Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Muse II {Guest Post}

The continuation of The Muse I {Guest Post} is here! My brother Ben writes on...

Well liked, the young lieutenant had risen quickly in the ranks, catching the attention of his commanders by volunteering for the most uncharitable and well nigh suicidal missions fighting first the French, then the Colonists, and every type and sort between. Finally mustered out after a sword swinging rant against the Kings cowardly practice of paying other nations to fight Napoleon when, in his words, he would “put him down for a bob,” the battered old man had found himself with nowhere to go but to the home he hated.

On that particular and auspicious evening, the Colonel was sitting, as was his daily custom, before the low
fire in the drawing room. Staring into the embers he was seated stiffly in an armless wooden chair, smoking in slow puffs, waiting for his supper. All around him, peeping out from under a great many dusty oilcloths his ancestral furnishings languished and sagged, dreaming silent furniture dreams of the day when curtains might be thrown back, a great suffocating cloud of dust would be kicked up, and they would live again. Like many wild fancies however, it was very unlikely. If the Colonel had his way, he would die tomorrow and upon the reading of his will his few distant and conniving relations would learn that he had left them nothing at all. The furniture and the grounds would have been sold, the proceeds having found their way to the Soldiers Hospital in Edinburgh. He had even specified that his medals, his pistols and his sword be buried with him lest they find their way to a pawnbrokers and be lost upon his charmless relations.

As the old hall clock struck seven, there was a knock on the door. Mrs. Mulrooney, staunch and red faced
trundled to answer it. It was a rare soul that ventured over the moor to the House at all, let alone at this hour. From time to time, the butcher or the dairyman or the grocer would make a delivery at Mrs. Mulrooney's request during her market day excursions, but that had been last Thursday and she had received all which she required for the Colonels meager sustenance.

“Hello?” The woman pressed her ear to the door. There was no answer. She called out again. “Hello?”

Hearing no answer the woman returned to her kitchen and pausing to contemplate her armory, selected a pewter ladle. A God fearing woman and the mother of three grown boys, Mrs. Mulrooney had learned long ago that a good wooden ladle swung at sufficient speed was as good a weapon as an Iroquois war club, and a good deal easier to come by. Holding it aloft, she challenged the door yet again. “If that’s you Daniel Fairbarnes, you may expect a sound drubbing.”

It was not Daniel Fairbarnes. Glaring out into the cobbled yard, Mrs. Mulrooney looked down to see a small basket the color of rubbed ebony, its fine, willow whip sides gleaming in the glow from the kitchen door. A white silk blanket, dotted with raindrops covered whatever lay inside. Her frown deepened. There was absolutely no one she could bring to mind who would leave a costly basket on the inhospitable steps of a forbidding great house on this least charitable of evenings.

Bending over she plucked a note from where it was pinned to the shimmering cloth.

"For John Dunnagh. Sorrow born of joy may yet birth joy. Moss may yet grow green and flower on a stone."

The woman’s brow furrowed deeper still. Reaching down she scooped up the basket, finding it uncommonly solid and heavy. A moment later it was sitting on the Colonel’s table next to an iron plate of boiled potatoes and roast beef.

The Colonel growled, pinching the scrap of paper between his thumb and forefinger. The note was on parchment and even to his one good eye and in dim, flaring light of the single taper, the Colonel could see it was very fine. “What is this?”

“Someone left it for you at the kitchen door. Just left it and ran, I reckon. Didn’t see who. ” There was a weighty pause as the colonel stared at the note. Mrs. Mulrooney fidgeted with her apron. “Are you going to open it?”

Wordlessly the man placed the paper next to his plate and unfolded the silk. He paused and cocked his head. Mrs. Mulrooney craned her neck like a hen snatching at a fly. The Colonel began to weep.

To be continued...

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