Index > Ongoing Stories > Mr. Bullen Encounters Mr. Sharrington

Mr. Bullen Encounters Mr. Sharrington

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penelope_stout The horse’s muscles are taught beneath him as he presses the dappled mare on at a fast gallop through Oakston. There are few things he enjoys in life, but riding fast is one of them. It helps to clear his head, and right now the red haze of anger has set in deep. The last thing he needs is for someone to get in his way, which is exactly what the man does. His mare reacts faster than he does, rearing back and casting him off before he can slow her. He lands with a thud and a loud curse.

Bullen is making the trek from Mrs. Hatch's to his home, late in the day. He had gone to discuss the curriculum for the spring with the headmistress in preparation for the students returning over the next week, and was only just now able to get away. He is still going over the books he will require in his head when he hears a horse coming upon him almost too fast to react. He barely has time to jump out of the way before the beast is rearing up and throwing her rider. Bullen quickly goes to the man's side and looks him over to be sure no major injury has been caused. "Sir, I apologize for being in the road. I confess I did not hear you coming until it was far too late. It is my fault. Are you injured?"

If Thomas was mad before, he is furious now. Though it is his fault for not paying more attention and for the speed, he still displaces it, thinking that the man he nearly ran over is entirely at fault. He hoists himself to his feet and glowers at the man. The mare is has trotted a bit off the side, but has distracted herself with a patch of grass and gone no further. He wipes mud from his clothing and bemoans that they will likely never be the same. A surge of hatred comes over him as the man apologizes and seems concerned. Well he bloody well should be. "I am /fine/," he all but spits, looking angrily at the fellow. It is not the first time he has been thrown from a horse. He does not even think he will have the smallest bruise. His clothing on the other hand... "You should look where you are going."

Bullen frowns and tilts his head, unsure why the gentleman is as enraged as he seems to be. Sure, he was unaware of his surroundings, but he does not think he would have had time to react even if he had been, considering how fast the man's horse was going. Still, it would not do to start a fight here in the road and it does him no harm to be nice about it. It still comes easier than any sort of argument. "You are likely correct sir. I apologize I again." He looks the gentleman over and notes the mud with a small sigh. He gives a small bow and introduces himself. "Mr. James Bullen, sir. At your service. May I pay for your clothing to be laundered, or replaced if the mud cannot be got out?"

He puts on a scowl, which in truth is just his normal expression, and shakes his head. Perhaps he is looking for a fight, but the man's agreement of his fault pesters Thomas somehow. Yes, he thinks, he must be looking for a fight. After speaking with Patience, his frustrations have just been growing. She seems determined to make him furious. He scoffs at the man's words and walks through the wet grass to fetch his horse. "Sharrington," he says flatly. "And do not worry about it. I'm sure they're beyond help now," he adds sharply, turning back towards the man in the road and leading the mare away from her grass.

"Sharrington..." He echoes the man's name, his face going a bit pale and his eyes going wide. This must be Patience's brother. Still, it is so unlikely that he would know anything of Bullen's relationship with Patience, that if Bullen can simply stay calm and act unaffected, then perhaps no harm will be done. He should dismiss himself straightaway in fact, just to avoid any potential problems. Part of him feels bad for ruining the gentleman's clothing, and the other part finds himself furious at finally being faced with one of the men who has made Patience into what she is. Or rather what she feels she must be. It is all he can do not to call the gentleman out, make him account for his behavior toward his sister. "Even so, if you find you wish to have them replaced, I can be found at the school. Or up the street at 33 Magpie Lane."

Thomas notices a flicker of something cross the man's face for only a fleeting moment. It makes his own brow furrow as he walks closer. "Bullen you said?" He asks at the reaffirmation that he would be willing to replace his clothes. He looks the man over, his anger momentarily forgotten as he attempts to place him, for he is sure there was a moment of recognition. Yet, Thomas has never seen this man in his life. "Have we met?" He lifts an eyebrow, a scowl still present on his face.

"Oh, errr, no sir, I do not believe so." He realizes the man must have noticed the change in his expression and tries to cover. "Though, you did seem familiar perhaps. Maybe we have met in Mrs. Hatch's parlor, if you frequent the place." He tries to meet the man's gaze, he does, but finds himself staring at the horse instead. As angry as Sharrington was over mudded clothing, he can only imagine what the consequences will be should he learn that Bullen has been bedding his sister. "Have you been long in town?"

"I have been there once or twice, not often enough to say I frequent the place," he says. It is likely that is all there is to it. The man could have seen him in quick passing, or heard he was there. However, there is something about the way the man does not meet his eye that gives Thomas true pause. "Not long," he answers. His tone is still clipped, but his rage has abated quite a lot. "My sister and I were due for a change of scenery." He keeps his eyes trained on Bullen. There is something off about him to be sure. Thomas cannot help but being suspicious. Because of that he adds, "Perhaps you have met her. She is often in Tyrehampton for one reason or another."

The mention of Patience draws Bullen's eyes back to Sharrington's face for a moment and he swallows a bit hard. "Your sister?" He pretends to try to recall her, though her face is ever present in his mind of late. "Let me think. Oh, yes, I think we may have run into each other once, perhaps twice. Once at the library I believe, though of course it was mere pleasantries in passing." He hopes this is enough to allay any suspicions that may have arisen at his reaction, but somehow doubts this man is quite so easy to put off. "There are so many ladies I interact with, by virtue of my profession, that it can be difficult to keep their names and faces straight."

He looks at the man once more. There is a flicker of something there, if only for a moment. "Hm," he says, his eyes narrowing as he regards Bullen. "She is a friendly sort," he quips, turning away for a moment to pat his horse down. He cannot tell if the man is compensating for a lie, or if he truly does not have any dealings with his sister. But, on the other hand, Thomas knows all too well that there is someone in town, and he would rather know who it is he is dealing with. "I doubt you would forget her if you had met her," he says turning back to the man.

"She seemed to be friendly enough, if she is who I remember her to be." Bullen shifts his weight from one foot to the other. He should withdraw from this conversation before he gets either himself or Patience into trouble with her brother. "As I said, I believe we became acquainted at the library. Spoke briefly of books before moving on with our day." He is almost sure Sharrington is on to him now, but he cannot find a way out of this conversation politely. "Red hair, right? Like yours?"

Thomas grins now, and nods. "Yes. That is her," he says. The telltale signs of discomfort are all Thomas needs to see to know that Bullen knew exactly who his sister is, and exactly how friendly she is. He clenches his hand into a fist around the reigns of the horse, but does not let his temper show. He may be quick to anger, but he knows how to hide it if he must, a little trick he picked up from his father--may he rot in hell. "Say," he begins, pasting on a genial enough look as he regards him. "Do you play cards often, Mr. Bullen?" he asks him.

As if he had needed to ask what color her hair is. He had toyed with the silky tresses enough times to know their color with his eyes closed. He brings himself back to the present when Sharrington asks him a question. "Cards? No, not often. Why?" He frowns, unsure of why he would be asked such a thing, from someone who should consider him a stranger. Perhaps Bullen's worry that Sharrington was suspicious was off and he was simply recovering from his anger enough to see the potential for a friend in a new place. Not that Bullen would wish to be friends with such a person. Still, if it keeps Patience safe, he will play friendly.

"No, I did not think so," he says shaking his head and taking a step forward. He sizes the man up now--older than him, a fair bit taller as well. But Thomas is not intimidated in the least. Though, he does not have any intention of fighting him. That desire left him when he fell from the horse. This is more important. "You see, I do not think you are a very good liar," he tells him, pressing his lips together and giving him a knowing look. There is not humor or pleasantness left in his face.

"Why would I need to be a good liar?" Bullen shakes his head and gives his best confused smile. He is a better liar than he lets on, when he needs to be. He was only caught unaware by the man. "Oh, you mean for cards? I suppose you may be right. It is why I rarely play, though I can hold my own when I must." The look Sharrington is leveling at him is enough to set his heart to thudding. It would not surprise him if this gentleman were to be the kind to take out his frustrations physically. Surely he cannot /know/ about him and Patience though. Only that they are acquainted, which Bullen himself has volunteered. "I daresay I would offer you a game, but I have work to do this evening. Perhaps another time though?"

He contemplates for a moment if he should bring his sister up once more. He is almost certain that there is more than just a chance meeting at a library, but Thomas is not stupid enough to be the one to mention it flat out. He does not need to be the one bringing up his sister's reputation. "Next time then," he says with a nod. His expression has not changed, and he is still all but glaring at the man. His temper is reigned in for now, but he wonders if he should not let it out just a little bit. If only to scare the man from his sister. "Magpie Lane, you said?" The threat is obvious in his voice.

For a moment, Bullen thinks the danger has passed. Sharrington seems to be fine with playing a game of cards at some other time, so perhaps that is all there will be to it. Bullen nods and smiles and is about to bid the gentleman farewell but realizes the look on his face is still one of danger. And when he verifies Bullen's address? There is no mistaking that he means it as a threat. There is no denying now that he suspects, more than suspects, that Bullen is bedding Patience. And something in that threat is enough to anger Bullen himself. He lifts his chin and straightens his shoulders, raising an eyebrow. "Magpie Lane indeed. Shall I show you where it is?" There is a threat of his own in his reply and it nearly frightens him. Patience would not wish this.

Thomas gives him a small shrug. "It is not far from my own home, I daresay I know it," he assures him. The tinge of something--anger, daring?--in Bullen's voice is enough to validate Thomas even more. They did not come to Derbyshire for her to ruin her reputation in the same fashion. They came so the rumors could die and they could return to London and he could finally figure out a way to be rid of her. Dalliances with imbeciles like this Bullen are not the way to that end. "Perhaps my sister and I will call on you sometime," he ventures.

"Is it indeed? Well, then I am sure I shall see you frequently in passing." He wishes he could read the expression on Sharrington's face as well as the man had seemed so easily to read his. What he wants to say at the man's suggestion is that Patience is welcome any time she may wish, but /he/ is not. He cannot say that though. It would only confirm what he knows the gentleman suspects to be true, and that could only do harm to Patience. She has assured him that her brother will not hurt her, at least not physically, but he does not trust such an assurance. "If I am available, you will be welcome." They are at an impasse, neither of them wishing to say what they mean, though both being very clear without having to say a word.

"I am sure we would be." He wonders what Patience might say when he tells her he met with a Mr. Bullen in the street. She likely would laugh at him, or even tell him to go to hell. Maybe if he tells her he knows who one of her dalliances are, she will stop. It was easier for her in London, he is sure about that, and he still found out about them there. He tilts his head and for a moment he pities the man. It is doubtful he knows anything about his sister, aside from her pretty face and overt willingness. The pity turns into something else, and he finds himself angry all over again. How could she be so stupid, and to waste her time and risk herself with such an imbecile. "Are you married, Mr. Bullen?"

What was it that just crossed Sharrington's face? It looked almost like sympathy? Or, no, more likely pity, though what for Bullen cannot imagine. It is gone as soon as it came though, and replaced by that threatening glare once more. "I am not, Mr. Sharrington. My students are enough for now." He is not sure the point of such a question. Perhaps to gauge if he is an adulterer on top of bedding Patience? Whatever the reason for the question, he finds it annoys him. Stuffing his hands in his pockets to keep off the cold, he raises an eyebrow to Sharrington. "I suppose I should ask you the same, sir."

At the very least he is not married, though it does not make much of a difference to him. Thomas has grown used to Patience finding increasingly less savory of men to take to her bed. Many of them married, as she likely found it amusing to be some sort of wanton homewrecker. Though, he can say nothing for Patience's taste. She did not seem to have a preference for anything. "No, I have no interest in finding a wife," Thomas answers coolly. The conversation is not about him.

He wonders absently if the lack of interest in finding a wife is a temporary thing, due to his young age, or if he genuinely never intends to marry. Bullen's own mother would faint dead away if he said such a thing. It has been hard enough to tell her he wishes to wait until he is more settled. Regardless, this man's marital fate is none of Bullen's concern. Patience is. "And your sister, sir? She did say she was a Miss not a Mrs. but she did not mention if she was engaged or being courted. I must assume your family wishes to see her married well." Bullen knows she does not seem any more interested in marriage than her brother, but he also knows she has realized a great many things about herself since she met him, so who knew what she wanted anymore. Not her brother, to be certain.

"Why?" he asks, as the man brings up his sister once more. "Are you interested?" he asks, nearly laughing at the thought. At this point, he is just interested in provoking any sort of confession from the man. At the very least, it would give him more of an excuse to give him a bit of an upper hand. It would likely be easy enough to scare him away from Patience, he doubted, if anything, that the man had anything more than a passing fancy. "Well, as her only real family left, of course I wish to see her settled favorably," he replies, then he adds. "As any brother would."

"If I knew her more than just in passing, perhaps I would be. She seemed charming enough with what little I spoke to her." He feels he should defend Patience, though he is not certain it is even necessary. Her brother seems more amused than anything. Bullen realizes that if Sharrington did somehow find out about he and Patience and insist he marry her, that he would not oppose the idea in the slightest. That would make Patience run for the hills faster than anything else, he realizes with a small, stifled laugh. "Settled favorably for your own sake or for hers?" Bullen raises an eyebrow.

The man's question gives him pause. "What sort of question is that?" He snaps. Of course, he knows all too well how settling his sister with a rich man will help him in the long run, he takes no issue in letting her know that either. It would be a far cry better than her running off with every man who gives her a lick of attention. And on that note, there is no way he will be able to get his sister married to someone of she keeps on like this. Even so, the fact that Bullen has the audacity to ask him such a thing flat out makes him angry. Though, perhaps he already has been angry.

If he is honest with himself, Bullen does not know what even made him ask such a thing. He is sure he already knows the answer, and asking it only makes Sharrington more suspicious he's sure. Even so, the question has been asked now and he is unsure where to go from here. "Just a general one. It has always amused me, I suppose, to think that men are more concerned with how their female wards' marriages will benefit themselves rather than the woman in question." /Amused/ is not what he means at all, but hopefully his frustration is not terribly obvious. "It is just the way of things it seems, and I was curious if you felt the same."

Thomas takes a step forward. "You have a strange sense of humor, I think, to be amused by that." He lets out a breath of cold laughter. He is certain the man has been listening to Patience bemoaning her situation. After everything he has done for her, the least she could do was behave, do as he says, and not be more trouble than she is worth. Instead, he looks back at Bullen and tilts his head. He wants the man to reveal himself, though doubtful he will. "Whether or not my sister is favorably settled is my concern, why should I not want it to be beneficial?"

"Compassion is a virtue to be coveted, Mr. Sharrington. Especially for one's own family." Bullen shrugs and turns away. He cannot make the man give a care for his sister, even were he to punch him in the mouth. It would likely only make things worse for Patience and he could not bear that. "But I'll likely not change your mind one way or another on that. Nor is it any of my business, especially not knowing either of you for more than a few minutes each." He wants to challenge this man and his behavior toward his sister. He wants to tell him that she is more than he thinks she is. That she is /different/ with him. But it will only cause trouble, so he leaves it at that.

Thomas will concede that the man does not seem intimidated. At the very least he can respect that, even if it makes him want to punch the man in the teeth. "You are right about that," he says, not being quite clear on if he means that his mind won't be changed, or that it is none of the man's damned business. Both are true. He pauses, turning back to his horse and straightening the saddle as he prepares to seat himself once more. "I'll give her your regards then, Mr. Bullen?"

Bullen looks back at the man, finding that he is positively seething angry at him, though he is unsure why. Perhaps it is his attitude. Yes, that is likely it. Regardless, he will maintain his facade of niceness as always even if he will not quite stay as overtly cheerful as is his typical demeanor. He does plaster a smile on his face though and nods. "If you wish, that would be kind of you. Though I doubt she recalls me to begin with. I doubt I made much of an impression one way or another."

He says nothing as he hops onto his horse, taking the reins in hand as he decides if he wants to continue his ride or if he wants to return home. There is nothing he really can say. He knows perfectly well that this man knows more about his sister than he wants to say. And Thomas is not going to accuse anyone of anything, not outright. He decides he is not going to talk to Patience about it either, not that talking to her has ever done either one of them any good. He looks down at Bullen and smirks. "I daresay you did not make any impression at all."

Bullen nods and shrugs. "I daresay you are likely right." He steps back and bows to the man. "Enjoy your ride sir. I hope you happen upon no other pedestrians to get in your way." With nothing more to be said, Bullen turns and aims himself for home, hoping that nothing will come of this meeting with Sharrington. If he tells Patience he met Bullen and is suspicious, he may never see her again.

Posted 2 weeks ago

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