experiment in serial writing

by Andrea Elizabeth

The Enigmatic Coleworths

 

“There’s always more pressure with a sequel,” Helena thought as she sat before her laptop. They’ll expect the same experience but with original freshness. “Their expectations are so stifling!” She wanted to write something completely boring to serve them right. Fickle public! So she set out.

Chapter 1

Lord Henry drew his horse up from his gallop at the fence. Over the rolling fields he spied the little cottage of one of his family’s tenants. He wasn’t supposed to wonder what went on there as long as they kept up with their yield of cabbages. Still, he wondered if they wondered about the goings on of his class. He dismounted and drew from his saddle-pack paper and pencil on and with which he wrote,

Dear Tenants,

It is my belief that you do not concern yourself with what occurs beyond this fence. You are content with your own lives and perceive ours to be beyond reach in both possibility and knowledge. I will tell you that it is my impression that the responsibilities that come with wealth also bring a stifling quality to luxurious life. The number of choices one is faced with induces an unsuspected amount of stress. I would imagine that a life taken up with hard labor and no choices brings a stronger sense of peace. Is your life peaceful?

Sincerely,

Lord Henry John Essex

Lord Henry folded the letter, removed one of the leather tongs from his saddle, and affixed the note to the other side of the fence.

Next day he came back and found that the paper remained. Removing it from the fence he saw that it had additional writing on it.

Dear Lord Henry,

Au contraire. We are not such simple folk. In our spare time, between cabbage picking, clothes wringing, butter making, candle-dipping and cabbage stew boiling we find time to read borrowed copies of Plato, Chaucer, and Pythagoras. Granted we do not have the burden of choosing which fine goods we would like to purchase or which country we would like to tour, but we find the questions of existence and immortality enough to keep us wakeful many a night in quandrous sweating. The rich do not have a monopoly on stress.

Demystifyingly,

Josiah Coleworth

After pondering over the response, Lord Henry prepared another draft,

Dear Mr. Coleworth,

Thank you for your informative and surprising reply. As you have sought to find common ground, I would like to meet with you to see if it be adequate for further conversation. Since you have fewer opportunities for such occupations and, being on holiday, I am at your disposal, I await your apprising me of time and place.

Till then,

Lord Henry

Next day there was another reply.

Dear Lord Henry,

I am honored by your request, but regret that I am off to visit my cousin in the next county as his wagon was destroyed by hitting a ditch exceedingly hard due to a runaway mule. The mule is fine, but the wagon will require as many hands as possible to fix. I do not know when I will return.

Regretfully,

Josiah Coleworth

Hoping to catch Mr. Coleworth before his departure in order to offer monetary assistance, Lord Henry rode around to the opening in the fence and headed over the cabbage fields towards the cottage. A young woman who was feeding the chickens in the yard turned her blonde, curly head at the sounds of hooves, revealing surprised large, blue eyes.

“Good-day,” Lord Henry spoke with aristocratic confidence despite not knowing if he should say Miss or Madam.  The girl quickly bowed her head in acknowledgement.

“I am looking for Mr. Josiah Coleworth.”

“My father is Mr. Josiah Coleworth, Sir. He left early this morning and will be gone for a few days.”

“Ah, too bad. I am Lord Henry John Essex. Will his absence require more hardship to those who remain?”

Curtsying she said, “Thank you, my Lord, but no. Unless one counts having less reading-time a hardship. My brother, mother, and I can manage.”

“You read too!” Lord Henry could not stifle his surprise. “Pray tell what authors.”

“The prayer book, the Bible and a few others.”

“Only fitting.” Her embarrassment in answering revealed a desire to be respected.

“Could you please tell your father that I request notification when he returns home. And if you need anything in the mean time, please send word to the house. Good day.”

Lord Henry rode back, happily distracted by his new protégées.

“Mother, you’ll never guess!” Lord Henry called upon entering the great, stone manor that had been his family’s country estate for generations.

“In here, Henry,” his mother called from the dining room where she was adjusting the great bouquet of roses, snapdragons, and fern fronds.

“The tenants are educated intellectuals! The father says he reads borrowed books on philosophy, and the daughter reads the Bible and prayer books!”

“I wonder from where they’ve borrowed these books and who taught them to read?”

“I have a suspicion.” Lord Henry left to go to the library. He picked up The Complete Works of Plato, flipped through the pages, and there on the second to last chapter, was a dried cabbage-leaf bookmark.

“Well-done, Mr. Coleworth!” exclaimed Lord Henry. “Now who assisted in this “borrowing”?

Lord Henry thought through the servants. “Mother!” Henry called as he returned to the dining room. “Do we have any servants named “Coleworth” in the house or stables?”

“Let me ask Mrs. Ludlum.” Lady Miriam Essex rang for the head housekeeper.

“Yes, Madam?”

“Mrs. Ludlum, do we have anyone under our employ with the name “Coleworth”?

“Yes, Madam.  I believe the gardener’s assistant bears that name.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Ludlum.”

“Would you like me to fetch him, Madam?”

Lady Essex turned to her son, eyebrows raised.

“Why yes, Mrs. Ludlum. If you would.”

“Of course, Sir.”

“I’ll be on back lawn.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Lord Henry passed through the marble halls, descended the stone steps and walked out towards the lawn furniture to wait and think of how to broach the subject with the other Mr. Coleworth.”

(Continued at Thoughts and Things)

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