The Charred Tree

Bound By Silence: A Bitter Draught

The crystal wine glasses redirected and amplified the light from the lamps around the room. Faithe sighed to herself as she realized the burgundy glow from the glasses around each setting looked like blood stains on the white cloth covering the table.

It did not seem quite right for a dinner celebrating the return of her older brother.

“That’s an unfortunate omen,” she muttered. The clock on the mantle began to chime the eighth hour. “Too late to change it now.” She could hear muffled voices from the drawing room across the entry hall. Thomas must have come down from his room and met Robert. She should have been present for the introductions but had been distracted making sure the dinner setting was in order. One more thing and she would do a proper introduction. Faithe entered the kitchen through the small butler’s pantry.

“Is dinner nearly ready to be served, Mags?”

The older woman reached up and plucked a few dried leaves from some herbs hanging from a rack above her head and crumbled them into the steaming pot on the stove. “Near ‘nough, mum. This ‘ere’s the soup to start it all off. Should be ready any minute now.” Mags eyes darted to the thin blonde girl standing in the corner of the room. “This’ll be Alice’s first time serving but she’s a deft ‘and with the dishes. She’s done fed Mary and put ‘er to bed.”

“Good. Collette has not yet announced Arthur but I expect him at any moment now. We will be seated shortly after he arrives.”

“Fear ye not. We’ll be ready, mum.” Mags turned back to her soup. “Alice, be a dear and bring me that bowl o’ leeks.”

Faithe left the kitchen by the door to the main corridor. She paused to insure that her appearance was as it should be before walking through the curtain at the arch separating the public entrance from the family and service portion of the hall and walking to the closed doors to the drawing room on the right and slid them back.

“…but most people there don’t have enough to need a bank,” Thomas finished. He and Robert looked over as she entered the room.

“Ah! My dear! You look lovely this evening. Thomas and I were just talking about the village near the abbey where he trained.” Robert moved to the sideboard and poured a small glass of sherry for his wife. “Do join us for an aperitif while we await Arthur’s arrival.”

Faithe took the glass and tilted a small salute toward her husband. “Thank you, kind sir,” and sipped at the wine. “I see that you have met Thomas and are already bending his ear toward business and any opportunities you might make use on the continent.”

Thomas chuckled. “I fear Robert’s expectations of me on that count will be far higher than any knowledge I might have. After Father Dominick took me in all my time was spent working in an abbey up in the mountains before I spent two years at the seminary in Torino. In my experience, the Church keeps its priests out of trouble by keeping us to busy to do anything else.”

“So how is it that you are back in London?” Robert asked.

“The Church recognizes there are more and more Catholics here. Cardinal Newman asked for more priests to care for the increasing numbers and I was sent to help minister to the poor and faithful in this part of the city.”

“And I am glad for my brother’s return,” Faithe added. “You have been missed.”

“Indeed,” Robert said. “Faithe has spoken often of you through the years. It is good to finally meet you and welcome you back home.”

“Thank you. Unfortunately, I fear not everyone shares that opinion. I hope Arthur will forgive me but that is yet to be seen.” Thomas frowned into his glass.

Collette tapped lightly on the doors before sliding them aside and stepping into the room. “Mister Canfield has arrived for dinner,” she stated and moved aside for the guest to enter.

Arthur Canfield towered over Collette as he handed her his cloak and hat. He brushed back his blonde hair as he turned to face his family in the drawing room.

Faithe knew him well enough to recognize the effort it took for him to keep his features neutral. She now had misgivings about trying to force a reconciliation between her brothers. She walked across the room to embrace him. “Arthur! I am so glad you could come. It means a lot to me to have my entire family together once again.” She stood on tip-toes as he leaned down and embraced her with one arm so she could kiss him on the cheek.

“You asked and I’m here. I owe you that at the least but more I cannot promise. It’s the best I can do.” He released her and stepped into the room. “Robert. How is business?” He extended his open hand to his brother-in-law.

Robert took his hand. “Well enough, Arthur. How are things at the shop? Does Mr. Franklin have you doing the buying yet?” Business was usually a safe subject and one with which Robert was quite comfortable.

“Aye. I go negotiate with a farmer out near Colchester next week. Henry says it should be an easy deal to close and just what I need for my first time doing it. He’s given me some advice on what to expect and what not to give up. I look forward to the trip.”

Faithe thought, Thank you, Robert. Talk about his business seems to have calmed him. “Would you care for a sherry before dinner, Arthur?”

“Thank you, but no. I am late arriving as it is thanks to a broken cart in the street I encountered as I walked here. It was quite the mess and clogged the way for a bit.”

“Very well. Mags should have dinner ready for table now.” She drew in a deep breath before continuing. “But before dinner I would like you and Thomas to at least speak. I know you have resented him since he left but he has changed—as have we all. He is not the same person who left us so many years ago. He is a priest now; how can you hate a priest? I am glad to once again have everyone in my family with me. Can you at least try to reconcile with him? For my sake?”

Arthur’s face grew red, his brows knit themselves together, and the muscles behind his jaw bulged with the effort to hold back his fury. Thomas and Robert both stood unmoving as they watched the bigger man slowly regain control of himself. Faithe laid a hand on Arthur’s arm and his fists unclenched.

“You ask much of me, sister.” Arthur’s arms trembled as he struggled to stay calm. “You of all people know the past we’ve shared. How he was allowed to take Holy Orders after what he and our mother did is beyond anything I can imagine. I do not understand how you can forgive what he did to us. But—BUT—for your sake I will try. I will be civil even though he does NOT deserve it.”

Thomas, his head bowed and his hands clasped before him, stepped forward. “Arthur, I’m sorry for—“

“Leave it be, brother!” Arthur shouted but did not look at Thomas. He kept his face turned to Faithe. His eyes squeezed shut to contain his anger. “This is a discussion we may yet have you an’ I; but not tonight. For tonight, let’s not discuss things which may end up disturbing our dear sister. Agreed?”

“Agreed.” Thomas held out his hand.

Arthur looked in disbelief at the offered hand and finally up at Thomas’s face with a sneer. “Aren’t you the optimist? We’ve a long way to go before I’ll take your hand. I’ve given all I’ll give for now.” He turned to Faithe and offered his arm, “What has dear old Mags prepared for our dinner?” He lead her to through the door to the entrance hall and across to the dining room.

“Are you all right, Thomas?” Robert asked after they had left. “I’ve never seen Arthur that angry. I was sure he was going to attack you and, frankly, there’s not much I could have done to stop him had he done so.”

Thomas took in a deep breath and slowly blew it out while closing his eyes. “I’ll be fine, Robert. His anger at me is nothing that I haven’t directed at myself at some point during the last twenty years. My confessor has helped me forgive myself and part of my asking to come here was to ask theirs—Faithe’s and Arthur’s. It would mean far less if it was an easy thing.”

“Well, for what it’s worth you have Faithe’s forgiveness. She never held any ill will against you for leaving. Unfortunately, I think Arthur has more than made up for her understanding. Shall we?” He gestured for Thomas to precede him to the dining room.

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3 thoughts on “Bound By Silence: A Bitter Draught

  1. I like the mystery behind the family.
    You set the scenes nicely, the reactions and expressions of the characters, and great take on the dialogue.

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