The Misfortunes of Mr. Ferrars (Part Three)
The colours seemed too bright to his pounding head when he stepped inside The Golden Apple. A guard escorted him to a far table in one of the corners, where a man sat with a mountain of papers stacked perfectly in front of him. The morning sunlight fell on his back and illuminated him like some sort of angelic figure. Dwayne lifted a hand to shield his eyes. The guard released him from his grip and trooped back the way he had come, leaving the two of them alone in the tavern’s main hall.
“You seem like the pleasanter sort,” the man commented, looking him up and down. “What might your name be?”
Dwayne shrugged and answered.
“Dwayne?” The change in the other’s voice was evident. “I should’ve recognised you instantly, I suppose, but it’s been many years. I hope you remember me, cousin.” He got up and moved to stand in front of Dwayne.
“Rick?” asked Dwayne, uncertainly.
“And so you do,” replied Richard, clapping him on his back. “It’s a pleasure to see you after… how many years has it been?”
“Six or seven,” mumbled Dwayne, leaning away from him. It was as if his nightmares were suddenly coming true. The news of his turn of fortunes had sped like a wildfire among his relations and the last thing he wanted was one of them to see him in his poor condition.
“Too long, too long. But I suppose I have been busy. It must be desperate times indeed for you if you’re thinking of applying for this job.” He chuckled, but Dwayne chafed at the insult.
“I heard it pays very well,” he defended his decision.
“Of course it does because the job itself is nothing short of torture,” Richard guffawed.
“I do need the money, Rick. If you could help me out, I’d be forever indebted to you,” Dwayne said through gritted teeth. Only Lessie’s pleading eyes had kept him there even after Richard’s words.
“Anything for you, dear cousin. I’m certain that you’re the most qualified man to apply; over-qualified, really.” He gave Dwayne a pointed smile and continued, “I would have to hire you based on merit itself. But I must ask you, Dwayne, after your stint as a businessman, can you take orders from a little boy?”
Dwayne nodded but said nothing. He would do whatever was asked of him for that amount of money, or so he told himself. He had already buried any pride he had had when he walked into this tavern.
Richard shook his hands solemnly. “Then welcome to the palace, Mr. Dwayne Ferrars, as the caretaker of Prince Jeffrey. I hope you enjoy your time in the palace.” There was a mischievous sparkle in Rick’s eyes that annoyed Dwayne. He withdrew his hands quickly.
“Thank you, cousin,” Dwayne said with as much fervour as he could muster. “Is there a contract I must sign? When do I start?”
“Come round to the palace tomorrow morning and I shall have your contract ready. You will start two days hence, if that is fine by you.”
“That would be perfect. Thank you again, Rick.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Dwayne. Oh, but when you do arrive tomorrow, make sure to ask for Mr. Richard and not Rick. We are colleagues now, after all.” He laughed without humour.
“My apologies, Mr. Richard,” replied Dwayne, doffing his hat and curtsying. He hoped Rick wouldn’t notice the mockery in his fake smile.
“That’s much better now,” Rick called, striding away from him towards entrance. “Send the rest away,” he ordered the guard as he left.
Dwayne should have been happy as he followed his cousin out of the door, but a heavy dread filled his heart. He had to see Lessie and tell her he had a job, but he wasn’t yet sure if that was good or bad news.