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The Diary

by Amberly Henning 9 months ago in literature

The beginning of the end.

I never thought my nosing around would get me anywhere. I had been searching for answers about my birth since the beginning. As soon as I was old enough, I began asking my mother questions. My name is Nicholas Pennington and the year was 1876. By that time, I had waited almost twenty years for the answers about my birth.

I came upon a maid at an inn who said that she had worked there for forty years and believed she had heard some gossip of some interest to me. The maid said she couldn’t tell me everything but that I should look into the Holbrooks. They’re one of the oldest families in the country. Nobles of high class. I have to be honest, I wondered immediately if her information was that Sir Bradford Holbrook was my father. Unfortunately, if this were true, I had come only a day too late. He had died of pneumonia just before I arrived. I wanted answers and I wasn’t going to get them.

My mother was always on her own. She behaved so strangely when it came to my father and my birth put her off of the marriage market. My only question was why he didn’t marry her. My mother was beautiful and came from a good family before I ruined it for her. She never made me feel like I was the culprit but my existence made her life exceedingly difficult and I knew that from the way others treated her. Regardless, she worked hard for me and for that I am grateful. But I’m only worth my salt if I can pay it back.

I began poking around for more information and Lady Holbrook surprisingly invited me to the reading of her husband’s will. I didn’t know what I’d get, but maybe I can stop obsessing over this and move on with my life if I only knew. If he was my father, why did he leave my mother the way he did? Most men cared for their bastards. She was also from a prominent family. I just couldn’t make sense as to why Sir Holbrook would do such a thing.

I stood outside of the manor, fresh out of the carriage that was sent for me. Servants in fancy clothes bowed to me before letting me in. I looked down at my clothes. I didn’t look like a noble. Maybe they bowed to everyone.

I entered through the large doors the servants held and had to lock my jaw, preventing it from dropping. I hadn’t been inside yet and this had to be the nicest house in the country, save for the palace of King James, of course.

“This way, Mr. Pennington.” A servant said as they pointed me into a large dining room. Just the table was larger than my room as a child. People from many other families were seated already. Not one of whom looked like me. Their clothes even flecked in expensive gems and fabrics. I looked down to my clothes, obviously old, and there was a string hanging from the sleeve. I sat at the end of the table, picking at the string in nervousness. I sat at the opposite end of Lady Holbrook who planned to read the will herself.

I listened to the reading for a long period of time. Servants brought tea for us as we listened. The longer we sat, the longer I wondered. What was I doing here? Did they only invite me for me to watch as others gained more of what I didn’t have and what they already had enough of? Maybe the tea was poisoned and my death was the entertainment for tonight. I had heard stories of the nobles doing awful things to people like me.

“That’s all.” Lady Holbrook said, pulling me out of my own thoughts. That was all? I certainly had no reason to be here. What game was she playing? It could be that if I am her husband’s secret child that she brough me here to watch the light slowly burn from my eyes without answers. But I couldn’t give them the satisfaction of getting upset.

Everyone began gathering themselves to leave. I slowly began to pull at the thread again and gather the cup of tea together so it was easier for the servants to carry.

“Mr. Pennington, your portion of the will is meant to be read in private. If you will relocate to the library, I will read yours alone with the lawyer only.”

“Alone?” I asked, saying my first word since arriving. It felt odd to speak to this woman I didn’t know who was obviously of higher station than I. It was like we were equals.

“Yes, Mr. Pennington, you were called for a reason.” She smiled, almost like a friend. Why would this portion be alone? What game is she playing?

I sighed, straightening my coat and readying myself for whatever was to come, stretching to relieve the tension in my neck.

I followed Lady Holbrook to the library, leaving the other nobles behind in the dining room.

We came to a magnificent room. Books perfectly lined the shelves three stories high. I couldn’t imagine how one could even read, let alone afford this many books.

“Please sit down, Mr. Pennington.” Lady Holbrook sat in the desk chair and motioned for the servants to exit. The shut of the door sent a jolt down my neck. I couldn’t bring myself to look her in the eyes. “Mr. Pennington, I assume you’re wondering why you are here.” She said as she pulled out a box and lit a cigarette on a candle.

“I’m not sure, but I have my suspicions.”

“I’m not sure you understand the weight of the situation.” She said lightly.

“I assume it would look bad on your family to have a secret child.”

She laughed. The lawyer looked at her with an eyebrow raised.

“My husband had many secret children, though, he took care of every single one of them. Not like you, no. Not at all like your situation. My husband has a very interesting proposal for you.”

“For me?” If he wasn’t my father, what did the man want? Why would he bring me here with his will? “Lord Holbrook has a proposal for a man he’s never met?”

“Yes, very interesting.” She said, blowing out a cloud of smoke. Lady Holbrook opened the desk. Maybe I really was the entertainment for tonight and she was going to pull out a dagger and kill me right here, inviting her rich friends in to join.

From the drawer of the desk, Lady Holbrook pulled out a black book and a box and lightly set the two on the desk. She opened the box revealing more notes than I could count. Why was I being offered money and a book?

“Now, my husband has one of these two things for you. He has instructed me to offer only one but it is your choice on which one you receive. You can choose either 20,000 dollars or my husband’s personal diary which may contain information important to you but might get you into trouble for knowing.”

“What kind of information? What is the point in this game?” I asked. I could feel my heart begin to race with anger. Did they want to see how much the lower class needed money? Did they know what this kind of money could do for us? I could buy my mother a home. I could find a wife and not need a dowry. I could marry whoever I wanted and not have to worry about how I would take care of them.

But that’s not what I went there for. I went for information. I went to know who I am.

“Have you read it?”

“Of course, I have read it. But the will specifically says that I can’t tell you. Like I said earlier, the information in this book is very dangerous. It is your choice as to whether or not you are willing to take that risk.” That was surprising. I was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t a game and something genuinely serious. But why did Lady Holbrook seem so happy?

“I want the book.” I said, not even letting myself think about it. I ripped it off the table, half expecting her to stab my hand as I moved.

She smiled. “That’s what I had hoped you would say. But I want you to read it now, right in front of me because while my husband didn’t want you to have both, I do. If you are willing to work with this information, I am willing to fund you.”

“What? Is this some sort of joke?”

She shook her head. “I’ve run into a little trouble and I think that you and this little book can help. But again, you must read it first. Begin on page 84.”

I look at the book and open its rigid pages until I find the page.

I read and read again. These pages could not be the truth. This is a most absurd trick.

“You’re telling me that my father is the king?”

“Yes, you are his bastard. My husband was a witness to the night that you were conceived and checked on your mother from time to time. Did you ever wonder how your mother paid for your schooling? It certainly wasn’t being a barmaid.”

“And you want me to help you do what exactly?”

“That’s the thing, my friend. My husband left me with some debt to the crown. I will fund your claim to the throne with the twenty thousand dollars and you will change the country for the better, hopefully with some of my advice.”

“How could I possibly say that this is concrete proof?”

“Nicholas, the diary and your mother as a witness will seal the deal. King James has failed at having an heir, so you will take the throne. The Holbrook word is as good as gold.”

“But I don’t know anything about running a country.”

“You’re right but that’s why you have advisors. You know how the commonfolk are getting by. If you can help them, you’ll be helping everyone. You can help the poor, women, children. Think about it, Nicholas, you could change everything.”

She was right. I could change everything right now, I thought. I could make everyone prosperous.

“Your husband didn’t want me to have the money too. Why are you offering it to me?”

“I want you to wipe away my debt and let me be an advisor.”

“You? You’ve only been running a household-”

“Listen, either I take the book and discredit you, or we do this my way.” So that was it. I was a pawn in the Holbrook game. It wouldn’t be that easy.

“Fine, then what’s the plan?”

“First, we make you presentable. Then, we offer you as his heir. If he refuses, we kill him.”

“Lady Holbrook.” The lawyer gasped. She turned to him with a look of disgust.

“Be quiet, Mister Plum. You’re my lawyer, not my conscience. And know that you will also be paid handsomely.”

“But-”

“Shut it or I’ll have my guard gut you on the way home.” The lawyer stiffened.

She turned back to me. Disgusted look wiped clean with a smile.

“Do we have a deal?” She held out a hand.

I looked at it. So much could go wrong. I could be hanged for treason. The king could have me killed and appoint someone else. Or worse, one of his family members in line for the throne, maybe all of them, go after me for making the line longer.

All of that said, maybe it really was a good idea for a commoner to rule.

I shook her hand and smiled. “You have a deal.”

And this was the beginning of my own demise.

literature

Amberly Henning

Amberly Henning went to Miami University and graduate with a Bachelors in the Science of Education with a focus in English. She spends her time writing, teaching, and working toward a brighter future.

Books soon to be released: DARK

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