I woke up with joy
in my heart; He had come to me in the night after so long away, and more
passionate than I had ever known him so that I thought that I might burst wide
open. At the moment of passion I forgot everything but when, all too soon, He
left me then I felt bereft not knowing when He would come again to unite His
body and spirit with mine; my love, my one true religion.
happy Adele said as she devoured bacon and kidneys with relish. When we
first married, I had told Adele how much I detest the smell of cooking meat,
but she is a carnivore, and I am unable to deny her, her needs. Groves, our
young butler, stood behind her, looking nervous as our servants tend to do when
dealing with my wife; who having been constrained for so long, now feels she
can release her anger and sarcasms on those paid to wait upon her.
And you my
dear, I asked her, dearly hoping that she was.
She spat a globule
of fat onto her plate, how could I not be? she asked.
There was a plate of
toast on the side, so I buttered a couple of slices and took them with me to
the study and was soon engaged on accounts whilst Adele organised the house,
shouted at the servants and did what she would, which I am happy with so long
as she does not disturb me; surely making it the happiest of marriages.
After lunch I walked
the grounds whilst Tallis and Byrd, my two black Retrievers, ran ahead of me.
Our lands were sadly diminished during my grandfathers lifetime, but even
so I can look south and east and see acres upon acres of my fields, well-farmed
and prosperous which will probably go to my nephew James, a noisy dolt of
seventeen, but who I love most dearly for the sake of his mother, my beautiful
sister, Rebecca who I miss every day. Adele still hopes for a child of our own;
and although the prospect seems unlikely and unnecessary, she is strong enough
to contend against nature, so James may lose out on his inheritance after all.
Whatever happens he will be rich enough, however I do hope he inherits
I saw a dark figure
loping towards me, who I soon discovered to be Reverend Thomas Andrews; I wish
that he was as scared of me as he is of my wife, but for some reason he sees us
as fellows or god forbid friends. He was too close for me to
pretend that I had not seen him, and whilst I was tempted to swiftly head in
the opposite direction, I knew that it would be unkind to someone whose living
I had control of. I therefore stood waiting and watched Tallis and Byrd chase
is small and undemanding and his wife seemingly kind and compliant
although I have some doubts as to her good nature in private - , and his three
girls, quiet and pretty, but even so I wonder how he finds time to haunt me out
and engage me in endless conversations. I attend St. Lukes regularly,
give money to his various causes abroad and even paid for the vicarage roof and
yet he still wants more. What more can the man want? My soul?
I bowed faintly, and
I hoped aloofly.
How are you
this fine morning?
He was right it was
a fine morning; I love Autumn best, with the smell of decomposing leaves and
the chill wind that invigorates. And I thought of Rebecca and our long walks in
the countryside when we were young, Rebecca who is now mouldering in Yorkshire
soil many miles north from here.
distracted my Lord.
I was thinking
of my sister and how she would have appreciated such a chill day.
Tallis, who fawned upon him, imbecile that he is, whilst the more wary Byrd
hung back, ready to run or fight if necessary.
I was going to
visit your wife, I have a few things I wish to talk over with her.
I nodded and we
headed back towards Leyton Hall; its red walls clear against the white sky, the
dogs running ahead of us full of uncomplicated joy. Whilst all around me I
could feel Him, as if His hand was in mine, His breath against my face; as
close as two beings can be, if a being is what he is.
Sarah left I hear.
I shrugged as if it
My wife deals
with such matters. Is that why you are going to see her?
yes. And I realised that Andrews appeared a little flushed and
Molly was a
silly girl, was easily affrighted.
but she never struck me as such; a sensible well-balanced young woman. It would
take something most strange, most strange or supernatural to make her
He then looked at me
with a look that could almost have been construed as impertinent
The dogs disappeared
around the back of the hall, whilst I led Andrews into the morning room and
went to find Adele. She was talking to the cook in strident tones, who stood
flushed and on the verge of tears, like an errant schoolgirl, rather than a
matron with five grown-up children of her own.
Andrews is here, I thought that Adele probably shared my view on the man,
although she never stated this explicitly, saving her insults for the servants
he has a bee in his bonnet about the maid.
She looked at me,
I dont understand it myself. I will go and see him, but dont
stray too far. And she strode off; straight of body and of mind, whilst
the cook sighed with relief at her departure, and gave me a curtsey.
At first He is cold
inside me; deadly cold and His stomach and chest chilly and dry against my back
but then He scorches like steam from a kettle, and I scream in sweet agony,
before slowly He ebbs away, leaving me naked on my bed. What noises do I make
at the height of it? Is that why the silly wench Sarah left us with God knows
what tales? Or more likely was it my wife with her harsh tongue and her
tendency to slap or reduce to tears with just a few words?
Adele found me in
the library browsing Shakespeares sonnets.
He wants us to
pay some money to Sarah.
is very upset, and her parents are talking, saying God knows what; he is
worried that the story will spread.
They do not
even live in the village I reminded her.
nearby, and they could cause trouble, Adele paused, giving me the
withering look that she normally reserves for the servants, anyway it is
your decision, I am not sure why he needed to speak to me about it.
We stared at each
other for a moment and I realised that she was on the verge of tears.
she started, but could not carry on, and left me.
After a moment I
went to the study to sit with Andrews and work out something appropriate.
Relieved that I had solved the problem, but as so often wondering what Adele
knew and thought.
I could have told
all to Andrews, but I imagine he would have run screaming from the house and
either have me burnt at the stake or taken away to an asylum with fantasists,
idiots and perverts.
He came to me when I
was still a young man, before I inherited the hall and when Adele was just one
of many names dangled in front of me as a possible bride by my anxious father.
My father constantly
wrote to my rooms in London, saying that I needed to marry and come home, that
my life was dissolute and was causing him shame. Perhaps he was right; or
perhaps I was just searching; on a quest for peace and contentment, but if that
was the case my quest had failed. Certainly, there were moments of peace and
joy; a tightening in a man or a glorious sunset, a young boys voice in a
choir or a laugh uninhibited and everlastingly joyful; just fragments gone
before they could be appreciated, and after that, hours of loneliness.
In truth I missed my
sister desperately. Ten years older than me, and more a mother than a sibling,
I yearned for her so much that I could not cry or even talk about it. After she
married, I was just as often in Yorkshire staying with her and her kind but
dull husband and her three unpromising children, than I was at Leyton. But then
she died in agony from a growth inside her and life was never the same again. I
galloped away like a horse out of control, its carriage full of screaming
passengers, full of anger and fear.
Soon after she died,
I left Nottinghamshire and found rooms in London; I told my father that I was
going to be an artist and whilst it is true I have a fair talent, particularly
for sketching, all I wanted to do was to hide and forget myself and my family,
just lose myself in pleasure and self-indulgence.
My companion on many
of these jaunts was Smythe, a friend from my youth who I had kept in touch with
and had fallen back into the way of, now that I was in London where he lived.
Dark and quiet, he accompanied me on my night-time escapades; always watching,
but rarely participating. He was a connoisseur of music and we often attended
St. Andrews Church in Moorgate both morning and evening which had a full
choir and a musical director of talent.
beautiful he would explain as he listened to a young choir boy sing
something heavenly, and the otherwise still and placid Smythe would take my
hand for a moment as we sat together listening to the choir harmonise, their
music reaching for the heavens.
Of all that I
have seen this is the closest to heaven, he once murmured, and he seemed
to swoon for a moment, and I could not but feel the same, unmusical that I am.
And that passion and beauty stayed with us, even after listening to the old
fool of a vicar prosing on afterwards.
And then we would go
to his rooms and Smythe would embrace me before undoing and stroking me, until
I reached another kind of ecstasy, and he would kiss me on the mouth, as if a
continuation of the music we had listened to; music made manifest.
And then one
time as we lay in each others arms, he looked at me with a curious look
on his face, as if nervous.
me he asked and both naked we knelt by his bed.
Lord he prayed, come to us and I wondered who he was praying
to, as his hand rubbed down my back and my bottom, getting more and more
vigorous the more he prayed. The room smelt of sex and wax, as the various
candles that around his bedroom flickered and smoked. And then Smythe spoke
something in a language I did not know, although it sounded like an Ancient
tongue; perhaps Hebrew, or Aramaic. After a moment, or perhaps after much
longer, I felt a warm wind blowing down my back and I reared up and felt
something more heavenly than I had ever felt before.
I do not know how
long it went on for; a sense of lightness and sweetness, and yet overtly
sexual. And then as I was still lying on the bed, dazed and in ecstasy, Smythe
took me and I let him with pleasure, and it felt as if someone was with us,
part of our lovemaking.
that? I asked as we lay intertwined in his bed.
He comes to me
sometimes; conjured up I dont know where. Unbidden, but He is always at
my back or just behind me.
But for how
Since I can
remember; at first He was just a friend, but then as I grew older He became
something more. But now He is becoming almost too much, and I felt that I
needed to share Him, to ease the pressure as it were, although I could not bear
to lose Him completely.
When Smythe and I
were together, this phantasm reappeared; sometimes briefly, just a quiver of
something, but at other times, He dominated as if Smythe were unimportant and
was almost not there.
But what is
it? A Devil or Christ?
I dont think that He is Christ. You are best not analysing such a
phenomena, just enjoy it. I feel that if we ask too much then He will disappear
into the night.
That maybe so,
but I do not wish to consort with a Devil.
But you are
already doing so. And he kissed me hard and took me.
My father was ageing
and lived in Leyton Hall with just three servants; he too was never the same
after the death of my sister, or perhaps he was still mourning the death of my
mother, years before. He called me to him one day in Autumn, and I realised
that I had not seen him since Christmas, so engaged was I in my various
pursuits. I travelled up to Nottinghamshire, feeling guilty but also missing
Smythe and my life in London.
He truly looked an
old man now; thin and frail, whilst his voice was so slight that I had to bend
down to hear him, whilst I did so, I could smell urine and something else,
faint but pervasive, that I could not quite decide what it was; possibly decay.
He had never been a particularly vigorous man; more a thinker, but he had
always seemed healthy and fit as if he would live forever or at least for a
long time yet.
John I worry
about you. This house and these grounds will be yours soon. And yet you show no
interest in them or the people who farm them.
I felt tears come to
my eyes, the first time since I was a young child.
Sir, you have
many years left, I told him, knowing that this was nonsense.
I do not, I
have months at most, nor do I want to live forever, or even for another year,
my time is almost over and I am glad. And you need to get ready to assume the
responsibility which is going to come to you. You have had your fun, now become
He sipped something
from the glass at his left hand, whilst I watched him feeling unutterably sad
come up here, learn how to manage the estate, he continued, and for
Gods sake find yourself a wife.
is a long time yet until I need a wife. And I have affairs to attend to in
I have heard
of your affairs; he sneered, with an old mans venom,
extricate yourself and come back here, and yes you do need to marry, to
provide an heir to carry on our name.
When I left Leyton
Hall the next morning I fully intended to return soon, and once in London I
began to organise my possessions with that end in mind. That Sunday I met up
with Smythe who seemed pale and sad.
Your father is
right, you do have responsibilities; I have to stay in London, to work but you
have your own sphere.
I held him, but he
was not amorous, and in the end we just lay together fully clothed.
I am your
friend, he told me, but I think you need to leave London, go to
Nottinghamshire and be a Lord.
But you will
visit; I will need my friends more than ever.
He looked at me
pityingly and then allowed me my way as if to make up for his hard words.
troubled I said to him the following morning as we lay together and
watched the sun try to ease itself through the curtain.
Oh, it is
nothing. I feel a little odd, out of countenance.
He shrugged and got
out of bed and started to dress; I am seeing visions.
I continued to lie
there, I was intrigued by what my friend said, but also wanting coffee to wake
me up and to fully understand what he was saying.
I see people
in the street and on the river, people who are not there.
No, people who
are dead; my parents walking hand in hand in Billingsgate, my friend Harte
sitting in the choir at St. Lukes, my niece on a boat on the
I dressed and we
went to the bakery for a loaf.
spoken to anybody else about this?
Who could I
me, I told him, perhaps you need to rest, come up to
Nottinghamshire with me.
He laughed in a
kindly sort of way, you are probably right; I have been very busy with
work. Maybe in a few weeks we could go away together for a few days into the
I would like
that very much.
And Smythe headed
off towards Whitehall still eating and I watched him go; a small, fragile
looking figure who soon disappeared amidst people, carriages and smog.
I never saw him
again. We used to see each other almost every day, although we rarely made
plans to do so, but over the next few days he did not come to my flat, and I
did not seem him elsewhere. I went to his rooms, but nobody answered and his
neighbour, a rather odd-looking young man who said he was in law
said he had not seen him for days, that he thought he had gone
away. His landlord too professed ignorance, and when he unlocked the
door, the rooms were empty, as if Smythe had stepped out for a breath of air
and would be back shortly.
Smythe was not at
our usual haunts, and nobody amongst the habitues knew where he was but then in
that kind of life people came and went without giving real names or any names
at all. Most of the people I spoke to did not even know him as Smythe.
friend? said the young woman known as Boadicea he comes and goes,
but he is a strange one; possessed. I would not chase after him, he will do you
no good. Leave him be.
And she reached for
me, but I pushed her aside, albeit gently.
I knew that he
worked in the Department of Trade as a secretary, which I discovered to be a
more important job than I had assumed it was, judging by the fact that he had
his own large office and an assistant; a tall older man who explained that Mr
Smythe was unwell. And yet when I looked at the man I knew that he
was lying and that he was frightened. There was a questioning in his eyes and a
wondering, and I felt that he had no more idea than I, where Smythe had
I walked through the
cavernous building, feeling the eyes of various young men following me as I
walked past them on my way out. And I knew that when I left that there would
just be the sound of quill scratching against vellum, nothing more.
continued to look for Smythe, at churches and in houses of ill-repute, but
there was no sign of him. I even wrote a letter to his brother, a clergyman in
Northampton, but I received no reply. I only had my Familiar to comfort me at
night, and to remind me of my friend; but He never spoke, was just a presence
and sometimes even less than that.
A fortnight after my
visit to Whitehall I received a messenger who told me that my father had died
in the night and that I was now owner of Leyton Hall. In tears I was driven
back up to Nottinghamshire knowing that I was leaving my old life behind, but
without Smythe it had become shallow and silly, and I had no regrets.
The first night
after the funeral my Familiar came to me, caressed me until I was spent and I
lay there until morning knowing that there was something of my old life left,
even if I did have to find a wife and to beget children.
Leyton village was
relatively prosperous; my father may have not known much about farming, but,
after the death of his profligate father, he had employed a manager who did,
and who did his best both for his master and the villagers. Mr Locke left a
year or so after my fathers death but by then I felt that I knew what I
was doing, and that I had found work that I enjoyed and that I was good at.
At times Leyton was
the most idyllic of places, and whilst I did on occasion miss London, I was
happy in the countryside and I rarely even visited Nottingham, which in any
case was staid compared to the capital. I much preferred visiting the houses of
my people, as I think that it is the only way to meet problems before they
arise, and I had formed a good relationship with many of them. Although
some still preferred the old Lord I think they knew that I was fair
The sun shone hard
the following Tuesday as I walked through the village, feeling sweat dripping
down my back, going from one house to another. Fortunately nobody mentioned my
Maid; presumably the money I had given to Andrews had been enough to shut her
and her family up.
My final visit was
to the Groves household, a slightly larger house than the others, although
otherwise no different. Mrs Groves was a much heftier woman than our young
butler, whilst her husband, out in the fields that day, also did not bear much
resemblance to him, so I doubted that I was the only one who had cast doubt on
the fidelity of Groves mother. Her two older daughters were also beauties
and had both made good marriages and left Leyton whilst I was in London.
Your son is
doing well, I told her, he has picked up the job very
Yes, it is
only six months since poor Mr Baines died, Arthur does miss him.
do I agreed piously, although I wondered if anybody did, Baines having
been a fussy man, who if he was ever content never showed it.
We are so
grateful that you allowed Arthur to replace him. Such a good boy. We are glad
that he has such fine, godly people to keep him on the true way.
I looked over at
her, as she sat sewing, she looked calm and relaxed and I saw no sign of irony,
presumably she knew of Sarah leaving, but who knew what she thought of it. I
looked at her with a smile, which I hope inspired trust.
Yes we are
both very happy with him, a tribute to his parents I am sure. And I gave
her a small bow and left the house, Tallis and Byrd were waiting outside for
me, eager to get on. The house had been a bit close and I was happy to get out
in the fresh air.
I met your
mother today. I told her how well you are doing.
slightly, I am grateful. She worries about us, but it is a great relief
to her that I have a steady job and am not working on the land.
father is one of my steadiest workers and has done well.
It was dinner and
Groves was serving me. Adele was away staying with her family in Clifton, on
the other side of Nottingham.
She was always
ambitious for us.
I nodded, no
harm in that, no harm at all.
And then he gave me
a look, just the briefest of looks but it promised the world. And then he went
about his duties. I half-expected him to come to me that night, but he did not
appear, and I felt sad but also relieved.
Adele returned the
following afternoon, but then we never slept together, had not since shortly
after we married, and Groves could have come to me anytime he liked. Adele was
slightly older than me, - an elder daughter whose two sisters were all married
- so perhaps she was knowledgeable enough to realise that I did not love women
as I should, or perhaps she was naïve and thought that this lack of
passion was usual. My wife was a strange mix of confidence and naivety, and
whilst I did not lust after her, I had grown to love her, as one loves a
strange Creature that one does not entirely understand and is more than a
little scared of.
Whilst Groves had
not come to me that night or the next few, my Familiar did, leaving me wasted
and feeble each time. I remembered Smythe and how he had been wearied by the
Familiar. Was the same thing happening to me? Something which had always been a
pleasure, which still was, was becoming too powerful me, leaving me exhausted
As I lay there,
still feeling His presence around me, I wondered what it meant. Was He pushing
his immortality into me? I could not feel but that He was good and perhaps
would make me immortal. Perhaps we were gods and Smythe too wherever he had
gone; Divine and full of holy essence. But wasnt the human frame to weak
for such Power?
Then one night
Groves did join me in my room, shortly after midnight.
I thought that
I heard you call.
He looked flurried
No Groves, I
did not call you.
But he continued to
stand in front of as I lay in bed. As I looked at him I felt mixed feelings;
sure he was a handsome young man and yet I did not trust him and my instinct
was to throw him out.
Are you sure
that I cannot help you with anything?
And then I felt the
Familiar pushing hard at my back and I invited Smythe into my bed
Later I asked him to
pray with me, but he was loath to do this.
After what we
But eventually he
knelt besides me, as Smythe and I had done, and then I prayed, the words just
coming out of me; a language ancient and holy, words that possessed me and
which I had no control over. And there was the strong power that I realised was
being held back or else I could not have stood it and would have been burnt out
by this Holy Flame. And as I prayed I felt a kind of easing whilst beside me
Groves gripped my hand tightly and moaned.
What have you
done to me? he said as he fled the room, holding his clothes, I
feel soiled, you are of the Devil.
And I lay there
feeling guilt although knowing that I had diminished the power of the Creature
that had such power over my vitals. I slept feeling released but hoping that
Groves would be sensible and not reveal what had happened.
I think that
Groves will have to leave us Adele told me as we drank coffee together,
this is twice he has answered me back. And the other servants are
frightened of him; they avoid him.
I had not
but you wouldnt. It is a pity, but I think that he has become
arrogant with his responsibilities; and there is something strange about him;
he makes me shiver.
I looked at her
strangely, shocked that someone, particularly a servant, could scare my
Oh, give him
time, I begged, he is only young.
She shrugged and
conceded, but I knew that if he did not change my wife would insist on his
I went to London to
escape the strange atmosphere and Groves unhappiness, I also had
investments to check on and I wondered if Smythe had reappeared, although I
doubted it. My trip to the bank took just one morning and I spent the rest of
the time renewing acquaintances and trying to get word of my old friend.
The world that I had
inhabited had changed little; the depravity and lusts were the same, but those
involved were different, and even when I thought that I saw a familiar face the
name was different. Only Boadicea was still there, but she looked tired and
I need to
leave she told me, head out into the country, away from
What will you
Maybe work in
an inn or find a husband.
We drank rum in her
room and she fed me on iced buns, and before I left I gave her some money.
this to help you escape.
She tucked it away,
but I had no confidence that she would spend it wisely. As I walked the streets
through the dawn, I felt sad and uneasy.
After I returned
from London I continued to feel distracted and strange; I could not do my work,
but rather wandered around the estate or sat in the library reading poetry. And
my Familiar was there as strong as ever, leaving me wasted and unbearably
tired. He had disappeared whilst I was in London, perhaps grown fastidious,
unhappy with seedy beds filled with sweat I had inhabited whilst I was away,
although I saw no reason why he should have become so fussy. But then back at
Leyton he returned with vigour, and when I looked in my looking glass, I saw
that I was pale and my veins blue underneath my white skin.
What have you
done to me? muttered Groves, as he helped me with breakfast.
I ignored him,
realising that Adele was right and that he would have to go, but then there
would be the scandal. There was hatred in his face as he served me coffee;
hatred and fear. And she was right, the other servants seemed to avoid him and
when I visited his family they looked at me with resentment and something that
might easily be called hate.
Adele stood in front
of me as I sat reading.
I am worried
about you, she told me, you seem distracted.
I am well my
lady, but I thought I saw Rebecca yesterday; she was walking around the house.
I was staring out of the window and there she was looking up at me and
beckoning me down, but when I came down to her, she was gone.
Adele looked at me
perturbed, and I did not know why, thinking that she might share my joy.
I know that
she is dead I told her, but she has come to me nonetheless, but I
was not scared; I felt at peace. And I have missed her, so much
My sister appeared
again two days later as I walked Tallis and Byrd through the fields, chasing
all manner of creatures, whilst I enjoyed the Spring Sunshine. She came towards
me, looking the same as last time she visited us, six months before she died;
unknown to us all the cancer already eating away at her. She was even wearing
the brown dress that her husband had picked up from Paris, and which she wore
on the day she had arrived at Leyton that April.
What are you
doing here? I asked, the others will think that I am mad.
I had to visit
you. You seem so lonely now; lonely and sad.
I am married
and have my friends.
She looked at me
with that knowing look of hers.
You are lost,
even amongst your lands and the village, you are alone.
What can I
this place. Adele will be happy here on her own, and you need to give her
something before you go.
I looked at her and
started to weep, I miss you.
She held me close
like a cold mist, a mist that evaporated and left me standing alone, until the
dogs barked at my feet, and I led them home.
Andrews came to see
me. He looked both embarrassed and full of self-importance. He asked me about
my sister, Rebecca.
Your wife says
you see her, here.
I nodded, she
looks the same as she always did.
But she is
I know, I
He asked to pray
with me, but I could not help but think of Smythe and me, naked in his rooms,
and then Groves reluctant and angry; all three of us devoured by this phantasm,
and I refused him and went to my bedroom.
Adele came to me in
the early hours; pushing the bedroom door open, and standing in front of me
with in just her robe.
She let the robe
drop and joined me in bed. And as I did my duty and felt her trembling and
moaning below me, I felt Him at my back; also pushing, and I gasped with
pleasure, and then lay in her arms. I wondered if she would produce a child and
what it would be like and whether I should stay away from it, cursed as I was.
She left me in the
early dawn, with the room still dark, just her pale body glimmering slightly in
love she said, goodbye.
And then I awoke and
there was Groves and two other men standing round my bed as I lay there
It is time to
Roughly they grabbed
me and dressed me. It was still dark as they took me outside to the waiting
carriage, and the house was quiet, not one face looking out as the carriage
Where am I
going? I asked.
trip. Groves told me as he sat besides me, and I noticed that he had a
pistol tucked in his belt.
But there was
silence around me, and as the carriage rattled away down the drive, leaving my
wife and her unborn child behind.
And then as I sat in
despair, too sad to even weep, Rebecca was by my side, she held my hand tightly
as we drove away into the morning sunlight.