Belle Rock: Chapter FourMitzi Danielson-Kaslik
Entirely bemused by Mr Lloyd’s presence at tea, I retired up to my room very early that night under the guise of wishing to unpack my things further. I did not know why he had invited (or simply joined us uninvited) or why my father had made no attempt to explain to me prior to his arrival who he was. With these troubling thoughts whistling through my mind like so many black swans swooping and soaring, I found it oh so amusing to gaze out of the window to see the locals – whalers mostly, my vague understanding of this place told me – going about their evening tasks in the dying twilight.
Strong young men with bodies capable of incredible leverage lifted box after box of I didn’t know what into stacks, towers like the ones I heard they were planning to build in New York City, where Mr Lloyd was from. The light of the dying yellow sun silhouetted them against the horizon, vague shadows that moved dimly and already faltering in the salty air. The figure of one man in particular caught my eye; he seemed to work the hardest of the men, the sheer force of his body moving boxes and wire cages that held lobsters and crabs with such almighty dignity that he seemed to place passion in all that he touched somehow, although this was undoubtedly passionless work. While I couldn’t make out his face which was at least half shrouded in shadow by the dying light, when I raised my glassy oil lamp to the level of my eyes, allowing its yellow glow to cast its glare like the little lights miners back in England wore on their heads, I could make out just the colour of a little piece of cloth he wore, tied through the beltloop beside his hip; it was yellow, the same colour as the merciless glare of the lamp. That, for some unfelt reason, made me smile just a little. Enough to chase away the desperate blue in my emotions. I must try to forget London. And mother.
I opened the sash window slightly to allow the air of Belle Rock to permeate my room. It wasn’t just the salt that the steady trade winds blew in; it was the smell of oil lamps burning in the cottages of the whalers and the ashes of fires that floated to the wooden floor of the room and the noise which I supposed I would come to associate most with Belle Rock; the sepulchral rolling of the sea. It crashed brutally against the rocks, slashing them down into the waves to join it on its voyage back into the pulled back depths of blackness that awaited the unfortunate whaler who was the man overboard. It would never stop. And for that, in part, I was thankful, for I knew that it was the livelihood of these men and their families. The other part of me wished that the sea as a whole would dry up, that the Tempest terror that washed over this great, tainted land would stop washing and lay in the seabed. Dead. Then, at least, these men would never have to go out and know they might not come back.
But that, I suppose, is the price of reward. Perhaps that was something I myself would do well to remember. Comfort is the enemy of progress. And yet progress is then the inevitable enemy of comfort and the constant human desire for a steady life that never falters. A great burst of wind whisked the silken purple curtains up and twisted them about a little and I did not close the window; I laughed, for this whole world was absolutely preposterous. I shut my eyes and allowed myself to relax my back into the cushioned armchair, feeling a certain lack of resistance to my current predicament—a certain malleability to the promises of life, perhaps. The little clock atop the mantlepiece to the left of The Raven painting chimed nine of the clock, and I noticed the whalers begin to edge back to their cottages and shacks to avoid the inky darkness that was already whispering through the air. In my nightdress, I stared at the crescent moon that hung sideways over the black bay and saw a silhouetted black raven fly serenely across it, its large wings outstretched as it glided on the wind. I regarded it gently, attempting to accept its transient nature, which seemed at this moment, at least, to cling in vague relation to my own identity as a creature born in herself of tempest’s fury and dark nights of the heart. On the edge of the crumbling cliffs, I noticed a tiny, towering structure, a tiny light glowing out of the top. I didn’t know what it was, nor did it renter my thoughts that night.
It was then that I heard the obvious sound of male footsteps echoing up the shadowy hall outside my locked room. It made me smile a little, both at the thought that some other person than me inhabited this house and that this occurrence bore huge reference to The Raven, which seemed ironic, considering his – Poe’s Raven, that is – portrait hung in my room with his watchful eye. And then there was a tapping at my chamber door which did not say nevermore for which I thank God.
“Miss Bradbury, I have a note here for you.” Said Carstairs from beyond the door.
“Oh, thank you, Carstairs. Who is it from?” I entreated towards the door which I had locked.
“Mr Venture.” He said, his voice a little warmer than it had been when we had first met.
“Slip it under if you wouldn’t mind.” A doubled over piece of parchment seconds later glided into view in the gap between the door and the floor. “Thank you,” I said, retrieving it. As I opened it up, I heard Carstairs’ heavy plodding footsteps wander off back down the hall to the stairs.
Dera dear Miss CB
I want to appologise for my questionin of you early today. It was not
somthing something I should of been questionin you in.
The letter was scribed poorly in scratchy black ink. My dark heart took a moment to warm to Stanley Venture. I heard talking in the hall and pressed my ear to the locked door for a second before having the initiative to open it with the key that I had stowed on a chain around my neck. The voices I heard were unmistakable; they were the voices of Stanley and Carstairs in the entrance hall. I swallowed, having a sudden stroke of genius.
“Carstairs!” I shouted, opening the door a little wider.
“Yes, Miss?” he shouted back.
“Is St-“ I corrected myself “, is Mr Venture down there with you?”
“Okay, would you ask him if he would accept my reception of him?” my voice quivered as I spoke.
“What, Miss?” he asked, clearly bewildered.
“Ask him if he wishes to speak with me now.” I simplified my words. I heard the rushed whisper of the men’s voices below.
“If that’d be acceptable by you, Miss Corbin-Bradbury,” Stanley called up to me.
“If you have the time,” I replied.
“I do.” He began up the stairs. This was a night where progress would triumph.
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