54 – School Stories (Lady Godiva)

Emulating the flutter of a falling leaf, Lady Mary Anne Hulett floated down from the attic atop the tower of the old Rob Roy hotel.

As a ghost she could do so.

She took pleasure in copying the patterns which had enchanted her as a young girl, even the flutter of a falling leaf..

It was a soothing slow side to side rocking she had in mind, like the broad leaves that fell from the bower of the big Plane Trees gracing the verges of the walkway into her sanctuary, the school chapel. Their final fall flutter, was like that of her heart before it stopped forever back in 1915.

Life, even its final act can be beautiful. The spinning flip flop, flop flip of their fall, being as its starts and stutters. It had a certain beautiful cadence, and it was that cadence which she sought to capture.

Her flutterings over, Lady H stood for a moment on the terrace facing out over ‘The Valley of a Thousand Hills’.

Since its conversion to an old age home the hotel had lost most of its vibrancy.

Like its occupants it had also become a shell of its past. Gone were the days of romantic weekends for young couples. Gone were the beat of drums as the ethnic dances performed for the crowds on the terrace where she stood. Gone was the old English Elegance of tea on the terrace. Gone were the happy staggers of the drunks from that bar at the back.

It was at times like these, when her mind was on reminiscences that Lady H like to take the long way back to her sanctuary.

This time she emulated the ravens which nested on the low clips of Alveston looking down on the other side of the valley behind the hotel.

Like the birds she was a superb flyer. She could feel the rising falling buffets of the aerial eddies as she moved through them. She could circle high on a convection, then slip its push to glide down the air over the old main road and the blue gums beyond.

Now drifting lower into the bed of the valley, she passed over the dark red bricks of the Chantecler hotel where it nestled curled into the trees beyond a bend in its road. It was still a place for lovers to meet, out of the way and hidden from prying eyes. A place of seclusion and a favorite spot for the reunion of a alumni meetings.

Drifting further down the valley towards where its neck was pinched between the rise of Alverston and the College ridge peering down from the East, Lady H passed over the gate which once, in the 60’s, had led up to the farm house where the young girl lived.

It was from here that the girl had set forth, to bring the magic of her movements, which so upset the staidness of the college.

Movement and motion, especially that of a young rubenesque girl, is so beautiful. Even more so as she canters bareback on a horse.

Lady H thought, what a time of fluidity, of the body, the mind and the spirit. That period when the flow of character is still filling the molds proffered by the institutions of education. That time before the brittleness of age and the crumbles of senility have set in.

That young lass must surely be a grandmother today.

Lady H now let gravity pull her spirit along like so much water flowing down the road ruts. It was the path the young lass had ridden her chestnut gelding. Where the toe of Botha’s Hill kicked at Alverston, the dirt track she had been following joined the asphalt which led on over Alverston’s slopes and down towards the horse racing facilities of Shongweni.

Instead of following along the asphalt, Lady H deviated up the steep heel of Bothas Hill .

In those long ago days of the lasses rides there had only been pine trees and their needles scuffed by the pounding feet of boys on cross-country runs.

Back in those days Lady H had watched as the gelding had carefully stepped up the slope so that it did not slip on the pine needles until they passed Gibbo’s house.

From there the horse didn’t need guidance, it knew where to turn behind Finningley, then turn again to follow the road past the dining hall.

For drama to be effective, timing is everything, and Lady H had to admire the young lasses sense of timing, for it was precisely as the evening dinner concluded, and the boys of the college, all resplendent in grey evening longs with white shirts and ties, was streaming out of the dining halls. It was precisely than that the young lass kicked her sandal clad heels into the flanks of her steed. Whereupon the chestnut gelding obediently cantered undulatingly slowly, bare-backedly, past the gawking and expectant eyes of hordes of young men. With already simmering hormones, watching the rounded and ample rump of the rider matching the rhythmic thrust and parry on the rippling ride of her mount, was, in some cases too much to bear.

With their seething hormones heated to boiling point, Lady Mary Anne had watched as the vapors of desire super-heated the minds of many of the lass’s audience. Some sneaked away from prying eyes immediately, as surreptitiously as those who made a habit of smoking a forbidden cigarette. . Others did likewise later, after prep, or pretended to be asleep. Anywhere to relieve that young Godiva’s maddening cadence.

As she floated in the wake of the long gone echoes of the cantering horse, Lady Mary Anne Hulett, thought how some otherwise good and harmless events are sadly ended even before they begin. Before the youth that is the only time to reap the benefits is over as well.

As a horsey lady herself, Lady H thought it a pity that this hadn’t become a school ritual. ‘The running of the horses’ to steal from Hemingway. Maybe the week before Founders day. A week of cantering each evening to ease the tensions of young boys. After all is not 13 the age of initiation into the minyan of life?

What a pity the powers at the time with stilted morality considered this a form of temptation as dire as that presented in ‘Catcher in the rye,’, and Genesis.

Was it more a concern about an effect on the moral fiber of the boys, or hair on their hands?

Whatever it was, the to and fro of her cantering cadence was censured.

But, at least for some, Lady H knew, It was a transient time in the fluttering of those boys lives, and as vividly pivotal as any flop, flip, flip, flop impression of God’s Garden of Eden.