Scourging for Tutor, given or gotten, is literally another day at the office. What came after is what hurt, a closed door session with Tess. As a mother, and force of nature in her own right, she anatomized Tutor's failings as teacher, man, and servant. As she spoke, Tutor visualized a tree, boughs, branches, twigs, with leaves. Each leaf was a lacerating point. As if on recto and verso of a sheet of Audrey's poster paper, on verso he saw a Roman scourge, with handle for the trunk, and leather thongs for the boughs. The leaves were brass stars, pointed. Where the handle goes, or the trunk of the tree, Tess made the main point: He put Audrey at risk. Had she fallen, as she might well have, with her would have gone the last, best hope for life on earth. Who will own, rule, and save if she were gone? Had he asked first about the trampoline, permission might or might not have been granted, but as sure as can be, it would never have been a cheap one, or positioned on the top turret. "Why do you think we have a gym, Tutor, with proper pads under the horse, or parallel bars? Why does the Castle employ spotters?" Tess, of course, was right, each brass star penetrating to bone.
Tutor as a professional in the art of inculcating morals knows that the lash can be the instrument of correction, torture, or execution, when wielded with intent. So, he listens for the verdict. Will it be, "Don't let this ever happen again?" Will it be a spell in solitary? Breaking stone, deep under the Castle, inside the walls, in darkness, in the dreaded Quarry, from which the Castle has risen for centuries, built by the condemned? Exile with hope of reprieve? Or, worse?
As you reflect on what you would do, as a mother, if you were a mother, and Audrey were your own child, perhaps it is important to ask where Audreys go, when they grow up. At 9.5 years old an Audrey can build a tree house with saw, nails, hammer. She can run faster than most boys. She is taller than most boys. In Audrey's own case, she can fly - with help, though not for long. At 10? 11? 12? By 13 she will not touch a hammer. By 14 she will be competing in math, science, English, languages, for the grades and scores. By 21 she will be graduating. By 25 she will be an attorney, executive, a hedge fund manager, an aid to a Senator. She will wear, most likely, a business suit to work. Whatever men can do she will do it as well or better. To repeat: What men can do. What men can do. What men can do.
Back in the late 1700's, exiled from some delicate situation in France or England, as Tutor is ever exiled from this or that dynastic family, for insubordination, he found himself on the Plantation, with Tom and Mammy, competing with Tom for the position of the Most Trusted Advisor, but Mammy was right up there, too. On certain days, she was more Trusted than Tom. But Tom and Mammy both spoke better British English than Master, who cursed, spat tobacco, and swaggered in word and deed. Every inch the Dynast in silk britches and waistcoat. Yet, Tutor, listening as he would, at the hedge around the Hush Arbor, would hear voices, including Mammy's and Tom's in a wholly different idiom. Overheard, not heard. Not British English. Not the idiom of Master. And songs too, Gospel hymns. Those could cross over into Church.
Where do the Audreys go at 11? And up.
Tutor has forbidden knowledge, maybe it comes with age. But he has stood outside so many doors, listening to womens' secret voices. The Judges, the CEOs, the Hedge Fund Managers, the women who beat the boys at whose game. No other way to rise. And the boy's game is, in a Free Country, in a Free Market, what? Wealth Bondage Rebooted to do the Most Good, as you should know from reading this blog. And, so Tutor has been told and as he teaches: "There is no 'outside' of Wealth Bondage." Around the growing boy close shades of the charnel house, wrote Wordsworth, or words to that effect, and that was around a boy. Around the Audreys close the sound of male voices, male tests, male patterns, male ladders of success, metrics, until they are as good as the boys or better at the boys' own game, insuring that the game that oppresses and empowers us all will never change.
The time will come, when Audreys will not learn to sound like a man. When she will not write about "mansplaining" in the NYT in idioms drawn from Horace, through Dryden, to Ben Johnson, to EB White, to her teachers in prep school, to her editor. Women can, in a public forum, condemn how men sound if but only if they sound like well bred men doing it. That is a truth that Tutor knows from standing outside the room where women speak as women, in their own polyphonous voices about family, love, wealth, a dog, a garden, about living things. The Audreys do not dissapear. They learn to pass among men, as did Tom or Mammy among Master and his peers. That is the price, and that is how injustice is confirmed, in black robes, blind, male or female. In passing into men's world, in lending themselves to the construction and preservation of that edifice of stone on stone, plumb, level and true, an invincible fortress, what remains of who they once were, or could have become? A child inside the Judge, perhaps, as in a Dungeon, waiting.
Not that Tutor is any better as insider/outsider. As Tess notes, he has the mind of a nine year old. His is the line of the Fool, bringing into the Dynast's world the voice of the subordinated, to inoculate the powers that be against what would subvert them. To put them in touch with who they are, and in ostracizing, beating, scorning, imprisoning, exiling him, as the Lord of Misrule, to find themselves, as in a distorting mirror, only made more perfect.
The Fool may speak for the Rabble, but in the King's ear. He is loyal to the King. What the Fool knows is that the King is the head of the Body Politic, and that no part can gangrene without the King suffering ultimately unto death. For women, for Mammy, for Tom, for the Fool, for the Most Trusted, for the Consigliere, for the Secular Priest, for all these roles there is a price and a benefit, a debt of loyalty, a code of conduct, limits to what can be said, confidentiality, silence, or tact, or parabolic deflection. The art of writing well inside a structure like the Castle, or corporation, under surveillance, within a hierarchy of roles, duties and privileges, always at risk of being deported back to the fields or to the middle class, or to the status of a woman in a kitchen, who can only nurture the living things within hands reach.
Those who betray their country, in positions of power, try the whistle blower for treason. Which way is up is apparent to all, as the miscreant confesses at trial with the media in attendance. Bearing witness against himself. Everyone sees truth broken to lie like the judge and jury. The moral understood by all is the lie-in-power does not exist, and the truth should never have said it did.
So, there is Tess and there is Tutor. Outside the closed door, trying to hear, is Audrey, too. How do you think it will go? How do you think it should go? Momma wants to keep Audrey safe. She is a menace, Audrey is, to herself and others. Even in Mary Janes and a party dress, she is no Belle-In-Training. Tutor can easily be replaced, by Master Jack, or another. With enough effort A Qualified Wisdom Professional could teach her to pass among the powers that be as one of them. To be a Good Trust Beneficiary, making no trouble for The Bank of Wealth Bondage, and not driving up the Cost of Doing Business, so the assets in the Trust she will inherit will continue to grow and grow for the benefit of Future Beneficiaries, and for the Bank as their Faithful Steward. Audrey could yet become normal. Once Tutor is gone, come the prescriptions, the therapists, the Secular Priests, comes depression, again; comes the bed she will not leave; comes clenched jaws, again; comes hunger strike; comes the doctor, comes the iv, and drip drip drip of happiness, in Bondage to Wealth, through the vein tapped.
So as you are wondering about Tess and her verdict, maybe you should recall a bit about her love life. It is really none of your business, and it is sickening, but it is important to our story. She has been with 50 men in total. One in college, her senior year, a nerdy guy she fumbled about with, and dated for a time, and almost married, until she decided to see a bit of the world first. And 49 in one night, her night of triumph, when she had broken the glass ceiling among the traders, as the only woman on the floor of Wealth Bondage, taking down the French Bourse with one intuitive trade, as easy for her as playing the flute. 49 men in an hour or two, as she lay, having been feted with campaign toasts, unconscious. One of the 49, we will never know which, is Audrey's father. Can you see why Tess is so good with a scourge? Can you imagine how she thirsts for revenge? PTSD. Her hand with the scourge, as the eyes blur with tears of pent up rage, what she might know is only that this is a man's back, a man who himself works for Wealth Bondage, as once for the Empires of Rome, England, or the old South. All he himself knows is that his role as Fool, as insider/outsider, is in the King or Queen's inner sanctum, where love is, and vulnerability, and hope, and laughter, and fun, if hope and love, fun and laughter are even possible there. It is a dangerous game, and always was, like being Alexander The Great's surgeon, in an age before anesthetic. You don't get to leave too many of the Royal Family dead on the table, without it being a career limiting move. Not all jokes, no matter how healing they are meant to be, are welcome; not all are funny. "Truth," as a wise fool once said, "is a bitch that must to kennel." The awkward silence, in Tutor's trade generally ends badly. And, after being scourged so expertly, and thoroughly, after he has said, contritely, "Yes, M'am, I understand M'am," Tutor feels the long pause lengthen.
And here is how it ends: "Next time, ask."
Outside the door, Tutor meets Audrey, looking up. "I got you in trouble?" "I got myself in trouble, kid," Tutor says. "Momma loves you and she wants to keep you safe. If we don't cause any more trouble for awhile, I think maybe we can get another trampoline, too, a good big one this time." Audrey claps. "But," Tutor continues, "Momma says we have to set it up in the gym. Momma knows you will learn how to fly one way or the other. She just wants to make sure you don't kill yourself in the process. OK?"
Diogenes, who taught Rabelais, who taught Erasmus, whose Praise of Folly has the illustrations of The Happy Tutor, that led Tess to Tutor, when she found the manuscript in the Castle's library, asked to be buried face side down, so when the world turned turned upside down, he would be facing right side up. When Trusted Advisors are under Audrey's heel, the world will be saved, as Mother Mary is envisioned crushing the head of the Serpent. Momma is on board with the plan. At least I hope she is. Audrey won't be able to save the world, unless she inherits it, and she can't inherit it unless Tess owns it, and she can't own it until she beats the boys in Wealth Bondage at their own game. And becomes one of them in the process? I think not.
As Tutor takes Audrey's hand outside Tess's closed door, they can hear the sound of Tess's miraculous flute. Audrey in her faded pink, grubby Keds, does a skipping little dance, not a minuet, not a waltz, not any dance you could learn from a dancing master. A dance like that of the whales and the goats, and the seagulls, and all the living unthinking things that dance to Tess's flute, as long ago to Pan's before Reason ruled the earth, and the species winked out one by one, in the Anthropocene Era, where everything is always under control, and getting better, on time and on budget, as per the annual plan, in line with forecasts, and analysts' expectations.
"Thank you God for women," says Tutor to himself, full of yearning for what he cannot have. He has no chance with Tess, but who can blame him for swaying to her music?