“Ees a ’er an ers a ee.   All cept th’aud Tom cat, an even ees a ’er!”
Chapter Two
She moves her lips away
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He has to have it right.”  Mrs. Minton shouts to Meg across the kitchen.  “You know how Woolly fusses.”   
Lucy, pushing her way into the kitchen, broom in one hand, cleaning box dragged behind, she glances at Meg seated at the table.  “Not able to hold that cup up this morning!”
The broom laid by the wall, the cleaning box swivelled in front of her, Lucy holds up her hands, “Don’t shout at me.  I’ve been working.”
Without pause she proceeds to mimic Annabell, who had seen Lucy on the way to Annabell’s apartment privy.
“Lucy, dear.  Miss Emily and myself will have breakfast in my apartment this morning.  Such a bore having to go downstairs.”
An expression exactly like Miss Annabell, Lucy leans back, feigning Annabell at her most determined best:  “Please tell uncle.
Squeals of laughter from Meg, “Both asleep when I took up the tea.  I’d to go back for another tray with Miss Adams being with Miss Annabell.”
Now the gesture by Lucy where the hand sweeps over the head. “Tell dear uncle that after Miss Emily and myself engaged him in the parlour, we spent some time outside.  The fine spring night air was delightful, but this morning the lateness has absolutely tired us out.”
“Now then,” Mrs. Minton has her stern look about her, but Lucy has the devil and she is not giving way.
A very performed leaning on the broom.  With such a pained expression of weariness, Lucy croaks, “I’ll...  I’ll tell Mr. McBride, Miss Annabell.”
Such a wheezing and coughing then proceeds.  “It...  It... It will be Mr. McBride’s first intention indeed to inform the Squire of your desire...”  more coughing and wheezing,   “of your deep held...  deep held, I say, deep desire to have breakfast in your apartment this morning.“
Then the pretend bathroom door is opened, the pretend drawers lowered, and the bending to sit upon the throne.
Then the nose bit as Lucy holds her nose pointing it straight up in the air while making high steps away from the privy, still holding the broom.
Mrs. Minton waves her hand.  The only way to stop her is to change the subject.  “I’ve told Nelly she’s to help you til you’ve finished with the front stair carpets.”
Lucy is about to say, “Dopey Nelly,” but that piece of news has brightened her mood considerably.  Lucy, when she feels like it, can bully Nelly unmercifully; she certainly intends to do so today.
“I know you don’t like doing the carpets,” adds Mrs. Minton. “With all the guests coming, and it having to be done, it’s only fair.”
Lucy hates doing carpets more than anything she knows. Cold tea leaves to stop the dust choking.  The whisk brush.  You have to be soooooooo careful with that or the thing turns on you, pricking and knocking.
The wafting odour of herbs from the big pan steaming on the stove takes over at this point.  “You cooking rabbit for lunch Mrs. Minton, with barley?”
“I am dear,” Mrs. Minton steps back to the stove, dips a wood spoon into the boiling stew pot, breathing upon the hot juice before taking just a hint of a sip.
Lucy already has the plate of stew in front of her mind.   Carrots and leeks, tender Rabbit with chunks of squared potatoes.  Mrs. Minton keeping the stew-pot simmering just until the moment the rabbit meat is to fall from the bone.
‘One day,’ Lucy thinks, closing her eyes tight.  ‘I’ll make a fine meal for...’ Tom does come to mind.  This husband who does look sort of like a grown up Tom, and herself feeding him.  All because Mrs. Minton has showed how.
The cook waves her spoon, “Taste dear?”   Lucy doesn’t have to be asked twice.  “Ummmmmm...”   savouring of the morsel of stew on the spoon she’s offered.
“It might need a dab more sage, what do you think?”   Mrs. Minton dips into the saucepan again, passes another heaped spoonful across.
Lucy, after breaths on the spoon and gingerly taking it to her mouth, “Ummmmmm!  I think it’s perfect.”
“Well, if you says so,” Mrs. Minton smiles.  Lucy is easy with her complements. “Why don’t you go and tell Nelly you are ready for the rest of them carpets!”
Stepping across to the table Mrs. Minton picks up the list of the food she is going to be needing.  Twice she has gone over it, adding half more again of each amount because you never can be sure. Even with that it’s a worry.  Items she’s sure she’s missed.  Lady Middleton has her wants, and so does Mr. Hews.
The Squire’s brother from India, he’s something new and Squire has told her he’s taken to Indian ways and doesn’t eat meat.
She’d stared at Master in astonishment, but Squire right then handed her a book he’d bought in Biddiford.  “Not that she isn’t skilled in the spices,” he said.  “But this might help.”
The Squire’s brother is not a guest.  He owns half the Manor.  She skims again over the food list.  Stout in build, Mrs. Minton is as robust with energy as they come. This morning however her nervousness over upcoming days is making her feel a bit queer.  Mr. Hews arrives today. Lady Middleton with Miss Hooper, Lady Middleton’s companion, will be here tomorrow.
There’s the woman from Australia coming to help with the work. Miss Ackrim will need feeding and who knows what they eat in Australia.
Mr. McBride sat with her last night and together they went over the menus, from breakfasts to suppers.  Woolly is a Godsend with his cheer.  He mostly leaves kitchen to her, but she has been in such a flutter.  Him, suggesting particulars for the afternoon sandwiches, for the cakes to be baked, it has been such a help.  All her life she has worked as a cook, before this for a household larger than the Manor.  “It will all get done,” Woolly says.  “Done well!”
Mrs. Minton, wiping her face with the back of her hand, says, “We will see.”
“We, will see, what?”  asks Meg loaded with pots.
“All the ordering, you never know if it’s right.  The specials from the Biddiford grocer for Squire’s brother.  I hope...”
“It’ll be fine,” Meg says calming.  “If Squire’s brother don’t like what you give him, then he’ll have to lump it, that’s all.”  Meg strolls across to the rabbit stew, picks up the wooded spoon. “Leeks have blended well.”
The cook, seeing Tom coming in by the back door, walks past him towards the pantry for some eggs for his breakfast.  “I’ll leave the list as it is then, if you say so.”
Meg strolls back to the table, sits, brings out a penny dreadful she keeps in her apron.  The farmer boy walks across gives her a sort of wink, which she does catch.
“How old are you,” she asks.
Mrs. Minton, coming out of the pantry with Tom’s eggs, answers for him, “Sixteen. When he gets to seventeen I’m going to bake him a cake.”
“Oh!  A cake!”  sniffs Meg, staring at the lad.
Tom is going through one of those ‘phases’ Mrs. Minton and Meg have decided.  Son of John Hopkins, owner of the farm behind the Manor, Tom has had it out with his father, over a woman named Mange Celaban who his father has been seeing.
Nelly Appleton’s mother, Charlotte, who does the laundry two days a week, says the woman works at the Stogg farm in Atherton.
The farm also being a pub, the woman serves ale.  John Hopkins it appears has become a regular, and a bit more than a regular, hear tell.
Tom only a week past came into the kitchen saying he’d never work for his father again, and would never work on the farm again.  He said he’d told his father such.
‘If ‘er dain’t do work, ‘er dain’t get food,’ is how Tom mimicked his father’s response.  So Tom, who has a loyal streak, loyal at least to the farm he’ll one day own, decides he will continue to do some work.
Tom has been visiting the manor regularly since his meeting Olath two years back and becoming friends. Olath taught him the beginnings of leather working.
When Olath packed up his things, it was natural for Tom to ask Fred if he could help.  Staying up in the loft over the carriage house where Olath had his things, Fred doesn’t have to come back after his meal to tend to the horses if one is under the weather. With this wrangle with his father, Tom has planted himself firmly in the stables.
It is Mary Hopkins, Tom’s mother, who came running to the Squire for his assistance.  She is not happy with Tom sleeping with the horses, not every night, not coming back to the farm for meals or anything.
Squire Bexfield, well known as supplier of perspicacity as well as local magistrate, Mrs. Minton likes to make the comment, he arranged an adequate solution in this.  Tom will remain in the stable loft until after the wedding.  He will help with the carriage house, and be an additional help to McBride as porter and water carrier for the guests.
He will be given payment for his trouble but he has to also do his duties at the farm with the pigs and the cows on the days off of his father’s workers.  Once a permanent man is brought in to help Fred, Tom will have to return to sleep at the farm.
His mother reluctantly agreed.  More importantly, Tom agreed. His father made no fuss.  In no fashion does John Hopkins want to get on the bad side of the Squire for the land John works south of the Manor brings to John an income independent of Mary’s farm. John does not want to forgo that if he is going to move out of the farmhouse. Squire is also looking into marriage law for him.
So a truce between Tom and his father is in force for the moment. Tom understands the agreement and has swore to it.  Mucking out the pig-shed, milking and settling the cows when needed.  The rest of the time he’ll spend at the Manor.
Tom looks younger than his age.  Long, absolutely black hair, often in a tangled, curly mess, he seems more a boy of fifteen at times then a young man close to seventeen.
Giving his serious, hungry look, Mrs. Minton tells him breakfast is almost ready.  Something different about him today, she thinks, and taking another glance she at last sees the brown ring about his eye.
Ever a mother, not having a child of her own, she’s solicitous with Tom, “You got something wrong with your eye, lad?”
Tom swags as he walks over to the pot of tea that sits side of the stove, pours himself a cup, doesn’t say anything.
“Cat got your tongue?”  Meg, putting down the penny dreadful she’s half-heartedly been attempting to read, stares Tom up and down.  It’s not just the ring around his eye.  His trousers are covered in mud, and not stable muck, floor mud. One of his shirtsleeves is torn right to the elbow.
Tom, enjoying the stove warmth, shrugs, continues to say nothing.
“This ain’t between you and your Pa, is it lad?”  Both Mrs. Minton and Meg now look concerned.  Meg’s throat goes dry.  John’s father has fourteen stone on him if not more, and he’s all farm muscle.  If he gave the boy a clout, he’d knock him clear to Christmas.
Tom just sups at the hot tea.  Both the women watch him.
Bringing himself and the cup back at the table, Tom glances hungrily down at the bits of food remaining on the breakfast plates, plates not yet cleared away.  Picking up a tad of bacon from one plate, a piece of sausage from another, he munches away.
“You’ll have your Ma in bed if you don’t stop with this quarrelling,” Mrs. Minton says.  “You know how it upsets her.”
“D’aint noth’n ‘bout ‘er,” Tom stuffs himself with a piece of leftover fried bread.  Tom, who reads anything and everything he gets his hands on, speaks perfect English.
When he wishes.  But, his father the same, he breaks into broad farm Devon when it suits.  “We d’aint do nait.”
“Who then?”  Meg could give him a clout.  The boy does exasperate her.  “Who you been fighting with?  I see you have.”  She turns to the cook for confirmation.
“Jimmy Briggs!  I know it!”  Mrs. Minton walks over to him, pushes him away from the plates.  “You a cockerel, Tom Hopkins? That meat is for the poor cockerel out back.  I’ll be the one to give you a meal.  It’s cooking!” She points to the stove as the handsome boy beams at her.
“Sit yourself down.”  Cook stacks up the leftover plates remaining on the table and turning her back to open the scullery door, she moves them into the scullery.
Meg grabs to hold Tom’s head, stares at a puffed eye that has turned green and black around the edges.  “This happened last night, didn’t it?  It was Jimmy Briggs!”
Tom jerks away from her.
“Thought you two were over all this.  That you were now firm friends.”
“We is,” Tom says smiling.  “I just had to thump ‘er.”
“Looks more like he thumped you,” Meg glances at the cook just returned from the scullery.  “And your shirt is torn.  What will your mother say?”  Meg gathers up the bits of shirtsleeve hanging.  “I’ll fix it, if you let me!”
It wasn’t quite what she expected, but Tom peels off his shirt, hands it to her, sits half-naked at the table.
Mrs. Minton carries across from the stove a stacked plate of black blood-sausage, bacon, eggs and fried thick bread to the table.
Bare above the waist, the boy quickly begins his ravage.
“I’ll sew as best I can,” Meg pulls from a cupboard drawer a needle and cotton reel.  “The rip’s bad.  I can’t do the impossible, you know.”  She picks from the drawer a small pair of scissors, comes over to the table to sit by him.
Wiping the grease from his hands onto his trousers, Tom gives her a sort of seductive grin.  “I clobbered ‘er.”
Meg attempts to look stern but she is having difficulty. “Well, that’s nothing to be proud of.  Jimmy’s bigger than you, and even if he is your friend, he could have done you damage.”
Tom looks at her seriously.  Then he smiles his boy smile.
How the years have changed, Meg thinks as she lays the shirt onto the table.  He has been coming off and on to the manor kitchen a couple of years more at least.  She can see him now with Olath, sitting here eating.  Summer days he’ll be rolling on grass out back by the greenhouses, watching to see who’s noticing.  Back to the kitchen when nobody is looking, for strawberries and cream summers, mince tarts winters.
“You need a good spanking,” she says.  “I should give it you for all the trouble you cause.”
Tom, enthusiastic about anything Miss Trenton might wish to do to him, gives her a sly look, says in perfect English, though softly so it doesn’t go further than the table.  “You can give me a spanking, anytime.”  He picks up the shirt she’s holding out to him, slips it over his slim but muscled body.
“Just you go and give your face and hands a good scrub,” Meg pushes him away as he leans towards her.  “And stop wiping your greasy hands on those poor trousers.”
“Yes, Miss,” he says as he disappears into the scullery to bother Nelly.
Cook shouts across, “You’re too good.  I’d give lad box round ears.”
“He’s too old for that,” Meg laughs.
. . .
“Good morning Mr. Hews, sir.  I hope the journey was pleasant?”
Arthur grabs the carriage handle to help him step down. “Surprisingly easy on the joints for a rental.”
McBride smiles at the cheerful fellow holding the reins. “You’ll be staying for a draught, coachman!”
“Zum veet ain water vor ‘orses and ai be on way,” the driver touches his hat.
“There’s food and drink in the kitchen for you,” McBride closes the carriage door.  “Cook is best around.  You’ll not miss her.”
“Y’zir,” the driver touches his hat again.
Leaving the driver to lift the box seat to get at the luggage, McBride escorts the Squire’s guest into the hall.
Arthur takes off his coat and hat, hands it to McBride. “I’ll inform the master you have arrived, sir.  I believe the Squire is working in his study.
“Doing legal work?”
“I believe so, sir.”
“Tell him I’m eager to see him.”
“I will.  I’ll show you to the drawing room, sir.”
Just entering the drawing room, memories begin to flood. The sepia his wife had taken of Belinda, Annabell’s mother, stares at him.  Annabell is beside her tall mother, holding her hand.
A year before Belinda and Bert died, Henrietta took this sepia. Arthur has never reconciled himself to the deaths. He could not believe a whole train full of people would be used to get at one woman.  But they have done much worse.
He asked his superior in the department to detail a specialist investigator.  Many suspicions, the three in a carriage by themselves at the end of train, this carriage becoming somehow derailed, splitting in two as it came off the track. Annabell had been thrown into a tree, that is how she survived.  The official report was a faulty coupling.  Later when Arthur tried to obtain the report, a message came back no copies could not be found.
Belinda was the militant of the three Bexfield children. She had the bravery of ten men.  She was already speaking out against the families and beginning to gather around her women who wanted the vote and wished to take back their power.
Her group was still small in number but Belinda merging the woman’s movement with her connections to the families, this was seen as a threat.  She had to be removed before others began to take her seriously.
Arthur forces thoughts of his work away from him, steps across to the sepia.  He was not present at the taking but he can picture his wife now distancing correctly, taking her excruciating time as she always did.  The child would have been fidgeting, outrageously fidgeting.  Annabell must have been only three when this was taken.
Moisture collects in his eye.  He has not known how to proceed since Henrietta took her last breath.  Eight months now since her presence left him.
He sent his resignation into the service once she became very sick, but they returned his letter attaching one of their own, a notice placing him upon indefinite absence.
The service moving to Victoria Embankment had little affect for him.  Henrietta and his work had always entailed travelling, within the United Kingdom but also extensively upon the Continent.
Henrietta and he travelled as a couple.  Her knowledge of the families through generations of her own family’s work was invaluable.
Two years since Henrietta and he were here in this very room. Two years and eight months and everything exactly the same.  It is beyond pain to see Henrietta so very present.
An oil painting he steps across to view.  His fingers touch lightly the ivy on the redbrick, solid, square house.  Her colouring of the Manor is faultless.  He could step outside right now and see these exact same tints of ivy roaming.
The kiss she gave as he leaned over her while she was creating this reflection.  “On Oath Highway,” she had placed her brushes down, holding him.  The ‘Oath’ naming of the road she had come to be fascinated.
She had said to him: “People take oaths, and then so faithfully without hindrance to any concern of inner integrity, that sense of right people have, they carry out the mandate of those who commanded the oath to a tee.” He had nodded.
Seeing her image of this place, her work set around this room, resurrecting her words, he shouldn’t have come.
A power she had of bringing forth memories.  “I can see it,” she had told him, of an encampment where the Manor is now built.  A place to rest while appearing at the High Druid court.  They came along this path to take their oath, to swear allegiance, to bend their knee.
Henrietta’s family is now mixed with the Etruscan.  Her bloodline seemed to extend back beyond time.  “At the time of Mithra we wandered before we returned to what is now Italy.  We became hidden inside their civilization.”
The family held their secrets long before the Egyptian rulers, before the Ark and the flooding of that time, before even Atlantis and the far civilization of Mu.  The family was an initiating priest-line.
Henrietta herself could draw Arthur through various stages of initiation.  Each very unassuming ceremonies.
“For your protection,” she said.  “For the work we do.”   His inner eye had been opened to where he could sense much more of which is beyond.
When the Druids began to force their enslavement over the people, the family went underground.   Teachings of the past they stored, both extremely ancient and those of our written history, to be studied by this present generation and kept for the world’s future.
“Lion, fish, are avenues we travel. Druid power has never disappeared.   Nor the goodness of the old druí,” she had said.  “All we need do is deny them their coveting power.   Stop playing with them. Take back the kingship of person.”
“Arthur!  Arthur!  Bless my heart Arthur, it is good to see you.”
“Ronald!”  Arthur hadn’t noticed the door opening.  “I can see her here, Ronald.”
Ronald grasps both of his hands.  “Ah!  The journey not too taxing, I take it.  Annabell wished to know the moment you arrive, but McBride tells me she’s with her friend Emily at the moment.  Out on the Warmblood gelding I purchased for her.  Emily is getting used to the pony John Hopkins sent across.  Emily is from her school. They became friends with some terrible consumption business.  You are in for a treat.  Annabell has grown, Arthur.  She is a young lady now.”
Arthur places his good hand over the nervous one to calm it.  He grabs for a fireside chair, “I’m sorry.  It has been doing that lately. Truth is I’ve gone to pieces since she died.”
“Then it’s good you came here, old man.  Be amongst the young for awhile.  Annabell and Emily, Edward, and Edward’s friend, Lawrence, the fellow standing for Edward at the wedding, it is going to be all the young. Conny is coming tomorrow.  You and I, we will pretend we are back at the Apostles again.  I will tell Conny she has to join us in the fun of our own Apostles.”
Arthur slumps into the brown leather chair.  “Has George arrived yet?”
“My dear brother arrives on Friday.  If the ship docks on schedule.”
Just the thought of George can place Arthur into a frenzy of emotion if he allows himself.  Another reason he almost had not come.
Henrietta would never forgive him for not attending Annabell’s wedding.  He had to come.  He sits staring into the fireplace.  “After all these years.”
“Water under the bridge, old man.”
“You say Friday?”
“I’ve ordered a post for then.”
“Henrietta insisted I was all wrong about George.  She never paid any attention to him.  She said she laughed at his nonsense.”
The Squire pats his old friend on the shoulder.  “There never was any aggrievement, I believe.”
Henrietta, her rich hazel-green eyes, hair that shone with the colour of fire, she captured everyone’s attention. George, his handsome youth, his recklessness, the opposite of his staid older brother, it was natural he would make a play for her. All this so long ago. “Watching the moon lately?”
“By God, I have.”
“Seen anything.”
Ronald nods.
McBride knocks, enters.  “Mrs. Minton is asking if you wish for sandwiches, sir.  It will be an hour to lunch.”
Ronald looks at Arthur who shakes his head.  “We will have coffee.”
“Not coffee.”
“Some Darjeeling, Mr. Hews, sir?”
“Yes.”
“Very good, sir.”
“Same for me, Horace.  I understand Mrs. Minton has made a chocolate and whisky cream torte Arthur likes so well.  Why don’t we tempt him.”  The Squire nods at McBride.
The butler without further comment exits the room.
Arthur has to smile.  “You have a good man there.”
The Squire walks across to the sherry table.  “With me a long time.  How about a taste of sherry before the tea?” He fills two copitas.  “The wine merchant, you know the one in the city that constantly tries to bankrupt me, he sent this.  The Albariza chalk gives its flavour.  From La Frontera.”  He hands the sherry to Arthur.
“Do you think she is here, Ronald.”
“Henrietta!”
“I can feel her in this room.”  He stares at the rosewood Loo table upright against the wall.  “She loved five-card Loo.”
“She loved Tarok better, if I remember.”
“I see her laying out the table.  The chip pots next to her.  She said she would make contact when it was right!”
“Then I am sure she will.”
“She talked a lot of her fears before the end.  She so afraid with the Hiéron du Val d’Or.  She thought darkness might be coming in another great wave, you know.  But as that grouping began to splinter, she knew then this was only a step, a necessary step to establish complete rulership.”
“A new Empire?”
“Some of her last words were about Europe killing off half its younger men.  She believed it would rise into a new unified body. North America would become the military arm, she thought.  That was the real reason for their war between the states.  So they would not splinter into units separated completely from each other.
“Unified, the United States would join this new European body they hope to create, through both its military arm and its financial power.”
“Do you think she might have been mistaken,” Ronald asks awkwardly.  “Some of it, you know...”  he doesn’t finish his sentence.
McBride knocks, enters.  His foot guiding the rose wood stopper he uses to prop the door open, he pushes the trolley through, begins to arrange the cups.
“McBride, do you always show visitors to the drawing room?”  Arthur from his chair, stares at him.
“Visitors to the drawing room, sir?”  McBride brings across the steaming Darjeeling tea.  “Usually visitors are shown into the study, sir.  That is the custom when visitors wish to speak to the Magistrate.”
“I was shown here?”   The butler looks puzzled.  He glances at the Squire.
“You are a friend of the house, sir.”  A slice of torte cake is moved onto a china plate covered with red dragons. “Mrs. Minton’s torte, sir?”
Arthur nods.
“The drawing room is more cheerful, especially in the morning, sir.  The solarium sends through the sun.”
“Place is damned more cheerful anytime,” the Squire laughs.
Arthur leans across the small table to set down his teacup. “Thank you McBride.  Thank you for being honest and frank with me.”
“Honest and frank, sir.  I am always honest and frank, sir.”
“That he is,” the Squire’s face is full of rueful merriment. “They don’t come more honest and frank than Horace.”
. . .
In Biddiford on Tuesday morning, a young man Mr. Lawrence Morton, tall and lean, and his thought-to-be wife, Miss Bella Stanton, having long auburn hair, eyes to the depths of the sea, step off a train that has arrived from Exeter.
The young Mr. Morton is the essence of style.  A fawn coat to keep away the morning chill, the coat lined in golden-yellow satin, the single-breasted front nevertheless is undone.  Azure silk decorates a straw boater that sits atop sable, perfectly trimmed hair.  At the feet fawn-leather spats complement the coat.
The lady, Miss Bella Stanton, has an open coat of lamb-nappa, aniline dyed, the dark champagne ornamented by soft violet fur around the collar.
Fully revealed underneath a sharply-tailored taffeta silk, chequered with shimmering rose butterflies.  Covering the more than ample bosom, a silk outer chemise, the silk flounced by ruffles of a vertical nature.  A delicate rose bow is at the neck. Upon the feet, though rarely can one catch a glimpse, brandy-rose steeple boots adorn, twenty laced eyelets rising up around the calf.
They appear a modish couple waiting for a porter on the station platform.  Older eyes might glance enquiringly upon the young man’s shirt with its spread-collar worn up, but even more upon the moleskin waistcoat, the young, they get away with anything.
Indeed a delight the waistcoat gives in its brazenness, is the very reason to continue with the style in the young man’s opinion. Several moles have been ripped open for this creation, and were no doubt screaming in the process of their killing.
Male eyes wandering do study his companion, the high cheeks, her lips filled with blood.  A private fancy that the two are, as street language has it, giblets, that these are no husband and wife, but journeying to these parts to get away from family, to copulate and then return.
The young man’s angular, serious face, bright eyes forever searching, has a porter and now walks quickly through the station entrance, the lady following.
Deception is at its best with these two, for there is falsity.  ‘Keep away!  Keep away!  Do not approach.’ Keep away indeed, for those even with some stronger spirit, for here is more, more than those around them could ever hope in their untamed imagination to conjecture.  A gleam of horror shall we know the story.
Twenty-three years past this young man’s mother had been found on a doorstep.  The infant a few days old barely escaping with his life from a house his mother had fled.
Taken into a new home, the mother’s fever bringing delirium, the baby had been fed by a suckling woman paid for by the owner of the home, a certain Angulse Sherod.
It was a strangeness some could call fate that the young mother had found herself at such a home.  To keep the boy became the issue, not for his benefit, but for a far more importance.
“My wife does not have the blood,” Angulse professed to those in his group who had interest in listening.  “But this boy has!”
Catherine Sherod, wife of Angulse Sherod, had nothing to bring him, only the half-breeds, one that had come before and one that would come after the infant Lawrence became settled in the home.
“The mother of Catherine,” Angulse had discovered soon after their marriage, “had taken the whore-pipe of a young goat.  The bloodline held by a Buck’s Face.”  There was a weakness with Angulse.  He could not kill her, nor could he allow the coven to take her.
So here was the son Angulse knew he should have.
As Angulse Sherod quickly found out, the boy found on his doorstep was not only a Keys by the mother, but also a Bexfield by the father, high family lineage from both.
It was at it should be that Lawrence is taken with him to his business in the northeast.  A coven weakening, the boy had brought his blood.
“Lawrence, you have saved us,” Angulse would say as he and the boy travelled in the carriage to their destination and the ceremonies.  “Now be a good boy!  Do as the priest says.  In time you will come to understand.  In time you will crave for what is done to you.”
His uncle was right about that.  Lawrence did crave for it. At his college at Oxford, the first experience came of him seeking it for himself.  The pain he would be given, the humiliation he now so avidly sought.  He could barely feel without it.
After his college try, meeting Bella in St Pancras and in some sense falling in love, he had rented a cottage for them where indeed they did act as man and wife.  Here there was a brief interval where the lust and the higher senses prevailed but it was short-lived.
Going to a Pinchcock once more became the necessary for him and he resumed the dependency.  He wishes it wasn’t something he did before he came home to her, but without the thrashing the prostitute would do to his body, the binding, the tying of his genitals, no love could he make in any sense.
A piss proud he was, nothing more, and Bella though she sensed the pain, could not hold it.
In a way he did not understand, he had to make love to her.  If that meant a Pinchcock with the pox, who never expecting him to do the normal, then he had to do it.
Bella couldn’t talk to him about that which he feared. Nor could he respond to her warmth.  If he should the coven must come to his lips, and he could never allow those words.
He was afraid, afraid of Angulse Sherod, his uncle as he called. But he was more afraid of them, those who came to see him, to see what they had done to him.
The carriage taken from the railway station has stopped due to congestion.  The young man raps on the glass of the carriage, points to an inn with a sign in the window, a notice of rooms available.  “We will stay here.”
Lawrence pushes against the public house door, holds it for Bella.
“A room if you have it, good man.  An overnight room for my wife and myself.”
“Yes sir.  Indeed sir.”
“If all is satisfactory I will make lodging here for the one night.  My wife will be staying for two.”
“Yes sir.  This way, sir.”  The proprietor bows low.
Directed through a narrow, low ceilinged entrance, the two climb to a half-landing where a door is open.
“I hope this will be a pleasing to the gentleman and his wife.”  The proprietor stands aside while a waft of blueness envelops them: Sapphire curtains, Chatham velvet carpet, azure woven woollen bed covering not unlike the colour of Bella’s dress.  With its conformity of colour the room would appear regal would that the hefty iron bed not take most of the available space.
“The market from here, sir.  An excellent view.”  The proprietor manoeuvres his way to the window to glance and point from the leaded panes.  “All the main shops, madam, within easy walking distance.”
“Thank you.  We will take it.”
“Will you be wishing for food, sir?  The oven is hot. Kidney and steak is on the menu.  And something to drink that I might bring up, sir?”
“You have a private dining room?”
“Oh, indeed sir.  We have an admirable private room.  I will see a fire is set, right away.”
Lawrence nods.  “Then have the food made ready for we will be down as soon as we have refreshed.”  The two stare out the window while the bags are carried up.  The door is closed, water tipped into a washbowl, the faces moistened, the hands cleansed.
A short time later, clambering down the circular stairs, they are led into a small room, a wooden table projects from the side. “Pickstone’s the name, sir.”
Lawrence orders a tankard, Bella gin and ginger.  As the drinks are brought they both stare silently up at the rose-paper walls, decorated plates, grapes made of porcelain fixed between the plates.
They are here in Biddiford because of a letter Lawrence has received from his aunt, as Lawrence refers to Catherine Sherod.  ‘I have not spoken to your uncle,’ his aunt had written, ‘for he gets so angry when I mention Caroline, your mother.’
The letter had been about Rachel, the family’s older servant.  ‘I do not know why she has not taken it upon herself to disclose these facts before.  Rachel insists that your mother begged, had pleaded upon Rachel’s soul that she not speak of that which she had overheard during the sickness.
‘As you know, you mother fell ill with brain fever the day she came to our house.  Rachel all of those subsequent days remained by her bedside until your mother regained her senses.’
His aunt’s handwriting so familiar to him, her words burn even now into Lawrence’s brain.  ‘Rachel was younger then of course and it seems she had made light of words by Caroline spoken during her fever “Popum,” your mother would often speak, and “Bexi.”
‘Your mother was fair perplexed,’ the letter continues. “‘Please tell me all that I have repeated,” your mother asked. “Popum and Bexi, you spoke fair often, Miss. Sometimes Stonebridge, I think it was that.  And a manor and also a magistrate that owned the manor.  Who is Popum?”   Rachel asked.  She said she had laughed when she repeated that.  “You spoke very often of him, Miss.”
“‘It is our secret word.”  Rachel said she could tell right away the girl had been sorry of mentioning it.  Then came the pleadings.  “I beg you, Rachel!  Not ever!  Not to me! Not to anyone!”  Rachel states she had been forced to swear on her very soul.  But she thinks now with time passing, and the mother no longer living, that the boy, that you should know.
‘I do remember a young magistrate being appointed for Biddiford,’ his aunt continues in her letter.  ‘I remember a function we attended for a Magistrate Bexfield of Stonebridge Manor.  It was some honour he had been given in Exeter.  It seems your father is this magistrate.  I dare not speak to Angulse of this.’
Catherine Sherod had never spoken to her husband of anything of importance since Lawrence can remember.  A chasm exists between the two that she will not cross.
Lawrence believes his aunt might suspect the ceremonies and that Lawrence is involved, but he is sure she does not know all that they entail.  The many journeys Lawrence has taken over the years alone with Angulse, her two boys going to Hartlepool only when he has taken her.
His aunt has convinced herself her husband is having an affair in Hartlepool.  It stops her questioning.  But he also believes Catherine Sherod has a fear of Hartlepool.  For her two boys sake she does not wish to know.
Lawrence has met the magistrate, this Bexfield.  Fate playing its hand, Edward Coulter had become drawn to a club at his college at Oxford that Lawrence had founded, ‘The Not-Quites.’
Edward’s money had come in handy on more then a few occasions and Lawrence did not mind the time he spent at the Coulter’s estate.  Playing cards with Enid his mother did have its reward. As his skill had often overtaken the playing of the Magistrate from Stonebridge Manor.
The Squire, as he is known, lives within a few miles of the Coulter estate on Oath Highway.
The letter is quite stunning for him.  He has played cards with his father!
His father is living only a short distance from Edward Coulter. His father has money.  Enid Coulter has mentioned Stonebridge Manor as having copious farm land.  His father is a magistrate.  If proof could be found at the manor that Bexfield is his father, they could get some of the wealth.
He has been invited to the marriage of Edward, not merely invited, he is to stand for Edward Coulter.
If Bella and he have enough money to disappear.  To the Orient or the Americas he has suggested to Bella.  Bella’s girlfriend working at an employment agency, it was easy for the agency’s letterhead to be sent to the Squire.
Visiting from Australia, seeking work, the agency has seen the announcement of the marriage, will they be needing temporary additional assistance?

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.cc
“Here you are, dears.  A right good meal, if I says so.”
The innkeeper’s wife, a chubby woman, dressed in a flowing, light floral-print muslin, places two steaming plates onto the table.
The proprietor follows with a bread loaf.
“What do they call this part of the town, Pickstone?”
“This part, sir?  Why, it’s known as Slaughter Row. Name comes from the ruffian sailors, sir.”
“Slaughter Row?”
“From the stabbings, sir.”
“Stabbings?”
“Those off the ships you understand.  Coming in from the Bay.  As you can appreciate men off the frigates have to frolic.”
“Oh!”
“Then there’s the runaways, sir.  Least place to be caught, here where’s there’s only trees.  A lot of trees there was here then, sir. Rum and runaways and sailors coming to town.  Rum lot, if you’ll pardon the pun, sir.  All’s in the past.  Nothing to worry the young madam of now.  A respectable inn, this is.”
About to scoop up potato and gravy with bread broken from the loaf, Lawrence asks, “Has this always been an inn, Pickstone?”
“A beer house for sure this past century, good sir. Many’s the man found his night peace in this place.  Calm amid the swirling turpitudes.  Can I get you more to drink?”   The proprietor leaves to replenish the table with a fresh ale tankard and a gin and ginger for the lady.
Lawrence looks at the young woman opposite him.  “You ready?”
“I think so.”
“I’ll be gone tomorrow.”
“I know.”
“You will follow as I’ve told you!”
If he hasn’t spoken of it three times on the train!  She hates him when he’s afraid.  When his weakness comes she wants to laugh and yell and make fun of him as if to goad him into better.  But then ‘The Other’ one comes.
And she’s afraid.  “I’ll do everything just as you tell me.”
With that the nervousness, the uncertainty ceases and they fall into silence as they eat.
Lawrence will not take her to his family in Exeter.  He forbids even a mention of it.  His uncle provides for them, enough, and for the boy to play the cards.  She has never met his uncle.
This engagement in Biddiford, it surprises her.  Her sense is that he hasn’t got it right.
Bella never quite knows who it is she is speaking with, Lawrence or someone else.  Sometimes it’s talking to both, the boy and ‘Him.’
All the time Lawrence, who she thinks is Lawrence, has been with her, she never can get to any serious thinking of who this is that terrifies her through his eyes.  It has to be kept at bay, her fear tells her, and to do that it has to be obeyed.
When Lawrence returns from Hartlepool, a power commands through the eyes.  It stares at her through him.
She has felt herself losing herself in some sea, when this thing, thing it is, stares at her.  Beyond reason this thing has life, something that will swallow her, take her life if it wishes, suffocate her.
In some way she thinks Lawrence does protect her, and she will fight for the boy inside, the boy who she loves. But sometimes as it stares, she gets to wishing it would strangle her.  She will be out of it then.
The thing would have him, all of him.  It does have him as much as she knows.  She can’t do anything to stop it.
The proprietor is upon them, picking up the empty plates.  “Can I get you suet and apple?  My wife makes a tasty suet and apple with custard.”
Lawrence points to the empty tankard. “Yes sir, and one for the lady?”
No answer.
He retreats quickly with the dishes. “Get upstairs now.”
Bella, not looking at him, gets up from her chair.
Suddenly a belly laugh, a hearty belly laugh, reaches out from the young man.  But it is not Lawrence.  “I’ll be up when I’m ready.”
As Bella brushes past, the proprietor is struck by the terror on the young woman’s face.
Sometime later, a second and third tankard, Lawrence steps outside.  Walking the few yards he glances down the dark, brooding alley.  A woman in her thirties, the light bad, appears from a doorway.  A young man is behind.
As he stands in front of her, the hand of the woman reaches down fondles just slightly the trouser creases. The young man looks at his swelling, reaches to touch her breast.
“Not had enough!”  she laughs, stepping back.  “Off with you now, unless you’ve a coin.  Those are payable.”
The boy notices the young toff waiting as he slinks away.
So does the woman.  “You got a smoke, mister?”
Slowly down the ally, Lawrence walks, holds out his cigarette case.
The woman draws as the silver cigarette lighter is held up to her.
“What can I do for you, then.  You like me to play with your gingambobs!  I do a fine job.”
She gives him the eye up and down.  “I’ll do a blind cupid if you want.  You like to kiss me cooler!”
It’s not the ordinary he wants.  His dapper ways, that flicker in his eyes.  He don’t come to her for any normal. “You want a double jugg.  I’ll turn you over.  Got a good gaying instrument.  Get right up.”
Lawrence begins to walk back along the ally.
The woman calls: “Cat-o-nine!”
Lawrence stops.
“I knows it.  Like’s indorser does ‘er.  Cat-o-nine it is then, lad.”
. . .
“Howling as if the dead are beginning to rise!”
Emily places her fingers to her ears.  “Don’t!  Don’t!”
A large gust whips through the holly from a coastal wind, raging up into the gables.  Annabell’s window rattles, it’s more than ghostlike.
Lying on the bed, one hand over Heart’s naked belly, slowly, slowly downwards slips Annabell’s fingers.
Two years they have had for their friendship, neither can believe it.
Emily was the only day attendee.  No other girls came from Leiacs village where the school has been situated for the past fifty years. Lentwiss Girls Endowed School, built by a governess with funding from a family whose children had grown.  One of those few early institutions that took girls at the age of seven, educating them up to the age of eighteen should they wish, or their family could afford.
At the great age of sixteen or seventeen, those girls that remained mostly became an assistant to a teacher while still pursuing their studies and so it was with Annabell.
Annabell had been assisting Mr.  Morris in the teaching of Emily’s class.  When Mr.  Morris took ill with a fever and then died, the diagnosis being white plague because of his great paleness, a quarantine took hold, forcing all including Emily to remain within the school grounds.
The teachers busy with their own group of pupils, it was up to Annabell, left not only with the caring of the class where she had been assistant, but also to find a bed for Emily for the time of the quarantine.
It had been a full year, and every inch of dormitory room was taken.  A room in the basement, and by miracle an old bed was found, stacked on end in a closet.  Sheets and blankets brought from upstairs, Miss Pearl the headmistress went so far as to express to Annabell her gratitude for such responsibility she was taking.
Annabell just to get away from all the excited chattering upstairs found the basement to be a haven.  Emily mostly stayed below in the small room she had been given, reading.
An affinity developed as they began to speak with more intimacy. Both losing their parents played a part.
Emily’s father had passed due to typhoid fever, her mother followed not long after with consumption, a delayed result of contact with her father’s illness.
Annabell, though so young at the time of her parents death, still had the horror of the train going off the track.
She did not know why her parents were travelling, but uncle Ronald later explained they were visiting Scotland to play their instruments and be part of a music symposium.
The doctor was the only person allowed into the school during the quarantine.  He would take a hot bath each time he visited, a bathtub reserved only for him.  Not even the teachers were allowed beyond the grounds.
Annabell listens to Emily’s breathing as the rhythm of her body softens, welcomes.  “You so alone, my dearest. And with all the creaks and moans I thought the basement was haunted.”
“You never cared.  You said it was all nonsense.  You said there was no such thing as ghosts.”
Annabell shifts, moves her hand so that her fingers touch the hardened mound.  Gently she stokes its sides.
In that basement after the talking, the gentle kissing, Annabell had no idea it would lead to what it has.   Emily began the intimacy and Annabell followed.  How glorious it is.
When experiencing her twenty-eight moon days, often thoughts of boys come to Annabell, wondering what they are like, what it must feel to have those pieces hanging down in front.  On statues she had seen naked men.  And then boys, even older boys would be naked on the beaches.  Some liked to parade in front of her.  They knew what they were doing.
During the quarantine she had begun to touch Emily, as darling Heart had first begun to touch her.  When she thought about it, it was confusing, but she did enjoy it. Emily said she did not like boys.  No boy ever would enter her.  Not ever!  She would never allow herself to marry, not that way.
Annabell thought that she might, but only if she met the right person.  Annabell was curious about that long thing getting hard.
Sometimes with the boys on the beach it would stick out. She thought she wanted to watch a man who was naked get long. Just to see how long it would get.
In that basement, in the tenderness, in the love that came to flow between the two, Annabell made the decision she could never lose Heart, she was never going to allow Heart to part from her.  And yet she might marry.  It was very confusing.
Now she knows.  She has Heart and Heart has her.
Giggling hysterically Heart rolls onto her stomach, “Yes! And I so began to love you.”
Emily stares into Annabell’s eyes.  “I could not help myself for you are so beautiful.
Emily’s hands searching and finding Annabell’s naked privateness.  “I knew that touching you here.  I knew once I did this, it would keep us together.”
Her face solemn.  “Are we together, Annie?”
Annabell kisses her.
As the quarantine continued, the teachers themselves became hysterical.  Nancy Gillingham listening through the keyhole to a conversation the doctor was having in the Headmistress’s room.  “Until further cases might develop!”   the doctor had said.
“I could hardly hear,” Nancy Gillingham told everyone, including the teachers.  “But that’s what he said.”
Merchants dropped their supplies at the gate.  Always the doctor bathing himself each time, before slipping silently away.
Both Emily and Annabell remained a sea of calm.  Emily had taken to helping Annabell with the classes Mr. Morris had given.
Annabell strokes Heart’s face, “Of course we are together.”
“And Edward?”
“Edward!”
“You love him more than me, don’t you?”
“Ummmmmm!  Let me see.”
Emily picks up a pillow, begins to attack Annabell, which results in another pillow being picked up and then a raucous fight.
The pillows at last put aside, Annabell leans back, closes her eyes.
Hovering, exploring Annabell’s features, Emily absorbs the beauty, the warmth, everything of Annabell’s essence.
Moving her lips towards Annabell’s, Emily presses open Annabell’s mouth.
Tongues touch, a long, slow, moment.
Drawing close, their mounds touching, each begin to move gently in unison.
Sliding, gripping, clinging to each, the simmering spasms take hold.
Moving, moving, ferociously creating,
Juddering tremors,
Eternity felt as bodies merge.
Capturing, so, so,
the convulsions,
the convulsions,
and the rippling,
and the shuddering,
the shuddering
the ecstasy,
...until the heavings begin to calm,
And calm.
Until they are brought back to the wind, and the rattling pane.
And calm.
And calm.
And Emily in her love, for that moment moves her lips away.
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