Shades of things to come… Chapter One

So I looked back today and realized it has been almost a month since I have posted anything. With the day job and working on some of the projects that had been back burnered during the month of November I have not taken much time to post anything. I decided I would do something different. The entire point of this blog was to document my experiences of working towards the publication of my first novel ‘The Lost Prophet’ I am have detailed the history of it how my inspirations have come about and the things that have motivated me, in the past I have posted on my personal facebook page the first draft of the first chapter and got some feedback from friends in regards to it. Once I finished the first draft I had close friends give me notes and the second draft of the book was started. So I will now reveal the second draft of the first chapter. Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments.

 Chapter One


The carriage crunched across the fresh snow as it neared the heavy iron gates to Wrexford Castle. James had been lost in the medical files he had been reviewing for the last two hours and did not notice the noise that Arthur and Cecelia made as the house came into view. The two-day trip by coach from London was coming to a close. The Burke Family was one of the oldest and proudest in England. James’ grandfather, The Eleventh Earl of Wrexford, had built his home here on the site of the first Wrexford Castle. The place from which the Burke family had ruled this land hundreds of years earlier. As their coach drove up the main drive to the front entrance James looked up at the towering stonewalls to the multiple gables topped by flechets. James did not have too many good memories of his boyhood home; his mother had been sweet, but it was his father who James feared. Lord Wrexford was a strong man, like his home, imposing both physically and in attitude. James tried his best to distract himself from the memories that swirled up around him as he read. His mother had been pressuring he and his wife to visit for the holidays for several years now and James could no longer blame his wife’s poor health for their absence. His Mother lectured him of the inappropriateness of he and his wife staying away for so long now that Cecilia was well enough to travel. Especially as they lived in London where all of his father’s peers could clearly tell that they would remain in town instead of heading north to visiting the family. It was not that his father was a bad man; that could not be farther from the truth. His father was the most progressive member of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords. He had done much in his time there to advance the position of the lower classes, more then possibly any other member. However his great accomplishments were a constant reminder of what was expected of James and his brother Martin.

As the coach settled to a halt at the front of the Castle’s expansive front entrance way Lord Wrexford’s Porter rushed forth to open the door and assist them.

“Greeting Master James. I hope the trip home was peaceful for you and your family.”

“Thank you, Warren. The weather, while brisk, has not been unbearable considering the time of year. Could you tell Mother and Father that we have arrived?”

“Lady Wrexford is aware of your arrival; Master George has gone to advise her. As to the Lord, he has not returned from his business in London as of yet. I was dispatched to inform Lady Wrexford of the delay in his return and assure her he will arrive in time for dinner on Christmas Night. I arrived not two hours ago myself.”

“You must be exhausted. Go and tend to yourself.” James insisted. “Our driver will be sufficient assistance to aid with our things”

“My thanks for your concern; I will make sure your mother has no need for my assistance. She has had the maids prepare the suite at the end of the south wing for your family.”

“That should be fine. Now go. I will give instructions to my driver and join the rest of the family inside.”

James turned and spoke to the driver quickly, then escorted his family up the steps to the main entrance to the house. Climbing the steps had always intimidated him. He could feel himself tensing at the anticipation. His father’s stern judgment of the way James was living his life and the possibilities of what it would mean to the legacy of the Burke family. The first thing every visitor learned on arriving was the history of the steps. His father would lecture of the placement of the stones that had been the only surviving pieces of the original castle that was destroy in the Norwegian Invasion of 1066. He glanced over to his wife and son. Cecelia had always been enamored of the grandeur of the estate. Like every time before that they visited she was struck speechless by the intense scope of the building. What worried him was the quiet that had settled over his son. Arthur was an enthusiastic, if frail child and to see his normal energy overpowered by the dominance of the estate bothered James greatly.

James older brother Martin and Martin’s adult son George met him in the library.

“Good to see that you have finally the pilgrimage north.” Martin teased as James entered the room.

“I’m sure you understand that my patients do not allow as free a break for the holidays as the Governors of Inner Temple.” James retorted. “George, mother informed me in her last letter that you have been made a full professor at Oxford. Congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you Uncle James. Grandfather was concern with the decision to remain at Oxford and not join father at the bar, but I have a great future and expect to be chair one day.” George responded.

“The only reason that Father was concerned with you teaching at Oxford was your relationship with Dicey.” Martin explained.

“I have informed Chair Dicey that while I respect his opinions, I will not be involving myself in the issue of Irish Home Rule that he and grand-father insist on sparring over.” George asserted.

“My boy you may have no other options. I was reticent to mention it, but this business that has delayed father in London. He has been asked by the Prime-Minister to meet with Derby, Granville and a man named Peters to lay down a framework for a Bill regarding Home Rule.” Martin stated.

“How does Gladstone expect to convince the House of Commons to vote on such a bill?” George challenged.

“Father feels that now is the perfect time, with the death of Disraeli, Salisbury will not be able to marshal the Conservative Party with enough strength to block passage of the bill.” Martin said, “James, where are you off to? Are you not going to join us?”

“My apologies gentlemen, a colleague of mine has requested that I review the records of a patient and provide him my opinion with the most haste.” James explained as he attempted to retire to his suite to complete his work.

“You will be joining us for dinner this evening James.” Lady Wrexford advised her son as she entered the room.

“Of course Mother, I do have to complete my work however before I might join the rest of you in the holiday merriment.” James said.

“Well once you have completed your tasks I will have Cecelia and Arthur in the study. We will be having tea with Sally and Margaret.” Lady Wrexford turned her attention to Cecelia. “Margaret has been excited that you have final arrived so that you might meet the newest member of the Burke family.”

As much as James was bored with the posing and preening that his brother and nephew were engaged in, his son Arthur had it worse. Due to his age Arthur was relegated to playing in the nursery as the ladies drank tea and talked of the precious baby Ester. Arthur was used to having the full attention of his father and mother at home. He was used to being treated as the center of the household. Sitting back and being treated like a baby and forced to find amusement in baby things frustrate Arthur to no end.

Dinner that night was an amazing affair, full of laughter and good cheer. James was once again amazed with his wife’s ability to charm the people around her.

“Martin am I mistaken or did you serve with this Gordon fellow that is in all of the newspapers of late?” Cecelia asked.

“Yes, I served with him in China many years ago. I am concerned with the situation that he has been involved in as of late.” Martin responded.

“What do you mean?”

“These reports regarding the stand off he is involved in for the last several months. The unit that he has been leading was much farther south that would seem necessary to accomplish their mission. He has shown in the past a clear tendency to extend a mission beyond safe grounds to the detriment of his troops.” Martin replied.

Cecelia could see that Martin’s grave assessment of the situation in Egypt placed a sour mood over the dinner and quickly turned to his daughter-in-law, “So Margaret, have you and George made plans for any additional children yet?”

With the mood saved the remainder of dinner was lit up by talk of family and the future.

The next morning James begged off spending time with his brother and nephew explaining that he had additional records to review for a colleagues that could not wait until after the holiday, he reasoned that to hold up in the study for the rest of the day would make things go faster until Christmas Eve dinner that night.

Arthur was once again trapped with the women of the house and the baby Ester. This did not sit well with Arthur, and several times during the day he tried to convince his Uncles to let him spend time with them. Repeatedly Arthur was informed that the men of the house were involved in important affairs and did not wish to be bothered.

Once again at dinner Arthur was relegated to the small side table that had been set up for him and his baby Cousin. Arthur was convinced that if he could just talk about important things then he would not be stuck with the baby all the time. He could be one of the men of the house.

Arthur slowly worked his way through the dark halls in the middle of the night, but it was not the expansive tree and presents in the drawing room that pulled his attention. Once he was able to sneak down to the main corridor he went to the room directly under the grand staircase, His grandfather’s office. Creeping into the room with a candle clutched tightly in his small hands; it was obvious to him from watching his father at home that the most important things would be in the large desk in the back of the room. Opening the first drawer he saw stacks of neatly organized papers. While his father and mother had educated him well and he could read much better than children two or three years older, the papers and letters that he found in his grandfather’s desk made no sense to him. Over and over again he search through each of the drawer to find something he could understand and talk about to the men in the household so as not be stuck spending any more time with the little baby during the day. Finally all that was left was the large bottom drawer on the right side. Try as he might he could not get it to open. Then he remembered when his father had been unable to open one of his desk drawers at home, he had used a letter opener and pried the lock open. Setting his candle-holder down on the desk he grabbed the ivory handled letter opener. He slid the narrow end in between the desk and the lock of the drawer; he knew from watching his father that it would require a lot of force to open the drawer this way and shoved as hard as he could. The letter opener would not budge. Taking a deep breather he braced himself and again pushed with all his might. Suddenly the letter opener came loose from the lock and Arthur fell sideways, reaching out with his right hand he grabbed at the drawer above to balance himself. The draw opened for a second and suddenly the room was pitched into blackness. His candle had gone out and he was not sure where it was.

With all of the noise he had made, he knew someone would be coming to check soon, so feeling his way as quickly as possible he made his way back to the door and up the stairs to his small room.

Sitting snug inside the drawer of papers the little candle that Arthur had left behind burned slowly; by the time it burned through to the locked drawer below where Richard Burke kept a prized bottle of Whiskey, Arthur was once again fast asleep.

George Burke burst into James and Cecelia’s room almost two hours later.

“Uncle there is a fire on the stairs!”

James and Cecelia quickly roused themselves. Cecelia dashed from the room. James and George moved quickly to round up all of the family members. The fire had already engulfed the main stairs and the back stairs to the kitchens and the servants quarters was filled with smoke to the point of impassibility. The family started gathered in the study by James room as it was farthest from the fire. The large ceilings of the first floor made jumping almost impossibility. As the fire started to engulf the hall cutting them off from the rest of the building, Cecelia came bursting in carrying the baby Ester and followed closely by Arthur, both rapped in heavy travel coats. Stopping for only a moment to place the baby in her mother’s arms. Wielding strength she had never exhibited before Cecilia grabbed one of the small chairs from the writing desk and hurled it through the great stained glass window.

“Warren,” She cried out “Come quickly.”

Looking out at the snow covered lawn below; her cries seemed to be lost in the night air. Suddenly the porter led the staff around the corner of the house and stopped below them.

“The fire brigade has been summoned, My Lady, but the ice on the hill is too thick for the horses to make their way up.” He shouted up at them.

“Warren, the children.” She shouted back.

Turning back into the room Cecelia grabbed Ester from her mother and quickly dropped the child down to the porter standing below her. She turned back to find Arthur scared and crying.

“Mummy, I….I” he sobbed.

“Quiet little one.” She soothed, “You need to remember that every day of your life I have loved you.” Without a second though she wrapped her arms around him and hoisted him out the broken window. Her strength was fading fast and as Warren ran below him she dropped Arthur down. The old Porter tried his best to catch the boy but in the confusion he slipped and Arthur’s right ankle struck a paving stone in the garden with a sickening crack.

“Please hold on.” Warren yelled from below. Turning to his frantic wife Warren instructed. “You and Molly need to take the children and get them to the doctor in town. I don’t want them here for this. I worry there is little left that we can do.”

In the excitement of getting the children out none of them realized how much smoke had filled the room. Trying to catch her breath Cecelia suddenly doubled over coughing.

Slowly the fire caved in one room after another of the upper floors, as the beams below them gave way. It was over two hours when the study in the southeast corner finally collapsed into the inferno. By that time the smoke had long overcome the remaining family member.

     Lord Richard Burke had made a later start back from London than he expected and was not looking forward to the lecture from his wife for spoiling the first family Christmas diner in years. When the messenger found his carriage they were already making their way back as quickly as possible. By the time the sun had reached its peak that cold Christmas day Lord Burke finally arrived home to find his only two surviving relations, his grandson Arthur and Great-granddaughter Ester had already been sent to the hospital to recover from their injuries.


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