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Jane and the lady of expensive virtue

May 21, 2017 11:02AM
another short story ... in this one an old lady wants help in finding a thief as she does not want to suspect any of her household. And I liked her well enough that she'll be returning in future stories.

Jane and the lady of expensive virtue

“Jane-girl, do you mind a visitor with a mystery?” Caleb asked. He had been in London and had brought with him an elderly lady of aristocratic looks and upright carriage, bewigged and brocaded in the styles of her youth. Though she bore the signs of age on her face it was plain from her fine bones and clear skin that she was once a beauty.
“Not at all, my love. Please forgive me for not rising, you may see my condition and finally I am comfortable,” said Jane.
“Wriggle like eels, they do, and jump on the bladder,” said the visitor in the cheerfully forthright manner of her period, and a surprising mix of cockney twang with a Scots’ burr to her voice. “I had a few. All adopted, save the one that died.” She sighed, deeply. “And one I called my nephew, as my sister took him. I used to be a whore, my dear.”
“Indeed? I cannot think it a convivial occupation unless able to attract wealthy protectors, when it might be preferable to some states of marriage,” said Jane. “I hasten to assure you that my second marriage to Mr. Armitage is very happy.”
“Bless you, love, I can see that in the way you look at each other. And yes, it was quite convivial and I had a deal of fun when I was Holborn Hetty, I can tell you! It’s Miss Henrietta Abercrombie now, of course, and if any of my nice respectable neighbours knew about my former life they’d probably have forty fits. You take it beautiful and calm, my dear.”
“I am well aware that for some women there is no choice,” said Jane. “The thought used to scare me when I was young, poor and had no option but to be a governess, in case I was misused by some paterfamilias and ended up on the street, and without much in the way of looks, and painfully shy, that I would not get much custom.”
“Now then! A pretty girl like you talking about not much in the way of looks? And such a genteel manner? You could have been a high-flyer, for you don’t need to be a diamond of the first water to go far. I was a beauty,” added Miss Abercrombie, “and I made the most of my looks, I can tell you, for I’m not that well educated. My sister and I being Scots’ girls, dispossessed of our wee home with our father’s death, came to London to seek our fortune. Well, Pymma, Euphemia that is, married a butcher and stayed respectable, and died of an excess of red meat, worry and penny-pinching at the age of sixty-two, and here’s me at eighty-seven, hale and hearty after a life of debauchery and sin.” She winked. “I reckon God won’t have me, and the Devil is afraid I’ll lower the tone of the place.”
Jane laughed, a little shocked but amused.
“I fear the Devil might be more afraid you would teach him to have fun and take away all his fearsomeness,” she said.
Miss Abercrombie laughed heartily.
“Oh, I like that,” she said.
Jane served tea, which Mostyn brought in. Mostyn was happier these days, he got on much better with Mrs. Ketch than he had with Mrs. Barnard, and had lost much of the lugubrious look he had been wearing for a while. Jane smiled her thanks, and poured.
“That is what I never had, the manners of a gracious lady,” said Miss Abercrombie. “I learned all I could, but it takes being trained from birth to have it natural. It’s why I let such of my protectors as wanted to adopt their love-children, men with lands never mind the odd extra son to rear as a poor relation, to take on steward or bailiff’s jobs, and grateful for having position. I deliberately lost track of them, you know, so as not to blight their lives, and especially the one daughter, who went to a man whose wife dearly wanted a daughter and was unable to produce any but his one sickly heir. I did read she made a good marriage and then turned my back. It was my first baby I kept, all sentimental as I was then, and then asked my sister to take him. She and her sausage-maker never made any of their own little sausages, so she was glad of a blood-relative.”
“Does your son know he is your son?”
“No, he never knew. He, like his parents, died in his sixties, some years ago, leaving a son, who has left the business in the hands of a partner. And no, Alec has no idea he is my grandson; he calls me ‘Auntie Hetty’ and I call him my dear nephew. He’s in his twenties, and he enjoys life, which endears him to me. John Hamm, which is, I suppose a good name for a butcher, and Pymma endured life, and my son, Andrew, grew up suffering from religion and taking himself seriously. Alec Hamm is a more convivial fellow, and I see in him what could have been if I had only been able to keep Andrew.”
“It must have been hard,” sympathised Jane.
“It was,” said Miss Abercrombie. “But at sixteen years old, I never could have kept him; it was before I had my better protectors, I was still working nightly, as you might say. I could not even say who fathered Andrew. A year later, when I met the Duke of … no, let us not have any names … my fortune was made.”
Jane reached out a hand and took the old woman’s hand in hers, and gave it a friendly squeeze. Miss Abercrombie squeezed back.
“I am sorry.”
“You are a kind girl. I have no real regrets, though; I was able to help Pymma and her John, in fact, I am the third, sleeping partner, as I had to bail them out of financial trouble. I live well, and I am happy, on the whole, were it not for the theft of my jewellery which made me seek help of a discreet kind. You see, I do not want to mistrust any of my household, as I have known them for a long time. I spoke to an old friend, Beau Popham*. No, he’s too young for me, but I can pass well enough in society, and as a poor old woman nobody takes any notice of me, so I can listen to people talk for him, under the guise of nodding in a chair. And he said you were civil to a couple of opera dancers and wouldn’t be outraged by a retired Paphian.”
“The Beau is a clever man,” said Jane. “I believe Caleb has done some work for him, too.”
“Mostly what we call ‘leg work’,” said Caleb. “Rooting round checking facts, and delving into people peripheral to his enquiries. Aye, and I’ve lied to him once or twice and warned off a couple of young hot-heads who were no more revolutionary than I am, just sore over certain inequalities.”
“It’ll be what he means by your ‘pleasantly individualistic approach to justice,’ I suspect, Mr. Armitage,” said Miss Abercrombie. “He would probably have listened to you, if you told him they were of no real interest.”
“Government agents make my hair bleed,” said Caleb. “I like the Beau well enough, and respect him, but I don’t get involved in politics. Generally I’m of the opinion that all politicians will burn one day, but I have no ambitions to speed them on their way. I’d happily seek someone who murdered any prime minister the way Spencer Perceval was murdered, but not because he was prime minister, but because he was a man who had as much right to life as any man.”
“Ah, and now I see why the Beau accounts you ‘dangerous’ in your own way,” said Miss Abercrombie. “You will pursue truth without fear or favour, deviating from it only to serve justice, not the law, but not to serve politics.”
“No, and I would do what I felt necessary for justice to be served and if it got me into trouble, then so be it,” said Caleb. “But please! Tell us more about these thefts.”
“I wasn’t aware of them at first,” said Miss Abercrombie. “But when I came to have some of my jewellery assessed for insurance, I was told that some small pieces were fakes. The insurance assessor,” she reddened, angrily, “Suggested that I had had them copied in order to sell originals to tide me over a difficult time and had forgotten. My memory is as sharp as it has ever been, and moreover, as I told him, I would never do that. If I sold a piece, I’d sell it openly and without roundaboutation. And I wouldn’t sell small pieces either, I’d sell one of the big, hideously ugly pieces which I kept purely against need. Not all my lovers had good taste,” she shrugged. “And since then, I have missed pieces. Again, small pieces. And I did go to Bow Street, but it was hinted, oh so delicately, that I might have sold them, or given them away. Everyone is determined to think that I am in my dotage!”
“I suppose it happens often enough to make it credible to anyone who has not spoken to you for any length of time,” said Jane. “Very well; you have missed small pieces, and you suspect a member of your household. I need to know how you keep your jewellery and which of your household could have access to them, their personalities, and what you think about them. It may be we will have to visit your house, but not, I beg you, until after I have been confined and recovered. I don’t want to be shaken into an early birth by travel, and since it is jewellery not your life at risk then I cannot see it necessary.”
“That I understand, and I hope you will not need to travel. I do not have a large enough little house to readily house guests, other than Alec, who has a room which he uses as he will.”
“Has he a key?”
“Yes, and he can come and go at will, whether I am in or out,” said Miss Abercrombie. “I do not want to suspect my own bonnie bairn’s boy. On the other hand, I do not want to suspect those who have been long in my service, or my companion, who is as close as family to me.”
“Tell us first about your servants,” said Jane. “And about how you keep your jewellery.
“Very well. First, my jewellery lives in a locked box. It is heavy and awkward, and I keep the key on my chatelaine. I give it to either my companion or my man if I send it off to have it cleaned. But I have not done so since before I discovered some pieces had been substituted. And I suppose that either one could have made substitutions while the jewellery was out of my sight being cleaned. But then, either one could go to my box, having each had the same opportunity to make a duplicate of my key. And my maid goes to my jewellery box for me when I want something; and she has her own key.”
“So they all have opportunity. Does your nephew?”
“I suppose so. I don’t think Alice, my maid, keeps her key on her person, I expect it is hung on a hook in her room. Which may be careless, but one does not expect to have to suspect one’s own household.”
Jane nodded.
“No, indeed. However, describe your household.”
“Cameron Mackie is a man of Fife, and I engaged him to hear the tones of my home,” said Miss Abercrombie. “He has been with me since he was what I described as a ‘cheeky shilpit wee sumf’ of about twelve, when he would beg pennies to hold my horses in the days when I drove a phaeton and four. I am content with a tilbury with a single horse nowadays, but I used to cut a dash.” A smile touched her mouth, and her blue-green eyes stared into the distance, her face softened until one could readily see Holborn Hetty, the high-class dasher. “I loved listening to him, so I took him on as my tiger at first, and when the groom I had then retired, I made him my groom. Now he does service as my footman, butler, groom, handyman and I still love to hear him speak. I had to lose my accent to succeed, and the London accent is so prevalent it creeps into speech unbidden. Mackie keeps my roots secure. I am very fond of him, and I have remembered him in my will, so he will not be old and without any subsistence. I have left my house jointly to my servants, companion and great nephew for their lifetimes, to devolve on my nephew when they have all died, and each with legacies enough to live well enough for ten years, or economically for twenty. I doubt any of them will live to see much more, save Alec,” she added dryly. “Alice, my maid, is a similar age to Mackie, in her sixties. She’s not a Scot, but she has the manner of being dour outwardly that one might imagine her to be so. Unlike Mackie, who is a droll fellow. Alice has a warm heart, though, and takes good care of me despite her scolding ways.”
“Like my Ella,” said Jane. “Ella is a jewel and bullies me.”
“Someone has to, Jane-girl,” laughed Caleb.
“A jewel indeed, and to be kept close,” nodded Miss Abercrombie. “Alice came to me as a gawky girl, all elbows and knees, and in fact I bought her out of a brothel where they were trying to force her to comply. She came to town to work as a maid and was picked up by a madam, who took her clothes. They didn’t bargain for Alice fighting like a fury and half ripping out the throat of the client they sold her virginity to with her teeth.”
“Good for Alice,” said Jane. “I’ve seen an engraving of Hogarth’s work, of course, where the poor innocent is picked up by a fat woman and forced into prostitution. Alice was lucky.”
“Yes, she was viciously beaten and was to have been tied to be taken from behind by a sadist next time, but I heard about her from one of the girls who worked in that brothel, and made the madam an offer she couldn’t refuse. Sell the girl to me, or I’ll arrange to have you raided when your illustrious sadist is there, I said. She sold. And when Alice understood that I meant her no harm, she sobbed in my arms, and has been my loyal maid ever since. I cannot see that she would do me harm. If she has taken anything it would be for a good reason, or because she can’t help it. There are women and girls who cannot help picking up pretty things, usually with little regard to value, and they don’t seem to equate it to stealing, but I’ve never come across any who started in later life. Generally they’ve been doing it from childhood.”
“That’s very interesting,” said Jane. “It sounds more of a malady than a sin.”
“Yes, and I think it is,” said Miss Abercrombie. “Like those girls who lie and it’s plain that they are lying, like a maid who will say, ‘I never broke the vase, Madam’ and you heard the crash a second or two before and she’s the only one in the room.”
“I never thought of such lack of veracity as a malady before, but it is true enough some girls will lie in preference to telling the truth, regardless of the evidence against their story,” said Jane. “A fascinating observation. I must try to be more tolerant.”
“I wouldn’t be, if I was you,” said Miss Abercrombie. “You never know what they might get up to. It ain’t a matter for the constables, neither occurrence, for the thieves is just human magpies, but it’s not someone you want to keep on. They need a keeper, but you can’t be everyone’s keeper.”
“No, I suppose not,” said Jane. “It does sound most unlikely that Alice should be your thief, but I suppose … you mentioned that people consider you to be in your dotage, but has it occurred to you that either Mackie or Alice might be? After all, it can strike people many years younger than your venerable attainment.”
“I hadn’t, and I don’t say you ain’t got a good point,” said Miss Abercrombie. “And that could cover Lizzie too. My companion,” she explained.
“Tell me about her,” said Jane. “More tea?”
“Thank you, no, one cup is enough. Lizzie. Lizzie was a whore as well. We met as rivals; she is a decade and a half younger than I am, and when she was young, she was brash and loud. It was a cover for the fear she always had of finding a new protector. She couldn’t dance but she could act a little, and eked out a living at Covent Garden, which was a good place to find a lover as well. And we first met when I was with my current protector at the opera. I was know to be a Cyprian, so she decided to take my lover from me. I was thirty-four, and I was still very handsome and she was eighteen and still had the freshness that all young people have.” She smiled. “And I retained mine for longer than most because I did not white my face. I had naturally pale creamy skin, and I was sufficiently vain about it that I would not cover it. It meant I kept my complexion while others my age became raddled. I also saw how eating too many sweetmeats ruined the teeth of my contemporaries, and I was sparing, and cleaned my teeth twice a day. I still have all but one of my own teeth,” she added proudly. “And that one, I broke on a nut. But Lizzie was impatient and she liked the looks of … let us call him Johnnie. He was a sweet protector, and younger than I, and I had the educating of him, and I hope the woman he married appreciated it,” she chuckled wickedly. “He was a nice boy, and not that bright, but he was loyal to those who were loyal to him and he gave Lizzie the cut direct after she tried to ooze onto his lap. He stood up and dumped her off, and said to me, ‘I’m bored, shall we go elsewhere?’ Bless him! And for the next few years, Lizzie and I were rivals for new lovers. And then I noticed her making up to someone we older hands knew was bad news, and though I disliked her at the time, I warned her. She chose not to heed my warning, and I had a feeling I should call at her lodgings.”
“What happened?” asked Jane. “I am not pruriently curious, but my first husband liked his … games, and humiliation figured strongly in them.”
“Then I don’t need to find a way to explain to a gracious lady with a nice stud in her bed,” said Miss Abercrombie, winking at Caleb. “This fellow was into games and more, and I found Lizzie in such a bad way I wouldn’t mind betting she might have died. Apparently she had objected to some of his games, so he beat her senseless instead, cut her up, and had her dumped out of his carriage. She managed somehow to crawl home. I had the doctor out, after I’d stopped the worst bleeding and cut off her clothes and picked the fabric out of the wounds where his whip had driven them into the flesh. I put her into a nightrail and told the doctor she had been set on by footpads. I don’t know if he believed me.”
“Shouldn’t you have informed on him?”
Miss Abercrombie gave a mirthless laugh.
“And who is believed, a whore, or a noble lord? It was for Lizzie’s face that I lied to the doctor, not that fiend. And at that, she was lucky; he had the pox and passed it on to many a poor girl. Lizzie was lucky to have a strong streak of religion, and to object to the games he liked to play in churches. Anyway, when she was well enough to be moved, I moved her into my house because she wasn’t fit to care for herself, and she cried a lot and she’s never moved out. She couldn’t work again after he’d cut her face up. Oh, many of us would have given a lot to be able to do him an ill turn! Anyway, she asked me why I had bothered, and I told her that I’d been young and brash once too. Not that I’d ever tried to poach another girl’s man, but I did mark out the ones who were getting bored, and managed to happen to be in the right place to smile at them when they were considering giving the current love her congé. No more than a smile; I always felt it was up to the man to do the running. But Lizzie was a foolish little thing, and as it turned out the child of a parson who rebelled against a very strict upbringing, which made her rebellion more extreme, as you might say. I went into the profession with a hard head and a sense of expedience. She loved amateur dramatics and ran away to be an actress in defiance, and discovered that you can’t make a living by acting alone, unless you are very good. And she had no idea of the etiquette between the girls in the business because she started off as a bit of an amateur whore as well as an amateur actress. Poor Lizzie! She got religion very badly for a few months until I told her flatly that it wasn’t G-d punishing her for her rebellion and immorality, it was life punishing her for being an idiot about how she rebelled and with whom she chose to be immoral. Life is about choices. I tried to get her to marry Andrew, my son, but unfortunately for that plan, Lizzie found her sense of fun again before I could get him up to scratch, and he was far too stuffy for her.”
“Is there any resentment between you and Lizzie?” asked Jane. “I know that having an obligation to someone can put a strain on people.”
“I’m not aware of any,” said Miss Abercrombie. “She was that morbid at first, but after I ticked her off, I told her that it suited me very well to have a friend, as I was planning on retiring from the business soon, and it would get boring on my own. She accepted that, and I think she was relieved to be out of it. Her brashness was only ever a cover for how she hated it, I think, and she was glad to be somewhere where she could be herself, and laugh at things her father would disapprove of, and not have to pray all the time. A fine old puritan he sounded! The sort of man who would flog his children as a prophylactic against having any fun. He used to have them lined up, Lizzie told me, outside his study on Saturday afternoons so he could beat them for any transgressions they must have committed during the week so they would be pure for Sunday.”
“He sounds warped,” said Jane. “Nothing like my grandfather, who was also a parson.”
“Well, there’s lunatics in all walks of life,” said Miss Abercrombie. “I could see why she ran away though; it ain’t natural to have Saturday beatings when you’re eighteen.”
“Indeed, and it sounds distinctly incestuous as well,” said Jane. “If Lizzie has strange ideas, it would not be surprising.”
“No, I suppose not. But she’s been a loyal friend since we’ve had no cause for rivalry,” said Miss Abercrombie. “She’s never done anything untoward. We bicker at times, but what friends don’t? She’s as close as I have to a daughter though I’d say we were better friends than a lot of mothers and daughters.”
“Yes, you have not had the rearing of her, and it does make a difference,” said Jane. “What about your grandson?”
“Alec is all attention to his ageing aunt,” said Miss Abercrombie. “He gives me his escort, and spends time with me. I know he also goes out with his own friends, but he is assiduous in his attentions. I can’t say I like all his friends, though.”
“In what way?”
“Well, he brought one fellow back. I didn’t catch his name, but I’d have called him Captain Hackum myself. Alec owed him money. I let him have the sum, but I asked him never to bring people like that back to my house again. He told me that the fellow as a capital fellow, up to every rig and row in town, and I said that in my young days, that was a shortcut to being rope-ripe. I haven’t seen any more of any of his friends in the house, but he’s been picked up in a gig once or twice by a young man I would describe as more flash than swell, and definitely not someone I’d have gone with when I was a girl.”
Jane nodded.
“You have to have pretty fine judgement, I imagine,” she said.
“If you plan to thrive, yes,” said Miss Abercrombie. “I’d scavenge thrown out vegetables from the markets to keep body and soul together before I’d take a man whom I didn’t trust. Some girls are too stupid to pick up on little signs, and I am afraid they tend to be the ones who are swept up in the gutters with the other detritus. I suspect that Alec is using his inheritance from his father to cut loose from the staid drudgery of the stolid middle class values of that side of the family, like Lizzie, and I cannot blame him! But I do warn him, and I hope he will see for himself without such a harsh salutary lesson as she learned. I don’t see why he shouldn’t have fun, but I worry about him being fleeced. And all he does is pat my hand and tell me he’s a man of the world.”
“Perhaps you ought to tell him his real background and that you have been a woman of the world many times as long as he’s been a man of the world,” said Jane, dryly. “I get the impression that he is treating you as though you were a piece of porcelain, a maiden aunt to whom the concept that men might have different avocations to women would be profoundly shocking.”
“You know, my dear, you could be right,” Miss Abercrombie nodded. “I know that my background is anything but sheltered, but he does not. He doesn’t even question Lizzie’s scars, though they don’t show as much at her age. He probably things that they were caused by a botched forceps delivery, or are a birthmark or something.”
“With luck he will become steadier without losing a sense of fun,” said Jane.
“Yes, I keep hoping so; and that he will grow out of being careless. I have lost some jewellery to him, but purely through accident.”
“Oh?” asked Jane.
“Yes, he asked to have a look at my pearls. I love my pearls; Johnnie gave them to me, and he always was one of my favourites. A double string. Anyway, Alec was looking at them, absently swirling his brandy, and he dropped the necklace into the brandy glass. He reached in to fish them right out again, but unfortunately they had dissolved, and all there was left was the catch and the strings.”
“Oh yes?” Jane sat forward.
“Yes, and Alec apologised most abjectly of course. He said it proved they were top quality to dissolve so quickly, as lower quality ones took longer, and fake glass beads covered in fish scales would not dissolve at all.”
Jane glanced at Caleb, who nodded, and rose.
“When was this?” asked Jane.
“Why, only yesterday,” said Miss Abercrombie.
“With luck he won’t have disposed of them yet, then,” said Caleb grimly.
“Why, my dear, what do you mean?” asked Miss Abercrombie.
“Pearls do not dissolve in vinegar or alcohol,” said Jane, gently. “It’s an old wives’ tale. I fear your grandson had a piece of trumpery with strings prepared beforehand to effect a substitution. I doubt your other jewellery will turn up, however. But we do now know one thief in your household, and that does tend to suggest that he has been responsible for the other thefts, especially if he had a copy of the clasp to hand, and knew about the process of making fake pearl beads.”
Miss Abercrombie crumpled in on herself.
“My own grandson,” she murmured.
Jane rang the bell as Caleb hastened out. It was answered by the maid, Jenny.
“Jenny, prepare a guest room for Miss Abercrombie, who will be staying overnight with us,” said Jane. “And put a hot brick in it, and lay out one of my nightrails, Miss Abercrombie will be lying down shortly for a rest.”
“Yes’m,” said Jenny, dropping what passed in her for a curtsey. Jane sighed; Mrs. Ketch would teach her better and more patiently than Mrs. Barnard had ever managed.
“My dear … oh Alec!” and then the old woman was sobbing.
“Caleb knows you will be unwilling to press charges,” said Jane, gently, “But if I was you, I’d turn him out, and change your lock, in case he has copied the key, and have nothing more to do with him.”
“I would have given him money, if he had been short.”
“I suspect his needs were more than you would countenance; such fellows as you describe remind me of my first husband’s friends, and he owed a fortune in gambling debts.”
“Oh! Yes, I see. Gamblers are fools. But it is part of society. I am going to cut him out of my will; he should have been honest with his own kin.”
“Make sure you tell him, so that he does not turn up one night with a plan of inheriting as soon as possible.”
“I will. I don’t believe Alec would murder me, but I wouldn’t put it past that Captain Hackum fellow to do so if it would give Alec the funds to pay a debt to him.”
Jane hoped that Miss Abercrombie was right about her grandson not wishing to kill her. However, if he was no longer living under her roof, opportunity would be denied, if not inclination. She saw the old woman upstairs when Jenny reported that the hot brick was in the bed, and hoped that the one-time Paphian’s resilience and indomitable spirit would not be so broken by this blow that she became suddenly old.

The next morning, Miss Abercrombie seemed determined to make an effort.
“At least it means I need no longer suspect old friends, for my servants are old friends,” she said, a little defiantly.
“Yes, Ella and her husband, Jem Fowler, are friends to Caleb and me, though they are more sticklers of our position than we are,” said Jane. “Caleb will act as he sees fit, and it may frighten Alec into better behaviour. We shall see.”
“I would like to make a new will as soon as possible, however,” said Miss Abercrombie. “I was a fool to be taken in by that trick; some sleight of hand, I suppose. After all, even if the pearls could dissolve, it would scarcely be so fast, and one would expect a cloudiness and sediment in the brandy. I was too shocked to think, I fear.”
“Indeed, especially as they held some sentimental memories,” said Jane.
“Yes. Johnnie was good fun,” Miss Abercrombie’s mouth curved into an involuntary smile at the thought. “He fought a duel for my honour; one of his friends called me a common whore, and Johnnie swore I was never common in anything I did. They fought with feather pillows on a greasy pole between two barges on the Thames. Drunk as wheelbarrows, the pair of them, and fortunately had other friends to pull them out of the river, but it was the thought that counts. Oh he was a wild piece was Johnnie, but never bad wild.”
“He sounds a good man,” said Jane.
“Yes, and I still have a soft spot for him,” sighted Miss Abercrombie.

Caleb returned in the afternoon.
Wordlessly he handed the pearl necklace over to Miss Abercrombie, who hugged it to her breast, tears in her eyes.
“I’ve got word out to try to find the other pieces, but I don’t hold out much hope,” he said. “I’ve warned your man to arrange a locksmith, and turned young Alec Hamm out of your house. He was more philosophical than anything else, but I warned him that his friends are no good and that if anything happened to Miss Abercrombie, I would be pulling in him and his friends. He seemed to understand. I explained that you had more friends than he could possibly imagine. Are you going to tell him of the real relationship?”
“No, not now. If he hadn’t betrayed my trust, I’d have left him a letter to be opened on my death, along with virtually all my goods. But I’m going to leave all of it to set up a home for the children of prostitutes, where their mothers can come and visit.”
“I think that’s a lovely idea,” said Jane.

Jane and the lady of expensive virtue

Sarah WaldockMay 21, 2017 11:02AM


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