The Life and Times of Bram Concher part I

Bram’s personal history, part I

Despite the stability of the Empire, the only way to keep the peace between so many various nations was to keep the leash of the Empire long, and the collar loose. China had quietly refused to be Romanized, patiently accepting Imperial rule  by the white devils as simple misunderstanding which time would correct.  Imperial law required free trade, but the Chinese manipulated the law as they saw fit, they took only gold and silver.  Precious metals poured out of Western Empire and into Peking. Seeking a commodity to trade with the Chinese in exchange for cold hard Crowns, merchants turned to India, where in the northern hills grew a divine flower. It was red like the sacred blood of the Blessed Mother, and ran out life giving white, the portent of the Blessed Father.Like the Lord and Lady it could give life or take life away.  From the fertile white sap there was made an elixir called opium.   It was a miracle drug, but it had strange power to destroy a person’s will.  For this reason, the Chinese had forbid its importation.

Where there is contraband there is smuggling to be done, and good English merchants began to sell the Sacred Flower for  tall stacks of Imperial gold.  Where there is gold, there are taxes, and the English Parliament (now the true center of the Empire) saw fit to start a war for the free flow opium.  It was called the Opium War and in one form or another it went from 1839 to 1860.  My mother would later tell me my father was an idealist, as bright as he was naive.  He left the seminary to go fight for the glory of the queen as heliograph operator and signalman.  I don’t remember the man he was when he left, I remember the sallow, opium addicted shell that returned. Four years of burying his companions in the red clay of Indochina had burned the idealism out of him.  It was 1855 and I was 4 years old.  His addiction troubled him deeply, and my youngest memories are of his good days when he would teach me shoot his service carbine, and read me the Holy Scriptures of Our Lord and Lady.  There were also bad days, when he would hide in the study of our country house, lost to all but his pipe dreams.

These were hard times for a boy, and my only refuge were my school chums.  Like the sons of all men of my father’s station, I was given a good education, and there were three of us, thick as thieves.  Jacque was the son of a cloth merchant, and Darcy the daughter of a broker.  Jacque and I would  race through our schoolwork to be the first children out for recess, sprinting across the  cinders until we were as far from the brick building as possible.  There we would play, as Darcy sat smiling, listening to our tales of daring such as only children could tell, and rarely speaking.  Then when the teacher rang her bell, we would trudge back as slowly as possible.  School was easy for us all, coming from good stock as we did.   Jacque and I would often play after school, his governess or mine watching us as our mothers wandered the gaslight streets, shopping.  Darcy was not privy to these times, as her governess was very old fashioned and thought that a whole day of school was entirely too much time for her to spend with boys anyway.  Thus, first thing on Moonday she would ask me to tell her everything Jacque and I had played on Saturnday and Sunday, clapping her hands and eyes shinning with wonder as she listened to me.

When I was 9, my father disappeared.  Some said he left to the rotting city of New Orleans (600 miles downstream) on a riverboat, some say he went to the banks of the great Mississippi to slip beneath the brown water, and end his addiction permanently.  What was soon clear was that he left a great deal of debt, of which my mother was previously unaware.  When the accounts were settled, gone were our horses, our servants, and our fine home.  There was enough left for brownstone in the city, and for me to stay in school, but little else.  I wish I could say that during these hard days I was good child whose kindness supported his widow mother, but 1859 in the Great Plains of the New Kingdom was a poor year to be without a father.  I’d never found my school work difficult, I soon did not find it at all.  The Headmistress tried everything, from vigorous caning to sending me to speak to school Priestess, all to no avail.  I cared nothing for my work and only to spend time with Jacque and Darcy.

When I realized that the only option I had left her was to send me to Our Lady Orbona’s School for Wayward Boys, it was too late.  My last day of school, I told them. Jacque slapped me on the back heartily, reminding me that Vespesian was the son of a merchant and had become emperor, and that Julius Caesar had spent long days at the hands of pirates before rising to his exalted state.  Fate had been cruel to me, but the Goddess would bless me in the end.  Darcy, as always stood silent as I spoke, then curiously turned and ran when I looked to her.  It was not until the end of the day as I stood waiting for my mother coming in a handsome cab that she sprinted to me, the wreath of her auburn hair framing a tortured face, her governess puffing behind her.

She clasped my both my hands and meet my eyes with hers, red and teary.

“Bram, you have been my best friend and I will always love you,” she sobbed.  She threw her arms around my neck impulsively.  I patted her back awkwardly, as I had seen my father once do for my mother when her favorite mare had broken a leg.  “I…” I began, unsure of what to say. Before I could finish anything her governess yanked her away from me alternately scolding her and trying to comfort her.  My last memory of the dear old school was Darcy crying unconsolable on the hard cobbles as I peered out the cab window.

“Whose child is that?” my mother asked.

“Darcy,” I said woodenly.

Mothers eyebrows knitted under her freshly gray hair.   “Not Darcy Bower perhaps?”

“Yes, mother.  How do you know her?” I asked

Mother sneered cruelly.

“Small wonder,” she began “I knew her mother or at least knew of her. Though they say that is of no special notice.”

“Why is that, mother?”

Looking at me as if remembering afresh who I was, mother smiled her very best happy face.

“Oh, just silly grown up talk!  Tell me…” and here my memory fails me.

Normally my summers consisted of riding the horses and perhaps shooting the enormous hares of our prairie.  I remember little of that last summer, but for the my new steamer trunk.  I chose it very carefully much to the amusement of my mother, who could not guess what possible reason a 9 year old had to be so choosy about his luggage.  She left me at the train station beside my trunk with a simple goodbye and embrace, as displays of emotion such as Darcy’s were not the place of woman of her position in the world, or what would have been her position had my father and his hookah not robbed her of it.  As she left I stood not entirely alone on the platform with my trunk, for fitted perfectly in the bottom carefully split at the receiver, wrapped in oilcloth and freshly oiled was a BAC Model 1839 .44 lever action carbine.  It was my sole inheritance.  I had a patent pocket knife in my pocket, Her Majesty Royal Army carbine in my trunk, and I was leaving home for 9 years.  The year was 1858.


1 Comment

  1. Things I can do to improve this? You shouldn’t know Darcy’s name. It should be something the hero has long forgotten. It was just…the girl.

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