Tuesday, October 21, 2014

the fotherinton inheritance, part 14

by heathcote parkman sternwall

illustrations by penmarq studios and palomine studios

chapters 94 - 100 of 156

for previous entry, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

94. good fellowship

do me the honor, squire, of standing me a drink at yonder pub. it has better fare than you might think from the look of it."

valentine corgrave - for such was the true cognomen of "kelvin armistead" and as such we will henceforth refer to him - laughed.


95. jasper procrastinates

"have you not considered," jasper addressed arboreta, "the consequences of not waiting until the full moon has passed before reading grandmother's will."

"jasper, the will has been in mr garwood's possession for many a moon, full or otherwise. it is whatever it is, and i am sure there are no surprises. it will not change because we wait or do not wait," arboreta replied with as much patience as she could summon.

"and do you really believe that?"


96. accosted

"pardon me, miss, but do you mind if i sit here?"

the orphan's interlocutor was small, elderly, and dapper, with a long nose and a black top hat thirty years out of fashion. as the train swayed, he kept the top hat in his hand as a shield between himself and the orphan .

"not at all, sir, please make yourself comfortable."

the train was fifteen minutes out of the station , and the orphan had been expecting the man, or someone like him, since she had taken her seat in the second class compartment.

surely it had been too much to expect that she could travel down to wedgewhistle, the closest train station to madwood, without somebody following her?

and that whoever followed her would not think her so green that they could openly accost her without her suspecting anything ?

the little man took his seat across from her.


97. mutual profit

"you know, gobbins, there is really no need to play the slyboots with me, and think you have to finagle me into anything."

valentine took a sip of the ale he had purchased for himself. it was not half bad.

"no," he continued, " i think this may be both our lucky days, and that we can profit from each other's endeavors.

"yer don't say." goblbns eyed the former officer and gentleman warily, and took a hearty swig of his own ale. "and might yer have any particular endeavors in mind, squire?"

" i do." valentine looked over his shoulder.


98. the romantic side

"all this is very well, miss," garland's visitor assured her, after he he had finished his tea and she had finished her account, "but it seems - a bit farfetched. a bit - on the romantic side, shall we say."

garland's face fell. she had not expected this.

"but, sir!" she cried. "consider the possibilities! "


99. on the way

"unless i was misinformed, miss" the orphan's compartment mate addressed her, "this train does not stop until folke-on-turpin."

"i do not really know, sir," she replied. "i am only concerned with my own destination, and did not enquire as to the stops on the way."


100. a sincere hope

"my sincerest hope - my sincerest hope - is that no matter what is contained in the will, that everything will go on as before - exacty as before, as if grandmother were still alive."

such was aunt gerontia's first pronouncement on her reappearance on the verandah, which she had been absent from since the old woman's demise.

"i trust we all hope so," arboreta replied diplomatically.


to be continued

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the fotherinton inheritance, part 13

by heathcote parkman sternwall

illustrations by penmarq studios and palomine studios

chapters 86 - 93 of 156

for previous entry, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

86. reward

“virtue is its own reward” was a precept the orphan’s mother had often repeated to her.


87. unmasked

leaving mr barbourfoth’s lodgings, “kelvin armistead” strode down the street with as great an air of confidence as he could muster.

as soon as he turned the corner at george st and felt he was safely out of mr barbourforth’s, or mr barbourforth’s servant’s , sight, he gave a great sigh and allowed his posture to reflect his true feelings.

he headed toward edgeware rd.

as he did he was accosted by a shabby looking fellow with a cloth cap hiding most of his weatherbeaten face.

“ho there, governor!”

“kelvin” was in no mood for charity, and pushed the man aside with his walking stick.

“whoa there, governor, don’t you recognize me?”

“i think not,” replied “kelvin” without looking around.

“but i recognize you!” the man called after him. “lieutenant corgrave!”

“kelvin” stopped, and looked back.

the man smiled.


88. two pennies

“give us a penny, will yer, miss?”

was the whole city filled with nothing but beggars?

and yet, like a shaft of sunlight penetrating a foggy day, the thought crossed the orphan’s mind that giving the woman a penny would bring her luck.

she gave the woman two pennies.


89. an important date

“has a date been set for the reading of the will?” cousin bartholomew asked cousin arboreta for the third time.

“indeed it has - tomorrow.”


90. old acquaintance

“gobbins! i know you, you vile rascal.”

“and what have you been doing, squire, since the disgraceful end to your military career?”


91. jasper’s thoughts

“inconvenient?” cousin arboreta looked somewhat blankly at cousin jasper, who had expressed his annoyance at the early date set by mr garwood for the reading of the old woman’s will.

“how can it be inconvenient? inconvenient for whom, jasper? none of us are going anywhere. none of us have gone anywhere for years.”

“i wanted time to collect my thoughts,” jasper replied.

arboreta started to say, “are they worth collecting?” but checked herself.


92. resolve

keenly aware of the futility of her efforts so far, the orphan resolved to travel to madwood and approach the fotherintons on their own territory.

how foolish she had been to approach mr barbourforth!


93. remonstrance

“take a moment to collect your thoughts, jasper, and start your exposition again.”


chapters 94 - 100

Monday, October 13, 2014

the fotherinton inheritance, part 12

by heathcote parkman sternwall

illustrations by penmarq studios and palomine studios

chapters 79 - 85 of 156

for previous entry, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

79. morning

"queer - damned queer," mr barbourforce muttered to himself as he perused the note craver had delivered to him at his breakfast table.

"is there an answer, sir?" craver asked . "the messenger is waiting if you have one."

" no. no answer. " mr barbourforce folded the note and put it beside his teacup.

"very good, sir."

"on second thought, give him this answer - 'that i will have no more to do with this business'. just tell him that."

"nothing in writing, sir?"

" absolutely not."

it was a beautiful morning, with the sun bright enough to penetrate the thick windows of mr barbourforce's gloomy bachelor quarters.

mr barbourforce attacked his sausages and kippers, his muffins and strawberry jam, with renewed vigor.


80. an early visitor

"excuse me, sir, but you have a visitor - early as it is."

mr barbourforth had just lit his first cigar of the morning. " let me guess - it is young armistead, who visited me on guy fawkes night."

"why indeed it is, sir. indeed it is." craver chuckled. "your perspicuity never ceases to amaze, sir."

"it's a bit early in the morning for flattery, craver. show the young man in."

mr barbourforth had taken but a solitary puff on his cigar when a young man appeared before him whom mr barbourforth knew as kelvin armistead but who bore no little resemblance to the person previously introduced to the reader as hartley rogers.

"good morning, sir," the young man addressed mr barbourforth, who had claimed the privileges of age and the gout in not rising.

"good morning."


81. no remorse

never before had ternwhistle felt such complete wretchedness as he did on waking after the night of his expedition to madame ming's.

he had no memory of returning to his dismal quarters, but no matter, he had made it back to them somehow.

however he felt no remorse, and did not delude himself by thinking he would not return to the opium den at the first opportunity.


82. great fortune

"behind every great fortune there is a crime."

but what crime could there be behind the fotherinton fortune ? if indeed there was a fotherinton fortune, and the whole prospect of one not but a phantasmagorical fantasy conjured up by - whom or what?

such were the thoughts occupying the mind of the young woman who had visited mr barbourforth the prior evening and whom we have designated with the sobriquet of "the orphan".

as she lay in bed in the poor but respectable lodgings she had taken after deciding to pursue the prize described by her "cousin" , she, like mr barbourforth, was having second thoughts about the whole enterprise.

she had had a nasty fright the night before when she thought she had recognized the cabman - but from where? from a dream?

was all this but a dream?

with a sigh, she arose.


83. another visitor

"perhaps you would like a nice cup of tea?" cousin garland simpered to her visitor.

the visitor, seated in the most comfortable chair available on the verandah, had made his way on foot over the moors to madwood, arriving just at daybreak.

he nodded agreeably. "thank you. perhaps i should have these muddy boots cleaned before i go into your parlour. do you have a servant handy?"

"oh, don't bother with that, i shall have tea brought out here. but first - "


84. a decision

sipping a cup of chocolate in a small shoppe a few doors down from her lodging, the orphan came to a decision.

she would carry on.


85. confidence

"of course, sir, i will respect your confidence by not breathing a word of any of this to anyone not already in possession of the facts - i should say, the purported facts."

"kelvin armistead" regarded mr barbourforth attentively. he had quickly realized that there was no persuading that worthy to reconsider his stated decision to drop out of the contest.

"and who, sir, besides ourselves, might be in possession of what you are pleased to call 'the purported facts'."

"the solicitor, ternwhistle. not the sharpest fellow, but one i judged an appropriate tool."


chapters 86 - 93

Friday, October 10, 2014

the fotherinton inheritance, part 11

by heathcote parkman sternwall

illustrations by penmarq studios and palomine studios

chapters 72 - 78 of 156

for previous entry, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

72. disgust

"you disgust me, jasper. " jasmilda drew herself up to her full height. "you disgust me beyond description."

"come, jasmilda," cousin bartholomew protested with the best show of affability he could muster, "this is no time for histrionics" he waved his eternal unlit pipe in the air. "this is the time we should all pull together. yes, indeed. pull together."

cousin gerontia snorted contemptuously.

cousin gwyneth echoed her.


73. no further enquiry

"so, doctor, you see no need to further enquire into the unfortunate death of my aunt?" (although she had always been referred to as "grandmother" the old woman had been in fact an aunt or great-aunt of many of the family members, such as arboreta.)

doctor wilson seemed surprised by the question, and looked curiously at arboreta.

"why no, what would you have? she was old, now she's dead. there really isn't anything else to say."

"thank you, doctor."


74. the residents

fotherintons from all over the empire, and the world, would have been invited to grandmother's funeral, and the reading of her will ,if any such persons had been known to exist, and could be located.

but the fact was, there were no known fotherintons except those in permanent residence at madwood.

all of whom now looked forward to the reading by the will, by mr garwood, the family solicitor, in whose keeping grandmother had let the only copy of that mysterious document.


75. familiar

"excuse me, i would like to go to hambley square."

the cabbie, who had seemed asleep, looked up.

the orphan thought he looked familiar.


76. the doctor departs

no one had come near hartley rogers since he had seated himself in the shadow of the verandah.

the doctor now came out of the house, followed by cousin arboreta. after a few murmured words to her, he walked down the driveway to his car, turned it around , and drove off past hartley's car.

cousin arboreta watched the car disappear.

hartley cleared his throat. arboreta turned and regarded him with a vacant expression.

he stood up.

"i am sorry to have to have witnessed such a terrible event, "he offered.

arboreta merely nodded.

"may i ask if the police will be called?"

"they will not."


77. new resolution

just what i wanted to hear, thought hartley.

he had only wanted to get clear of the house, so that he could take stock of the changed situation.

but suddenly he was filled with new resolution. why not play the man, and press onward?

this woman standing before him, who appeared to have taken charge, was apparently the formidable "grandmother's" successor.

the police were apparently not to be involved.

arboreta interrupted his musings. "was there business you had with my aunt, sir?"

"yes, but i am sure it can wait."

"wait for what, sir?"


78. a change of heart

on an impulse, the orphan turned away.

"i am sorry, i will not be needing you after all."


chapters 79 - 85

Monday, October 6, 2014

the fotherinton inheritance, part 10

by heathcote parkman sternwall

illustrations by penmarq studios and palomine studios

chapters 65 - 71 of 156

for previous entry, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

65. the dreamer

ternwhistle relaxed.

the pipe always relaxed him. and tonight he needed relaxation a bit more than usual.

all his cares - such as they were - all his dreams - insofar as he could be said to have any - his ambitions - which had only recently been somewhat aroused after a long hibernation - fell away.

his lean body became as relaxed as a puddle of water after an april rainstorm.

his mind floated away. to - his usual dream - of a beautiful but faceless maiden in a white (occasionally pink, but tonight, as usual, the most spotless white) sitting beside a gently flowing stream in the shadow of a distant mountain…

in his everyday life ternwhistle paid scant attention to maidens, faceless or beautiful or otherwise…

would his dream be less delightful if he were aware of madame ming watching him from the black shadows of the doorway?


66. interlude

when doctor wilson arrived, the cousins scattered to various hiding places, leaving only arboreta to greet him.

seated on the verandah, hartley rogers found this curious.


67. madame ming deliberates

madame ming had always considered ternwhistle one of her least promising customers - least promising as to being a worthwhile target of her sinister machinations, or a useful tool or foil of any kind.

a good steady customer, but one who was probably stretching his meager resources, to occasionally sample her wares.

and useless for any nefarious purpose.

but with her unerring instincts, she sensed something different about him this night - as if he had suddenly been plunged into deeper, darker waters.

she decided to wait until his next visit, see what aura he projected then, and if it still seemed promising, to gently draw him out.

the almost inaudible doorbell sounded, and she roused herself to answer it.

a gentleman the very image of the hearty englishman, clad head to toe in deepest black, awaited her, and bowed.

"good evening, doctor."


68. waiting game

victory is within my grasp, thought cousin garland.

she had retreated to her tiny room on the fifth floor when the doctor arrived.

if the doctor wanted to ask her any questions about grandmother's death, they knew where to find her.

but why would he? it was that dumb young man who found her.

what did he want anyway? garland wished she had had a chance to ask him some questions, but he had insisted on telling the others about grandmother and what could she say?

otherwise everything was going according to plan.

her magic had worked.

soon, rainsforth should arrive.

trusted rainsforth, now her creature.


69. the orphan's plea

"and that is my story, sir" the young woman concluded. "i have nothing to add. i hope you will see your way to helping me."

"it is a strange story, miss," mr barbourforth replied. "very strange in more ways than one. you will surely excuse me if i can not give you an answer right away."

"and when might you give me one? i am only a poor orphan, i can not afford to stay in this great metropolis for very long with my meager resources."

"at the risk of sounding like a stage villain, miss, i can only point out that you have come to me, i am under no obligation to you."

"oh! i had not thought you so cruel!"


70. a forthright declaration

reader, if any still be with us, be assured that the confusion of this tale will not be dispelled, but only magnified as we proceed.

the roots of the story of the fotherinton inheritance lie deep in the past, a past which has been largely forgotten and rightfully so.

how, then, to make more sense of it than we have?


71. a game of fox and hounds

"in that case, sir, i bid you good evening." the orphan rose from her chair in as dignified a manner as she could muster.

mr barbourforth nodded. "craver will show you out."

"that will not be necessary."

"suit yourself." mr barbourforth turned away and reached for his cigar case.

the orphan made her way to the landing and down the stairs to the front door as slowly as she could.

she expected mr barbourforth to have her followed and she wished to give her pursuer every opportunity to keep her in sight.

outside in the street, a light mist was falling.

the orphan took her time opening her umbrella.

there was a cab stand in the next street.

with the umbrella in one hand and the skirts of her dress and coat in the other, the orphan made her slow way to it.

but could feel no one following her.


chapters 72 - 78