20. April 2015 · Comments Off on Sunset and Steel Rails – Chapter 7 · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book

Sunset and Steel Rails Mockup Cover Pics with titles(Another half chapter of the work in progress. Sophia Brewer has escaped from her sociopathic brother, who has coldly contrived to drive her — if not insane — then to confinement in the local asylum. She is being helped by the family of Agnes Teague, the Brewer household maid of all work … and the Teagues have a plan.)

Walk Away and Never Look Back

Of course, the nightmare came that night – the horrific dream where Richard struck her and she cowered under the blows, relieving the feeling of suffocation under the weight of something heavy pressing her down, down, down, until she couldn’t breathe, the pain of that weight forcing her legs apart, a new stabbing and intimate pain that spun away as the opium took her down even further…
“Miss Sophia,” a tremulous voice breathed in her ear, and there was a hand on her shoulder, which she batted away until she realized it was only Agnes, and that she lay on a pallet on the floor of the tenement room where the Teagues lived. “Miss Sophia … y’r crying out… is it the nightmare again? O’ course it is. Wake up no – ye are safe with us, and soon to be far away, where he can no’ harm ye again…”
“I know,” Sophia gulped, still half-paralyzed by the ragged shadows of the dream. Her heart pounded so hard, she feared it would burst in her chest, and her shift seemed to be drenched in her own clammy sweat. “I am awake, Agnes. I am sorry that I have disturbed your own rest…”
“No,” Agnes demurred, “I sleep light, Miss Sophia – and easily. Dinna regret … an’ I am accustomed to being around folk with night terrors. Da an’ Declan, they both awake shouting, still. Go back to sleep, Miss Sophia.” Agnes’s voice sounded ever more musical, with the Irish lilt to it. “I can sing a lully-bye to ye, as Ma once did, if ye think that it would help.”
“Do not threaten me, Agnes,” Sophia was recovered enough to be humorous. “I have heard you try to sing – you cannot carry a tune in a bucket.”
“I know,” And at her side in the darkness, Agnes giggled. “I canno sing – it will be a cross to bear when I take the veil…”
“Agnes!” Sophia was diverted from contemplating her own miseries. “You are thinking of becoming a nun?”
“Aye,” Agnes replied, in tranquil confidence. “’Tis a thing I have felt a calling for … oh, the last year or so. Da an’ the boys, they think it a girlish thing, an’ a matter for teasing. But I take no mind. It will be so, an’ I will be guided. Just so are you guided, Miss Sophia – I have a sense of such things, y’see. But a bad dream as you had just now – there was something that Mrs. Garrett said to me. You cried out Mr. Richard’s name, crying no, no! just now, and it reminded me of what she said.”
“What did she say, Agnes?” Sophia now felt cold, the sweat-damp shift clammy against her skin. “And when?”
“When you had been carried upstairs, the evening of the day when Mr. Richard locked you in the strong-room.” Agnes ventured. “Mrs. Garrett and I – we came running from the back o’ the house. Miss Vining an’ Miss Phelps, they were there, too. When Mr. Richard went for Dr. Cotton, Miss Vining and Mrs. Garrett and I took off your clothing … soaked in blood, they were. Oh, Miss Sophia…” and Agnes’ arm tightened around Sophia in a comforting embrace. “I thought it so fortunate that you were not aware. Miss Phelps went quite faint, she were that distressed, but Miss Vining, she were very brave, an’ sent for Miss Phelps to bring hot water and cloths… bruised from head to toe ye were. We took off your dress an’ underthings … an’ that was when Mrs. Garrett said, straight out – that it looked as if you had been …” and Agnes’ voice dropped, hushed with embarrassment, “Interfered with … bruises, y’see. An’ bloody matter on your under-drawers an’ Miss Vining, she turned white an’ then red, an’ said that Mrs. Garrett should shut her mouth before speaking such vileness. Mrs. Garrett, she said straight out, she may ha’ been born at night, but it wasn’t last night, neither, an’ there were no man in the house save Mr. Richard. That were when Miss Vining said that such an evil-speaking woman ought to be sacked, an’ Mrs. Garrett said that she wouldn’t stay a minute longer in a house where such goings on were countenanced. That were when Mrs. Garrett gave her notice.” After a long moment, Agnes said, “I were not certain of what they meant, Miss Sophia. But when I asked Miss Vining later, she were angry. So I said nothing more. Was that the right thing, Miss Sophia?”
“Yes,” Sophia answered; sunk in misery and doubt, for she could not truly remember anything past a certain moment in that dreadful evening. But … something awful had happened to her, which her mind quailed from contemplating, even acknowledging. “I truly cannot recall anything, after my brother forced the syrup of opium down my throat. My brother beat me savagely, all but murdered me. That is enough for me to know, Agnes. I had always assumed that he loved and wished the best for me … just as your brothers do for you. It is a hard burden to bear – knowing that his actions demonstrated otherwise. You are fortunate in your family, Agnes – if not in those worldly and material things. I shall try to go to sleep now.”
“You do that, Miss Sophia,” Agnes embraced her again, which Sophia found comfort in; but why were her true friends now revealed as the humble and down-trodden, when everyone else had turned away? How very complicated her life had become; perhaps it was a good thing to go away from Boston and start on it again, free from familial connections and interference.

Still, she could not sleep, for the tumult in her mind and heart: So much to consider and worry over – would she journey safely to Chicago? What refuge would she find there? If this slightly mysterious Mr. Harvey would not hire her, what would she do then? At her shoulder, Agnes breathed slow and regular, deep in slumber. At last, Sophia slithered out from under the blankets on the pallet, and from Agnes’s light embrace. The girl obviously slept sounder than she had said, or else she was tired. There was a faint light in the room, on the other side of the makeshift curtain which sheltered the pallet. By that light, Sophia rose, changed her shift for a clean one and resumed the dress that she had worn that day – and which she would wear when Declan came for her – and that, by the distant sound of the bells from the old North Church – would not be very much longer. She wrapped the coarse countrywoman’s woolen shawl around her, for the night was still chill, from the wind blowing off the harbor, and the windows of the Teague tenement apartment leaked all the way around. She may as well sit by the fire which warmed the small place. She stepped around the edge of the curtain, and saw that Tim Teague had installed himself in his armchair – or perhaps he had never abandoned it, after allowing it to Sophia for a short while.
“Ye canna sleep, I see,” he said, as she stepped around the curtain. He was awake, his old eyes gleaming in the slight firelight. What an odd conversation; she may as well indulge him, for he was kindly and his daughter was comforting, and after all – he remembered her father.
“No, I cannot,” She replied, settling on the little three-legged stool which Agnes had sat upon the night before. The fire had had burned down very low – there was very little warmth in it at all. “I am setting out on a long journey, Mr. Teague, and there are things which I cannot stop thinking of …”
“Tim … call me Old Tim,” he answered readily, grinning as she answered,
“I cannot be so familiar, Mr. Teague. You are very much my senior in age, and it is just not proper … even if you were a servant. My mother was always very particular about courtesy and respect.”
“So was your father, if I remember,” Tim Teague acknowledged. “He had such a way with him to all.”
“I did not know him, and you did,” Sophia asked, on impulse and felt suddenly shy. “He was killed about the time that I was born, so I never knew him at all. All I know is what my mother and Great-aunt Minnie said of him … and they knew him only as family. Not as a man – a soldier – would.”
“The Major,” Tim Teague settled with a reminiscent sigh deeper into his battered armchair. Sophia hugged her knees to her chest, like a small child and listened hungry for every word.
“He was not what you would think of when you think of a hero,” Tim Teague began. “No’ at first. He was a quiet man, soft-spoken … sometimes I think he held his sword in leading a charge as if he were surprised to find such a thing in his hand. He did not give orders as if he were giving orders. He spoke as if asking a favor, but such was his manner an’ intent that … men obeyed on th’ instant. He were never familiar, as if he were seeking to ingratiate wi’ us, but always courteous … an’ he had a notion always of when someone told him a lie. Which was a recommendation if you came up before him on charges.”
“He had trained early in law,” Sophia said, and Tim Teague grinned again, obviously relishing the memory.
“An’ that was my good fortune, I tell ye, Miss Sophia. It was some small matter … th’ provost-sergeant – an evil man! – he told a lie about me. An’ so I were brought up before the Major. He, bless the man, saw how it were a lie wi’ a shrewd question ‘r two, an’ I had my liberty at once. He was always,” and Tim Teague’s eyes were remote, as if looking into the far distance beyond the tiny room in an upper-floor tenement in North Town, back to a world of blue uniforms, banners floating above and before them, and grey clouds of rebel gun powder smoke over a hard-held position, “an officer we could trust, y’ see. He were a good ‘un …”
Sophia rested her chin on her knees, and listened intent, as old Tim recalled her father in memory, a well that she could only dip into this once. She thought that she had a better picture of him than she had ever gleaned from her mother, whose memories of Richard Brewer were hazed by a veil of bridal silk.
After a time, Tim Teague’s reminiscences went wandering – as Great-Aunt Minnie’s were also wont to do; Sophia listened, lulled by the musical bent of his speech – why was it that it sounded to her almost like poetry? He talked of how he had departed starving Ireland as a young man, the misery of an immigrant ship – how he had finished up in Boston, working as a laborer on the docks, how he had met and married the mother of his children. That was before the war came, and he had enlisted … Sophia wondered if she had at least dozed a little, for she wakened with a bit of a start. Tim Teague was patting her shoulder, under the woolen shawl.
“Close the door and walk away. Walk away, niver looking back. Do ye no good, cailín daor. There’s nothing good for you, remaining. Na deamhain – demons will haunt ye anyway, so don’t give them a chance to get their claws into you any deeper. Faugh a Ballagh! – That was our battle shout. ‘Clear the Way!’ for the 28th … We marched in the Grand Review, ye know. But for me, there were a stone in m’ heart an’ demons haunting m’ soul for a’ that I had seen. The Major was no’ with us. He should ha’ been, but f’r a damn dirty sniper at Petersburg …”
There came a quiet tap on the door to the room in which they sat, and a mumble of a voice whose words Sophia could not quite catch. Tim Teague lifted his head, alert as an elderly hound. “Ah … ‘tis Mendelson. Ye had best ready yourself, cailín daor. Declan will be by wi’ the wagon, any moment now. Remember what I said – close the door, an’ walk away, niver look back.”

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