Chapter Three - Erasmus

The room was dark, the only light coming from the candles in an elaborate, seven-branched candelabrum. The light showed the figure in the chair at the head of the long, table, the rich mahogany sheen of its polished surface the product of the hard work of the fine, Christian servants who were kept in poverty by its owner, and the blood of slaves shed uncaringly to bring the God-created timber from the far reaches of the Americas.

"Respect" the deep voice growled "where is your respect? I feed you, I give you all the advantages my wealth can provide. And how do you pay me back?"

"But I want to continue my studies" The voice was young, naïve. It came from the boyish figure at the foot of the table, standing facing the old man in the chair "I want to become a priest."

A chuckle, rising to a bellowing laugh came from the old man, his fat jowls quivering.

"You want to become a priest, do you?"


"And what do you make of that, Lyell?"

A tall, severe figure stepped forward from the shadows.

"Why not?" The voice carried a Scottish lilt, but not the honest burr of the Godfearing, Churchgoing Presbyterian, but that of the corrupt aristocracy of Edinburgh, and the seat of their perverted learning. "We can attack from inside the Church as easily as from without."

"But why should I do that? It's all lies! It's all something Smith invented"

"How dare you" the voice of the old man thundered "you may not repeat that secret, even here. You may not even think of it. You must treat the evidence as real, no matter what you know to be true. We have a mission, a family mission. You have a role to play, and you will play it whether you like it or not."

The young man crumbled in the face of this onslaught, the weakness of his character unable to withstand such vindictive anger.

"I will do as you say, grandfather."

The old man considered for a while, watching the weak, twisted figure, the mind already damaged by the wild lifestyle he was leading.

"I will reward you for this" he said after a while "you may marry your ...cousin"

"My cousin?" the young man lifted his head, sexual depravity gleaming in his small, weak eyes. "Which one?"

"Does it matter?" asked the old man. He pondered for a while. "I suppose that for the sake of public appearances it had better be one of your female cousins. We'll find someone suitable."

He considered the matter for a while.

"I know, " he said at last "Emma Wedgwood. I hear she subscribes to the Christian faith"

He laughed again, a loud roaring laugh. Lyell joined in.

"Perhaps, " he laughed "she can teach you some of that I hear that Faith is a Lady. No doubt she hopes that she will be able to convert you on your deathbed."

He laughed again, and this time the young man joined in.

"Now, Charles" he continued when the laughter had died down. "I have arranged for you to go on a trip. On a boat."

"But, what about my studies?" Charles cried.

"You will do as I say" his grandfather thundered" I have laid the groundwork. It is your role in this now to continue. A few years away will give you time to think, and to invent a convincing story. Leave us now."

The pathetic, shrunken figure slunk away.

"Well, Lyell? What do you think?"

"He'll do, Erasmus. He'll do."

First posted 17th March 2007
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