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1735年12月6日编辑

两天前我本应该在安妮女王广场庆祝我的十岁生日。但这个生日却在无人注意的情况下“消失”的无影无踪,现在这里没有庆祝,只有葬礼。而我们家那座被烧毁的房子,就像个发黑的烂牙一样,嵌在安妮女王广场那些高大的白色砖邸中间。

我们暂时住在父亲的位于布鲁姆斯伯里的一座房产里。这座房子很棒,尽管家庭被毁,生活支离破碎,但不管怎么说,这也是值得感恩的了。我们将在这里一直呆下去,像地狱边缘惊魂未定的孤魂野鬼一样,直到我们的未来确定下来。大火烧掉了我的日记本,这篇日记,就算一个新的开始吧。那么,我应该从我的名字写起,海瑟姆,一个阿拉伯名字,属于一个住在伦敦的英国男孩。他从出生到两天前,一直在保护伞之下过着清闲安逸的生活,远离这个城市角落里的污秽和黑暗面。从安妮女王广场我只能看到雾霾笼罩着河流上空,和其他所有人一样,我们也被这臭气——我称之为“汗湿的马”——所困扰。但不同的是,我们并不需要从这条充斥着制革厂、屠宰场的污水和人畜排泄物的臭水沟上经过。这些恶臭的污水加速了疾病的传播,痢疾、霍乱、小儿麻痹……

“您得穿暖和点,海瑟姆少爷,不然疾病会找上你的。”

每次去汉普斯特德,我的保姆都会让我远离那些濒死的咳嗽着的贫苦病人,遮住我的眼睛不让我看到那些残疾的儿童。没有什么比疾病更让他们害怕:你不能贿赂它,也不能拿起武器反抗它,疾病不把财富和武力放在眼里。这是个不可能达成和解的敌人。 当然,它也不会在发起攻击之前给你任何提示。所以,她们常常在我身上检查风疹或水痘的迹象,然后向前来吻我道晚安的妈妈报告说我很健康。你看,我是天底下幸运儿中的一个,我有夜里来与我吻安的母亲和父亲——他们深爱着我和教导我什么是富裕和贫穷,点滴灌输给我美好的愿景,教导我要懂得替他人考虑的我同父异母的姐姐-珍妮;他们雇家庭教师和保姆来照顾我教育我,让我成长为一个有着良好价值观的,对世界有用的人。当之无愧的幸运儿,不用像其他小孩一样,不得不在田里劳作或者在工厂里干活爬烟囱。

有时候我在想,那些孩子们,他们有朋友吗?如果他们有,那么,虽然我知道以我比他们舒适得多的生活条件,不应该羡慕他们的生活,但,他们扔拥有的一样东西让我艳羡:朋友。而我,没有朋友,也没有与我年龄相近的兄弟姐妹,而且,我太害羞了,从未主动和同龄人交朋友。此外,在我五岁的时候,有些“事”渐渐地浮出水面。

那是一个下午。安妮女王广场的房子都建的很近,所以我们经常能看见我们的邻居们。反正不是在广场上,就是在房子后面的那片空地上。我们的一侧住着四个女孩,其中两个年龄和我相仿。她们经常花数小时的时间在花园里玩跳绳或是捉迷藏人,而我经常能听到他们的嬉闹声,在家庭教师的课堂上,在他警惕的目光下。我的家庭教师,老弗莱因先生(Old Mr Fayling),有着浓密的灰色眉毛,总喜欢抠鼻子,并认真地研究自己从鼻孔深处挖出来的东西,然后偷偷地吃下去。

在这个特别的下午,老弗莱因先生离开了房间,待到他的脚步声消失,我便从算术题中站起身来,到朝向隔壁屋的窗户边向外张望。隔壁那户人家姓道森(Dawson),爸爸说道森先生是一名国会议员,在说这话的时候,难以掩饰他皱着的眉头。他们家有一个高墙环绕的小花园,尽管有树和灌木以及茂盛的树叶遮挡,我还是能从教室的窗台这看到花园的一小部分。就这样我看到道森家的女孩们在户外,玩着跳房子,还用一些铁圈球棍布置了临时场地——尽管他们不像是在认真玩,而是两个年纪大的姑娘试着教那两个年纪较小的有关游戏的技巧。隐约地我看到辫子和粉红色的褶皱裙在飞舞,他们笑着闹着,时不时还能听到大人的声音从我看不见的地方传来,大概是他们的保姆,站在矮树丛后面某个我看不到的地方。在我看他们玩的那几分钟,数学题就那么搁置着,直到突然间,那两个年纪较小的其中一个,大概比我小一岁左右吧,似乎感觉到有人在看着自己,抬起头来,向我站着的窗边看来,她的目光和我目不转睛的注视相交在了一起。我深吸了一口气,然后迟疑地,抬起胳膊向她们招了招手。

出乎意料的是,她向我回以一笑,接着叫来了她的姐妹们,兴奋地聚在一起,伸长脖子,手搭凉棚挡住阳光,眺望着我,就好像我是博物馆里的展品一样。尽管这个会动的雕像因为尴尬害羞而微微有些脸红,但他还是感受到了某种柔软的,散发着温馨光芒的,某种可能会成为友谊的东西。

然而,树丛后面那个女佣的出现使这一切如幻象般消失了,她抬头看到我,横了我一眼,那眼神认定我是个偷窥狂甚至更糟,然后就带着女孩们离开了我的视线。

那个保姆看我的眼神,我之前见过。在广场上或者在房子后面的那片区域,我还会再次见到。还记得我的保姆总是让我远离那些衣衫褴褛的可怜人吗?其他保姆也会让他们的孩子远离我。我从来没有想过为什么。我从来不去想,因为......我不知道,因为没有什么理由去想这个问题,我觉得。这些事情(刻意的疏远)就这么发生了,我没觉得有什么不对劲儿的。

我六岁的时候,伊迪丝(Edith)送给我一捆熨平的衣服和一双银色的带扣鞋。

我穿着亮闪闪的新鞋,马甲和夹克衫,从屏风后面走出来。伊迪丝叫来了一个女佣,女佣惊叹道我和简直和父亲是一个磨子里刻出来的——当然我知道这只是她的想法。

接着,我的父母来看我,我看到爸爸的眼睛湿润了,而妈妈则毫不掩饰地哭了起来,用手抹着泪,直到到了托儿所的时候,伊迪丝递给她一块手帕。

站在那儿,我感觉到自己长大了,有修养了,尽管我感到脸上又是一阵红热。我发现我自己还在想着,不知道道森家的女孩子们会不会觉得我穿着新衣服比过去好看,会不会很绅士。我经常想起她们。我经常站在那扇窗前眺望,看到她们在院子里玩耍,或是在门前被带上马车。我幻想着她们中的某一个能看我一眼,但如果她看了,应该也不会有微笑和挥手了,只会有那个保姆眼神的阴影笼罩,就好像对我的不悦被正式宣布了一样,真搞不懂。

这边是道森家,活泼的,梳着马尾辫的活蹦乱跳的女孩们,而另一边,是巴雷特(Barretts)家。她们有八个孩子,有男有女,尽管我也难得看到他们几回。和道森家的女孩子们一样,我只能在他们上马车的时候,或是他们在院子里玩的时候,远远地望到一眼。直到我八岁生日之后的某一天,我在花园里拖着我的手杖划过那些从花园高墙上掉落下来的碎红砖。有时经过那扇我们家和巴雷特家之间的小巷的院门,我会停下来用手杖翻动那些石头,看看有什么会从下面跑出来——木虱,马陆,或是别的什么伸长身体蠕动着的虫子。这扇沉重的门被一个巨大的生锈的锁给锁住,看起来就像多少年来从没有打开过一样。我盯着它看了一会儿,用手掂了掂锁头的重量,就在这时,我听到了一个急迫的小男孩的声音在低语。

“亲,告诉我吧,他们关于你父亲的那些传言是真的吗?”这是从门的那边传过来的——我好半天才反应过来,因为我惊讶和恐惧得愣住了。紧接着我更是被门洞里眨巴眨巴盯着我的眼睛给吓得差点掉了魂。问题又抛过来了:“说说吧,他们随时都会把我揪回去的。你父亲的传言是真的吗?”

渐渐平静下来之后,我弯下腰让目光与门孔齐平,问道:“你是谁?”

“汤姆,隔壁家的。”

我知道汤姆是隔壁最小的孩子,和我一边大。因为我曾经听到有人叫他的名字。

“你呢?我是说,你叫什么名字?”

“海瑟姆”,我回答道,我思考着汤姆会不会变成我的新的好朋友,至少,门洞里他的眼睛看起来很友善。

“这名字挺奇怪的嘛”

“阿拉伯语,意思是‘雏鹰’。”

“喔,还真是有道理”

“什么意思?‘有道理’?”

“噢,我不知道。只是一种感觉。那边只有你自己一个人吗?”

“还有我姐姐”,我反驳道,“和我的爸爸妈妈。”

“挺小的家庭呀!”

我点了点头。

“嗨,”他催促道,“到底是不是真的?你父亲的传言?别想着撒谎,我能看到你的眼睛,你懂得,我可以看出来你是不是在撒谎的。”

“我不会撒谎的。可是我不知道他们说了什么,我甚至都不知道‘他们’指的是谁。”

这时我产生了一种奇怪的感觉而不全是预约:似乎存在着什么东西定义了“普通”,而我们,肯维家,不被包含在内。

或许门洞里眼睛的主人从我的声音中听出了什么,他急忙补充道,“如果我说了什么不该说的,对不起,我只是很感兴趣,就这样。你知道,那是一个传言,如果是真的的话,那就太令人兴奋了...”

“什么传言?”

“你会觉得很可笑的。”

我鼓起勇气,靠近门洞看着他,眼睛对眼睛地,我问道:“你的意思是?他们到底说了什么关于我爸爸的传言?”


他眨巴眨巴眼睛,“他们说你父亲过去是个——”

突然他身后传来了一个声音,我听到一个怒气冲冲的男子叫着:“托马斯!(Thomas,也就是Tom汤姆)”他吓得转过身去,“哦,哥哥”他悄声说道,“我得走了,他们在叫我。希望还能见到你。”

他走了,我独自呆在那儿咀嚼他的话。什么流言?人们到底在议论我们什么?关于我们这个小小的家庭?

这时我意识到我该动身了。现在近乎中午——到了我练习武器的时候。

7-december-1735编辑

我觉得没有存在感,就好像身处在过去和未来之间的地狱里。我身边的大人们焦虑地谈着话,他们面色难看,妇女们则在抽泣。火当然还点着,但这屋子几乎是空的,只有我们几个人,和那些从烧焦的房子里抢救出来的仅存的财物,让人感觉不到一丝温暖。外面,雪已经开始下了,而屋子里的悲伤,凄神寒骨。

剩下我能做的事,只有继续写我的日记了。之前我想着把我生命的故事记录下来,可是后来我发现,要写的比我原想的要多得多。当然,还有别的重要的事情要做,比如参加葬礼,今天是伊迪丝的。

“您确定吗?海瑟姆少爷?”贝蒂问,额头的皱纹带着担忧,双眼显露着疲倦。从我记事以来,他就是伊迪丝的助手。她和我一样,失去了亲人。

“是的”,我说道,穿上平常的衣服,然后,额外地戴上了黑色的领带。伊迪丝在这个世上孤身一人,所以只有幸存的肯维家的人和佣人们参加了楼梯下面的葬礼宴席——只有火腿、麦芽酒和糕点。用餐完毕,那些已经喝得大醉的丧葬公司的人把她的遗体装进了灵车准备送去教堂。我们乘坐的丧葬马车跟在后面,我们仅仅只需要两辆马车。结束之后我回到了我的房间,继续我的故事。

在我和汤姆·巴雷特的眼睛对话之后的几天,他说的话还在我的脑海里盘旋。所以一个清晨,只有珍妮和我两个人呆在客厅的时候,我打算问问她。

珍妮,在我八岁的时候她已经二十一岁了。我们之间的共同点,和我与送煤人之间的共同点一样多。至少,我猜那个送煤的工人是和我一样爱笑的。我很少看到珍妮微笑,更不用说大笑了。

她有一头闪亮的黑发,和一双黑色的眼睛...然后,我觉得吧,她的眼睛还是“困倦”的。尽管我听其他人的评论是“深沉的”,然后至少有个追求她的人说她的眼睛是“烟雨迷蒙”的。不管怎么说,她的美貌总是谈论的焦点。她很漂亮,经常有人这么告诉我,但我不觉得。她就是珍妮,她不愿意跟我玩,所以我基本上不找她玩。我总是看到她坐在一个高背的椅子上,埋头于缝补或者刺绣——各种针线女红,表情忧郁。她的追求者所说的“烟雨迷蒙”的眸子,我觉得就是忧郁,愁眉不展。

重要的是,尽管我们像是彼此生活中的过客,像同在一个小小海湾里航行的,靠的很近但鲜有交流的两艘船,但是,我们有同一个父亲。珍妮比我大12岁,所以对于父亲她了解得更多。也因为这,好多年来他总是说我“太傻了年纪太小了不会懂的”,有一次甚至说我“根本没资格问”。不过不管是什么意思,我还是试着找她聊过。我不知道为什么,因为,就像我说的那样,我每次都碰钉子,大概是惹她不高兴了吧?但是在这个特殊的场合,在我和汤姆的眼睛对话之后的几天,我实在忍不住想知道汤姆的话里到底卖的什么药。

于是我问她:“别人是怎么议论我们的呀?”

她做戏般地叹了一口气,从针线活里把头抬起来。

“你指的是什么?臭小子。”

“就是,呃,其他人都是怎么评价咱们的啊?”

“你是说坊间闲话吗?”

“或许吧。”

“那么你关心这些流言干啥呢?你不觉得你还太——”

“我在乎”,在话题转移到“年纪太小太傻或者太矮”之前,我插话道。

“你真的在乎吗?为什么?”

“因为有人说了些什么,就是这样。”

她停下自己的针线活,把它们叠起来放在腿边的椅垫上,动了动嘴唇:

“谁?谁说的?说了什么?”

“一个男孩子,在花园的那个门外面。他说爸爸很诡异,还说爸爸曾经是……”

“是什么?”

“我也没搞清楚。”

她笑了笑,拿起针线活,“唔,这就是引起你思考的事情?是吧。”

“呃,你不会觉得奇怪吗?”

“我已经知道所有我应该知道的事情了,”她骄傲地说,“然后我告诉你,我才不会在乎隔壁家的人说些什么呢。”

“那,告诉我吧”,我应道,“我出生之前爸爸是干啥的呢?”

珍妮有时候也是会微笑的,当她占上风时,当她能对对方施压的时候——尤其是针对我。

“你会知道的”,她说。

“什么时候?”

“在恰当的时候。毕竟,你是他的男性继承人。”

长时间的沉默。“你说的,呃,‘男性继承人’,是什么意思?”我问道,“那玩意儿和你的身份有什么不同吗?”

她叹了口气,“唔,就说现在,尽管还不多,但你已经进行了武器使用上的训练了,而我却没有。”

“你没有啊?”话音刚落我就反应过来了,我练习的是剑术,可她却一天就做女红。

“没有,海瑟姆。我没有受过训练。没有哪个小孩子会接受武器训练的,海瑟姆,至少在布鲁姆斯伯里没有,或许整个伦敦也没有。除了你。难道没告诉过你?”

“什么?”

“让你不要说出去。”

“是的,可是……”

“唔,难道你从来就没有想过为什么,为什么不让你对外说一个字?”

或许我知道,或许我一直都知道。我一言不发。

“你很快就会知道,一个怎样的将来已经立等可取了。”她说,“我们的生活已经被规划好,你不感到忧虑吗?”

“额,那么,你的立等可取的将来是什么样的呢?”

她决然地哼了一声,“什么样的将来在等待着我,这是个错误的问题。谁拥有立等可取的将来才是应该问的。”

这其中的有些东西,直到后来我才明白。我看着她,我知道与其冒着被针扎的风险继续往下问,我还是停下比较好。尽管直到我放下正在看的书离开客厅,我还是对父亲和家庭的过往一无所知,但至少我对珍妮有了点了解:为什么她总是不笑,为什么她对我总是那么抵触。因为,她已经看到了未来,看到了未来会青睐我,仅仅是因为,我是男孩子。

我本应该为她感到难过——如果她不是那么抱怨连连的话,我真的会为她感到难过的。

知道了我所知道的,关于武器训练的事情,第二天的武器训练让我感到额外的激动。因为:别的孩子都没有机会接受武器训练,只有我有,这突然间让我觉得我尝到了禁果,尤其是,还是我的父亲在指导着我。如果珍妮说的是真的,有某种使命在未来召唤着我,就像那些从小被训练为祭司、铁匠、屠夫或者木匠的男孩一样,那真是太好了,我非常喜欢。这个世界上没有谁比父亲更让我崇拜的了,而这意味着着他会把自己的学识全部传授给我,想想就令人激动万分!当然,这涉及到剑,对于一个男孩子,夫复何求?现在看来,从那一天起,我便成为了一个愈发积极进取的学生了。每一天,根据父亲的日程安排,要么是中午要么是晚餐时间,我们进到一个我们称之为训练室的房间——其实是游戏室,然后开始我的剑术进阶之旅。

在那次袭击之后,我还没有再碰过我的剑。我根本不像去拿起它,因为我知道我一旦握起剑,我眼前就会浮现出那间屋子,黑色的橡木板,书架和为了腾位置而挪到一边去的球桌。还有我的爸爸,他炯炯有神的眼睛,犀利却又慈爱。他总是微笑着,总是鼓励着我:格挡,闪避,步法,身法,意识,预感……他像念咒语一样重复那些词,有时候整节课都不说别的,只是喊着口令,在我做得好的时候点头,在我做得不对的时候摇头。有时候,他会拨开挡在脸颊上的头发,站到我身后去摆正我的手脚的位置。

对我而言,这些就是——或者说曾经是——武器训练时的场景:书架,球桌,父亲的咒语,和击剑的响声……

木剑。

对的,木剑。

木制的训练用剑让我倍感委屈。爸爸说,金属剑会有的,当我完成训练后。

我生日那天早晨,伊迪丝对我异常的好,而母亲则许诺了一顿生日早餐,或者是我最喜欢吃的,芥末酱沙丁鱼,配上沾着自家花园出产的樱桃酱的面包。在我狼吞虎咽的时候我看到了珍妮投来的嘲讽的目光,但我并不在意。自从那次客厅谈话后,她再怎么凌驾于我之上,我也不觉得有什么异常了。如果没有那件事,也许我心里还会觉得奇怪,或者为这个生日早餐感到有点难堪。但那天不是的。

现在回想来,我想我的八岁生日或许标志着,我从一个男孩变成一个男人了。

所以呢,我根本不在乎珍妮撅起的嘴唇或是私下的抱怨,我只关注爸爸妈妈,他们也只关注我。从他们的肢体语言,以及多年来对父母行为习惯的掌握,我觉得肯定还有什么事情要发生,让我生日的快乐可以继续下去。果然,在这顿饭结束的时候,父亲宣布今晚我们要去切斯特菲尔德街的怀特先生巧克力屋,那儿有用西班牙进口可可做的热气腾腾的巧克力。

当晚,伊迪丝和贝蒂忙前忙后帮我穿上我最好看的衣服,然后我们一行四人登上了停在路边的马车。我抬头偷眼看了看邻居家的窗子,想着是不是能看到达森家的女孩们脸贴着玻璃,或者看见汤姆和他的兄弟们。我希望是这样的,希望他们能看到我们,谈后想着“那就是肯维家,像普通人家一样,晚上全家一起出去玩。”


当晚的切斯特菲尔德街很热闹。我们在怀特先生店门前停车,车门开启,招待领着我们快步穿过路人进了店里。就算这样,在这短短的从马车到店里的路程,我还是旁顾四周,看到了伦敦真实的一面:一条狗的尸体卧在水沟边,垃圾在栅栏边上散落着。卖花人、乞丐、醉汉,顽童在河里玩耍溅起的泥满街都是。

进了店里之后,首先迎接我们的便是浓浓的的烟味、麦酒味、香水味,当然,还有巧克力味。除此之外,便是嘈杂的钢琴声和大嗓门的说话声。屋里的人们,喊叫着,俯身在游戏桌前。男人们喝着大杯的麦酒,女人们也一样。我还看到了一些热巧克力和蛋糕。每个人,看起来都十分的亢奋。

我看了一眼父亲,他迟疑了一下,我发觉他有些不自在。一开始我以为他会转身离开,但一个举着手杖的绅士吸引了我的目光。他比父亲年轻,从容地微笑着,在这间屋子里仍显得醒目。他向我们挥舞手杖打招呼,父亲瞥见了他,便领着我们向他走去,穿过桌子,跨过躺在地上的狗——甚至还有两三个小孩,他们在桌子的下面、人们的腿间钻来钻去,寻找各种掉落的东西,如蛋糕或者硬币。

我们来到了那个绅士身边。和父亲不同,他的头发并不是散乱的,而是绑在后头,用黑丝带扎着,还戴了一顶粉饰的假发,身穿深红色双排扣长礼服。与父亲点头问好之后,他把注意力转向我,夸张地弯下腰:“晚上好啊,海瑟姆少爷,我想今天祝你生日快乐是不会错的。让我猜猜你几岁了吧?从行为举止看得出来你是个成熟的孩子,我猜,11岁,或者12岁?”

他说这些的时候,眼光越过我的肩膀瞥了一眼我的父母,脸上带着闪烁的微笑,爸爸和妈妈也笑了。

“我今年八岁,先生。”我说道,骄傲极了。接着父亲做了双方的介绍。这位绅士是雷金纳德·伯奇,他的高级财产经纪人。伯奇先生说很高兴认识我,并向母亲恭敬地鞠躬,吻了她的手。

接着他的注意力转移到了珍妮身上,拉起她的手,弯下身去吻它。我意识到他是在示爱,马上回头看了一眼父亲,希望看到父亲出面阻止。然而爸爸和妈妈看起来颇有点兴奋,尽管珍妮的表情至始至终都很冷淡,一直到我们进了包间雅座,她和伯奇先生相邻而坐,怀特家的侍者在我们身边忙碌起来。

我本可以在那儿带上一整晚,用侍者呈到桌上的各种各样的巧克力和蛋糕填满我的肚子。爸爸和伯奇先生则享受着麦酒。于是到最后是妈妈坚持要我们回家——在我吃撑了,或是父亲和伯奇先生喝醉之前。

于是我们走进了夜色之中,在这几个小时里,一切都变得更加喧嚣起来。一出门我就被扑面而来的吵闹声和恶臭的气味弄得晕头转向。珍妮掩住了鼻子,而我看到母亲的脸上闪过一丝不安。爸爸靠近我们,好像试图替我们挡住那些恼人的声音和气味一样。

一只脏手伸到了眼前,我看见一个乞丐悄然出现,瞪着大大的乞求的眼睛,与他脸上的泥土和散乱的头发形成鲜明对比。而一个卖花人试图绕过父亲靠近珍妮,然而伯奇先生怒喝一声“呔”,挥起手杖挡住了他。而我则被推推搡搡,还看到两个小孩伸着手想靠近我们。

就在这时,母亲尖叫起来,一个衣着破烂肮脏的男子,呲着牙,伸着手,径直冲向母亲的项链。说时迟那时快,只听得手杖一声响,一把利刃突然从中出现——父亲早已箭步挡住了来人。我终于知道那把手杖为什么总是吱吱作响了。

他做这一切只花了一眨眼的功夫,但剑未出鞘,父亲就改变了主意。或许是看到劫匪并没有武器,他翻手收剑入鞘,恢复手杖的原本面貌和功能,顺带用转动的杖身敲了一下劫匪举起的手。

小贼痛得鬼哭狼嚎,转身却与伯奇先生撞个满怀,被后者径直摔在地面上,紧接着是一个正中胸口的飞身跪膝,煞那间,伯奇先生的匕首就架在了小贼的脖子上。我喘过一口气来,母亲瞪大了眼睛。

“雷金纳德!”父亲喊道,“够了。”

“他可是想抢劫你,爱德华!”伯奇先生纹丝未动,紧紧攥着匕首,青筋暴起,虎口发白。而小贼吓得六神无主,惶恐地抽泣着。

“不,雷金纳德,别这样。”爸爸平静地说道。他揽过低头轻声幽咽的母亲,珍妮在一边紧靠着他们,而我在另一边。周围聚集起了围观群众,而之前骚扰我们的卖花人和乞丐现在都吓得对我们敬而远之。

“我想说,雷金纳德,”父亲说道,“收起刀,放他走吧。”

“别让我看起来像个傻子好吗,爱德华,”伯奇答道,“尤其是在这么多人面前。我们都知道这个人罪有应得,就算不杀他,也得砍掉一两个指头!”

我屏住了呼吸。

“不行!”父亲下了命令,“不能杀他,雷金纳德。如果你不听我的,那咱们的友谊就到此为止!”围观群众一片沉默,我能听到那个劫匪语无伦次地不停地念叨:“求求你了,饶了我吧,求你了……”他的手被按在身边,双腿在肮脏的地面上徒劳地踢蹬着。

终于,伯奇先生看起来想通了,收回匕首,留下一个流血的小伤口。他站起来,盯着那个劫匪,后者仓皇地挣扎起身,从切斯特菲尔德街飞也似地逃命走了。

我们的马车司机回过神来,开始站在车门口,催促我们赶紧回到安全的车厢里。爸爸和伯奇先生面对面站着,紧锁的目光相互交织。就在妈妈催我赶紧过去的时候,我看到伯奇先生的眼神有如烈火一般燃烧着,而父亲平静地看着他,一边伸出手,一边说道,“以我们全家的名义,谢谢你雷金纳德,谢谢你做出了正确的抉择。”

我感觉到妈妈试图把我推进车厢里。我回头看着父亲,他伸着手向伯奇先生,后者则瞪着他,拒绝握手言和。但就在我被推进车厢的那一刻,我瞥见伯奇先生的火气终于消散了,他握住父亲的手,脸上的坚冰融化成微笑——有点窘迫和忸怩的微笑,就好像他刚刚醒悟过来一样。两人握着手,父亲轻轻点点头,我知道一切都好了,这意味着一切问题都烟消云散,毋需多言了。

最后我们回到了安妮女王广场的家里,关上门,与外面粪便和马匹的臭气隔离开来之后,我对爸爸妈妈说我今天晚上很开心,我非常感谢他们,并表示之后发生在街道上的骚乱丝毫没有影响我的兴致,甚至可以认为是今晚的亮点。

结果事实证明这个夜晚尚未结束。在我正要上楼梯的时候,父亲叫住了我,带着我进了游戏室,点起一盏油灯。

“你说你晚上过得很愉快,是吧,海瑟姆?”

“是的爸爸,很开心。”

“那你对伯奇先生印象如何?”

“我挺喜欢他的,爸爸。”

父亲笑了,“雷金纳德是一个很注重外表、举止、礼节和原则的人,不像有些人,只在标榜自己身份的时候才装模作样。他是个值得尊重的人。”

“是的,爸爸”,我说,但我必须尽量表达出我的怀疑,因为父亲正用犀利的眼神打量着我。

“啊,”,他说,“你是在想后来发生的事情吧?”

“恩,没错。”

“恩——你对那件事有何评价?”

他领我到一个书架前,似乎是要让我离灯近一些,好看清我的表情。

油灯的光笼罩着父亲的脸庞,他的头发乌黑闪亮。他的眼神常常是和蔼可亲的,但有时也会很严肃紧张,就像现在一样。我注意到他的一处伤疤,在灯光之下似乎闪烁得更加明亮。

“呃,那确实激动人心”,我答道,并迅速补充说:“但我当时最担心妈妈。你的迅猛反应救了她,我从未见过任何人有如此的速度。”

他笑了,“爱,是会让男人变得强大的。总有一天,你也能做到这一点。不过,你对伯奇先生的做法怎么看?如果是你,你会怎么做,海瑟姆?”

“呃?”

“伯奇先生想要对那个小贼施以刑罚,海瑟姆。你觉得那个小贼是罪有应得的吗?”

我很认真地想了想。我注意到父亲表情的不同之处,他的眼神专注而锐利,显然我的回答是十分重要的。

在事发当时,那火冒三丈的一瞬间里,我内心是希望那个小贼被狠狠地惩罚一下的,因为他居然想袭击我的妈妈。但现在,在油灯柔柔的光下,在父亲和蔼的目光的注视下,我产生了不同的想法。

“一五一十地告诉我吧,海瑟姆”,爸爸提示我,就好像看透了我的想法一样。

“雷金纳德有着强烈的正义感,或者说,是为着他所谓的正义。那有点……太过教条了。总之,你怎么看呢?”

“一开始我感觉到了强烈的……复仇情绪,爸爸。但很快就过去了,我希望他能被宽恕。”我说。

父亲笑了,点了点头,接着突然转身面向书架,手腕轻快地一闪,打开了某种开关,只见一部分书倒向两边,露出了一个暗格。当他从中取出一件东西时,我紧张激动得心脏都快停止跳动了——那是一个匣子。他把匣子递给我,点了点头,让我打开它。

“生日礼物,海瑟姆”,父亲说。

我把匣子放在地上,跪在面前,小心翼翼地打开,看到了一条皮革腰带。我立刻把它拨到一边,因为我知道,在那下面一定是一把真正的剑。不再是那种木头的训练用品,而是一把有着华丽剑首的,寒光闪闪的铁剑。我把它从匣子里取出来捧在手上,可惜的是,这只是一把短剑,这让我感觉十分失望。但我知道这是一把漂亮的短剑,而且是我的短剑。我立刻决定,从此剑不离身,甚至都要开始佩戴皮带了,父亲却阻止了我。

“不,海瑟姆”,他说,"这把剑放在这里,没有我的允许,不能拿走或者使用它,明白吗?"

说话间,他就把剑从我手上拿过去重新装进了匣子里,放回皮带,合上盖子。

“很快你就会用这把剑来进行训练了,”他接着说,“你还有很多要学,海瑟姆,不仅是关于这把铁剑,更多的是关于你心中的剑。”

“明白,爸爸,”我答应着,尽力不流露出我心里的疑惑和失望。我看着他把匣子藏回暗格里——如果他试图不让我知道机关在哪一本书边上,那他就失败了。我分明地看见了,詹姆士国王钦定本《圣经》。

1735年12月8日编辑

今天又举行了两场葬礼,两名士兵入土为安。

据我所知,父亲的侍从迪格威先生曾经当过军官,但他的真名我从来都不知道。我们家没有人出席另一个人的葬礼。

那一刻,有太多的痛苦和悲戚萦绕着我们,我们的心似乎都已经容纳不下了。说多残酷,就有多残酷。 在我八岁之后,伯奇先生成了家里的常客,他有时带着珍妮去广场上散步,有时用他的马车带珍妮去乡下兜风,又或者是坐在客厅里,喝着茶和雪利酒,向女士们讲述他军旅生涯——他和父亲就是那个时候认识的。

所有人都知道他想娶珍妮,而父亲也对他表达了祝福。但有传言称伯奇先生要求推迟婚礼时间,直到他在事业上取得足够的成就,以配得上珍妮。据说他还看上了萨瑟克区的一座豪宅,准备让珍妮继续过她习惯了的富贵生活。 当然,母亲和父亲都为此激动不已。

但珍妮没有。

我偶尔会看到她哭得两眼发红。她还养成了突然飞奔到屋外的习惯,有时是狂暴地发着脾气,有时,则是用手遮着嘴,眼泪夺眶欲出。

我不止一次听到父亲说,“她会回心转意的”。有一次他还瞥了我一下,翻了个白眼。 看来她似乎正在未来的重压下逐渐凋萎,而我却期待着我自己的将来,更加旺盛地成长着。

我觉得父亲对我的爱是那么的饱满,仿佛源源不断地淹没着我一样。我不仅仅是爱着他,更是崇拜他。

有时候,我们俩分享着知识,而我们之外的整个世界都对此一无所知。

例如,他会经常让我说说老师都教会了我什么。他会专注地聆听,然后问:“为什么?”每次他问我问题,不管是关于宗教,伦理还是道德,只要我是鹦鹉学舌地复述课本或老师的教导,他都能听出来,然后说:“行啦,你还不如告诉我,老弗莱因先生认为……”,或者说“我们知道有个一百多年前的老作家是这么认为的……

但他在这里头说的是什么?“一边说,一边把手放到我的心口。 现在我才明白他这么做的意味。

老弗莱因先生教我的是事实和公理,而父亲却引导我学会了质疑。

老弗莱因先生教给我的这些知识,他们是从哪儿起源的呢?是谁挥舞羽毛笔写下的,而我凭凭什么要相信他们?父亲常说,“从不同视角看看,我们必须首先站在怀疑的角度看问题。”听起来也许很蠢,也许很可笑,或者说我也许回首过去的几年,我会嘲笑我自己,但有时我确实觉得我的思维得到了扩展,我慢慢地能以父亲的方式来看这个世界了。

他看待这个世界的方式与其他人都不一样,而且那似乎是,一种挑战传统真理的看法。 当然,我质疑老弗莱因先生。

有一天的经文课上我发起了挑战,为自己赢得了一顿戒尺的好打,以及向我父亲打报告的警告——他也确实这么做了。

后来父亲带我到他的书房。关上门之后,父亲笑了,“通常来说,海瑟姆,把思想留给自己,隐藏在平常人之间,这是最好的。” 于是我这么做了。

我经常发现自己在观察周围的人,试着看透他们的内心,就好像我能够探知他们对这个世界的看法,是老弗莱因先生那种,还是父亲那种。

我最后一次跟汤姆说话,已经是一年前了。我想在女佣和保姆之外有一个朋友,我曾希望那会是汤姆。然而,再也不可能了。

因为,明天他们就要为他出殡了。

9-december-1735编辑

Mr. Digweed came to see me this morning. He knocked, waited for my reply then had to duck his head toenter, because Mr.

Digweed, as well as being balding, with slightly bulging eyes and veiny eyelids, is talland slim, and the doorways in our

emergency residence are much lower than they were at home. The wayhe had to stoop as he moved around the place, it added to

his air of discomfiture, the sense of his being a fish out of water here. He’d been my father’s gentleman since before I

was born, at least since the Kenways settled in London, and like all of us, maybe even more than the rest of us, he

belonged to Queen Anne’s Square. What made his pain even more acute was guilt—his guilt that on the night of the attack

he was away, attending to family matters in Herefordshire; he and our driver had returned the morning after the attack. “I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, Master Haytham,” he had said to me in the days after, his face pale and drawn. “Of course, Digweed,” I said, and didn’t know what to say next; I’d never been comfortable addressing him by his surname; it had never felt right in my mouth. So all I could add was “Thank you.” This morning his cadaverous face wore the same solemn expression, and I could tell that, whatever news he had, it was bad. “Master Haytham,” he said, standing before me. “Yes . . . Digweed?” “I’m terribly sorry, Master Haytham, but there’s been a message from Queen Anne’s Square, from the Barretts. They wish to make it clear that nobody from the Kenway household is welcome at young Master Thomas’s funeral service. They respectfully request that no contact is made at all.” “Thank you, Digweed,” I said, and watched as he gave a short, sorrowful bow then dipped his head to avoid the low beam of the doorway as he left. I stood there for some time, gazing emptily at the space where he’d stood, until Betty returned to help me out of my funeral suit and into my everyday ones. One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was below stairs, playing in the short corridor that led off the servants’ hall to the heavily barred door of the plate room. It was in the plate room that the family valuables were stored: silverware which only ever saw the light of day on the rare occasions Mother and Father entertained guests; family heirlooms, Mother’s jewellery and some of Father’s books that he considered of greatest value—irreplaceable books. He kept the key to the plate room with him at all times, on a loop around his belt, and I had only ever seen him entrust it to Mr. Digweed, and then only for short periods. I liked to play in the corridor nearby because it was so rarely visited, which meant I was never bothered by nursemaids, who would invariably tell me to get off the dirty floor before I wore a hole in my trousers; or by other well-meaning staff, who would engage me in polite conversation and oblige me to answer questions about my education or non-existent friends; or perhaps even by Mother or Father, who would tell me to get

off the dirty floor before I wore a hole in my trousers and then force me to answer questions about my education or non-existent friends. Or, worse than any of them, by Jenny, who would sneer at whatever game I was playing and, if it was toy soldiers, make a malicious effort to kick over each and every tin man of them. No, the passageway between the servants’ hall and the plate room was one of the few places at Queen Anne’s Square where I could realistically hope to avoid any of these things, so the passageway is where I went when I didn’t want to be disturbed. Except on this occasion, when a new face emerged in the form of Mr. Birch, who let himself into the passage just as I was about to arrange my troops. I had a lantern with me, placed on the stone floor, and the candle fire flickered and popped in the draught as the passage door opened. From my position on the floor, I saw the hem of his frock coat and the tip of his cane, and as my eyes travelled up to see him looking down upon me, I wondered if he, too, kept a sword hidden in his cane, and if it would rattle, the way my father’s did.

“Master Haytham, I rather hoped I might find you here,” he said with a smile. “I was wondering, are

you busy?” I scrambled to my feet. “Just playing, sir,” I said quickly. “Is there something wrong?” “Oh no.” He laughed. “In fact, the last thing I want to do is disturb your playtime, though there is something I was hoping to discuss with you.” “Of course,” I said, nodding, my heart sinking at the thought of yet another round of questions concerning my prowess at arithmetic. Yes, I enjoyed my sums. Yes, I enjoyed writing. Yes, I one day hoped to be as clever as my father. Yes, I one day hoped to follow him into the family business. But with a wave of his hand Mr. Birch bade me back to my game and even set aside his cane and hitched up his trousers in order to crouch beside me. “And what do we have here?” he asked, indicating the small tin figurines. “Just a game, sir,” I replied. “These are your soldiers, are they?” he enquired. “And which one is the commander?” “There is no commander, sir,” I said. He gave a dry laugh. “Your men need a leader, Haytham. How else will they know the best course of action? How else will they be instilled with a sense of discipline and purpose?” “I don’t know, sir,” I said. “Here,” said Mr. Birch. He reached to remove one of the tiny tin men from the pack, buffed him up on his sleeve and placed him to one side. “Perhaps we should make this gentleman here the leader—what do you think?” “If it pleases you, sir.” “Master Haytham”—Mr. Birch smiled—“this is your game. I am merely an interloper, somebody hoping you can show me how it is played.” “Yes, sir, then a leader would be fine in the circumstances.” Suddenly the door to the passageway opened again, and I looked up, this time to see Mr. Digweed enter. In the flickering lamplight I saw him and Mr. Birch share a look. “Can your business here wait, Digweed?” said Mr. Birch tautly. “Certainly, sir,” said Mr. Digweed, bowing and retreating, the door closing behind him. “Very good,” continued Mr. Birch, his attention returning to the game. “Then let us move this gentleman here to be the unit’s leader, in order to inspire his men to great deeds, to lead them by example and teach them the virtues of order and discipline and loyalty. What do you think, Master Haytham?” “Yes, sir,” I said obediently. “Here’s something else, Master Haytham,” said Mr. Birch, reaching between his feet to move another of the tin soldiers from the pack then placing him next to the nominal commander. “A leader needs trusted

lieutenants, does he not?” “Yes, sir,” I agreed. There was a long pause, during which I watched Mr. Birch take inordinate care placing two more lieutenants next to the leader, a pause that became more and more uncomfortable as the moments passed, until I said, more to break the awkward silence than because I wanted to discuss the inevitable, “Sir, did you want to speak to me about my sister, sir?” “Why, you can see right through me, Master Haytham,” laughed Mr. Birch loudly. “Your father is a fine teacher. I see he has taught you guile and cunning—among other things, no doubt.” I wasn’t sure what he meant so I kept quiet. “How is weapons training going, may I enquire?” asked Mr. Birch. “Very well, sir. I continue to improve each day, so Father says,” I said proudly. “Excellent, excellent. And has your father ever indicated to you the purpose of your training?” he asked. “Father says my real training is to begin on the day of my tenth birthday,” I replied. “Well, I wonder what it is that he has to tell you,” he said, with furrowed brow. “You really have no idea? Not even a tantalizing clue?” “No, sir, I don’t,” I said. “Only that he will provide me with a path to follow. A creed.” “I see. How very exciting. And he’s never given you any indication as to what this ‘creed’ might be?” “No, sir.” “How fascinating. I’ll wager you cannot wait. And, in the meantime, has your father given you a man’s sword with which to learn your craft, or are you still using the wooden practice batons?” I bridled. “I have my own sword, sir.” “I should very much like to see it.” “It is kept in the games room, sir, in a safe place that only my father and I have access to.” “Only your father and you? You mean you have access to it, too?” I coloured, grateful for the dim light in the passageway so that Mr. Birch couldn’t see the embarrassment on my face. “All I mean is that I know where the sword is kept, sir, not that I would know how to access it,” I clarified. “I see.” Mr. Birch grinned. “A secret place, is it? A hidden cavity within the bookcase?” My face must have said it all. He laughed. “Don’t worry, Master Haytham, your secret is safe with me.” I looked at him. “Thank you, sir.” “That’s quite all right.” He stood, reached to pick up his cane, brushed some dirt, real or imaginary, from his trousers and turned towards the door. “My sister, sir?” I said. “You never asked me about her.” He stopped, chuckled softly and reached to ruffle my hair. A gesture I quite liked. Perhaps because it was something my father did, too. “Ah, but I don’t need to. You’ve told me everything I need to know, young Master Haytham,” he said. “You know as little about the beautiful Jennifer as I do, and perhaps that is how it must be in the proper way of things. Women should be a mystery to us, don’t you think, Master Haytham?” I hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about but smiled anyway, and breathed a sigh of relief when I once again had the plate-room corridor to myself. Not long after that talk with Mr. Birch I was in another part of the house and making my way towards my bedroom when as I passed Father’s study I heard raised voices from inside: Father and Mr. Birch. The fear of a good hiding meant I stayed too far away to hear what was being said, and I was glad I’d kept my distance, because in the next moment the door to the study was flung open and out hurried Mr. Birch. He was in a fury—his anger was plain to see in the colour of his cheeks and blazing eyes—but the sight of me in the hallway brought him up short, even though he remained agitated. “I tried, Master Haytham,” he said, as he gathered himself and began to button his coat ready to leave. “I tried to warn him.” And with that he placed his cocked hat on his head and stalked off. My father had appeared at the door of his office and glared after Mr. Birch and, though it was clearly an unpleasant encounter, it was grown-up stuff, and I didn’t concern myself with it. There was more to think about. Just a day or so later came the attack.

It happened on the night before my birthday. The attack, I mean. I was awake, perhaps because I was

excited about the next day, but also because I was in the habit of getting up after Edith had left the room to sit on my windowsill and gaze out of my bedroom window. From my vantage point I’d see cats and dogs or even foxes passing across the moon-painted grass. Or, if not watching out for animals, then just watching the night, looking at the moon, the watery grey colour it gave the grass and trees. At first I thought what I was seeing in the distance were fireflies. I’d heard all about fireflies but never seen them. All I knew was that they gathered in clouds and emitted a dull glow. However, I soon realized the light wasn’t a dull glow at all, but in fact was going on, then off, then on again. I was seeing a signal. My breath caught in my throat. The flashing light seemed to come from close to the old wooden door in the wall, the one where I’d seen Tom that day, and my first thought was that he was trying to contact me. It seems strange now, but not for a second did I assume the signal was meant for anyone but me. I was too busy dragging on a pair of trousers, tucking my nightclothes into the waistband then hooking my braces over my shoulders. I shrugged on a coat. All I could think of was what an awfully splendid adventure I was about to have. And of course I realize now, looking back, that in the mansion next door Tom must have been another 4=one who liked to sit on his windowsill and watch the nocturnal life in the grounds of his house. And, like me, he must have seen the signal. And perhaps Tom even had the same thought as I did: that it was me signalling him. And in response did the same as I did: he scrambled from his perch and pulled on some clothes to investigate . . . Two new faces had appeared at the house on Queen Anne’s Square, a pair of hard-faced former soldiers employed by Father. His explanation was that we needed them because he had received “information.” Just that. “Information”—that’s all he’d say. And I wondered then as I wonder now what he meant, and whether it had anything to do with the heated conversation I’d overheard between him and Mr. Birch. Whatever it was, I’d seen little of the two soldiers. All I really knew was that one was stationed in the drawing room at the front of the mansion, while the other stayed close to the fire in the servants’ hall, supposedly to guard the plate room. Both were easy to avoid as I crept down the steps to below stairs and slid into the silent, moonlit kitchen, which I had never seen so dark and empty and still. And cold. My breath plumed and straight away I shivered, uncomfortably aware how chilly it was compared to what I’d thought was the meagre heat of my room. Close by the door was a candle, which I lit and, with my hand cupped over its flame, held to light the way as I let myself

out into the stable yard. And if I’d thought it was cold in the kitchen, then, well . . . outside, it was the kind of cold where it felt as if the world around you was brittle and about to break; cold enough to take my cloudy breath away, to give me second thoughts as I stood there and wondered whether or not I could bear to continue. One of the horses whinnied and stamped, and for some reason the noise made my mind up, sending me tiptoeing past the kennels to a side wall and through a large arched gate leading into the orchard. I made my way through the bare, spindly apple trees, then was out in the open, painfully aware of the mansion to my right, where I imagined faces at every window: Edith, Betty, Mother and Father all staring out and seeing me out of my room and running amok in the grounds. Not that I really was running amok, of course, but that’s what they’d say; that’s what Edith would say as she scolded me and what Father would say when he gave me the cane for my troubles. But if I was expecting a shout from the house, then none came. Instead I made my way to the perimeter wall, began to run quickly along it towards the door. I was still shivering, but as my excitement grew I wondered if Tom would have brought food for a midnight feast: ham, cake and biscuits. Oh, and a hot toddy would be most welcome, too . . . A dog began barking. Thatch, Father’s Irish bloodhound, from his kennel in the stable yard. The noise stopped me in my tracks, and I crouched beneath the bare, low-hanging branches of a willow, until it ceased as suddenly as it had started. Later, of course, I’d understand why it stopped so abruptly. But I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I had no reason to suspect that Thatch had had his throat cut by an invader. We now think there were five of them altogether who crept up on us with knives and swords. Five men making their way to the mansion, and me in the grounds, oblivious to it all. But how was I to know? I was a silly boy whose head buzzed with adventure and derring-do, not to mention the thought of ham and cake, and I continued along the perimeter wall, until I came to the gate. Which was open. What had I expected? I suppose, for the gate to be shut and for Tom to be on the other side of it. Perhaps one of us would have climbed the wall. Perhaps we planned to trade gossip with the door between us. All I knew was that the gate was open, and I began to get the feeling that something was wrong, and at last it occurred to me that the signalling I’d seen from my bedroom window might not have been meant for me. “Tom?” I whispered. There was no sound. The night was completely still: no birds, no animals, nothing. Nervous now, I

was about to turn and leave, return to the house and to the safety of my warm bed, when I saw something.

A foot. I edged further out of the gate where the passageway was bathed in dirty white moonlight which gave everything a soft, grubby glow—including the flesh of the boy sprawled on the ground. He half lay, half sat, propped up against the opposite wall, dressed almost exactly as I was, with a pair of trousers and nightclothes, only he hadn’t bothered to tuck his in and it was twisted around his legs, which lay at strange, unnatural angles on the hard, rutted mud of the walkway. It was Tom, of course. Tom, whose dead eyes stared sightlessly at me from beneath the brim of his hat, skewwhiff on his head; Tom, with the moonlight gleaming on blood that had sheeted down his front from the gash at his throat. My teeth began to chatter. I heard a whimper and realized it was me. A hundred panicked thoughts crowded into my head. And then things began to happen too quickly for me even to remember the exact order in which they took place, though I think it started with the sound of breaking glass and a scream that came from the house. Run. I’m ashamed to admit that the voices, the thoughts jostling in my head, all cried that one word together. Run. And I obeyed them. I ran. Only, not in the direction they wanted me to. Was I doing as my father had instructed and listening to my instincts, or ignoring them? I didn’t know. All I knew was that though every fibre of my being seemed to want me to flee from what I knew was the most terrible danger, in fact I ran towards it. Through the stable yard I ran, and burst into the kitchen, hardly pausing to acknowledge the fact that the door hung open on its hinges. From somewhere along the hall I heard more screaming, saw blood on the kitchen floor and stepped through the door towards the stairs, only to see another body. It was one of the soldiers. He lay in the corridor clutching his stomach, eyelids fluttering madly and a line of blood trickling from his mouth as he slid dying to the floor. As I stepped over him and ran for the stairs, my one thought was to reach my parents. The entrance hall, which was dark, but full of screams and running feet, and the first tendrils of smoke. I tried to get my bearings. From above came yet another scream, and I looked up to see dancing shadows on the balcony, and, briefly, the glitter of steel in the hands of one of our attackers. Meeting him on the landing was one of Father’s valets, but the skittering light stopped me from seeing the poor boy’s fate. Instead I heard and through my feet felt the wet thump of his body as it dropped from the balcony to the wooden floor not far away from me. His assassin gave a howl of triumph, and I could hear running feet as he made his way further along the landing—towards the bedrooms. “Mother!” I screamed, and ran for the stairs at the same time as I saw my parents’ door flung open and my father come surging out to meet the intruder. He wore trousers, and his suspenders were pulled over his naked shoulders, his hair untied and hanging free. In one hand he held a lantern, in the other his blade. “Haytham!” he called as I reached the top of the stairs. The intruder was between us on the landing. He stopped, turned to look at me, and in the light of Father’s lantern I could see him properly for the first time. He wore trousers, a black leather-armour waistcoat and a small half-face mask like the kind worn for a masked ball. And he was changing direction. Instead of going up against Father, he was charging back along the landing after me, grinning. “Haytham!” shouted Father again. He pulled away from Mother and began to run down the landing after the intruder. Instantly the gap between them closed, but it wouldn’t be enough, and I turned to escape, only to see a second man at the foot of the stairs, sword in hand, blocking my way. He was dressed the same as the first, although I noticed one difference: his ears. They were pointed, and with the mask gave him the look of a hideous, deformed Mr. Punch. For a moment I froze, then swung back to see that the

grinning man behind me had turned to meet Father, and their swords clashed. Father had left his lantern

behind, and it was in the half dark that they fought. A short, brutal battle punctuated by grunts and the chiming of sword steel. Even in the heat and the danger of the moment I wished it had been light enough to watch him fight properly. Then it was over and the grinning assassin was grinning no more, dropping his sword, tumbling over the banisters with a scream and hitting the floor beneath. The pointy-eared intruder had been halfway up the stairs but had second thoughts and wheeled around to escape to the entrance hall. There was a shout from below. Over the banisters I saw a third man, also wearing a mask, who beckoned to the pointy-eared man before both disappeared out of sight beneath the landing. I glanced up and in the low light saw a look pass across my father’s face. “The games room,” he said. And, in the next instant, before Mother or I could stop him, he’d leapt over the banister to the entrance hall beneath. As he jumped my mother screamed, “Edward!” and the anguish in her voice echoed my own thoughts. No. My one, single thought: he’s abandoning us. Why is he abandoning us? Mother’s nightclothes were in disarray around her as she ran along the landing towards where I stood at the top of the stairs; her face was a mask of terror. Behind her came yet another attacker, who appeared from the stairway at the far end of the landing and reached Mother at the same time as she reached me. He grabbed her from behind with one hand while his sword hand swept forward, about to draw the blade across her exposed throat. I didn’t stop to think. I didn’t even think about it at all until much later. But in one movement I stepped up, reached, plucked the dead attacker’s sword from the stair, raised it above my head and with two hands plunged it into his face before he could cut her throat. My aim was true and the point of the sword drove through the eyehole of the mask and into the socket. His scream tore a ragged hole in the night as he span away from Mother with the sword momentarily embedded in his eye. Then it was wrenched out as he fell against the banister, toppled for a moment, sank to his knees and pitched forward, dead before his head hit the floor. Mother ran into my arms and buried her head in my shoulder, even as I grabbed the sword and took her hand to make our way back down the stairs. How many times had Father said to me, on his way to work for the day, “You’re in charge today, Haytham; you look after Mother for me.” Now, I really was. We reached the foot of the stairs, where a strange quiet seemed to have descended over the house. The entrance hall was empty now and still dark, though lit by an ominous flickering orange glow. The air was beginning to thicken with smoke, but through the haze I saw bodies: the assassin, the valet who was killed earlier . . . And Edith, who lay with her throat open in a pool of blood. Mother saw Edith, too, whimpered, and tried to pull me in the direction of the main doors, but the door to the games room was half-open, and from inside I could hear the sound of sword fighting. Three men, one of them my father. “Father needs me,” I said, trying to disentangle myself from Mother, who saw what I was about to do and pulled at me harder, until I snatched my hand away with such force that she collapsed to the floor. For one strange moment I found myself torn between helping Mother to her feet and apologizing, the sight of her on the floor—on the floor because of me—was so appalling. But then I heard a great cry from inside the games room and it was enough to propel me through the door. The first thing I saw was that the bookcase compartment was open, and I could see the box holding my sword inside. Otherwise, the room was as always, left just as it had been after the last training session, with the covered billiard table moved and space made for me to train; where earlier that day I’d been tutored and scolded by Father. Where now Father was kneeling, dying. Standing over him was a man with his sword buried hilt deep in my father’s chest, the blade

protruding from his back dripping blood to the wooden floor. Not far away stood the pointy-eared man,

who had a large gash down his face. It had taken two of them to defeat Father, and only just at that. I flew at the killer, who was caught by surprise and without time to retrieve his sword from my father’s chest. Instead he span away to avoid my blade, letting go of his sword at the same time as Father dropped to the floor. Like a fool I continued after the assassin, forgot to protect my flank, and the next thing I saw was a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye as the pointy-eared man danced forward. Whether he meant to do it or mistimed his blow, I’m not sure, but instead of striking me with the blade he clubbed me with the pommel, and my vision went black; my head connected with something, and it took me a second to realize it was the leg of the billiard table. I was on the floor, dazed, sprawled opposite Father, who lay on his side with the sword handle still protruding from his chest. There was life in his eyes still, just a spark, and his eyelids fluttered momentarily, as if he were focusing, taking me in. For a moment or so we lay opposite one another, two wounded men. His lips were moving. Through a dark cloud of pain and grief I saw his hand reach

for me. “Father—” I said. Then in the next instant the killer had strode over and without pausing bent and pulled his blade from Father’s body. Father jerked, his body arched with one last spasm of pain as his lips pulled away from bloodied teeth, and he died. I felt a boot on my side that pushed me on to my back, and I looked up into the eyes of my father’s killer, and now my killer, who with a smirk raised his sword two-handed, about to plunge it into me. If it gave me shame to report that my inner voices had commanded me to run just a few moments before, then it gives me pride to report that now they were calm; that I faced my death with dignity and with the knowledge that I had done my best for my family; with gratitude that I would soon be joining my father. But of course it was not to be. It’s not a ghost who writes these words. Something caught my eye, and it was the tip of a sword that appeared between the killer’s legs and in the same instant was driven upwards, opening his torso from the groin up. I’ve realized since that the direction of the strike had less to do with savagery and more to do with the need to pull my killer away from me, not push him forward. But savage it was, and he screamed, blood splattering as he was split asunder and his guts dropped from the gash to the floor and his lifeless carcass followed suit. Behind him stood Mr. Birch. “Are you all right, Haytham?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” I gasped. “Good show,” he said, then span with his sword up to intercept the pointy-eared man, who came at him with his blade flashing. I pulled myself to my knees, grabbed a fallen sword and stood, ready to join Mr. Birch, who had driven the pointy-eared man back to the door of the games room when suddenly the attacker saw something—something out of sight behind the door—and danced to one side. In the next instant Mr. Birch reared back and held out a hand to prevent me coming forward, while at the doorway the pointy-eared man had reappeared. Only this time he had a hostage. Not my mother, as I at first feared. It was Jenny. “Get back,” snarled Pointy-Ears. Jenny snivelled, and her eyes were wide as the blade pressed into her throat. Can I admit—can I admit that at that moment I cared far more for avenging my father’s death than I did for protecting Jenny? “Stay there,” repeated Pointy-Ears man, pulling Jenny back. The hem of her nightdress was caught around her ankles and her heels dragged on the floor. Suddenly they were joined by another masked man who brandished a flaming torch. The entrance hall was almost full of smoke now. I could see flames coming from another part of the house, licking at the doors to the drawing room. The man with the torch darted to the drapes, put his flame to them, and more of our house began to burn around us, Mr. Birch and I powerless to stop it. I saw my mother out of the corner of my eye and thanked God she was all right. Jenny was another matter, though. As she was dragged towards the door of the mansion, her eyes were fixed on me and Mr. Birch as though we were her last hopes. The torch-bearing attacker came to join his colleague, hauled the door open and darted out towards a carriage I could see on the street outside. For a moment I thought they might let Jenny go, but no. She began to scream as she was dragged towards the carriage and bundled in, and she was still screaming as a third masked man in the driver’s seat shook the reins, wielded his crop and the carriage rattled off into the night, leaving us to escape from our burning house and drag our dead from the clutches of the flames.

10-december-1735编辑

Even though we buried Father today, the first thing I thought about when I awoke this morning didn’t

involve him or his funeral, it was about the plate room at Queen Anne’s Square. They hadn’t tried to enter it. Father had employed the two soldiers because he was worried about a robbery, but our attackers had made their way upstairs without even bothering to try to raid the plate room. Because they were after Jenny, that was why. And killing Father? Was that part of the plan? This was what I thought as I awoke to a room that was freezing—which isn’t unusual, that it should be freezing. An everyday occurrence, in fact. Just that today’s room was especially cold. The kind of cold that sets your teeth on edge; that reaches into your bones. I glanced over to the hearth, wondering why there wasn’t more heat from the fire, only to see that it was unlit and the grate grey and dusty with ash. I clambered out of bed and went to where there was a thick layer of ice on the inside of the window, preventing me from seeing out. Gasping with cold, I dressed, left my room, and was struck by how quiet the house seemed. Creeping all the way downstairs, I found Betty’s room, knocked softly, then a little harder. When she didn’t answer, I stood debating what to do, a little concern for her gnawing at the insides of my stomach. And when there was still no answer, I knelt to look through the keyhole, praying I wouldn’t see anything I shouldn’t. She lay asleep in one of the two beds in her room. The other one was empty and neatly made up, although there was a pair of what looked like men’s boots at the foot of it, with a strip of silver at the heel. My gaze went back to Betty, and for a moment I watched as the blanket covering her rose and fell, and then decided to let her sleep on, and straightened. I ambled along to the kitchen, where Mrs. Searle started a little as I entered, looked me up and down with a slightly disapproving gaze then returned to her work at the chopping board. It wasn’t that Mrs. Searle and I had fallen out, just that Mrs. Searle regarded everybody with suspicion, and since the attack even more so. “She’s not one of life’s most forgiving sorts,” Betty had said to me one afternoon. That was another thing that had changed since the attack: Betty had become a lot more candid, and every now and then would drop hints about how she really felt about things. I had never realized that she and Mrs. Searle didn’t see eye to eye, for example, nor had I any idea that Betty regarded Mr. Birch with suspicion. She did though: “I don’t know why he’s making decisions on behalf of the Kenways,” she had muttered darkly yesterday. “He’s not a member of the family. Doubt he ever will be.” Somehow, knowing that Betty didn’t think much of Mrs. Searle made the housekeeper less forbidding in my eyes, and while before I would have thought twice about wandering into the kitchen unannounced and requesting food, I now had no such qualms. “Good morning, Mrs. Searle,” I said. She gave a small curtsy. The kitchen was cold, just her in it. At Queen Anne’s Square, Mrs. Searle had at least three helpers, not to mention sundry other staff who flitted in and out through the great double doors of the kitchen. But that was before the attack, when we had a full complement, and there’s nothing like an invasion of sword-wielding masked men for driving the servants away. Most hadn’t even returned the following day. Now there was just Mrs. Searle, Betty, Mr. Digweed, a chambermaid called Emily, and Miss Davy, who was Mother’s lady’s maid. They were the last of the staff who looked after the Kenways. Or the remaining Kenways, I should say. Just me and Mother left now. When I left the kitchen, it was with a piece of cake wrapped in cloth handed to me with a sour look by Mrs. Searle, who no doubt disapproved of me wandering about the house so early in the morning, scavenging for food ahead of the breakfast she was in the process of preparing. I like Mrs. Searle, and since she’s one of the few members of staff to have stayed with us after that terrible night, I like her even more, but even so. There are other things to worry about now. Father’s funeral. And Mother, of course. And then I found myself in the entrance hall, looking at the inside of the front door, and before I knew it I was opening the door, and without thinking—without thinking too much, anyway—letting myself out on to the steps and out into a world clouded with frost.

“Now, what in the blazes do you plan to do on such a cold morning, Master Haytham?”

A carriage had just drawn up outside the house, and at the window was Mr. Birch. He wore a hat that was heavier than usual, and a scarf pulled up over his nose so that, at first glance, he looked like a highwayman. “Just looking, sir,” I said, from the steps. He pulled his scarf down, trying to smile. Before when he’d smiled it had set his eyes twinkling, now it was like the dwindling, cooling ashes of the fire, trying but unable to generate any warmth, as strained and tired as his voice when he spoke. “I think perhaps I know what you’re looking for, Master Haytham.” “What’s that, sir?” “The way home?” I thought about it and realized he was right. The trouble was, I had lived the first ten years of my life being shepherded around by parents and the nursemaids. Though I knew that Queen Anne’s Square was near, and even within walking distance, I had no idea how to get there. “And were you planning on a visit?” he asked. I shrugged, but the truth of it was that, yes, I had pictured myself in the shell of my old home. In the games room there. I’d pictured myself retrieving . . . “Your sword?” I nodded. “It’s too dangerous to go in the house, I’m afraid. Would you like to take a trip over there anyway? You can see it, at least. Come inside, it’s as cold as a greyhound’s nostril out there.” And I saw no reason not to, especially when he produced a hat and a cape from within the depths of the carriage. When we pulled up at the house some moments later it didn’t look at all as I had imagined it. No, it was far, far worse. As though a giant God-like fist had pounded into it from above, smashing through the roof and the floors beneath, gouging a huge, ragged hole into the house. It wasn’t so much a house now as a ravaged representation of one. Through broken windows we could see into the entrance hall and up—through smashed floors to the hallway three flights up, all of them blackened with soot. I could see furniture that I recognized, blackened and charred, burnt portraits hanging lopsided on the walls. “I’m sorry—it really is too dangerous to go inside, Master Haytham,” said Mr. Birch.
   After a moment he led me back into the carriage, tapped the ceiling twice with his cane, and we pulled away. “However,” said Mr. Birch, “I took the liberty of retrieving your sword yesterday,” and reaching beneath his seat he produced the box. It, too, was dusty with soot, but when he pulled it to his lap and opened the lid, the sword lay inside, as gleaming as it had been the day Father gave it to me. “Thank you, Mr. Birch” was all I could say, as he closed the box and placed it on the seat between us. “It’s a handsome sword, Haytham. I’ve no doubt you’ll treasure it.” “I will, sir.” “And when, I wonder, will it first taste blood?” “I don’t know, sir.” There was a pause. Mr. Birch clasped his cane between his knees. “The night of the attack, you killed a man,” he said, turning his head to look out of the window. We passed houses that were only just visible, floating through a haze of smoke and freezing air. It was still early. The streets were quiet. “How did that feel, Haytham?” “I was protecting Mother,” I said. “That was the only possible option, Haytham,” he agreed, nodding, “and you did the right thing. Don’t for a moment think otherwise. But its being the only option doesn’t change the fact that it’s no small matter to kill a man. For anybody. Not for your father. Not for me. But especially not for a boy of such tender years.” “I felt no sadness at what I did. I just acted.”

“And have you thought about it since?”

“No, sir. I’ve thought only of Father, and Mother.” “And Jenny . . . ?” said Mr. Birch. “Oh. Yes, sir.” There was a pause, and when he next spoke his voice was flat and solemn. “We need to find her, Haytham,” he said. I kept quiet. “I intend to leave for Europe, where we believe she is being held.” “How do you know she is in Europe, sir?” “Haytham, I am a member of an influential and important organization. A kind of club, or society. One of the many advantages to membership is that we have eyes and ears everywhere.” “What is it called, sir?” I asked. “The Templars, Master Haytham. I am a Templar Knight.” “A knight?” I said, looking at him sharply. He gave a short laugh. “Perhaps not exactly the kind of knight you’re thinking of, Haytham, a relic of the Middle Ages, but our ideals remain the same. Just as our forebears set out to spread peace across the Holy Land centuries ago, so we are the unseen power that helps to maintain peace and order in our time.” He waved his hand at the window, where the streets were busier now. “All of this, Haytham, it requires structure and discipline, and structure and discipline require an example to follow. The Knights Templar are that example.” My head span. “And where do you meet? What do you do? Do you have armour?” “Later, Haytham. Later, I’ll tell you more.” “Was Father a member, though? Was he a Knight?” My heart leapt. “Was he training me to become one?” “No, Master Haytham, he was not, and I’m afraid that as far as I’m aware he was merely training you in swordsmanship in order that . . . well, the fact that your mother lives proves the worth of your lessons.
      No, my relationship with your father was not built on my membership of the Order. I’m

pleased to say that I was employed by him for my skill at property management rather than any hidden connections. Nevertheless, he knew that I was a Knight. After all, the Templars have powerful and wealthy connections, and these could sometimes be of use in our business. Your father may not have been a member, but he was shrewd enough to see the worth of the connections: a friendly word, the passing on of useful information”—he took a deep breath—“one of which was the warning about the attack at Queen Anne’s Square. I told him, of course. I asked him why it might be that he had been targeted, but he scoffed at the very idea—disingenuously, perhaps. We clashed over it, Haytham. Voices were raised, but I only wish now I’d been even more insistent.” “Was that the argument I heard?” I asked. He looked sideways at me. “So you did hear, did you? Not eavesdropping, I hope?” The tone in his voice made me more than thankful I hadn’t been. “No, Mr. Birch, sir, I heard raised voices, and that was all.” He looked hard at me. Satisfied I was telling the truth, he faced forward. “Your father was as stubborn as he was inscrutable.” “But he didn’t ignore the warning, sir. He employed the soldiers, after all.” Mr. Birch sighed. “Your father didn’t take the threat seriously, and would have done nothing. When he wouldn’t listen to me, I took the step of informing your mother. It was at her insistence that he employed the soldiers. I wish now I had substituted the men for men taken from our ranks. They would not have been so easily overwhelmed. All I can do now is try to find his daughter for him and punish those responsible. To do that I need to know why—what was the purpose of the attack? Tell me, what do you know of him before he settled in London, Master Haytham?” “Nothing, sir,” I replied. He gave a dry chuckle. “Well, that makes two of us. More than two of us, in fact. Your mother knows next to nothing also.” “And Jenny, sir?” “Ah, the equally inscrutable Jenny. As frustrating as she was beautiful, as inscrutable as she was adorable.” “‘Was,’ sir?” “A turn of phrase, Master Haytham—I hope with all my heart at least. I remain hopeful that Jenny is safe in the hands of her captors, of use to them only if she is alive.” “You think she has been taken for a ransom?” “Your father was very rich. Your family might well have been targeted for your wealth, and your father’s death unplanned. It’s certainly possible. We have men looking into that possibility now. Equally, the mission may have been to assassinate your father, and we have men looking into that possibility also —well, me, because of course I knew him well, and would know if he had any enemies: enemies with the wherewithal to stage such an attack, I mean, rather than disgruntled tenants—and I came up with not a single possibility, which leads me to believe that the object may have been to settle a grudge. If so then it’s a long-standing grudge, something that relates to his time before London. Jenny, being the only one who knew him before London, may have had answers, but whatever she knew she has taken into the hands of her captors. Either way, Haytham, we need to locate her.” There was something about the way he said “we.” “As I say, it is thought she will have been taken somewhere in Europe, so Europe is where we will conduct our search for her. And by ‘we,’ I mean you and I, Haytham.” I started. “Sir?” I said, hardly able to believe my ears. “That’s right,” he said. “You shall be coming with me.” “Mother needs me, sir. I can’t leave her here.”
Mr. Birch looked at me again, in his eyes neither kindliness nor malice. “Haytham,” he said, “I’m afraid the decision is not yours to make.” “It is for Mother to make,” I insisted. “Well, quite.” “What do you mean, sir?” He sighed. “I mean, have you spoken to your mother since the night of the attack?” “She’s been too distressed to see anyone but Miss Davy or Emily. She’s stayed in her room, and Miss Davy says I’m to be summoned when she can see me.” “When you do see her, you will find her changed.” “Sir?” “On the night of the attack, Tessa saw her husband die and her little boy kill a man. These things will have had a profound effect on her, Haytham; she may not be the person you remember.” “All the more reason she needs me.” “Maybe what she needs is to get well, Haytham—possibly with as few reminders of that terrible night around her as possible.” “I understand, sir,” I said. “I’m sorry if that comes as a shock, Haytham.” He frowned. “And I may well be wrong, of course, but I’ve been dealing with your father’s business affairs since his death, and we’ve been making arrangements with your mother, I’ve had the opportunity of seeing her first-hand, and I don’t think I’m wrong. Not this time.”

Mother called for me shortly before the funeral.

When Betty, who had been full of red-faced apologies for what she called “her little lie-in,” told me, my first thought was that she had changed her mind about my going to Europe with Mr. Birch, but I was wrong. Darting along to her room, I knocked and only just heard her tell me to come in—her voice so weak and reedy now, not at all how it used to be, when it was soft but commanding. Inside, she was sitting by the window, and Miss Davy was fussing at the curtains; even though it was daytime it was hardly bright outside but, nevertheless, Mother was waving her hand in front of her, as if she were being bothered by an angry bird, rather than just some greying rays of winter sunlight. At last Miss Davy finished to Mother’s satisfaction and with a weary smile indicated me to a seat. Mother turned her head towards me, very slowly, looked at me and forced a smile. The attack had exacted a terrible toll on her. It was as though all the life had been leeched out of her; as though she had lost the light she always had, whether she was smiling or cross or, as Father always said, wearing her heart on her sleeve. Now the smile slowly slid from her lips, which settled back into a blank frown, as though she’d tried but no longer had the strength to keep up any pretence. “You know I’m not going to the funeral, Haytham?” she said blankly.

“Yes, Mother.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Haytham, I really am, but I’m not strong enough.” She never usually called me Haytham. She called me “darling.” “Yes, Mother,” I said, knowing that she was—she was strong enough. “Your Mother has more pluck than any man I’ve ever met, Haytham,” Father used to say. They had met shortly after he moved to London, and she had pursued him—“like a lioness in pursuit of her prey,” Father had joked, “a sight as bloodcurdling as it was awe-inspiring,” and earned himself a clout for that particular joke, the kind of joke you thought might have had an element of truth to it.
She didn’t like to talk about her family. “Prosperous” was all I knew. And Jenny had hinted once that they had disowned her because of her association with Father. Why, of course, I never found out. On the odd occasion I’d pestered Mother about Father’s life before London, she’d smiled mysteriously. He’d tell me when he was ready. Sitting in her room, I realized that at least part of the grief I felt was the pain of knowing that I’d never hear whatever it was Father was planning to tell me on my birthday. Although it’s just a tiny part of the grief, I should make clear—insignificant compared to the grief of losing Father and the pain of seeing Mother like this. So . . . reduced. So lacking in that pluck Father spoke of. Perhaps it had turned out that the source of her strength was him. Perhaps the carnage of that terrible evening had simply been too much for her to take. They say it happens to soldiers. They get “soldier’s heart” and become shadows of their former selves. The bloodshed changes them somehow. Was that the case with Mother? I wondered. “I’m sorry, Haytham,” she added. “It’s all right, Mother.” “No—I mean, you are to go to Europe with Mr. Birch.” “But I’m needed here, with you. To look after you.” She gave an airy laugh: “Mama’s little soldier, uh?” and fixed me with a strange, searching look. I knew exactly where her mind was going. Back to what had happened on the stairs. She was seeing me thrust a blade into the eye socket of the masked attacker. And then she tore her eyes away, leaving me feeling almost breathless with the raw emotion of her gaze. “I have Miss Davy and Emily to look after me, Haytham. When the repairs are made to Queen Anne’s Square we’ll be able to move back and I can employ more staff. No, it is me who should be looking after you, and I have appointed Mr. Birch the family comptroller and your guardian, so that you can be looked after properly. It’s what your father would have wanted.” She looked at the curtain quizzically, as if she was trying to recall why it was drawn. “I understand that Mr. Birch was going to speak to you about leaving for Europe straight away.” “He did, yes, but—” “Good.” She regarded me. Again, there was something discomfiting about the look; she was no longer the mother I knew, I realized. Or was I no longer the son she knew? “It’s for the best, Haytham.” “But, Mother . . .” She looked at me, then away again quickly. “You’re going, and that’s the end of it,” she said firmly, her stare returning to the curtains. My eyes went to Miss Davy as though looking for assistance, but I found none; in return she gave me a sympathetic smile, a raise of the eyebrows, an expression that said, “I’m sorry, Haytham, there’s nothing I can do, her mind is made up.” There was silence in the room, no sound apart from the clip-clopping of hooves from outside, from a world that carried on oblivious to the fact that mine was being taken apart. “You are dismissed, Haytham,” Mother said, with a wave of her hand. Before—before the attack, I mean—she had never used to “summon” me. Or “dismiss” me. Before, she had never let me leave her side without at least a kiss on the cheek, and she’d told me she loved me, at least once a day. As I stood, it occurred to me that she hadn’t said anything about what had happened on the stairs that night. She had never thanked me for saving her life. At the door I paused and turned to look at her, and wondered whether she wished the outcome had been different.
Mr. Birch accompanied me to the funeral, a small, informal service at the same chapel we had used for Edith, with almost the same number in attendance: the household, Old Mr. Fayling, and a few members of staff from Father’s work, whom Mr. Birch spoke to afterwards. He introduced me to one of them, Mr. Simpkin, a man I judged to be in his mid-thirties, who I was told would be handling the family’s affairs. He bowed a little and gave me a look I’m coming to recognize as a mix of awkwardness and sympathy, each struggling to find adequate expression. “I will be dealing with your mother while you are in Europe, Master Haytham,” he assured me. It hit me that I really was going; that I had no choice, no say whatsoever in the matter. Well, I do have a choice, I suppose—I could run away. Not that running away seems like any kind of choice. We took carriages home. Trooping into the house, I caught sight of Betty, who looked at me and gave me a weak smile. The news about me was spreading, so it seemed. When I asked her what she planned to do, she told me that Mr. Digweed had found her alternative employment. When she looked at me her eyes shone with tears, and when she left the room I sat at my desk to write my journal with a heavy heart.

11-december-1735编辑

We depart for Europe tomorrow morning. It strikes me how few preparations are needed. It is as though

the fire had already severed all my ties with my old life. What few things I had left were only enough to fill two trunks, which were taken away this morning. Today I am to write letters, and also to see Mr. Birch in order to tell him about something that occurred last night, after I’d gone to bed. I was almost asleep when I heard a soft knocking at the door, sat up and said, “Come in,” fully expecting it to be Betty. It wasn’t. I saw the figure of a girl, who stepped quickly into the room and shut the door behind her. She raised a candle so I could see her face and the finger she held to her lips. It was Emily, blond-haired Emily, the chambermaid. “Master Haytham,” she said, “I have something I need to tell you, which has been preying on my mind, sir.” “Of course,” I said, hoping my voice wouldn’t betray the fact that I felt suddenly very young and vulnerable. “I know the maid of the Barretts,” she said quickly. “Violet, who was one of those who came out of their houses that night. She was close to the carriage they put your sister in, sir. As they bundled Miss Jenny past her and the carriage, Miss Jenny caught Violet’s eye and told her something quickly, which Violet has told me.” “What was it?” I said. “It was very quick, sir, and there was plenty of noise, and before she could say any more they bundled her into the carriage, but what Violet thinks she heard was ‘Traitor.’ Next day, a man paid Violet a visit, a man with a West Country accent, or so she said, who wanted to know what she’d heard, but Violet said she’d heard nothing, even when the gentleman threatened her. He showed her an evil-looking knife, sir, out of his belt, but even then she said nothing.” “But she told you?” “Violet’s my sister, sir. She worries for me.” “Have you told anyone else?” “No, sir.” “I shall tell Mr. Birch in the morning,” I said. “But, sir . . .” “What?” “What if the traitor is Mr. Birch?” I gave a short laugh and shook my head. “It isn’t possible. He saved my life. He was there fighting the . . .” Something struck me. “There is someone who wasn’t there, though.”

Of course I sent word to Mr. Birch at the first opportunity this morning, and he reached the same conclusion I had. An hour later another man arrived, who was shown into the study. He was about the same age my father had been and had a craggy face, scars and the cold, staring eyes of some species of sea life. He was taller than Mr. Birch, and broader, and seemed to fill the room with his presence. A dark presence. And he looked at me. Down his nose at me. Down his wrinkled-with-disdain nose at me. “This is Mr. Braddock,” said Mr. Birch, as I stood fixed into place by the newcomer’s glare. “He is also a Templar. He has my total and utmost trust, Haytham.” He cleared his throat, and said loudly, “And a manner sometimes at odds with what I know to be in his heart.” Mr. Braddock snorted, and shot him a withering look. “Now, Edward,” chided Birch. “Haytham, Mr. Braddock will be in charge of finding the traitor.” “Thank you, sir,” I said. Mr. Braddock looked me over then spoke to Mr. Birch. “This Digweed,” he said, “perhaps you can show me his quarters.” When I moved to follow them, Mr. Braddock glared at Mr. Birch, who nodded almost imperceptibly then turned to me, smiling, with a look in his eyes that begged my forbearance. “Haytham,” he said, “perhaps you should attend to other matters. Your preparations for leaving, perhaps,” and I was compelled to return to my room, where I surveyed my already packed cases then retrieved my journal, in which to write the events of the day. Moments ago, Mr. Birch came to me with the news: Digweed has escaped, he told me, his face grave. However, they will find him, he assured me. The Templars always catch their man and, in the meantime, nothing changes. We still depart for Europe. It strikes me this will be my last entry at home here in London. These are the last words of my old life, before my new one begins.

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