2. Sarah’s Son

London, England
April, 1667

The feel of the chisel was soothing beneath Carlisle’s hands. He liked the constancy of it, the way the soft woods yielded and the hard woods fought back against his calloused hands. Bits of pale yellow curled their way in front of the tool, springing away from it as they dropped to the dirt.

Sunlight flooded down on his back, warming him, and Carlisle reveled in it. It had been a long and cold winter, and it seemed as though the people of London were as enlivened by the spring as were the grass and flowers. It was a spring of rebuilding—mostly homes and buildings from the great fire. Their parish had been lucky—the church itself sat over a mile from the fire, and its parishioners’ properties had been unharmed. Now that the winter had passed, London was restoring herself, and even something as modest as a piece of furniture seemed to contribute to the same spirit.

As he worked, Carlisle found himself humming along with the gentle rhythm of his hands. It was Luther’s hymn, one he liked, and the pattern of the music was a good one by which to keep his hands in motion.

“It is easy to tell when thy father is not at home, Sexton,” a bemused voice said.

Carlisle’s head whipped up to appraise the figure who cast a shadow across the sawhorses, and when he saw who it was, he smiled. The dark hair hung over a broad face which wore an even broader smile, and Carlisle beckoned the man to him, the lathe stilling beneath his hands.

“Thomas,” he acknowledged, nodding. “Hello.” Thomas Milner was the son of the blacksmith and a member of the parish. He was a year younger than Carlisle, but a good friend nonetheless. He approached curiously and gestured to the wood at Carlisle’s hands.

“This is to become…?”

“A chair.” The one in his father’s study was showing signs of deep wear, owing, no doubt, to the fact that that the reverend slept in it more nights than not. This new one, equal parts holly and pine, would replace the one in the church, and that one could be removed to the study. “For my father, for the sanctuary.”

Thomas’s eyes ran over the wood that Carlisle was working, as well as the spindles that lay on the ground, already turned and ready for fitting.

“You’re a good son,” he said finally.

Carlisle shrugged. “I have little else to do.” He pulled himself upright, brushing sawdust off his breeches with the back of one hand, and dipped his hands in the bucket of water he kept nearby. “It’s not as though I have studies to attend to.”

These last words came out harshly, but Thomas only gave his friend a knowing smile. Thomas had never had plans to go on in his schooling. Smithing was not only his duty, but his calling, and he enjoyed the work. Carlisle was different. He was bright, quick to pick things from his reading, and a fast learner. His plan had been to become a solicitor. He liked the idea of the education, and the work would put him in a firm position to take care of a family later.

The Reverend Cullen had not been amused. Carlisle spent almost every waking hour in the church, and his father’s assumption had always been that he would grow to lead the parish.

It wasn’t that Carlisle disliked serving the church. Far from it. Sometimes he felt, as he listened to his father lash out from the pulpit in fiery lectures on fornication, adultery, witchcraft and the other manifestations of evil in the world, that it was he who actually found more solace in the holy house than his father did. But to serve a church meant to put himself at the center of their community, to declare morality and immorality, to punish those who went astray. Given the choice, he would prefer carpentry to the church; if he couldn’t have the law.

Thomas knew all of this, and so gave Carlisle a wry smile. “I see the question with your father has not been resolved.”

“It never will be.”

His friend sauntered over to the sawhorses, running his hand appreciatively over the smoothed wood. “And of the carpentry?”

“A hobby.” Never mind that he was apprenticed to one of London’s master woodworkers—or half apprenticed, really, as his work at the church was supposed to take precedence. He was Sexton Carlisle—Sexton William, really, according to his father, and the thought made his lip curl.

How was he supposed to make peace with a man who refused to call him by his name?

Carlisle’s expression didn’t escape Thomas’s notice, and his friend’s gaze dropped back to the chair. Thomas’s hand ran over the spindle that Carlisle had been turning.

“Perhaps when he sees your work here he will understand,” Thomas offered kindly, but Carlisle shook his head. He was destined for greater good than carpentry, but not the greatest good that his father envisioned. Rather than explain this to Thomas, however, he changed the subject.

“What brings you?”

“My work is finished for the day, and I guessed yours might be as well. The young men are meeting at the coffeehouse at dusk, and I thought you might join us.”

Carlisle looked away, to the chair. He’d intended to finish it before nightfall, but it would require a few hours’ work more. If he went with Thomas, the chair would stay unfinished–but then, it was to be a surprise for his father anyway. It wouldn’t hurt his father’s desk chair to be slept in for one additional evening. And he liked the coffeehouse, as much as his father despised it.

Dangerous ideas, his father thought. Charles had retaken the throne nearly seven years ago, but it didn’t stop people from decrying the crown. Nor did Cromwell’s decayed head outside Westminster Hall, much to the king’s dismay.

Really, Carlisle thought his father should appreciate the talk, and the newspapers. After all, the restoration of the crown meant the restoration of the Church, and they were Dissenters. But Reverend Cullen preferred to keep Carlisle’s mind on godlier things than politics altogether. The coffeehouse and its banter weren’t appropriate for the young man who would succeed him.

But Reverend Cullen wasn’t here, and Carlisle had no plans to succeed anyone.

“A penny for your thoughts?” Thomas interrupted, his eyebrows raised.

He’d stayed silent too long. “No,” Carlisle answered, a smile spreading on his face. “A penny for my freedom. At least for a few hours.”

Laying down his tools, and shouldering the two sawhorses, Carlisle began to move his equipment to the barn.

~||x||~

William Cullen read by a lone flame in the waning hours of evening, as shadows stretched from the windows across his desk. He prepared his messages early, so that he might have time to think and pray over them before delivering the word of God to his small, but restless flock.

His son had been gone when he’d returned from his afternoon visit to the home of one of their parish. Mrs. Cuthbert had been ill for some time, and her husband had wondered if perhaps it were a spirit. He’d invited William to come pray over her, in the hopes that William’s prayers, coming from the lips of an ordained man, might be more fruitful than his own.

William had obliged at once. He hated the things that his parishioners did in the name of warding off sicknesses. Herbs, magic, even their own exorcisms. There was so little trust in God’s power. Their parish had been saved from the Great Fire by only a few furlongs, while wealthier churches of pastors who had stayed true to the crown had perished. How some in his congregation could fail to see that level of providence, he didn’t know.

Of course, then again, his own child could be rather thick about these matters himself. The younger Cullen was of the opinion that the fire was nothing more than a human accident, and that their own church had been saved was more of the same. It was dangerous, the way the young men thought these days. They spent time in the coffeehouse, talking about the crown, and the church, and science. They read vulgar works—William had all too recently had to eradicate a folio of a commoner’s play from where his son had hidden it under his bed linens. Julius Caesar, by that man who not only wrote plays, but also poetry to which William would never have had his child exposed. He had set his expectations years ago, but they seemed to stick less and less as the young man grew older.

The boy was in every way Sarah’s child. He’d inherited her fair hair, her clear skin, her fine features. He was almost too beautiful a man, and William had heard the murmurs among the Londoners they served. His son was yet too young to marry—but only slightly so. It would serve them both well if he were to find a partner young—William himself had been far too occupied with his seminary studies during his youth to spend time in a proper courtship. His parents had encouraged this. His own father had been a butcher, but had always worked with another, having never reached enough capital to even have his own shop. When William had announced his plans to become a man of the cloth, his parents saw an opportunity for a modest level of prestige and income for their son.

But in the end his drive had left him weakening, growing old, and with a son barely old enough to replace him.

And most importantly, it had left him alone.

He had finished seminary and become a young pastor, and his sermons had gained him some low-level of notoriety. He had been well past the age his son was now when a member of his church, a solicitor, had suggested that his younger daughter might make an excellent minister’s wife.

Sarah Crawforth was beautiful to behold; her features were fine, and she had been brought up to care for the home. But she was stubborn, the solicitor had warned him, and that, William suspected, was why she had relatively few suitors her own age. Sarah could read and write, and she sometimes composed her own poetry and song, and the creativity made her defiant, hard to break, and ultimately, her father feared, would make her a poor wife.

But the first time she had looked deeply into William’s dark eyes with her own light ones, she’d won his heart at once.

It was a fast courtship, and she became pregnant almost as soon as they were married. They’d been so overjoyed and felt so blessed to have begun a family so quickly that William hadn’t thought he needed to pray over their unborn child—their unborn son, as both of them knew him to be. “Young William,” William had called him, but Sarah had called the boy in her womb not by his father’s name, but by that of hers.

Carlisle.

And in the dark of night one frigid February, Sarah, with her fine features and stubborn manner had disappeared from his life altogether, to be replaced by a squalling, orphaned, infant. The boy who would grow into the man who slept on the bed next to William’s own, a man too beautiful to attract his own wife, too clever to follow in his father’s footsteps. The boy was stubborn like his mother, but William thought his stubbornness might serve him well in the church were it to be channeled correctly. What was conviction if not the stubborn resolve to follow God?

The candle flickered, throwing light and shadow across the page. It was nearly spring once again, and William could feel the energy in the members of his church. Spring brought London itself to life; not merely its flowers and trees, and especially after the hard winter and the fire, it seemed all of London was ready to rebuild.

The hulking Bible lay open to the sixth chapter of Luke and William leaned over it.

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

It would be a good lesson to teach, with the building that was going on around them; even though their parish had been unaffected, all across London stood the shells of buildings that had succumbed to the fire–the shops of merchants his parishioners frequented, the homes of their relatives. To remind them that their foundation was first in Heaven would be something they would understand even more powerfully now.

But something about the words themselves were disturbing this evening. His son had not returned, even well after dark as it was. William would need to gather his raiding party shortly. Those willing to search London for evil were growing fewer by the season. It seemed that with each passing year, the people of his congregation grew less and less willing to acknowledge the presence of evil among them, even when witches caused deaths and illness around them and the Lord Himself dropped fury on the entire city of London for its depravity. People murmured that it was an accident, that more homes needed to be built of stone and brick, that the fire was merely a human act. How they could fail to see the terror that God had unleashed on their city–that they would say there had only been a handful of deaths, as though this meant the destruction was less severe!

William sucked in his breath, and the flame bent toward him on the quick ingress of air. Each day, there were fewer who listened. They were content to live in houses on sand. But he would remind them that such grounding was unstable. He would hunt down the evils of London and bring them before his church members so that they could see and understand their danger. God could save, and He would save only those who stood firm on stone. He was a rock, the foundation on which rested the salvation of his church—and that of his son.

Standing and pulling his cloak from the peg on the wall, William began to gather his supplies.

~||x||~

“My problem with Mister Bradshawe is that he knows nothing of Aristotle,” Carlisle grumbled.

“Nay, your problem with Mister Bradshawe is that he was gathered by a beautiful woman,” Thomas shot back, ducking before his friend managed to swing at him. Carlisle’s fist met nothing but cool night air at the spot where Thomas’s shoulder had been a moment before. Laughing, Thomas dashed down the street. Carlisle gave chase, enjoying the feel of his legs pumping beneath him.

He was faster than Thomas, and caught the other young man handily. The two of them nearly crashed to the stone road when Carlisle pulled Thomas backward by his waist. Both of them were laughing so hard their chests heaved and hurt as they panted. The street was dark, lit only by pools of light which glowed at intervals from the few lanterns still burning their last in front windows. The lamps cast shifting shadows across the two as they stood doubled over.

It felt good, Carlisle thought. He was wound up for a reason he couldn’t quite put his finger on—the run, even short as it was, had released an energy he hadn’t realized was waiting to claw its way out of him. Thomas stood upright and cuffed him playfully on the shoulder, beginning to walk further down the road. Carlisle followed, his thoughts elsewhere.

He and Thomas had stayed at the coffeehouse until well after dark. Truthfully, Carlisle knew exactly what he was doing. If he could miss nightfall, he could miss being recruited to skulk the streets of London with his father. So he and Thomas had stayed talking with the other men, and Carlisle had read all of the most recent issue of the Spectator before they had made their way toward the door.

There had been one other man waiting, and as Carlisle and Thomas made their way out into the evening, a figure had appeared striding toward the three of them. At first Carlisle thought it to be a cloaked man. He was a bit nearsighted, a product of the many books he had devoured as a youngster, no doubt. It wasn’t until the figure grew nearer that he recognized its stature to be too slight to be a man. Instead he saw a head scarf and a dress, and hair that glinted in the lamplight casting from the coffeehouse’s windows.

She said nothing to them, but simply collected the third man, who looked slightly surprised to see her. Carlisle had a moment to see her in the darkness and he was just able to make out high cheekbones and a gentle smile as the woman wrapped her arm inside Christopher Bradshawe’s, and led him away.

It was odd, really, for a wife to have come to gather Christopher Bradshawe. London’s streets weren’t ever safe for women and children, much less at night. He remembered his father’s ominous warnings about playing out with the other children, something which Carlisle had been largely forbidden to do from a very young age. Much of that, however, was simply due to the fact that playing was an un-Christian thing for him to do—it had relatively little to do, he suspected, with any sort of worry for his safety. He had been expected instead to stay home, take care of the church, read the bible.

He wondered what his father would think of the woman who had come to gather Mr. Bradshawe.

Thomas was grinning as he walked at Carlisle’s side, which perturbed him.

“What?” he finally asked.

“Thine eyes are far away, Sexton,” Thomas said. “If I didn’t know better, I might suspect thee to be thinking back on Mr. Bradshawe.”

His friend was perceptive; Carlisle had to give him that. He looked away. The woman who had gathered the argumentative man had been beautiful. She reminded him a bit of Katherine, the woman who had nursed him. She had fallen in the plague that had swept London not two years before. As was his duty, Carlisle had attended to dressing the sanctuary, notified the parish, and dug the grave. He’d stifled the tears and banished all thoughts of his former nursemaid from his mind—until now.

One turn of dark hair, the way the lamplight from the window had made it shine in the darkness where it hung on her shoulder—the image was all but burned into Carlisle’s mind.

The Bradshawes were not in their parish; the coffeehouse served a large district and it was not unheard of for men to come a ways to talk, or for visiting merchants to join in the lively conversation. However, Carlisle had met Christopher a few times before, always in some intense debate. Like Carlisle, Christopher was an educated man. But unlike him, Christopher would be a barrister, enjoying the benefits of the secular education Carlisle himself was denied. Envy was not a trait Carlisle prized, but he had to admit that this feeling above all drove his desire to debate with the other man.

However, Christopher was his age, if not younger. He, too, must have a year or two before he came fully of age. Yet he had a wife.

And a rather bold wife at that.

Thomas’s laugh broke through his thoughts once more, and Carlisle looked up. They had nearly reached the street on which sat the small churchyard—the church itself, the tiny vicarage that Carlisle had always known as his home, and the small graveyard between. He could nearly make out the shape of the small building and he could see at once that no light escaped its windows. The Reverend Cullen was either still out in his pursuit of evil, or he had fallen asleep.

“She’s quite captured you.” A smirk played on Thomas’s lips as they walked further.

“It is nothing,” Carlisle answered, looking away.

“On the contrary, it is everything. I’ve not known you to take interest in a woman.”

He frowned. Was that was this was? Remembering his nurse, thinking about the brown hair that had so captured his eyes—was that taking interest in a woman? And if so…could he justify taking interest in another man’s wife? Thou shalt not covet…

“It is nothing,” he repeated, but this was more for his benefit than Thomas’s. Thomas was courting a woman from their parish, who had met with both their parents’ approvals. Carlisle was more book-learned than Thomas, but he had to admit that this was an area in which Thomas’s expertise was disturbingly greater.

Maddeningly, his friend didn’t answer.

The two of them reached the vicarage a few minutes later. As he had seen from down the street, there seemed to be no life inside the small home.

“He is still out, I suspect,” Carlisle answered Thomas’s unasked question.

In answer, Thomas gestured through the window, where Carlisle could see his father’s cloak hanging from its usual peg. Carlisle winced and a silent prayer went up that the reverend would be already asleep.

“I ought be in,” he said, defeated, and his friend nodded. “I bid you good evening.”

“Good evening to you also,” Thomas answered, turning toward his own home.

But as Carlisle placed his hand on the door, Thomas spoke again.

“Sexton?”

Carlisle turned. “Yes?”

“The woman?”

“Yes?”

His friend grinned. “She is Mr. Bradshawe’s sister, Carlisle. Her name is Elizabeth.”

And before Carlisle had a chance to answer, Thomas turned and disappeared into the night.

Forward
Back
Chapter Notes

§ 6 Responses to 2. Sarah’s Son"

  • Tina says:

    I love seeing Carlisle in his ‘real’ life. The idea that he had goals and aspirations, that he had love interests, that he had friends is so new, but it really shouldn’t be.

    His desire to learn is an important aspect of who he is.

    I’m so glad you posted. I needed something good to read tonight. :)

    • giselle says:

      “The idea that he had goals and aspirations, that he had love interests, that he had friends is so new, but it really shouldn’t be.”

      This is what’s been so fun about all of this–to think about who he was before everything shook him to become who he was destined to become. I’ll leave it at that, because, well, we’ve talked. :)

  • Malianani says:

    A new chapter! Just the thing to warm the heart on this cold, snowy night. I’ve got a few first impressions (which, I’m fairly sure will turn into longer reflections once I’ve read through the chapter again). But first impressions first! I discovered to my surprise that Carlisle as a human takes a little getting used to. I’m so used to him being a vampire with heightened senses and abilities . . .to see him enjoy the feel of the sun on his back as he works the chisel with calloused hands felt almost like watching an English language movie dubbed in Thai . . .just a little bit off balance!

    I enjoy learning of his professional ambitions (didn’t know he wanted to be a solicitor) and am not surprised by his desire to learn–which he seems to have gotten from his mother, a woman taught to read and write! Definitely not mainstream back then. The thought of Carlisle digging graves is really poignant and, for some reason, the image spoke to me.

    I had a little giggle when I saw that his father insists on calling Carlisle “William”. My first thought was “Aha! That’s where the name ‘Wil’ came from in ‘One Day’!” I love the way you weave the details you create for these characters throughout your stories. It makes them seem so much more solid and real. After my “aha” moment, I considered the naming issue more seriously–it is obvious that Carlisle’s father wants Carlisle to be a “mini-me” to some extent and someone with Carlisle’s passion for knowledge and growth would have a reason to be frustrated by it. I can see Carlisle’s desire to be approved of by his father illustrated, in part, by the chair he is constructing for him. There’s something so tender in that. It is made especially tender, in my mind, because he makes this gift for his father even against the backdrop of their disharmonious relationship.

    One last “first impression”: I enjoy how you take pains to use the forms of speech that would likely have been used in the 1600’s. The natural way you weave in historical facts is great, as well. When you mention the Great Fire, I immediately thought of Samuel Pepys’ diary. Have you used that as one of your resources for these early “human Carlisle” days?

    Great chapter, as always. I can’t wait to see what happens next :)

    • giselle says:

      “to see him enjoy the feel of the sun on his back as he works the chisel with calloused hands felt almost like watching an English language movie dubbed in Thai”

      I tweeted this one, because it was so true. It feels that way writing him, too. There’s something just a little bit off about letting him bleed, and sweat–in chapter five he runs away crying with snot dripping down his face, and after I wrote that image, I went, “Wow. Carlisle with snot.”

      We’ll be back to Carlisle digging graves, for sure. It was one of those super moments when reality helps you in telling a story–it would have been one of his duties as sexton, and it just *fits* in this story.

      Of course, I was beyond tickled that you caught on about where “Will” came from. But you would. I decided Carlisle was really William Carlisle ages and ages ago, and it’s fun to keep playing off the same world–both the one Meyer started, and the extra floors I’m putting on the foundation. But there’s definitely this difficult tension between William’s desire for an heir apparent and even his growing knowledge that Carlisle isn’t the same man he is, and that, perhaps, that’s a good thing. They have such an interesting relationship to write.

      As for the speech, well, that’s the most fun part for me. :) It’s what happens when you have a linguist writing historical fiction. I have definitely been reading Pepys’ diary (I *finally* got around to putting up the WIP bibliography for SB; it’s linked in the notes section)–thanks to Google books, I can carry it around with me on my e-Reader.

  • pace is the trick says:

    I love that Carlisle is a carpenter! LOL

    And I love this: “He was bright, quick to pick things from his reading, and a fast learner. His plan had been to become a solicitor. He liked the idea of the education…

    “and Carlisle had no plans to succeed anyone.”

    I’ve always felt that Carlisle was as uncomfortable in his own skin as a human being as he was as a vampire. And you have eloquently captured that here.

    <3

  • jenny says:

    OKAY
    finally i am here.
    how hot is it that he’s the cemeteryman?
    really freaking hot, that’s how.
    as usual, i am swept away on the detail and especially the FLAWLESSNESS of it all. you’re the only writer who never disappoints me on this. any time i have ever read another period story i have had some beef or another. of course, here i am wondering what the hell a woman was doing out walking unescorted so late, but it isn’t as though that was entirely beyond the pale. and yes, i know the term “beyond the pale” didn’t even exist until some 200 years after this chapter is set. stop picking on me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>