Sunday, September 28, 2014

Uncle Burnside's nieces - Adira. Part 3

So it appeared. Cousins and aunts and uncles listened to their names being called, their inheritance listed and gave cries of gratitude to the departed.
Emmett freed his foot for the rope hobble and remained on the floor, mostly because Renald still held his cravat.
The last name was read and the lawyer looked up, coughed and said, “now to the conditions I have already mentioned.”
Silence fell.
“All my relatives will receive the previously itemized gifts on the day when my grand son, Emmett Joyce Farrah has married a woman both plain and pious. The daughter of a honorable clergy man, or something of that nature. A woman of virtue and solid English sensibilities. Gentle mannered and dedicated to raising children with the proper respect that is demanded by God of his children and a man of his sons and grandsons. Unless and Until Emmett Joyce is wed to a woman both proper and plain none of my bequests will be distributed.”
Silence sank and spread broken finally by a roar of laughter - from Emmett.
His relatives turned and stared at him.
“There is nothing for it, Emmett, you must wed at once,” declared Great Aunt Rebecca.
“I shall no such thing, Aunt,” said Emmet, wrenching his cravat free and climbing to his feet. “Oh, how delicious the irony. Sir Joyce had you all leaping about to his piping and now you receive your reward - leaping about to mine!”
“Yes, Yes,” said cousin Renald, ignoring Emmet’s outburst. “The day you wed a proper woman. A vicar’s daughter. My cleric has a girl of suitable age and demeanor. Very plain and proper. I shall call the banns as soon as I return home and you shall be wed in three weeks.”
“You shall not,” roared Emmett. “You fools. All those years you did exactly what he said, everything he said, without a thought to your own pride or your own common sense or honor. You ignored my mother, at his command. You let her die alone, uncared for because he would not permit you to aid us. You …. You hypocrites. I am delighted that Sir Joyce put into my hands the weapon with which to punish you. Hear me! I shall never, never wed and you all will never, never never receive your inheritances! Now, you fools, you will dance to my piping! He has died and appointment me your king and god!” Emmett laughed again. Long and hard then when he finally sobered he finished. “May you all have joy of your rewards.”
And with that he turned and strode from the room.
In the silence that followed his departure Rebecca rose and glared about the room. “Well, Well, will you yield to him and let your inheritance molder, unused? What is the plan? What is to be done?”
Adria paused on the steps of her home and sighed. Her current situation probably contributed to her inability to write a good novel. She did not live in a dank, dark castle on the moor - either swamp or Shakespearean hero - with a chill wind rattling the windows and a dour, voiceless butler who hovered just behind the shoulder of those who were not paying attention, but in a neat, recently built stone and red brick, three storied house in a well-to-do part of London. There she lived with a polite, caring humorous gentleman she referred to as Uncle Burnside (since no one knew his first name), and her duties, such as they were, were light.
She climbed the stairs with a heavy heart. Before she reached the door a footman opened it and held out his hands for her outerwear. Adria put her manuscript on a side table and removed her pelisse and bonnet before taking up the manuscript again and walking further into the house, patting her hair into order.
“Adria? Adria, is that you, gel?” came a deep voice from the front parlor
“Yes, Uncle Burnside. “
“Well, come in here girl, and tell me how it went!”
Adria drew a deep breath and gathered her strength as best she could before going to face her inquisition.
Uncle Burnside was, in fact, not her uncle. He was a retired sea captain, knighted for some victorious battle by the mad King George and a cousin of some sort of her mother’s sister-in-law, Clara Devonham. After her parent’s deaths of a fever Adria was placed in his house by Aunt Clara and ordered to make herself useful, since Uncle Burnside had fallen victim of the gout and was no longer able to be as active as before.
Burnside himself was a tall person, well fleshed without being stout, with a storm beaten face that smiled more than it frowned and he was fond of the small girl who had been foisted off on him.
At this moment he was sitting in his favorite chair, his gouty foot elevated on a cushioned stool and watching the door for Adria’s entrance.
“Oh,” Uncle Burnside’s face fell. “I can see you are not happy with the results of your interview.”
“I did not have an interview, as such,” said Adria. “I… he… he wouldn’t even look at it…” and finally Adria burst into tears.
“No. No. Oh, poor dear,” Uncle Burnside reached over and patted her shoulder as she clutched the bundle to her body. “But you did know that a rejection was likely.”
“Yes. Yes. I did but I thought he’d read it at least.”
“He refused to read it, at all?”
“Wouldn’t take it out of my hand?” cried Adria. “Refused to listen to me at all. He was so cruel. So… so crude. I did not expect him to be so… Oh, I cannot say it.”
“Good heaven’s, what happened? You must tell me all!”
Adria stuttered and stammered and wept her way through the five minutes she’d endured in the publisher’s office. Uncle Burnside went by turns furious, outraged and horrified.
When Adria finally reported the words “blood and bone,” she stared into his old, wise eyes.
“But I am not certain what he means by that. He said, he suggested I should…” Adria blushed and stopped.
“Dear girl, I can hardly help if I do not know.”
Without raising her eyes from her hands Adria whispered: ”He suggested that I should become a … a…. a Ladybird and then I will be able to write a book worth reading.”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Uncle Burnside's neice : Adira. part 2.

Adria was escorted back down the stairs and out of the Publishing House by the same smirking young man. Once on the street she wandered aimlessly for a while - proving that it was possible for an unattended young woman to walk in London and come to no more harm than stumbling when she misplaced her footing. She walked until she came to Hyde Park and settled on a bench to consider her morning.
With a sigh that her heroine would describe as deep, soulful or heartfelt, she undid the string binding up her precious manuscript and opened the brown paper. Adria had saved up her pennies and sixpences to buy good strong paper on which to copy out her story, as if the actual paper and quality ink would persuade the publisher to accept it. She took up the first page and read the scene that was supposed to introduce the reader to the villain.
He was a good villain, well described. Indeed she had spent three full pages describing the deadly, dangerous and dour villain. He was frighting. In fact, he was a compilation of each member of Adria’s family who had ever done her a wrong, or slighted her, or … or notified her that her father was dead and she, therefore, homeless and alone.
It was all very well for the publisher to criticize her for including that piece of bad news and a disappearing inheritance but in truth that was one of the most horrible things that could happen to a young lady left alone in the world.
She shuffled through the pages, pausing from time to time at a scene of which she was particularly proud. When she came upon the scene when the heroine met the hero for the first time and begged for his aid she sighed and ran a finger down the page.
He was a very fine hero. Strong, kind - wonderful, really. A special man. The type that all young women hoped for and never met.
A clatter of horses hooves and a trill of laughter warned her that the hour was advanced. It was late. The ton were coming to the park to see and be seen and it wouldn’t do for an unescorted woman to be caught here, especially one carrying an unpublishable manuscript. Writing was a vice barely tolerated by the ton and definitely not by unmarried women. Gathering her pages together Adria hastily retied her bundle, struggling against the rising breeze. A gust caught a handful of papers, scattering them across the grass. Muttering words her Aunt Clara would shriek to hear, Adria ran, gathering as many as she could before stuffing them in her reticule. When she was home she would sort them out, put them in their proper order and then… then, she would put the whole thing in the bottom of her trunk and never look at them again.
It was time she put the dream of becoming a lady novelist away. Truly it was. She was twenty and it hardly suited a woman of her mature years to be daydreaming in a garden when there was work to be done.
Oh, but it hurt to think of putting away her pencils and the dreams that were always so exciting in her head but dull when pinned to dreary paper.
Enough! She would be strong and sensible. She would put aside childish dreams and resign herself to a purposeful adult life.
She raised her head and stepped out neatly. Her new life awaited. A new life filled with running errands, writing accounts and haggling with the butcher’s boy.
She slumped and, hoping the brim of her bonnet would protect her tears from prying eyes, walked home.
The last thing that Emmett Joyce Danial Farrah expected when he left his rented rooms that afternoon was to be seized by the neck, dragged into an alley, coshed, have a coarse potato sack tossed over his head and thereafter to be carried away into the night. Actually, in his dreams, being carried away by bodacious Valkyries to be feasted and feted for all eternity was the last thing, but people rarely achieve their dreams.
Awakening after this experience was unpleasant. His head throbbed, his eyes were crusted shut, his mouth was filled with the taste of old dirt and canvas and he didn’t have enough spit to, well, spit.
He moaned and shifted on whatever it was he was sleeping on and a hand snatched the canvas bag away. His hands came up to shield him from the sudden light. As soon as his vision cleared he covered his face again. No one wanted to wake up from this sort of experience and have the first thing they saw be Emmett’s great-aunt Rebecca Fforde. It was believed, within the family, that great-aunt Rebecca smiled once at her mother and found she did not like this experience and had not smiled since. She powdered her wrinkled skin until it was dead white and died her thin hair raven black to try and confuse death and postpone the dread specter’s visit.
Emmett groaned and tried to roll over the better to avoid his aunt’s visage.
“Enough of that,” snapped Great Aunt Rebecca. “Shut up and sit up, Emmett, and do pay attention. This is important!”
“What, exactly, is important enough to kidnap me?” Emmett swung his legs down and dragged himself into a more comfortable position on - oh - a fainting couch.
“Don’t be such a whining little boy,” said Great Aunt Rebecca as she struck him across the knees with her ebony walking stick. “Sit up straight.”
Emmett ignored her and looked around the room.
“Oh, so this is what hell looks like,” he murmured.
A quick head count revealed at ten persons occupied the chairs, couches and wingback chairs of, heaven help him, his late and unlamented great-grandfather’s study. Six of them, the males, wore the motley of the Church of England. Two more men wore the formal attire of the previous generations fashion, with no style and no comfort. The two women were dressed head to toe in black.
Another look around showed that none of the youths from Emmett’s generation were present. That was bad news. Emmett himself should not be here.
His mouth dried again.
Why was he here and why were they all staring at him like some strange creature in a museum?
“If we are all finally assembled,” came a voice from behind Emmett, “we may begin with the reading of Sir Joyce Emmet Farrah’s will.”
A short stocky gentleman, attired head to toe in dusty black, stalked between the seating, a faded leather folio tucked under his arm. Emmett stared at the familiar figure of Josephus Kennedy the third. Great-Grandfather’s Farrah had employed the first Josephus Kennedy over fifty years ago and two conditions defined that employment. The first was that the eldest child would be named Josephus, and the second that child would also study the law and go into the family law firm. The reason was, the old man didn’t want to be put to the effort of learning a new lawyers name.
Which told you all you needed to know about great-grandfather.
Considering how much money Josephus Kennedy’s handled for the old gentleman it was no surprise that the lawyer complied with the Sir Joyce Emmet’s demand.
Emmett had no issue with that, his issue was the ancient man’s demands on everyone else of his acquaintances and family.
Well, Emmett had never danced to Sir Joyce’s tune. Slamming his hand down on the armrests Emmett surged to his feet.
“Sit down!” shrieked Great Aunt Rebecca.
“There is nothing here of interest to me,” said Emmett. “I despised that evil son of a bitch and he returned the favor.”
“Language,” cried his great- aunt.
“I have heard you use worse language, Aunt,” said Emmett. “And am convinced there is nothing in his will for me therefore….”
“Emmett, lad, you may be mistaken,” said one of the ever present clergymen - his cousin, Renald Joyce Farrah. “Why, the message we all received was that the will could not be read unless you were present. I am certain our revered relative remembered you.”
“Exactly,” said another clergyman, Mitchell Joyce Farrah. “I am all over curiosity. Do sit down, lad and listen.”
He didn’t sound curious. He sounded a dangerous combination of jealous and covetous.
“Can we begin?” demanded Renald, smiling at Emmett and patting him on his shoulder. “I am certain we are all over curious.”
“Wait,” said Emmett, raising his hand. “Do I understand correctly? If I am not here the will may not be read?”
“Exactly so,” intoned the lawyer.
“Well then, I’m off,” said Emmett giving a bow toward his great-aunt and waving at the other relatives. “I wish you joy of your curiosity… and goodnight!”
“No.” Renald leapt into his path at the same time as great-aunt Rebecca thrust her cane between Emmett’s legs, sending him stumbling. “I knew that would be your attitude. You have ever scorned your family responsibilities.”
“Was it you that arranged for the undignified manner of my invitation, aunt?”
“I know you would not come otherwise,” said the old harridan.
“You are correct, and now, I go!”
The cry came from every throat. Ignoring them all Emmett went to stride, purposefully from the chamber… and fell on his face.
“I tied your leg to the chair before you woke,” said Renald. “It seemed a sensible precaution.”
Emmet levered himself up on his elbows and glared at his cousin’s all too shiny shoes before flipping over and starting work on the knots.
“Begin, if you please, Mr. Kennedy,” said Renald. “He is here, which meets the requirements. Nothing was said of his willingness to listen.”
“Certainly.” Mr. Kennedy settled his glasses on his noses, coughed twice and began. “I, Sir Joyce Emmett Farrah, being of sound mind..”
“Ha!” shouted Emmett.
“After the predations of the Crown are completed,” continued the lawyer as if Emmett had not spoken, “and once all herein described conditions are met, I do dispose of my property thusly…”
There began a list that Emmett could have dictated in his sleep as he was already well aware of the game Sir Joyce played with his family. He tormented them all, setting one lot of cousin’s against another with the grand prize being Sir Joyce’s wealth. It was no surprise that so many of the male children were named Joyce in his honor, but the subtler injures were the demand that as many children as possible dedicate their lives to God - all while Sir Joyce was an unrestrained, unrepentant sinner. His opinions on fashion were law to his relatives, both male and female. No one summered at Brighton, or traveled to Scotland after Sir Joyce declared them to be the home of sinners and criminals. Likewise no one acknowledged Prinny as Regent since Sir Joyce would not. The education of girls were limited to household matters only, travel confined to certain sorts of carriages, the type, location and purchase price of candles were dictated by the old pirate, forcing his relatives to lie about the cost of their households.
And into this family came young Emmett Joyce - second son of a second son and the only person to tell old Sir Joyce to his face to take his money and drown in the ocean. Emmett would not be cowed. Emmett would not obey. Emmet joined the army, served as a diplomatic attache and departed England’s fair shores for India. While the rest of his family proved themselves to be unashamed boot-lickers and toad-eaters Emmett lived his own life his own way, far away and free.
And now, all those here gathered expected to receive their just rewards while Emmett was - no doubt- expected to listen and repent his intransigence in the face of their preferment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Uncle Burnside's Niece : Adira... part one

Adria Cooper clutched her brown paper and string wrapped package close to her bosom with one hand while the other held her skirt from touching … anything else in the building. The stairs, the hallway, the room in which she currently stood were all covered with a thin layer of sticky black … well, something that was both sticky and black and smelled most remarkably ill. Even the narrow hall carpet clung to her shoes as she walked and left a dark stain on her tan half-boots. She tried not to think about the loud sucking noises the carpet emitted as she walked.
Her companion and guide in this smelly, dirty wilderness - a small, dirty young man of indeterminate age between 15 and thirty, dressed in rough brown trews, with shirt sleeves rolled up to below his elbows and held tight to his thin upper arms by bands of black ribbons - grinned at her as he beckoned her onwards. Adria’s heart pounded and she wiggled her fingers in her gloves hoping that her nervousness was not as visible as she feared.
The boy, youth, whatever, flung open a half glass, half weathered wood door and shouted: “Visitor for ‘ee,” then legged it back down the corridor without waiting for a reply.
Adria hesitated in the doorway, uncertain as to whether she should enter, or follow the young man’s example.
“In or out,” shouted a voice. “Ain’t got all day.”
“In,” decided Adria and stepped over the lintel.
No sooner she entered the chamber than the voice who had called her in shouted, “Out! Out! Out!”
“I beg your pardon,” began Adria.
“Yes, I just bet you do.”
A heavy-set man heaved himself up from a broad wooden chair and tottered around the widest desk Adria had seen in her life. Every inch of the broad surface was covered in paper. Most of the stacks bore tightly printed text. A few of the remaining pages had delicately colored etchings. Mostly detailed lithographs of sailing ships, a few of a man with heavy mutton-chop sideburns and beard and the remainder - barely dressed hotten-tots. All of it was arranged in a pattern that made no sense to Adria, but then it didn’t need to. That was all she was given time to determine since her host, the afore mentioned man, was shouting.
“I told you, gel, get out!” roared the man who was as wide as he was tall, dressed in much the same degree of dishabille as the youth who’d brought her here.
A faint chuckle came from the hallway. Adria glanced out. Her escort was back, kneeling in the hall, with both dirty hands covering his mouth. The chuckle came again, from him. No doubt he had brought her here just for the purpose of his own entertainment.
“Sir,” said Adria, turning back to the round man. “You do not understand…”
“What” What don’t I understand? Let me guess. You have written a book.” At Adria’s nod he continued. “Oh, yes, you do. I get a constant parade of gels like you with their books. They’re all the same. You got a heroine, aint ya. Poor but honest. Beautiful, but shy, retiring and the epitome of all virtues.”
“I wouldn’t say all,” said Adria and was ignored.
“She’s good but oh, her life is sad and a burden. So poor. So hopeful that nawth bad’ll ‘appen.”
Adria blushed and gave a sharp nod.
“An’ despite her bauty and virtue an’ all, things just do keep happening to her. Just happening. If’n it aint a brute of a man come to carry her away or her father lost in a storm at sea leavin’ her all alone at the ‘ands of an evil uncle, well then it’s a letter hintin’ at a inheritance if’n only that she come to some castle on the moors.” Adria glanced down at the bundle in her arms and back up at the man. “Why is it always the moors, I ask you? Do you know what a moor is? Have you ever seen a moor?”
“The area of swampy land or Othello?” replied Adria.
“Ooooh, an educated lady we ‘ave here taday,” sneered the man. “Well, I don’t want your book.”
“You haven’t read it yet.”
“I told you, I already know it and I don’t want it.” The man went to the door and shouted at the apprentice. “And you, lad, don’t bring no more lady authors up here. You hear me? Or I’ll send you back to your pa!”
Adria stood, frozen, in the center of the room and cringed when the man turned his blazing gaze back on her.
“Well? Why are you still here?” he demanded.
“Might I inquire,” said Adria, summoning courage she didn’t know she’d possessed. “What sort of books do you publish? What do you want your authors to write about since you have an exception to such as mine.”
“I want books with blood and bone in them.” The man formed his hands into fists. “I want meat. I want life!”
“I am afraid that short of describing a trip to the abattoir…”
“Not that sorta meat! Not, oh lord above, why are you tormenting me?” The man seized Adria by her arm and tugged her toward the door. “You want to know what I want? I want you to leave here and become a member of the demimonde, then in a dozen years write down all the men you’ve met, all the things you’ve done, the places you’ve visited and the sins you’ve committed and I’ll publish that.”
“Oh, good heavens, you cannot be serious. I couldn't do that!”
“That is why you will never be published,” snarled the publisher and gave her a push. “There’s no blood and bone in your book. Get out and don’t come back.”