The College Bar

Entry by: Corone

10th September 2015
The College Bar

“I’m sorry miss. The bar is for students and faculty members only, unless you are accompanied.”

Elizabeth glared at the steward and sat down in the chair he indicated across the hall. She did so with sufficient lack of grace to require her to rearrange her skirts a little. She did her best to remove her bonnet as angrily as possible to underline her annoyance. Good heavens, it was the nineteenth century not the dark ages. But still, here she was in one of the many halls of learning that still refused to admit women.

The sound of laugher heralded the arrival of her brother and fiancé from a very long way down the corridor.

“Hello sis,” shouted John as they came into view.
“Sorry we’re late, not too hungry I hope. Old Clarence’s lectures always go on.”

David leaned close to her to kiss her on the cheek, “It wouldn’t have been quite so late if John hadn’t stayed to ask him to go over the part on the chemical compositions. Sorry darling.”

“He makes it sound as if I didn’t understand it. What rot! I had a couple of questions about the results. It was a fascinating lecture. You’d have loved it Lizzie.”

Elizabeth had no doubt of that. She and John came from a very educated family, their father being a renowned doctor. But while John was sent to claim a long education, Elizabeth was left to read what she could in the family library. She had been given an education of her own, but not the one she wanted. She could speak three languages and walk across a room very elegantly when the mood took her. To tell the truth, she actually enjoyed the embroidery immensely. But she wished desperately to have conversations with her embroidery circle with more intellectual complexity than the latest fashions.

“Shall we go in?” said David, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

The bar at lunchtime was rather full, and very noisy. Young men were littered all over the place, many in heated argument with their friends. Some could be seen waving their lamb chops at their opponents to emphasise their lunchtime arguments. John and David led Elizabeth over to a table where places had been reserved for them by two friends.

“This is Henderson and the short one is Figgs,” John introduced. The two men stood for Elizabeth and gave her the polite bows of the well brought up. Once everyone was settled at the table their decorum broke in an instant.

“Dash it John. We’re been here for ages. Do you know how many fights we nearly got into keeping three seats spare at lunchtime?”

“We should have sent Lizzie in,” replied John very loudly. “Her dress would have covered most of the space.”

Made to feel a little self-conscious at her perfectly respectable ensemble, Elizabeth decided not to restraint herself.

“You forget John, I wasn’t allowed in.”

“Probably for the best,” Figgs joined in. “Not really a place for a lady on her own. The chaps here can get rather raucous.”

“Well, that’s not especially a problem given this place doesn’t allow female students.”

David indicated the chaos of the bar as the only evidence he needed. “Still Elizabeth, you can see what they mean. It isn’t a very appropriate place.”

“Perhaps a few ladies here would improve the manners.”

“Come on, a chap has to have somewhere to blow off steam.”

“Then I’m sure I’d happily retire to the library were I studying here.”

“Oh Lizzie,” said John speaking a little slower. “If they let women in it would only be another distraction. It’s not as if there aren’t any ladies colleges,”

“And they don’t allow men in those,” added David, to general merriment

Elizabeth ignored the jibe, “But none of them teach physics, or chemistry or higher maths.”

“You don’t want to fill your head with that my love.”

“I do actually.”

The table went silent, each of the men glancing to each other unsure of the protocol in such a situation.

“It’s just that it isn’t really suitable,” David admonished.

“For who? I’ve almost read father’s entire library, and understood it better than John I’d wager.”

“And after we’re married I’m sure you can continue to do so my darling.”

“But books only go so far,” spurred on by the noise in the bar, Elizabeth’s voice was rising. “I want to discuss what I know and ask questions.”

“Well, that will give us many things to talk about in the evenings,” said David.

“I don’t want you to tell me your answers; I want to discuss the questions.”

“Dear me Elizabeth, I think you’re being rather selfish.”


“Of course. You are going to be married and have children. You’re not going to have a career are you? Now I know it’s all well and good you having a hobby and all. But there are only a limited amount of places here. You can’t take one from some poor chap who needs to make his way in the world can you?”

“There’ll be less places as well once they try and fit all those crinolines into the lecture theatre!” said Henderson trying to lighten the mood.

“Fewer,” corrected Elizabeth, unheard.

“You know,” said Figgs. “I heard last week there was talk of lifting the bar and letting women in here next year. It’s happened in a few places to some success I believe.”

“Be the ruin of the place if they did,” said David.
“No offence my dearest.”

Elizabeth smiled politely and let the conversation turn. If it was true and women were going to be admitted she was certainly going to apply, now more than ever. After all, she had a feeling she was not going to be encumbering herself with a fiancé for much longer.