Thursday, February 14, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 34

Episode 34 - "It Is Done"
by Camille LaGuire

Penelope hovered in the background, feeling odd and dithery, both in the carriage and once they'd got back to the inn.  Brother William fetched them a doctor very quickly, a man sympathetic to the condition of prisoners and slaves.

Unfortunately, owners seldom allowed him near a man under punishment, and he had little direct experience with such abuse.  He was assisted by one of the missionaries, though, a dark woman dressed in an excess of white clothing, including a bonnet and veil which hid her face.  If the clothing had been black, you'd have thought her in deep mourning.  According to Brother William, she was a member of a foreign sect--he didn't say which--and she'd taken a vow of "white mourning."

The silent Sister Kow had been a slave herself, and had more experience than the doctor with abuse.  She also knew more of the local medicines.  She had something to help with infection; and infection, the doctor told them, was the greatest risk now.

The main job was to clean him up, and that in itself seemed a large and unpleasant undertaking.  Mary, the sister, and the doctor were busy taking care of him.  Loreen and Hingle were running back and forth, getting things, and providing more help than was needed.  And they certainly provided better help than Penelope could, and they were much less likely to faint.

And fainting was exactly what Penelope was about to do at the moment.

She recognized the smell of blood, and it brought back vivid flashes of memory; of Roland, of the blood, of Mary leaning over him to see what could be done -- just as she was leaning over Jack now.  Penelope covered her face with her hands and pushed back the wave of nausea, and the world seemed to recede from her.  Someone caught her arms, and pulled her to her feet again.

"Come into the parlor, mum," said Sherman.  She followed willingly, as he led her away and sat her down near the window.  She took several breaths of fresh air.

"I'm quite all right now," she said, placing a hand on her stomach.  "I'm really quite useless, aren't I?"

"Not at all, mum," said Sherman, and she looked up to see him looking quite seriously at her.  "You saved his life.  Do you realize that?"

"Mary saved his life."

"You made that possible."

She felt giddy, and almost laughed, but then she had a sobering thought.

"But he's not home yet.  We haven't really got him to safety until he's home, have we?"

"No, mum."

"And ... is it legal?"

"Legal enough that Clement will have to fight you in court, at least," said Sherman.  "That will give us time for other plans.  But this is a wild place, mum.  The signed contract and possession are what the law favors.  To be sure, I'm off to Philipston tonight, to register the purchase as soon as the office opens in the morning.  You may have more money to spend and trouble to go to, but I think we can say with some assurance that it is done."

"I should go with you," said Penelope, gathering herself.

"Oh, no, mum, Loreen is needed here I think, and--"

"I may not be able to help take care of Mr. Alwyn," said Penelope, "but I am capable of caring for myself.  You've been riding all day.  We'll take the coach so you can rest properly.  I'm of more use in Philipston than I am here in any case."

With that Mr. Sherman bowed and put forth no more objections.  Soon they were settled in the coach with fresh horses, trundling their way over the ridge to the capital.

As the carriage bumped along, she found her mind going back to that filthy, smelly, bloody mess of a man in compound at Clement Farm.

"We've got to get him away from this island," she said more to herself than to Sherman, who was dozing in the seat opposite her.  He didn't lift an eyelid, but he replied all the same.

"A wise course, mum," he said.  "The man is an ardent revolutionary, and likely to get himself into more trouble if we don't watch out."

"You know, he's not at all what I expected," she said.  At this he did look up.

"You can hardly expect a man to be like himself in such conditions."

"Oh, I expected him to be a wretched mess," she said.  "I meant... did you hear his voice?"

"Yes, mum."

"He's not...He's not...."  She paused. She was going to say that he wasn't a gentleman, but that sounded insulting.  "He really is a smith!"

"I thought that was well known, mum."

"It is," she said. "And Mary told me in any case.  But, well, it's silly of me, but I am surprised all the same. When I've read his books, I've always heard the voice of a cultured man.  I did not expect the thick Actonian workingman's lilt that came out of his mouth. I thought I knew him, but now I see I don't know him at all."

"That's excusable. I often find his writings themselves rather surprising."

"It makes me wonder what other surprises I'm in for."
"Quite a few, no doubt," said Sherman.

"No doubt," she agreed, and she looked out the window of the coach.

They were just cresting the ridge and she could see down into Philipston Bay. It was quite distant as yet, but she could see the town laid out in lights across it, and up above the city, Government House was lit up like a beacon.

"There must be something to do at Government House," she said.

"A ball in honor of the new governor, I believe," said Sherman.

"Do you know anything about him?" asked Penelope. "Is he amenable to bribes, do you think?"

"I'm sorry, I have been remiss," said Sherman with a laugh.  "I have been too distracted to learn his name, and do not know about his greed, but I expect he will be amenable to influence if necessary."

And thus the first act of this story is done.  But there is more trouble in the air....

Stay Tuned For Episode 35 - "The Royal Governor"
Available after 8am EST, on Monday

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.

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