Knowledge of the brush and the great works of literature, of Rabelais, Voltaire and Dante, who were in truth his greatest and deepest friends, his strongest affections, meant our young Francis attracted many a person to hear him speak. His fine memory and depth of recollection was only matched by the delicacy of his countenance and earnestness of his constitution. He was as fine as the flowers which he recited in the psalms of Keates and Byron. And so he went, from room to room in the university, offering tales to anyone who would listen. He was in truth, a person born for another time in every respect, a soul transposed from the romance of the 1600’s. It is 2023 and poetry is dead.
Our young Francis was not dejected nor deterred. How could he be? His true friends were not in the keggers, or vomiting on themselves, but between hard block page covers. He first met them in his father’s library, immense, as was the rest of the home and the fortune which had built it. But in his head he was a nomad, wandering the hills and ravines of text and poem and song. He dressed himself as one would expect. He would not leave the house without a tie, unless with a cravat, and his fine brown hair was forever neatly parted. He cut a trim figure, unsurprising since he was fond of long walks and the rowing of boats. He moved quickly, unless pontificating, and spoke with clarity and vivid emotion all at once. He used words like pontificate, or chattels, and knew their origin, in Greek or Latin, and a line from a poem or story in which those words slept peacefully.
And so it was that when he was approached, by a miss Kathryn in the library of the university, that a man so versed in the tales of romance and could not help feel that God himself had set in motion the wheels of love.
“May I ask why you dress the way you do?”
“You may, O’ beautiful lady.”
She laughed, and he melted before the perfect horseshoe of teeth and the softness of her pink tongue and at once knew he was in love. So he wrote lines of poetry, for that’s all he could do to express it. Eagerness of the heart, and the validity of its convictions can only be affirmed by the depth of the written word in which it is expressed. And so it was written in a small book, bound by leather and string from the local market and cured by the tears of its author, for there were many, such was the gripping and overpowering essence of warmth within him. He swooned. And there aren’t many swooners left. Not these days. Young Francis was all at once overcome with the pains that can only come from loving someone more than oneself.
“Will you marry me?”
In short time Miss Kathryn offered the suggestion, and although it was unbecoming of a gentleman to allow such a trespass on tradition, he was a romantic first and a gentleman second and so young Francis said to hell with all of that nonsense and we shall be wed.
The skepticism of his father was balanced by the jubilation of his mother, who despite her trepidations towards a whirlwind marriage was first and foremost relieved that someone had decided to be forever married to Francis and his smorgasbord of peculiarities.
“My darling boy. There is nothing I love more about you my child than that you are Francis and not an atom more, or an atom less. You are always welcome here, in my heart.”
That the young couple were of different material standings didn’t go unnoticed by young Francis. His trips to her small flat in the darkness of the south London wasn’t without it’s difficulties, not least of which was the harassment he endured on the bus over, but this was the price of love he had decided, and no man born from his mother could prevent him from seeing her. Her poverty only magnified the intensity of his feelings, for the obstacles which he faced were similar to those he’d read in Shakespeare, and Don Quixote, and that he was now enduring them was testament to the purity of his passions. They only added to the righteousness of the whole situation, and so marrying Miss Kathryn would benefit not just themselves but the universe as well.
It was on one grizzly morning that Young Fracis truly felt the breadth of his affection. The morning breeze rapped his cheeks, which became rosy with the cold, so he quickened his pace to her flat.
“Hello mate.” A hooded figure stepped in his path.
“I’m sorry good sir but I must be making my way quickly, for My Love is cold and I am expected.”
“The fuck are you talking about? Arms up!”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand?”
“Lift your arms up and stay still.”
He had a terrible scar on his cheek, and so Francis with the goodness of his heart allowed the man to unload the pockets which carried his phone and wallet. There is something else afoot. If I should have only the muscles on my body and the warmth of my heart that will be enough for Kathryn in the meantime. And so his pocket watch and money clip were removed from his person, along with his other valuables without delay or protest. Francis was allowed to keep the cup of coffee he had purchased from the store next to the bus stop. The frothy delight which Kathryn loved so much was worth more to him than any of his worldly possessions.
“Excuse me sir!”
The hooded figure slowed, facing away while walking.
“Whatever it is that burdens you so. I sincerely wish you are relieved from it.”
Kathryn wrapped his face in her hands and kissed his cheek and nothing more was said of it.
And so they were wed in a beautiful ceremony, the kind he’d read about, in a Church with all his family, and one of her relatives, who she’d managed to locate the week prior. Miss Kathryn was an orphan he’d discovered after much enquiry. This was her aunt, a lady named Dorothy, who had scraggly brown hair, a limp and darting eyes.
“Swaggy event this one,” was all she said to Young Francis as they made their way past her, flowers abundant in the air. There was something in her hair which he had recognised. A peculiar feeling of familiarity overcame him. He acknowledged her with a most gracious smile, for nothing could take his smile from him on that most special of days. The sweet and most tender Kathryn wore his grandmother’s ring, an emerald of the most tremendous cut and clarity, and the rose petals on which he trod may have been made from the light of the sun itself so full of life and cheer was our young Francis.
They moved in together in a small terrace in North London and things were perfect. Francis awoke next to the most beautiful woman he’d ever set eyes on, and not just for one morning, but for every morning since they’d been married, and for every morning after that he hoped, until the sun came down & took them all to heaven. Her wish was his command and her face was his home.
And so they visited Francis’ parents on some weekends, and travelled on the others, and Francis couldn’t help but fall deeper and deeper into his affections. He noticed none of his money slip between accounts. He noticed none of the China moving from one cabinet to another and eventually into the ether.
It was only when he returned from an exam that everything grew cold. The house was empty. The furniture was gone. His money too. Kathryn was gone as well. Francis’ father flew into a blind rage at the reckless abandon of the boy. His mother wept for his soul. She took him into her arms but he was limp. His hair was a mess and his body was hot and sweated all over.
Young Francis took the usual bus route and stood next to the stop. The blistering cold felt like nothing but a light summer breeze compared to the intensity of the fire that burned within his chest. How the flames of love can be turned so easily into a wildfire that swamps the senses when betrayal is fuel. And so he waited in the cold, chin up and eyes alert. He saw a familiar shape and made towards it. Mr Scar had noticed Francis walking towards him, nay not walking, young Francis was striding with the breadth and confidence of a crusader with divine immunity, and so Mr Scar’s face was scrunched up with shock.
Young Francis stood before him, his chest out.
“Sir, I ask you with the goodness of your heart to help, for I know not what to do or where to turn.”
“There’s no goodness left mate.”
Young Francis took the man and held him.
“I have seen it in your heart and your eyes. You are not for here. You are not bound by the actions of your past, or the offerings of your environment. I will see to it that you will never have to steal again if you can retrieve this one thing for me. I do not wish to prevail upon the authorities, for that would rob my Kathryn of her dignity.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you.”
For once, young Francis felt that someone was speaking of his character, and not of his appearance. Francis described the ring, and Kathryn. He could not help but swell with tears when describing her long brown hair, her hazel eyes, her soft white skin. With those tears streaming down his face, he kept his head and face against the breeze, and gave Mr Scar of a tidy sum for helping. Mr Scar said he understood what needed to be done, and already knew the person in question and took the money too.
It was only after Mr Scar scurried away with some considerable haste that young Francis had realised he had not been provided a way to communicate with Mr Scar as to the completion of the task. It was with a sickening heaviness that he sat at the bus stop, cold and alone. He was cold all over, inside and out.
Weeks passed. He could not visit his friends in the library, for he’d given up on reading. Reading stokes hope, and young Francis didn’t need hope.
“The Heart is a silly thing, and I am the silliest thing of all,” Francis wrote to himself. He had sold the terrace for it contained nothing but anguish and agony and so he sat instead in the garden of his father’s house.
“Be gone Vagrant, lest I fetch the dogs!”
Francis’ father boomed from the drawing room. From the side of the garden Francis made out the figure, and charged after him.
This was not his name, and it reduce his father’s anxiety little, but Francis did not know what else to call him, and titles don’t matter at all at a time like this.
“Please stop and come hither!”
Mr Scar handed him a small plastic bag, the kind one keeps fine white powder in. It sparkled green. Francis could only smile from ear to ear, and he almost squeezed the lungs out of Mr Scar, who professed his discomfort, but did nothing to pull away.
“Where’s that stupid thing you wear around your neck? And your shoes, those aren’t shiny at all. I can see myself in them.”
Francis looked away.
“When I see you next you better be dressed proper.”
Francis couldn’t speak.
“And let me tell you something kid. I’ve been around a while. You can do better than her. And her mother ain’t much better either. Don’t give up. It gets better.”
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Alex welcome to Reedsy! And thank you for this well told fairy tale. What a saga you have created with such memorable characters. You thrust us into one world and at the end we end up in another. Really liked the ending with a moral.
Thank you Wally that's so kind of you.