House of Harwood-Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

House of Harwood-Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Vote at the end of this episode!

In the previous episode, after Rupert the carriage driver catches Clarissa and Richard in the barn, Richard throws him down onto a steel bar where he is knocked unconscious. Readers voted that Rupert is still alive.

Episode 5

Clarissa couldn’t sleep at all that night. She tossed and turned, staring up at the ceiling for what felt like hours, Rupert’s unconscious face swimming above her. The whole thing felt like a horrible dream – Rupert lying there in the stable, probably dead, and Richard’s fingers around his neck, the hatred in his eyes as he threw him to the ground. Her Richard. Clarissa had numbly allowed Richard to deposit her at the servant’s entrance with a gruff kiss, but now she twisted around in her bed, hot with guilt. What kind of person left a man to die? Only the thought of losing Richard forever kept her from jumping up running for a doctor.

She awoke with a jolt. Clarissa leapt out of bed and rushed to her window, and sure enough she could see the doctor coming out of the stable with her father. Dressing hurriedly, Clarissa barely pulled a brush through her hair before rushing downstairs. She entered the breakfast room where her mothers and sisters were sitting, and trying to compose herself, she innocently inquired as to the doctor’s presence.

“I saw Doctor Peters coming out of the stable, mother, is everything alright?”

Rose, not liking to involve herself in these matters, sighed deeply. “Well in fact, Rupert the carriage driver was found unconscious in the stable this morning.” She blotted her mouth daintily on her napkin and helped herself to more clotted cream.

“Oh no!” Clarissa did her best to look shocked. The horrified look came easier. “Poor Rupert, I can’t believe he’s dead!”

“Honestly, Clarissa.” Her mother shook her head as she stirred sugar into her coffee. “Not that it’s any of our affair, but “Poor Rupert” is very much alive. Doctor Peters says he’ll be on bed rest for a few weeks, but he should make a full recovery.”

There was a long pause. “Oh,” Clarissa finally said in a small voice. “That’s wonderful.”

“Yes, isn’t it.” Her mother replied crisply. “Now let’s move on to more cheerful things, shall we?”

Clarissa excused herself from the table as quickly as she could and, practically running, she burst out the side door and toward the servant’s quarters. She had almost reached Richard’s room when she heard voices coming. She inhaled sharply. It was Richard and her father.

Clarissa’s stomach plummeted as the angry shouts of her father came closer and closer. “Claims that you and my daughter..walked in the stable and saw…deliberately tried to kill him!” Clarissa looked around for a place to hide but before she had time, they came around the corner, stopping dead when they saw her. Mr. Duvall swelled like a balloon and Richard gave Clarissa a warning, almost pleading look behind his back.

“Well,” Mr. Duvall’s voice rang out. “Look what we have here. Clarissa May Duvall, if you’ll be so kind as to accompany us inside, I think there’s something we need to discuss.”

Clarissa nodded silently.

Once they were all seated in the parlor, Mr. Duvall rounded on his daughter, eyes shooting sparks. “I heard something today, daughter, from someone who says he walked into the stables last night and found you and this man -” He jerked his head but kept his eyes on Clarissa – “engaged in obscene behavior.” He cleared his throat. “I have also heard this allegation strongly denied.” At this he did look briefly at Richard, who was staring straight ahead, betraying no emotion. Mr. Duvall continued. “Naturally, given the man’s condition, questions of the validity of his memory are being raised. I am prepared to take your word on this Clarissa, but know that two men’s employment and future here are at stake. I trust that you will be honest with me. Am I correct?”

Clarissa’s bright eyes darted to Richard’s stoic face for a millisecond before turning back to her father. “Yes father,” she replied, “You can trust me to tell the truth.” Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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