Tidbits: Paris

Here's another deleted scene from "My Father's Son" by Penny Freeman

Paris loved the harvest.  He loved the cool of the morning and the sun of midday.  He loved the smell of fresh mown hay, summer showers and the newly wetted earth.  He loved rich fields of grain, the heavy heads drooping with prosperity, ruffling in the breeze like waves of the sea.  He loved the way the harvesters worked in concert, the lead man taking several wide swaths with his scythe before the next man began, behind and beside him, and then the next, and the next, as the women followed likewise to tie the fallen stalks into sheaves. He loved to watch as the single organism worked its way up the field, leaving bunches of heavy sheaves propped in its wake, but more still, he loved to be a part of it.  They were a great machine, and to be one of those cogs, to have a purpose, to feel himself an asset rather than a liability filled him with strength.
There was something immensely satisfying in advancing row after row, reducing each to stubble and moving on to the next.  He found the rhythmic swish of the scythe through the stalks soothing, even mesmerizing, and it freed him from the multitude of thoughts constantly whirring in his head.  He loved the grit on his hands, the sweat running in rivers down his back, the burn of his muscles from a hard day's work, and the fatigue professing he had done something of worth.
His mother hated it.  She hated the disgrace and the ridicule and what the neighbors would say.  Paris knew she felt he threw away her life's work when he bent his back in the fields like a common day laborer.  She hated his calloused hands and his sun-burned skin, and the fact that she could find no obvious gentleman when she searched for him from the edge of the field.  She hated that her husband's tenants considered her son their mate.  She pleaded with Paris to give over and implored her husband to forbid it, but Mr. Sterling would not.  He told her that the Sterling men had always been known to be a touch eccentric.  Paris upheld the family name.

Paris loved the land nearly as much as did his father, and the tours they took together of each field and pasture and barn had ceased to be a bore to him long since.  He understood his father, even if his mother did not.  He at last comprehended what he truly meant to teach him.  They were stewards of the land.  Like themselves, their people were dependent upon it for their livelihoods.  The Sterlings could prosper only when did their tenants, their people could only prosper as much as the landlord would allow, but Mr. Sterling had always been a generous man.
Paris supposed it all stemmed from the poverty of his father's youth, the hardships he endured in the garret in the City, the subjugation of being a scholarship boy at an elite public school.  Paris remembered how disgraced he had felt when he first learned of his father's past at the very school he attended, but no longer.  When he considered how low his father had been and how high he had become, his heart swelled with pride and he forced himself to work all the harder.  He would be a man such as John Sterling: the best landlord, the best master, the best father. 
Paris knew pulling him out of public school was the kindest thing his father had ever done for him.  His mother fretted that he would forget how to be a gentleman, but there was no chance of that.  Too many examples surrounded him, and as much as he loved the land, he emulated his mentors.
It had not always been thus.  For an entire year following his great treachery, he labored to hide away from his grief and guilt and shame.  He worked in the stables and in his room not to improve himself nor even to atone for what he had done, but to escape all the accusing eyes about him.  He had driven Sandy away and he feared she would never return.  He had cleaved asunder his parents such that they scarcely spoke to one another.  Sibyl's friendship made him squirm.  He felt a fake and a fraud around her, and it stung to have Chloe and Zoe see him as they had ever done.  He could not bear it, and so he hid away.
But, then Sandy returned.  He attempted to hide away from her most of all, but she would not allow it.  If he worked in the fields, she brought him cool water and his dinner as the other women served their men.  When he studied his lessons, she refused to leave him be.  She would ask him questions regarding some conundrum she could not muddle out, and she looked so imploring, he could not help but answer.  But even so, he was no fool and soon realized he should be the one asking the questions.  But that she did so, that she made herself lower than even he, touched his heart.  She became a force too powerful to resist, and with relentless determination, she burrowed through the ramparts he had thrown up between himself and his family.
And then came LoyalMerit, as Paris forced himself to call his lifelong friend.  Paris had believed the man lost to him, and his heart broke nearly as much for that as for the crimes he committed against his sister.  Even so, Merit returned, the same as his sister, and to be sandwiched between the two of them in lock step forced him to again raise his head.
Merit never stayed long, but he always returned, he was always friendly, and their correspondence returned to what it had previously been.  Just as soon as Merit and Sandy had come in from their long walk together from the Abbey that day the previous summer, Paris realized how deeply she had detested Trudeau by the light of her love for Merit shining in her eyes.  He knew Merit's intentions and was grateful, but he told the soldier straight off he would not act the go-between, even to share with his sister Merit's letters.  If Merit ever won Sandy's hand, he would do it entirely on his own.  To be fair, Merit had never mentioned Sandy when he remarked upon their correspondence, but Paris meant to make himself perfectly clear.  In the denial, he read Merit's pride and approval of his vow, and he raised his head a bit higher still.
In the year and more that followed, Paris began to raise his gaze to look about himself.  He came to realize he loved the work with which he punished himself.  He would turn eighteen in only a few weeks and had grown out of his tutor, the curate Mr. Dothwaite.  His father took on his lessons, and sometimes even Sandy, but he did not resent it.  Rather, it became a game between them to see who could outdo the other as they studied side by side.  He studied for the entrance exams for university, but try as he may, he could not understand what Sandy would do with her Greek.  He should have begun university the previous year, but he had difficulty deciding if he wanted to go at all.  He got the niggling suspicion he learned far more from his father.

Paris allowed himself a bit of respite now and againwhen his mother fretted enough that his father asked it of him.  He would go shooting with James and Edward Masterson when they came on holiday, or punting with whatever Goulding wandered home, and more than once André Arlington had come to coax him out to play or begged him to stop at Arlington Hall.  Paris had mates enough from the gentility round about, but few he could endure for more than an afternoon.  His closest friend in the neighborhood was his cousin, Dickie Fuller, who possessed the same aberrant love of the land as himself.  Paris had lost patience with "the school boys", as he called them.  He found the coxcombs ridiculous and the puppies annoying, and knew their diversions a waste of both time and money. 
Those who fancied themselves rakes to him were abhorrent, but he knew it impossible to warn them of their peril and so simply avoided them.  The only one of his friends whom he ever tried to protect from the trap was André Arlington.  André  found Alistair, his eldest brother, and his diversions tempting and far more intriguing than Archer, who thought of nothing but the law and advancing his career.  His other two older brothers he scarcely knew, for Avery, a soldier, and Ansel, a sailor, had left home when André had been quite young and were never about.  Thus, Alistair loomed large in André's life, a gentleman of leisure, while, as Alistair was fond of reminding  André, Archer had made himself a flunky.  In André and Alistair, Paris saw himself and Trudeau, he couldn't bear to see André lose his character as he himself had done, so he did his best to influence his friend for good. 
And then, there was the man ahead of him in the row next to his.  Tall and broad, his back and arms strong and muscular, his scythe cut a tremendous swath through the field and sliced through the stalks like butter.  Paris considered himself competent, even skilled at the harvest, but then came the traveler and he could never keep up.  The man made everything appear simple, and Paris attempted to emulate him, but primarily he was grateful to him for understanding him as none other could.  In his company, he felt less a weasel and more capable of becoming a man. 
Of all the things that gave Paris pleasure in making himself useful, he most savored those times when his friend began singing the songs of the harvest to the cadence of his labor and every other man in the field joined in.  Nothing more soothed Paris than to walk home through the waning light of the evening sky and the gloam of the fields with such songs yet lingering on his breath.
Paris saw the traveler but rarely.  He wandered into the neighborhood only occasionally and stayed only a day, but he came.  Mr. Penn always found use for the man for he was tall and strong, quiet and earnest, and unafraid of breaking a sweat.  The other men looked for him greedily, not only because their loads were made lighter when relieved by his labors, but because somehow they always went home with more coin in their pockets than they took away.  They never could quite explain how he did it and could not in the least wise understand why, but they knew it was so for not a man amongst them was overlooked.

When the traveler initially appeared in early spring the previous year, some two or three months before Merit, he escaped Paris' notice as he worked alongside the others in the fields, until they broke for dinner and the wanderer approached and sat beside him.  With the sudden recognition, Paris would have jumped to his feet and perhaps run away.  The sensibilities which beset him that day in the study had never faded.  He thought he certainly was a dead man, but the traveler's quick reflexes caught him arm and forestalled his escape.
Paris had stared at him, slack-jawed, unable to call up the least thing to say.  His overwhelming fear warred with his relief and his hope, and he dared not believe the looks of remorse in his friend's eyes.  He "should not have abandoned him to Trudeau," was the first thing he said.  He should not have left Paris to shift for himself.  He should have been a better brother. 
After that day in the study, Paris had sworn he would never shed another tear, and yet he found himself blubbering like an infant.  It infuriated him, but he could not seem to stop it, for the only forgiveness he desired more than the traveler's was Sandy's.  He wept and attempted to hide it, until his matehis brotherallowed him to see his struggle with his own tears.
Paris had ever called the man his true and proper name.  The idea that he might use anything different never occurred to him until that day in his father's study.  However, because of that day, because he came to the fields dressed as a day laborer as surely did Paris, Paris knew he must call him something else.  The man inherently understood his hesitation.  "My da calls me Bill," he told him, and Paris at last found a bit of courage and a great deal of hope.
The traveler wandered in, spent the day, and then went on his way again.  Paris never knew when to expect him nor where he went when he left.  He but knew he had his brother returned to him, and if he chose such a manner to visit, Paris thought nothing of it.  He knew they both preferred it to sitting perched on a sofa in the sitting room, balancing a cup of tea their greatest exertion.  He knew Bill grew so brawny not because of his noblesse but because the release Paris found with a scythe in the fields, Bill found with hammer and anvil in the heat of a forge.
Sandy's stays became longer at Blackheath House and shorter in town, to the point where her time was evenly divided between the Sterlings and the Arlingtons, but none ever thought to coordinate her wanderings with Bill's. The man had never been to the house when Sandy was in it, or when there was the least chance his other sisters may bumble in.  Thus, he came to the fields, Paris' private caller whom he had to share with none.
All summer long, Paris had set aside his studies to work in the fields.  If he turned to books at all within doors, he either entertained his sisters or delved into subjects which he found absorbing but had nothing to do with Oxford or Cambridge.  Thus, when summer began to wane, he devoted as much of his time to the harvest as anyone on his father's estate, but that day, as he worked, he looked forward to dinner when he and his brother would sit apart from the others and just be themselves together. 

Bill always came bearing wisdom, praise, and advice, and occasionally some small artifact from his travels, just as he had done before that wretched day at Dovedale.  The first favor Paris asked of him was instruction so that he could protect his sisters if required.  Bill's eyes smiled his approval and their sessions began.  It was enough for Paris, especially because he came on no other errand, and sometimes not even his father would know he had stopped.  Bill came all that way just for him.  Paris felt safe as himself with Bill as he could be with none other, and since that day in the study, he began to believe it was much the same for his brother. 
Thus, he would come.  They would chat.  They would spar.  He would go.  And each time Paris a bit more raised his head.

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