Beth

Beth Emmerson may be rich, but she doesn't have everything; her father thinks she's proud and her distant cousin, Gordon Banks, clearly hates her enough to appear cold and distant. But when a strange poem is presented, written by an apparent admirer, Beth's entire world is flung upside down and she must venture to find out more about her family than she has ever known before. To do this, however, Miss Emmerson must first hear the tragic story of two lovers; one player and one young lady, who is dead and has been for five years. As the past and present collide, the nasty intentions of the mysterious poet are revealed and Beth must, and will, make her decisions.

SEQUEL TO ELIZABETH MARTON

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14. 14.

Chapter 14:

Beth stared at her father in complete shock. Then she remembered something. "But father, what is the bell jar for? And why was the tapestry removed?"

Mr Emmerson shook his head. "I beg your pardon; I do keep missing things out. The bell jar was the casing of a wooden memorial to our ancestor, Gregory Emmerson. Inscribed on it were the words 'Long live the purity of me' or, in its original wording 'Dum vivunt in innocentia mea'. The bell jar was later removed, along with the family tree, because I believe Mr. Banks wanted no memory of Kiera, nor anyone else associated  with her - namely John Natalie and their baby, Elizabeth, who, soon after their relation's sad demise, moved, much to, I suspect, Mr. Banks' relief, away. It pains him to dwell on it, I think, but then, I should not rightly know, for I have never mentioned the subject. I would also advise you to do the same, Beth, although you may, I think, let Eddie in on the story. That would only be fair." Mr Emmerson glanced swiftly at his wife, Mrs Emmerson, who had remained utterly silent throughout the majority of the exchange. Now, however, she nodded.

"I agree." she said. "It would only be fair. Come, Fitzwilliam, let us leave."

Beth's parents stood to go, but, at the door, her mother turned and added. "Beth, do not disturb your brother for today. Give it another twelve hours."

Then, both Mr and Mrs Emmerson, quitted the room.

                                                                                     *

The next morning, Beth's brother, Eddie, still did not make an appearance; he remained shut in his room. At lunchtime, however, Beth did, after she had eaten two finger sandwiches and a plate of cold vegetables, take it upon herself to knock on Eddie's door with the intention of telling him all their father had told her the night before. A quiet, weary voice answered her efforts and Beth opened the door onto her brother's privacy.

 

The room in which Edward Emmerson had spent the last four-and-twenty hours was, to its normal proportion, fairly tidy. The bed, Beth immediately noticed, was unslept in; neat and tidy. The fire, though, was lit, there was a small plate of half-nibbled-at sandwiches on the desk, at which her brother sat, and sunlight streamed in through the open velvet curtains. This, Miss Emmerson was satisfied to see, meant, at least, that her brother had not been idle. Eddie, himself, meanwhilst, was leaning his head on a heavy-looking book on the desk, on the opposite side of the room.

"Good afternoon, sister." he said in a melancholy tone.

Beth came into the room a little further and closed the door behind her.

"How are you?" she gently asked.

Eddie sighed. "Well, I have to admit, I do not feel fantastic. How are you, yourself?"

Beth gave him a positive answer and Eddie smiled slightly.

"Good." he said. "That is something, at least."

Sympathy then flooded Beth's body and she moved so she was standing at her brother's side, then crouched down. "Does it still upset you so, brother?"

Eddie sighed and put one arm around his sister. "I have no idea, Beth."

Beth gave him a disbelieving look.

"Really." he added. "It is all just so confusing ...And, if it is alright, then I do not particularly wish to discuss it. Please do not take it personally."

"Of course I shall not! But - pray - just one more question. One more thing... I- What does love feel like? I know you loved Miss Daisy."

Eddie, at this, laughed a little. Then he shook his head. "It is the most beautiful and the most terrible thing that could ever happen to you... But - Goodness me! I thought you disapproved of matrimony for love. Love in general?"

Beth pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "I did, at first. But, soon after I spoke with father, on the very same day I said it, I changed my mind. Perhaps love is a sensible item to marry for, after all... But some of my ideals and observations, I shall take the liberty of confessing, do still take their rightful stand."

Eddie burst out laughing and Beth, indignant, poked him with the toe of her cream shoe.

"What?" she cried. "What is it you are laughing at? I am being perfectly reasonable!"

Eddie looked at her, a little pityingly. "Oh, Beth! Really. You sound so much like father. So proud and adamant. He was right: you are full of material pride - and so is he!"

Beth glared. "I am not, brother! Do not tease me! I cannot stand to be teased!"

"Because you are proud." shot back Eddie, smugly, although he, at least, took the hint and decently changed the subject a little. "But, dear me, Beth! I shall truly hate to see what you  shall be like when you fall in love! My, my! You ought never admit it!"

"That," replied Beth calmly, trying her best to be superior, "is not true. I shall admit it when my time comes, and-" she paused slightly, thinking of the rose poem and George Ramsal. "-I daresay that time shall come very soon."

Eddie stopped smiling and looked up at his sister, suddenly alert and serious. "What?" he whispered hoarsely, his expression resembling that of one whom has just choked on a large piece of mutton. "When? How? You have found someone already, have you not, sister? Where? Why? Tell me- who?"

Beth smiled triumphantly. "Oh, no." she said. "No, I have not found them. They have found me."

Eddie stared at her, his mouth widely agape; in the whole course of his nineteen years of life, he had never thought that he should see the day. "But- But-... Are you really telling me you are in love, Beth?"

Beth kept up the smile. "I cannot tell you, now, Eddie. But I shall say that I have an admirer."

"Who?" her brother begged, but Miss Emmerson refused to tell him any more. Instead, she remembered the story she had to tell about Gordon Banks.

"No. Shh... Look. Listen to me, for I have something important to tell you and you must not ever reveal it to anyone, do you understand? Father and mother came to tell me it yesterday, but you were, then, too out of it all to be able to come. Listen..." and she told her brother everything: Gordon Banks, the family tree, Kiera Faxton... All of it.

 

Eddie was a good listener, patient and kind, and, by the time Beth had finished, he appeared even more astounded than when Beth had mentioned that she had an admirer, earlier.

"My lord, Beth." he whispered, one hand over his mouth. "Do you mean to tell me that Mr. Banks is the sole reason that these people were eliminated off the family tree?"

Beth nodded. "Yes, he-" but then she stopped as what her brother had said finally sunk in. "Wait. Eliminated? People? Tell me!"

Eddie lowered his hand and chewed anxiously at his lip, looking rather guilty, all of a sudden. "Forget it... It was nothing..."

But Beth refused to back down. "Tell me!" she demanded. "What did you see?"

Squashed, as normally ended up being the case, under the glittering gaze of his sister, Eddie stared evasively around at the corners of the room and swallowed. "I- I... Well... It was a long time ago." he finished lamely.

"When? What did you do?"

"I-It was when I was playing hide-and-seek with you and the cousins, Beth, six-and-a-half years ago."

Beth, kneeling on the floor, sat back, with a bump, on her heels.

"Tell me!" she hissed.

"Well, I went down to the kitchens... You know there's that big iron pot we used to hide in... I was hiding just outside the door, though, this time, just by the stone staircase.... And I... I noticed that there was this large tapestry hanging across one wall and I..." He hesitated. "I am sure I committed no offences... But... Names had been sort of... charred off..."

Beth inhaled sharply, desperate to know it all. "Which names? What do you mean 'charred off'?"

Eddie shrugged. "I do not know." he said. "But there were these little black holes. Looked like someone had lit candles underneath various bits of it. And not by accident, either."

Beth started. Her mind was racing. The holes must have been the influence and conspiracy of Gordon Banks! But how on earth could he have had such remarkable influence on her family and Pickely estate? He had been, after all, a mere stranger.

She looked up. Eddie was looking at her, a sort of mischievous lusture to his eyes that Beth had never seen before.

"What are we waiting for?" he asked and, when Beth only gaped at him, he expanded: "Let us go and look!"

Beth scrambled up. "What?" she asked. "You mean 'let us us find the family tree'?"

Eddie nodded. "Why not? It is technically ours... Or, at least, someday it will be mine."

"Yes, but... " Beth searched frantically. "But it has been moved and we do not even know of its whereabouts."

Eddie made a face. "Never mind." he said. "We shall find it. I know we shall."

And off they went.

 

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