An Excerpt of The Unmarriable Kind
An excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Unmarriable Kind by Melina Druga
“You wish to speak to me, sir?”
Pen in hand, Steward sat behind his neatly organized desk and glanced up when he heard her voice.
“Yes, I do,” he said, setting his pen on the stand beside the inkwell.
Lucretia advanced into the room and stood in front of him, light from the midmorning sun casting honey gold rays on his polished desktop. When this was Mr. Greenlee’s office last term, he chronically left papers strew across the desk and a drawer or two permanently left open, while fingerprints bedecked the nearby windows. Steward definitely took “cleanliness is next to godliness” to heart. She swallowed, knowing this marked differences in personalities would be to her detriment.
She folded her hands at her waist and waited, the table clock’s ticking causing her to flinch with each passing second.
“Sir,” she said, no longer able to keep quiet when the minute hand ticked to the next position.
“Why are you so resistant to change?” he said, eyes full of fire. “Why must you fight me at every turn?”
“Fight you?” Lucretia’s temperature rose. “You weren’t supposed to overhear what you did.”
“That makes it even worse. You’re gossiping behind my back.”
She kept her head high. “Not gossiping. Expressing my opinion.”
Steward sat back, his chair letting out an ear-piercing squeak. “Which brings me back to my original question. Why are you so resistant to change? And don’t say because it is ridiculous. That explains nothing.”
“It explains everything.”
She resisted the urge to smile. “Families pay to send their children here. They expect a certain curriculum that we must provide or risk them enrolling their children elsewhere.”
“Why must we provide it?” he said, dashing her expectations that he would readily agree.
“A classical education.”
“Yes, a classical education. There are merits. It is important.” He spread his palms across his desk. “But wouldn’t you agree the world is changing? Is life today, in 1884, the same as it was in 1864 or 1844 or even as recently as 1874?”
Her chest tightened. “Well, no.”
“Exactly. No. As I have said multiple times since taking at this post, the world is quickly changing our lives. Education must evolve as well or our students will remain stuck in the past.”
She rested her fingertips on the desk and leaned forward. “Perhaps, but parents don’t evolve as quickly as industry. You cannot make such drastic changes and expect everyone to accept them without question. I can hear it now. Parents will wonder why girls must learn mathematics when the only figures they’ll ever do is in a housekeeper’s accounting book.”
“The majority of the boys will never use mathematics in their ordinary lives either, yet we teach it to them. You clearly are an educated woman. Do you believe your brain is so feeble it cannot grasp simple facts?”
She straightened her shoulders. “Of course not.”
“Then stop allowing parents to use that excuse for not educating the sexes equally.”
“Equally?” She thought she might faint. “But women are not equal. We cannot vote. We cannot own property. We cannot divorce and keep our own children.”
“I believe society will change along with technology if we are patient,” he said, eyeing her intently. “Things will never change if we do not try.”
She lifted a finger. “If parents do not like it, don’t say you have not been warned.”