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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13. 13.

It was almost evening by the time Mr Emmerson, along with his wife, knocked on Beth's door and quietly entered. At once, Beth lept up from her chair, cast aside her book and, the moment she saw her father asked "How is Eddie? May I enquire what is wrong?"

Mr Emmerson exchanged a look with his wife, then fugitively turned and closed the door. He then took a deep breath, sighed, and took a seat in the nearest chair to the bed.

Beth patiently waited and she was not disappointed.

"Your brother... Your brother has received some rather upsetting news, Beth." Mr Emmerson tentatively began. "He... Daisy Ephram has... Eloped with... Er... Someone else."

Beth blinked, too overwhelmed to speak.

Her father registered ther expression and then, with another deep sigh, continued to speak. "The man with whom our... dear... Miss Ephram eloped was, it appears to be, a gentleman of a fairly poor disposition, possessing more the looks and charming attitude than wealth and sincere honesty. I do not know his name, only that he was the son of a very respectable farmer from somewhere near town."

"Poor Eddie!" whispered Beth, genuinely mortified, and a glow of anger settled, momentarily, in the pit of her stomach, more out of protectiveness for Eddie than anything, though.

"But why would Miss Ephram do that to Eddie, father?" asked Beth, disparagingly. "I thought she liked him!"

Mr Emmerson shrugged. "So did I. But I cannot rightly determine the way the human heart thinks."

"The heart is a many-layered item of much beauty." mused Beth quietly, to herself, and she was surprised to see that both her parents jumped and looked at each other in unison.

"My! You sound just like your mother!" exclaimed Mr Emmerson in amazement. "That time when we were younger and banned from seeing each other!"

Beth did not have any idea as to what it was that her father was talking about, but she smiled politely and agreed all the same.

From behind her husband, Mrs Emmerson came silently forwards, half of her body still hidden in shadow. "Beth." she said slowly, her voice unusually high and wobbly. "Beth, I am sorry - most awfully sorry - for what happened earlier and I cannot, in fact, profess adequately how deep that apology runs. You had every right to ask about the whereabouts of the bell jar and tapestry and I had no right, under any circumstances, to lie to you as I did. I am - I shall say again - very sorry."

Beth nodded calmly, face set, and her mother came forwards and embraced her.

Mr Emmerson cleared his throat. "Ahem! Yes, Beth, your mother did tell me about - er - that. And I think you have every right to hear the truth. Where is your brother?"

Looks of blank quality were then exchanged and Mrs Emmerson sighed.

"I have not, I am sorry to say, seen Eddie since I spoke with him about the awful business with Miss Daisy Ephram, earlier. I expect that he is in his room. Never mind... We may proceed without Eddie. Someone may tell him when he feels better situated among his own feelings."

"That would be best, I think." agreed Beth, truly feeling bad for her brother. she then sat down on a chair near her father and eagerly leant forwards. "Indeed. The bell jar."

Mr Emmerson nodded, gesturing for his wife to sit down, also. She did, and Mr Emmerson began.

 

"What I am about to tell you now, dear daughter, is a long and twisted tale, packed full of dark and complicated family history, and it is also a tale which you must retell to no one. Do you promise me that you will not pass it on? To anyone?"

Beth nodded, more intrigued, almost, than she had ever been in her entire life. "I can, father. I can faithfully promise you, in the name of my own honour."

"Good. Now I may begin... Where to start...?" and he thought, with great integrity, for a long while. At last, however, after Beth had sat, impatiently, for many-a-minute, in desperate agitation, then her father finally continued his speech.

"My great-great-grandfather, Beth, was a very clever man, full of inconspicuous tricks and devious schemes. He was, in short, sly to the extreme and not in a particularly pleasant way. He lorded over his land very carefully, keeping and scavenging every penny he could find - And he had plenty of the money, too. He was a real investor, was Gregory Emmerson, and he had a real obsession with purity of the family bloodline. He wanted no connection with any of what he called 'undeserving beggars', people, in other words, with 'inferior' connections and less than six thousand a year."

Beth gasped. "Six thousand! But that surely must have dwindled down his company!"

Her father smiled. "Yes. I believe it did. But the man was specifically adamant about it. He would never have approved of my marriage to your mother, Beth, and nor would he have much liked dear Gabriel Peft, either, for that matter. Anyway, it was he, my great-great-grandfather, whom first began the family tree that we are supposed to be discussing, in an attempt to keep watch over whom all his relations were marrying. To weed out 'unworthy women' whom might come and try for one of his many rich and powerful descendants' hearts. And, I must say, that, for about a generation or so, it worked; there was not one single, imprudent match made. Then, of course, the system started to get out of control. Our famous English bloodline began to become tainted with the blood of people from other foreign places - people from places other than France, I mean. Gregory liked the French - his own wife was French, in fact - but he hated Italians *(I have nothing against Italians - It's just part of the story, put in to suggest the arrogance of Gregory Emmerson.). Do not ask why, for I do not know, but, anyway, the family bloodline became tainted. Of course, I also married our mother, Beth, and that, although she was not foreign, would have, almost certainly been frowned down upon. And so, dismally my poor great-great-grandfather's clever scheme dwindled away, until, around the time you were twelve, we decided that the family tree was no longer needed."

Beth looked up at her father. "But why?" she asked. "And where does the bell jar come into this?"

"Mr Emmerson hesitated. "Well." he said. "As of that fact, and the rest of the story.... Well..." he stopped. "I am not quite sure I ought to be telling you that, Beth."

"But why, father?"

"Because..." Mr Emmerson sighed. "Because it concerned a private request of Gordon Banks." he concluded, reluctantly,

Beth squeaked excitedly, then she hastily composed herself in order to appear more mature. Yet, what did Gordon Banks have to do with anything?

"Now I am serious." her father was saying. "Now you must not ever repeat what I am to say to you to anybody. Any living soul - and this is even more important than the same sort of promise which you kindly made to me, earlier. I say this because the arrangement made about moving the family tree was, in fact, based upon a series of events which Mr. Banks wishes to keep strictly private. It is a very sensitive subject and, therefore, you must not ever mention it. Not to him, nor to anybody else. I ought not be telling you this, but I do perceive that I cannot seem to help confiding in you, Beth, now."

Beth nodded and repeated, solemnly, that she would never, to anybody else, speak of the subject again, but she was half distracted as she struggled to keep her voice as devoid of excitement as possible.

"Thank you for your word." replied the civil Mr Emmerson. "Now, let us continue with our story; the reason the tapestry was removed and the slight significance of the bell jar... Where was I...? Ah, yes... Gordon Banks..."

"I thought you and Mr. Banks did not know each other before the ball at Hardon, papa." said Beth suddenly. "And, only earlier, you said that the tapestry was removed five years ago, when I was twelve. So why do I not remember it?"

Mr Emmerson smiled dryly. "I was getting to that... But perhaps I had better tell you about the latter subject first. The reason, my dear girl, that you do not remember the tapestry, is not a reason which is particularly fascinating, dark, or even remotely interesting. In fact, I feel as though you shall be very disappointed when you hear it - although the next part of our story is more exciting. The reason is as follows; it was merely stored in a different part of the house, in the hallway leading off the servants' stairs. Near the kitchen. Why? Because it was easier and because it needed updating. As for your remark made, so usefully, on the fact that Mr. Banks and I do not much know each other, it is perfectly true. We had never, before he arrived in the area, ever met. However, he did write to me about the tapestry, when it was - no less than five years ago - removed, taken far away from prying eyes, for good. It was only a couple of months before that, that our story of Mr. Banks actually begins and, now that I have filled you in on all the particulars, Beth, I shall tell you the integrity of my knowledge on the tragically juicy story of Mr. Banks, knowledge which I have, despite several failed starting attempts, been delayed constantly in telling you.

Mr Banks, Beth, is, as you already ought to know, my distant cousin of sorts, he being the elder child of my direct cousin's wife's sister and her husband, Olivia and Gregory Banks. My direct cousins' names were John and George Faxton, and Olivia Banks, nee Nightingale, was the sister of John's wife, Isabella Nightingale. The Nightingales were all very great women, and I say 'all' because there were three: Hannah, the youngest, Olivia, the middle one, and Isabella, the eldest. The former, Hannah Nightingale, Beth, went on to marry a Jos Ramsal and they, together, became the parents of the beloved George Ramsal. That, however, is not relevant. What is relevant, however, and what you need to know, Beth, is that Gordon Banks is the nephew of Isabella Nightingale and her husband, John Faxton.

Now, John and Isabella Faxton then gave birth to a young lady of the very (perhaps preposterous*I have nothing against this name, but it would be considered 'preposterous' back then. ) name Kiera, Mr. Banks' cousin. She was also, this meant, the cousin of George Ramsal, as well, and Emma Banks, although the latter has, being too young, not much to do with our story.

The cousins,  Gordon and Kiera Faxton, in particular, were very close, so close, in fact, that I believe they were the best of friends to one another, despite the fact that Miss Faxton was four whole years younger than the males. They played together, learnt together, shared practically every possession they had with one another and not one of the three had a single care in the world. There were no lovers, no schemers, no anything at all to dampen their friendship, although, as they got, older, all of that changed - the lovers part, anyway...

I do not know when it was, during his childhood with Kiera, that Mr. Banks first started to fall for her - whether it was at the beginning, or even at the very end - but what I do know, from the word of the man, himself, is that, by the age of sixteen, he was very much in love with her, and so grew his love for many more years, unknown by Miss Faxton herself, unknown, in fact, by anybody.

But this is where the finger is placed on the story. At the exact same time, almost, Miss Kiera, herself, began to fall in love with a man, a young and rich man, older than himself, of the name John Natalie. Mr. Natalie, it seems, was perfectly equal to Mr. Banks in terms of fortune and looks, however Kiera infactedly preferred him to poor, lovelorn, cousin Gordon. When Miss Faxton was your age, Beth (and Mr. Banks was one-and-twenty) she decided to elope with her lover, her secret lover, and the date of the elopement would be the final day of July (why that was the case, I have no idea. It is, however, fact). Not wanting to conceal her attachment to Natalie for any longer, Kiera left her home to speak to her cousins about the engagement, and her first stop was Nerthstone estate, home of the completely unsuspecting Mr. Gordon Banks. She came to him for his better judgement, or so Mr. Banks later told me, not knowing in the slightest that he was, at the time, madly in love with her, and also to tell him first of her good news concerning the arranged elopement - as I said before, they were the closest of bosom friends. And so dear Miss Faxton turned up at Mr. Banks' house, completely out of the blue, beaming broadly, and he, without knowing the real reason for her coming, delighted at seeing her alone, passionately expressed his love for her, a speech which ended with a proposal.  But you and I know, Beth, that Miss Faxton was, in fact, engaged secretly to another man and had only even come to his house in the first place to make that engagement public. She refused him, possibly in the most distressing manner possible, and Gordon retaliated through anger, bitterly abusing both Kiera and her soon-to-be-husband in an attempt to ventilate his hurt and his evident confusion. Miss Faxton then left in disgust and moved on to George Ramsal's house. He heartily approved of the match to Natalie and so, it seemed, did almost everyone else in the family, everyone, of course, except Gordon Banks.

So pleased were the rest of the family, in fact, for Kiera and her beloved John Natalie, that they persuaded the couple to get married locally, instead of going away as they had originally intended to do. And what, now, with this marriage agreed, poor Mr. Banks had to stand and watch his one true love walk, merry as anything, down the church aisle, with another man, eat a wedding supper in his own home, with another man, and, finally, several months later, have a baby, with another man, a baby whom, funnily enough, ended up being named Elizabeth.

Not all, however, went well. The baby was born and tragedy struck. Miss Kiera, or, should I say, Mrs Natalie, became most dreadfully ill. After all he had been through, therefore, poor Mr. Gordon Banks had to actually stand at the end of his fever-stricken heartthrob's bed and watch her die, slowly, forever mad at him and forever happy, in the arms of a different man."

 

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