Clarice had never been so challenged, so stumped, so daunted by the wall of knowledge that rose before her, and so madly blissful to be so — and she had Leona to thank for it all.
Oh, how silly she had been, scrunched up in embarrassment last semester in that navigation lecture! She had only gone because Leona had asked for her company, and for the extra credit. And even now, she didn’t think she had gotten much use from the lecture itself; Clarice could not even step onto a raft without feeling queasy. But she had seen the look on Leona’s face throughout, the fascination shining through her eyes even when Clarice wanted to crawl underneath the seat to escape the half-curious, half-leering glances of the other men in the audience. And she had wondered, even through her mortification, what it would take to make her feel like that.
And then had come the time to sign up for classes for the following semester, this semester she was just finishing now, and Leona had come to her rescue.
Clarice well remembered her half-despair as she looked over the class list, trying to find something interesting to fill up her schedule. “Why don’t you take the anatomy class?” Leona had asked, looking at the list over Clarice’s shoulder. Leona’s schedule was already filled to the brim with mathematics classes, physics classes, even a politics class and a history class. “You always loved Simology in school.”
Yes, Clarice had very much enjoyed Simology, but she hadn’t given much thought to it at the time — it was simply a class that was more pleasant to her than the others. “Oh, I don’t know,” she had replied. “I just feel I ought to take something useful.”
Leona glanced at the list of tentative courses that Clarice had already filled. “Clarie, what on this list is useful?”
And so Clarice looked as well. She had one course on literature, one on etiquette and deportment, one on religion, one on music. “Well, one can never know too much about religion …”
“Are you kidding? Clarie, you’ve met Galahad!”
Clarice had giggled. “You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t know what you mean. I don’t know why you’re filling up your schedule with fluff classes when we both know that you’ll be yawning the whole semester. Pick something — somethings — you want to take. You’ll be happier, and it’s not like the school will charge your father more if you take things you like, which is all he’ll care about.”
Clarice had shuddered but had not sought to argue with Leona on that score. “I still don’t know … I’ll probably be the only girl in that class …”
“So? It’ll be that much easier to get to the head of the class!”
Clarice had giggled and put the anatomy class down — and then, a day later, she had found a section of a class on herb lore being offered at the same time as the etiquette class, hesitated for a moment, and crossed off the etiquette class and signed up for the herb lore instead. In for a silver, in for a gold, as her grandmother would have said — or, as her old nurse would have said, might as well hang for a sheep as for a lamb, which was far more likely, all things considered.
And now she was having the time of her life.
Her brain hurt every afternoon when she came home from class, there was no doubting that. She spent more time at the library than she did in her own bed. She barely had time for fun this semester; the Princess had had to drag her out for coffee to get her away from her books–
Clarice swore under her breath as her ink bubbled and left an unsightly stain in the middle of her clean parchment. Well, she hadn’t time to fix it now. Not when Professor Beauchamp was speaking so rapidly.
And there was another wonderful thing about this semester! Professor Beauchamp! The older woman was a spitfire, for all that she was in minor orders; one had to be, in order to teach at Camford. Clarice had thought that all women who dedicated themselves to the service of the Lord Wright were to be meek and accommodating, if necessarily strict with their charges, but not Professor Beauchamp. She spoke loudly and proudly, she took no excuses from any of them, and she hurled more advanced material at their heads in the first week than some of the other sections would learn in the whole semester.
Clarice grinned to herself. Advanced. The anatomy class she had signed up for had been enormous and daunting — at least, until the seven professors had gone to the front of the room and explained that for this first class, they would all take a test to determine into exactly which section they would be placed for the remainder of the semester. Seeing the size of the class on the second day, Clarice had assumed she had been placed in the remedial level, and had had her suspicions confirmed when the material was so difficult. She must have been even duller than she assumed she was, but still, she was determined to learn all she could. And then the class had taken the midterm — a midterm that Clarice had breezed through, amazed all of her studying and work had paid off — and, after she collected the papers, Professor Beauchamp had announced, “By the way, if you thought that exam was extremely easy, that’s because it was. You’re the advanced class.”
What a teacher! Some teachers were content to let their students dip their toesies in the shallow water, but not Professor Beauchamp. Professor Beauchamp tossed her students into the water headfirst with a bit of flotsam to help them keep along. And then, just when the students were sure that it was only through sheer dumb luck that they were keeping their heads up, Professor Beauchamp dryly announced that, by the way, this was deep water, the shallow water was that way if they wanted to take a bit of a rest before swimming out again. There was nothing that built one’s confidence like learning that one had just mastered the hard material, and that one could go on to master more hard material, surely.
And another thing — Professor Beauchamp treated them all equally. Nobleman or commoner, man or woman, Church-bound or lay — the good Professor didn’t care. She gave praise when it was merited, criticism when the student earned it, and encouragement when it was needed. And because of that —
“Time’s up!” the Professor announced. She never let class run late, which was a good thing, really, considering how much of a workout she was able to give their minds in the allotted hour or so. “You know the reading for next time, and be ready for the quiz on the differences between male and female anatomy — beyond genitalia, of course, since I imagine all of you are bright enough to figure out the obvious.” The Professor shut her book. “See you all next week — oh, and if anyone wants to beg a signature for their forms, I’ve a few minutes for you to persuade me after class.”
Their forms! Clarice took the parchment from her folder and held it for a moment, reverentially. One signature on this closely-written sheaf of parchment, and her acceptance into Camford’s medical program was that much closer. If she had Professor Beauchamp’s signature, it would be practically guaranteed.
For though it was madness, for though her father would be furious if — when — he found out, Clarice wanted to get into the medical program. No, she needed to get into the medical program. If her whole life was to spent dancing according to someone else’s tune, she was determined to carve out a measure or two to dance the steps she wanted. And besides, what did it matter what she studied? As Leona had pointed out, the only thing her father would care about would be if the fees increased for him, and they would not. She had made sure of that.
Besides, she had her excuses all laid out in a row. As a noblewoman, surely the care and keeping of the household and all of its members would fall upon her, not the least her own children — imagine the amount of money she would save her husband if she could take care of all the medical needs of the household by herself! She could serve as a doctor for sick villagers and indentured people. Her husband’s lands would not need their own doctor, a midwife perhaps, but not a doctor, which would free up another male body to work the land. She might even say that she thought, since her father had never mentioned marriage or betrothal plans for her, that she would be going into the Church, and had sought to educate herself in such a way as to give her a good way to serve.
Her father would still be furious that she had not asked permission, of course. There was no getting around that. But at least she might be able to mitigate his fury somewhat, or at the very least, not have him demand that she leave the program.
Assuming she got into the program.
Clarice rose from her seat, her paper clutched between two sweating palms. The only other young woman in the class, Helewise Foreman, was already talking to Professor Beauchamp.
“… and so, Professor Beauchamp, you know how much I want to join the program, and I think I’ve done tolerably well –”
“Tolerably well? You’ve performed magnificently! Though I suppose we may have your father to thank for that, eh?”
“Professor, I don’t want to lean on — on my family’s successes …”
“If you’re trying to butter me up, Mistress Foreman, that’s not the way to go about it. Tell me, rather, that your father told stories about me, and you remembered them and thus weren’t too surprised by my methods.”
“Professor! That goes without saying!” Before the smarmy picture could be complete, Helewise ruined it by giggling. “Though he does still talk about you, Professor. He was thrilled when I was placed in your class.”
“I should hope so! He knows my standards, none better.”
“He would.” Helewise took a deep breath. “So — so, you see, I think I can perform well in the medical program. I’ve done well in this class and in my class on obstetrics, and I think — well — one can never know anything for certain, but I plan to keep working hard until I get my degree. So, Professor, do you think I could perform well in the program?”
“If I didn’t think you could perform well in the program, I wouldn’t have accepted you into my class.”
“Then will you sign my application?”
“Will I? Give me that parchment!”
“Oh, you will? Thank you, Professor! Thank you, thank you!”
Clarice grinned. If Professor Beauchamp was willing to sign Helewise’s form so easily, then perhaps she was in a good mood! Perhaps she would sign Clarice’s as well!
A quill was grabbed, the form placed on the nearest available flat surface, and Professor Beauchamp signed with a flourish. “Thank you, Professor!”
“Now, you get that form directly to the registrar’s office — I only sign so many of those a year, and I don’t want to be signing any twice,” the Professor growled. Helewise started to giggle, then turned her giggle into a hearty laugh.
Clarice had barely time to smile and whisper, “Congratulations!” before Helewise practically skipped from the classroom. She would probably run for the registrar as soon as she was out of the building and out of sight of most observers.
Professor Beauchamp turned to Clarice, and her white eyebrows went up. “Is there something you need, Lady Clarice?”
Clarice took a deep breath. She had her speech planned and could recite it in her sleep.
“Professor Beauchamp, I know I’m not the brightest Sim on this campus, or the most naturally gifted. But I know how to work hard.” The Professor’s eyelids flickered, and Clarice barely kept herself from frowning.
“I do, Professor. I — I’ve worked hard all my life. Though my physical circumstances have been relatively easy, my family has always demanded excellence. I — I’ve worn my fingers practically to the bone, learning to play the cello. And, and the thing is — I never really wanted to learn to play the cello. Not for myself, at any rate. I only learned because my parents expected it of me.
“But I want to learn medicine, Professor. It — it speaks to me in a way nothing else has. And I can’t claim that I know I can do it. I’ve always had a strong stomach, I know that. And I know that I’ve done fairly well in this class. I know I’ve always wanted to help my fellow Sims. And lastly, I know I can work hard. So — so, I guess what I’m asking is, would you be willing to sign my application to help me get into the program?” Clarice smiled her most winsome smile — it couldn’t hurt, could it?
Maybe it could, for the Professor’s mouth was a thin, compressed line, and there was no compassion in her eyes. “I don’t know about that, Lady Clarice.”
Clarice blinked. “Oh …”
“I’m not going to pretend that you’re anything other than an intelligent young woman by telling you anything but the truth,” the Professor announced. “If I sign that form, it’ll carry a lot of weight in the department.”
“I — I see.”
“So much weight, that they’ll look at your grades and my signature, and not bother to debate at all — you’ll be a shoo-in.” The Professor crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not sure I want you to be a shoo-in.”
Clarice swallowed. “What — what else do I need to do to convince you that — that I can –”
The Professor held up her hand. “Lady Clarice, as I said before, you are an intelligent young woman. I want to be very honest with you. But if I am going to be honest with you, I need you to be honest with me. Can you do that?”
“Of course, Professor.”
“Humph! ‘Of course, Professor,’ she says. Let me tell you, you won’t be ‘of-coursing’ me when I get finished with you by the time I get done with you. But enough of that.” She frowned. “Lady Clarice, what are your plans for when you leave Camford?”
“I — I don’t understand what you mean, Professor.”
“Are you getting married?” she asked. “Going into the Church? You’re a lady, so those are your only two options, I know.”
“My father has not told me officially whether I am to be wed or … or what.”
“Lady Clarice, I said I wanted you to be honest with me.”
“Professor, I am being honest! My father has told me nothing!” Clarice almost clapped her hand over her mouth before more bitterness could escape.
Professor Beauchamp grunted. “Fine, your father hasn’t told you anything. But I’m going to wager you know your father. What do you think his plans are for you?”
Clarice glanced at her shoes. “I believe he will have me wed.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You don’t have to give me a name if you don’t want,” Professor Beauchamp replied. “I don’t give a damn about names. I just want to know — know about him. He’s another nobleman, I take it?”
“He — he will be by the time we wed, or shortly after,” Clarice admitted.
“I see. One of those marriages. And let me guess, if he’s just jumped into the nobility, the last thing he’ll want is for a wife who works.”
“I … I suppose.”
“You see? You see why it’s difficult for me to let you into the program?”
“No, Professor, I — I truly do not. If you don’t think I’m capable to complete the course of study –”
“Nonsense! If I didn’t think you could do that, I’d have told you so and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. No, it’s not a question of capability. The question is, what do you plan to do with your education when you leave Camford?”
“I … I thought maybe — a lady of the house is responsible for the health of the whole household, I thought I could –”
“Take care of housemaid’s sniffles and gardeners’ broken arms? Bull!”
“I could also practice in — in whatever village my husband –”
“Bull!” Professor Beauchamp replied. “You want to be a doctor so you can take care of a small farming village? Any half-trained apothecary can do that!”
“It’s like this, Lady Clarice — any young woman who I take the time and trouble to educate as a doctor and surgeon, I want her to be a doctor and surgeon, damn it! I don’t want that young woman sitting on her behind and letting all that education go to waste!”
Clarice winced, then retorted, “You didn’t ask Helewise if she was going to sit on her behind and let her education go to waste!”
“Lady Clarice, do you have any idea who Helewise Foreman is? I don’t mean do you recognize her in the hallways and maybe catch lunch with her from time to time — I mean do you know who she is?”
Clarice was forced to frown and shake her head.
“Her grandfather was Asclepius Foreman. He founded the Surgeon’s Guild in Sulis.” Sulis was, Clarice knew, one of the largest cities in Glasonland. “Her father, Hippocrates, was his only child to enter medicine. He’s been the president of the Guild for the past ten years. Helewise is Hippocrates’ only child, period. I know all this, and thus I know that, even if she gets married sometime down the line, even if she has children and wants to spend time with them, Helewise is going to have a practice. Her education won’t be wasted.”
“I don’t think giving a village, no matter how small, the best medical care I can is a waste of an education.”
“It is if you can do better,” Professor Beauchamp replied. “And I believe that you could do better. My only question is, do you want to?”
“Professor, if it was up to me –”
“It is up to you! If you really want this, you’ll find a way!”
“How? My father –”
“What? He won’t give you a dowry if you don’t marry the man he chooses? Let me tell you something, Lady Clarice. If you have a degree in medicine and surgery, you can walk up to any nunnery on the continent and they’ll take you, dowry or no dowry.”
“But — but –”
“No buts! Either you want this, or you don’t!”
Clarice bit her lower lip. “It would hardly be honorable to abandon my family –”
“Oh, so it’s honor you want, eh? Fine, then. We can go the honorable route, if that’s what you want.”
“Now, let me tell you something, Lady Clarice. My thought, if I could not talk you into taking what you wanted, was to refuse to sign your form, let Professor Gullifer — that is your herb lore professor, is it not? — well, let him sign it, and the fight tooth and nail to keep you out of the program — or at least make those other professors think before they let you in. But, if you want to be honorable, we can do this differently.”
“Aye. I sign your form. I let you be a shoo-in. And for the next year, you take — you take the courses people on the waiting list take. Courses that would help you take care of your household and your little village, if it comes to that. And while you’re taking those courses, you think about what I said. You think to yourself, do I really want this? Do I really want to be a doctor? Or would I rather do what everyone else says I need to do, and sit on my noble rear for the rest of my life, and make some babies and call it a day?”
“If, at the end of that year — it’ll be right before the second semester of your junior year — you decide that you want to be a doctor, and damn the cost, you keep taking medical and surgery courses and you be a doctor. But if you decide you’d rather have pretty dresses and a noble title and lots of parties, then you switch your major to something else. You want to live a fluff life, get a fluff degree. However, if you want to live a real life, you get a real degree. Now. Do I make myself clear?”
Clarice looked at her form. All she had to do was say yes, and she could have her dreams … for the next year. And only for the next year.
But if she said no, then her dream would be over already.
Clarice only nodded and handed her form over.
“Good. You made the right decision — and don’t think that I won’t hold you to your promise. If you can’t tell me that you’ll do your damnedest to be a doctor, I’ll find a way to get you out of the program. Don’t make me prove that to you.” Professor Beauchamp handed her the signed form back. “And good luck for the next year.”
Clarice nodded again, murmured her thanks, and left the room.
In a daze she wandered through the halls and to the door. What had she just done? What had she just signed on for? Was there truly someone else in this world, other than her father, who would live to crush her dreams? Was there —
Clarice turned to see Frederick staring at her.
Her heart somehow found the energy to leap into her throat. She stared at him, unable to speak.
“Is — is something wrong?” he asked. He frowned, looking — looking concerned, as always.
Clarice sighed. Yes, she wanted to say, yes, I can’t do what I want, because I have to marry you. Because you would rather I sit on my noble behind, and have a few babies, and call that a life, rather than do something worthwhile —
She stared at him, her head tilted to one side. All he wanted, or seemed to want, was some affection from her. Perhaps, if she gave him some — maybe then he would —
Her heart beat sideways. No. If it would not be honorable to tell the father who had never cared for what she wanted that she no longer cared for what he wanted, then — then it could hardly be honorable to trade affection for the opportunity to practice medicine. She would not stoop that low. And more importantly — Frederick, who put himself between dear hapless Galahad and an enraged duke, deserved better than that.
He had no idea how much a victim he was in all of this, if at the end of the day he was to be stuck with a woman who would even consider that. Maybe she really was no better than a whore, after all.
She sighed. “Yes, Master Ferreira,” she replied, as gently as she could. Her heart beat sideways again to see surprised joy and deepening concern at war in his eyes. “But I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do to help — and I would really rather not talk about it.”
And after a second’s hesitation, she added, “I’m sorry.”