The School Itself

Tonight I am so tired that I can’t write. So I’m going to let Thea write for me. She’s been visiting for a while, and we’ve been having long conversations about all sorts of things. She’s been telling me about her adventures, which are much more amusing than mine. Tonight I asked her for some information on Miss Lavender’s School. And she told me – well, I’ll just let her write it herself. While I have some dinner . . .

All right then. You wanted to know what it was like to go to Miss Lavender’s School? I’ll describe it for you. And you have to remember that, all the time Matilda, Emma, Mouse, and I were sneaking out at night, sneaking out during the day, traveling through time, all that – we were still going to classes, still doing our homework. That first semester, I got all Bs. But at least they weren’t Cs, you know?

If you were going to Miss Lavender’s, you would start at the Boston Common. One of the streets along the Common, and no, I’m not going to tell you which, has a small wrought iron gate. It’s between two houses, and if you can’t find it, you have to ask the cats. There are always one or two cats hanging around there. But they’ll only tell you the way if you’re the right person, the one who was admitted, who has an invitation, a reason to be there.

Open the gate and go down the lane that runs between the houses. (All the houses around the common are old brownstones. The lane is narrow, nothing but brick walls on both sides, with strips of some plant that lives in shade on both sides of the lane – liatris, someone once told me. And ivy growing up the walls.) It’s called Hecate Lane, and once you get to the end of it, you get a surprise, because what you see there couldn’t possibly exist. It’s almost like a park, with a large stone house in the center. That’s Miss Lavender’s. It occupies more space than you would think existed there. Miss Gray explained how it worked to me once, but I’ve forgotten.

“It’s magic, right?” I asked her.

“It’s physics, and when will I get it through you girls’ heads that magic is simply another word for science? That’s why we call them the Magical Sciences.”

That’s what she says, but I still don’t get it. And yet there it is, a park with a stone house in the middle, and gardens with paths, and playing fields. And a pond where we used to go sailing.

The school itself is two hundred years old – I mean this particular building, of course. Miss Lavender’s has existed for who knows how many years. Thousands, I think. So don’t expect modern comforts. The sinks are old and porcelain, the bathtubs are old and porcelain and take forever to fill, although they’re great for reading once you’ve gotten in them, and the water is blazing hot. There are not enough showers, not for almost a hundred girls. We all eat together in the dining room, with the old school silver. The food isn’t bad, lots of stews and the sorts of dishes that aren’t too difficult to make, that girls will eat. We used to complain about it of course, claim that it was stewed cat. As though any cat at Miss Lavender’s would allow itself to be made into stew! Most of them are too snobby to even talk to us. Most of them have already chosen their witches, and they spend most of their time with the juniors and seniors, doing whatever it is they do. By that point they can do all sorts of things we can’t, or couldn’t at the time I’m writing about. Teleport, travel through time, go to the Other Country whenever they wanted.

We were still taking our elementary classes. There are the regular teachers who are there all the time, or almost all the time, because you know Miss Gray travels around. Mrs. Moth, Miss Gray, Hyacinth. Miss Lavender teaches classes too, although she runs the school, which takes a lot of her time. And then each semester we would have visiting teachers. The Gentleman was there one semester – he was the best fencing coach we ever had. Morgan was there teaching Spellcasting. Merlin came once, not while we were there, but before. That was not such a great idea. I mean, almost a hundred teenage girls – and Merlin. Some of them had pictures of him up on their walls. And famous alumna would come to give lectures. Once, Athena Mandragora talked about advising the president on magical affairs.

So what would you do on a typical day at Miss Lavender’s? Well, you’d get up at seven, when the bell rang. You’d get ready for the day, fighting for sink or shower space with the other girls. Breakfast in the dining room (oatmeal, pancakes, whatever the cooks had prepared that day). Morning class, Elementary Teleportation with Miss Gray for example, with fifteen other girls all trying to move oranges with their minds. She would show us how she could move just the orange seeds out of the oranges. Show-off. Then lunch, and some time to study or wander around the grounds. Or sit in the library, toward the back between the shelves, talking with Matilda, Emma, and Mouse about how we were going to sneak out and talk to Anatolia Mandragora. Then afternoon class, probably Magical History with Hyacinth. “Which witch was Queen Elizabeth’s personal adviser during the second half of her reign?” she would ask. Of course only Emma knew the answer.

Then study time, when we actually had to study, because Magical History had made us realize that we were all a chapter behind. “How could you get behind? Honestly,” said Emma. “Didn’t you look at the syllabus?  Do I have to explain the whole Tudor succession to you?”  We solemnly assured her that yes, she did. Then dinner, some more time to plot and plan our sneak-out-ery, and bed.

“Tomorrow,” I said. “It’s Saturday, and if we go in the middle of the archery match, we won’t be missed.”

Four girls, four wooden beds that had probably stood in that room for a hundred years, pictures we had put up on the walls. Four desks with chairs, with names like Zephirine and Amalia carved into them with penknives. I suppose Miss Lavender’s was like any other boarding school, really. Well, except for the flying, and the cats, and the saving the world.

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5 Responses to The School Itself

  1. Keith Glaeske says:

    Does Miss Lavender’s have a sibling school, where boys are taught to be mages?

  2. Keith, that’s an excellent question. I think it’s going to have to. I need to rethink Miss Lavender’s, because the first time I really described it, I realized that it was just not interesting enough. I was originally going to have boys taught individually, by a sort of tutorial system, but that doesn’t really make sense, and it also doesn’t do a lot for narrative tension. There have to be plot twists involving the boy’s school, probably with Emma’s brother, who’s a student there. So, I’m rethinking some things . . . 🙂

  3. Keith Glaeske says:

    The reason I ask (aside from the obvious one–that, of course, I want to attend it!) is that you seem to have alluded to it already (e.g., when the cat noted that Tilda’s father had been an apprentice–which, granted, is not exactly the same as being a student). And, if Miss Lavender’s is part of the New England tradition of boarding/finishing schools for girls, it makes sense that it would have a brother school.

  4. I created one! It’s called Paracelsus Academy, and I’m sure sure you can get an application by calling the admissions office. 😉

  5. Keith Glaeske says:

    Thank you, that is so awesome! Although I suspect that I am much too old to attend–but since I have an advanced degree in medieval literature, perhaps I could teach there instead….

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