A short story written as part of the Summer Prose Competition 2011 Challenges 3 and 4
An opened letter lay upon the pinewood desk. The seal had been broken, and the ink had begun to fade as the sunlight had poured onto the ink. The words enclosed within were now burned upon the recipient’s mind.
Bring her to me before the night of the summer ball.
I am a patient man, but you are trying me beyond my usual capacity.
Consider this as an opportunity to redeem yourself.
I expect your presence.
Do not come without Lady Christiana.
More than your position hangs in this balance.
The man sat at the desk, his elbows firmly leant upon the wooden surface and his hands supporting his brow. His eyes were closed. A series of memories, images, flickered across his mind’s eye, reminding him of his own inadequacy. He remembered, with each image, more of that early morning; the sun had begun to peer over the Earth’s shoulder, casting a pale light over the fresh, moist mantle in which the morning had dressed herself. The dew, like jewels, was suspended from the leaves and blades of sparse grass, and from the overhanging brickwork of that rundown inn. He had stood, a fool, by the carriage, waiting for his mistress to return, having gone to fetch the possessions she had left behind. As time had passed, the door remained closed, the air soundless, save for the man’s breathing.
It was then that he had realised that they had slipped away, and the woman he had regarded so highly had fallen. She had betrayed the trust of her father, the Duke, and brought shame upon her family. Joseph Goldman, a name the man now despised the recollection of, had awakened this sinful fragment of his Lady’s being.
The man, whose name William Evans, had yet to deliver the news. He waited, in an overwhelming silence, for his liaison to reappear. He had been sent to find the whereabouts of the unnatural pairing.
William tried in vain to forget the fugitives, even for a moment. He wanted peace, some time to think, a small second in which to simply breathe. He began to sense something resembling freedom.
There was a knock at the door. Tearing himself from the sanctuary he had discovered, he rose slowly, wandered over to the door and turned the brass handle. The young liaison burst in, another person whom William had recently encountered who had seemingly forgotten common decency. The youth flung himself upon the chaise lounge, his face as scarlet as the dress Lady Christiana had worn, and his breathing laboured. William passed him the glass of ale he had been nursing, and watched him drain it. As soon the youth was able to articulate, he began to speak, at first quietly, in a manner which caused William some straining to hear. Eventually the phrase, two words, echoed in William’s ears. William began to stumble, his heart beating irregularly in his breast. He found his seat at the desk, begin to fumble about for a pen. It quivered in his grip. Taking a headed sheet of paper, he began to write, the words just about legible.
Lady Christiana will be there, as well as myself, in good time for the ball.
May you remain strong in mind and health.
William stood up from his seat and turned to his liaison.
“Tristan, go downstairs and send for a carriage. I shall be there shortly.” The youth, though lacking in some decorum, followed the instructions he had been given. As the door closed, William found his case and began to pack some amenities for the journey ahead. Once the more basic items had been secured, the last additions were made to the luggage. A small dagger and the Duke’s letter were placed at the top of the case, before it was closed and locked. William hugged the handles in the palm of his hand as he hurried out of the door and descended the stairs. He passed the maid as he rushed through the entrance hall and out of the door.
The carriage was waiting. William flung his bag onto the designated platform and clambered inside. The driver turned and asked him,
“To where do you intend to travel, sir?” William licked his lips. After a deep inhalation of breath, William replied,
“To Gretna Green. As quickly as possible.”