Just to let you all know, even in my longer short stories, I don’t have chapters. I usually only put them on my novelettes/short novellas. So for some of my stories here (such as this one) I will just be putting in blocks of it at a time. So here is the first block:
“Alms! Alms for the poor!” A beggar cried from the street corner. His name was Mattatias, but most people just called him “bloody beggar”. He had been there every day as long as anyone could remember. He didn’t only ask for alms, though. Occasionally he would preform “magic tricks” for passers-by. These usually consisted of a flame, procured from his hand, a small explosion controlled by him to scare birds away, and, most popular, and what brought him the most alms, a seemingly unending wooden board brought out from the ground itself. After collecting the money from the day, he would walk off to who-knows-where for the rest of the night. But he would be back at his usual post before anyone passed by that morning. All went the same today.
“Alms! Alms!” he cried again. Several noblemen passing by at the time drew their kerchifs to their noses, upturned. One of them tossed a 5 pound note into the beggar’s basket.
“Thank you, kind sir!” the lowly pauper said. The nobleman kept walking, and made no response. Under the beggar’s worn-out cap, he hid a sly smile. The nobleman, not seeing the smile, kept walking. The cobblestones where he was about to step suddenly turned to a pothole full of muddy water. It happened so quickly that the nobleman (his name was Destare) didn’t have enough time to stop his foot from plunging deep into the sludge. Gasping from the sudden cold and wet, he pulled his leg out as fast a possible. Trying to keep a regal appearance, kept walking in the same direction in spite of his soaked breeches leg. The smile under the cap grew wider, then suddenly dissapeared as another man, not a nobleman, but at least middleclass, came up to him and put some spare change into his basket.
“Thank you, kind sir!” was the default reply. But not this time. The beggar saw something different in this man.
“Your gifts are readily accepted!” was the reply this time. The man looked directly at the beggar and their eyes met. A flash went from one pair of eyes to the other. The man felt a piece of paper work its way into his hand. Their eyes disconnected, and the man started back going the way he had been before. From then on, things went like normal. He did some “magic tricks”, and had gained something like 50 pounds by the end of the day. He gathered his basket, then headed off. On his way to where he lived, he stopped by the grocer’s and bought a loaf of bread, a block of cheese (“good, strong, homemade cheese” the grocer promoted it as), a few tomatoes, and a coarse brown bag full of potatoes.
“How were the earnings today, Ambroise?” the grocer knew the beggar well.
“50 pounds, give or take a few pence.”
“Good! That’s the most I remember you getting in a while!”
“Yes. It was good. Destare…fell in some muddy water today.”
The shopkeeper chuckled. “He is going to get suspicious of you soon.”
“Maybe. Maybe. Nobody really suspects anything right now.”
“Perhaps…seeing that you got more money than usual…Perhaps I could interest you in a bottle of wine?” A shopkeeper, even if he was good friends with someone, couldn’t help being what he was.
“Yes, Gervais has been saying recently he wanted something of the sort.”
“Only 6 pounds. A sale for a good friend.”
Ambroise paid the shopkeeper, then put his food and wine into his basket and went on his way. He walked about a kilometer before stopping in front of a mansion, in very good condition. It was listed in the registries as one of the oldest in the city. The last known occupant had been Oliver Severin, but he had died almost 15 years ago. There were rumors that he had a son, but nothing conclusive was known. Ambroise took out an old cast-iron key from one of his ragged pockets and opened the door. He started to whistle an old tune as he stepped inside.
“Gervais! Where are you?” he asked the silent house. A crashing started upstairs, then Ambroise heard fast running in the direction of the stairs. After thumping and bumping the entire way, Gervais appeared. He wasn’t dressed a tuxedo as usual. Right now he had some old workclothes covered by a white work apron that wasn’t particularly white anymore, it was stained with soot and stains. He had goggles around his neck that he had presumably been wearing a moment later.
“You called, sir?”
“Yes. Experimenting again?”
“Yes, sir. I am getting closer to the moteur, I think.”
Ambroise smiled. He loved to see how excited Gervais got when he was working on his engine. In the last year Gervais had been working on a perpetual motor.
“I got us a bottle of wine.”
“Really, sir? Oh, that would go perfectly with the meal I have planned!”
“Planned? Have you started cooking yet?”
“Alas, no, sir. I have been very busy since you left. It seemed that you only left an hour ago…”
“Well, it was near 8 hours. What is the meal you have “planned”?”
“Well, sir, I was thinking of making us Gratin Potatoes.”
“And this wine will go well with that?”
“I thought so. But perhaps…”
Ambroise interrupted him. “I have bought some more potatoes. I suppose you don’t actually have any.”
“Correct, sir. But it seemed good anyway.”
“I agree. Get yourself cleaned up, then start cooking. I have to study the Approximations of the Universe tonight for the noble’s meeting tommorow. Oh, did I tell you? I saw Destare today.”
A grin appeared on Gervais’ face. “What did you do?”
“Ah, just a simple rock and water to water and mud. A pit deep enough to wet his trousers up to the knee. Being nobility and all, he couldn’t afford his pride to gasp in shock of the cold or roll up his pant leg.”
The grin widened into a chuckle. Then, bowing slightly, Gervais went back up the stairs into the bathroom. Ambroise heard running water, then Gervais splashing water on himself. Gervais had been passed from Ambroise’s father to himself, along with the mansion. But for some reason, the will hadn’t been specific enough (or possibly didn’t even mention) about his father’s great wealth. Somehow the money had vanished and Ambroise was left poor. But as he soon found out, begging was a profitable trade. But, because technically he was still considered a noble, he was forced to go to meetings. He disliked most of them, but there was one, Destare, who he hated. This man was stuck up and only did what made him look good. That is one reason Ambroise liked to trick him while in his guise as a beggar. Ambroise went into his study and pulled out a few books. He sat down in his large cushioned chair and started trudging through his books as best he could. It wasn’t too hard for him, he was quite good at it all, but it bored him. He lost track of time while he studied, seeing that by the time Gervais came in and told him supper was ready an hour or so had passed by. Ambroise went into the dining room and sat down. Gervais had already served out the Gratin Potatoes and wine. Ambroise took a bite too soon and burnt his mouth. Using a tactic he had just read about in the book he was studying, he transferred some of the heat of his food into the surrounding air. He took another bite and it was at a more reasonable temperature.