Installment Three from “Bon Fire Night”
Haunted his entire life, Westminster docent Henry Dynsdale wishes he had never heard of Bonfire Night…
Forty minutes on, the group applauded as Henry completed his rousing rendition of what he liked to term ‘living history’. Henry was gratified that a few of Charles’ group had lingered to eavesdrop as he changed voice for each character he portrayed.
“Thank you.” He bowed graciously, palms together as in prayer.
“You are welcome to stay on as you wish, to inspect this marvelous place more thoroughly.”
The group dispersed, save the girl and her grandmother.
“Have you a bonfire to go to tonight, Mister Dyndale?” Syd asked.
Henry smiled. “I do not.”
“Gran and I are taking the Tube down to Barnes for the Guy-alike Contest and Fireworks.”
“Are you entering an effigy?”
Syd looked to her gran. “If we can manage to collect proper costume. So far there are no men about who are willing to part with any of their clothing.”
“It’s all right Sydnee,” her gran reassured, hand on Syd’s forearm.
“I’ve some clothes in a bag I’ve been meaning to run down to the charity shop.” Henry offered.
“Sydnee.” Elise intervened. “Mister Dynsdale has other plans, I’m sure.”
“Actually Mrs. Lockwood—”
“Please. ‘Elise.'” She smiled.
“Elise. Such a lovely name. Actually, I don’t… have other plans. I would be honoured to escourt two such lovely ladies to Barnes.” He searched Elise’s features for clues to her disposition. Her clear amber eyes shone with sincerity. “Unless Mister Lockwood—”
“There is no Mister Lockwood.” Syd interrupted.
“Oh,” Henry said in uncertainty.
“I’m a widow these dozen years,” Elise added.
“I’m sorry,” Henry said. A twinge of sadness weighted him. How could a lovely woman such as Elise be alone?
“So will you come with us, Mister Dynsdale?”
“If your Grandmother agrees.” Elise nodded in a coy way that captivated him. “Shall I meet you there?”
“Can we see your old clothes first?” Syd asked.
Elsie moved her hand to Sydnee’s shoulder. “What time are you through here Henry?”
“Half day today.” He pulled the pocket watch from his waistcoat. “A further two hours. Would you ladies care to join me for lunch?”
“Is that agreeable to your employers?”
“One of the benefits of being an elder guide. Flexibility. Give me a moment and I shall see if there is room in the MP’s lunchroom.”
“Surely not in Portcullis House.” Elise’s brows rose.
“No, actually.” He observed his guest’s faces reflecting curiosity punctuated with anticipation. “Excuse me a moment.” Henry turned and glided through the corridors never seen by outsiders. Past the wood lockers used by MP’s and staff and into the rich walnut-paneled lunchroom abutting the Thames.
“James, old man.” He called to the waiter, whose back was to him.
He turned. “Ah, Henry. How are you?”
“Needing a bit of a favour. How’s the sitting looking today?”
“Bloody vacant. Most of the MP’s are keen on returning home for tonight’s festivities and their staff…well.”
“I can imagine.” He drew a handkerchief from his pocket, removed his spectacles, massaging the lenses in circular fashion. “Then it won’t be a problem if I bring in a young girl and her grandmother? It’ll be a real education for the girl. She’s quite taken with…” He cleared his throat in disapprobation. “William Wallace.”
“Can’t much blame the girl. Hollywood has made him quite the fig-ar.”
“Bring them back. I’d be happy to serve them.”
“Good man.” Henry patted James on the shoulder and turned to collect his new friends.
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