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YEAR 1801


"Oh, Bessie! It bereaves my poor heart to understand the purpose for which the King of Denmark put his son through so much trouble. And to think it was all because he sought vengeance of his dear brother, Claudius!"

The girl who had spoken with a hand flying up to her forehead as an act was Elizabeth. The person she talked to was the old keeper of the Blythe household, Miss Bessie.

The elder woman who was calmly doing away with the dishes, slapped a napkin onto her hands as she turned to face Elizabeth. "My lady," she said, doing her best not to frown at her. "Don't tell me this is your reason for coming to find me? Is this what I think it is?" Bessie began shaking her grey head as she returned her gaze to the dishes. "I just do not know with you. Sometimes... " she stuttered, "sometimes, I can't understand what you would have me do. How should I know where Denmark is or who that vengeful king is or his brother, hm?" 


Elizabeth, saying nothing at first, merely watched the woman empty the washed cups into a basin of clean water for rinsing. Bessie did that while murmuring some things to herself. Though Elizabeth could not hear the things she spoke, she knew the woman was for sure irritated at her mentions. And so, she pushed her feet forward knowing just what to do to appease her best friend's mood... 

Bessie was a full-blown, Amazonian-looking woman. 

Being thick in her fifties, she'd worked for the Blythes for as long as Elizabeth could remember. For every one of her fondest memories and saddest ones from childhood, there was always Bessie. Throughout her mother's prejudice toward her older sister over her and her father's silence, there was always Bessie. And so, it was easy for Elizabeth to come to see Bessie as a true companion and friend. The woman was more to her than her mother ever was, and blunter to her than her father ever could. Elizabeth was thus fond of Bessie's company. Also, the reason that she liked to listen to her book tales. Aside from her father, no one member of her family appreciated the fact that she read a lot. Or even cared to listen to her talk about it. Her mother would not hear her mentions of books and her older sister, Louisa, would sooner fall asleep than she would bring herself to listen to matters of books. Louisa hated to read. But not Elizabeth.

As for Bessie, well, she did like to listen to Elizabeth talking about wizards and princes she'd read from her books. But there were times, she felt grumpy toward the subject. And for such times, as this day, Elizabeth allowed her to become upset if she so desired.

"Is your mood really that way?" Elizabeth asked into her hair as she snugged her closely from behind. Embracing the woman was Elizabeth's favorite thing in the world especially since she'd learned her hugs could be therapeutic for the woman when in a cranky mood. "I did not expect to upset you more," Elizabeth spoke kindly and waited for her to speak. Since she was a good way taller than the pursy woman, the back of Bessie's head got nestled inside her chest. Her hands squeezed warmly over the woman's arms so that she could not continue her activity of washing the dishes. "I am sorry," Elizabeth said.

"No," Bessie said as she exhaled deeply. "There is nothing to feel sorry for. It's just my mood."

"I know," Elizabeth told her. "But I prefer it when you smile, Bessie. You are always so beautiful. You should totally smile more."


"Elizabeth?" Bessie felt her cheeks fluster till she was fully smiling. Elizabeth would always have her way with her. She was grateful for having her come around in times like this. "What book did you read this time?" Bessie asked her. "And do you not know that we should not be seen together like this? Your father might not agree with this. And your sister may well make a show of this. She can be quite extra, that one. I wouldn't want you getting into trouble with your mother, Elizabeth."

"You are right," Elizabeth peeled back her head from slouching on the woman's dome of a hair and nodded. She still had her hands holding Bessie's arms in place. "But do you know how much fun it is to break the rules for your sake?"

Bessie shook her head. "I do not wish for you to get into a tough spot just because of me. I do not want that."

"So you do not want my hugs then?" Elizabeth pulled away and sulked. "I could never get tired of snuggling with you, Bessie."


"I never said I hated your hugs or get tired of them," Bessie turned to face her and said. "I only said I don't want you to get into any trouble with your mother. You know how she can be. And not even father can stand in her way if she decides to punish you."

"I know," Elizabeth said softly, bending her head.

Bessie, studying her mood change, allowed a smile to spread across her wrinkly lips as she said, "Why not tell me about your King and this Claudius instead? I am in the mood to hear all of it."

"You are?" Elizabeth picked up her emerald green eyes with a smile threatening to bud on her lips. "I will tell you all about it," she said assuringly.



"... and in the end," Elizabeth stopped to draw in her breath, "everyone died. Even Ophelia. She died in a very pitiful way, I am forced to believe that love is only but a tragedy in itself."

Bessie cracked up a laugh once she said that. "Would you become so silly now, over some book? Elizabeth, love is beautiful and a girl like you deserves to experience it."

"Not me, Bessie." Elizabeth shook her head. "I should never bother with such nonsense."

Bessie laughed some more. "You are joking are you not? Fine, your parents have done their best for you and now you have come of age. The least you can do is succumb to marrying any of the suitors that approach you. You owe them that much because..."

'They are not your parents,' Bessie thought.


Elizabeth squared her shoulders even then. "I would not bother to think about it. Even Isa is not wedded yet. I have no desire to rush anything. I have to go feed Mr. Pickle now, he must need his carrots even now."

Elizabeth was back in her room within the shortest time. Setting herself in front of the rabbit's cage that was mostly made of wood and sitting on a table by her room's corner, Elizabeth kept breaking the carrots into tiny bits before dumping them inside the cage.

"Aaarghhhhh!" A sudden squeal caused her to sprain her neck. Standing petrified by the doorway was her much better-looking older sister. "You--you have a rat in your room. Not a rat, a beast, Elizabeth." Louisa was so scared that her voice sounded shaky at the end. 

"Is--Isa," Elizabeth bolted to her feet. Her knees almost knocked over themselves. "Wha--what are you doing here?" she asked.

"A beast, Elizabeth," Louisa picked both hands up to her ears while her eyes grew larger. "No creatures allowed in the house, remember? Mother has to know. And--and father too."

In a sudden jolt, Louisa turned for the hall before Elizabeth could even protest. Knowing her mother, she would be done for if Louisa was to deliver her report. Not only her but her rabbit, Pickle, would also suffer her mother's wrath. Yet, Elizabeth knew there was nothing she could do about it. She could only wait for her punishment to come by sitting it out.



"It was a beast, Papa," Louisa reported the instant she dropped into the sitting room. Theirs was a small containment with only a lounge chair and a rocking armed chair. A wooden table stayed in the middle of the room together with a flower vase with flowers on it. The sole window in that place was tall enough as it was wide. Its frames were painted white and a few potted plants; not more than three, festooned the base of it.

"Honey, I am ashamed that you will hear such a report from our daughter and do nothing yet about it," her mother spoke rudely to her father. "Are you even a man at all?"

"Well, first," Mr. Blythe cleared his throat then, "I heard all that Louisa had to say but I doubt that Elizabeth can do something that grave. She might love animals but harboring a beast? Not my Elizabeth. She can never do such a thing."

"What makes you so sure?" his wife intervened. "Are you calling my daughter a liar then?"

The man sat patiently on that line of talk for a heartbeat. "Louisa can be a bit extra at times. And if you keep on referring to Louisa as our daughter, I wonder what notion you want Elizabeth to pick from that."

"Well, that is a matter for another day," his wife said. "The beast that was brought into this house by that girl must be addressed. Not you talking about certain things that need not be discussed? How much more nerves are you willing to break of me?" the woman snorted and then hissed.

"You want me to address the issue then?" the man asked.

"Yes," his wife said.

"Then I will." Turning to the petrified girl, he asked, "What manner of beast did you say it was? Is it a chimpanzee or a monkey?"

Louisa merely shook her head; her golden-brown hair bouncing about.

"No?" the man settled for her response. "So, what was it?" 

"Father, it was a -- it is a," Louisa swallowed hard. "A rabbit, Papa. A giant rabbit."

"A rabbit!???"

Jacob Blythe, her father, and her mother, Letita, exclaimed at about the same time.

P/S: IF YOU ENJOYED THIS READ. ADD UP AND FOLLOW Scathed By The Devil. See you there!

Nancy_Jim Nancy_Jim



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