Monday, February 4, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 31

Episode 31 - "The Man With The Cane"
by Camille LaGuire

Mr. Sherman met them as soon as they rushed out of the house.  Penelope paused to give him a quick and garbled version of what had happened.  Mary was scanning the yard for what to do next.

"We have to find him quickly," said Penelope.  "Should we show the papers to the guard at the gate?"

Sherman shook his head, more in doubt than as an answer.  Mary clutched urgently at Penelope's arm.

"No," she said.  "We ask him."

She pointed at a man who stood in the compound, watching them.  He was a big man, in a loose white shirt, with a whip slung from his belt and a heavy cane over his arm.  He was smoking a clay pipe, and he watched them as they hurried toward him, but he made no move to meet them, or even acknowledge them.

"Excuse me, sir," said Penelope.  "I have just bought one of the prisoners, and Mr. Clement seemed anxious that the transaction be quick and quiet so the other prisoners won't know."

She held up the papers, and the man glanced slowly down at them.  He puffed on his clay pipe for a moment before he reached down and took the papers.  There was something about the way he stood and moved.  Penelope thought he was drunk.

He blinked and held the papers more carefully to the light of the lamp on a post next to him.  His lips moved as he struggled to sound out the words.  Penelope realized that he couldn't read.  That could be very awkward.  He might want to ask Clement about it....

"It's Jack Alwyn," she said, pointing to the name on the paper.

"I can see that," he said, but he kept studying the paper.  "He sold him to you?"


"Like hell!" he said, and he spat upon the ground.

Mary lifted her carpet bag, ready to pull out the pistol again. Penelope reached quickly to hold it closed.

"Yes," said Penelope.  "He told us of the difficulty with selling him, but he did it as a favor to my family...."

The man let out another oath, and shoved the papers back at her.  He weaved a little and ducked his head forward, like a bull. Penelope very nearly let go of her hold on Mary's bag.

"I am Lady Ashton," she stammered.  "My... my son is the Lord Ashton, the Earl of Ingerlick."

He seemed to pay no mind as she stammered out her credentials. He glared for a moment, a mad bitterness about him, like an angry animal.  And then, suddenly, he shook his head and shoulders, like he was shrugging off a great burden. And there was almost a smile on the bitter twist of his lips.

"He sold him!" he said in a voice halfway between a laugh and a shout.

"Yes, you see, my family...."

"Don't bother with the story," he said.

"And of course, I will compensate you for your assistance."  She held up her purse, but was afraid to let go of Mary's bag.  It was all right, though.  The man looked down at the purse.

"Sure," he said.  "But you don't need to.  He signed it all right.  However you got the signature, I don't care."

She let go of Mary's bag and poured out all she had left in her reticule.  She didn't even look to see how much it was, she simply held it out for him to see.  He raised his eyebrows.

"Whatever he says, at least I don't sell myself cheap."  He put away his pipe and accepted the money.  Then he grabbed the lantern and turned, gesturing for them to follow.  "Hope you have a doctor waiting."

Available after 8am EST, on Thur

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
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