Monday, January 28, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 29


Episode 29 - "Clement Proves Stubborn"
by Camille LaGuire

It was evening by the time Penelope had got them all organized.  Mary was impatient, but oddly quiet.  Brother William had made it clear they needed to make the appropriate impression.

Sherman had hired an excellent carriage, and some livery for himself and Hingle.  Penelope took extreme care in her own appearance.  A proper lady could be intimidating to men on the rise, like Clement.  She made sure Mary was dressed well but plain, like a companion.  They left Loreen at the inn.  One more male servant would have been useful--a coachman and two footmen makes for a very intimidating entourage.  But perhaps it would have been overdoing it.

It was a long drive, and the place they came to was rustic, to say the least.  Tall solid fencing of sharpened wood, like a fortress.  A man out front with a musket.  He looked like he was lounging when they arrived, but as soon as he saw them, he jumped to his feet, and opened the gate.  The house was large and quite modern, but beyond it, lamplight revealed glimpses of shacks and hovels, and another picketted wall.

Mr. Clement received them with surprise.  He had Penelope's card still in hand when the man from the gate showed them into the parlor, or perhaps it was a study.  The place seemed too rustic to tell the difference.  Though it might merely be a reflection of the fact that the man didn't have a wife, and probably didn't socialize much.

"I am pleased to meet you...Lady Ashton?" he said, clearly full of curiosity.  He took her hand and bowed slightly, then glanced at Mary and decided not to take her hand, perhaps because it wasn't offered.  Mary dipped a slight curtsey.  A cold curtsey.  Penelope didn't like the look on her face, although it was blank enough not to upset Mr. Clement.

They all sat, and went through the ritual of offering and accepting tea.

Then the girl came in with the tea tray.  She had the dark bronze complexion of the Tantalis, and her black hair was cut short.  She moved awkwardly, as if it were difficult to walk, and as she set down the tray, Penelope saw there was something wrong with her hands.

Clement paid no attention to the girl, but she certainly paid close attention to him, as she carefully avoided coming within his reach.

At the sight of the girl's hands, Penelope was struck with a new feeling of fear.  Almost a panic.  She took up her tea, casually, and forced a smile.  The panic was not rational.  It was only that Trent's and Brother William's words seemed suddenly to have real meaning.

This man had a despotic power to control others, and there was no controlling him.

Brother William had said not to be desperate, so she had to be as casual as possible.  Clement did appear to be impressed with her title and presence.  Though Mary was clearly burning behind her, Penelope took her time.  Only after a sip and a taste of her cake did she get down to business.

"I'm afraid I'm in distress, Mr. Clement."

"Oh?"  He looked suprised, and clearly did not think she looked in distress.

"One of my servants got himself into trouble while I was out of the country.  When I returned, I found he had been transported, here to Sabatine.  I'm trying to find him."

"A good long way to come for a servant, ma'am."

Penelope raised an eyebrow in haughty rebuke:  "I came here to visit Governor Halburton before his retirement."

"I beg your pardon," said Clement, properly cowed.

Penelope nodded, and took another sip of tea.

"However, before I return home, I must discharge the family duty.  This man's family has been with us for many many generations.  They're old retainers, very loyal..  And if he has made trouble, it is really our duty to correct him, in any case.  So I would like to buy him and send him to my brother's lemon plantation on Tikhali."

"And you think I have him."

"Yes, my man inquired at the market.  His name is Jack, and he's a broad man, black hair...."

"Jack Alwyn?"

"Yes."

"I'm very sorry, ma'am," said Clement, looking honestly disappointed.  "I can't sell him to you."

"What?"

"He's trouble, all right.  It doesn't matter how loyal he may have been to you, he tried to start an uprising.  I have to hang him."

Penelope looked in alarm at Mary, but Mary just sat, straight and stiff, staring at Clement, and pale as snow.

"He's been tried and sentenced for this crime?" stammered Penelope.

"I don't have to try him.  He lost his rights when he committed his first crime."

"There is some doubt as to his guilt on that...."

"But no doubt as to his guilt in this.  I am very sorry that I cannot assist you, but I must make an example of him."

"I will pay you an extremely high price."

"I can't take any price.  If I let him go, what does that tell the other prisoners?"

Mary slowly stood up, holding the large bag she had brought.  Penelope flushed, and thought furiously.  It wasn't over.  She could reason with this man.

"Is he imprisoned by himself at the moment?  You could tell the others that he died of a fever, or a zealous guard, or...."

"Oh, no, ma'am.  I have to display the body."

Penelope closed her eyes, but then heard Mary set her bag down on the sideboard.  She made odd sounds with what she was doing, a rip, and a click, and other metalic sounds.

"Here, what are you doing?" said Mr. Clement.  Mary turned around and pointed a pistol straight at Clement.

"You will sell Jack to Lady Ashton, and do it quickly," said Mary. 








The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

2 comments:

Nigel Mitchell said...

Interesting stuff. I'll have to go back and catch up

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks for reading!