This week's edition to our Olympia Extracts is the stunning historical biography, The Man Under the Elm by Gerry Wycherley
Nervously, William knocked on the door of his father’s study. He paused and took a deep breath before lifting the latch, for he knew what awaited him. Daniel sat at his great desk, strewn with papers. He raised his head to look at his son, his face stern; his eyes cold. William stood, submissively silent.
“You know why I have sent for you this morning. Your cavorting with that Corbett girl last evening is a disgrace I’m not willing to tolerate. You know how we regard the Corbetts. They are an evil bunch who’ll stop at nothing to bring us down. I’ll not stand by to watch you conspire with those whose every wish is our destruction.”
“Forgive me father. I could not recall seeing Emma before. I had no idea who she is.”
“Maybe so, but I have eyes in my head. You were greatly taken with her, if I’m not mistaken.”
“I cannot deny it. I cannot deny that I thought her very pretty, and in her speech, she was most pleasant. Not at all of the Corbett like.”
“Pretty she may be, but she’s a Corbett. You know what that means.”
“Yes, father. I know your difficulty with them. Yet, can she be blamed because her family and mine are at each other’s throats? Must she be condemned for what she knows nothing of?”
“She’s a Corbett,” snapped Daniel, angrily. “That is enough.”
“But she’s the most innocent of creatures – quite incapable of malice. She bears us no ill will. Of what can she be accused?”
“Be silent!” Daniel’s voice was sharp and commanding. “I do not propose to reason with you. You will not see her again – do you hear?”
“Enough!” His father’s fist crashed angrily on the desk. “Don’t argue with me, boy. I’ll hear no more. You will not see her again. I forbid it.”
William sighed resignedly. He knew it was impossible. “Very well father. If it’s your wish.”
“It is not only my wish but my command. Don’t disappoint me.”
“I’m sorry if I have angered you, father. You surely know it was not my intention.”
“Very well. We’ll say no more. See to it that you conduct yourself with greater dignity in future.”
William relaxed a little, confident that his father’s anger had spent itself. “I dare say Emma’s father is equally displeased. I doubt he’ll allow another opportunity.”
“For that alone, he has my gratitude,” mused Daniel. “God knows, we have little other for which to thank him.”
He again took up his quill, which was the signal for William to withdraw, but stubbornly, he stood his ground. His father eyed him, questioningly. “Is there something else?”
“Yes, father,” William answered, hesitantly.
“Well – come along. I haven’t all day.”
William fought for courage to say what he knew to be difficult. “Father – wouldn’t it be sensible – I mean – would it be possible for us to try to end the dispute between us and the Corbetts? After all – it’s been going on so long—”
“What!” Daniel threw down his quill as he jumped to his feet. A line of blots spread across the neatly written page.
“—we’ve forgotten what it’s all about,” carried on William, doggedly. “What purpose does it serve?”
“Silence!” snarled Daniel, angrily, as he strode across the room. “Dear God! Is this a measure of your loyalty?”
William instantly regretted his foolishness. “I’m sorry Father. I…”
“Let me remind you, boy; it is the Corbetts and their like who have robbed me of my place on the Exchange. It is the Corbetts who have openly opposed us in everything we have tried to do for fifty years or more. Would you now have me crawl to them to ask their grudging forgiveness? Never! I’d sooner be in my grave and rotting in hell.”
“Forgive me father, I didn’t mean to question your judgement.”
“Get out and leave me in peace!”
With a fitful, embarrassed glance, William meekly left the room.