Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's Novel Wed--No, Thursday!

The last two segments of my novel are here and here.

All three segments are in sequential order, but not back-to-back.  Given how long it will likely be before my novel is published, I'm afraid that if I release it chapter-by-chapter, the whole friggin' novel will be on the Internet before it sees print.  So my goal is to release samplers here and there that hopefully generate interest.  

If you have feedback, you know the drill.  Also, for some reason, the formatting came out double-spaced this time, despite my efforts to make it like the other segments.  Enjoy!   

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Arthur rushed outside toward the commotion.  It came from a side street, but was spilling onto the high street, slowing traffic.  Arthur hoped that he was wrong, that it was something else.  Maybe some Strand workers had got into a brawl.  As he grew closer, he heard jeers.  “Where do you think you’re going, murderer?  Stay right where we can see you!”  Arthur felt a shiver as his worst fears were confirmed.  
He pushed through the growing crowd to find Brutus, Mr. MacDougal’s horse, rearing and snorting as two men held his reins tightly.  A few feet away stood Mr. MacDougal.  He was unrestrained, but completely surrounded.  There was a cut on his cheek, and his right eye and lip were swelling.  His shoulders were slumped and his expression downcast, as if he had no fight in him.  Every time he moved, one of the people in the circle pushed him back.  The jeers were so loud, Arthur could barely hear himself.  He looked for someone he knew, but found only drifters, Strand employees itching for a diversion, and itinerate workers.  One young fellow caught his eye -- he was crouched in a corner, writing rapidly in a journal.  Mr. Kettlewood’s assistant?
“Stop, he’s done nothing to you!” Arthur yelled, but he might as well have whispered.  He shook the shoulder of the man next to him.  “Stop this.  What has he done?”
“You’ve not heard?” the man wheezed.  “He murdered the mistress of the great house.  If we don’t do something, he’ll just do it again.”
How well did you even know my aunt?  Arthur wanted to scream.  Are you really trying to avenge her, or is she just the excuse you need?  How many townspeople had quietly resented the Scotsman for his success? 
Arthur tried to break the circle, but it held fast.  People turned to look at him.  “It’s his boy!” one of them shouted.  Arthur felt great pressure from behind, and at once, he stumbled into the circle.  The circle broke, except for one man who caught him around the waist.  Arthur’s eyes met Mr. MacDougal’s for the first time.  His mentor looked at him with a sad expression, as if to say: I didn’t want you involved in this. 
Arthur did not have time to respond, as he was pulled back and confronted with more angry faces than he could count.  He felt a heavy blow to his cheek, a sharp pain in his ribs.  The angry voices danced around him.  Arthur tried to fend them off, but there were too many.  He could only shield himself from the blows and pray that someone would come.
Then a voice cried out: “It’s the Warpole carriage!  The Warpoles are here!”  Other voices rose in approval.  “Let’s show them!  C’mon, let them sentence these two murderers!”
Do they even know that I’m her nephew? Arthur wondered dazedly before being all but carried back onto the high street.  He did not believe that the Warpole carriage was truly in town until he was thrust against it, into the face of his cousin Isabella.
I can see my reflection in her eyes.  That was all Arthur could think before he was yanked away.  He saw a Warpole footman standing in front of the carriage, facing the crowd and shouting.  The driver was trying to control the horses as the crowd flowed about.  Arthur then saw Mr. MacDougal being shoved against the other side.
At once, Arthur was up against the carriage again.  This time, he saw Isabella recoiled against the seat, lines etched deeply into her face.  Aunt Brimley was sitting in the carriage beside her.  She was shouting something, maybe out of concern, maybe out of anger, but Arthur could not hear.  Then a voice cut through the din: “Matthew, quickly!  Take him!”  Arthur was gripped from behind again, this time in an effort to steady him.  The Warpole footman had him by the waistcoat and was trying to guide him into the carriage.  What a day to forget my bloody coat.
The footman’s actions met the crowd’s approval; they seemed to think Arthur was about to punished.  He tumbled into the compartment, against a seat opposite his aunt and cousin.  He looked at their stunned faces for a moment before remembering Mr. MacDougal.  Arthur thrust his head out the other window and looked for him, but he was no longer on that side of the carriage.  He was nowhere to be seen.
Arthur tried to open the door.  “Don’t you dare, Arthur!  You stay here with us!” aunt Brimley ordered. 
Arthur’s cheeks grew hot.  “I can’t leave him out there!”  He tried the other door, then realized that the footman was physically blocking part of it to prevent the crowd from getting in.  If Arthur could not go out a door, he would try the window.  Over his aunt’s objections, he thrust his head and shoulders through the narrow space.  His cousin called out: “Matthew, if you see Mr. MacDougal, take him!”  Just then, Arthur felt a severe tightness in his throat as his collar was yanked from behind.  His arms weakened and he fell backward into the carriage, his rear hitting the floor and his head striking the opposite wall.  Arthur’s ears were ringing, but he could see Isabella standing overhead, and felt her black-gloved palm pushing into his chest.
He could not tell if she was angry, as she quickly turned away and leaned out the window.  “Stop this at once!” she cried out.  “My mother would not have wanted this!”  Her voice began high and thin, but grew deeper and steadier the more she repeated herself.  Arthur pushed himself up onto a seat.  From his view out the other window, it was not clear that the crowd heard, much less responded, to Isabella’s voice.  However, their rage did appear to be losing steam.  Then Arthur heard: “Go back to work, you lazy scum!  Or lose a whole day’s pay!”  The constable’s booming voice followed.  “Break up!  Move along now!”  The crowd shifted about, then flowed away from the constable, some people walking, some running.
Isabella pulled her head back into the carriage and fell against her seat.  Arthur saw that she was shaking all over.  He reached over to press his hand over hers, but aunt Brimley was faster.  She stroked Isabella’s hands in a soothing matter.  “Thank you,” Arthur said.  Isabella raised her face and looked at him like he was a stranger.  Then, as if realizing what she had done, and for whom, her expression sank into one of revulsion.  Her pale blue eyes grew colder -- so cold that Arthur felt cut to ribbons by her gaze.  He wondered how he could have looked at her directly before. 
Arthur knew that Meg and Charlotte did not care for her, but he never thought her so bad.  Now Arthur understood what they felt.  Isabella looked as though she did not know how to smile -- had never known how to smile.
Outside the carriage, the flood of people had become a trickle, and soon would be puddles.  In the near distance, Arthur saw the Warpole footman returning with Mr. MacDougal, who was able to walk under his own power.  Arthur thrust open the door and leaped out of the carriage.  Upon closer inspection, Mr. MacDougal looked worse than when Arthur had last seen him, but still far better than he had feared.  When Mr. MacDougal saw Arthur, his eyed shone with relief.
“Well, now.  What’s going on here?”
The sharp, nasally voice could only belong to uncle St. John.  He strode toward them with the constable at his side.  Uncle St. John was a tall man whose heaviness made him seem thick and solid like a bear, rather than soft and flaccid.  His tall black hat shadowed part of his face, and his long dark coat gave him a more official air than the constable.
“What sort of trouble did you get yourself into this time?” uncle St. John asked tensely.  His small dark eyes examined Arthur’s face; Arthur was sure that a massive bruise had formed on his cheek.  Without waiting for Arthur’s reply, he strode over to the Warpole carriage.  “Was he bothering you, my dear girl?”
Arthur’s blood simmered.  Why should he be surprised that uncle St. John thought he started the riot?  Uncle St. John blamed him for taking a shit in the morning.  Arthur could not hear Isabella’s reply, but felt Mr. MacDougal’s hand on his arm.  “It was my fault,” Mr. MacDougal said wearily. 
Uncle St. John turned briefly.  “I never said it wasn’t.”
“Now, now, Mr. St. John,” said the constable, “it seems Mr. MacDougal was the victim of some mischief making.  I’ll send my men ‘round to see if they can find the ringleaders.  In the meantime, Mr. MacDougal, if you need to be escorted home --”
“No need, sir.  My house is quite close,” Mr. MacDougal said curtly.
“Very well, then.”
Aunt Brimley poked her head out the carriage window.  “Arthur, come here and get into the carriage.  We’re going home.”
Arthur stiffened.  “I can’t leave Mr. MacDougal alone when he’s injured.”
“He is a doctor -- he knows how to take care of himself.”
“Yes, but the lad’s injuries need tending to as well,” Mr. MacDougal reminded her softly.
Aunt Brimley sighed.  “All right, then.  I shall wait here as well.”
“No Liza, you take dear Isabella home,” uncle St. John urged her.  “Grace and I will take the boy back to the parsonage.”
“I would rather walk,” Arthur blurted out.  He did not mean to be insolent; he just wanted to be alone to think.  However, it was clear by his glare that uncle St. John took offense.
“You most certainly will not do,” aunt Brimley said sternly.  “I’m not letting you wander about anymore.  You were supposed to be at school today -- if you had been, none of this would have happened.”
I can spend one day without talking about dead philosophers in dead languages! Arthur wanted to shout.  Instead he mumbled an apology -- knowing that it would never be enough to satisfy her.
“All right, Edmund, you may take him home,” she told uncle St. John.  Then, as if something just occurred to her, she added: “It would give you and Arthur the opportunity to discuss certain things that need discussing.”
Arthur did not want to discuss anything with uncle St. John.  From his darkening expression, uncle St. John was in no mood, either. 
The Warpole carriage left soon after, and Arthur helped Mr. MacDougal home.  They found Brutus grazing in front of his stable, as if he had never left.  Yet despite the brevity of the riot, someone had found time to break two of Mr. MacDougal’s front windows.  At least there was no shattered glass inside.  Nice solid boards.  Mr. MacDougal did not seem to notice as he led Arthur to the surgery.  A close examination found that Arthur’s ribs were bruised, not cracked or broken.  A poultice was applied, as was one for his swollen cheek.  Arthur refused to leave until Mr. MacDougal had tended to his own injuries.  Mr. MacDougal’s own face needed a poultice, and his left arm needed setting.  Mr. MacDougal thought that his left forearm was fractured.  Arthur put together the splint and wrapped the arm, taking as much time as possible, knowing that uncle St. John waited impatiently outside.  Maybe he would get tired and leave.
Before Arthur departed, he had to settle one thing.  “You must leave this place,” he insisted. “Come live with me.  My aunt and uncle gave their permission.”
Mr. MacDougal smiled sadly.  “They won’t get me tonight, lad.”
“Tomorrow, then.  Please.  You can’t stay here.”  Frustrated that he was not getting a better response, Arthur issued an ultimatum: “If you don’t, I’ll give up my spot at university.”
Mr. MacDougal blinked.  “I shall think about it, lad, all right?  That is all I can say.  Arrangements must be made before I move anywhere.  All right?”
Arthur nodded reluctantly.  “I will come by tomorrow.”  
To his disappointment, when he left Mr. MacDougal’s house, the St. John carriage was still waiting outside.  Uncle St. John stood in front, eyeing his pocket watch.  He exhaled sharply through his nose when Arthur appeared.  Arthur vowed to say as little as possible on the ride home to avoid his uncle’s cutting remarks.  He sat in the seat directly across from aunt St. John, who smiled at him weakly and whispered a greeting.  Arthur did not mind aunt St. John so much, though she always seemed half afraid of him.  Did she think that he was plotting to take away her son Benjamin’s birthright?
Uncle St. John heaved himself up onto the seat beside his wife.  “My dear, I’m so sorry for the delay,” he huffed.  “Had I known that he would be so slow, I would have let the Brimley carriage come for him after all.”
Aunt St. John said quietly that she did not mind, but throughout the trip, both acted as though Arthur had committed a grave sin.  They discussed all of the things they missed since they were late, and how their children would never forgive them.  Arthur gazed at his feet, or out the window, trying not to notice.  All the while, he kept thinking one thing over and over.
I don’t need to join the navy to get on a ship.

Note that use of the photograph above does not mean Philip Halling endorses this work.  This work has been registered and may not be reproduced in any form without my express permission.

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