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Gideon Rathbone

This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events

portrayed in this novel are products of the author's imagination or are used

fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,

businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The Masters of Willowhurst

Copyright © 2017 Gideon Rathbone

All rights reserved.

Cover Photo ©mimagephotography

Cover Photo ©stryjek

Chapter Five

It took me only fifteen minutes to draw up the papers. There wasn't any hesitation and I didn't have any second thoughts. This was the right thing to do. I knew it was the right thing to do. I had spent so much of my life bribing people and being given what I wanted that I didn't know how to handle rejection. I would give Isaac what he desired. It was the least I could do after all I had done. I knew it would take me a while to get over him, but it would happen at some point.

"You sent for me, Master?" Isaac asked nervously poking his head into my study.

I sat behind my desk, giving him a weak smile. "Yes. There's something I wanted to give you. Come in."

He did so and gently closed the door behind him. "Sir, have I done something wrong?"

"No," I said, handing him the document. "No. I have. I've acted appallingly towards you, Isaac, and you've done nothing but shown me and the missus nothing but respect and loyalty. I'm pretty sure you can decipher what that paper says."

I had known for quite a while that he had been able to read. I saw him once looking through my volume of Aristotle when he was suppose to be dusting the library. Isaac looked at me with fear in his eyes and I promptly put him at ease.

"It's okay. I didn't tell anybody. This isn't a trick. You don't have to lie with me in order to keep that paper."

A smile grew across his face. He was stunned. "Thank you, Master."

"It's Mr. Talbot now," I corrected. I got up from my desk and placed both my hands on his shoulders, looking him right in the eye. I sighed. What I said next was going to be painful. "You should leave today."

"Leave today?" he asked, somewhat hurt.

"Right now, actually." I tried my best to keep the sadness out of my voice. "It's best that you go right now, Isaac. I'm sorry."

He looked down at the floor and started to make his way out of the room. Halfway into opening the door, he stopped and gave me a weak smile. "You're a good man, Mr. Talbot. You're a better man than you think you are."

He disappeared out into the hallway before I had a chance to say anything more. Part of me wanted to go after him and beg him not to leave but that was pointless. I needed to stop being so damn selfish. Isaac now had his freedom. He was his own man now and I wouldn't stand in the way of that.

"You did what?" asked Loretta, her fork frozen in mid air.

"I let Isaac have his freedom," I told her sternly. "Don't tell me you've started losing your hearing, dear."

My wife swiftly ordered all of the servants out of the dining room and glared. "I declare, Mr. Moreau, have you lost your senses?"

"He was a good worker. He showed us nothing but the highest regard. He deserves to be his own person."

"If only he were one!" Loretta spluttered. "Talbot, do you know what something like this will make us look like?!"

"No, I don't know," I lied.

"We'll appear as if we sympathize with the Yankee cause. Things politically are precarious enough as it is and now you gonna go and free some nigger because he did what he was suppose to do?!"

"That's enough!"

"Papa would not have it!"

I slammed my fist onto the table causing everything on it to rattle. Loretta jumped, startled by my sudden forcefulness.

"This isn't your father's house," I hissed, "and if you don't like the way I run things around here you can move back to your father's house!"

I threw my napkin on the table and angrily walked away. Who the hell did she think she was to tell me what I should and shouldn't do in my own house? Unfortunately, the prospect of her packing up and moving back with her parents delighted me. Any other man in my position would've, of course, been firm with her but wouldn't be happy at the possibility of their new bride going back home.

I went to my room and hid for the rest of the evening. Frustrated and depressed, I started helping myself to the port again. Isaac's last words had stuck with me. They had touched something within me that I had never been aware of. To be honest, I had never thought much of myself. For some reason, hearing that I was more than what I believed from him gave me a validation that I didn't know that I needed. At least, he had given me that. I knew I had done the right thing. You can't force or buy love. Isaac was the first person ever to tell me no. All he wanted was his God given right to have options in this life and I hoped that he would jump at every opportunity.

I got into bed that night saddened and drunk but at peace. I had to accept my fate. I was doomed to forever be in a miserable marriage to a woman I couldn't stand. Like Papa always use to say, God never gives with both hands. I laid there in the darkness, staring at the ceiling and wondering where Isaac was at that moment. More than likely, he was heading north. If fortune was on his side, he'd have crossed the state line. The idea hit me that I could go and see Loretta but I pushed it aside. I wasn't ready to bear another awkward baby making session with her. I'm sure even if I did like women that way I would've wanted nothing to do with her. When it came to practicing our connubial rights, she made no effort. She would just lie there like a dead insect while I did my thing. There was no kissing, no caresses of encouragement. Her arms would be at her side and her eyes staring up at me with patience. It seemed as if the process was more painful to her than anything. Was she really that desperate to have a child?

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