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Henry Swainsworth – Gentleman Adventurer

October 28, 2012

There was adventure nearby.  I could smell it.

I, Henry Swainworth, am no stranger to adventure. In fact, the reason I was on the train chugging along the Emerald Coast was to meet with my acquaintance Volan Von Vugglelump in Drearyside. Vuggles (he loved being called that) had a lead on some ancient, unlooted ruin, and if there was one thing that could be counted on while exploring a ruin, it was adventure.

But Vuggles and Drearyside were so very far away. That was long-term adventure. This adventure was of the shorter kind, the sort of hijinks that could be easily encapsulated within the confines of a two thousand word story, or perhaps a twenty-two minute children’s play.

I eyed the plump, perfumed lady sitting across from me. She wore a dress the same shade of blueberry jam, and puckered up her fat lips as she gazed into a handheld mirror. A shiver ran through me.

Not her, thank the gods.  She wasn’t the source of the adventure. While I am never completely averse to gallivanting about with ladies of her bulk and age, I much prefer to do my adventuring with slimmer, younger specimens of the female form.  A gentleman does look much more dashing with a pretty maid than an old one, not to mention how hard it is to swing across pits with a woman who weighs more than he does.

“Have a good day, madam,” I said, grabbing my hat and walking out of the compartment. My crocodile leather shoes sank into the thick red carpet of the corridor. I mentally congratulated myself on picking such fine accommodations. The thickness of one’s carpet can tell one much about a gentleman .

A fetching young lass slid open the door at the end of the hall, pulling a cart of refreshments.  Now there was a lady worthy of my presence! Her red hair matched the carpet, (the one on the floor mind you.  I am a gentleman, after all) and her blue eyes, as deep and dark as the ocean, could not quench the fire that leapt into my heart.

“Hello there,” I greeted her, casually leaning up against the wall, one hand on the holster of my pistol. “Has anyone ever mentioned you look rather similar to the Duchess of Gildendale?”

She exhaled slowly as she tilted her head and massaged her temples. I am quite breathtaking, and my radiance has afflicted many a damsel with a light head.

“No, I can’t say anyone has mentioned that particular similarity to me before.  Would you like something, mister…”

“Henry Swainworth, Gentleman Adventurer.” I bowed while keeping an eye on her. A gentleman can never be too vigilant with the fairer sex, lest they throw themselves upon him. To be irresistibly charming does have its downsides. “And the only thing that interests me is you. Miss?” I patiently awaited her to hold out her hand.

What happened next shook me to my very core. Instead of offering her hand and giving her name, she pushed past me and proceeded down the corridor!

“Sorry, Mr. Strainsworth. I’m sure you’re a wonderful man, but I’m really not interested in what you’re offering right now.” She didn’t even have the decency to talk over her shoulder as she walked away!

It took me only a moment to figure her out.  Occasionally, a gentleman encounters a woman that is as fierce and cunning as the tiger. Like the tiger, she must be stalked, pursued, hunted until the hunter is at the brink of exhaustion. Only then would she allow herself to be captured.

I would have to prove myself to her.  And if I wasn’t mistaken, I would have my chance soon.

Hmm. Usually when I think something like that, there’s a cry for help, an explosion, or something else that signifies the start of an adven-

An explosion rocked the train, sending me stumbling ungracefully to the floor.  Luckily, the thick carpet protected me from injuries.

I jumped to my feet and raced after my tigress.

Whatever had happened to the train, it wasn’t slowing down.  I spied trees whipping by through one window, and the endless waves of the sea through the other. I peered around the corner at the open door to the dining compartment, pistol at the ready.

Three roguish looking fellows had repeating rifles at the ready, pointed at terrified passengers. Damn.  Another had a large sack in which the valuables were being tossed into. I chanced another few seconds of looking about and spied my tigress hiding behind the bar.

I took stock of my resources: one revolver, all six chambers loaded, with twelve additional rounds in my front pocket. A knife, hidden under my trousers. Less than a dozen well-to-do couples, none of whom I could count on for aid.

That, up against an unknown number of bandits.  I seriously doubted any reasonable man would attempt to attack a train with only three men beside him, so I expected at least six other brigands to deal with.

I licked my lips. It was time to bag the tigress. I waited for one of the gentlemen in the room to protest at his undignified treatment. I didn’t have to wait long.

“You worthless knaves wouldn’t know honest work if it hit you in the head!” The voice was cultured, but thin.

A pause.  My grip tightened on my revolver.

“We’ll see about that.” This voice was rough and crude. “Torry!” he barked.

I spun around the corner. One of the brigands, Torry, I presumed, had struck an elderly passenger with the butt of his rifle.  I ignored him.  I sent a round into the elbow of one rifled thug and into the chest of the other.

The bandit with the bag of plunder dropped it and reached for a pistol in his belt.  Damn. The bag had hidden it.  I sent a third shot towards him, grazing his shoulder, as I dived behind the bar.

Bullets chewed into the stained wood where I had been standing a moment earlier. Screams filled the smoky air as the two men still standing fired round after round at the bar. I trusted the thick wood to protect me, and turned to the red-haired tigress.

“I didn’t quite catch your name before, my dear.” I carefully counted each round they fired into the bar as I reloaded my three spent chambers.

“We’re about to die and you want to know my name?” Hmm. She was rather screechy when frightened. Nobody’s perfect, I suppose.

“Certainly. When better?” I stayed crouched as I moved past her down the bar.

A bullet flew through the bar just above her head, causing her to flinch downwards. “Lysa! Lysa Abbott! Gods, I don’t want to die!”

The two men had stopped firing.  I had counted six pistol shots and seven rifle rounds. Torry probably had three or five remaining, waiting for his friend to reload.

A quiet grunt, barely audible over the rumbling of the train, was my cue.  I swifty popped up, putting two into the pistol-wielder’s chest as he had his focus on his gun.  The older gentleman had gotten his revenge on Torry, judging by the fact that Torry was on the ground, knife in his back.

The passengers in the dining car let out a quiet applause.

I gave the monocled man a smile as I vaulted over the bar. “Well met, sir!  I’d wager we’re two sides of a coin, my man!  Would you honour me with your name?” I held out a hand, and he eagerly shook it.

“Benedict Furtham-”

“Gentleman Adventurer?” I finished for him.

He chuckled.  “Ex, actually. Kitty here,” he motioned towards a gorgeous middle-aged woman that smiled and gave me a small wave, “and I were on our way to our winter home in Drearyside. The constant rain takes me back to my time in the jungles of Chandoor.”

“Chandoor? I’ve never been. You didn’t happen to leave any ruins untouched, wou-”

A blast sounded behind me, and Benedict jerked, clutching his stomach.  I spun and put a bullet into the head of the bandit I had shot in the arm. Curses! I should’ve remembered!

Kitty was already at Benedict’s side, cradling his head in his arms. I dropped to my knees and lifted his shirt.

Gods, blood was everywhere.

“Benny, no! Don’t leave me! We’re going to spend all your treasure, remember?” Kitty was running her fingers through her husband’s hair.

“Kitty…” Benedict coughed, blood dribbling from his lips. “I always knew you’d be a widow… just… never so soon.” He looked up into Kitty’s eyes, gave a final shuddering cough, and died.

I took off my hat and placed it over my heart. Godspeed, Furtham.

The  passengers had recovered their valuables from the burlap sack and were filing off towards my quarters.  The bandits had come from the opposite direction, so I and they assumed the rear cars would be safe.

I turned to Lysa, who was peeking over the counter, eyes watering. “Well, come on then. We’ve got a robbery to foil.” I returned my hat to my head.

Lysa blinked. “What?” She looked behind her, then raised a finger and pointed at herself. “Me?”

“Of course! You’re my tigress to Benedict’s Kitty!” Kitty nodded sagely at my explaination.

“That doesn’t make any sense at all!”

I frowned. Hmm. Perhaps my gentlemanly sense had failed me. Usually at this point my designated female cohort was itching at the bit to accompany me.

The sound of a rifle being cocked at my side drew my attention to Kitty. She had picked up one of the repeaters and was looking down the sights. She nodded. “Let’s do this,” she said, grimly. “For Benny.”

I gave her another once over. A skinny black cocktail dress, black feathers in her grayless russet hair, ruby red makeup around angry brown eyes. She was a bit older than me, I think, but right then she looked as ageless as a goddess.

I gave Lysa one last look before turning to face Kitty Furtham. I’d never been so happy to be wrong.

“For Benny,” I said.

A muffled shout came through the closed door leading further down the train. “We heard gunshots. You deal with the problem?”

I deepened my voice and affected a rough country accent. “Yeah, but Torry ate it.” I reloaded my pistol as I yelled back and took up a position next to the door. Kitty took the other side. “More for us, right?”

The bandit opened the door and walked right in, another one on his heels. Kitty took the first one in the back as I raised and fired my pistol into the second one’s head. I heard Lysa give another gasp of fear from behind the bar.

There were advantages to an older woman. She would be more experienced, less prone to flight. Benedict would rest easy knowing she’d be in good hands. The Gentleman’s Code had exceptions for this very occasion.

“You mentioned something about spending treasure earlier?” I smiled at Kitty.

She smiled back. “Benedict amassed quite a fortune in his years. It would be a shame to be a lonely widow, growing old, alone in a cold house.”

“A shame indeed.”

I sniffed the air.  It smelt of gunpowder, of fear and blood, of a girl’s scent and of a woman’s.

It smelt like adventure.

I really love the historical period between 1850-1914. I am also a lover of schlock and camp.

Two great tastes that go great together!

I’m not sure if I’m completely happy with the structure of this story. I would of loved to have Henry and Kitty move up through the train, dealing with the thieves traincar by traincar, eventually culminating in an epic gun duel on the side and roof of the train, as it hurtles uncontrollably down the tracks. But this was written for a writing class I’m in, and has a hard limit of 2000 words I have to stay within.

*Sigh* what could have been…

The weapons being used are analogues to the Spencer Repeating Rifle and the Colt Army Model 1860, if anyone’s interested.

I think  the major appeal for me for this style of story is that it’s so versatile, and it’s expected that sudden mood changes are the norm.  If you’re writing a sad scene, and are getting a little tired of all the melancholy, a quick “chin up, old chap” lets you get right back into the action.  Losses are felt and remembered, but characters have a sort of optimistic innocence to them that lets them bounce back from anything you throw at them.

Considering I hate writing sad scenes, this is a major boon.

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From → Original Writing

2 Comments
  1. “would of loved”
    would have loved.

    • Noooooooooooo!

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