Dreams come unbidden
Hidden and unguarded thoughts
Taught with expectation
Revelation of the inner soul?
I rode my horse hard, back to the house,
Bringing forth snorts of protest from the beast.
My anger at that infernal woman beat heavy in my breast.
I would have it out with her once and for all and bugger the outcome.
The sarcastic smile, the withering look that cut like a rapier,
The stony silence when spoken to I would have no more of.
I had come to hate what once I cherished so, so dearly.
I flew through the gates, dismounted,
Handing the animal over to the stable lad.
He looked a little nervous. I paid him no heed.
I stormed up to the front doors to be met
By a panicked footman.
“What’s the matter man?”
“Sir, sir take great care” he was almost in tears.
“The lady has armed herself and
Has told the servants she means to kill you” he blubbered.
“Armed with what?” I asked
“y..y…, your duelling pistols sir” he stammered in his frenzy.
I began to regret the night I showed her how to load them.
We had played a game pretending to be highway men,
Chasing each other round the house in eye masks and tricorn hats.
The winner was the one able to sneak up
And press the muzzle against the others back without detection.
She, being so light on her feet, pressed home her advantage,
Winning to her obvious delight. I revealed the secrets
Of the firearm to her and later she revealed her secrets to me.
Happier days. That it should come to this.
I held the cowering footman by the shoulders.
“Has the lady practised her aim, if so where?”
This was too much for him, I thought he would collapse
He pointed towards the front door with a trembling hand.
I found this hard to believe.
“What! In the house, had she gone mad?”
I was reeling with confusion and anger.
Somehow, I gathered my senses
And shaking the man I asked, “how many shots did you hear?”
He fumbled with his fingers showing me first ten followed by two.
” So, a dozen in all” he nodded furiously.
“And did they follow more rapidly towards the end?”
He looked astonished.
“Why yes sir, but how did….?”
“Simple, she is getting better at loading the bloody things.
How long was it between the last four shots?”
“Couldn’t really say sir, maybe half a minute, two at time like.”
Once she had discharged both pistols I would have about thirty seconds to find her.
Not long, but I should be able to subdue her.
If I had her slender neck in my hands
I would happily squeeze the life out of the crazed bitch.
Of course she could fire just one,
Then hide and reload.
I had to factor that in. To hell with her!
I threw open the doors to the main hall.
There was silence, then the acrid stench of cordite hit me.
So, this was her shooting gallery.
Something was wrong with the room.
There was a chair, clearly from the dining room on my left,
Placed behind a large round table
Which itself was something like twenty feet
From the fireplace at the end of the hall
Over which hung a full-size portrait
Of myself with the house in the background.
She had only used it for target practice.
My rage threatened to overwhelm me, but I kept it in check.
I studied the picture and counted a dozen holes.
All had hit, some more lethal than others but four stood out.
One to each breast,
One to the forehead and one to the groin area.
I called out.
I tried again at the top of my voice.
”Emily, would you care to tell me what the hell is going on here?” still nothing.
I moved towards the staircase.
“Stop right there you loathsome creature.”
Her voice was steady, almost calm but nonetheless
Had a coldness to it I did not recognise.
The hall had a significant echo to it
And it was difficult to locate the precise direction from whence it came.
I noticed all the doors leading off it were open,
The dining room and library on my left
And the day and gaming rooms on my right,
Tempting me to inquire if she was within.
She knew full well I would not fall for that,
So I surmised she wanted me in the hall
Which could only mean her being at the top of one of the two staircases
That led from the hall.
She appeared as if like a wraith from nowhere.
At the top of the stairs as I had predicted.
“I hate you, hate you with all the passion we ever shared.”
I was not surprised.
Her coldness towards me over recent months was manifest.
Dressed in white she looked magnificent as ever.
Her red hair loose tumbled down over her shoulders.
Her blue eyes fixed me to the spot and flickered
With potential violence.
This was no time for aesthetic appreciation,
For this was no game.
My life was at stake.
She had tied tethers to the pistols,
Around the grip and muzzle that looped around her neck,
The better to steady her aim.
Clever, clever girl I thought.
“Do you really want me dead?”
“Yes” like the hiss of a snake she replied.
“you have degraded and defiled me enough.
My family has disowned me and my friends shun me.
Because of you and your reputation.
You are not who I thought you were,
Not what I want and not who I need anymore”
She could crush a man with words.
The air went out of me. I gathered myself.
“There is a little matter of the law” said I.
“I will turn the pistol on myself when I am done with you,
the shame of my association
With a bastard like you I would do that anyway” She replied.
“I do the world a great favour by ridding it of a monster” she continued.
Could I make it to the table for cover?
I tried, she did not fire instead she said,
“How appropriate that you should scurry
Like vermin when trapped.
I can smell your fear from here”
That was definitely true,
But a threatened man is perforce on high alert.
He does not think as instinct takes over.
In my case the will to survive.
Could I make a dash to the dayroom?
Where a door led to the gaming room.
I might be able to catch her unawares
If I could make it.
It was my only chance, as she had said, I was trapped.
I sprang forth, stumbling as I reached the entrance
Which proved fortunate as at that very moment,
She discharged one of her pistols,
The shot missing me by inches,
Burying itself in the door frame.
Close, too bloody close.
The sound of the firearm rang throughout the house,
It was deafening. I picked myself up
And scrambled to the far end of the room.
I was about to open the door when I heard her voice.
“Stop right there and turn around to face me,
I will not shoot you in the back
Which is all you really deserve.
I want to see your eyes as I pull the trigger”
I knew she had the agility, speed and the silence
Of a cat but this was remarkable even by her standards.
I faced her,
Not thirty feet away by the door from the hall.
She advanced towards me slowly,
Her eyes fixed on mine.
I watched her with all the intensity I could muster,
Given my precarious circumstances.
She had discarded one weapon and
Had both hands on the remaining one.
Braced by the connecting ties the pistol was steady.
She could not possibly miss at this distance.
I watched her finger close around the trigger,
The hammer already cocked.
As she squeezed I ducked
For I knew the pistols were sensitive to pressure of minimal kind.
The shot grazed my ear but she was done,
A spent force.
Blood spilt onto my white linen shirt,
She shrieked a howl of dismay.
Running away I gave chase to her,
Up the stairs to her chamber.
She was about to lock the door but I forced my way in.
She stepped back,
Her eyes blazed with anger and contempt for me.
“So” I said still dripping blood from my ear,
It had turned my left breast almost crimson,
“you will have me no more” she panted
“I do believe you mean that. Then you leave me no option. I will take you by force”
What happened next is to my eternal regret.
I left her bed.
Self-loathing gripped my stomach and
I wanted to vomit
For the act I had committed upon the woman.
This was bad, bad, bad indeed.
I repaired to my room to change my shirt.
Having done so I looked into the mirror.
What faced me was not me, or what I thought was me.
The blood crusted ear told me it was.
I threw a punch at it.
The image became fragmented, but was I who was shattered.
I decided to take a ride, clear my head and such.
The servants had re-entered lighting fires,
Bringing some sense of normality to the place
After this afternoons mayhem.
My man came to me “shall we attend the lady sir?”
“She will doubtless call if she has any needs. Oh, and Travers.”
He looked expectantly,” hide the pistols under lock and key”
I told the lad to saddle black shadow,
My favourite and possibly my only friend at this moment.
We rode gently down the lane in the late evening sun,
But I was disturbed,
Deeply, deeply disturbed by recent events.
Eventually, as the sun drifted down, I reached an inn.
It bore my name The White Arms.
I had refurbished it
And reinstated the former landlord
Telling him I would take a percentage of his takings.
“Do not fuck with me, and I promise
I will not fuck with you, that’s the deal”
Colourful language, we shook on it.
Sometimes you must speak plainly,
I was a master of the vernacular.
I entered the tavern.
The hearty chatter closed off.
I knew I could silence a room, but not this way.
These men were as low born as I once was.
I felt their stupidity was their misfortune.
I remembered what a vagrant once said to me
“You know so many tricks, you think you are clever”
Perhaps he was right.
Perhaps I was deluded by my obvious success.
The thought passed. Stupid old fool.
I approached the counter.
“a bottle of your finest brandy sir” I slammed down silver coin.
“Don’t see you here too often then.
We heard there been some trouble at the house like”
“Shut your fucking mouth, tis all dealt with.
Mind your own business and keep your nose out of mine you impertinent wretch”
“Sorry sir, but with your ear and such like”
This would be all over the county.
A lie spread faster than the truth could put its trousers on.
The low murmurs and suspicious looks
Drove me away.
As I left I heard the room erupt in laughter,
Muffled by the door.
It was surely at me.
It was dark, I rode home.
I tumbled in and went to the library.
The fire was light and I slumped in the chair opposite.
The flames were mesmeric in my drunken state.
I Thought about the day.
She was lost to me, all was lost.
Perhaps I better put a gun to my head
As she had suggested only hours earlier.
I was not ready to die.
Not yet at least
I must have dozed off.
I heard a steady, insistent knock on the door.
Doubtless it was her.
“I have come to tell you I will be gone in the morning”
She was silhouetted by the hall lights,
I could not see her face.
“Where will you go?”
“As far away from you as I can sir”
“And leave all this” was my retort,
My arms held wide.
“You are a self made man.
Private wealth and largely self taught.
But there is a piece missing in your construction.”
“A soul. You have none.
Perhaps once you did.
I believe you traded it as a child,
Was the bargain favourable?”
“Get out, get out!”
“Yes I will.”
She gave me a slow handclap as she left.
My humiliation was complete.
I first met her at her fathers house.
I dinned with him on a regular basis
To discuss business.
He introduced us.
I think I was about twenty four,
She could have been thirteen.
Over the soup course I noticed her looking at me.
”Do you not think he speaks oddly father”
“Accents are one thing, but he has a sharp mind”
“Can it match mine?”
“I would hope it would be bettered” said I.
She liked that, and looked,
Looked at me as if time would not pass.
Her eyes drew me in. Her father laughed,
“And so she starts, precious girl”
Her look never left mine.
Was this love, or just infatuation?
I would come to know
But I knew I loved her,
With an indescribable passion
Why would it bring me so low?
I left the house taking a carriage home.
I could afford such things as my fortune grew,
But that girl,
That girl was in my head.
I went to bed.
Slumber eluded me.
A knock at the door,
My house keeper answerd.
She came to my bed chamber.
“There is a young lady to see you sir”
Her emphasis on “young” did not escape my notice.
I put on a robe.
On decending the staircase I saw her.
“What the devil?
Does your father know you are here”
“The devil indeed.
My father has told me all about you.
You are clever, perhaps myopic at times,
I feel no reason to explain.
I just wanted a fairwell kiss before I leave for Europe.
They may teach me how to be a lady. Hang that!
I will no more be a lady than you are a gentleman”
I sat and studied her face.
She moved off her chair and sat before me,
Her hands on my thighs.
I could not, would not do this.
I stepped up quickly
“You must go, right now”
“Then you are no fun sir”
“I would burn in hell before I took advantage of you”
“But the advantage is mine”
Sweet sweet seduction
I forgot about her,
But my mind wondered.
I took such pleasure as much as possible
But of course it meant nothing.
My business improved and I acquired wealth.
I would not take a wife,
Domestic life would be a bore.
The chore involved did not sit easy with me.
Her father visited my office
”Gad sir, you are a remarkable fellow.”
I had made him much money of late.
“My daughter returns from Switzerland,
It is her birthday.
Lord knows what she has learnt.
I doubt they taught her anything
She did not know already.
I am holding a party for her,
A get together if you wish.
She got through tutors at a furious pace.
Knew more about their subject
After a matter of weeks.
Strange, strange child. But she is mine”
He looked at me with obvious meaning.
A crooked smile played on his lips.
“I will be there sir” I replied.
“Make sure you are. She specifically asked for your attention”
God knows why.
I sat at my desk perplexed.
She must be sixteen now.
A full formed woman,
But still, still too young.
My groin ached
I resolved to go
And show myself
The burning desire
Told me so
I arrived in good time and was let in by a servant.
Laughter and merriment drifted out of the living room.
“Welcome, welcome, young man”
Said mister Kemp, my employer.
”Come in, come in sir and take your ease.
You remember Emily my daughter.”
How could I possibly forget.
She had a more womanly shape
And bore it well in her gown.
“Oh yes. I have a recollection of you.
Its mister White, is it not?
My fathers most trusted employee”
She lent closer and whispered,
Our cheeks almost touching.
”I really don’t think he knows what you are truly like.”
Her eyes flashed as she drew away.
I had no word of reply,
But held her gaze, perhaps a moment too long.
She noticed, and tossing her wonderful red hair
Turned to other guests.
She flirted with the young men.
She was much in demand for marriage
But the company of such inbred swine
Was a sop to her father.
He had money and pretentions
But I knew she would not give.
She had to want.
The thought preoccupied me
As I ascended the stairs to the water closet.
Closing the door I sat there.
What was happening here?
She had me by the balls.
Did I resent it.? No, no.
I did not love her but I was in love with her.
My desire was shameless.
There was a knock at the door
“What on earth are you doing in there?” it was her.
”I need to piss.”
Charming language for a young lady.
She knocked again.
”What, what” I said in complete disarray.
I was annoyed by the intrusion.
“Are you doing what all boys do?”
She giggled as she said it.
“And what might that be?” I replied.
“Why, do not play the innocent with me.
Giving yourself pleasure.
I do hope you are thinking of me”.
More giggling ensued.
That was enough.
I adjusted my clothing and opened the door.
“Young lady you are a disgrace.
You cannot speak to a gentleman thusly.”
“I wasn’t aware I was speaking to a gentleman.
You and I are not too dissimilar.
We both have needs.”
She took my face in both hands
And drew me to her perfect lips.
I offered no resistance,
But feasted on the bounty of her beauty.
“Enough of this. Now I really must piss”
She turned away saying
“I see from your trousers
There is something in there.
Beware how you use it. It may go off!”
I had to laugh.
She knew men. God knows how,
But now I felt deflated by her kiss,
But in leaving, I knew,
I knew one day she would bring me to my knees.
Perhaps just to please her.
Her power over me transgressed
All laws of god and man.
The span of life is brief,
But I could not believe what just took place.
History, my history,
Condensed into a moment of madness.