Elizabeth has a disturbed night.
Following from the last installment: Elizabeth overdid it on a visit to the exciting hamlet of Moreton Hampstead, and is ill. Mary has tucked her up in bed.
“I suppose I’m just tired and seeing things.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Miss Elizabeth. See what you feel like when it’s time for supper.”
Elizabeth was sound asleep when it was time for supper. So sound asleep that they left her sleeping while they ate. When her uncle and Mary looked in at her at dusk, he said, “Mary, I would like you to sit up with Elizabeth. Come find me if she has difficulty breathing. Poor girl, she must be exhausted, shouldn’t have sent her to town today.”
Mary saw the concern in his face and said, “I’ll keep an eye on her, but I’m sure she’ll be fine.” It took her no little effort to keep the doubt from her voice.
“I hope so. I’m not sure our visitors won’t be back. Best to be prepared.”
Mary nodded. While she didn’t like it, she understood what he meant.
Elizabeth finally stirred in the middle of the night. The noise at the window, the noise of cutting glass and working on the lock, awoke her. It also awoke Mary, who stood and pointed something at the window. Whatever it was, it gave an incomprehensible shout and then jumped off the window. Elizabeth drifted back to sleep and missed the noise from the outside when her uncle said, “Got you, you bugger.”
When she finally awoke in the morning, Elizabeth still felt weak. So her uncle bundled her in a quilt and sat her in front of a fire in the parlour. He said, “Best if you take it easy today, my dear Elizabeth. Have a valetudinarian morning, if not an entire day.”
Elizabeth was in no shape to argue, and honestly enjoyed trying to read a novel, something by Trollope, while she stared at the flickering flames of the fire. It wasn’t until Mary came in and asked if she’d like some tea, that she said, “Mrs Trent, I had the oddest dream last night.”
“Yes, you were in it. There was a noise at the window.”
Mary stiffened, “There was?”
“Yes, and you were watching me, from a chair in my room. You stood up and pointed a rifle at the window. There was a scream. It sounded like nothing on Earth.” Elizabeth paused, “Then, well, I forget the rest. But it seemed so real.”
“You have a vivid imagination Miss Elizabeth. I did spend the night in your room, in case you took a turn for the worse. Whatever would I be doing with a rifle, now?”
Elizabeth looked at Mary and noticed, at last, how tired she looked, “Are you well, don’t you need to rest now?”
Mary said, “Nay lass. I’ve been up longer at lambing season. Have to keep something ready for George at all hours. I’ll catch my rest in between. Did you want that tea?”
“Yes, please. Oh, have you seen my Uncle? I’d like to thank him for the novel.”
“He’s gone into town Miss. Had to send a telegram, and said he’d be back for dinner.”
Elizabeth felt decidedly restless by mid-day, so she moved to a chair where she could see outside. Shortly after that, she saw Uncle Sylvester ride at a canter to the stable, dismount, and walk his horse inside. She waved when she saw him, and he waved back. Before he could come to the house and chat, a dark black closed carriage, one with bars on the windows and an armed guard as well as a driver pulled up. While the driver steadied the team of four strong horses, the guard climbed down and walked into the stables. A few moments later, both the guard and Uncle Sylvester reappeared. They escorted a short, stout, and decidedly foreign looking man to the back of the carriage. The guard unlocked the back and opened the door. Over the man’s objections and struggles, they forced him inside. After that, the guard locked the carriage. He and her uncle chatted. The guard climbed back onto the carriage and with a shout it was off. The entire episode was over in a matter of a few minutes.
When her uncle came in, Elizabeth said, “What was that about?”
Normally abstemious, her uncle went to the sideboard and poured himself a large tot of whiskey. Then he tossed it off as though it were water. “You saw?”
“The black carriage and the man.”
Uncle Sylvester sighed, “Poor fellow, criminally insane.” He paused, “After what he did last night, it was best to keep him here until he could be picked up. That was his transport to Princeton. The Queen’s prison for the worst offenders.”
“Is that why you were in town?”
“Yes, and it’s why,” he paused to pour himself another drink, “I’m having this. I always feel dirty when I commit someone.”
“I thought you were just a doctor.”
“I am, but I’m the closest thing to an alienist in this part of Dartmoor. When there’s trouble, I am called to certify insanity. I testified this morning, along with Sergeant Hopwell, to the magistrate, and they took the poor fellow away. It’s not likely he’ll recover his wits, so they’ll lock him up and throw away the key.” He stared out the window and muttered, “I wish there was something I could do about it. There ought to be something besides locking them up.” Then he shrugged, and asked Elizabeth, “Can I see that bracelet of yours?”
“This one?” Elizabeth took off an ornate chain bracelet. “I like it, but it’s just a bit of trumpery I bought from a street seller. He said it would give me good luck.” She handed it to her uncle. To her surprise, he snatched it from her hand, took it to the window and examined it closely.
Saying, “I should have known,” he dashed to the fire and tossed it in. There was a greenish flash and it vanished in a puff of acrid smoke.
The next installment.
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