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The Coal Biter

A Journey into the Heart of Darkness

By Kamran AlamPublished about a month ago 3 min read

In a small market town in the West Riding of England, Fitzwilliam Hall stands proudly on its own grounds. Its present occupant, Mr. John Gateshead, feels it was no less than he deserved. However, his second child died and his wife was killed during the French Revolutionary Wars.

Reginald withdrew into seclusion, then madness, refusing to receive any visitors, including family lawyers. It took a while for Mr. John Gateshead to be tracked down, a low and louche individual who made every attempt to evade his creditors. He had the protective eye of the landlord inside any gaming house, as he lost so frequently that he was a profitable asset to any such establishment.

Inheriting Fitzwilliam Hall probably saved John Gateshead's life. Now that he was located far from his associates and clear of debt, this could have meant a new start in life. However, John Gateshead wasn't made that way. His reckless behavior in the past was driven because he felt he deserved more respect, money, and admiration. He carried a sense of entitlement to more and saw it as proof of his superiority.

One weekend, John planned the perfect display of his privileges. He sent all the servants home to their families, hoping they would demonstrate sufficient gratitude upon their return. He was looking forward to becoming justifiably resentful if they didn't. The last of the servants' duties before the weekend was to build the fire in the large drawing room that faced the street. An enormous pyramid of shiny, blue-black coals was stacked and topped with kindling.

As dusk fell outside, the light in the drawing room was replaced with the soft glow of candles. There were six candelabra on the mantlepiece and two on each fireside stand. He was rather pleased with how the light from tallow candles illuminated the house.

John Gateshead, a man with a scullery maid, is preparing for a diorama in his home. He is excited to star in the scene, hoping that the young scullery maid, Jane, will notice him. However, she rejects his advances and instead offers him more Port Wine.

Tabitha, another avid spectator, crouches in the boxwood by the window for shelter from the icy wind. She is mesmerized by the material comforts in the room and remembers the swift contact with John's boot. When the window opens, she decides to sit by the fire for a minute to soak in warmth.

As the cat approaches, Tabitha tries to escape but accidentally knocks over a fireside stand mid-flight. The candles and the pitch pine fireside stand fall on the coals, causing the fire to roar in appreciation of the wax and wood bounty. The wild flames reach up and melt the candles on the mantlepiece, drooling down until the chimney itself caught alight.

Sparks fly, many landing on the folds of John Gateshead's silk velvet gown. His jacket and the divan sparkle with flame. He is awake now. Tabitha makes a lightning dash back through the open window, but the icy north wind seeping through the open window has fanned the flames.

Villagers gather on the street to watch the spectacle, and those with family working at Fitzwilliam Hall cast nervous glances to confirm their relatives' safety. The villagers continue to step closer to the house as the blaze subsides, wearing coarse wool clothing to protect themselves against sparks.

Soon, there's not much left of Fitzwilliam Hall or Mr. John Gateshead.

In conclusion, Fitzwilliam Hall is a smart Palladian house in a small market town in the West Riding of England. Mr. John Gateshead enjoys the opulent lifestyle and the luxury of the house, but he also feels resentment towards the villagers who don't show gratitude.

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About the Creator

Kamran Alam

"Kamran Alam: Karachi-based Digital Marketing & Content Writer. Crafting captivating narratives and driving online success. Let's elevate your brand's online presence together!"

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Comments (1)

  • Sweileh 888about a month ago

    Interesting and delicious content. Keep posting more now.

Kamran AlamWritten by Kamran Alam

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