A vignette from the Costello archive: as war calls Dr. Costello away again, his wife must contend with the wayward antics of their amorous son.
But three young brothers are arguing...an argument that may well end in a very different war.
Rion leant back in the window-seat and observed the clouds in the distance. Impudent and blackened, they swirled ever nearer as the night drew on.
“Where the devil is Benjamin?”
Rion turned away from the window to watch the man who had spoken. Dressed in regimental red, a sword loose but ready for attaching, Dr. Costello cut a striking image.
“I don’t suppose he’s walking in this weather?” Rion leant back again, throwing his legs across each other. As he spread his arms across the velvet back, he stifled a yawn.
“Goodness knows what that young man is up to. I have a mind to arrange his marriage as soon as the war is over rather than waiting any longer.”
“Arrange his marriage?” questioned a low-toned voice from the enclosed half of the sitting room. “Surely Ben has the right to choose his own wife?”
“Rights?” Rion cried, getting to his feet and turning to the fourteen-year-old who had emerged from the shaft of lamplight. “What do you know of rights? You can barely hold a rapier at full length. You, irritating child.”
Phillip wore an ill-fitting apron, but at least it matched the oddity of the paintbrush in his hand and the smear of blue upon his cheek.
The boy even mixed paint upon his pallet as he spoke.
“I don’t like fencing. Besides, you are mixing points, Rion. Yes. I don’t understand why we cannot love whichever person we please.”
“Phillip,” interrupted Dr. Costello. “That is quite a common thing to do. We Costellos have a dynasty to uphold. It is not plausible for marriage to be spread so thinly.”
That way he spoke… Rion did not like the strange softness that so suddenly would come over his father whenever he talked to Phillip. What had a painter to do with achievement? Yet, Dr. Costello was never short of praise for the boy who never stopped thinking.
“Why can’t you see that, Brother?” Rion added in hope, but was silenced by the look his father gave him.
Rion eyed Phillip the entire time he slunk back over to the other side of the room, forever mixing that damned acrylic, before he himself crossed to his father’s side, deftly attaching the sword for him, in lieu of an apology that it wouldn’t have been fair to prise from his own lips.
The door swung open and a lady in a violet dress entered. As she, rustling fabric with each step, glided up to Dr. Costello, a young child hurriedly followed her. He bounced, black-haired like the rest of them, but with childhood’s gleam not yet war-ridden. In his hands was clutched a pocket-watch snatched from some darkened closet.
“Peter, would you not play with that trinket in here, please,” Dr. Costello called as Peter lifted the watch to and from a lamp.
“Mother said I could.” The boy pouted.
“I did, Percival. It is that or leave him alone with the-” she lowered her voice, as if they were lurking near “-the maids. Is Ben here?”
“I reckon the weather has detained him,” pointed out Rion. No one seemed to hear. Mrs. Costello clasped Peter’s hands in her own, and addressed her husband.
“How long do you expect to be gone this time, Percival?”
“Long enough,” said he.
Mrs. Costello lifted her neat eyebrows. “Is that all you will say?”
Although his eyes had first been avoiding hers, Rion saw that his father could not keep them off the beautiful, younger woman. They settled on her form and lingered a moment longer. Something like fury rose up in Rion as he spotted the one weakness his normally-strong father possessed. Even love had its downfalls.
“Are you sure you will not allow Kian–?” Dr. Costello pressed.
“You brother has done enough.” Mrs. Costello pursed her lips, keeping a hand upon the nine-year old at her side. “He forgets that he is not my husband.”
“Octavia, I do wish there were some way–”
“You worry too much, and that is your downfall. Entrust me with the estate as you used to.”
Dr. Costello appeared on the verge of saying something more, but, as he scowled into space, the man closed his mouth and, in an instant, swung around to face Rion, who had chosen to remain standing in his irritation.
“Are you sure you are not tempted?”
“Maybe next year,” Rion remarked with a flick of the hand. “I should finish my Military Management studies before I presently leave for combat. That is logical, right, Father?”
The door was flung open, and, once again, Dr. Costello’s attention was taken away from Rion.
Benjamin stood in the entrance, in a dripping state.
“The carpet!” cried Mrs. Costello.
“I’m sorry I’m late, Father.” The young man gesticulated.
Dr. Costello matched over to his second-eldest son. He stared down at Benjamin through those particular spectacles. His nose extended for a moment, before the man cried out in disgust:
“You’ve been with a girl.”
“Ha,” sniggered Rion. Love’s sting again. Warmed, he set himself down on the window-seat once more.
“What have I said, Benjamin?”
“But, it is nothing serious, Father! I am not going to run away with her tomorrow, if it is that which you are worried about. War makes the women want, you know.”
It was weird to see that gleam in Benjamin’s eyes. Rion had thought that he was the only one in their family who could identify how desperate lower-classed females were.
“I don’t get it,” muttered Peter, who had pulled away from his mother and pushed himself onto the window-seat beside Rion. “Why doesn’t Father let Ben meet the lady?”
“Not you as well? Besides, she is not a lady, she is a girl. Well! Father wants all his sons to have the correct living. That’s where our money will come from.”
“I hope you don’t believe in money, Rion,” Phillip told him, crossing the room, oblivious to the arguing trio by the door. “Come on, Peter. Do you want to see my painting?”
“Yes!” So, Phillip took his brother away by the hand.
Rion sulked, watching the two in his line of sight. Benjamin had finished trying to pacify his father and was instead brushing off Dr. Costello’s jacket.
“They say red shall soon be out of favour for our uniforms.”
“We’ll see what the war brings.”
War… Rion began to crave its thrill, the kind of rising excitement that his studies had begun to lack. That idea of being a moneyed Costello returned to him; it wasn’t what Rion could do with the money – he wasn’t leaving the ornate house anytime soon – but what he could be with the money. If Father wanted a dignified son, then Father was going to get a dignified son, one who would not give the old man pause for thought about how to spread his fortune and admiration. Yes, it would be nice to be prominent and rich at the same time.