by other players for another couple of months.”
“I believe you. But with those talents, why did you come here?”
“On an impulse, I suppose. I wasn’t happy at my high school. But I want a regular education. I can always fit time in for three or four hours of piano, and as long as I do that every day, I am getting enough music.”
“I seem to have an incredible roommate. And we have already put the dean in his proper place, as well.”
“An unintended bonus, I suppose.”
After breakfast the next morning, Marianne said to Penny and Felicity, “I probably should have kept me and the piano to myself until I can play again. But if you want some proof, I have learned some pieces for the left hand only, and I will play a couple for you if you would like.”
“What kind of pieces?” asked Penny.
“Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand?”
“So, you do know something about good music.”
“That’s famous. Can you play that?”
“Yes. I played it on Friday after lunch.”
The three girls walked up the hill to Drew House and entered the basement via the side entrance. Someone was practicing in the first room on the right. “Let’s go down to the far end,” said Marianne.
The last room held a spinet piano, a bench, and a chair. “One of you find another chair,” said Marianne. Penny left the room and quickly returned with a chair. With the three girls and the piano squeezed into the small room Marianne sat down on the bench. “Normally I play three or four popular tunes as a warm-up, but I don’t do that with only one hand. Popular tunes I play by ear, but that is something I never do with classical pieces. I am just a little bit afraid I’ll mess up the wiring in my brain if I start trying to bring out melodies with only the left hand. So to loosen up I will play a few scales and go up and down the eighty-eight keys a couple of times.” That took about four minutes. “All right. I will begin with Scriabin’s Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand. Have either of you heard of Scriabin?”
“I have heard the name, but I don’t know anything about him,” said Penny.
“He was a Russian who died in 1915 at the age of forty-three. It is our loss that he did not live longer and write more music, but perhaps his gain that he did not live to see the Russian revolution and what came after. These pieces are delineated Opus 9, 1 and 2, which as a low number means it was written early in his career, probably the early 1890’s. I mention this to give you something of a reason for the difference in what I call melodic and harmonic smoothness between this piece and Ravel’s piece that I will play next. Early in the 20th century, many composers, including Scriabin, began to write music that was deliberately dissonant. They were all striving for something new, and yet they were all listening to what the others had done to try not to be left behind. Here is Scriabin before atonality and modernism.”
When she finished Marianne knew she had played it well and looked at her new friends with a slight smile on her lips.
“I’m a believer. That was beautiful,” said Penny.
“That certainly was,” agreed Felicity.
“Thank you. Now, on to Ravel. Concerto for the Left Hand was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, and was written thirty to forty years after the Scriabin piece we just heard. Wittgenstein lost his right arm in the First World War. He commissioned other left handed pieces as well, but this seems to be the one that resonates most with audiences. It is a concerto, so there is an orchestral part, but it is quite a way into the piece before the piano and the orchestra play together. First the orchestra plays for about two minutes, then the piano plays for a couple of minutes, back to the orchestra for over another minute, and then the piano comes in with initially just a few of the instruments of the orchestra playing. Ravel was a Frenchman with a unique melodic and harmonic sensibility. If you have ever heard Bolero, you are listening to the same eighteen bar melody over and over and over, but with changes in key, changes in which instruments are playing and changes in the harmonic relations and loudness of the various instruments of the orchestra. It should be boring, but instead it mesmerizes. It is hard to believe any other composer could have brought that off. Anyway, here we go. Think of an orchestra that has just been playing an atonal melody with mostly low notes for two minutes, it stops, and in comes the piano.”
Marianne proceeded to play the first segment. She explained that the piano was now silent for around another minute and half, but she wouldn’t wait that long. She then finished the first movement.
“Movement one is over,” she announced, and quickly began the second.
When finished, she again received praise from Penny and Felicity. “I just have to add one thing. Knowing Ravel’s music as I do, he would have done a lot more with that if he had written this for a two handed pianist. It was as if in accepting the assignment from Wittgenstein, he too was working one handed or with half his brain. It is definitely Ravel’s music, but something is missing. Much of what makes Ravel so wonderful to listen to is the cleverness of his harmonies, but with the piano limited to at most five near to each other notes at any given time, he was limited in a way that he had probably never considered before. He did the best he could, but it is almost like asking a right handed artist to paint with his left hand. Wittgenstein had a lot to put up with, because his own limitation was compounded by the limitation imposed on the composers.”
“I can see how hard it must be. But you will come back. It was fascinating to see you not use music. How many pieces have you memorized?” asked Penny.
“I don’t know. Certainly over three hundred, but I really don’t know.”
“How do you do it?”
“I just have a good memory for music. With many pieces I have to read the sheet music every so often to jog the memory, if I haven’t played the work for a few months. What I just played for you I learned since my arm was broken, so my memory did not need any boost, but for something that I haven’t played for more than six months, I usually need to read the sheet music beforehand to make sure I don’t miss any notes or forget what I want to emphasize.”
The three girls left the practice room and walked down the hallway to the outside exit. Whoever was practicing in the first room was still there. Marianne recognized Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor being worked on, and thought, “Better you than me, whoever you are.”
On the walk back to their house Felicity asked, “Are you two going to wear the old school uniform to chapel and dinner today?”
Penny looked at Marianne who said, “Let’s do it once more.”
“Good. I’ll join you,” said Felicity.
The Sunday service that day was held at noon. Three fourths of the fifth and sixth form girls plus a considerable number of the younger girls wore the old uniform. Mr. Paulson stood guard at the chapel steps with a smile permanently affixed to his face. For over thirty years Waterman boys had called him the hungry crocodile because of that smile. The service included a twenty minute sermon delivered by the headmaster from the pulpit based on Mathew 6:14.
Sunday dinner came immediately afterward, and it was the first meal with assigned seating. Every two weeks the assignment would change and in that way over the course of the school year students would get to know masters and mistresses and other students not encountered in their house or classes or sports. Marianne was at Mr. Braddock’s table with six boys, three other girls and for the first Sunday of the school year, Mrs. Braddock who normally did not eat in the dining hall. Mr. Braddock taught third and fourth form math and was considered one of the most boring teachers at Waterman. Two of the other three girls were wearing the white blouse, navy skirt, white socks and oxford shoes. After the dong and grace and while serving the soup, Mr. Braddock asked, “Why are so many girls wearing the same thing today?”
Two of the boys laughed.
“Is that a funny question?” No one said anything. “What was funny about that?” the master asked, directing his gaze at the boy who laughed loudest.
The boy looked over at Marianne and said, “Do you want to answer?"
“I suppose I should. What all the girls are wearing is the old Faith Martin uniform. Until two years ago all third through fifth formers had to wear what we are now wearing all the time, except for sports and work crews. Last night my roommate and I decided we would wear this. When we reached the chapel steps Mr. Paulson wanted us to go back to our rooms and change our shoes. Miss Stiles overruled him. It looks like today many girls have joined us for whatever reason.”
“Ah, so you started this. And what is your name again?” They had all given their names at the beginning of the meal but ten names had been too many for Mr. Braddock to remember them all.
“Well, Marianne, are you girls trying to tell the dean something?”
“My roommate and I had a personal reason for wearing the uniform.”
“Care to tell us what it is?”
“No. It’s personal.”
“It looks like this girl’s uniform thing has become a lot bigger than you and your roommate. You should tell us everything.”
Jerry Watson, the boy who laughed loudest, said, “By telling the girls to go change their shoes when there was less than five minutes until chapel began, he was telling them they were going to miss chapel and be given five hours. In other words, they were going to be disciplined for doing something that was once required at Faith Martin. All the girls today are quietly saying, ‘Don’t tread on me’.”
“Good for them,” said Mrs. Braddock. “Mr. Paulson can overdo it.”
“Now, dear, don’t start with that.”
“Well it’s true. P.J.’s dropping dead was the worst thing that ever happened to this school.”
“Dear, not in front of the boys.”
“Yes, of course. Let’s change the subject. Any of you boys on varsity football or soccer?”
“Anybody on any teams?”
“I might make varsity cross country,” said Bart Corrigan. “Certainly J.V.”
“How do you find that?”
Marianne did her best to tune out the conversation. The less she had to say about herself, the better she liked it. She could sense that the boys wanted to get to know her, but she thought she would put that off for as long as she could. When the meal was over and they were excused, Marianne was up and off to the library. She and Miss Nelson exchanged greetings, and Marianne took down a recording of Colin Drummond playing Schuman’s Piano Concerto in A Minor with the Berlin Philharmonic. When it finished, she listened to it again. By Madame’s rules it was a piece she could listen to all she wanted, for she had already mastered it. When she replaced the record, Miss Nelson said, “I read somewhere that Colin Drummond is so angry at the London critics that he may never play again.”
“It has been a few years, hasn’t it?”
“At least three. It is funny how these great artists can become so angry over a few bad reviews.”
“I know. He probably shouldn’t read the reviews.”
Back at the room she told Penny about her conversation at dinner. She told how Mrs. Braddock came in on the girl’s side, and didn’t seem to have a high opinion of Mr. Paulson. Marianne asked Penny if she knew who P.J. was. Penny told her that P.J. referred to P.J. O’Neill who had been the dean before Mr. Paulson. He had also been the varsity football coach and a married man with children. He had been a very different personality from his successor, the never married ex-actor. Mr. O’Neill had dropped dead from a heart attack at the age of fifty-eight. Mr. Paulson, as the assistant dean, moved up. But as he was a year older than his predecessor in the position, and if Mr. O’Neill had lived to the mandatory retirement age of sixty-five, Mr. Paulson would never have been dean. This had all happened a few years before, but Penny said that she had heard the story more than once from different boys. She had also heard there was talk of abolishing mandatory retirement.
“So this school might have Mr. Paulson until he drops dead.”
“I don’t think that is in the school’s best interest.”
“Just try to stay away from him.”
The girls studied for over an hour. Feeling restless, Penny proposed a walk in the country. “It is one way to help keep one’s sanity here. As fifth formers we are allowed to go into town without permission only on Thursdays, but we can take a walk east on Maple into the country anytime we are free. If we head out about four-fifteen, we can do the big triangle walk and be back at six for the pic-chick.” The pic-chick was the picnic held on the first Sunday supper of the school year at the varsity soccer field. Pieces of fried chicken, a small bag of potato chips, a biscuit, an apple, an orange drink and a napkin came packed in a box. If it rained, it was held in the Williams Ex, but today was sunny. “By the way, this is the one meal of the year where blue jeans are allowed.”
“Aw, no more navy blue skirt. I’ll go ask Felicity if she would like to come with us,” said Marianne. She found Felicity’s room on the third floor, and her friend eagerly agreed and said she would be ready in five minutes. On her way back to her room, Marianne met Betty Preston in the hall and invited her as well. Betty also agreed to come.
The four girls walked out to the road, turned left and headed up the hill. In half a mile they came to an intersection where the other road met Maple on the north side at a forty-five degree angle. “We will be coming back on that,” said Penny. “Therefore, the triangle.” In another half mile was a crossroads intersection. “If we turn left here, we will do the little triangle. If we keep going straight the next crossroads will be in half a mile, and we will turn left there for the big triangle. That walk is over four miles. Is everyone up for it?” They all agreed that they were.
On the walk Penny and Marianne each wondered to themselves if Betty Preston was going to have anything to say about her roommate, but she never brought up the subject of Ruth Larkin. Marianne was not going to say anything, as she did not know Ruth and had never spoken to her. Penny felt it would be best if Betty discovered Ruth for herself. She knew Ruth would probably hit the roof when she found out that Betty had gone on a walk in the country with her. “Let’s see how Betty deals with that,” Penny thought. Betty, however, in the interest of getting to know the other three girls brought up basketball, as Marianne had admitted to playing it in the conclave of new girls on Friday morning. Felicity quickly chimed in, “Oh, you know about Marianne and basketball?”
“A fourth former asked if one had to be a very good student or very good athlete to be admitted as a fifth former and Marianne admitted to being a good basketball player.”
“She is that. She was the best player in San Francisco last year.”
“Don’t jinx me, girls. I am not playing anything at the moment, and I don’t know what I will be capable of with a repaired arm. Talk me up too much and everyone may be disappointed when it turns out I am human.”
“Why basketball, and how did you get so good?” asked Betty.
“I’m tall for a girl, I’m a fast runner, and I played with boys on a public court.”
“Wow, I don’t think my parents would have allowed that.”
“Mine didn’t either, for a time, but eventually they saw it my way.”
They arrived at the pic-chick as the box meals were being distributed. While standing in line a boy in front of them said, “Better enjoy this. It’s the only time it happens at this school.” The boy in front of him replied, “What’s so special about cold chicken, a biscuit and an apple?”
“You can eat it all one-handed,” said Marianne.
Once the girls were eating in their little cluster, Marianne noticed a very tall boy talking animatedly to a gray-haired master who was at least a foot shorter. They were by themselves way off to the side of the field more than thirty yards from anyone else. “Who are those two?” Marianne asked Penny.
“That is Darrell Nicholson, the smartest boy in the school with Mr. Steinberger, a physics master. Remember the boys at the dining table saying he only talks to those who will talk science with him. Nicholson is probably describing some breakthrough he figured out in quantum mechanics over the summer.”
“You’ve got me there. What’s quantum mechanics?”
”Nuclear physics. I was trying to be funny. But that is probably the most animated I have ever seen Darrell.” After a pause, Penny exclaimed, “Oh my God. There is Jennifer Sloane. She did come back. I wonder why she isn’t rooming with Ruth.”
“Ruth told me that Jennifer wanted a room to herself,” said Betty.
“There we go. We should have just asked you,” said Penny. “Of course, the next question is why did she want a room to herself?”
“I don’t have an answer for that one. I am still getting to know Ruth, and I don’t even know what Jennifer looks like.”
“She is down at the south end of the field. If she comes closer I will point her out.”
At that moment Michael Barnfield walked up to the girls. “Hello, Marianne. Will you introduce me to your friends?”
“Certainly Michael. Girls, meet Michael Barnfield. He carried my books for me from the bookstore to the house on Friday. Michael, this is Penny Scott, now in her third year here, and Felicity Elliot and Betty Preston, who are both new. Michael is from Rochester and is a good science student.”
“Well if that is the case, and I do hate to send away the one boy who has come up to talk to us, you should go see that tall boy with the old master over there. That is Darrell Nicholson and Mr. Steinberger, and they are almost certainly talking about physics.”
“Somebody told me about Nicholson. Thanks. I’ll do that. Nice to meet you.” The four girls watched as he walked over to the lively duo and shook hands and joined in the conversation. Many students were amazed to see someone new be greeted warmly and conversed with by Nicholson.
“I guess he knows something about physics,” said Penny. “I should have told him to ask Darrell if he has his roll of quarters on him. Darrell is often on the telephone at night, and nobody is quite sure why.”
Back in their rooms after the meal on the soccer field Betty received an angry blast from Ruth Larkin for spending time with Penny Scott. Betty’s reply was, “In the first place, it was Marianne who invited me to join them on their walk. In the second place, I’ll spend my time with whomever I wish.”
“Well that’s a fine thank you. We are roommates, you know, and I have been going to this school for two years and can show you a lot of things that will ease your way around this place.”
“That is very nice. I am happy to be your friend. Just don’t try to pick the rest of my friends.”
“Anyone who throws in with that Penny Scott is making a big mistake. She looks like a mouse and acts like a princess and is so full of herself it is quite a feat that she doesn’t explode from excessive self-regard. And now she has that tall blonde from California to follow her around. That was quite a stunt they pulled wearing the old uniform. When Penny and I first came to Faith Martin she sanctimoniously wore the uniform every day to show her loyalty to the school. I couldn’t stand her then, and I can’t stand her now.”
“All I can say is she and Marianne have been nice to me, and I am going to follow the old rule of be nice to those who are nice to you. I spent over two hours with her and she did not say anything bad about you. She did wonder why Jennifer Sloane isn’t rooming with you.”
“That nosy little busybody! It’s none of her business. What did you say?”
“That I didn’t know.”
“Good. Let her keep wondering.”
That night, as they lay in their beds immediately after lights out, Marianne said to Penny, “I promise to be your friend through thick and thin. I hope you will do the same for me.”
“Certainly. I promise.”
“I realize that it looks as if I am destined to be one of the big girls on campus. That’s not something I want, and it may all blow up. Just be my friend whatever happens and I will be yours.”
“Don’t worry. I am your friend, and I am very grateful you are mine.”
Classes of forty-five minutes each began at 8:05. Cookies and milk were served during a fifteen minute break at 10:30 between third and fourth periods in the dining hall and in the basement of Expeditionary House, a dorm for the third form that was a replica of Post House. The time between the other classes was five minutes. Classes finished at 1:10. The dong for lunch sounded at 1:20 P.M. Voluntary conferences with teachers when the student felt the need of extra help began at 2:00 P.M. Sports time was 2:30 to 5:00. Only varsity teams might practice that long. Most intramural sports lasted an hour and a quarter, and in winter sports where there was limited space for hockey on the artificial ice rink and basketball on the two wooden courts, sports time might be only an hour or even forty five minutes for intramural teams, and the first scheduled time could begin at 2:15. A thirty-five minute study period began at 5:25. Chapel was 6:10 with dinner immediately after. 7:20 to 8:30 was another study period known as the sacred study hour. Every student in the school, except those on the kitchen clean-up work crew, had to be in his or her room or a study hall at that time. 8:30 to 9:30 was extra-curricular time or more study time. 9:30 to 10:00 was free time in the houses when students could visit with each other and prepare for bed. 10:00 P.M was lights out for third and fourth formers, 10:30 for fifth formers. Sixth formers could stay up as late as they wished.
Marianne’s French, math, English and American history classes were held in periods one through four. Fifth period was free, and sixth period was piano. In addition one period would be free during the week for the four academic subjects and two periods would be free for piano. Hence, in a thirty-six period six day week, twenty-four of them would actually be spent in class in Marianne’s case. M. Rucher, her French teacher, conducted the third year class entirely in French. He maintained a distracted air the whole time as if he wished he were somewhere else. He said, “Alors,” many times. He gave no sign that he remembered Marianne from the dining table. Math was plane geometry. Those who arrived at Waterman as third or fourth formers had geometry and algebra mixed for their fourth and fifth form years. The head of the math department, and his predecessor, who put the system in place, thought it a better way to teach as they believed it would more easily show the interrelationships between the two branches of the subject. Realizing that they would be doing a disservice to new fifth formers who had previously studied two years of algebra or a year of algebra and a year of geometry, they offered classes of pure geometry and second year algebra for the new fifth formers. That meant the other ten students in Marianne’s math class, two of whom were Felicity and Betty, were all new to Waterman. On arriving at English class Marianne saw Ruth Larkin in the right side of the front row. Penny Scott’s roommate took a seat in the back row. The teacher, Mr. Dawkins, noticed Marianne’s cast and asked if she was able to write. She said yes. “So, you are left-handed.”
“Actually, I am right-handed, but I learned to write with my left long ago.”
“Isn’t that nice! Marianne is ambidextrous,” cut in Ruth.
Marianne said nothing. Mr. Dawkins did not looked pleased and said quietly, “Yes, it is nice.”
At the break, Marianne walked into the dining hall, took a glass of milk, and not seeing any of her friends from her house, drank the milk quickly and left.
Both Felicity and Betty were in her American history class. For fifth period she went to the library and did the homework for French. For the last period she walked over to Drew House and entered Mr. Piera’s room in the basement. It was considerably larger than the practice rooms. The piano was a Steinway baby grand, and the room also contained a desk with chair, an easy chair and two filing cabinets. Based on her brief conversation with Mr. Bryce, she knew that the teacher expected her to be a beginner. She thought the best course of action for her emotionally as a player and as a student would be to just stay away from the piano until her arm and hand were ready. She knew the left-handed repertoire went far beyond what she had mastered. Not only were there all the pieces that Wittgenstein had commissioned, there were many two handed pieces that had been rewritten for the left hand only. There were pieces young and then unknown composers had written on speculation for the left hand in the hope that Wittgenstein and others would play them publicly. But Marianne had had enough of the left hand only. No right hand, no piano. If she told the teacher what she could do, she was afraid he would try to talk her into more left-handed playing. Or he might want to discuss music in general and teach some theory. She did not want that from somebody she did not yet know. It might be a waste of time.
“Hello, Mr. Piera. I am Marianne Fallbrook. As you can see, I am not fit to play the piano at the moment.”
“I do see. How much longer do you have that cast?”
“It comes off today. But then I have some physical therapy. I hope to be ready in a few weeks. Is it all right if I just come back when my arm and hand are ready to go?”
“I suppose. I’ll have to clear it with Mr. Seaver. What makes you want to take up the piano?”
“I think it would be a fun thing to do. I believe people who can play a musical instrument well achieve a lot of personal satisfaction from that.”
“I like to believe that, too. Do you know any other instruments?”
“I have studied the violin and the clarinet, but I didn’t go very far with either of them.”
“So you do know the treble clef. That’s a start. Let me give you the beginner’s book we will be using. In the next few weeks become familiar with the notes as written in the bass clef, and learn as many of the scales in the bass clef with your left hand as you can.”
After lunch Marianne went straight to the infirmary. No other students were there on the first day of classes. Dr. Meyers pulled the cast cutter out of a cabinet and went to work. The removal took less than a minute. With the plaster chunks now lying on a table, she glimpsed her thin arm full of dead skin, and looked away to keep from crying. Dr. Meyers quickly said, “We’ll put your arm in the whirlpool bath and give it a quick cleaning and gentle massage.”
“At least I can lift my forearm. I was afraid it would hang down like it was paralyzed. “
“Oh, you don’t lose all your strength from inactivity in seven weeks, particularly when you are young. The one thing you will have to guard against, though, is straining it before your normal muscle tone has returned. Don’t try to lift anything heavy for at least four weeks. Don’t try to lift anything really heavy with one hand, like a loaded suitcase, for at least eight weeks. In fact, I recommend that you wear a sling for two weeks as a way to remind yourself that you are still recovering.”
With her clean but still horrid looking right arm in a sling, Marianne set off for the physical therapy clinic in the center of town. For her first day it was various light exercises accompanied with questions as to whether or not any pain was forthcoming. No pain was. The therapist said everything looked good. There was no reason not to expect a full recovery in a reasonable period of time.
“How soon do you think I can play the piano?”
“You can probably begin in two weeks.”
“I play at a pretty high level. Sometimes I need to be able to strike the keys hard, but in a controlled way so that the sound comes out crisp and pure. I am using every muscle in my arms and my fingers to keep control but achieve the strong sound.”
“I think you should wait at least four weeks before you try anything like that. Wait a minute. Let me see if I can find a rubber ball around here.” The therapist, Mrs. Pritchard, rummaged around behind the counter and came up with a red rubber ball about the size of a baseball. “I know it looks silly, but squeeze this from time to time. It will strengthen your wrist and your fingers. But don’t overdo it initially. Just ten squeezes a day for the first three days, and then gradually increase it.” They agreed Marianne would come Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:30 for three weeks. Then the sessions would be cut to two in the fourth week and one session in the fifth week.
Back on the campus Marianne listened to Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto in the library. While walking back to her house she realized that with no sport in the afternoon and fifth and sixth periods free, she had plenty of time for homework. Marianne greeted her roommate with, “Look, no cast.” She pulled her arm out of the sling. “It doesn’t look very good. I think I’ll wear long sleeves for a few days.”
“The important thing is that your bones have healed properly. Your skin and your muscles will come back to normal before you know it.”
“I believe you. The problem with me is that every day that I don’t sit at a piano is a long, long day that just isn’t right.”
“When can you begin playing?”
“Light pieces, two weeks. Real pieces, probably four weeks.”
“Four weeks will be over before you know it.”
Marianne had her second physical therapy appointment on Wednesday. The therapist told her she was progressing on schedule and to keep up her light exercises. Afterwards, walking along Main Street on her way back to the campus she could see Mr. Paulson walking toward her. When they met Marianne said, “Hello, Sir.”
“Young lady, did I give you permission to go to town?”
“No. Dr. Myers did.”
“Dr. Myers? Why would he do that? He can’t.”
“I have physical therapy for my arm at the Town Center Clinic.”
“What form are you in?”
“Thursdays you may come to town without permission. On the other days you must have permission from me.”
“I have an appointment on Friday. May I ask permission now?”
“Yes, you may. What is your name?” He took out a pen and notepad.
“Ah, yes. Now it all comes back. You were one of the girls in the old school uniform, and you have been eating with Snodgrass and Odets, haven’t you?”
“Yes, but they don’t say much.”
“Don’t they? Do you plan to keep eating with them on Sunday nights?”
“Probably. Some people here think we have done a good thing sitting at what used to be an all boys’ table.”
“Do they? Sort of like finding a silver lining in a pig sty, I would say. Remember that some barriers are not worth breaking. There are more men than women in prison. I trust you would just as soon leave it that way.”
“I have another appointment on Monday. May I clear that one now?”
“No. Come and see me on Monday. It is a long time away.”
“A lot of things can happen in five days.”
“All right. See you on Monday, Mr. Paulson.”
“I shall look forward to it.”
On Saturday afternoon all the girls in Marsh House, but one, planned to go to the football game. Hobart was the opponent, and for the past ten years it was considered to be a must win game for everyone at Waterman. Eleven years earlier, after squeaking out a 14 to 13 victory, the Hobart school newspaper celebrated by publishing an editorial calling Waterman their favorite girls’ school. Since then, Hobart had not won a football game against Waterman, and they didn’t do much better in other sports. Some boys in the stands went overboard in their shouts in their attempt to avenge the insult. Opposing players with Irish or Italian names would be called Drunken Mick or Diddily Wop after fumbles or incomplete passes if the shouter thought he could get away with it. One year a boy set off a bunch of firecrackers under the visitor’s bleachers. He had made no attempt to do it surreptitiously and happily accepted his punishment of a term of probation and loss of a weekend away from school. Two years earlier a boy had donned a Richard Nixon mask and a clown suit, run up to the visitor’s bleachers and jumped around to the amusement of the crowd on both sides of the field. After half a minute he pulled out a cherry bomb, lit it, threw it under the bleachers and took off running toward the old Gym. All of the school’s special police, informally known as campus cops, eight sixth form boys chosen by Mr. Paulson and outfitted with the Navy’s “SP” shoulder identification, who were all on the Waterman side of the field, took off after the Nixon clown. However, they could not overcome his lead as he ran the length of the sports fields to the south and disappeared among the residences beyond. Before grace at lunch time, the headmaster reminded everyone that they should behave like ladies and gentlemen and always practice good sportsmanship.
Marianne had instinctively decided that she would not go to the game. She was not going any place where her arm might get bumped. Penny and Felicity, along with every other girl in the house, went. Back in her room, Marianne settled into the easy chair with her paperback copy of Heart of Darkness, the novel assigned to be read during the first two weeks of English. As she read, she could hear the cheers and the occasional roar of the fans in the distance. When she stood up and looked out her window, she could see the mass of spectators and the players on the field, but it was too far away to follow the action. A few minutes further along the crowd began a sustained roar that was not letting up. Marianne looked again and could see that the fans in both stands were on their feet, but the players on the field were just standing around. Then she saw it. Two gorillas were running away from the field toward her. When they reached Maple Street, one turned right and headed up the hill to the east. The other crossed the road and headed into the girls campus. He ran right by Marsh House, saw Marianne at the window and waved to her; she waved back. Following by a hundred yards were two campus cops who also noticed Marianne at her window when they reached it.
“Did you see him?” asked one.
“Do you know him? I saw him wave.”
The campus cops wore tweed jackets, ties and leather shoes. They knew it was pointless to continue the chase. “I wonder who they are?” asked one.
“It can’t be anybody on the cross-country team. They are warming up right now to run at half time,” replied the other.
The two turned and headed back to the football field. At the road they met up with the two who had chased the other gorilla up the hill. When the four stepped onto the grass beyond the north end zone, a cheer with much laughing went up from the crowd. When the crowd quieted, one of the trumpet players began to play “By Myself”, until the bandmaster told him to knock it off.
At the point the football clock reached two minutes left in the first half, the cross-country teams of the two schools set off on their runs. It began with a triangle pattern in the fields behind the old Gym, crossed the bridge to the Williams Ex and up into the playing fields and paths in the woods in the hills behind. Eventually the runners would emerge by the same route down the hill, recross the bridge and turn right for a final dash around the outer edge of the football field. The finish line was in front of the Waterman stands and behind the football teams’ benches at the fifty yard line. By the end of the race the football teams were in their locker rooms for half time.
When the runners came into view, a gorilla was running alongside a Hobart boy in the lead. Every so often the gorilla would jump up and click his heels together or stop and pound his chest. Again the crowd roared and laughed and a few boys taunted the campus cops with shouts of “Do your job” and “May I hold your coat”. A couple of the cops took off to intercept him as he came closer, but after crossing the bridge over the creek he had a fifty yard head start on them as he turned left and sped away toward the south.
Listening to the crowd, Marianne knew she was missing something. They sounded more like a circus audience than sports fans. At the game’s end, Waterman had won 28 to 0. The coach had held the score down by putting in the J.V. team on offense, their third string at varsity games, midway in the third quarter. The Hobart cross-country team also lost, and the boy who had been in the lead coming down the hill had been overtaken by two Waterman boys. The Hobart runner claimed he had been taunted by the gorilla who said he was one of the Waterman girls the Hobart boys liked so much and would he like to meet in the woods.
When Penny and Felicity returned they filled in the details for Marianne. “You should have seen the headmaster. He sat on the bench with the players. When the gorillas showed up he froze. He was really angry.”
“Which direction did they come from?”
“They evidently crept along the creek staying low. Nobody noticed them coming, and suddenly they were there on the Hobart side of the field jumping around and dancing a jig. At that point some of the campus cops were going around the south end zone. Hobart had the ball and they were going to pass, and the two gorillas ran onto the field with their arms spread out. The refs blew their whistles. A couple of players went after the gorillas, and the campus cops ran across the field after them. The gorillas took off and nobody caught them. Some of the boys in the stand were laughing so hard they had tears running down their faces.”
“One of the gorillas ran right by here. He waved at me.”
“Then two campus policemen came huffing and puffing and asked if I knew him.”
“This is where they gave up chasing him.”
“I can see the headmaster and the dean and couple of his brownnosers going down the list of all the boys to try to compile a list of suspects. I doubt if it will get them anywhere. All the obvious fast runners are on the football, soccer or cross-country teams,” said Penny.
“Maybe they’ll suspect you, you down the court basketball whiz,” Felicity said to Marianne.
“I have two campus cops who saw a gorilla wave to me. It will be hard to claim that I ran into the house and took the suit off real fast.”
“Pretty good alibi.”
That night Mr. Seaver used his chapel talk to tell everyone that there was nothing funny about interrupting the play of a game or taunting one’s opponents, even if the interrupter was dressed in a funny costume. This was terrible sportsmanship, and it reflected badly on the school. Everyone who had been laughing that afternoon dared not laugh now. A few bit their tongues to keep control. The headmaster went on to say that they all knew there was a history between the two schools, and somebody writing for Hobart’s school newspaper had started it, but that happened over ten years ago and it was time to turn the other cheek. People who want to feud and keep feuds going are only hurting themselves. He finished by asking that the two who did this prank to turn themselves in. An apology and a promise to practice good sportsmanship in the future would put an end to this matter. On the other hand, if no voluntary confession was forthcoming and the miscreants were identified through other methods, they could expect a harsh punishment.
Marianne and Penny spent much of Sunday studying. Felicity and Betty joined them for a walk of the big triangle. At supper the usual three girls went to the table with the not going to Yale bunch. M. Rucher was not present, and when Jennifer Sloan walked by and asked if there were any open seats, one of the boys said yes, and told her she was welcome to sit in the master’s seat.
“Actually, if somebody else would sit there and I could sit next to Penny, that is what I would really prefer.”
“You can’t be serious!” said Penny angrily.
“I am serious. I want to talk to you.”
“And why do you think I want to talk to you?”
“I want to talk about the past, and I want to apologize.”
“Fine. Apology accepted. Now go eat someplace else.”
At that moment the dong sounded and all conversation ceased. When grace had been said and everyone in the hall was seating themselves, Penny said, “If you have to sit at this table go sit in Rucher’s chair. And while you are there, act just like him and don’t say a word.”
Jennifer hesitated for a moment and said, “I guess this was a mistake. I’ll find another table.”
Penny was stunned into silence for the rest of the meal. Sensing their friend’s strain, Marianne and Felicity said little as well. The gloom of the three girls carried over to the boys. Later, when leaving the dining hall, Phil Whitman said to Dave Jenkins, “I think we just learned why some men don’t want women to join their clubs.”
“Yeah. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again, or we may all be finding another table.”
After Monday’s lunch Marianne left the dining hall to find the line to the sanctum forming a snake around the Post House common room. Over thirty boys were ahead of her, and it was not long before another dozen joined the line. The boy immediately ahead asked if she was in trouble because of the football game. When told of her reason for being there, he told her she had picked the wrong day to go downtown. Marianne asked what he had done to receive his sanctum slip. “I cheered for the gorillas.”
“That sounds harmless.”
“I thought so.”
At that moment one of the campus cops, Donald Foster, walked out of the dining hall and a roar went up from the boys in line. Mr. Paulson came running out of his office. He saw Foster and realized the reason for what had happened. “Any more outbursts like that and I will add an hour to everyone’s punishment.” Word from those who had gone in at the beginning was that he was handing out two hours for cheering or laughing at the gorillas and five hours for more serious offenses such as yelling taunts and refusing to calm down after being warned.
“Does this mean no girls cheered the gorillas?” Marianne asked the boy in front of her.
“Sure they did. But the cops are under orders to go easy on the girls. The thinking is that girls wouldn’t misbehave at a game unless boys led them into it."
“Ah, yes. Girls never misbehave unless some boy leads them into it. We are such gullible little creatures.”
“Gee, would you like to misbehave with me?”
“Not today, sonny.”
“Perhaps some other time.”
“Right. I’ll call you.”
As most of the punishments were automatic in the mind of the dean, he could have moved the boys through his office at a rate of three or four per minute, but he never gave a punishment without adding his personal thoughts and feelings. Sentences such as, “I saw you (two) (three) (four) (many) times last year. I hope I don’t see you again this year.” “This is a childish way to behave. It is time you acted your age. If you really do want to be ready for college when you are eighteen, you are going to have to start behaving as an adult instead of a thirteen year old.” Sometimes the boys would utter a simple, “Yes, sir.” Other times they would want to talk a little –either promising to do better in the future or to give what they felt were mitigating reasons for their present appearance. Whatever it was, from the point of view of those in the line behind, it just made their time standing there longer. For the few boys Mr. Paulson had grown to genuinely dislike, he usually finished off with, “I’m thoroughly disgusted with you.” One boy on hearing that after receiving five hours replied, “I’m not so pleased with you, either.” “What! Get out of here, goddamnit, and if I see you in here again, you will go straight to the headmaster.”
When Marianne’s turn finally came, Mr. Paulson said, “Yes, Marianne Fallbrook, I noticed you had supper with Clifford Odets again.”
“Yes, some of the boys felt he was there in spirit.”
“Genuine wits, those boys.”
Marianne said nothing. The dean continued, “I have been told that you were in your room at Marsh House when one of the fools in a gorilla suit ran by.”
“I’ve also been told that you are a very good athlete.”
“So you are a good athlete who did not go to the football game.”
“I did not want to risk any damage to my arm.”
“Where is the risk to your arm if you are just a spectator?”
“Getting bumped. Tripping over people or objects. Having a foot plank come loose or break in the stands.”
“That sounds rather timid, but I suppose I have to accept it. So we have a good athlete who doesn’t go to the game, a fool in a gorilla suit who is pursued into the girl’s campus and disappears, and when the chasing policemen arrive see only the good athlete. Any chance the gorilla and the athlete who did not go to the game are one and the same?”
“Did your campus policeman mention whether or not I was sweating or panting?”
“I asked a yes or no question, Miss Fallbrook.”
“Has it occurred to you that if I deliberately avoid crowds and bleachers, I would not run over uneven ground?”
“No, that did not occur to me. Now please answer the question.”
“Very well. I’m sorry if you are offended, but I have to pursue this. The perpetrator did disappear just as you appeared.”
“By the time the policemen got to me in their leather loafers, the gorilla must have had a hundred yard lead.”
“And that is why I have to wonder if the gorilla went in the north entrance of Marsh House and acted as if she had been there the whole time.”
“Did your campus cops tell you that the gorilla waved to me as he ran by?”
“They saw him wave, but they were too far behind to see anyone behind the windows. They assumed he waved to you when they got close enough to see you. So yes, they saw him wave, but they did not really see to whom he was waving, if anyone.”
“I have been here a week and a half. I knew no one at Waterman before I got here. I never heard of Hobart until I saw the sports schedule. And where the hell would I get a gorilla suit? Theatrical costumes seem more your line.”
“Easy does it, Miss Fallbrook.”
“Do I have permission to go into town?”
“I am going to be late for my appointment.”
“You should have gotten into line earlier.”
“How can I do that when my table has not been excused?”
“That is not my affair.”
That attitude angered Marianne more than being cross-examined about the gorilla. “Being late around here is a very big deal, but as far as the rest of the world, no big deal.”
“Easy does it, Miss Fallbrook.”
“Now I know why those boys keep going with Odets and Snodgrass.”
“Not another word.”
“Shutting me up doesn’t mean I am wrong.”
“Get out before I give you hours.”
Marianne left in a rage through the north door which was the exit door. The next three boys waiting in line at the south door had heard everything. It was now 2:25 and her appointment at the clinic was 2:30. There was no time to go back to her room which was in the opposite direction from the center of town. She thought of leaving her books on a window sill in the Post House common room, something that supposedly was not allowed but often done during mealtimes, but was afraid Mr. Paulson would see them and make some more trouble. She walked across the connecting vestibule to the library, found Miss Nelson and asked if she could leave her textbooks somewhere. Miss Nelson replied, “Of course. Put them on the table in my office.” With a “Thanks,” and the promise to be back within two hours, Marianne set off to town. She arrived at ten to three to find a perturbed therapist. Mrs. Pritchard started to read Marianne the riot act about being on time if she wanted her full hour of therapy. Marianne raised her hand and declared, “Hold it. If you want to complain to someone call our school’s dean of students, Mr. Paulson.”
“Why would I call him? He’s not late.”
“All right. Don’t. Just be quiet and do your job, then.”
“Who do you think you are talking to?”
“Someone who is receiving a fee for service. Provide the service.”
“Now I will call Mr. Paulson. And Dr. Myers, too.”
At exactly 3:30 the therapist announced the session was over and added, “Your father will be billed for the full hour.”
“That’s fine. And please cancel all of my future appointments.”
“That’s a foolish thing to do.”
“Maybe. Do you want your rubber ball back?”
Back at the library Marianne listened to what she thought of as her comfort music: Rachmaninoff’s Preludes Opus 23. She had learned them all before she was ten and before she was ever allowed to hear them on a recording. The past week with no piano was the first time since she began playing at the age of four that she had gone so long without sitting in front of the keyboard. And then this bizarre school she had landed in. Boys used to come here and put up with men like Mr. Paulson because it was the way into Yale and Harvard. And now girls were here and putting up with this even though their way into good schools was easier than ever with some of the top men’s colleges going coed.
Back in their room Marianne told Penny the story of her afternoon. Penny was outraged. “It’s time that old ham retired. I could say something to my mother. She’s one alum who gave Faith Martin something every year. And she wishes the merger had not been necessary. She’ll stick up for you, and they will at least have to listen to her.”
“I’m not going to worry about it. We know I’m not a gorilla. What happens if he gives you hours and you don’t do them?”
“After two weeks he doubles them.”
“And you still don’t do them.”
“I don’t know. I suppose eventually he has to forget about them or send you to the headmaster. Five turns into a big number after a few doublings.”
“If he ever gives me hours, I may just see what happens.”
On the way into dinner that night, Dr. Myers intercepted Marianne at the door. “What happened this afternoon?”
Marianne told him the whole story beginning with meeting Mr. Paulson on the street on Wednesday.
“He said I don’t have the authority to send students into town for medical appointments?”
“That’s what he told me.”
“I’ll get that straightened out. Meanwhile, I think you should continue with the physical therapy.”
“When Mrs. Pritchard called me, I convinced her to leave the appointments in place. Continue like nothing happened.”
At dinner one of the boys at her table said to Marianne, “There’s a story going around that Mr. Paulson thinks you might be one of the gorillas.”
“I’ve heard that, too."
“Why don’t you ask Mr. Paulson?”
“What are you talking about?” asked Mr. Braddock.
“Did you go to the football game Saturday?” asked the boy.
“Yes,” said Mr. Braddock.
“Did you see the gorillas?”
“Certainly. They couldn’t be missed. That was disgraceful.”
“Mr. Paulson thinks Marianne might be one of them.”
“Why would he think that?”
“Marianne, why would he think that,” said the boy.
“Ask Mr. Paulson.”
“Did you go to the football game?”
“Oh well, then. That is very suspicious in itself,” said the boy. “No school spirit. Why it could even be an incipient case of negative attitude.”
Marianne did not know what to make of such humor. She kept her face in a deadpan and said nothing.
“Negative attitude is what they kick you out for when they want you gone but you really haven’t broken any major rules.”
“I think it’s great that a girl is pulling one of the stunts that the boys are always doing around here. It’s really wonderful,” said one of the girls.
“Not so fast,” said Marianne. “This whole thing is preposterous.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Mr. Braddock.
“Ask Mr. Paulson.”
“That is not much of an answer.”
“It certainly is. He is the one who has made me a suspect. Go ask him how he came up with this stupid idea.”
“You should not refer to a master as stupid,” said Mr. Braddock.”
“I was referring to his idea as stupid, but I can see how one might put two and two together.”
“Watch it, young lady.”
That Monday night Mr. Seaver, Mr. Paulson, the head of the honor committee and three campus policemen met and went down the list of students. They were determined to come up with a short list of suspects. First they eliminated the football and cross-country teams, members of the band, the cheerleaders, and anyone the campus cops had turned in for bad behavior to the dean. Next, believing the gorillas were at least five feet eight inches in height and probably taller, they eliminated everyone they believed to be shorter. That dispensed with almost the entire third form and over ninety percent of the girls. Next they crossed off anyone who was over six-three. Next they went down the list crossing off the fat, the asthmatics, a boy who had suffered childhood polio who now walked normally but couldn’t run, and whose story only a few masters and Dr. Meyers knew, and a boy with one leg who also walked normally with his prosthesis but could not run. Four girls were crossed off as having no athletic ability and no possibility of being sustained fast runners. The list was now down to fifteen boys and three girls. Next the head of the honor committee and the two campus cops were asked if they had seen any of the eighteen in the stands. The headmaster, as was his custom, had sat on the bench with the team and had little idea of who came to the game and who did not. The dean came for the opening kickoff to see that his policemen were all in place, but quickly left so that he would not be in the position of having to deal with any miscreants on the spot and make a bad impression on any parents or prospective students who came to the game. The three boys went over each name. Some of the names they could not put a face to, but they did decide that two of the boys on the short list had been at the game. With their winnowed list of sixteen, the six felt they had done a good night’s work. The headmaster and the dean agreed that the sixteen would be notified to see the dean after lunch on Tuesday. Mr. Paulson wrote up the slips for deposit into the respective mailboxes.
The next day Marianne again stood in line outside the sanctum. The boy behind introduced himself as Stanley Hutton, and Marianne told him her name. “I received this slip to see the dean, and I have no idea why,” he said.
“It might have to do with the gorillas at the football game.”
“Really! Right! Now I get it. You are the Marianne everyone in the school is talking about.”
“That I am. And all I wanted was to keep a low profile this term.”
“This is a funny place. Why did you come here?”
“I wanted to get away from home.”
“I came because my father really believes in prep schools. He went to Andover. He thinks there is nothing better. So I came to Waterman, but I can’t say that I am finding the experience anything special.”
“This place is different. I’m not sure it is different in a good way. It is just different,” said Marianne quietly.
“So why would they think I might have something to do with the gorillas?” asked the boy.
“Are you a fast runner?”
“Were you at the football game?”
“No, I was playing tennis.”
“Then you will have your tennis partner as a witness.”
“Right. Where were you?”
“Alone in my room.”
When Marianne entered the sanctum, Stanley wished her “Good Luck.”
“Nice to see you, Miss Fallbrook. We have narrowed the possible gorilla suit comedians down to a small number, and you are one of them. If you were one of the perpetrators, this is your last chance to confess and apologize without major penalty. If I don’t have any confessions this afternoon, the headmaster will speak about it again at chapel tonight and after that all bets are off.” He paused as if he expected Marianne to say something. On hearing nothing, he asked, “Do you have anything to say?”
“It may interest you to know that one of the benefits of going to Yale and putting on plays here for over thirty years is that I know every theatrical costume shop from Boston to New York. I am even acquainted with some of the proprietors. I called one today who told me a teenage boy had bought two gorilla suits about two weeks ago. He paid with cash. The suits were over a hundred dollars each. He doesn’t have a name, but he was struck by a teenager putting that much cash down without hesitation, and he says he remembers his face quite clearly. I am going to drive down with some pictures tomorrow, and I believe that will put an end to the matter. Now do have anything you would like to say?”
“O.K. Let’s go over your whereabouts. Where were you during the game?”
“In my room.”
“For the whole game?”
“I went to the bathroom once.”
“Was anyone ever in your room with you during the game?”
“Anyone see you go to the bathroom.”
“Was Miss Earnshaw or Miss Godowski or Miss Vincent in the house during the game?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was anyone else in the house during the game?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t hear anyone.”
“You are not being much help.”
“I am telling you the truth.”
“It looks like it is safe to say that you did not buy the gorilla suits, but that doesn’t mean you did not wear one of them.”
“In your theatrical career did you ever play a Keystone Cop?”
“Easy does it, Miss Fallbrook. You are on very thin ice.”
“Maybe Officer Krupke in West Side Story?”
“Insulting me can only do you harm.”
“Twelve days ago I flew from San Francisco to New York with three suitcases, a duffel bag and my arm in a cast. I can assure you there was no gorilla suit in any of my bags or hidden up the cast on my arm.”
“Up to there I have no quarrel with what you say.”
“I spent that Thursday night in New Rochelle. My aunt drove me here on Friday. I arrived here not knowing a soul at this school, and I had never heard of the Hobart School.”
“That is all very well, but we are forced to try to solve this by a process of elimination, and unfortunately for you, you are not yet eliminated. One more thing. Your cast came off over a week ago, but you are now wearing a sling. Why is that?”
“To remind myself not to do anything that might strain my arm.”
“I hope you are not wearing it just to try to throw me off the track. You are making a big mistake if you think I might be fooled by such a ploy.”
“Whatever I think of you, when this is over you are going to owe me an apology.”
“I won’t owe you a thing. I have a duty, and I am performing it. That is a part of life you have evidently not yet learned, and I hope this school will teach you.”
“Your performance of your duty leaves a lot to be desired.”
“How dare you. Get out!”
Marianne left and Stan Hutton entered. He had heard everything that passed between Mr. Paulson and Marianne and his opinion of prep schools had dropped a little more.
Marianne walked the short distance to the library where she found a record of Brahms Fourth Symphony conducted by Anton Josef. She remembered the maestro’s indifference to her the first time they met. Later he was much warmer, but she had never been able to genuinely warm up to him. She knew that she could have played well with him if that had been what she wanted, but it never had been.
Back at the room Marianne told Penny about her session with Mr. Paulson and her meeting Stan Hutton in the sanctum line.
“Stan Hutton! I didn’t know he came here. Do you know who he is?”
“Somebody who came here because his father likes prep schools.”
“If he’s the same Stan Hutton, he’s a top tennis player. He is the best teen-age tennis player in Massachusetts. He wins all his tournaments. He should play at Forest Hills next year.”
“He said he was playing tennis during the football game.”
“If he was playing with someone who could give him a match, it would be more fun to watch than a lopsided football game.”
“At least his tennis partner is his alibi.”
“Anyway, the gorillas have made you famous. I had girls at soccer practice today asking about you.”
“What did you say?”
“That you are a very fast runner.”
At chapel that night the headmaster gave a talk about how disappointed he was that the perpetrators would not own up to what they had done. Interfering with a sports event and taunting the visiting players and spectators was very bad behavior. Some may have found it funny at the time, and by itself the novelty of a person jumping and running around in a gorilla suit could be funny at the proper time and place, but there was nothing funny about this. The headmaster was confident the miscreants would soon be caught. The list of suspects was now a small one.
Through the talk Marianne sat with a deadpan expression and kept her eyes directly on the headmaster. In her case, he and his dean were the ones in the wrong and she was not going to give him an ounce of a hint that he might be on the right track. Like any experienced speaker, he could gauge the mood of his audience. Most of the students had, for the moment, bought into his argument and were feeling guilty at laughing when the game was disrupted and laughing and jeering at the campus cops when they gave chase. But he did not know what to make of Marianne’s stern unblinking gaze, and when he caught sight of Stan Hutton, he saw that the boy appeared to be reading something and paying no attention whatsoever.
At dinner that night one of the boys, Harry Brubaker, asked, “Everybody is wondering. Did you do it?”
“Ah, the subject that never goes away. As I have said in the past, ask Mr. Paulson.”
“You could answer with a yes or no.”
“I could, but at the moment I don’t see why I should.”
A sixth former named Jim Spurlock, interjected, “This is a serious matter for the school. Your smart remarks are no help.”
“I’m sorry. Are you Mr. Paulson’s boy in waiting?”
“Don’t take that attitude with me. I can give you hours, you know.”
“I guess I better be quiet then.”
“Better than that, you could answer the question.”
“I have answered every question Mr. Paulson put to me. Who the hell do you think you are to act like you have the right to question me about this, or the right to an answer?”
“I should give you hours for saying hell at the dinner table, but I have a feeling you will be gone before you have a chance to do them.”
“How soon will I be gone?”
“Where do you live?”
“You will be gone before lunch on Saturday. I have to give you an extra day or two to make travel arrangements.”
“How much do you want to bet?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Five hundred dollars.”
“Wait a minute. Don’t be funny.”
“You said whatever I want.”
“Where are you going to get five hundred dollars?”
“I have it in a bank account. I’ll put up a check made out to cash.”
“I would rather see the actual cash.”
“Do you have five hundred in cash?”
“Of course not.”
“How much do you want to bet?”
“Not so sure of yourself all of a sudden.”
“You are the one who wanted to bet. I was just stating a fact.”
“You may think you know something, but I can assure you that your so-called fact is pure baloney. Anyway, here is my ten dollars. Perhaps, Mr. Braddock would like to hold the bets.”
“I don’t have ten dollars on me.”
“Mr. Big Timer.”
“O.K., this has gone far enough,” said Mr. Braddock. “There will be no bets for money at this table. Let’s change the subject.” The master had let the conversation run as long as it had, because he hoped to learn something new. With the incidents and situations that came up from time to time and seemed so large in the life of the school, lower ranking faculty members were usually the last to know the real facts, if indeed, they ever found out anything. Here was a boy telling a girl in no uncertain terms that she was about to be suspended or expelled, and the girl seemed quite certain that she had nothing to worry about. Whatever was going on, Mr. Braddock had no idea. Maybe he would say something at the faculty meeting that night.
Mr. Paulson relished the thought of the impending faculty meeting. He was convinced he had solved the mystery. Only two students did not have alibis: Roger Hoffmeyer and Marianne Fallbrook. Both had said they spent the football game in their respective rooms and no one had seen them. Actually, Hoffmeyer had gone into town to see The Sting at the local movie theater. As only sixth formers were allowed to patronize the town’s one commercial theater, he would be in trouble for that if he told the truth. He still had the ticket stub, and he did buy popcorn, so somebody might remember him, but he had decided to go all the way with his story of staying in his room. Now that he had told an untruth, he would be in trouble for lying as well as movie going if he changed his story.
The reason Jim Spurlock had been so certain of Marianne’s imminent departure was that Mr. Paulson had told the three campus cops who had helped in narrowing the student body list the night before that the list was now down to two. “Can you tell us the suspects?” asked Gordon Brill.
“I don’t want to mention any names, but one of them is a new girl who thinks she is awfully clever.” As the only new girl on the list was Marianne, the boys knew instantly who Mr. Paulson meant. Spurlock was Brill’s roommate and he had told him the news during the study period before chapel, with the stipulation that he keep it to himself. Marianne’s intransigent attitude had brought out Spurlock’s tendency toward self-importance and his desire to be seen as something more than the goof many people perceived him to be.
After dinner Mr. Paulson walked out of the dining hall into the Post House common room and saw two textbooks lying on a window sill that he had noticed in the afternoon. At that moment Stan Hutton walked over, picked them up and began to leave. “Mr. Hutton. At this school we do not leave our belongings lying around common rooms. You are not at home where your mother or your maid straightens up for you. I do not want to see that again.”
“I put them down there before going in to see you after lunch. I forgot them when I came out.”
“So they have been there since before two. That is even worse.” Hutton looked at the master without saying anything. Finally Mr. Paulson said, “Don’t do it again,” and turned to walk away.
“You’ve got that right.”
The master turned back sharply. “What did you say?”
“I said, ‘You’ve got that right’.”
“I don’t know what’s going on this year, but too many students are being rude and flippant. Just because our country is in an unpopular war and our relationship with Yale has changed does not mean that you leave your manners at home. I could discipline you for this, you know.”
“I should have left myself at home, and that is where I’m going. Discipline me all you want.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I am going to pack up and get out of here.”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Seeing you once a day ruins the day. Seeing you twice in a day is enough for a lifetime.”
“Before you do anything foolish, please talk to Mr. Seaver.”
“I’ll be in my room packing. There’s an 8:45 train to New Haven and a 9:25 from there to Boston. I intend to catch them. And don’t bother calling my father. I’m almost as pissed off at him as I am at you.”
Mr. Paulson hustled off to find the headmaster in the faculty lounge having a cup of coffee before the regular Tuesday night faculty meeting that was to begin at 7:30. He told him what happened. “Where is his room?”
“Right upstairs. Room 312.” The faculty lounge was in the basement of the west end of the library. The top floor of the building was a dormitory.
“You better go alone. He has had enough of me.”
The head told the assistant headmaster, Mr. Wainwright, to start the meeting on time. When Mr. Seaver found Stanley Hutton, the boy had an open suitcase on his bed, and he was filling it up. His roommate sat at his desk in wide-eyed amazement.
“Stanley, let’s talk about this before you do anything rash.”
“I have a train to catch.”
“I’ll drive you to the train, but please, let’s talk first.”
“Fine, but I am leaving.”
“Why do you want to do this?”
“This type of school is not for me. My father believes in prep schools and that’s why I came, but it’s too intense. It seems like you never have more than ten minutes to yourself around here.”
“There is some truth to that, although Saturday afternoons and Sunday are fairly free. We do it that way to prepare everyone for a good college and life beyond college. Anyone who achieves anything meaningful in life usually does it under some sort of pressure.”
“My life is going to be tennis, and I play my best when I am not distracted by a bunch of chickenshit.”
“What do you consider chickenshit?”
“Today I was called in by Mr. Paulson because he thought I might be one of the clowns in a gorilla suit. I spent over half an hour standing in line waiting to see him. He went fairly easy on me because I had been playing tennis during the football game and obviously had some witnesses, but you should have seen the way he went after Marianne, the girl everyone thinks must have done it. And to top it all off, I put my books down on a windowsill in the common room because I wasn’t going to hang on to them while waiting in Mr. Paulson’s line. When I picked them up just now he gave me a load of you know what about that. Enough! I’ve had it.”
“What did Mr. Paulson say to Marianne?”
“He went after her very aggressively. He obviously thinks she did it. After a while she let him have it right back. He finished up by saying, ‘How dare you. Get out.’”
“It is not easy for the man who hands out punishment to wrong doers to always be pleasant. How did Marianne react to that?”
“She showed no emotion I could see. She is a very cool customer.”
“You might be interested to know that she is as good at her sport as you are at yours.”
“That’s unusual. She is tall for a girl. Are you going to kick her out if she is one of the gorillas?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I doubt she was one of them, just as I doubted you or any other new student was one of them, because that is the kind of prank indulged in by someone who has been here longer than a week. However, we decided to try to figure out who did it by a process of elimination. To run a good school, there are times when you have to treat everyone alike.”
“I have nothing against you, Mr. Seaver, but this place is not for me. Are you really going to drive me to the station?”
“I’ll ask one more thing. Don’t leave tonight. Sleep on it, and if you still want to go in the morning, I’ll have you at the station by nine. Besides, if you leave now, you will not get to Boston before midnight. It wouldn’t be easy on your parents walking in at one in the morning.”
“Fine. I’ll sleep on it. But I won’t feel any differently tomorrow.”
“You should call your parents right now and let them know what is going on. If either of them wants to talk to me, they can call after nine tonight. I will be in the faculty meeting until then.”
“I take it that I have your permission to be out of my room during the sacred study hour.”
The two of them walked down the stairs to the basement. Hutton stopped at the pay phone at the front. Mr. Seaver walked to the faculty lounge at the rear.
Without the headmaster’s authority to keep the meeting running smoothly, it had quickly gotten out of hand and the women of the faculty were giving the assistant headmaster and the dean an earful. It had begun with Mr. Paulson making a brief report on how the list of suspects in the gorilla matter had been narrowed considerably, and there was a very good chance that he would receive information tomorrow that would settle the matter. Mr. Braddock, a man who rarely had anything to say, told of the conversation at his table that evening between Jim Spurlock and Marianne, including Marianne’s willingness to make a bet of five hundred dollars. He asked why a sixth former had information that Mr. Paulson was not willing to share with the faculty. More shocked at who asked the question than the question itself, as the dean had long regarded the math teacher as a time-serving non-entity, he brushed him off by telling him the details of the matter would be forthcoming when everything was wrapped up.
With that Miss Byerly, Marianne’s history teacher, jumped to her feet and declared that was not good enough. “I know Marianne to be a quiet, thoughtful girl who is always polite. She also treats her right arm like it is worth its weight in gold. She is still wearing a sling. The idea that she was jumping around in a gorilla suit on a football field waving her arms where somebody might have tackled her is beyond belief. If you really know something, it is time you let us know.”
“I will know a lot more tomorrow.”
Miss Nelson stood up to add that she knew Marianne as a quiet girl who listened to classical music that had not been pulled off the shelf in years, and who seemed to have a depth to her not usually found in sixteen year olds. She added that since the cast had come off her arm, Marianne always wore the sling.
“Please bear with me one more day,” Mr. Paulson uttered in a much more humble tone than before. Miss Nelson was the one woman faculty member who had not moved over from Faith Martin. She had presided over the Waterman library for over twenty years and had built it into what was considered one of the best secondary school libraries in the country. She was well known in her profession and one of the faculty members Mr. Paulson dare not dismiss out of hand. Miss Nelson nodded slightly to his plea and said nothing.
Sensing weakness and boiling inside at what she had heard, the aptly named Miss Storm, a teacher of German and Russian and the girls’ varsity soccer coach, let go in a shout. “I always thought it was a mistake to have you in charge of girls’ discipline, and now I am sure of it. You no more know what you‘re doing than a street-corner rummy.”
Mr. Wainwright interjected, “Please, keep calm, and no personal insults.”
Miss Storm looked at him with annoyance and continued, “This school needs a woman to be girls’ dean. You and your coterie of sycophantic sixth formers are just a bunch of buffoons. And that’s not an insult, that’s a fact.” With that a roar went up at the precise moment Mr. Seaver entered the room. The agitated Miss Storm looked at the headmaster with a scowl on her face and abruptly sat down.
“It appears that I have missed something. Out in the hall I did hear ‘sycophantic sixth formers’ and ‘bunch of buffoons’. Would you care to elaborate Miss Storm?”
“You have not heard what Mr. Braddock said took place at his table tonight. Let me just say that I think the pressure being put on this girl, Marianne, I don’t even know her last name, is disgraceful. I think that sixth formers being told about student discipline matters while the faculty is left in the dark is disgraceful. I think Mr. Paulson is unfit and unqualified to be in charge of girl’s discipline. And if you want my opinion about whether or not he is qualified to be in charge of boy’s discipline, I will be happy to give you that too.” She sat down. With the headmaster present, no one uttered a peep.
Mr. Seaver then asked Mr. Braddock to tell his story again. The head now realized he had to give more information or the strain between the women and Mr. Paulson might become permanent. He described the meeting with the dean and the four sixth formers and the process of elimination. He told how Marianne had no witnesses and was seen shortly after one of the gorillas had disappeared from view. He went on to say that they had a lead as to where the gorilla suits had been purchased, and Mr. Paulson would be investigating it tomorrow. It was hoped that would solve it, but if it did not, they would leave it at that. There was always the chance that someone not from Waterman had done the prank.
The headmaster went on to tell everyone that Stanley Hutton was not happy at the school and would probably go home in the morning. Mr. Wellman, history teacher and patrician tennis coach, let out a groan. Miss Storm stood up, “I think you and everyone else should know that I saw Mr. Paulson giving Stanley Hutton a hard time in the Post House common room tonight.”
“What do you mean by a ‘hard time’?” asked the headmaster.
“The boy had committed the unthinkable crime of leaving two books on a windowsill, and Mr. Paulson, in his theatrical manner, was quite nasty about it.”
“Thank you.” The headmaster went on to other subjects.
After the meeting had finished, Miss Stiles warned Miss Storm that Mr. Seaver had his limits and she should go easier. “I know,” she replied. “I won’t utter another word at these meetings for the rest of the year.”
The next morning Stanley Hutton’s mother arrived to pick him up before eight o’clock. A few students saw him loading his belongings into the car. “Gee, Stanley, did you get kicked out?” a third former asked.
“No. I want out of here. Boarding school isn’t for me.”
“You weren’t one of the gorillas, were you?”
“No. I was playing tennis during the football game.”
Gradually the story of Stanley Hutton’s run in with Mr. Paulson and his quick voluntary exit made its way around the school. Many boys were laughing up their sleeves that Mr. Paulson had cost the school the best tennis player who had ever enrolled.
At nine o’clock on the same morning, Mr. Paulson left for Harrison’s costume shop in New Haven with the pictures of thirteen Waterman boys and three girls. Carefully going through them one by one, Mr. Harrison declared that he did not recognize any of them. Mr. Paulson pulled Roger Hoffmeyer’s picture from the pile and asked him to take a second look. No, Mr. Harrison was sure that he had not seen that face before. If he again saw the boy who bought the two gorilla costumes, he would remember him, and none of these were the one, he flatly declared. And he had never seen any of the girls, either.
A bit stunned and most unhappy, Mr. Paulson drove over to the Yale Co-op. He browsed the books briefly, but knew he was in no mood to read something new and retain it. He bought a cup of coffee, and looked blankly into the distance as he sat at a table and slowly drank it.
Back at the school, Mr. Paulson told the Headmaster about his trip to Harrison’s shop. “Obviously, our process of elimination did not work too well,” said Mr. Seaver. “Let’s let the whole thing drop. Whoever did it outfoxed us.”
“Yes, we are at a dead end. But I am worried that if we stop looking, that in itself will embolden these characters to do it again.”
“Maybe so. Let’s hope we can catch them in the act. By the way, Dr. Meyers talked to me and said Marianne was late to a physical therapy appointment because she spent forty minutes in the Monday line outside your office. We have agreed that when he sends anyone into town for medical reasons, he will call you or leave you a note by dinner time.”
“Do you know the therapist was angry at Marianne for being late and she snapped right back at the therapist that she would not be coming any more. We may be lucky we haven’t had two top athletes walk out on us this week.”
“If Marianne Fallbrook does anything that warrants discipline, send her and the details to me. We need to let this business cool down. Not only is she upset, all the women faculty are siding with her. Even Miss Nelson is unhappy.”
“And I hope you are not holding the matter of wearing the Faith Martin uniform and you not recognizing it against her. I found out that Marianne and her roommate did that to annoy one of the other girls in their house. It had nothing to do with Waterman, or unhappiness with the merger or making you look bad. One of their friends in Marsh House told Miss Earnshaw that the girls had done it as a gesture to annoy Ruth Larkin, because Ruth used to bully Penny Scott in the third form when Penny wore the uniform. Miss Earnshaw told that to me this morning.”
“Yes, Headmaster. I admit that I am still feeling my way where the girls are concerned. In my defense I will say that Marianne spoke to me in a way that would have meant some hours if a boy had done it, but I refrained given the potentially much larger trouble she was in.”
“Plus we are not going to send anyone out to rake leaves one handed.”
“Yes, that too.”
“Some of the women are calling for a separate dean for the girls. I would rather not do that. It would just be more administrative overhead, and both deans would probably have to teach part time to pay for it. Plus girls don’t get into trouble as often as boys.”
“I see one girl for about every nine or ten boys.”
“Yes, so we don’t want to do that. I don’t think Marianne’s name will come up again. Miss Earnshaw says she is very quiet in the house. She is polite to everyone and never leaves her room except to use the bathroom. When the other girls are visiting with each other during free time and hanging around the common room, she remains in her room and a couple of girls come to visit her. It is really unfortunate that her quiet retiring personality was a factor in making her a suspect.”
“Yes, I agree, Headmaster.”
After the dean had left, the headmaster thought about the talk of abolishing the mandatory retirement age of sixty-five by the board of trustees. There was even the possibility of state and federal laws being passed to restrict mandatory retirement ages. But Mr. Seaver knew that he would have had enough of working with teenagers by the time he was sixty five, and he believed that to be true with most men and women.
On the following Saturday at lunch, after a few days of doing her best to say nothing at meals, Marianne piped up and said to Jim Spurlock, “But for Mr. Braddock having said ‘no bets’, you would owe me either ten or five hundred dollars right now. You were so sure of yourself, I thought I was going to make some money.”
“I guess Mr. Braddock saved me. I have since heard that you are a good athlete, and we all know that good athletes never get kicked out of this school unless they are caught in the act of smoking or drinking.”
“I don’t do either.”
“Are you a good athlete?”
“Compared to whom?”
“Everybody at this school.”
“Better than some, I suppose.”
“What sports do you play?”
“Shuffleboard and lawn bowling.”
Copyright © 2017 by Eric Schaefer