Monday, January 21, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 27

Episode 27 - "Brother William"
by Camille LaGuire

The man who stood behind them wasn't dressed in the formal gray of the Plain folk back home, but Mary recognized a religious man when she saw him.  And he wasn't the queen's kind of religious man.  He was definitely Plain, in his simple, practical clothes, and to top things off, he was carrying a book of the prophets.

"You, clear out," said the man from the slave market.  The man in the straw hat gestured for them to follow.

"Come, I'll tell you what you want to know."

He led them across the road and into the shade of a warehouse.  There he stopped and looked carefully at them.

"You're looking for Jack Alwyn?"


"And you're looking to buy him back?"


"You can't take him home, you know.  It's a part of the sentence.  He has to stay here."

"We know that, sir...." began Lady Ashton.

"Brother William. You don't have to sir me."

"I beg your pardon, brother.  We're only concerned at the moment with his well-being."

"Where is he?" interrupted Mary.

"He was bought by Clement Farm, which could be worse."  The man sighed.  "Some of the places are purely evil.  Clement likes a profit, so he keeps his men healthier than most, but he also thinks of himself as an arm of justice.  He firmly believes that the men are there to be punished.  He isn't very sympathetic to mercy."

"Have you seen him?" said Mary.

"Aye, but not much of him," said Brother William, nodding.  "Sometimes they let us in to pray over them, as a part of the process of reform.  We were at Clement Farm about three weeks ago.  I didn't speak with him, though.  He doesn't appear to be a man of religion."

"Not your kind of religion, anyway," said Mary.  "How did he look?  Have they been beating him?"

"It's difficult to say, since he didn't come close.  He looked well for his situation.  And he had some scrapes, but that could be from the work."

"So he's healthy."

"Three weeks ago he was."  Brother William lowered his head seriously.  "Listen, we sometimes try to buy these fellows, for mercy.  Some of the owners use us to get rid of those beyond work.  Clement is difficult to deal with.  It's rare he'll sell someone for mercy, and then he strikes a hard bargain."

"I am wealthy," said Lady Ashton.

"Are you?" said Brother William with disapproval, and Lady Ashton blushed and looked away.  "It will help.  And your obvious status will help.  But don't let him know you're out to free the man."

They spoke for a while longer, and he advised them on the location and more particulars of Clement's farm.  As they left, Lady Ashton hesitated, and then, chin tucked in like a penitent schoolgirl, she took money from her reticule and offered it to him.

"For your good works," she said, clearly afraid he'd be insulted.  However, Brother William wasn't so proud, and he took it with thanks.

Mary was ready to start walking to Clement Farm right then, but it would take nearly two hours to get there by carriage.  And by Brother William's words, they needed to take care.  No madwomen showing up at the gate demanding or begging for mercy.

They decided to go back to the inn, and cool themselves, and prepare to visit more formally. They had good hope that Mr. Sherman would be able to join them.  Lady Ashton wanted all the support she could find, and Mary couldn't disagree.

Available after 8am EST, on Thursday

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