Of The Living And The Dead

  • March 12, 2006 at 8:26 am #1876

    (Thanks and XP to Egeria Fellows!)

    Octavius hadn't been to Madame Renault's shoppe since that first visit when arrangements had been made for she and Egeria to attend services weekly in exchange for the church's custom. Still, he remembered where it was, and made his way through the door to the shoppe and straight through to the room where he knew Egeria would be working. “Good day to you, Miss Fellows,” he spoke with a mild smile when he saw her.

    “Good day, Bishop.” The tallow candle burning on the still provided the room's only light as the curtains were drawn within the parlor turned workroom of the shoppe. Egeria busied herself with taking in the hems of a hoop skirt, far too busied to look up from a dress she could not see to a man she could not. “Have you come by do drop off your garments or to speak with the widow. She is napping if you would wish for me to summon her.”

    “Really, Miss Fellows, do you think me so callous? I've come to check up on you, nothing more. When you were in the cemetery the other night you were rather upset, after all.”

    “I am better now, thank you.” A breakfast tray sat nearby, and four hours past the noontime would still find it untouched. “As you can see, I am quite busy today. The window has proven herself more useless than usual and these dresses will not make and mend themselves.”

    “A shame. I do hope she compensates you fairly. Though she does, after all, provide you a roof over your head, which is no small matter. I do hope you'll make more use of that in the days ahead than you did that night.”

    “Yes. As I've said before I've much work to contend with. I am certain I will be under this very roof for quite some time. No worries to that.”

    “Well, sometimes it's good to delve into one's work when one is upset with the other aspects of one's life. I only hope you'll remember that it will do no good to try to escape entirely.”

    The dress was placed down to fall over her lap. Her hands found a neat placement, wrist over palm and resting there to her knee. It was all she could do to hold herself upright, or to keep better care with her hands so they would not find his throat or eye sockets so easily, “what can I do for you? What is it that you want?”

    “Why, there's nothing that I want, Miss Fellows. Nothing selfish, at any rate. I merely want to be sure that you're getting through your difficult time.”

    “As you can see, I am indeed doing just that…”

    “Hmm, I wonder, Miss Fellows. To me it rather seems more as though you're putting yourself through denial and refusing to acknowledge the things that are bothering you.”

    “Sir Hughes is where he belongs, and I am where I do. I do not think that is denial, I think that it was how things should have remained. Now please Octavius, I do need to get these orders in so that that roof we spoke of earlier will indeed remain where it is, and I will remain under it.” A slow draw of fingers curled over the right of her skull before slipping down to take up the needle she had stuck into her coat. With nothing further said, or even a glance to spare, she returned to her work.

    “And yet, that makes you absolutely miserable, doesn't it? Him being there and you being here? So why, Miss Fellows? If you'll forgive my saying so, I hardly think the idea of sinning is what drove you apart, for that seems to bother neither of you, and you're far from repentant. Which means there's something else entirely.”

    “Leave me alone Octavius or I will call a constable.” A pause, “I never said I did what I had for the sake of sparing sin. You may come to your own conclusions and you may keep them, but I'd beg you to mull each of them over as you return to where you yourself belong.”

    “Do you really think any constable would lift a finger to do a thing to me, particularly upon your word? I've done nothing wrong here, Miss Fellows, only expressed my concerns for your own sake.”

    The garment was fitted over the wood-woman, silently, swiftly. Upon a pivot of her heels she approached him, pinched at his elbow with a wrap of her of her palm, she began to pull him towards the door. “It is almost closing time, and even still the workday will not be ended for me. I would ask you to leave now. I thank you for your concern but as you have clearly been made to see, all is as it should be now.”

    He smirked. “All is as it should be, is it? Hm. Perhaps so. After all, you're no longer endangering that poor old man's soul. He deserves better than what you were doing to him. And yet, Miss Fellows, you're merely sinking yourself lower than you were before.”

    “Just go, you miserable thing…” Slinking away and to the front etched glass and wooden doors, she waited there by its frame. Pale eyes narrowed to watered crescents that focused intently upon the front stoop. “Enjoy it from a distance. You and that little slip of a girl. Do not trouble yourself to find this place again. There is nothing for you here.”

    “You're merely proving my point more fully, Miss Fellows. You're at a point where you're sinking into madness, allowing yourself to believe everyone's merely out to get you or has some agenda. Yes, that's right, Miss Fellows, the entire world only seeks to cause you misery…”

    “Get out…”


    “Because you have accomplished what you have set out to do, and now that it has been done, you can go. Whatever threat you have found in me is obviously no more. His soul is salvaged by the good grace of the Lord, and whatever other drivel of comfort and compassion you preach. Now go.”

    “Ah, but that says nothing of you or your soul, Miss Fellows. Whether you believe it or not, I worry for you. No sane person would spend nights in a graveyard and then delve into work so deeply that they even neglect their own sustenance.” He gestured back towards the untouched breakfast tray.

    “If I give you a weeks worth of wages for the collection plate, will you leave me be? What do you care for? A bottle of wine for the offering? Perhaps a new pair of trousers? You shall have it, if only I could have you take your leave now.” A peak of fingers reached over her nose, shrouding lips and shallowing breath. “I really wish you would leave now…”

    “Why? What is it about my presence that bothers you so, hmm?”

    “Because you are a cruel thing to find me here and remind me of things that are better left forgotten. Now please, I am behind in my work. Go.”

    “Forgetting your past will lead you nowhere, Miss Fellows.”

    “Bugger off, and do not worry, to forget you would mean that you may be allowed back in here by mistake.”

    “It's not me that I'm worried about in this instance. The fact that it's so traumatic for you to even think of things with which you haven't even spoken to me of is quite indicative of how deeply wounded you are.”

    “I cared a great deal for that man. Now please, there is little left to speak on unless you wish for me to get the widow so that you may terminate your agreement. Would that make you take your leave?”

    “It's not the widow that I'm concerned with, either, Miss Fellows. I just don't understand why, then, you would leave him like this. What happened?”

    “What do you care of it?”

    “It is my calling to care of all God's creatures.”

    “Then go to them as you will not find any in here.” Egeria had grown increasingly tired of the man's presence and it showed in the creases of a young face. “Please..”

    He sighed. “Why is it that every time I attempt to make peace with you, you only take the attempt as something other than what it is?”

    “Whether or not he deserved better, that little truth telling of your did not need to be ground into fresh and open wounds now did it? I know you have been smiling,” she whispered low should the widow have poked her head out from her chambers, “Tell me as much. You wear your robes well, but the fame they hang upon is no less mortal, no less sinful than I or the lot of us. Now go.”

    “I have never once pretended to be anything other than what I am. You're absolutely correct; we are all of us mortal, and all of us sinners. Yet most are more willing to face that fact, admit it, and seek a path to redemption than you are. Have I spoken things to you that I should perhaps have thought twice upon before speaking? Yes, quite probably. Does not the same hold true the other way around? Do you not smile when learning about my own misfortunes? And yet I come to you in the spirit of Christian forgiveness and charity, and you treat me thus.”

    “You, as it would seem, are a man immune to misfortune. For I have not smiled nearly enough when thinking about you, I realize this. Now if you would please, take your charity to the needing and the wanting. For I am neither of those.” Her hand swept from her side to the door's panel, in showing that the whole world waited there for him to greet it.

    “None of us are immune to misfortune, Miss Fellows, though it is more difficult to fall into such a state when you walk alongside the Lord. Would it be so horrible to speak your mind to me? You said yourself there is worse company to be had than my own.” A wry smile was given along with the last.

    “No, I will not spak of it. It is good enough to know that I have attracted unwanted attentions upon him, and I hope that in my absence, such misfortune will not follow him.”

    “What is done is done, and cannot be so easily undone, Miss Fellows. You lacked discretion then, and he will suffer for it now, as, I am sure, you already do. But you needn't martyr yourself and suffer in silence.”

    “I spoke my mind, Bishop. That is all you will hear from it. I am sorry, but I cannot and will not speak any further on this matter.”

    “Very well. Does that mean you've nothing else to speak upon? Surely you're feeling rather alone and adrift in the world at present, which needn't be the case, either.”

    “The feeling is always there, though I am not at a loss for company. You need not worry about that either. Never alone, never truly.”

    “Oh? Yes, that's right, you commune with the dead, don't you? If you'll forgive my saying so, I think them a rather poor substitute for the living.”

    “We have been known to share conflicting viewpoints. You are entitled to yours, as I do feel that some company you have kept is a rather poor substitute for descent, God fearing, Bible thumping, Christians.” The last word was the most difficult to force from her tongue, but she managed it along with the others lulled in her hush. “But then what do I know.”

    “Again, I must say, there is no perfect being that lives upon this Earth. Yes, we have been known to hold conflicting points of view. Does that mean that we must remain so at odds with each other? Must we consistently find ourselves engaged in battle with each other?”

    “I just want to be alone. I do find myself tired from my interactions with the living. My head already has quite an ache within it…”

    “That's not an answer to what I've asked you. At all.”

    “That is for the fact that I do not have an answer for you Octavius. I am not thinking of you, or our quarrels. My mind is otherwise occuped. I did care a great deal for that man, you know. Moreso than I have let myself before, and for some reason the first living being I am telling that to is you, right at this very moment.”

    “Then I'm glad you've decided to tell me. You know, despite it all, despite your taunting, I had a feeling that you and he cared for each other. Which brings us back to a question I asked you earlier: given all of that, why? Why are you so suddenly parting ways with him?”

    “Because I fear that I have brought ill will into his home. Not the petty quarrels had between spoiled children and their rich and aged fathers – but something more. I can only hope that my absence will restore his peace. It is, better this way…”

    “Something more? Like what? What could you have brought into his home that would follow your lead and leave him when you've taken your own absence?” He looked at her for a moment, and then spoke quietly, “Wouldn't you rather close the door, Miss Fellows, and have a seat? Perhaps you'd care for a scone or something as well?”

    They had nearly been standing on the front landing for all the street to hear them. A slow side of blind eyes set upon the cobbles before she withdrew from a softly closing doors with a sigh. “I am not hungry, but you may help yourself. I am in no state to serve as a gracious host. But I am sorry for that, and for the fact that I will tell you no more now that I have already.”

    “You've no need to apologize for not being more of a hostess, Miss Fellows. And I thank you for the offer, but I've eaten already. The service there merely looks to be from breakfast, and yet remains untouched. Whether or not you're hungry, you should be sure to take your meals. And, while I could not, nor would not, attempt to force you to speak any more on the matter, I would at least ask you what harm could come of it.”

    “Because I would dare not give those responsible any more of my time and attentions than they deserve – which is nothing. To speak on something would only fuel it's craving for attentions. I will not. It is over now, and I will make of it what I may, and move on. Which, of course, consists of me remaining here exactly where I am.” Her seat was claimed, pleated skirts smoothed, “It is a shame that we are not so able to forget places and people of our past. Wipe the slate clean, go on as if nothing ever happened. In a sense, I find comfort in this dark as he and I may very well share space within the same room, but I may never even know of it, never even see him.”

    He took a seat of his own, across from her. “You are quite determined to put everything behind you, aren't you? I suppose that is admirable, in a sense, and hopefully you will be able to succeed in returning yourself to a place where you can have some semblance of a life beyond attempting to bury your thoughts. But tell me, Miss Fellows…is remaining exactly where you are truly a method of moving forward, of moving on? Still, I cannot agree that it would be better were we so easily able to wipe away our pasts; it is our pasts that help inform us who we are.”

    “There is very little I know of it, or of myself, and I would be inclined to believe that nights would be better served in sleep if I did not stay awake through the nights to determine the answer to those very questions. There is nothing else I have been suited for but this. That is, or has been, find for quite some time now.”

    “Is there no resource you could use to discover more about your past, then? And perhaps the way it keeps you up at nights should tell you that forgetting the past isn't the answer to anything.”

    “Not all of the dead will speak. Perhaps I have angered my mother for placing her among them. Though, admittedly, it was not my intention. I have no other family to speak of. A father maybe, though I am no longer certain.”

    “Do you know his name? Her name? Surely there are records that can speak when and where the living and the deceased both will not. There is always a way.”

    “Edward Fellows, and his wife was Marion.”

    He nodded. “I will see if I can discover anything about either of them, unless you would object, and prefer to do so for yourself.”

    “I doubt there is much interest to speak of. My father was a fish monger, perhaps he still is, and my mother was a whore. Though, ask the same of my father and he would tell you that the woman was an angel…”

    “Perception means much, and even a whore may be redeemed. That still leaves much unanswered about your past, and the history of your family. I am certain answers are out there.”

    “In not more than three days time, I will be another year older and no less wiser to it. I do not think I am meant to learn of it.”

    “Who can say what is or isn't meant to happen? If it could be discovered, would you wish to hear of it?” And then something else she'd said sunk in. “Three days' time, did you say?”

    “Yes. The Ides.” She nodded.

    “That's quite a remarkable coincidence,” he murmured.

    “What is?” a cant of her head, though it gave her no greater vantage of the man sitting across from her.

    “Come the Ides, I myself shall have been upon this Earth for another year longer.”

    “A curious happening. I hope you find it to be a mirthful one, as it is one less one to be had before the end.” She smirked.

    “Likewise, Miss Fellows, likewise. I suppose it's somehow fitting, isn't it, in its own way? Perhaps that explains a great deal about the way we are rather consistently at odds.”

    “I would not think that the same day would be responsible for that. I am inclined to think it is who we are and what we have become since the day of our birth. I just hope for mine to be a quiet one. Though that never seems to be an issue. I am best to let the day come and go quicker than the others as it always as been more of a day for mourning than anything else.”

    “Ah, yes, the loss of the mother that you never knew. My apologies, Miss Fellows. And yet, perhaps you don't give enough credit to that particular day; surely you know of the many ills that have previously befallen the world upon the Ides of March.”

    “Yes? My birth among them? Yours as well.” A smirk, “They have said that my mother's many ills were what took my sight before even my conception. Speak to my father and he would have said I was cursed. You two might get along famously now that I think on it.”

    “Well, you do have an unholy mark on your shoulder,” he chuckled. “No, I think it far more likely that her ills were responsible than a curse.” Maybe.

    “No more matter that. It is not something to be undone no matter what it may be, and I am fine with that. I do not know what I would do to see. I have no more need for it, I wanted it once before, but I have lost that desire now.”

    “Oh? Why do you no longer desire it? Why do you say you've no need for it? Whether it can be undone or not, there's a difference between the ability to undo something and a desire or need to have it undone.”

    “What use have I for it? After all these years?”

    “And has it been all these years that the desire has been gone, or has that been a more recent development?”

    “I would have never seen his face…I have never. No, I have simply evaluated things from a different vantage…”

    He gave her a confused look. “Which is it? Would have never? Or have never? What is this different vantage from which you've reevaluated it all?”

    “Never have, never will.” Curled forward, head to hands, she took her breath in slow. “It is better this way. I am not alone. It is the mortals that go bump in the night. Human beings that cannot be seen while spirits walk freely around and before me…”

    “And can you truly call yourself happy with that being the way things are? It isn't right, it isn't natural to spend more time with the dead than with the living. Do you honestly feel it better this way, or is that merely an attempt by which you seek to make things seem better to yourself?”

    “It is what I knew before, and it comforted me. With him gone now, I feel a loss that I have not before. It is disconcerting to me.”

    “I am sorry to hear that, Miss Fellows.” Though, were he being honest with himself or with her, he wasn't in the slightest. “Surely, though, you will be able to find direction for yourself again. Perhaps he was meant merely as a catalyst to bring you into more involvement with the living, as opposed to the dead.”

    “I do not care for it. I was fool to do so and what has happened with Abraham has proved as much to me.”

    “How can you be so certain of that? The fact that you feel loss surely means that there is something good for you amongst the land of the living.”

    “More loss? The dead have done so already,” Egeria shook her head, no, he could not be right. What then would he have known of it? “I see this as more of a forewarning. I have overstepped my boundaries. The living hold no interest for me. I was wrong to think such a thing. This has proven my error, that I should keep my dealings with them strictly in business.”

    He shook his head. “The living are where you belong, Miss Fellows, not amongst the dead. By spending too much time with them is how you've overstepped your boundaries. You belong amongst the living. You had found some measure of happiness among them, and now, as far as I know, you are the one who has brought an end to that, preemptively, for some ill you perceive approaching.”

    Egeria shook her head, “I was a fool.”


    “To have allowed this. I should have kept to my work. I will now. I have come to understand my folly. That is what matters most.”

    “To only pay attention to one's work is the largest folly of all.”

    “It has served me well this long while before…”

    “Only because you have known nothing else ere now, is that not so?”

    “And know that I have known, I know better to remain.”

    “And just what is that supposed to mean?”

    “I think we both know the answer to that. I should, retire now, I feel a bit under the weather. If you would allow me to see you out now.”

    He gave her a long look before he stood slowly. “Very well. If you insist. Perhaps I shall see you again in the near future, though you've made it abundantly clear I shouldn't await your presence at the cathedral again.”

    “No,” she shook her head while rising to stand, “not in the abbey any longer at least.” She moved to the door upon a practiced path, opened it slowly and nodded before focusing on the front landing before them, “enjoy the day of your birth. Take care on your way then.”

    “And may you do the same, Miss Fellows. I take it, then, you intend to spend more evenings in the graveyard? Well, mayhaps I'll see you there.” He followed to the door. “Mayhaps I'll even see you upon the Ides. Good day to you, Miss Fellows.”

    March 15, 2006 at 4:16 am #2454

    You guys create some great stuff.

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