Archibald Huntington

4 Jul

Archibald Huntington sat in his favorite blue chair in his sprawling mansion smoking on a pipe. Dark oak paneling circled around him, and the deer head mounted on the wall seemed to be smiling at him. Or was is jeering? Through the thick cloud of smoke puffed out in front of his face he really couldn’t tell.

The time is only 9:00 a.m., and he has been in the same spot, puffing away for one hour now. It didn’t seem right to him to smoke a pipe so early. 9:00 is the time for coffee and biscuits not sherry and pipes. But this morning is different. Something lay lurking about his mind, something dark and in need of being smoked out its cave. But how to deal with such a quagmire of a situation?

The daily paper lay undisturbed on the table next to the chair. The distinct smell of newspaper-the freshly printed ink-drifted into the smoky haze. The headline screamed “Cadwyn Crawley New Headmistress of Wimblespin School For Girls!” with a blaring, intrusive picture of Cadwyn smiling that smile. God, that smile! The ambient thoughts lay nagging, tugging on the fringes of Archibald’s mind.

The wooden clock ticked on the wall, methodically, musically, lulling him in its horrid monotony into a sort of trance where his thoughts took rabbit trails into the most unpleasant of places. This reminded him those places were not lost anymore, or not nearly as lost as he had tried to make him. His circular, maddening thoughts were interrupted when his maid Susan entered the room.

“Ah, exactly the person I wish to see!” said Archibald, settting his pipe down on the table next to him with enthusiasm. “Please, please do come and sit down next to me. I am having the most troubling thoughts,” he said, gesturing to the chair across from him.

Susan frowned disapprovingly. “It’s your old habits and ways of doing things I will not interfere with sir, but when it’s your health, well I must take care of you. Now look at you sitting there in front of a dead fire. Why the draft coming through those old windows is enough to chill right to the bone!”  

“I see, hmm yes indeed. Seems I quite forgot to stoke the fire.”

“Yes, well one could have rung for help you know,” she admonished gently.

The embers glowed softly, not at all yet dead, and with a swift poking and prodding from Susan they willingly roared back into life. With the flames flickering, and Susan feeling like a duty was fulfilled, she sat down in the chair across from Archibald, who watched her skilled movements with a glazed expression. Clearly the fire was of no special interest to him.

“Susan I’ve been here in my study for a while now. And I’ve been thinking about some things. I’ve been thinking of my great adventures in India and the hunting trip I took to Africa and then of course my settling down here for good in sturdy old Worthington. But you see it’s all been so dastardly shattered,” said Archibald as he looked into the fire and then back into Susan’s listening eyes.

“Archibald, a good hot cup of tea will do you some good. Would you like me to fetch a wool blanket from the parlor? It’s awful drafty in here!”

“Bother the tea, the blankets and the damn fire!”

Susan was not the least bit disturbed. She sat in the chair unmoved.

“Oh dear Susan, I am sorry,” said Archibald. He got up out of his chair, walked across the thick oriental rug and placed two hands onto the mantel of the fire as he stared into it, “Have you ever wished to undo something from the past?” An ember exploded out of the fire- Archibald jumped back. He stamped the flame out with his boot.

“When my late husband George was killed in the riding incident while going into town, I sometimes…oh you know once in awhile when I’m cleaning something or cooking something…I’ll hate myself for not keeping him home that raining afternoon. I wish I would have had the good sense to keep him home….” She took the edge of her apron and wiped at the corner of her eye, “But all that’s in the past now. The past is the past and what is done is done.” she said resolutely. She smiled sweetly at Archibald.

“Quite right, quite right. What has been done has been done.”

“Indeed. Now get out of this drafty old study and come enjoy the breakfast Maria and I have prepared”

As Susan and a compliant Archibald left the room together, a maverick wind blew through a crack in the window, snuffing out the fire and scattering the previously undisturbed newspaper through the now darkened study.

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