Redeemed From the Ashes—Chapter 23—The Thread of Our History Revealed

in fiction •  5 months ago

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Let those love now, who never lov’d before: Let those who always loved, now love the more. 

Pervigilium Veneris, 1. Tr. Parnell

Chapter 23

The next day, she decided that throughout her day’s work she would mentally prepare herself for what she would say, do, and think when she would go to Gerald’s home after dark. When she was in one of the patient’s rooms redressing a wound, she caught Gerald’s eye as he walked in with a clipboard. He stood over another patient and discussed with him certain conditions of his case. Just before he left, they stood there looking at one another. Evelyn gave a hint of a sad smile. His eyes brightened in return. She then returned to her work, still feeling his gaze of care over her. She was lucky, blessed to be linked to a man like him.

After work, she went home. She bathed, put on a simple clean evening dress and a locket around her neck. She didn’t fuss over her appearance too much; for Gerald had several times mentioned the fact he found her beautiful without her trying to be. 

Betsie was not home yet. She had gone on a date with Rupert, the one she had chosen out of her three dashing suitors to woo her. So Evelyn slipped out into the quiet of the night. The damp warm air tingled upon her skin. She soaked in the sea smells, listening to the seagulls’ chorus above her head. She tried to look inconspicuous. She rapped her knuckles upon Gerald’s door and waited for her love to bid her enter.

“Evelyn.”

“Gerald.”

“Please, come in. I have been waiting for you.” 

“I needed some time before I came to see you.” 

He nodded. “I understand.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, I needed some time myself.”

Perhaps he did feel remorse over what had happened. He cleared his throat. “Shall we?” He motioned to the sofa.

She nodded. A warmth started to spread over her body; she hoped he would hold her in his arms and tell her everything was going to be all right. Sometimes it felt as if nothing could breach the protection she felt underneath his wing, but she was wrong. She had to focus and not be waylaid by her swirling emotions. “Clyde?”

“He’s asleep. I drew the covers over him half an hour ago.” Just as soon as they sat down, Gerald rose from his seat and brought his hand to his forehead. “I’m sorry. I forgot to ask you if you wanted a drink of some kind.”

“Water would be pleasant, thank you.”

“Of course.”

She needed a glass of water to quench the dryness of her lips. She watched him reach into a kitchen cabinet and pull out two glasses. He brought them to the faucet and filled them with water. Every movement of his entranced her. “Thank you.” She reached out to hold her glass.

“Your welcome.”

Immediately she quaffed half the water she had been offered. “I came here to talk to you about some...things that have happened recently.”

“And I have something to tell you.”

“Please tell me what you have to say first.” Perhaps he would confess to her what he knew to be wrong in his heart; and she wouldn’t have to accuse him of anything whether it was true or not.

“All right. If that’s what you would like.”

“Yes.”

“I...I know we haven’t been courting for long. It has only been a few months; but I must say what my heart truly feels. I love you, Evelyn. No words can express what I feel. I always want to please you when I am with you.”

She could not believe it! The moment she had dreamed of and...dreaded was here. “Ger...”

“No, please, let me finish. My heart aches for you when I am without you. Your good is always foremost in my mind. Do you not know it?” He reached for her hands.

“I do not doubt it.”

“I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” He reached for a small velvet black box from behind a cushion. “Will you marry me? None other will suffice.” He opened the lid to showcase a beautiful diamond, the planes around it encrusted with small sapphire stones. He gingerly lifted it from its place and softly slid it down her wedding finger, which had been void of its previous ring for two months.

“Oh, Gerald, I...”

“I know we cannot get married immediately. We would at best have to wait perhaps another six months to announce the engagement, but I want this commitment. I am more than willing to commit to you.”

“I...” She gazed at the gorgeous ring embellishing her finger. Breathtaking was its beauty. She had never received such a costly gift from another other than her parents. “It is beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“Gerald, I love it. It’s just that....” She turned her face away. Even though she was hurting, she did not want to hurt him in return. “I think I should tell you now what I came here for.”

“Go on. I am listening.”

“My attempt to see my mother three days ago failed. You see, I found John at the ferry, and he and his brother were so happy for the service I had done them that they asked me to dine with them that very evening.”

“That must have been very pleasant.”

“Yes, it was. As you now know I did not visit my mother that day as I had intended to, as I had told you I would. So I went the next day.” She stopped and tried to gauge his reaction. Nothing, his face remained open, ready for her to continue her story.

“I went the next day to my mother’s house. I knocked on the door, and the maid Martha answered. She was fearful my mother would blame her for my entry into the house, therefore she denied me entrance. I left and wandered about town, trying to come up with an idea of discreetly entering my mother’s home. My mind was so preoccupied with hatching a plan that I did not notice I had arrived at a lewd part of town. Something, someone caught my eye. I saw a gentleman knocking on a door, talking to an...immodest woman, and handing her a wrapped package of some kind.”

Gerald’s face betrayed a sense of doom. His mouth was set in a grim line; but infuriation did not make an appearance.

“I was so surprised to see this man there that I followed him around town. He always seemed to be looking over his shoulder, scared someone might find him. He then took another odd turn to an old woman’s home where he and she talked of his family, dealings, and so on. I followed him all the way to the docks, and then he left the shore. 

"I decided to go back to where I had seen this man. So I knocked on the same door, and the same woman answered. She was a prostitute. I demanded her to tell me what this man had been doing there, but she refused. Another man called to her from the top of the stairs just as he was descending them. I recognized him. He was the butler who was in my service before the explosion. I asked myself what kind of connection did this mystery man have with Casby the butler.” She finished and stared, waiting for him to shed light on these past happenings. “Gerald?”

He let go of her hands and crossed his arms. The muscles in his face eased their tension. He took in a deep breath. “Now you know.”

“Know what? Are you referring to your lascivious relationship with the prostitute?”

“What?” He drew up his posture and imposed upon her a most frightful glare.

“Yes, I saw it before my eyes. You met her. You handed her...perhaps a gift!”

“No! No! Evelyn, I promise you I have no such relationship with another woman. I would do no such act to dishonour you. Evelyn, you have to believe me!” 

“Then explain everything to me, no more secrets, Gerald. I cannot accept your proposal when you hide things behind your back from me. How can I trust you?”

“You’re right. I suppose that...I really must tell you everything.” 

“Gerald, I’m not demanding you to do anything. If you tell me whatever it is you need to tell me, I might have some peace of mind. I would be able to trust you. It is extremely important that I can do so. I was able to trust Carl when I married him.”

“Yes, I’m sure, but I am not Carl.” His words became heated.

It was her fault. It was not right for her to compare him to Carl. They were both so different from each other, and Gerald knew he had a lot to live up to.

“No, I know you’re not. Please forgive me. I should not have said that.”

He drew his head near hers and enclosed her hands with his. “I understand. I know, as well, that I cannot hide these things from you. You are right. You need to trust me.”

She kissed him on his left cheek. “Please tell me.”

“Evelyn, this is very difficult for me to say. I don’t know how...” 

“Please. I am listening.”

“The day you saw me, I was delivering a package, yes, but not to the prostitute, to Casby. I have no relationship with this prostitute. She entertains Casby. Now, you are probably asking yourself the question, how do I know Casby? I was hired by him to carry out some work.”

“What kind of work?”

He lowered his eyes. “Espionage.”

“You’re a spy?”

“Yes.”

“And for which nation do you...do this kind of work?”

“Germany.”

“Germany! The enemy? Good God, how...?”

“Yes.”

“What on earth has possessed you to work for them?”

“I come from an extremely poor family in Scotland. Both my parents died when I turned twelve. We were sent to live with an uncle and aunt who we had never even met. They were poor, as well. I worked hard over many years to earn enough money to study medicine in Berlin, Germany. After I announced to my poor uncle and aunt I would be packing for Berlin within two months, they revealed I had a distant relative living there who might be willing to give me a room which I could rent. I wrote with much doubt that any good would come of my imploring for help from a relative whom I knew nothing about. To my surprise, a few weeks later, I received a letter from a Sir Arnold MacCrae, my uncle. He begged me to come to Berlin and offered me to be a guest in his home throughout my stay. 

"When I arrived at my uncle’s home three months later, I was shocked by his extravagance of living. He had a city home and a country home. He welcomed me with open arms, and I enjoyed the fine surplus of his living. He was a government official who had had close ties to the kaiser.

“At the time, we were not at war. I received my medical training there and set up a medical practice. I was horrified when my uncle informed me of the start of the war. What misconceptions and absurd notions everyone had! One day I was at a bar drinking some beer; for I had a hard day at work. Casby sat next to me, wallowing in his own sorrows with his drink for a companion. What I considered some comfort were his chains. We started to talk about the war. He asked if I had family; I told him of my family’s situation. He then promised me the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if only I would do some espionage work for Germany. Of course, I immediately refused, not wanting to be entangled in these kinds of affairs; but I was hunted down several times and once barely escaped with my life. I decided I could do my family more good alive than dead.”

“When was this? I mean when did you first meet Casby?”

“I believe it was November 1914.”

“That must have been the time he asked for a month leave. He said his mother was dying, that she had asked him to be by her side. Yet the whole time...That bast...”

“Evelyn, please calm yourself. Do not resort to vulgarity. By that time I had set enough money aside to send to my older brother who wanted to learn a trade, the law; but I still had four other brothers and sisters who were suffering in their poverty not having any means to aspire to become something great or even to get a good education. I needed more money. He offered much, much more, enough to send all my siblings to school and more. The temptation was too great. I accepted. I have been stuck in this rat hole ever since.”

“If you hate it so much, why do you do it?”

“I wanted to get out...once I started to have feelings for you. At the ball, Casby and I met. I told him I wanted no more part of it. He said I could not, that I was in too deep. I said I didn’t care, that I would do anything to get out. Then he said that if I even tried, my uncle Sir Arnold MacCrae would finish me off. I was so...shocked to find out my uncle was behind all of it, that he had set up Casby to lure me into doing his own dirty work. ‘One shot and you are done,’ Casby said. The threat still rings in my ears. I do this for my family. This is the only way I can help them.”

“There are always other ways.”

“If there are, I don’t know them.”

Wait! If he knew Casby and they were working together, then all those months ago that cold night when she was home alone....

“Was that you who met with Casby the night two weeks before the explosion in my old home?” 

“Yes.”

“How could you?”

“When I realized who you were, I felt much remorse for my previous actions.”

“The captain of the HMCS Niobe is he truly your friend?”

“I regret to say that that time when I found him shot in the street—I was in league with the shooter. I was ordered to befriend him and to steal naval secrets which he has in his possession. My whole friendship with him has been fabricated with lies and truth mixed together. I really do view him as a good friend; yet I betray him time and time again. It is a guilt I have had to carry.”

“Therefore that time at the dinner party, the cigar was not the only thing you were after, was it?”

“I did steal some documents that night.”

“I cannot believe it! All this time...what a fool I have been! And your love...is it real?”

“How can you say that!” He peeked a glance toward the hall where Clyde’s bedroom was situated. He let out a gust of breath. “I just proposed an offer of marriage! I have no gain in marrying you for espionage purposes, save only in the purpose of having the honour of being your husband. To have you by my side helping me fulfill my ambitions, to love you and honour you is what I want. I want to grow old with you; I want you to bear my children. I even envisioned opening our own clinic for the poor and for those who have no money to afford the care for their health. Of course, we would not turn away those who could afford. I have callings and so do you; I want us to fulfill our callings side by side.”

So much unsaid, so much hidden; but even through this confession, Evelyn’s heart yearned to be his, to be his wife.

“I still have one more delivery to do before my contract ends.”

“Do not do it, Gerald.”

“I must.”

“Please, don’t. I will marry you. But please...do not bring yourself down.” 

“I will, Evelyn. I need to, for those I love.”

“I will not follow you down this path.”

“I am not asking you to. When all is said and done, I will come back for you and marry you. I promise you.”

“I’m not sure that that is something you can promise.”

“I trust you, Evelyn, to not reveal my secret to a single soul.”

Could she betray her own country in his favour? She didn’t know. “Gerald, I...”

He cut off her words with a passionate kiss, like a momentous wave rolling over its prey. Her hands moved in his curls, feeling every fiber. His fingertips curved around her arms and down her back, sending shivers of extreme pleasure all over her body, shortening her breath. This physical love was too controlling. His fierce movements eventually calmed to soft caresses.“I love you.”

“Thank you...for telling me everything.” 

“Thank you for listening.”

“I must go now. It’s getting late.”

“Yes, goodnight, my love.”

“Goodnight.” She fled from his infecting presence and cooled her body in the night’s fresh air.

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