48 Hours a Day
Chapter 201 - Late Night Talk and Visitors
In the dead of night at Terrance’ Mansion.
Malcolm kept a regular schedule of work and rest. It was his secret formula to maintain his energy and momentum, especially during the early days of the black-market alliance. A slew of unexpected events and situations had taken place, yet Malcolm was able to systematically solve each of them without showing any sign of fatigue. Even in his forties, his body behaved as if he was a twenty-year-old.
At this hour, he would usually be already in bed. Tonight, however, he decided to remain in his study, which was a rarity.
Malcolm plucked a book from the shelf and flipped through its pages.
The maids in the hallway hardly dared to breathe, knowing that Malcolm’s mood was usually foul at this hour.
With an aloof and stern demeanor, he wore a face of austerity and rigidity from the old days. When he heard of the news about the incident on the beach, his expression grew even more solemn. Even from afar, one could instantly sense the formidable aura oozing out of him.
Once, during breakfast, one of the newly hired maids was so intimidated when she caught sight of him that she dropped the plate she was carrying. As a result, the chamberlain had someone drag her out of the house to be whipped. After that incident, every servant of Terrance’ Mansion would do well to keep their heads down.
When they saw that Malcolm had been in the study for nearly an hour past his usual bedtime, nobody could muster enough courage to approach their master. At the same time, they were also afraid that they might be punished for not doing so.
The maids really didn’t know what to do. Finally, they all turned to a petite maid named Leah, Malcolm’s favorite of all the maids. He treated her differently and never punished her, even when she made the gravest of mistakes. Due to the preferential treatment, some of the other servants greatly ostracized her.
Leah said nothing, merely turning around and proceeded downstairs to the kitchen. When she returned, she held a glass of warm milk with her. As she was about to enter the study, she adjusted her uniform and knocked gingerly on the door.
Malcolm answered from inside, “Come in.”
The maid pushed the door open. Malcolm, who was sitting on the velvet couch, didn’t look up until Leah placed the glass on the table in front of him.
Malcolm snorted, “That’s sweet. I’m waiting for a guest. I’ll be sleeping a little later tonight.”
“Yes, Mr. Malcolm.” Leah smiled as she picked up the tray. Just before she was about to exit the room, Malcolm spoke again.
“Has anyone entered my study recently?”
Leah started to panic, thinking that Malcolm must have discovered that someone had rummaged through his letters. She had only taken one and made sure to return it the next day. How could Malcolm have noticed it?
Could her luck be really that bad, so much so that Malcolm decided to reexamine those old letters on the very day and notice that one had gone missing? But then again, there was a whole bunch of them. How could he have remembered each and every one of them? Right now, however, the most crucial question was: what would she do now?
Should she make up a story of a non-existent thief? She could divert Malcolm’s suspicions to the phantom so that he would focus on it instead of her. Or perhaps, she should put the blame on someone else?
A jumble of thoughts flashed across Leah’s mind, but it lasted only a moment. When she turned around, the expressions on her face displayed just the right amount of confusion. “Is something missing, sir? As per your instructions, Mr. Malcolm, I am the only person who comes in every day to clean the room.”
“Oh, I’m just asking. Things haven’t been peaceful recently. It’s always better to be extra careful.” Malcolm pointed to the chair in front of him and said, “Since you’re already here, don’t leave in a hurry. Stay for a while, and have a chat with me.”
Leah breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that she had made the right bet. Malcolm didn’t notice the missing letter. She gathered up her long dress and sat down with a smile. “What would you like to talk about, Mr. Malcolm?”
Malcolm put down the book in his hand. “Let’s talk about books. What have you been reading lately?”
“I’ve been reading the Bible because I noticed many reading it when I came here.”
“Well, the fastest way to integrate into a culture is to understand its religion. Have you read the book of Exodus? What are your thoughts about it? The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians, and under the guidance of God, they escaped Egypt and followed their prophet, Moses. After a period of suffering, they finally reached a place they called the Promised Land, a land overflowing with milk and honey. Has this book enlightened you in any way?”
Leah’s smile faded a little, becoming a little less confident.
“Do you know what I like most about you? You rarely say anything that contradicts your conviction. If I were to ask the other servants, they would quickly tell me that they are pleased with their lives now and would never try to escape or leave.” Malcolm shifted in his seat to make himself more comfortable. “But the reality is that no one likes to be enslaved,” he continued.
Leah stayed silent for a long while before answering, “Will God end the suffering of my people then?”
“What do you think?” Malcolm retorted. “Thousands of years ago, the Israelites had faith in the Lord their God, so He liberated them from the evil rule of the pagans. But now, since you and I believe in the same creator, do you think he will liberate you from us?”
“Then where would our path lead us? Will our children and grandchildren continue to be enslaved like us?”
“That would have to depend on when you can truly integrate into our world.”
The maid opened her mouth to speak, but Malcolm raised a finger to stop her. “The integration I speak of doesn’t simply encapsulate the subjects of language, food, clothing, etiquette, or even religion–not just these kinds of things. Although they are all important, there is something more essential.” Malcolm pointed to his head. “You need to think like us. Only then will you really be accepted by our kind.”
“But when that day arrives, will we still be who we are?” Leah asked.
“Good question. Civilization is the cruelest thing the world has ever seen. It has only one main motive, and that is subjugation,” replied Malcolm. “Before it completes its destiny, it will never stop. If your kind refuses to assimilate with us, then the only way forward is complete destruction.”
As soon as Malcolm finished, there was a knock on the door, and the chamberlain’s voice could be heard from the other side.
“Mr. Malcolm. The guest has arrived.”
“Alright. Let’s end out little chat here for today. Go on ahead,” Malcolm shooed her off.
The maid bowed subserviently and left. Not long after, a man draped in a cloak came in from outside where a drizzle had started, carrying with him the scent of the outdoor humidity.
When the door to the study was shut again, the man uncloaked himself, revealing the face of Frazer.