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12/04/2019 / Harry Browne

Edgar comes home (1911) by Declan Cossan

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Felix’s heart pounded like drums when he heard the noise of the taxi stopping at the house. It had been several weeks since his father had gone to China to perform journalism there. Full of the youthful energy that characterised a young boy, Felix sprung from the couch in the sitting room as he rushed towards the door. This was much to the chagrin of his mother, Alice who desperately tried to follow her son saying after him
“Felix, stop you’ll break something!”
“But Mum! Dad is coming home! Aren’t you happy?”
“All the more reason not to mess up the house, he has a fetish for his oriental pottery!”
The taxi had come to a halt as Felix opened the door. Seeing Felix, a smile developed on Edgar’s face as he came towards Felix. Edgar himself was a youthful looking man with a beardless look that made him not so different from when he graduated from Oxford.
Edgar knelt down and lifted Felix into his arms. Their blue eyes locked with each other as Felix said
“Dad?”
“Hello, Felix! I am so glad to see still healthy and alive! You’ve grown since I last saw you!”
“Is it true, you were at the court of the Emperor! The Emperor of China himself had an audience with you!”
“It is true, I was at the forbidden city.”
“Was he scary? How tall was he?”
“Not scary at all. He was a little chap, much like you actually. And they called him the son of Heaven.”
Edgar lifted Felix down onto the ground as they walked back up to the door of the manor. Meanwhile, the chauffeur of the taxi lifted the luggage and passed it to a footman. The footman carried the luggage into the house. Felix paid the chauffeur who then tapped his goggled cap before driving off. Felix began to breathe in the fresh air of the English countryside. He clearly enjoyed the fresh cool air of England.

Walking up, Edgar looked up to see Alice sadly observing the two. Edgar and Felix were always so happy together. On one hand, she felt so proud of seeing them together but on the other hand, she felt sad. She was just as youthful as they were and she shared their blue eyes but yet she didn’t appear to have the same energy as them. Edgar, looking up at Alice approached her. She asked him
“How did it go, Edgar?”
“China was a most lovely country. Until the rebellion began. The foreign influence is ravishing China and it makes me feel very bad about drinking tea.”
“And I suppose there were women? I hear their officials normally have many concubines?”
“Eh yes, but I didn’t pay them much attention, for none were as beautiful as my English rose!”
Edgar leaned over to give Alice a kiss but seeing her saddened face troubled him and he asked
“Alice, what is the matter with you, you look so glum. What has happened to you?”
“Halloween is coming, Edgar, and that means my parents are coming over for dinner.”
“But Alice, that is fantastic! We have had a healthy life together and I’m sure they will be most proud of you!”
“But Edgar, my father is coming! And I remember him saying such horrible things to you! Horrible things and warnings about me! That I was erotic, that I was prone to hysteria! Oh God, how could you speak to such a man”
Edgar felt concerned but he then said
“Alice, your father was drunk during that time, that was before you married me. Those insults were the wine talking, he wasn’t speaking from his heart. I’m sure he loves you and maybe dinner is a perfect time for you and your father to come to a full understanding of each other.”
Alice threw her arms around Edgar saying
“Oh, Edgar! You are so optimistic! And Felix has inherited much of it! That is exactly why I love you!”
Edgar smiled as they went into the house. Felix followed them as Edgar said to him while patting him on the head.
“Come on, Felix, we’ll have great stories to share. China was a most exciting experience!”
Alice draped her arm around Felix’s shoulder as they went into the house.

That evening, the sky had gotten darker and the moon was on the rise. Alice looked at the mirror, now she was wearing a gleaming dress and she had a necklace of glittering jewellery around her neck. Edgar came into the room and slowly sat down on the bed. He said to Alice
“Alice?”
Turning around, Alice looked around to see Edgar now in a very smart suit. He then said
“Alice, I know you have had issues with your father in the past but that was when you were younger.”
“You don’t what it was like to grow up with him, do you, Edgar? You only met him when we were to be married.”
“No, I don’t! You found being kept in the house like imprisonment. Though I understand your frustration with being sheltered from a world so full of excitement, I believe that you dodged a bullet when it came to growing up.”
“In what way?”
“I barely knew my parents, Alice. At least not in the way Felix knows us. I was sent off to boarding school. I was made to be perfect, completely perfect. Any imperfection and I was beaten. We were seen as scoundrels and barbarians who needed to be kept in line through harsh and brutal punishments. However, if there is one thing I know about parents, Alice. Is that no matter how brutal and ugly they may be, a parent will always, I mean always, love their child.”
Alice then asked
“Edgar? Do we have to send Felix to such a place? He is so fun and full of life. The last thing we need is someone to snap that out of him.”
“I could arrange against it. I will try to…”
Edgar’s sentence was cut short by the entrance of a footman who said to Edgar
“Mr Kingsley, Mr and Mrs Arkwright have arrived they are at the doorway!”
“Thank you, Fíonn, Alice and I will be coming down!”

Edgar and Alice could already hear the doorbell ringing as they came down the stairs. Edgar opened the door and in came to Alice’s mother first. She was elderly but she had a very regal beauty to her. Seeing Edgar, she said to him
“Oh, Edgar, how beautiful it is to see you again!! You’ve been in China for months yet you still have the conduct of a gentleman.”
“Yes, well, the Orient isn’t as erotic as it is made out to be. Mrs Arkwright!”
Meanwhile, Felix came into the room and he was glad to his grandmother. She approached Alice and said to her
“Hello, Alice! I am so glad to see you again, your very presence makes me proud of you!”
Alice let out a warm smile as she embraced her mother. Her mother then said
“Tell me, Alice, how has your life been?”
“It has been lovely, Mother.”
Looking at Felix, Mrs Arkwright, noticing how much her grandson was starting to grow said
“Felix, you’ve been getting bigger, haven’t you?”
“I’m growing grandma! Dad has got loads of interesting stories!”
However just as Edgar turned around, a voice boomed saying
“Back from the Orient!! Mr Kingsley?”
Alice went pale as she heard this voice. It was that of her father as he came in. He clasped his cane in his gloved hand. It made a booming noise as he stomped it off the floor. Edgar, feeling embarrassed said to him
“Mr Arkwright! Eh, so good to see you.”
“Indeed, our dashing son in law hopping around the world like a bunny rabbit! It is a testimony to your intellect that you can maintain your manners at such a high standard! You make us proud, boy!”
“Thank you, Mr Arkwright, you should be proud of your daughter. She is the most lovely person to be around!”

James Arkwright then approached Alice who looked nervously. Mrs Arkwright said to James
“James, please, can we not have this on Halloween night?”
“Sarah. I see that Alice has matured greatly since she married Edgar. Their child is a healthy one indeed. Such a pity I could never have a boy like that indeed!”
Alice then said
“What? But Father, I am your child.”
“Yes, you are my child and I am most proud of you. What a pity you could never inherit my estate. The name of Arkwright will not carry on and will simply be succeeded by the line of Kingsley.”
Both Sarah and Edgar were shocked and disgusted by this. Felix was confused and Alice felt a sharp sting in her heart at this remark. Fortunately, she was disciplined enough to compose herself. Seeing where this was going, Sarah then said
“Okay, I suggest we should make our way to the dinner table. Edgar’s stories of the Orient will be a far healthier discussion!”

As they went to the dinner party, Edgar then stopped James saying
“Mr Arkwright, you really cannot mean what you just said, can you? How could you talk like that to your daughter?”
“She is not the child I wanted, Edgar. You were.”
“But that’s horrible! I would have her over all of China if I was given the offer. Your very presence has made her miserable! She has produced a healthy son, I almost lost her from his birth, could you at least acknowledge her for that.”
“He is your child, Edgar, not mine.”
Edgar frowned with hostility and contempt for the man in front of him. However, he moved on. As it was time for dinner, he did not waste any time to get to the table.

Despite the presence of James Arkwright, the atmosphere of the dinner table was nice and pleasant. The candles flickered, illuminating the scene. Sarah then asked
“Edgar, could you tell us about China? Tell us about their emperor! What is he like?”
“Eh, he’s little more than a boy. His name is Puyi, but his nobles are too afraid to call him anything but holy highness or son of heaven! I didn’t!”
“Oh? Eh, isn’t referring to him by his name a sacrilege?”
“I believe it was, but I think he grew to like me for it. He was quite interested in Felix. There were no other children in the Palace!”
James then asked
“Come on, Edgar tell us a more interesting story! It is Halloween!!”
Edgar was good at making up stories. It felt suitable. After all, to tell what really happened about the Xinghai revolution would be unsuitable for his son. As a result, he then said
“Okay, would anyone like to hear my story about my encounter with a Jiang Shi?”
“A what?”
“A Jiang Shi, it was late at night when suddenly this malevolent figure came bouncing towards me…”
Felix felt excited and Edgar’s voice grew more hyper as he continued saying
“It was a re-animated corpse, like a vampire. It was resurrected by the malevolent Jong Fen who was jealous about my influence with the Emperor. So there was this thing bouncing towards me so I fled. I shot it, I threw knives at it and I even threw a lamp at it but none of these tactics would work! Fortunately, there was a yellow sticker I found with a charm on it and I was able to press that against the forehead of the Jiang Shi, killing it! And that was the story of my encounter of the Jiang Shi!”
Everybody else laughed but Alice was looking at Edgar oddly. She asked him
“Edgar, what really happened in China?”
“Alice, please, that would be most unsuitable to tell in front of a young body!”
James then said
“Indeed!! A young woman like Alice is too delicate for such a tale. She is as soft as a little feather!!”
James laughed, but Alice sighed as she stood up.

Concerned, Edgar stood up and said
“Alice, please don’t go, we all love you!”
“Edgar, I’m sorry, I really need to get some rest.”
Alice left the room and headed for her and Edgar’s bedroom. Furious, James then said
“And where are you going, young lady??? Get back here at once!!!”
However, Edgar then snapped at James saying
“Enough of this!!”
“Her conduct at this table was intolerable!!”
“Your conduct towards her is intolerable!! This is my household and she is my wife! Anything that belongs to me must be treated with the highest respect! I command it!”
“I am her father and I have total control over her life! Your marriage was simply done to secure our fortune.”
“Insolence! When you handed Alice to me, you gave up your power and your responsibility to me. I received a dowry and authority on the terms that I would love and protect her from harm. She has done her part in bearing me my son, I intend to do mine!”
Edgar then left the room. Felix followed, he was very confused over what was going on. Furious James then said
“You ruffian, I will not be talked to like this! I will not be spoken down to do!”
However as James stood up, Sarah then said
“Enough! Mr Arkwright! We must go home!”
“But for what exactly?”
“We need a serious conversation about this matter. This contempt for our beloved daughter is embarrassing.”

Alice settled down on the bed. Her hair now tumbled down loosely, reaching to her waist. She pondered and looked up at the ceiling. Edgar slowly entered the room. Seeing her laying down on the bed, he sat down on the armchair beside the bed. He asked Alice
“Alice?”
Sitting up, Alice asked Edgar
“Edgar? Aren’t journalists supposed to tell the truth? You went to China to report on a war not to tell wacky tales about undead corpses.”
“Alice, please, it’s Halloween, they wanted a scary tale. Not everyone wants the truth.”
“Edgar! A journalist isn’t supposed to give people what they want, he’s supposed to give people what they need to know. Without the truth, your journal is little more than a gang of charlatans. I want the truth, I want to hear what really happened in China.”
Edgar sighed as he said
“Alright, I will tell you what I really saw. I saw a war, a war between a dying empire and a new republic. The revolution was modern and wore the uniforms of our modern western world. The revolutionaries were superior in their tactics and capacity for war and they battered the ancient dynasty. I saw cities and temples sacked and destroyed, I saw ordinary people get murdered. But more importantly…I saw the emperor get lied to. He was little more than a boy but the generals of the Qin addressed him like a god and they spoke of glorious victories!”
“But those were lies. Most of the reports I heard of this rising was that the Qin was being beaten. Is that true?”
“Yes, that is what I reported. That is what you saw on the paper. The emperor got frustrated and demanded me to tell them what I knew. I told him the harsh reality. I was seeing one of the most ancient monarchies crumble before my own eyes. To his people, the Emperor was the Son of Heaven, but to me he seemed to be a homesick boy.”
Alice felt saddened by what she heard. China, one of the most ancient civilisations in the world appeared to be collapsing. It made her think, Rome fell, the Arabs fell, now China had fallen. What if only a few years later, it would be Britain who was next to fall. Edgar came over and laid down on the bed beside her. It was then that Felix burst into the room saying
“Mum, Dad, grandma and grandpa have gone.”
“Felix, come here, come on.”
Felix got onto the bed with his parents. He lay down between them. He then asked
“Mum? Why was grandpa being so mean?”
“I don’t know, Felix, he hates me for reasons I cannot control.”
“But Mum, are you alright?”
“Of course I am, Felix.”
Alice smiled as she closed her eyes, she was secure in Edgar’s firm arms. Felix was safe and warm as he slept between his parents, their arms held him safe.

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