The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp...
Serialized by Patrick George Callaghan and adapted for publication on my blog... Part 11
Charles returned to the house by early evening with the single minded edict that only haunts those driven by passion. He demanded to be admitted. He insisted he speak to Esme; to make his position in her affection settled and to lay siege to any voice of displeasure.
Emily was told to show him to the sitting room. He stood with red determination before a nervous Constance. She had no real measure of this man. She had no tack of his strength of weakness. He was an untidier of women. He was an upseter in her world. She held an enraged eye.
‘I know you have slept with my daughter Mr. Hepworth!’ her first words were ruinous and repelling - like the disarming sways cut through French lines by English archers.
‘She told you…! He spluttered the words in total embarrassment and floundered trying to remap his thoughts at this cracking open volley that had the stench of loathing about it. He was not asked to sit. Not given that courtesy. Not allowed a privilege. He stood on the bank of a wide endless river, unable to cross to the far distant shore.
‘I do not want you to see my daughter again. She has made an error of judgment. By God, if you have made her pregnant! You will pay, and pay dearly.’ Constance stared out from her thunderclap face.
‘I can’t believe she would tell you such a thing. Esme is…’
‘You may believe as you wish Mr. Hepworth. My daughter and I…have a close relationship. I will not have her fouled in this way.’
They eyed each other across a stretch that had now become a battlefield and a heavy dismal air wrapped itself about the room.
‘Where is she? I want to see her,’ his voice raised itself with a confounded energy. ‘I want to hear what she has to say!’ he persisted. ‘She must tell me face to face, that she does not want me!’ His face was full of sudden anger. ‘She must be in the house!’ He turned away from Constance and flung open the door that led to the hallway. ‘She’s upstairs! I know she is. Otherwise she would have come to me.’
‘My daughter is not in the house!’ Constance bawled the words on the diminishing figure of Charles with an expanding air of a marshalling authority that was mustered up from within her rapidly heaving bosom. Her tongue still razored. She would only be stopped by the stimulation of higher meddling. He had already crossed the cipolin marble floor and mounted the broad turning stairway: for a non-resident who was not a doctor; the matter was a gross impudence.
‘Fetch a Constable!’ groaned Constance, at the sight of Emily in hallway, ‘there’s a maniac loose in the house and he’s going to kill us!’
Esme lay on her bed. Her mother’s wisdom had laid her flat and depleted her resources. Through her eyes of crinkle-dried droplets her world seemed pinched out like the delicate flame of some past vibrant candle. Her mother would never accept that love was enough. That her union was satisfactory. That it was sufficient to her and all else would take care of itself. In her mother’s mind things had to be orderly, planned, manipulated: taken by the scruff of the neck and shaken until they were comfortable to the touch. It was the commotion coming from the hallway and the raised voices, becoming louder by the second, which suddenly repossessed her thoughts. For a moment she did not understand the hullabaloo; then she realized! It was his voice and it was coming closer. Closer to her!
‘Esme! Where are you? His voice was near, almost outside her room. Her heart rushed. Life flowed within her veins once more. Her mind ran wild with thirsty spoors of thought. She flung open the door and sucked in air filled with his presence. He reached for her in a closing embrace and their lips crushed one another. Their bodies touched in crimson fire and they drowned in the deep measure of a staying kiss.
‘Oh Esme,’ he wailed; how I’ve missed you. Your mother would not let me see you.’
Her lips about his face; she simpered in tears of lawless profusion. ‘Take me away; I want to go with you. I can’t stay here any longer!’
With a gentle tenderness his finger crossed her forehead and ran down the bridge of her nose. It stopped at her lips. His mind was bright and decisive. ‘You will come with me now,’ he said, ‘don’t pack anything…I’ll buy you what you need!’ His manner was rich in fiery blood. He carried the whispering echoes of vital man. There was quiet strength in his eyes.
‘Now come along Sir! There’s a good gentleman.’ A bold estuary voice from somewhere below made them turn with suddenness. It delivered the cry of authority and the well-rehearsed calculation of officalism.
A podgy constable was perched somewhat precariously on the turn of the stairs; a hesitant arm holding nervously to the lustrous dark banister.
‘Best you come down Sir; best for all.’
Charles looked beyond the constable to the bewildered gaze of Emily and the determined face of Constance, and for one brief moment he wondered what he was doing. Was he not sure? The pathetic scene below reminded him of some stage farce. He turned his head once more to Esme. She was waiting for his word. Waiting for instruction. Her eyes searched his face for assurance.
‘Leave the young lady Sir, and come down.’ The asking voice was almost whimsical. As if, telling off a rampant schoolboy. But the man had decided on a steady foot by foot accent of the stairs. He was not going to back away, or be put off. He had the decree of his nomination incised in the lines of his fattening face.
‘Go away; can’t you! Mind your own bloody business. This has nothing to do with you.’ In Charles voice was the obstinacy and single-minded purpose of existence. ‘We are going to be together: despite you!’ He threw the words in the direction of his goggled-eyed onlookers and took Esme’s hand tightly; moving forward and toward the middle-aged man on the stairs. ‘We are coming down,’ he announced, ‘and she is coming with me!’ Esme was shaking. Her face became grim. Her hand within his; was sticky with sweat.
‘Esme,’ her mother spoke; almost in a whisper, her voice carried in a solid silence, ‘don’t do this to me?’
She closed tightly on his hand and peered down with ruling. She said nothing to her mother.
Constance now roared at the constable that the intruder be arrested. That he was not to take her daughter from the house. Her face was puffed and her pinched-up anger had a recoiled force. She was determined to send this upseter packing and restore the cast of propriety again.
The policeman having now been urged on; took a step up, and within that sudden juncture; his face showed a portion of understanding. ‘Better that you come downstairs,’ he looked at Charles with misfortune in his eyes, and then righted himself. ‘I’m sure you don’t want to be arrested for trespass and abduction…does you?’
The heaviness was puddle. Charles, still holding Esme’s hand was swathed in an air of curious quality. He tried to move past the man on the stairs; but could not.
‘This is all rather silly sirs. I warn you - if you try that again! I will have to arrest you,’ the constable looked sternly at Charles.
Then suddenly without warning; and gripping tight to Esme’s hand – Charles propelled them past the started officer and was part-way down the stairs before they could go no further. A forceful grip wrenched his right arm up behind his back, forcing him off balance, and within a thrice, he was anchored in the lambent steel of a pair of handcuffs.
He was led from the house in hopelessness. Esme groaned and tugged at the constable’s heavy tunic. ‘That’s enough!’ he ordered, with a crushing righteousness. She stood in fear, her face in distorted misery. ‘Leave him alone, you bastard!’ she screamed, and kicked the constable several times with her soft fleshy feet.
‘Charles, don’t leave me’, she wailed uselessly, ‘don’t leave me here!’
He tried to turn his head in her direction. Now a heavy hand held him firmly by his collared neck. He shouted to her. But his voice was strained and garbled. Esme’s anger turned to frustration. She picked up a large hall vase and hurled it at the nuisance. It missed the constable’s head and crashed down in a clap of doom somewhere on the marble floor. She begged the constable to let him go and called to Charles to pull himself free and run back to her. But it was useless. The grip of the man was like the hangman’s rope itself. She cried out to Charles; in love and loyalty; ranting to go to him and held back by Constance and a weeping Emily.
‘Esme, please don’t make matters worse’, her mother’s voice was hurtful and powered by self-interest once more.
‘Worse...! How can it be worse?’ she screamed into her mother’s hostile face, ‘don’t you think that you have made it bad enough?’ Esme’s strong eyes were full of hatred. An indwelling of dislike to all who would disallow her. They were leaving! She aimed her despair in his direction. Her anger flung about in the air; ‘Charles, if you allow this man to take you from the house….you are a weakling! I have no time for Weaklings!’ her hysterical cry screamed her hurt through her tightly-drawn mouth. Her anger had taken against him and she would aspire to her womanhood; ‘don’t come back ever again…’ Then they were gone; and she was lost.
Charles was walked; still cuffed, to a police house in a nearby street. By ten o’clock that evening Constance had made no formal charge against him and he was released and allowed; with an accompanying officer; to collect his motor vehicle from a now peaceful Primrose Hill. ‘…and let’s hear no more about it, there’s a good fella…or else,’ said the constable and departed into the darkness.