By Frank Cadogan Cowper, Pre Raphaelite

By Frank Cadogan Cowper, Pre Raphaelite

I remember the first time grand-père struck Mama. I was only ten years old, and my father had just died.

“Stupid woman!” he snarled. I had never seen him snarl before. “You shall never be the Countess. You have served your purpose and should feel nothing but gratitude that I allow you to remain in my house at all.”

Grand-père called Mama a vessel…a cup. A used cup that could be discarded at any moment. She had done her duty and borne the heir and the spare (my brothers) and one daughter, me. Ironic, though, that her name was Belle. For a bell, before it is struck, is nothing more than a cup…

Mama recoiled at that first strike. She had no concept that one human could lay a hand on another like that…she was so sheltered. That first time, I think she actually forgot it ever happened, as we forget the strange experiences we have in dreams so readily because they are so unfamiliar.

The second time grand-père struck her, she began to vibrate. The vibration resonated, and the quiet, meek little woman who had happily lived her very sheltered and submissive life began to change. Her back was straighter. She looked people directly in the eye when speaking, and her voice was always clear and strong, no longer the mere whisper it had once been.

And there were letters. I didn’t learn until much later in life just what all those letters enabled her to do, but I know that grand-père underestimated the power of the written word, and such was his downfall.

The third time grand-père struck Mama was the last time he laid a hand on her, and the last time we saw him. I’m sure grand-père had no idea my brother had just come through the door behind him. My brother, now the Earl of Danbury, who was then seventeen and more than old enough to make his own decisions. My brother, my hero, decided we were to go and live with Mama’s family in Lavaré, France, while he continued his studies in Paris.

A bell, when struck, rings with a beautiful sound.

A glass, when struck, shatters.

Lady Crystal Basingstoke

This was written for the Write at the Merge prompt “An old bandit adage: A bell is a cup until it is struck.” ~Colin Meloy

I’m curious what readers thought about the time setting. Did a particular era quickly come to mind? Could it be in any of several time periods, as written? This is not related to anything else I’ve written.