The Leper's Secret (Author only)

Written by: Ray Stone

 

I cannot remember the exact awful detail of my father’s execution, but my mind’s eye revisited the gallows at Castle Green in Oxfordshire in many nightmares. The tall gray weathered castle walls echoed with the wails and shouts of the baying crowd as my father’s life ended with a dull audible thud. My grandfather led me away, clutching my hand as we pushed through the crowd. He gave no thoughts on the matter, and at nine years of age, my only feelings were that I had lost both my parents, one murdered by the other. The old man gave no explanation save a warning that I grow to be a God-fearing man and not a sinner like my father.

In overheard conversation, I learned that despite my mother’s body never being found, the authorities' suspicions determined my father was responsible for her assumed death. This subject was never discussed again.

My grandparents were strict but generous, and after moving me into their home, they sent me to school that I might ‘fill my mind with useful knowledge.’ After several years both had passed away and left me a handsome amount of money. It was this generosity that allowed me to concentrate on a business before any thoughts of a wife and family.   

***

It was with some concern that I noticed my friend, Doctor Elliot Hume-Frobishire, casting caution to the wind, and indeed the rain, as he rushed across the muddy highstreet between passing carriages. With one hand holding the edge of his top hat and the other waving his cane up at my office window, he stumbled up onto the footpath out of harm’s way. His hasty actions brought several vulgar shouts from the cabbies, but he dismissed them and plunged headlong through my street door which was inscribed with gold lettering – Wilber Wainright, Accountant and Bookkeeper.

I strode across the office and past Mrs. Gribben, my clerk, to the door. On opening it, I stood at the top of the stairs as Elliot slammed the street door below. Removing his hat, and depositing his cane in the rack stand, he doubled over wheezing heavily.

“Wilber…I can not believe it…a strange occurrence, sir…strange indeed. I have left my nurse in charge. That’s how important it is, Wilber. I came as soon as I could.”

“Calm yourself, Elliot,” I chided. “You would do yourself much harm if such a state were not rested. Please take care and let us have tea while you recuperate.”

Doctor Hume-Frobishire was a man of thirty-four years, while I was some ten years younger. Unfortunately, due to a generous income that rewarded his skills in medicine, he had tended to overindulge in wine and plentiful food that contributed to an unhealthy body his patients would have been ashamed of.

His red cheeks puffed out as he mounted the stairs.

“Wilber, I need you to recount the circumstances of your mother’s disappearance. I am here to convey to you news of her whereabouts.”