Passing as Elias - By Kate Bloomfield
Elizabeth Searson ran along Baggot Street, her dusty green dress hitched above her ankles, and her elbows pointing outward absurdly. A red headed child laughed and pointed at her as she sped past. Elizabeth rounded a corner onto Eastmoreland Place and sent pebbles showering over a small, portly man in a sweeping blue cloak.
‘Apologies, Sir!’ She yelled over her shoulder, waving a hand frantically. She could hear him cursing and coughing as he inhaled the dust.
Elizabeth grasped the bonnet upon her head as it flapped about while she ran down the gentle slope. Her hair had come loose from its bun, and was now flying behind her like dancing flames. She was running out of breath, but had to make it to the apothecary before the eighth hour or there would be hell to pay. As this thought entered her mind the tower clock that loomed above the town chimed, signaling the arrival of the eighth hour.
She was only around the corner now. So very close. Perhaps Professor de Bard would not be too displeased if she were only a minute late.
The little wooden sign that hung above the door loomed into view. It read ‘De Bard’s Apothecary’ with a picture of a mortar and pestle underneath. The tower clock had not yet reached its final chime. Perhaps she would make it.
Elizabeth hurtled through the apothecary doors as the tower gave its final chime. The bell above the door clanged loudly at her entrance.
‘I made it! I am here!’ Elizabeth panted, her face flushed, and her bonnet askew.
Bernard de Bard did not look up from the papers that littered the shop counter. She stood there, silently for a few moments before he clucked his tongue and looked upon her. Elizabeth gave an apologetic smile.
Bernard was not frightening by any means, and was usually good-natured. He was an older gentleman who had once been handsome in his youth. Now however his face was lined, his hair graying and frazzled with an air of eccentricity about him. The one thing Professor de Bard could not tolerate was tardiness.
‘When you make a commitment to another human to show up for work at eight o’clock in the morning, you are telling them – yes … I shall be present at the pre-arranged time. By showing up late, whether one minute or fifteen minutes, you are - purposefully or not – conveying that the other persons time is not valuable to you.’ Bernard looked back down upon his paperwork.
Elizabeth closed her eyes and gave an inward sigh, ‘I do apologize Professor, really. I meant to be here ten minutes ago to help you set up. But honest, Sir, I was on my way here when –’ She ceased talking for Bernard had held up a bony white hand to indicated that he wished for silence.
‘I do not care for excuses, Betty.’ He sighed lightly. ‘You are in luck for our appointment appears to be running late himself. I have prepared the vials, and paperwork already. Go and clean yourself up, girl.’ He looked upon her disheveled state momentarily before he waved her away.
‘Yes, Sir.’ Elizabeth excused herself and made her way past the multiple shelves of potions, and powders, behind the shop counter to the laboratory beyond. She eyed her reflection in the small dusty mirror that sat upon her workbench. Small corked vials, and large ornate jars consumed much of the surface. Removing her bonnet, Elizabeth attempted to fix her askew hair, pinning up the fire-red tendrils that had become loose in her haste. She attempted to flatten the top, yet to no avail, for her curls always won. Heaving a sigh, she abandoned the hopeless attempt at taming her hair, and began dusting off her dress and boots. She must look at least presentable for their client who was due at any moment. Her face was still pink from the dash she had made from home, a mile away. The mad rush had taken her fifteen minutes, and now her feet ached in her heeled boots.
At that moment the doorbell clanged loudly, and Elizabeth made a start. Hurriedly, she stuffed her bonnet out of sight, brushed down her dress, and made haste to the shop front.
‘Ah, Master Larson! Welcome, welcome my good man!’ Elizabeth heard Professor de Bard exclaim as she ducked into the front of the shop. A man in a midnight cloak, with a cream waistcoat, and tan breeches stood in the doorway, looking rather harassed. Elizabeth cringed internally.