April 1, 2006 at 6:48 pm #1947CatherineParticipant
(Thanks and XP to Egeria Fellows)
Barrels and crates of mackrel, stinking the same in death as they had in their short life ago, littered the docks in scales and fishgut. The day's catch found them at the evening tide, which in turn, found the elder Fellows seated on a piling, untangling the casting nets.
It hadn't actually been very difficult at all for the Bishop to discover that Edward Fellows was, in fact, still alive, which would make discovering more about the blind witch's past all the easier, too. It might have seemed odd for him to be delving into her past, all things considered, but he'd told her he would look into the matter, and he did try to keep his word. Besides, it was also a possibility that he would uncover something that he could hold over her, an idea that both amused and pleased him immensely. He made his way to the figure working with the nets, that mild smile of his in place on Octavius' face. “Good evening, my child. May I presume that you are Mr. Fellows?”
A squint of dulled over cerulean eyes, yellowed at their edges from the wither of years, peered down the short length of docks between him and the approaching figure. When he twisted his wrinkled neck behind him, and turned back to see the waft and sway of robes before him, he knew it was not a child that the man had sought and called out his name by mistake. “Your holiness,” a nod announced a tenative approach, leaving the nexts knotted and forgotten. The aged man slipped down low in his kneel to take up the Bishop's hand and kiss his ring. “Allow this humble servant to lend his ear. How may I help you? The catch is fresh.”
He placed his other hand atop the man's head and murmured a short blessing. “Why, my child, I wouldn't dream of taking some of your livelihood away in such a manner, though I am certain that He smiles down upon you for such a kind, charitable offering. Is there a place where we may sit and converse, my child? Assuming, of course, that to do so wouldn't keep you too long from your work. If it would be easier upon you, we could do so as you finish your task, else I could wait until you've finished.”
Edward raised his head, though eyes remained averted, “your holiness. If I may ask you to stand a moment with me. I have a short length of net to unwind and then we may go to a public house, if you would oblige this sinful stained man a seat where only a fish monger is welcomed, if such would not offend your senses and your own obligation to Him.” Quick hands moved to finish his toils, while the Bishop thought, and finished his work before the Bishop spoke.
He chuckled softly. “My son, it would be my honor to do so, for one who is clearly so dedicated to the Lord and to good, honest labor without which the world cannot go on turning.” It was, in some ways, quite surprising how different this man was from that wretched creature that called itself his daughter. Then again, perhaps it shouldn't have been, else the man wouldn't have been so eager to rid himself of a child so clearly marked by the Morningstar.
“Please then, your holiness, follow me this way.” A short walk to Fisher's pub where the stench of their trade could be kept in close confines, and with like personage so that no one occupant would ever be offended by the smell. It was a crowded room soon made more so by two more. Edward took the Bishop to a farther corner, with a window near it's place that was cracked open before he seated himself. “Please, your holiness, find what comfort you can here and let this wretched servant know what he may do for you. If there is indeed worth left in him aside from casting the nets in the morning and drawing them back by the night's fall.”
He followed the man through the pub to the table, nearly bowled over by the stench in the process, though he did his best to appear unfazed and un-bothered by it. “Dear child, you speak as though one who is clearly so pious and devoted to the Lord as you are has committed some terrible sin which lays heavily on his soul. While it is certainly not the ideal place for such a thing, is there ought you feel you need confess before we speak further? After all, were you to continue to speak of yourself in such a manner, I would feel unquenchable sorrow on your behalf, when you clearly seek to be a good man who lives by His words.”
“There is not an ides that have gone by in which I do not regret what I have done. Some twenty eight years ago I have lost my Marion,” he focused so intensely on some trifle happening out in the docks. A boy slipped on a fish head, being helped back up. It was all he could do to stave off the tears, “my wife. We were, not without sin, and though we have tried our own to repent, I fear it was not enough for our doing. And for what we have done, she has gone her way, and I have been left here without her.”
“She died in childbirth,” he stated quietly, following the man's gaze for a moment before eyes trailed back to him. “It is difficult, oftentimes, to understand why the things that occur happen, but you must remember that the Lord works in mysterious ways, and that surely Marion is with Him now.”
“I pray that she is so, your holiness,” Edward sighed, and turned back to his company as it would have been rude to remain too distant for too long, “she did. That she did…”
“While I'm certain that it must be a difficult subject for you to discuss, indeed, to even think upon, it is your daughter I've come to speak with you about. Though, of course, if you find it too distressing a matter, I shan't push you to do so.”
“Is she dead, your holiness?” For he would certainly have been taken back to learn that she still lived. There was hope held there in his eyes, a shimmer in a stare as dead and gone as the morning's catch. But there was hope in tone and stare.
“No, my son,” he spoke quietly. “She lives on, though I believe that may only add to your pain that she does so when your dear wife has departed from this world.”
Dried and withered hands, clumsy hands when they did not hold a net to cast, took his head. His slow breath left him, till there was nothing more than thought in his head, “I should have, your holiness, I would have…”
An eyebrow rose calmly in his regard of the fishmonger. “You should and would have what, my child?”
“Claim her final breath as she surely had stolen it from her mother…but, would that not have been an even greater sin?” A sigh, “I am sorry to say such things. I am naught but a sinful man. I cursed His name that day, and each day after I prayed that He would see to take her from this world.”
“Truly, my child, to have done so would have been a sin…and yet, despite your strong feelings to do so, and to have cursed his name, you didn't do so, which shows that surely there is good left in you. That you can acknowledge your sins – as we are all, in fact, sinful creatures – does well to bring you back into His love. He is a forgiving God, and He is full of lovingkindness. It sounds as though He tests you, as He finds ways to test us all, and given the manner in which He sees fit to do so to you, you are surely earning yourself a place with Him and your wife in the Heavens above.”
“I pray it so as well. But…you said your holiness has come to speak on that woman. What has she done? What further damnation has she brought upon the good name Fellows?”
“I came to discover more about her past, my son, should you be willing to speak upon things long done and gone. About the sins of yourself and your Marion, and about the years before which your daughter found her way into the care of the widow she still serves.”
“Where then, Bishop, should I begin?”
“Wherever you would like, my child. Though if it would make things less difficult for you, generally the easiest place to begin is, indeed, the beginning.”
“The night she was born? That is the beginning that put an end to our humble but happy home. That night she was born with those blind and filthy eyes. But none of us were wise to that, what attentions could be given to a child we have known for so little, and cared for even less when she took my wife of two years away?”
“Yet you spoke of your wife's departure during childbirth as having been a punishment for your sins, my son. What might those have been, if I might inquire of you?”
“She sold herself by night so that we both could survive another day. My meager wages were not enough for a wife, and so I allowed as much. I condones as much, if only for the fact that she had taken to the trade before I met her, and continued it on from the day I took her to our wedding bed…”
“Although it was a sin, surely the Lord could forgive you for that, as you did such things merely to ensure your survival. I assume that, pious as you strike me to be, you and she confessed your sins, yes?”
“We did. I have not known my wife to be naught but a good Christian woman, and took to the Church of England though she was not of her majesty's lands.”
“No? Where then did she come to us from? I am pleased to hear, though, that despite her foreign birth, she took to the true House of the Lord when she arrived.”
“A heathen's land. Though I know not its name. From what I heard, the poor creature was struck dumb. Nailed in a crate and taken to these ports from wherever her birthlands were. We did not speak of such things, as when I tried, she would turn to such a fit of hysterics.” Edward shook his head, a lamentable thing, “Oh, but it must have been an exotic land. She was a very beautiful woman, and had she turned to sin, had she been a sinful thing by blood, she would have been a dangerous thing.”
“Perhaps then, that explains some of why your child is such a sinful, dangerous thing. Though you will pardon me for saying so, I hope, my son, for I mean no offense by it, nor do I mean to place any fault for it upon your head. She was born with the mark of Satan upon her, after all, as I'm sure you well know. I am sorry to hear of the troubles and woes you and your wife experienced. Please, though, do go on, should it not be too difficult for you to do so.” He smiled mildly at the other man in encouragement.
“I did not take the time, as a father might, to raise her. When I learned the thing was blind, I prayed that the rest of her senses would turn just as useless.” Edward held his hands to his face once more, “I remember cold nights I lift the windows open. While I, warm in my bed, prayed a draft would come in, and take her out with it. She was always a peculiar child. Not even a scream when she was born, and not a sound thereafter but,” his old eyes narrowed to recall, “that cursed whispering. Never did she speak to others, only to herself. And so, since she enjoyed her company so much, I left her to it in the grave yards of St. Christopher's.”
He nodded slightly. “Yes, from what I've noted of her, she seems to converse with and see things that men weren't meant to see, as well as being drawn to cemeteries. Though it would seem to be a sin, to attempt to drive out wickedness, as you did, is a thing He looks upon with favorable eyes.”
“I could not pay a years wages to any man young or old to court her. And, Bishop, your holiness, I am sad to make such admission but she would not even be taken as a whore with those damndable eyes. What is it that she does now?”
“Believe it or not, my child, she works as a seamstress. Having seen her at work with my own eyes only further served the same conclusion that you reached, that she is, indeed, damned in His eyes. If you'd like, I could give you the name and address of the shoppe at which she works, as well as the name of the widow she there serves.”
“I wish to know nothing further of her, save for when she dies so that she can go out with the fish carcasses that do not sell at market. If no one else will take her hide.”
He inclined his head slightly in acquiescence to the other man's wishes. “Should I ever hear of such a thing befalling her, I will be sure that you are informed of it, my son.”
“Should you, Bishop, speak so closely to the Lord, as I am certain you do…perhaps speak to him of her. I believe her to be forgotten by him for having been left to live as long as she has. A blind wretch surviving sickness, draft, the streets…it is not natural. It is not right…”
“Who apart from He can say what is and isn't right? Though it surely makes no sense to us, I am sure it all fits in with His plans, which aren't for us to question. Though I will pray that we receive some clarity, and that you receive some justice for all that has befallen you. Is there any else you can tell me of her past or history?”
“Nothing to know of save for she has remained here longer than she deserved…”
“And there is no more you know of your wife in those earlier days when she first arrived, or before she came here?”
“None but what I have spoken to you of, your holiness…”
“My son,” Octavius began, that same mild smile unflinching upon his face, “as you yourself have noted, I speak rather closely with the Lord, and while I cannot pretend to know anywhere near as much as even the loweliest of angels, I do know to some extent the hearts and minds of man. You have done both yourself and I and, thus, the Lord great service by your candor here tonight, and so it would do you well to speak as honestly now.”
“But my wife…I fear she would turn in her grave for me to utter what horrors befell her.”
“It is alright, my child…after all, do you not speak of such things with a man of God? Anything you speak to me could only do you well, not ill.”
“She came from the islands, though I am not certain which one, or where. Only the Hughes Trading Co. Ledgers might for that was the ship that brought her in.”
He almost had to bite down upon his tongue to keep from laughing. “The Hughes Trading Co., you say?” How deliciously ironic. “But tell me, why would she have come upon a trade ship?”
“Her family, wherever she came from, dealt in cane and the distilling of the same. Rum, rum I believe it is.”
“And yet, despite such a thing, trade ships rarely, if ever, carry passengers, if I'm not much mistaken.”
“She was not intended to be such. She was placed in a cargo box nailed shut. Only a peephole to fit water and morsels through…it was not her intent.”
“I see. Whose intent was it, then, my child? And given the hole for food and water, I assume, then, that at least some aboard the ship knew of the strange cargo they carried?”
“I suppose it so…her father placed her there. That is all I know…”
The man was lying when he said he knew no more, and the Bishop could tell. He gave the other man a slight frown and made a soft chiding noise. “Please, my son, do speak of all you know. Hold nothing back, for it is nothing that He doesn't know already.”
Edward frowned, and swore he heard his wife moan from the rot of her own grave. “I do not know the full of it, but her father, she had lay with him. And then, one night, she was shut into the crate and sent away, knowing not where she would go, nor what she would do on her arrival.” and she knew no more.
“Really? She lay with her father? Willingly, or was she coerced?”
“Willingly, Bishop. Please, Lord forgive us both…”
“I am certain, my son, that He has already done so, and if not, surely your confession of such things here and now will help, so long as you continue to allow Him into your heart, though I believe you should make penance as well.”
“I do Bishop, please, accept my sincerity and my services to you and this land in His name…”
Smiling mildly (though, if one looked very closely, there was a hint of something else hidden within it), he raised a hand and signed a blessing to the man across from him. “I will accept on His behalf, my child. Know that the Lord loves you and that you do well to speak so openly to His servant. It may not always seem like it, my son, but the Lord is there for those such as you who have opened their hearts to Him and do His works.”
“Bless you, your Holiness. Bless you…”
“And may His blessings shine upon you, as well, my child.” He stood, leaving several shillings upon the table in charity for the man to purchase some food and drink with, before turning and setting off, smile becoming a triumphant smirk as he went.
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