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Stolen

An essay into steam punk for the #DirtyGoggles Blog Hop … do go and see the other entries on the link … and if you have something of your own that might suit, there’s still a few hours to polish it up if you want to enter.

Title: Stolen
Word Count: 790
Handle: @alexbrightsmith
Category: Steam

The sounds of the street were muted; all I could hear were the steady sigh and gurgle of equipment in the public ward and, somewhere out of sight, the gentle slap of a drive-belt slightly out of true.

As time passed I found that misalignment increasingly difficult to ignore, but it was beyond my power to fix it. I had been so careful to have nothing about me that might antagonise my father, should he give way and agree to see me, that I carried no tools, wore not so much as a token cogwheel to decorate my hat, such as any fashionable lady might wear. Even equipped, I could not have left my place, for at any moment I hoped for word of him, or for word from him, if he could only unbend so far.

Hushed figures came and went, but none came from the private wing. Amongst the ebb and flow of that bare room I came to recognise that I was not the only one who waited, numbly, for news that could only be bad, but even our shared misery could not break down the barriers between those others and I. Notoriety need not advertise. Only the boy met my eye, the sharp little lad dressed just well enough to gain admittance, drifting around the room like an attentive host, somehow giving the impression to each family that he belonged to another, though it was clear from my detached observation that all treated him with equal caution.

Even he kept clear of me; I could easily imagine why. Not because he knew that I was aware of him – he had too much confidence in his skill– but because of a healthy caution as to what the infamous Cassie Farquharson might carry in her purse.

Nothing. Nothing he need fear. Nothing to adjust that damned, slapping drive-belt with.

***

“Miss Cassie.”

“Mr Ansted.”

I answered coldly, my civility stretched by the abruptness of his greeting, and I rose only because my ardent hope misled me into assuming that he had come to fetch me to my father’s side. He saw my intent, and laid a restraining hand on my elbow, dropping it fast enough at my pointed look but freezing me in my place with his next words.

“He has not relented, Miss Cassie, and I regret to inform you that he will not now do so.”

I will not cry. Not here, not in this public place, not in front of him.

“Walk with me?”

I did, mechanically, and wished I had not, for as soon as we stepped into the street he said

“Miss Cassie, it is not too late for us. We have your father’s blessing … give up this nonsense, this career of yours … ”

I stopped in my tracks, and bade him farewell, and he could do nothing but obey my public will, and leave me standing there, alone.

I will not cry.

***

“’ere, missus!”

I turned automatically, and I know that my expression would have made the most determined suitor flee, but it was the scamp from the waiting room, and he only grinned impudently.

“You’re that Cassie Farquharson, aintcha missus?”

“I am.”

“That gennelman, he didn’t try to give you nothing? He didn’t say as he’d lost nothing?”

I should have told him it was none of his concern, but I could see the question was earnest, and I agreed politely that he had not.

“I ain’t sorry, then, that I took it off of him, though I’d never have took anything I knew was yours.”

He was gone before I could answer, leaving me with a thick cream envelope, addressed to me in a grotesque, quivering parody of my father’s firm hand.

I will not cry.

Somehow I found a bench before my resolve crumbled.

***

My dearest Cassie

I had hoped that you would come to me, at this extreme, but I fully accept that I do not deserve your forgiveness.

I have come to understand that Mr Ansted would never have been the proper husband for you. He disputes it, still, which has made me most uneasy in my last days, but he has agreed to carry this message to you. There is none other to whom I can entrust it, I have been as foolish as that.

My fortune I leave in trust for you, though I understand that presently you have neither need nor desire for my money.

That understanding, too, has come late and has been hard learning.

For now the enclosed is the only item within the gift of

your loving father

***

The signature was quite illegible, and the token he had left me, that had fallen into my skirts, I could not see.

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4 comments on “Stolen

  1. Strength and vulnerability…beautiful.

    Like

  2. Wow, I didn’t see that coming at all! Most enjoyable. Loved the different distinct styles for each character

    Like

  3. A tale of personal relationships distorted by convention and expectation, set in a steampunk context – very cleverly done!

    Like

  4. Very excellent twist, but not nearly twisted enough as that chap’s neck is clearly in dire need of.

    Like

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