Battle Over Dinner

"Ah, Marianne, come and sit down." The thirteen-year-old girl, feeling very grand in her new gown--which was red, with a slashed front to reveal bright white petticoats, and made her feel very grown up--sat down beside her father as he indicated. "How was your day?"

Marianne smiled. "Not bad at all, Father. I went with Eva down to the market place as you suggested, and we listened to a man there who was giving a speech." Eva was Marianne's personal maid, and had been with the family for many years. Peter trusted her with his life and his daughter's life, but he wasn't sure about allowing such a young girl to listen to a man giving a speech, especially as it was bound to be about something unsuitable.

"Oh? And what did you think of it?" He washed his hands in the basin of water proffered by another of the servants and nodded, a signal for the food to be brought in. For Mr Peter McMahon was wealthy, owning as he did a huge fabric industry, exporting and importing and selling on to dressmakers and tailors all over the country, so he could afford extravagance. With only one daughter and no wife, since she had sadly passed away a good decade ago, his home expenses were not large.

"It was very...powerful." Marianne paused and then plunged in. "I am going to attend the freedom march in three days time. I was wondering if you would care to accompany me?" She looked up to see her father's face contort with rage, his cheeks flush scarlet and his eyes grow dangerously bright. Around him, the soft butter-yellow light seemed to flicker, turning orange and then going out, filling the room with shadows; Marianne stood up and backed away, frightened for no apparent reason.

"That man!" gasped Peter. "You have been listening to that man--that man who will ruin me once and for all. How could you sympathise with such a devil, my own daughter who should support her father in all his enterprises?"

"Mr Wilberforce? But I don't understand. He wants to free slaves; surely that is a good and noble cause, and nothing to cause you distress? Why are you so unhappy with him?" She genuinely did not know. Her father's rage boiled over and he slammed a clenched fist down on the table, causing plates and glasses to shake.

"Who do you think picks the cotton to make my fabrics, eh, girl? How could you be so foolish? I am telling you, that man will bring my ruin and disaster, and you ... you are helping him to wreck me. You want us to be bankrupt!" Pausing, he panted and stared at the girl with anger filling his hard heart. "You will not attend this 'march for freedom', and you will not ever go to a speech by such an evil man. In addition, you will never speak to me of him again. Am I understood?"

"Yes, Father," said Marianne, but in her heart was stirring a rebellion, a revolution as red as her dress and as strident as William Wilberforce's call for justice.

The End

4 comments about this story Feed