Cup of Tea
“Now,” she began, raising the tea to her mouth, “my servants inform me that there is some matter concerning my will?”
The old woman drew staccato sips, narrowing her gaze. Though barely perceptible through her squint, her eyes still conveyed an undisguised contempt and impatience for the young dandy seated across from her. Despite his impeccably manicured appearance and gentle assurances, she did not trust him. In fact, she began to despise him.
“It’s nothing, really; a formality,” he said airily. He sipped briskly, then set the cup down with no further intention of drinking. The young man smiled casually, taking purposeful delight in his insolence, lording it over her. “Your solicitor sends his apologies for having me come in his stead. Trust me when I say that Mr. Bartley would not have denied your request had it not been a matter of the utmost importance. He could not chance it with any of his partners.”
“So instead he deems to convey his respect by sending some young shaver barely old enough to pass the bar?” she spat, making no attempt to hide her disdain. She took another short sip, still glaring. The young man laughed, brushing the insult aside.
“Trust me, my lady; the task set for me by Mr. Bartley requires only a signature or two, and an officiant.” The old woman took quiet note of the number of times the young man entreated her to ‘trust me’.
“Well then, let us be done with it. The sooner we are finished with this affair, the sooner I may be free of your presence.” She resettled herself, and went for the pen resting on the table, but at the same moment the man’s hand shot out and pressed on top of hers.
“My lady,” he smiled with hidden menace, “before you sign, I must go over a few…things which you amended to your original will…”
Suddenly, the young man’s intention became clear.
“My son sent you, didn’t he?”
“My lady,” he repeated his insincere plea, “why would you suggest such a thing?” His smile faded into a threatening grin.
“Don’t insult my intelligence, you mongrel,” she cursed, “you can go run back to that worthless child of mine and inform him that I am as resolved today as I was the day he made the first attempt on my life. He wrote himself out of his inheritance.”
“Temper, my lady! A woman of your age–and condition–” he added with emphasis, “should think better of using such language. It is most unbecoming someone of your station.” His hand had tightened to the point that the old woman’s had grown purple. She made no sign of discomfort.
“And someone of your station should find his way out of my home before I send for the constable to place a bullet in your undoubtedly empty head,” she said coolly. Age had done nothing to diminish the force of will that had been her greatest asset in youth, and were it that force of will could be matched with brute strength the young man would have been beaten to a pulp. She sat helpless in place, yet unperturbed.
The man smiled again. Circles of red began to spread on the lace doily as blood trickled out of the old woman’s knuckles. No one moved or spoke for several moments.
“Perhaps it would grieve you to know your original will was never disposed of?” Of all their exchanges, only this was able to take the woman aback.
To be continued…