Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight

I stumbled across this poem in my usual circuitous manner, looking up something completely unrelated, but as it’s a tale of love I thought it appropriate for the day. You can read more about the author, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, here and here.

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Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight
By Rose Hartwick Thorpe

Slowly England’s sun was setting o’er the hilltops far away,
Filling all the land with beauty at the close of one sad day;
And its last rays kissed the forehead of a man and maiden fair —
He with steps so slow and weary; she with sunny, floating hair;
He with bowed head, sad and thoughtful, she, with lips all cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur, “Curfew must not ring tonight!”

“Sexton,” Bessie’s white lips faltered, pointing to the prison old,
With its walls tall and gloomy, moss-grown walls dark, damp and cold —
“I’ve a lover in the prison, doomed this very night to die
At the ringing of the curfew, and no earthly help is nigh.
Cromwell will not come till sunset;” and her lips grew strangely white,
As she spoke in husky whispers, “Curfew must not ring tonight!”

“Bessie,” calmly spoke the sexton (every word pierced her young heart
Like a gleaming death-winged arrow, like a deadly poisoned dart),
“Long, long years I’ve rung the curfew from that gloomy, shadowed tower;
Every evening, just at sunset, it has tolled the twilight hour.
I have done my duty ever, tried to do it just and right:
Now I’m old, I will not miss it. Curfew bell must ring tonight!”

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
“At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.”
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. “Curfew must not ring tonight!”

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he’d trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, on which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, “Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

She has reached the topmost ladder, o’er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; ’tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: “Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

Out she swung — far out. The city seemed a speck of light below —
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, as the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil’s funeral knell.
Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart’s wild throbbing: “Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

It was o’er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

O’er the distant hills comes Cromwell. Bessie sees him; and her brow,
Lately white with sickening horror, has no anxious traces now.
At his feet she tells her story, shows her hands, all bruised and torn;
And her sweet young face, still haggard, with the anguish it had worn,
Touched his heart with sudden pity, lit his eyes with misty light.
“Go! your lover lives,” said Cromwell. “Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

Wide they flung the massive portals, led the prisoner forth to die,
All his bright young life before him. Neath the darkening English sky,
Bessie came, with flying footsteps, eyes aglow with lovelight sweet;
Kneeling on the turf beside him, laid his pardon at his feet.
In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, “Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring tonight.”

Flotsam

So… Long time, no see! Between bad weather (being snowed in with no power for 2 days in January) and just general life stuff, the blog has once again taken a back seat to… well, everything.

In an effort to rectify that (at least to a small extent) I thought I’d post a snippet of something I’ve been working on. It’s a contemporary romance (I know, I  know, unexpected from me) that I kind of like, but am undecided about pressing on with.

And just in case that’s not your thing, here are a couple pics I took on my cellphone on the way home last night of the moon rising over some flooded areas. I haven’t been carrying the Nikon for a while since it’s been so dark and/or rainy when I’m on the road.

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2-9-17-moon-thru-trees

If romance is not your thing, feel free to bail at this point.

Everyone else, on to the story! Working title, “A World Away”.

 

The bed shuddered and Pam felt warm breath on her face.

“Pascal, I told you to stay off the bed.” She rolled over and opened her eyes. The little Boston terrier sat looking back at her. With a groan she pulled the blankets over her head. Pascal, however, was not to be deterred. Weekend or not, it was breakfast time. He pawed the blanket, whimpering and snuffling.

“Ok, ok, I’m up.” She threw off the blanket and rolled out of bed, feet hitting the floor. Grabbing her robe from the foot of the bed, she headed for the kitchen with Pascal trotting behind her.  As she filled the dog’s food dish, she noticed the time. It was nearly nine o’clock already.

“Damn.”

Trudy would be by to pick her up at ten o’clock for the photo shoot. She swore under her breath again for allowing herself to be talked into modeling for Trudy’s boyfriend, Ron. If she hadn’t been out of work so long she would have told him to take a hike. She showered and dressed, and got Pascal out for a quick walk with just enough time to lock the door before Trudy’s car pulled up in front of the condo. The car had barely pulled to a stop before Pam slid into the passenger seat, gratefully received the cup of coffee placed in her hand, and Trudy steered the car back into traffic.

“Ron’s already at the studio so I’m going to drop you off, then I have to run downtown to pick up some equipment he ordered.”

Pam took a sip of coffee and burned her lip. “What? I thought you were going to be there for the shoot?”

“I shouldn’t be long but you’ll be fine, don’t worry. Ron knows you’re not a professional model, and he knows you’re nervous about this.”

“You’d think telling him ‘no’ about a thousand times would get the point across.”

Trudy gave her a sidelong glance. “You’re lucky to be so pretty. You could have had a career in modeling.”

“And give up the weekly grind of life in a cube farm?” she snorted. “Besides, too late now. Can’t start modeling at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. Seriously, I can’t imagine anything I’d hate more.”

“Why? What is so terrible?”

“Come on, you know me better than that. When have I ever cared about fashion or makeup?”

“Then think of your friends who want a ticket to the glamorous life, compliments of you.”

“You’ve got Ron. Photography’s not glam enough for you?”

Trudy made a face. “We’ll see about me and Ron.”

“Oh no, are you two having problems already?”

“We’ll talk about it later. Go, be fabulous, and let me live vicariously through you.”
Trudy pulled to a stop in front of the photography studio. With a frown and a sigh Pam exited the car. As Trudy sped off, Pam stood on the sidewalk with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach at having to be alone with Ron.

“Trudy, you are so going to owe me for this,” she muttered.

On the elevator ride to the fifth floor studio, the butterflies in her stomach nearly managed to float her up on their own. She couldn’t pinpoint any one thing Ron had done to make her dislike him so, it was more of a combination of things: his gaze lingered a little too long on her, his handshake lasted a second too long, he always managed to seat himself next to her at dinner parties. He’d told Trudy he was forty-two, but Pam was sure he was closer to the wrong side of fifty. She couldn’t help it, the guy gave her the creeps. Why Trudy was seeing him was a complete mystery to her.

She entered the studio, but saw no sign of Ron. For a second she wondered if she had the wrong day, but then Trudy would have been wrong as well.

“There you are at last.” Ron came out from behind the backdrop, walked straight up to her and greeted her with a hug, and attempted to kiss her. She managed to turn her head in time and his lips landed on her ear.

“Hi Ron,” she said, pulling back out of his embrace.

“So I’ve had a new thought,” he said. “I’d like to do some boudoir shots, if you’re up for it.”

“I thought we were doing a sporty theme?”

“I don’t think that’ll give me enough range of lighting to play with. I really need some shots in my portfolio that will show more nuance. You don’t mind, do you?”

How cleverly he’d managed to phrase it. A refusal on her part would sound selfish, prudish, or force her to admit her distrust of him. And why shouldn’t she? He was pulling a fast one without Trudy there to be a witness so it’d be her word against his. She hated him more with every passing second. There had to be a way to stall until Trudy arrived.

“Well, I only brought sports gear and clothes.”

“That’s all right, I’ve got some outfits I borrowed from a friend, should be your size.” He walked to the back of the studio behind the backdrop and returned a minute later with a box.

“We could do both,” Pam said. “Start with the action shots, and then do the other later?” If she could drag it out until Trudy got there, she could let Trudy put him in his place. She glanced at the open box he was holding out to her. It was stuffed with silky lingerie. She frowned, wondering which “friend” he’d borrowed these things from.

“I really think we should wait to do that until Trudy gets here.” That was it, she drew the line in the sand. Let him try to get around that.

He laughed, but his eyes got a hard glint in them. “Don’t you trust me, Pam?”

“Frankly, no, I don’t. This isn’t what I agreed to. I think we should forget the whole thing.” She started for the door, but he grabbed her arm.

“Hang on,” he said, his voice taking on a cajoling tone. “Nothing’s going to happen you don’t want to happen.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

He kept the sleazy smile in place. “We’re all adults here.”

She yanked her arm away. “Keep your hands off me. We’re done, I’m out of here.”

“How am I going to explain this to Trudy?”

“That’s your problem.” She walked out and slammed the door behind her.
As she pushed the button for the elevator, the doors slid open to reveal Trudy. Startled, Trudy stepped out of the elevator, her arms full of boxes.

“You guys aren’t done already, are you?” she asked.

“Oh, we’re done all right.”

Just then Ron threw open the door of the studio and bellowed, “You need to grow up, little girl. You’re going to end up a frigid spinster.”

When he saw Trudy and the shocked look on her face, his mouth clapped shut but he appeared to realize the damage was done. His mouth opened again and Pam expected him to start trying to blame her in some way, but instead he closed his mouth without saying anything, turned and went back inside.

Pam had never seen anyone as shocked as Trudy. Trudy set the boxes she was carrying down on the floor, stood up, and without looking at Pam she walked into the studio, leaving Pam standing in the hall.

Shaking with anger, she didn’t know whether to wait for Trudy or go on home and leave her to deal with Ron. Standing around outside the door didn’t seem like the right thing, and the more distance between her and Ron the better. Once outside she paced up and down the sidewalk for a few minutes then started to think maybe she should go back in to check on Trudy.

Just then Trudy emerged from the building. When Pam saw her face, her heart sank. Trudy’s eyes were red, and her makeup was smeared from crying.

“Well, you were right about him,” Trudy said, trying to stand up straighter.

“Oh honey, I didn’t want to be right,” she said, and gave her friend a hug.

Trudy sniffled a little, then pulled back. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Are you ok to drive?”

“I’m not sure, maybe you should. Let’s just go back to your place for a bit.”

Once back in Pam’s tiny apartment, Trudy headed for the bathroom to wash her face. As Pam opened the cupboard to get tea, she stopped and stared for a moment at the nearly bare shelves. She wanted to pound her fist on the counter. Why did Ron have to turn out to be such a sleazeball? She’d needed the money from this job modeling, but she didn’t need it bad enough to allow that creep to talk her into whatever he’d had mind. The only problem was, what to do now?

Trudy walked into the little galley kitchen and found Pam staring into the nearly-empty cupboard.

“Is there a snake in there?” she said.

“I think we know where the snake is. Just contemplating my empty cupboard, and empty future.” She looked at Trudy with a rueful smile.

“So, what now?”

Pam let out a huge sigh. “I honestly don’t know. This town seems to be telling me to move on, so maybe I will.”

“Just like that?”

“Hardly ‘just like that’. It’s been almost a year and I’m almost out of money. I think it’s time I admit defeat here, fall back, and regroup.”

Trudy started bustling around, filling the tea kettle with water and setting it on the stove to heat, fetched mugs from the cabinet, and rinsed the teapot.

“Go sit down, I’ll get this,” she said, pushing Pam out of the kitchen. “I need to keep busy right now.”

Pam stooped and picked up Pascal who’d been following her every step. “Well my little friend,” she said, “you ready to get on the road again?”

In answer, Pascal turned his head and licked her cheek.

A few minutes later, Trudy joined her with the tea, poured a cup and handed it to Pam. “If you leave, where would you go?”

“My aunt up in Washington is always telling me to come up for a visit. Maybe I’ll go stay with her for a while until I can figure out what to do.”

“Washington? All those hairy lumberjacks…” Trudy said with a shudder.

Pam laughed. “It’s not the 1890s, for crying out loud.”

“But doesn’t it rain a lot up there?”

“I think that’s what they say to keep the Californians out.”

“Well it’s working with this Californian. What the hell would you do up there? Learn to whittle?”

Pam laughed again. “Oh my gosh, what would I do without you? I don’t know, I’m just thinking about it. But I can’t stay here.”

“Well,” said Trudy, “if you do go up to the frozen North, try not to grow a beard. Everyone has beards up there.”

“Geez, it’s just near Seattle. I’m not talking about the Yukon.” She rubbed her chin. “Nope, no stubble yet.”

“Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

 

 

Side Projects

Some stories take longer to gel in my head than others. The cast and crew of Revenants Abroad was nearly effortless. Andrej in particular, who was of course the genesis of the story, appeared in my head fully-formed, ready for action. Anne-Marie took longer for me to get to know. Neko … what can I say. He’s the bad boy with a heart of gold. Another one who showed up ready for battle.

I’ve been toying with a contemporary romance, which I started for a certain reason that I don’t actually remember. It was to have been a satire of bubble-headed, self-absorbed popular girls, but I don’t recall what particularly pissed me off at the time I got the idea for it, so I’ve lost that momentum. Then today I found a use for someone from my past. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for the last few years may remember a person at my previous job whom I referred to as The Princess. I think I’m about to exact my revenge on her. She’s just the foil I need in this new story.

Anyway, you know what they say:

Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.