* Sanguinity *

A Novel After the Georgian Style

By Jocelynn Peters

The thump of Edwin Ironwood's body as it hit the forest floor that afternoon was one which would forever haunt the mind of his killer. The bullet was, of course, never found. It had run a course as the crow flies; directly through the back of his balding head, erupting through his left eye, and left a path directly through. For a moment which, at the time, seemed to last as long as a day, the most unfortunate young man who had dispensed the ill-fated bullet could see clear through Mr. Ironwood's head. Almost as quickly, the gap was filled by a rush of blood and brains, which spurted and sprayed all across the young man in question.

His jacket was as red as that blood, and so it seemed to sink into the fabric and become as one with it. Indeed, though he often scrubbed and washed the uniform himself, he always somehow felt as though he had missed a spot of that blood. When he was discovered with the body a number of minutes later, he was entirely covered, even the face; indeed, he looked quite barbaric. The other gentlemen had quite a time trying to pry him off of the corpse, for he was attempting, relentlessly yet ineffectually, to staunch the flow from Mr. Ironwood's eye with his pocket-handkerchief.

It may be of note that the bear involved was never found. It is entirely likely that the bullet in question had managed to hit it's intended target after all, however, considering the relative amount of time that the rest of the party had spent searching for it had not yielded even so much as a smear of blood, it is highly doubtful. I suppose it may still roam the countryside, in its bumbling, solitary way, forever seeking the traveling show from which it had escaped.

A number of the gentlemen present are of importance in the telling of this tale, and so it will do to mention one other, a stout and equally stout-hearted fellow of not less than five-and-fourty, who took upon himself the practicalities of the other gentleman's most untimely death. He settled a number of the said gentleman's debts, incurred by gambling, and also wrote a most amiable and well-phrased letter of condolences to the deceased Mr. Ironwood's three children. It was addressed to the eldest, a Miss Charlotte, and ran thus:

To Dear Miss Charlotte,

First, allow me to offer my most sincere condolences for your recent and unfortunate loss. I would rather it had been any other man to speak to you thus - and, as I deeply regret the sorrow with which this must burden you and your sisters, I will be as direct as I can, so as not to prolong your suspense of these dreadful tidings. It is my most unfortunate duty to inform you of your father, Mr. Edwin Ironwood's untimely passing just this Thursday, during a hunting expedition at which I was regrettably present. I again must offer my most sincere condolences for your loss, and view you, as well as Miss Felicity & Miss Roseanne with the utmost compassion and sympathy. Your father, Mr. Ironwood, was as agreeable and amiable a man as I ever cared to meet, and I as well as the entirety of his acquaintances here at Fenessey Court, and elsewhere, I am sure, feel the harsh sting of his sudden loss.

As you well know, being disposed to action as I invariably am, I should have ridden to Whitecross directly to inform you in person. Unfortunately, it is my duty as well to deliver the tidings to your uncle, the good Mr. John Ironwod, to his home in London. Directly as I arrive, I shall inform him of your current situation. I am sure I must hardly remind you of a most unfortunate fact which has, in the years since the passing of your mother, weighed upon your mind. The entailment of the Whitecross estate, and all of the attached property, to one Mr. Horace Crimp from Sussex, was fully solidified considering the failure of your most estimable parents to produce an heir not of the fair sex.

I must apologize for this rushed correspondence; at a later juncture, perhaps after the conclusion of my visit with your uncle in London, I shall post you the details of your father's unfortunate passing, which you must, for all the delicacy evident in your sex, be burning to know. I am confident, however, in the good-will of your uncle (I am previously acquainted with him, and my impression was favourable, though the meeting was but brief), and I am perfectly confident in that gentleman's ability to see to your affairs, including the particulars of the entailment.

Master James, in particular, as well as Master Daniel and my good wife, the Mistress Anne, all offer their condolences and sympathy in addition to mine.

With Deepest Sympathy, and Regret & c. &c.,

Mr. Oliver Irving

Not known for a taciturn nature by any means, Mr. Irving was quite proud of this letter, feeling that the language was turned eloquently and just-so, as to impart the very gentlemanly, understanding sympathy that he felt was warranted by the situation. It was with a surprisingly light step, and a distinctly optimistic expression, that he posted this most unfortunate letter, and ordered a hansom to bear him to London.