The dark clouds obstructed the way of moonlight with their woolly composition so much so that one wondered if the moon got upset with them and decided to retire early tonight.
The winds blew to their threshold speed, slowly picking up the pace with whistling sounds and occasional roars.
The sea around the Warthford island was angry. The waves crashed the shores only with an intent to attack. The people of the island were frightened, worried of what wrong they might have done to anger mother nature.
They were safe inside their houses- closed windows and doors- praying and hoping for mother nature to forgive her children.
Lightning struck in the dark sky that made people jolt in fright. Now only God could save them!
To the south of the island were mighty hills. And on one of those hills was a beautiful palace, an excellent marvel of architecture standing tall and proud, taking the violent wind on its chest like a brave warrior.
”My Lord, the time is slippng from our hands. ” A young maid, nearly twenty-four years old, came rushing to the man who was in his late forties.
He sat leaning back in the large chair with a frown decorating his face.
He did not answer the maid, dismissed her with the flick of his wrist. The poor woman, powerless and humble, scrambled out of the chamber. Worry had not left her features even for a moment.
As soon as the maid exited the chamber, he heard the worried yet annoyed voice of his wife.
”Ralph, at least see where they have reached. The time is indeed slipping from our hands. ” Cordelia Longhurst was pacing in the chamber from here to there.
Her heart and mind both ran at a fast pace that she thought if the situation did not change for the better, she would faint right then and there.
On the other hand, her husband- Ralph Longhurst- sat in his favourite chair with a cigarette in his mouth. She was tired of watching him inhaling the smoke in his body only to exhale it in circles or sometimes in random shapes.
It was not like she could not understand his state of mind. She did. She definitely did!
She was his wife, after all, married to him for the last twenty-five years. Twenty-five years… that was a long time enough for one to understand their partner inside out.
Ralphs silence, though bothered her, she knew that it was his defence mechanism. Hence, she could not blame him.
Ralph was looking out of the large window that was twice the height of an average human. The scene was intimidating with the sky, wind, light and the sea roaring and throwing tantrums together.
The only natural energy that was calm yet was mother earth! And he prayed to her to let them reach the palace as soon as possible.
Another heart-wrenching scream shook the sturdy, thick and dark walls of the century-old palace. The handful of people who were allowed to be present there felt the vibrations of the sound of the scream shaking their souls- painfully and perturb.
Cordelias head snapped towards the room from which the scream came. Her heart twisted painfully in her chest. She again looked at her husband, almost pleadingly, but he sat unaffected.
At least, that was what he wanted the world to see. However, his beloved wife saw through him. It was not that hard to read the man who hid behind the face of a dictator of the island.
Only two persons bothered themselves with efforts to understand Ralph, and thus read through him- his wife and his only daughter.
His only daughter, who was wailing in pain, with tears as her constant companions. Her screams filled with anguish permeated the air in the palace with tension.
The apple of their pie was withering in pain like a fish taken out of the water, and yet they could do nothing more than keep waiting helplessly.
Cordelias and maybe Ralphs prayers were answered as they saw through the window, that a carriage was approaching fast. The lantern that hung to the front side beside the coachman swayed like a pendulum.
”They are here! ” Cordelia exclaimed, a new ray of hope brightening her world covered by fear.
Ralph crushed the lit tip of the cigarette and stood up from his chair. His square-shaped face and platinum blonde hair shone under the flickering light of the lamps in the room.
Five minutes later, they heard footsteps hurried towards them and no later, an old woman and a man, older than them, appeared through the door.
They both bowed in respect in front of Ralph and Cordelia. The maid who was constantly peeking through the door for the last one hour stepped out of the other room in relief at seeing the elderly woman.
She came to stand beside the two guests, waiting for the orders from her master.
”Thank you for coming at the short notice and in such aweful weather! The Longhurst family welcomes you. ” Ralph said in courtesy, his voice hard yet genuine.
The woman did not want to waste time in exchanging pleasantries as her eyes kept darting to the room from where the screams were coming.
”Mother… ” Ralph said earnestly.
Although the elderly woman was not his relative, he called her mother. In fact, all the people on the Warthford island called her mother. That was who she was to everyone.
A mother who had helped many new lives to enter this mortal world.
”Please… do something! I do not want to lose her! ” Finally, Ralphs facade of toughness cracked like glass.
His face remained the same, serious. But his hazel eyes begged to the elderly woman. She did not see the Lord of the Warthford island, the richest man on the island in front of her. Instead, she saw a helpless father begging her like the poorest person on the face of the earth.
”I will do my best, My Lord. ” The woman replied. That was all she could do.
She knew that her experience of a lifetime was going to be tested tonight. She did not know what to expect and what could go wrong, or for what she and the family should be prepared for.
So she did not promise him anything directly. She chose her words wisely.
Ralph only nodded in response then ordered the young maid. ”Take her inside and assist her in whatever she needs help with. ”
”Yes My Lord! ” The maid took the elderly woman towards the room.
Before that, the woman paused for a moment and turned to Cordelia, who stood silently with moistened eyes.
”God will have the mercy. The creator will take care of everything, My Lady! ”
The dam Cordelia was building for months, finally broke. She clenched her eyes shut, letting the tears roll down her face.
It was too much! It was too much for her to take! She or anyone had never expected this moment to turn out the way it did.
Only destiny knew what she had planned for each of them.
When she opened her eyes, Ralph had her hand in his. The elderly woman had disappeared behind the shut doors along with the maid.
”Please, have a seat, father. ” Ralph showed the old man a chair.
He offered him some water, but the man shook his head. His wrinkled face and calm eyes were intimidating. His white hair and long beard gave him a saint-like image.
Cordelia wiped her tears and looked hopefully at the man.
”Father, please do something. Our daughter… she is in pain. And- ”
A rumble of thunder rumbled loudly outside, and the wind picked up its pace.
The priest, who was silent till now, opened his mouth to say, ”The time is nearing fast, My Lord. ”
Ralph sensed the warning in the priests voice. ”What timing, father? ”
The priest did not answer right away. He closed his eyes, his face serious and focused. Ralph and Cordelia waited in anticipation but did not dare to urge the man to elaborate his words.
The elderly woman rushed to the bed where a young girl of age twenty one was wailing in pain. Her body and dress were soaked in sweat, her nut-brown hair stuck to her sweaty face. She thrashed her limbs in the air as the pain became unbearable with every passing moment.
”I am here… please do not cry, my child. ”
”Please, mother do something. She is in this state since the evening. ”
”Why did not you inform me sooner then? The elderly woman reprimanded with a glare.
The maid fidgeted nervously, then said in low voice, ”My Lord was not sure about… about letting the child see the world. ”
”Oh God! ” The woman chanted an apology on behalf of Ralph Longhurst. Forfive the foolish man for thinking about such a sin, she prayed.
The girl screamed again when she felt a cramp in her right leg.
”Go get me round vessel full of water and some clothes. ” The elderly woman ordered, and the maid rushed to get those said things.
The woman ran her shaky hand on the girls sweaty forehead. Her face morphed in worry at the state of the woman.
”May God forgive you for your mistakes and not punish the innocent soul in your womb. ” She said softly.
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