Short Story Sunday: Arthur William

Back in the Gold Rush days there was a man who claimed to come from an alternate universe. Of course back in the late 1840’s and 1850’s nobody knew what the hell he was talking about.

His name was Arthur William. In 1849 he’d jumped on one of the first ships to California, going around the tip of South America and landing in Yerba Buena, which was changed to the name San Francisco. Arthur and his cat, a large tabby named Miss Martha, had no intention on mining for gold. They came to California for other more nefarious reasons.

Arthur William didn’t need to get his hands dirty looking for sparkling bits of rock. He already had a seemingly endless fortune. With Miss Martha tucked in his jacket, he traveled on a beautiful caramel colored horse he called Prince. All who met Arthur William were charmed by him. He took interest in everyone he met, and everything he saw. The man never traveled without his notebook, and other assorted odd looking silver and black devices which he kept mostly hidden from view.

Not wanting to live in flea infested hotels he had a grand house built overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Eventually he commissioned artists such as Thomas Hill, and the Nahl Brothers to create fine paintings for his home. The famous photographer Robert H. Vance took portraits of Miss Martha and Prince.

One day Arthur William was seen in the company of a widow named Mrs. Smith. Her husband had been a supplier of picks and shovels. He’d died from a blow in the head from one of his own shovels. Mrs. Smith, who’s first name was Agnes, was a lovely woman with deathly pale skin and golden hair. It is said she was enchanted by Arthur William. It was rumored she had become his lover. Nobody ever found out the truth because Mrs. Agnes Smith vanished off the face of the Earth.

Not only did Mrs. Smith vanish, but all trace of her, including the contents of her home, her two small shaking dogs, and her three servants. One day they were there, and the next day they were gone. Nobody was them leave. Nobody saw wagons take away the furniture. Nobody received letters saying they were leaving.

Arthur William seemed as surprised as anyone else. Despite his close relationship with Mrs. Smith the man didn’t seem unhappy about it either. With his charm he could woo any woman in the city, married or not.

Soon other people began to vanish. It wasn’t a mass vanishing, just a person here, and another person there. At that time the population was somewhat transient as it was, so if someone left town it usually wasn’t always too much of a surprise.

In the early spring of 1856 Arthur William was seen walking a beach outside of the city with a woman. Others in the area noticed that this woman was dressed oddly in trousers with the legs rolled up so that she wouldn’t get them wet in the surf. Her brown hair hung long and free down her back. She wore a large dark green knitted sweater over a shirt without buttons or any adornment. . Arthur William had also rolled up his trousers. From those who were close they saw that she was quite pretty with good teeth.

Every few weeks the woman would be back for a walk on the beach with Arthur William. Every free weeks someone else who knew Arthur William vanished.

Yes, nobody suspected anything evil going on. Arthur William spend much of his time with artists, writers, and entertainers, as well as eccentric society folks. Everyone liked him. It was said that he had many lovers and was always quite discreet in his affairs of the heart, and also of those that were purely from lust.

One cold winter day Mrs. Lydia Dobbins went to see Arthur William on pretense of meeting about a charity for homesick penniless young men who needed to go home back East to their mothers. She let herself in after nobody answered the door. It wasn’t locked so she didn’t feel as if she’d invaded Arthur’s privacy.

Upon entering the house she heard strange loud music. Did Arthur William have a band of intoxicated musicians in his house? Why was it so hellish, yet enticing?

When she found herself in the back of the house in a room Arthur William used as an art studio she found him and his cat Miss Martha. Arthur William was dressed in black pants, and an orange long sleeved shirt with the words GIANTS on the front. Miss Martha looked like her usual tabby cat self. The music came from a couple of small black boxes placed on the bookshelves on either side of the room.

Arthur William turned and saw Lydia.

“What darling Arthur is that music. What sort of trick is this?”

“It isn’t a trick darling. It’s Metallica. I’ll turn it off.”

He turned off the music.

“What are you wearing? Where did the music come from? Why did I like it? I shouldn’t have liked it? I feel…I cannot explain how I feel,” said Mrs. Lydia Dobbins.

“Then I will show you how I feel,” he said. Then he led her up to his bedroom and spent the next few hours making her forget any confusion she might have felt earlier. When dusk started to darken the sky he asked one of his servants to hitch up the coach and take Mrs. Dobbins home.

Arthur William continued to meet the mysterious woman on the beach. People continued to move away with no notice. Arthur William continued to charm everyone he met.

Then one day he also vanished. Nobody, including Mrs. Dobbins knew where he had gone.

But my dear reader, you might already know where he went. This weekend he’ll be going to a Giants game in San Francisco. Then he’ll go home to Miss Martha. And he’ll continue to support the arts and charm everyone he meets.

~ end

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