Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2065330-In-The-Bleak-Midwinter-A-Ghost-Story
Printer Friendly Page Tell A Friend
No ratings.
by Yarrow
Rated: E · Novel · Ghost · #2065330
Chapter 1 of my debut novel, available to buy on Amazon and Kindle.

In the winter of 1923 I found myself financially embarrassed, to the point where I was obliged to leave London for a while. I’d experienced a run of bad luck at the races which had swallowed up my entire quarterly allowance, and as a consequence I was in debt to the tune of five hundred pounds. It’s a tricky situation to find oneself in at the best of times, but when one owes money to the notorious bookie Knuckles McGraw, and in particular when one has no immediate means of settling the debt, then it is prudent to make oneself scarce.
I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I tried to find the money for him. No one can accuse me of not trying. I’d exhausted every avenue I could think of in an attempt to come up with the readies. I had gone cap in hand to my Great Uncle Eustace who, as my favourite uncle, was the source of my yearly allowance of two thousand pounds. Unfortunately I made the mistake of being honest with him as to why the funds were needed, and I found to my dismay that he was strongly opposed to gambling of any kind. He flatly refused to make an advance of my next quarter’s allowance as a matter of principle, which left me in something of a pickle. He went to great lengths to explain that it would be character-building for me to pay this debt off on my own. I in turn went to equally great lengths to explain the exact nature and temperament of Knuckles McGraw, lingering at length over the fact that he was called Knuckles for a reason, and it would be more face-destroying than character-building if I were not to settle my debt within the next week. Uncle Eustace was having none of it. He would not be moved, and I left empty handed.
I moved on to my friends, who had all found themselves in similar predicaments at one time or another and so could at least be relied upon to lend a sympathetic ear. With Christmas fast approaching, however, it seemed that this was all they were currently prepared to lend. Dickie Hopkins had himself experienced a racing-related loss and was busy raising the necessary funds to pay off his own nemesis. For Dickie I had nothing but sympathy. Simon Fontague-Bassenthwaite had just become engaged to a high living young woman who was determined that he keep her in the style to which she would very much like to become accustomed. The Redgrave twins, Elliot and Lewis, were spending the winter in America, and Hugh Macdonald had recently ventured into business for himself, and had ploughed all his spare capital into this venture.
“Sorry, old chap, but I’m short of funds myself at the moment”, he explained over a friendly game of billiards at Baigents. “I’m opening a book emporium, and I’ve just spent every last penny I have on stock.”
“A book emporium?” I queried, more than a little puzzled. “Do you mean a shop?”
“That’s right. Selling books.”
“But isn’t your father against you going into trade? I thought he hated shopkeepers, ever since he got barred by his Regent Street tailor.”
Hugh’s father, a retired banker, was infamous for his eccentricity, and had taken offence at a new style of bowler hat that his tailor had ordered in for him. He had shown his displeasure by running the offending item, and several nearby top hats, through with his walking cane, at which point his tailor had finally tired of his erratic behavior and instructed a passing police constable to remove him from the premises. Always one to hold a grudge, he now harbored a deep and simmering hatred of all shopkeepers, whom he denounced to anyone who would listen to him as petty tyrants and the blackest of rogues.
“He did kick up a bit of a fuss”, Hugh agreed cheerfully, “but he came round in the end. Once I pointed out that he wouldn’t have to pay off any more of my creditors he seemed all in favour of the plan.”
“Well in that case I wish you the best of luck. When do you open?”
“January 2nd. The builders are just finishing off the place now.”
“Then I’ll make sure I’m your first customer. If I ever manage to lay my hands on some spare cash, that is”, I added gloomily.
“Why don’t you ask Uncle Eustace for an advance?” he suggested.
“I’ve tried and failed. The old goat is quite the puritan when it comes to gambling.”
“And none of the boys at the club could help you out?”
“I’m afraid not. Bad timing on my part, nothing more, but rotten luck all the same.”
“You wouldn’t consider asking Maria, of course.”
“Certainly not! One does not pester a lady for money.”
Maria McKay was my fiancée, and whilst she was more than wealthy enough to cover my little debt and would, I’m sure, have agreed to help if I were to ask, I had absolutely no intention of asking. I had my pride, after all, and there were some depths to which I refused to sink. There was also a strong element of self-preservation involved – Maria was under the impression that I had stopped gambling, and I was in no hurry to disabuse her of the notion. On top of which, her father looked askance on my fondness for the gee gees, and was likely to insist that she call off our engagement if he found out about my current difficulties. The elder generation was proving to be of an austere frame of mind when it came to the races, and he simply wouldn’t allow his daughter to attach herself to a gambler.
“Well then, old chap, it looks like there’s only one option left open to you.”
A little puddle of dread welled up in my stomach.
“Oh come now! Things aren’t that desperate, surely?”
“You know McGraw’s reputation as well as I do”, Hugh replied. “You tell me how desperate you are.”
I thought for a moment.
“When you put it like that …”
It pained me to admit it, but I could see that Hugh was right. There was only one person left whom I had yet to ask, one person whom I feared obligating myself to above all others. As a last resort it filled me with dread, but Knuckles McGraw was growing impatient and I was growing desperate, so I would have to swallow my pride and dig out my begging cap once again.
I would have to ask my father.

Now don’t misunderstand me, my father was no tyrant. He was, on the whole, as genial and generous a parent as any son could wish for. This wasn’t, however, the first time I had found myself in this sort of predicament, and his generosity had been stretched thin in the past. I’d had enough experience in this area to know that I would need to broach the matter with tact and subtlety if I was to stand any chance of success. I couldn’t just go blundering in like an idiot. I would have to lay the groundwork, work my not inconsiderable charm, and slip my request in when he was least expecting it. If I handled it well then the money was as good as in McGraw’s pocket.
I caught sight of my reflection in the hallway mirror as I shrugged myself out of my overcoat. My face looked unusually pale against my dark hair. There was a tightness around my eyes that belied my anxiety. This would never do, I thought. My father was as sharp as a tack and would pick up on any signs of unease. I must be all sparkle and joy if I were to succeed in this venture. With this in mind I had pasted my most winning smile on to my face as Betsy, the housemaid, showed me into the drawing room, but it became immediately apparent that I was on slippery ground. My mother gave me an anxious kiss on the cheek before scuttling from the room, and my father’s expression as he rose to greet me could only be described as stern.
“How are you, father?” I enquired brightly as I handed Betsy my coat and hat. “I must say you’re looking extremely well.”
“Am I indeed?” His voice was gruff, as if he were struggling to suppress strong emotions.
“Absolutely. Hale and hearty, in fact.”
He raised a skeptical eyebrow, and I felt at once that I was overdoing it.
“You’re looking reasonably well yourself, Marcus.”
“Thank you.”
“A little poor, perhaps, but reasonably well.”
“I beg your pardon?” I thought for a moment that I might have misheard him, but he held up a piece of paper that looked suspiciously like a telegram.
“Poor, Marcus. I said you look a little poor. You look like a man who needs to find five hundred pounds as quickly as possible.”
I gaped unattractively. Things had gone wrong, horribly wrong, and I wasn’t quite sure when or how.
“How did you …?”
He waved the piece of paper at me.
“Eustace sent me a telegram. He says that you owe some thuggish bookie five hundred pounds and I should expect you to turn up on my doorstep at any time asking for a loan.”
“I wouldn’t put it quite like that …”
“No? How would you put it?”
I opened my mouth to reply, realized that that was exactly how I would have put it, and closed it again with a snap.
“I thought so”, my father said with a grim smile. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I’m extremely disappointed in you.”
“Oh come now! It’s not an ideal situation, I grant you, but I’ve been in tighter corners than this before. Once I’ve paid off McGraw then everything will be tickety-boo.”
“But you can’t pay him off, can you? Not for another month or so at least.”
“I suppose you could look at it that way, if you really wanted to, but if you were to lend me the money …” I began hopefully.
“Absolutely out of the question.”
“But – “
“The answer is no, Marcus. This gambling business has gone on for far too long. I’ve indulged you in the past because I thought it was just a phase, but you don’t seem to be showing any signs of growing out if it. You’re going to be married soon, for Heaven’s sake! How can you expect to support a wife with men like McGraw chasing after you?”
“If McGraw doesn’t get his money soon then Maria won’t want to marry me at all, because he’s going to rearrange my face until I don’t bear any resemblance to my current dashing self. Surely that’s not what you want?”
He gave me a look that suggested that he wasn’t entirely averse to the idea. My feelings were wounded, and I frowned at him. He frowned back. It wasn’t much of a contest, to be honest, because my father had many more years of frowning experience under his belt. I crumbled beneath his gaze.
“You were my last chance”, I said faintly. “If you won’t help me then I don’t know what I’ll do.”
“Of course I’m going to help you”, he huffed. “You are, after all, my only child.”
My heart soared, and I had to resist a strong urge to hug him.
“Then you’ll lend me the money?”
“But you just said – “
“I said I would help, and help I have.” He strolled over to the table and picked up what looked worryingly like another telegram. I was learning to view telegrams in an unfavourable light. “Have I ever told you about Edward De Rooke? He’s an old school friend of mine. Haven’t seen him in years, but we keep in touch. We were inseparable as boys.”
I shook my head.
“I don’t recall you ever mentioning him.”
“Splendid fellow”, my father continued. “One of the best. He could always be counted on to help out a chap in a spot of bother, and time only seems to have strengthened this trait.” He waived the telegram at me. “He’s an earl, owns a big estate out in Gloucestershire, and every time he writes he mentions how he’s been meaning to have the library properly catalogued.”
“Sounds like a good idea”, I agreed, very much wishing that he would get to the point.
“No one likes to waste time searching high and low for a book.”
“I’m glad you think so. And it really shouldn’t be too difficult a task for anyone with half a brain.”
I nodded politely.
“I should imagine”, he continued with a twisted smile, “that even you could do it.”
A horrible idea began to take root in my mind.
“You’re not suggesting …? Surely you can’t mean …?”
“Edward has kindly agreed to give you the job, as a personal favour to me, for which – “
“You can’t honestly mean for me to work!” I exclaimed.
“For which”, he continued, as if I hadn’t spoken, “he will pay you the princely sum of five hundred pounds. Which I’m fairly sure is considerably more than the work involved is worth, so I’d think myself lucky if I were you.”
“But … but … work!”
“Yes, Marcus, work. Good, honest work. It’s not what you were raised to, I admit, but beggars can’t be choosers. Can you think of another way to get your hands on the money?”
I stared blankly at him, my face drained of colour. I had never done a days work in my life, and was more than happy for the situation to remain that way.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Marcus, it won’t kill you! It’s not like we’re asking you to dig ditches. All you have to do is sit in a library for a few weeks, and at the end of it you’ll have enough money to pay this McGraw off.”
“But he won’t wait a few weeks. He wants the money by the end of the week, or it’s the end of my youthful good looks.”
“Well then, it’s just as well that you’ll be buried in deepest Gloucestershire and well beyond his reach, isn’t it?”
I realized, of course, that he was right. I couldn’t think of any other way of finding the money, and since there was no point in asking McGraw for more time, it would be just as well to make myself as scarce as possible. And where, I thought gloomily, was more scarce than Gloucestershire?
“When is he expecting me?” I asked, defeated.
“There’s a train leaving from Paddington at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. It will get you to Stoke Rookeham by mid-afternoon. Edward will send someone to meet you there.
“Tomorrow? So soon?”
“Less time for McGraw to get his hands on you.”
I nodded, and gave a heavy sigh.
“I’d better go home and pack then. And say goodbye to Maria. Perhaps you could send Edward a telegram on my behalf, accepting his offer?”
“I already have, my boy. I already have.”
I tried to be stoical, but it’s possible that I allowed a flash of despair to wend its way across my brow. He gave me a manly pat on the back.
“Chin up, Marcus. It’s only for a few weeks. You’ll be home before you know it, five hundred pounds richer and free to walk down the street without fear of reprisals.”
I decided to stifle the urge to throw a temper tantrum, and instead act like a man. I raised my chin and straightened my spine.
“Right, well thank you, father. It’s not quite what I’d hoped for, but you have helped me enormously, in your own way. So thank you.”
He smiled benignly at me, thoroughly satisfied with himself. My mother was considerably less pleased with this turn of events, but conceded defeat (rather ungraciously, it has to be said) after a little persuasion. All that remained for me to do was break the news to Maria. This, I thought sourly as I shrugged myself back into my overcoat, was not going to be pleasant, but there was nothing else for it. It must be done. I took a deep breath, stiffened my upper lip, and headed out into the snow.

I’m man enough to admit that I was a little anxious as I stood on Maria’s doorstep, waiting for their ancient and arthritic butler to show me in. Maria was a lovely girl, without doubt one of the finest specimens of womanhood that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, but she could also be a little temperamental if she felt that things weren’t going her way. She’d been talking for weeks about the busy social schedule that she had planned for both of us over the festive period, and there was no doubt that this latest turn of events was going to throw something of a spanner in the works. And Maria, for all her many fine qualities, did not like spanners.
The front door creaked open at last, and Varney the butler poked his creased face into the gap.
“Mr. Reid, what a pleasure to see you, Sir.”
“Thank you, Varney. You’re looking exceptionally well, if I may say so.”
He was, in fact, looking like he was held together by little more than hope and a prayer. The man was eighty if he was day, but he had saved the life of Maria’s grandfather during an Indian uprising, and out of gratitude the family had promised themselves that they would never get rid of him. Death would be the only escape route for old Varney, and he looked like he’d been cheating the Ferryman out of his fare for years.
“Thank you, Sir. If you’d like to follow me, I’ll inform Miss Maria that you’re here.”
I trailed behind him as he showed me into the parlour.
“How is Maria today?” I asked innocently. “I trust she’s her usual radiant self?”
Varney gave me a look, and it was an expressive one at that. Maria, I deduced, was not feeling radiant, which almost certainly meant that I was going to have a dashed uncomfortable time of things.
“She had a new dress delivered today”, Varney commented, “and it was not to her liking.”
“You know how women can be when it comes to their appearance, Varney. More often than not they see it as a matter of life or death. Can’t say I’ve ever really understood why myself, but then I don’t pretend to be intimate with the mysteries of the female mind.”
“Indeed, Sir.”
He disappeared off upstairs to collect Maria, and I waited with some trepidation. Like all men I have never felt comfortable around an angry woman – I never seem able to shake the feeling that it is somehow my fault, and there is the added horror of suspecting that at any moment she might be about to burst into tears. As any man will tell you, the only thing worse than an angry woman is a crying one. But when the door opened and Maria glided in, cornflower hair bobbed becomingly around her face, she seemed to be in rather a good mood. I might almost have called her jolly.
“Marcus, darling!” She enveloped me in a perfumed embrace, and a shiver of relief rippled through me.
“Maria, you look divine!” Flattery was never wasted on a woman like her. “And that”, I added, thinking that I might as well get it over and done with, “is a beautiful dress. Is it new?”
It was a floaty affair, pale blue like her eyes, and cut daringly low. I thought it rather fetching.
“It arrived today.” I tiny frown marred her perfect forehead. “I can’t quite decide if I like it or not. I think it makes me look washed out.” She gazed at me quizzically, and I knew enough of women and their tempers not to hesitate in my reply.
“Nonsense! You look utterly ravishing.”
I kissed her passionately, just to drive the point home, and when I released her she was blushing prettily.
“Oh! I was going to send it back to Madame DuPont’s, but if you like it then I shall keep it.”
“I adore it! You look like a delicate flower.”
This wasn’t entirely true. Maria was a beautiful woman, but she was emphatically not delicate. She was tall and slender, with the boyish figure that was all the rage in those days. Her head came with a tilt that some might have called arrogant, and her eyes more often than not had a steely glint in them that warned people in no uncertain terms to beware. If she resembled any sort of flower then it was a bold and beautiful sunflower. But as I said, a little flattery never went amiss, and with women in general it so often smoothed the path of any bad news that one might have to break.
I was pondering how I might best introduce the tricky subject of my imminent departure when Maria inadvertently helped things along.
“I think I’ll wear this dress to Lord Tallington’s Christmas ball. My sapphire necklace will go perfectly with it, don’t you think?”
“Absolutely”, I agreed, as if I had any idea what I was talking about.
“But I’ll need something new for Daddy’s party the next night. You wouldn’t want to be seen with me wearing the same dress two nights in a row.” She laughed, as if this were the worst thing that could possibly happen to either of us, and I felt a twinge of guilt that I was about to disillusion her on this score.
“Ah, about that … “
“I know Serena Hockingley is going to be there, so I have to look my absolute best. She’s been madly in love with you for years, and she was heartbroken when we got engaged. I don’t want to give her any opportunity to tempt you away from me.”
“The thing is, Maria …”
“Do you think I should have a matching headband ordered for this dress? Something with feathers and crystals? I don’t want to overdo it, but I saw a divine one at Madame DuPont’s and I’m certain she could adapt it so the colours matched without any trouble at all.”
She wasn’t listening to me at all. The time had come to be blunt with her.
“Maria, I’m afraid I have some rather bad news.”
She stopped her prattling and stared at me, her rosebud mouth turned down in a little pout.
“What sort of bad news? You are going to come to Daddy’s party, aren’t you? If you try to weasel your way out of it so you can go to that stupid boys club of yours then I will be very annoyed with you.” She stamped her foot to emphasize the point.
“Firstly”, I began in a slightly aggrieved tone, “Baigents is not a “stupid boys club”. It is a gentleman’s club of two hundred years standing, with a reputation unsurpassed in the city. Secondly, I’m not trying to weasel my way out of anything. There’s been a rather unfortunate turn events, which leaves me with no choice but to absent myself from any festivities for the next few weeks. In short, darling, I’m afraid that I have to go to Gloucestershire.”
“Gloucestershire?” She looked at me as if I had suddenly started speaking Cantonese.
“That’s right, Gloucestershire.”
Maria put her hands on her hips and glared at me.
“What exactly have you been getting up to?” she demanded.
“Nothing serious”, I said soothingly. “It’s just a little gambling debt that I can’t pay as quickly as certain people would like. I just need to make myself scarce until it all blows over and I can come up with the readies.”
“How much do you owe exactly?”
“Five hundred pounds. And before you say anything, I wouldn’t dream of accepting a loan from you.”
“I wasn’t offering”, she said icily. “Honestly, Marcus, how could you be so stupid? You know perfectly well that Daddy won’t let me marry you if he finds out you’re still gambling. You promised you’d stop!”
“And I meant to”, I replied sheepishly, “but this was an absolute certainty. I would have been a fool not to put money on it.”
She raised a single eyebrow at me. I really can’t put into words quite how disdainful Maria’s eyebrows could be when she set her mind to it, and I dutifully took the hint and hung my head in shame.
“Am I at least allowed to know whereabouts in Gloucestershire you’re going?”
I took out the slip of paper my father had given me, with Lord De Rooke’s details written down.
“It’s a place called Stoke Rookeham, the estate of an old friend of my father’s. The house is called Mandrake.”
“I’ve never heard of it”, Maria said.
“It is rather out of the way”, I agreed, “but then that’s whole the point. I pretty much need to disappear completely for a while, so the closer I am to the Middle of Nowhere, the better.”
“Is all this subterfuge really necessary? I mean, how bad can this man you owe money to be?”
I cast my mind back to the last time I had spoken to Knuckles McGraw. He had looked rather like an enormous angry sausage that had been stuffed into a badly fitting suit. His nose had been broken at some time in his youth, and he was missing several teeth. His hands, no doubt giving rise to his nickname, were unusually large and looked like they were more than capable of breaking a slender young neck such as mine.
“I believe he’s earned his reputation”, I said. “I’m sorry, darling, I know this has come rather out of the blue, but I really wouldn’t be going if I had any other choice.”
By this point Maria’s face had gone very pale, the only colour being a bright spot of pink on each cheek. Those spots worried me terribly. Without exception they signified extreme rage on Maria’s part, and I felt certain she was struggling very hard not to throw the nearest heavy object at my head.
“You’re going to have to come up with some excuse for why you’re leaving London. I can’t very well tell Daddy that you’ve run off to the country to escape a murderous bookie, can I?”
“No, I see you’re point.” I thought for a moment. “I think we’d best stick as close to the truth as possible. We’ll say that I’m going to stay with an old friend of my father’s, to help him with the running of his estate. It’s almost true – I’m going to catalogue his library for him, and in return he’s going to pay me five hundred much needed pounds.”
“I’m certainly not telling Daddy that!” she said indignantly. ”He would object to you having to work for a living almost as much as he would you gambling away your money in the first place.”
“Yes, well, leave out what you don’t like and embellish where you see fit.”
She gave a little humph of displeasure, glared at me some more, and then flung her arms around me in a tender embrace. I offered up a swift and silent prayer of thanks. I felt that the worst was over and, frankly, I’d gotten off rather lightly.
“I wish you didn’t have to go”, she said softly. “We were going to have such fun together!”
“I wish I wasn’t going either, believe me. It gave me a hell of a shock when my father presented the thing to me as a fait accompli. Honestly, that man is so wily he should have been a politician.”
“Well I suppose I can live with it, as long as you’re back for Christmas. You will be back in time, won’t you?”
“Absolutely. Even if I haven’t finished with this library business, I’ll pop back up for a few days over Christmas itself. I might have to keep a bit of a low profile, but I should be safe enough.”
Maria smiled and hugged me again.
“Will you stay for dinner?”
“I wish I could, but my train leaves at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. I’ve got quite a bit to do before I go.” I shrugged apologetically and went to kiss her again, but she drew away from me. I felt the temperature in the room drop a degree or two, and realized that perhaps I hadn’t gotten off quite so lightly after all.
“You’re leaving tomorrow?”
“Yes, didn’t say?” I smiled innocently.
“No, Marcus, you did not.”
“Ah, well …”
“Is there anything else you haven’t told me about this little escapade of yours?”
“No, I think I’ve covered everything. Look, I really am sorry about all of this. I know it’s inconvenient and out of the blue, but really, Maria, I’m as unhappy about it as you are. I don’t want to go, for Heaven’s sake! The last thing I want to do just before Christmas is bury myself in a moldy stately home and make polite chit chat with my father’s old school friend. I’d give anything to spend this time with you, but it simply isn’t possible.”
If I’d hoped to melt her heart with this emotional little plea then I was sorely mistaken. She drew herself up to her full, not inconsiderable, height, and gave me a look that would have turned a lesser man to stone.
“Goodnight, Marcus. Enjoy your stay in Gloucestershire, won’t you.”
“But Maria …!”
“I can’t stay to chat, I have to get ready for Bingley Buckingham’s cocktail party. I would invite you along”, she added acidly, “but I expect you need to pack.”
And then she turned and flounced out of the room, leaving me feeling a little like I’d been slapped on the cheek. I gawped at the door as she slammed it shut, and thought to myself that I would never, if I lived to be a hundred years old, understand the workings of the female mind.
Old Varney gave me watery look of sympathy as he showed me out into the cold night. He had known Maria since she was a baby. He understood.
“Goodnight, Mr. Reid. Take care, won’t you.”
“Thank you, Varney, I shall. And Varney?”
“When Maria has calmed down a little could you tell her, well, you know …”
“I shall pass on your regards, sir.”
“Thank you, Varney. I appreciate it more than I can say.”

Whatever Varney said to her obviously did the trick. I was just about to board the train to Stoke Rookeham the next morning when I heard Maria shout my name. Turning on the platform I saw her running through the steam like a vision of Aphrodite herself.
“Marcus! Oh I ‘m so glad I caught you.”
I swept her up and clasped her to my bosom.
“Maria! What on earth are you doing here?”
“I wanted to apologize for being so horrid to you yesterday. I was so upset at the thought of you leaving, and it all seemed to be happening so suddenly. I didn’t even know you’d been gambling again, let alone that you owed this dreadful man so much money.”
“I didn’t want to bother you with anything so unpleasant”, I admitted, “and I didn’t want you to be disappointed with me. I promised that I wouldn’t gamble again, and I broke that promise.”
“I don’t care! I love you, Marcus.”
I held her close, and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“I know that, you silly young fool! But I am glad to see you. I should have hated to go away with you still angry with me.”
“It’d be easier for me if I were still angry with you. Perhaps then I wouldn’t miss you so much.” She gazed up at me, her eyes shining with tears, and I felt my heart skip a little.
“It’s only for a few weeks, I’ll be back before you know it.”
“It might only be a few weeks, but right now it feels like months.”
“It does rather, doesn’t it?”
I laughed and kissed her again, just as the guard’s whistle sounded. A great puff of steam enveloped us, and with a final embrace I boarded the train and left her weeping on the platform. I leant out of the window and waved at her retreating figure until Paddington was out of sight, and then I settled down to the dubious delights of the London suburbs as they slid slowly by. I couldn’t honestly say that I was looking forward to the next few weeks, but now that I was back in Maria’s good graces I felt sure that they wouldn’t drag by quite as badly as I had feared. Even the work wouldn’t be so very taxing, surely? How difficult could it be to catalogue a library? Even, as my father had rather cruelly pointed out, a fool could do it, and so a man of my sparkling intellect should find it a breeze. And you never know, I told myself with my usual optimism, I might even enjoy myself.
With this comforting thought in mind, I closed my eyes and made myself comfortable as the train carried me on towards Gloucestershire.

© Copyright 2015 Yarrow (yarrow at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2065330-In-The-Bleak-Midwinter-A-Ghost-Story