Miss Sarah Swift was typing furiously. The idea she had had for a week or more was finally finding expression on paper:
The first time, things can go badly, even dangerously wrong. This is particularly true if you don't know the man terribly well.
Then, too, it's nice to be able to hold the hand of an older woman during the sometimes painful de-flowering process.
If the man is the one for you, he'll understand the importance of chaperonage during this truly unique life experience. Indeed, many clients have found the service so helpful that they have called for it on subsequent occasions.
For arrangements and terms, call 961-6291 or
875-4211 and ask for Miss Swift.
Sarah smiled and eased back from the Remington, only to find Jones looking over her shoulder. Giving a little shriek, she yanked the paper out of the typewriter. Jones said,
"Too late, Sarah! Now, this older woman who holds girls' hands. That couldn't be you, could it?"
"Well, I'm twenty one, and not inexperienced. These girls are often only eighteen."
"I notice that one of those numbers is the one here at the department. I wasn't aware that Professor Hawthorne was thinking of operating a chaperonage service."
"You continue to be stodgy and stuffy, Jones. Even worse now that you have your faculty appointment."
"This looks rather like a flyer for a new service. Are there really these clients who keep coming back for more?"
"I'm sure there will be. In your logical symbolism, we could say that there are presently existing persons whose date of clientage is a future one."
"As a matter of fact, I have clients this very afternoon."
"If you tell me who they are, I'll consider that I needn't know about an operation that might well bring the university into disrepute."
"All right, I was going to tell you anyway. It's one of the undergraduate majors, Sharon Elton. She's that tall pretty girl in the back of your class."
"She is pretty. She also looks young, sheltered, and virtuous."
"She is. That's why she needs a chaperon."
"Do I know the man?"
"One of our own teaching assistants, Brock Morison."
"Wow! Did you arrange it?"
"No! I'm not a madam. The young people found each other."
After a moment's hesitation, Jones started laughing. It was the first time Sarah had seen the watchful look leave his eyes.
Sharon turned up first, with Jones still in the outer office. She looked embarrassed when she saw him, and Sarah hustled her out into the hall, saying,
"I'll take you up now."
She then called back to Jones,
"When Brock turns up, please tell him that I'll be back shortly."
Sarah had jokingly told Sharon to dress as if for church. To her surprise, Sharon was actually in a suit, little hat, pearls, and white gloves. She was really a terribly good girl who did go to church every Sunday. But there was also an irreverent streak which was probably responsible for her liking for philosophy. She now laughed and said,
"I wonder what Jones must have thought, seeing me like this."
"Well, you know, some churches do have services during the week. He probably thinks you're off to evensong."
"That might work if I weren't going off with you."
McMicken Hall had what amounted to a steeple, albeit an ugly one. It might have been to give the building a churchy look to make up for the atheism so prevalent in the faculty.
Directly under the spire was a fairly long narrow room with windows on both sides. It might have been intended as a storeroom, but, since it could be reached only by a steep iron staircase at one end of the room, it was radically unsuited for that purpose. In the event, it contained only objects Sarah had supplied.
Prominent among these things was the pink davenport which had been banished by Wilson Adams. Instead of returning it to Central Stores, Sarah had had Sam and Milton carry it up to their trysting place. It was a monumental task to get it through various narrow openings, but both gentlemen were highly motivated.
Sarah had then added quite a nice rug from a conference room and a few chairs. An old typing table, covered with a nice cloth, stood in front of the couch and had candle holders.
Since Sarah thought of the room as her salon in which various sorts of intellection out-weighed sexual activity, she had also taken up a small bookcase and some of the more obscure philosophical works from the collection Adams had left for the department. In the matter of sustenance, there were packets of Melba toast and several bottles of economically priced red wine. These were entirely appropriate for a salon with strong bohemian tendencies. Jones had once caught her washing the wine glasses at the water fountain outside the department office, but he couldn't have known where they came from.
Even a bohemian salon had to be kept reasonably clean, and Sam and Milton did clean it regularly with a vacuum cleaner the janitors had once left unattended outside the Pink Room.
Sharon had a little trouble getting up the steep stairs in her tight skirt and heels, but, once at the top, she was delighted by the room. Since it was already dusk, Sarah lit the candles. She then installed Sharon in the best chair and gave her Kurt Vaihinger's, "The Philosophy of As If', to read by the dim light. She knew that Wilson Adams thought highly of the book, and it thus conferred automatic respectability on her chaperonage. This was itself a highly respected practice in those societies which believed in protecting the virtue of their young ladies.
Returning to the office, Sarah found Brock Morison in conversation with Jones. Brock looked awfully young. He also looked nervous, but, then, he always looked as if it wouldn't take much to produce some sort of outburst. In the event, she led him off without difficulty.
Sharon was quite self-possessed as she laid down Vaihinger and stood to greet them. Sarah poured the wine, and then said several things she had heard Wilson Adams say about Vaihinger. Finally, pointing to the now dark sky outside the windows, she said,
"It's not so hard in this cozy little place to believe that the supposedly real world outside is just a scenic backdrop to relieve our anxieties."
Both Sharon and Brock seemed to be comfortable with that, and Sarah moved casually behind Sharon to remove her jacket. With it over one arm, she went to work on the fastenings of the heavy skirt. Although no one doubted Sarah's heterosexuality, she liked touching pretty young women.
Brock was making some odd noises, and Sarah moved over to him solicitously. The effect of Sharon standing in a pure white blouse and slip in the faint light of the candles was, Sarah thought, truly electric. But, she realized, it might be too electric for Brock. He, in fact, looked as if he had just stuck his finger in an electric outlet. Moreover, where Sharon, standing straight and smiling gently, looked unquestionably adult, very much a woman, Brock looked ready to suck his thumb. It was obviously his first time, and it seemed that he needed chaperonage more than Sharon did. Unfortunately, she, Sarah, wasn't the right chaperon.
Brock might actually have fled if Sarah hadn't blocked the way. A bit of wine got spilled, but Sarah poured more. Sharon quickly got her skirt back on, and Brock seemed to settle down, remarking,
"I seem to be getting a handle on my angst. I may have suppressed memories of being raped by my mother."
That was the sort of thing Brock usually said, and it led to a spirited discussion of incest. When Sarah finally judged it judicious to leave, the young people were being friendly on the couch. Descending the stairs, Sarah wondered if she should remit her fee.
When she got back to the office, and found Jones still alone there, he asked,
"How did things go?
Sarah gave him a brief rundown, concluding,
"I may be in a bit over my head."
"This sort of thing often happens in the navy with prostitutes. The woman usually just walks up and down in front of the young man until nature takes over."
"Sharon is very far from being a prostitute."
"I know. But you've probably got a bordello setting up there. They'd be all right if they started out by necking in a parked car."
"Is that how you started out, Jones?"
"That's what high school is all about."
"And then the navy. High school girls and prostitutes. Puppy love and substitutes for love. How about the real thing?"
"Whatever that is."
"Wilson Adams didn't sneer at love the way you do. In some courses he discussed various concepts of love."
"Did he tell you what he thought it was?"
"No, I can't recall that he did."
Jones then went off into the night. Sarah leaned back in the chair, wondering if she should go and check on Sharon and Brock.
When Sarah answered the phone, it was a long distance call for Jones from Washington. When Sarah said that Jones had left, probably to go to dinner, the operator asked the other party, who turned out to be a woman, if she would like to speak to anyone else. Rather surprisingly, the woman said she would like to speak to the secretary. After Sarah identified herself, the woman said,
"My name is Heike Herrnstein, and I work with Dr. Jones in Washington. I think you must be the secretary that he's often mentioned."
The woman sounded young and nervous. She also sounded very much in need of chaperonage, and Sarah set about putting her at ease. Finally, Heike said,
"Jones and I work for the same man, an admiral, and he's very angry with us, me particularly. I just had an awful interview with him, and I'm not sure whether I should just quit, or what."
"I can probably find Jones eventually and get him to call you, but I think I know him well enough to say that he wouldn't want you to quit or do anything like that until he's talked with you."
Heike laughed for the first time and agreed. She then continued,
"It's all rather squalid. Two organizations want the same computer, and one more or less stole it from ours. But the new place wants us along with the computer, and, since the old place is so angry with us, the obvious thing would be to just go to the new one."
"I guess the boss at the old place must think that you helped the new place make off with the computer."
"Oh, he does! And it's so unfair! We were really quite loyal. It wasn't our fault that we were ordered to cooperate with the new place."
"Is this boss a cranky old man?"
"Not usually. And not for an admiral. I felt sorry for him when he was out-maneuvered so badly. I never guessed that he'd blame me rather than the people who stole the computer."
"Jones won't like that. But I bet you anything that he'll find some way of taking advantage of the situation."
"It is good to be on the same side as Jones."
"Certainly. Of course, everyone wants him to be on their side, and that's not always possible."
Heike suddenly burst out,
"Are there women there who want to marry him?"
Sarah wasn't altogether taken by surprise, and answered rather coolly,
"Not me, certainly. As you must know, women find him attractive and sexy, but I would say that most don't think he's marriage material."
"I'm really being stupid. You must think I'm an utter fool."
"Not in the least. But you're very upset after that interview. Why don't you call in sick tomorrow?"
"Gee. I certainly don't want another go-round with Admiral Benson."
"Well, you're obviously sensitive, and it won't do any harm if he thinks he's wounded you. I'd play on that for all it's worth."
"I think I'll call in sick, but then go to the other place. If Admiral Benson finds out, which he may, he'll think he's driven me entirely into the arms of the enemy."
"Great move! Shall I go hunt up Jones?"
"You know, it might be better not even to tell him I called. I think I can handle this."
It seemed to Sarah that, even though she hadn't performed what could really be called chaperonage, she was getting good at some of the allied arts.
A half hour later, when Sarah was getting ready to close up the office, Sharon turned up smiling. Sarah asked,
"How did it end up?"
"Not badly. Nothing much happened sexually, but we're friends, and we're going to continue going out."
"I'm glad if I didn't foul things up too badly. Brock's much more sensitive than I'd realized. He picks up all sorts of different nuances of feeling, and reacts accordingly."
"I wonder if Brock isn't too sensitive. I bet Jones wouldn't dally around."
"Of course not. Jones would proceed methodically and firmly without undue haste. He'd try reasonably hard to give pleasure, but he wouldn't make all that many concessions to youth and inexperience."
"You seem to be sure what he'd do."
"I haven't done it with him, or even gone out with him. But I can usually tell how a man will be just by knowing him."
Sharon laughed and replied,
"You didn't with Brock."
"No. I really underestimated Brock. He's much more complex than I'd realized."
"Do you know, I just have a feeling that he'll send me flowers with an ironic little note."
"Quite possibly. That's one aspect of the complexity."
"Does that make him more interesting than Jones?"
"In a way, yes. But some of the most interesting men are totally crazy."
"Jones certainly isn't crazy."
"It's funny, but I was just recently asked whether there are women here who want to marry Jones. Would you ever think of marrying anyone like that?"
"I wouldn't necessarily put him out of bounds. But, of course, he's never looked at me twice. If he ever did, my parents would have to be taken to the emergency room."
"Are your parents quite well off?"
"I suppose so, yes."
"I wonder how Jones would react if a young lady stood to inherit millions of dollars."
"I have no idea."
"I can just imagine his thinking that he has all the money he needs, and not being much affected. But I'm far from sure."