I. The Day Dickens Died.

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Four years later.
EIGHTEEN hundred SEVENTY

.


It was mid-June afternoon, raining Indian monsoon down the English sky and there had been this news that Dickens had died.

April was standing on the platform of Wilfred Park, her blue day-gown demurely settled around her feet, all her four years of stay at London stockpiled in three leather cases; her face turned towards the light of the day.

The liquid glint of her eyes were sharp, inspective; there was a hum within her head and another with-out, the hum of rain in the wind that grew heavy, beating upon the slanting roof overhead. She looked wan from the long journey. Pale, gnawing her lips and lost in utter gentleness of pensive ponderings.

Where were they?

She dragged her heavy cases from the coach down to the tiled, rackety platform and threw another glance on the wet dais around her, searching for a familiar, forgotten figure of her Papa's butler. Anyone, as a matter of fact. She had made sure to write ahead of her, informing her father of the date and time of her arrival at Wilfred Park, and he had answered.

He had been rapturous, as Lord Mildred had told her in his letter but ah! Not enough, apparently, to take a note of her coming back and be there to receive her.

The station was quite deserted for the day, there had been little difficulty figuring out that her father was not in attendance and April had to help herself out of the wagon. She heaved another exaggerated sigh and hauled her luggage farther from the rails, toward the shaded bench to screen herself from the needling downpour.

She pulled out her parasol from her package and stormed to the platform exit petulantly. A porter and a carriage was all she had to find, she could trip home alone considering she had travelled alone back from London.

Outside the terminus, the pavements were wet through.

White roses framed the fences sitting like bereft cherubs, tranquil in the strident cacophony of distant pitter-pattering of the raindrops and country noises. The broken cobblestones were filled with rainwater_ quick slivers rushing to the side drains through the patterns of tiles, puddles overflowing.

Potholes were flashing in the dim, sudden sky-lights.

And when she breathed into the earthly air, she found her displeasure ebbing away in a slow immediacy. Oh, she was home! At long, long last, she felt shackles of mob and guard of caprice fall off her person.

Stepping further, April gazed down the platform at the muddy garden beneath. The grey heaven was weeping in dissonance. Rain fell like slow sorrow. The very air had a dismal touch in its damp caress. And all in all, it made a pretty sight.

"Scenic, isn't it?"

The stout, mannish voice though hearty was extremely sudden; it took April by such surprise that when she whipped around on her heal; she nearly hauled herself off the boundary.

Her parasol tip gyrated with her and the first thing she knew was the sharp gash that it had sliced open on the palm of the person across her.

The man....the boy hissed and yanked his hand away, gripping it with his other hand as a faint red streak slowly emerged across the length of his palm. April gasped and dropped her parasol, reaching out to grab his hand and examine her fierce achievement.

"Oh botheration, pardon me Sir!" At her approach, the boy pulled his hand away from her while her eyes followed the bleeding flesh. "You so startled me."

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