Die Writing

A breath of whiskey – Charles Dickens

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on November 13, 2015

Aside

This is an iteration of a writing exercise, based on a short story I wrote earlier. The suggestions – including Charles Dickens for this one – were given by my kind and enthusiastic friends.

I endeavor with this ghostly little story to exercise the ghost of an idea, and pray it shall not put my readers out of humor with myself, themselves, or the time they have given so generously. May my literary attempts haunt them briefly and pleasurably.

Blow off the dust

Part I

“Jen, would you like the rest of this posset? There’s just a breath of warmth left in it, if you’d like,” said Alex.

Jen and Alex, each no older than a tender thirteen years of age were confined to the unlit vestibule, ordered there in no uncertain words by that most unsparing of all overlords – their orphanage mistress, Mrs. Tawdridge. A wintry draft has slipped through the full-length glass double doors, chilling both children to their frail bones and robbing the posset mug of almost all of its heat. Neither of them was actually able to drink much of the milky concoction – the vile, malodorous rum dumped into it by an equally vile and malodorous cook turned their stomachs more cruelly than the hunger.

A fire had been lit for the guests occupying the distant, opulent dining room, separated from the entryway by the dim and sparse waiting room. The distance dissipated any and all heat born by the flames, and the only impression that reached Jen and Alex were the faint, shifting flickers of illumination. Just as the jovial and cordial company only reached them as an unintelligible cacophony of hearty voices, and the nourishing feast merely as tantalizing scents.

“No, you hold on to it, dear Alex,” she said. The poor boy was trembling sick, pale as the fresh snow outside.

Part II

“Where are these blasted knaves!” Mr Samuel Reedy boomed as he propelled his overflowing figure into the waiting room, and squinted while his eyes adjusted for the dim entryway.

“There now, you wee scoundrels,” he grabbed Jen by her shoulder. With the other hand, he relieved Alex of the cup of untouched posset. “Let’s just set this over here, lest it fall into someone’s pocket by some preposterous accident.” He lowered himself slightly, his eyes bulging and the folds of his neck battling the stiff starched collar. As he spoke, his voice effused with a palpably false sweetness, he squeezed little Jen’s shoulder ever harder.

“Now, children, these are good Christians in here, and they wish to hear nothing but good Christian music. I don’t wish to hear any of those shanties you ruffians may have picked up from the other villainous rascals. There is a warm meal in it for you, and if you perform as well as you have been trained, perhaps some good may yet come of the two of you. And remember, it is only by good graces of my humble self, and the good and kindly Mrs. Tawdridge that you are here, in the company of proper men and ladies, and that you may, one day, turn out something worthy of yourselves.”

Part III

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mr. Reedy spoke in the most saccharine voice, “we have with us tonight two lovely angels, two poor souls aggrieved by cruel fate, and whose only happiness now comes from the gentle care afforded them by the ever-saintly Mrs. Tawdridge, who is also with us tonight.”

As Mr. Reedy went on, the children gingerly arranged themselves. Alex stood on the granite slab at the foot of the fireplace, took off his cap and held it tightly in his hands, crushing its woolen rim. He would occasionally dare a glance at Jen, but otherwise kept his eyes affixed firmly on the extravagant rug covering most of the floor. When Mr. Reedy ushered the children into the room, he was careful to guide them around its edges.

Jen unclasped a worn leather case, its hinged stiff with rust and age, and retrieved a violin. And what a beauteous instrument it was! It possessed a varnished body the color of deep amber, a dark and slender neck, its form elegant and light. The case was marked with a simple brass nameplate, bearing the letters C. E. A. The violin seemed much too large for young girl, yet she handled it with confident dexterity.

Their moment finally upon them, Jen and Alex exchanged anxious glances. Jen managed a radiant smile, and it reflected in Alex’s gaunt face.

“Alright, Alex,” she said, and softly tapped off a one-two-three on the violin.

Part IV

Their performance complete – to an exuberant satisfaction of Mr. Reedy’s guests – Jen and Alex once again found them in the frigid vestibule, with Mr. Reedy himself towering over them, and the warm meal never materialized. He held Jen’s violin in his hands, inspecting it as one would inspect a prize ham. Candlelight condensed and smoldered in the rich golden amber of its grain.

“Jen, my sweet darling, that was a lovely performance, but anyone with even a grain of musical appreciation – such a man as myself – can see that this instrument is much too advanced for someone as young as yourself. Its voice much too powerful. It is even the wrong size for someone as minute as yourself! It is plain as day. I shall, of course, preserve and safekeep this extraordinary article, until the day you are ready to play more advantageously. In the mean time, Mrs. Tawdridge will provide you with a temporary instrument, better for you to practice with. Now, off with the both of you.”

Alex, exhausted nearly to the point of incapacitation half-turned toward the door, still Jen remained rooted where she stood, her eyes on the violin. She had neither words nor deeds to protest the unjust circumstance. However, letting it out of her sight felt like a complete impossibility, an action as violent as severing a limb.

At the very moment, the doors burst open, and a man clad in a naval uniform hurried in. Two others, dressed similarly but of lower rank, stood statue-like beside. Behind them, a dark carriage with gleaming headlamps rested in the street. The man examined the faces of those before him – Mr. Reedy and the two children – and when his eyes affixed on those of Jen, in an instant his countenance was illuminated with joy. He knelt before the child and embraced her.

“Who in the nine hells are you that you may invade a private home in such manner!” Mr Reedy demanded, suffocating with outrage.

“Captain Charles Edgar Avery, of Her Majesty’s Naval Service. This young lady is Jennifer Murrow, my niece found at last, and I am here to retrieve her, so that she may be reunited with her family and kin.”

As Captain Avery led Jen outside, she clasped Alex’s hand with every intention of never letting go and pulled him along into the carriage, where a pile of thick woolen blankets awaited them.

Pausing by the door, Captain Avery addressed the stunned Mr. Reedy once more,

“The violin you are holding, Mr. Reedy, I am certain, is the one I have gifted to my young sister, Miss Murrow’s mother, many years ago. It belongs to Miss Murrow, and shall remain with her.”

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