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Jane and the sins of society

February 21, 2018 11:15PM
Book 7 in the Jane, Bow Street consultant series. Now that Caleb has been knighted, the Prince Regent demands the presence of the Armitages in society. The question is whether he merely wants to ogle the wife of his newest knight, or whether there are needs in the highest of society for the investigative flair of the detective duo. Jane and Caleb find themselves attempting to get to the bottom of three mysteries at once, which seem to have some bearing on each other. Beau Popham from 'Jane and the Opera Dancer' makes a reappearance here and the bread and butter at Almack's is still stale. I've included a cast list first to refer back to.

Cast list

Sir Caleb Armitage, Bow Street Officer, recently knighted
Lady Jane Armitage, his wife
Simon, their adoptive son.
Jem Fowler, Caleb’s valet, butler, general factotum, bodyguard and crony
Ella, Fowler’s wife and Jane’s dresser, helpmate and confidante
Mrs. Ketch, the housekeeper
Jackie, Will and Daniel, three soldiers invalided out, who serve Caleb
Chalky, Peewee, Curly and Pete, other soldiers, hired by Will
Mamzelle Dorothée, aka Dorothy, aka Dolly, a milliner.
Walter, a haberdasher.
Sal, his sister, a seamstress.
Prince George of Wales, regent
Nat, a pug dog, of impeccable breeding
Toby, a dog, of mixed breeding.
Rosalind, Lady Liddel, née Miss Rosalind Vaughan, an old schoolmate of Jane, who considered herself too good for Jane Fairfax.
Sir Henry Liddel, her caro sposo. Well-trained.
Stogumber, Halliwell and others, Bow Street Officers




Persons involved in the case of Jane and the Impossible Lady
Dorothea, Lady Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and patroness of Almack’s
Lady Caroline Hale, daughter of an earl and widow of a knight, society butterfly
Mrs. Jane Fielding, friend and connexion of Lady Caroline
Miss Cora Fielding, her daughter, making her come-out in society. All windows open and nobody home. Sweet natured and trusting.
Miss Laura Evans, making her come out, a plain but pleasant child fascinated by Miss Fielding’s beauty and concerned for her trusting nature.
Miss Jenny Welbeloved, dark haired beauty, scornful of anyone less lovely than her and all blondes.
Gerard Falk, Marquess Falkrington, handsome, rich, elegible and tired of simpering beauties.
Mr. Ambrose Tyler, wealthy dandy, self-opinionated. Finds Cora a suitable foil
Mr. Andrew Brasenose, a cheerfully ugly young man with moderate fortune, smitten by Cora.


Persons involved in the case of Jane and the Deadly Wagers
Mr. Daventry ‘Beau’ Popham, dandy and fop, spy
Mr. Lawrence Pelham, young man about town with expensive habits and a limited income until he is thirty.
Lady Julia Demomerie, great-aunt of the above, in charge of his capital.
Mr. John Radcliffe, sporting young man with a taste for fast curricles and fast women, moves in same circles as Alexander Montgomery and Roland Grey but no fan of Draisines. Under age. Plays the trumpet indifferently.
Mr. James Radcliffe, the grandfather of John, strict guardian.
Henderson, his valet.
Pierce, his cook
Miss Elizabeth Elliot, heiress, under age. Probably no more lacking in sense and good judgement than most young people her age.
Alexei Ivanovitch Kiasov, second lickspittle to an undersecretary in the Russian Embassy. A poet and fantasist, Miss Elliot’s beloved.
Mrs. Barbara Elliot, Elizabeth’s mother, will not permit a marriage between her daughter and Gospodin Kiasov.
Paul Strode, Viscount Ashall, heir to the Duchy of Braxstrode, has recently inherited the viscounty from his young cousin Stephen. A gamester.
Michael Strode, Duke of Braxstrode, in mourning for his teen-aged son and less than enthusiastic about his heir. Has 4 daughters, 3 older, one younger than his dead son. Daughters Georgiana, Lydia and Jessica, under governess Lucilla Peterson.
Mr. Gregory Aspinall, a wealthy young man about town, owns several race horses, recently inherited the wherewithal to indulge his hobby.
Mr. William Devlin, owner of a number of profitable mills inherited from his late father-in-law, but being of the gentry himself not tainted with trade.
Maria Devlin, William’s wife, a quiet and colourless woman, mostly concerned about her 3 hopeful offspring.
Hillborough Ferrant, a suave and bonhomie-filled gambler
Sir William Wetherby, a nabob
Lady Rohini Wetherby, his wife
Belby, their butler
Ram Das, Sir William’s man and general factotum.
Dusty, Johnny, Charlie and Smitty – temporary funeral mutes.


Persons involved in the case of Jane and the Dangerous Draisine
Mr. Alexander Montgomery, a fanatical Draisine owner, wealthy in his own right and heir to an earldom.
Mr. Christopher Montgomery, his younger brother who is not fond of Alexander.
Mr. Roland Grey, a fellow Draisine enthusiast, due to race with Montgomery.
Matthew Coxsedge, a valet.
Ginger, a street child who knew Simon when he was Simmy.

Chapter 1

Jane groaned as she read the letter with the ostentatious seal on it.
“Trouble?” asked Caleb.
“Yes and no,” said Jane. “No, not really, but an onerous duty. I wrote to thank Prinny for the demi-parure he sent, and his reply, shorn of the flowery and exquisite compliments, is that he expects us to turn up in town and be seen with it during the season.”
“The lascivious old goat probably wants to drool over you,” said Caleb. “He asked me what you looked like, and stupidly, I waxed lyrical.”
“Any husband may be expected some bias,” said Jane.
“Yes, but although he’s a fat fool in some ways, he’s shrewd enough in others. Well, we shall have to go; you’d better get on to Screw, Grabbit and Runn to tell them not to let the house this year.”
“What a nuisance to lose all that revenue! Oh dear, and to be back with Mrs. Barnard as housekeeper; such a worthy woman, I wish I liked her.”
“If we turn up early, Jane-girl, Prinny can’t complain, and there may be late-comers who will pay a premium for a house after Easter,” said Caleb.
“Wonderful and practical man that you are,” said Jane, kissing her husband. “And as for Mrs. Barnard, well, we shall endure. And by the way, our solicitors are called Chorleigh, Wright and Jekyll.”
“I liked my names better.”
“Caleb, you are a bad man.”
The conversation turned to other matters before Jane had a chance to turn to writing to her solicitors and to Mrs. Barnard with instructions.

It was almost providential that Mrs. Barnard wrote back to say that she had been offered a job by the people who had hired the house for the little season, and she had accepted.
“They are a large family, newly wealthy, and have asked me to train the maids they will need to run the large house they have recently bought,” she wrote. “I trust you do not mind me accepting this position subject to a reference from yourself , so soon after you have entrusted the running of your town house to me, but to be truthful, I miss the country, and I know I can be of real use to them. I had been about to write when your missive arrived, and of course I will remain long enough to see the pantry stocked and the house ready for your occupancy.”
“I even feel like gritting my teeth in patience reading her letters,” laughed Jane. “Well, I shall not have to worry about snapping unfairly at her through my failure to find any rapport with her, and Mrs. Ketch might come with us.”
Jane promptly wrote back to Mrs. Barnard telling her that she quite understood, wishing her well in her new location, and providing her with a glowing reference. Then the family might have the bustle of packing up to remove to town for a month; and it may be said that Simon and Sylvain hailed with great relief the decision to leave them to their schooling in the country.



Jane sighed as they settled into the London house, on Pembridge Square, after having removed there, at the howling scream of a knife-grinder’s stone. It cut through the rumble of iron shod wheels on the cobbles, the clopping of horse’s hooves, and the cries of the street vendors competing with each other to sell their wares. Nat, the pug-dog, shivered, and pressed close to Jane’s skirts.
“I had almost forgotten how noisy London is,” she sighed, petting the little dog’s ears. “I know we must have knives sharpened, and he, poor man, is never free of that awful din, but I do miss the country.” She pulled a face. “I had also forgotten just how bad the city stinks.”
“Never mind, Jane-girl, just remember that this was where it all began, and where we met,” said Caleb.
“You big sentimentalist,” said Jane. It did not sound like a criticism.
Caleb went to check the coal store. It had been snowing desultorily on their journey and he wanted to check they would not run out of fuel on what promised to be another cold spring. Jackie, one of the invalided soldiers who worked for him, was bringing a cart load of logs up from Daisy Hall. Coal lasted the course better than logs, but there was nothing like a cheerful blaze from a wood fire to raise the temperature in a room. Caleb had a theory that if they could get a room warm with wood, the temperature could be maintained with coal, if the door wasn’t opened and shut too much. He had got used to cosy wood-panelled rooms and blazing logs. True, the metropolis tended to be warmer than most of the provinces save Cornwall, presumably because of the sheer numbers of people with fires, and the town house was sandwiched between two others to keep the heat in, but Caleb found it cold.
Annie, the nursery maid, was sensible enough to oversee burning logs in the nursery, and the fireguard was fixed firmly to the wall in any case. And Fowler had been given orders to give the maids permission to come down to a guest bedroom to dress and undress, where a fire would be kept in all the day, its chimney passing between the two main maids’ bedrooms. There were no fireplaces in the attic rooms for the maids, but Jane had progressive ideas, on making sure the maids were as comfortable as possible. They might also heat bricks in the fire of what Jane called the ‘warming room’, an idea taken, apparently, from the monasteries of old.

Jane was busy nursing baby Susanna when Ella came in.
“Please, Mrs. Jane,” she said, “I don’t want to be ignorant in front of other dressers. I know Sir Caleb is Sir Caleb, but are you Lady Jane or Lady Armitage?”
“It is very awkward, is it not, Ella? I looked it up to check, and it is Lady Armitage. I pray you will continue to call me ‘Mrs. Jane’ in private, however, as I do not feel like a Lady Armitage. I would only be ‘Lady Jane’ if my father were a peer.”
“It’s very silly, if you ask me, madam,” said Ella, severely.
Jane reflected that she had not asked Ella, but that was one of Ella’s strengths as a helpmate, in private she would express her opinion.
“I’m inclined to agree with you, Ella,” Jane sighed, “And I shall have to wear those wretched diamonds and I shall be terrified all the time I am out that something will happen to them.”
“Well, Mrs. Jane, the captain, Sir Caleb I should say, can always have them copied in paste and put the real ones in the bank.”
Jane gave a gurgle of mirth.
“Now, Ella, you know we have investigated jewels stolen from a banker, do you really think that’s going to make me sleep any more securely at night? Oh, and never mind calling the captain just that. He’s prouder of that than an accidental bit of traitor catching.”
“When you put it like that, Mrs. Jane, I quite see your point. And all the staff think he deserves recognition and if it takes a nasty traitor to get it, well at least the Good Lord arranged a traitor convenient-like to make sure he was honoured duly.”
“Thank you, Ella,” said Jane, weakly. The loyalty of the staff always amazed and humbled her.

Jane received her first caller the day the Armitage household arrived, in the person of Mr. Daventry Popham, also known as ‘Beau’ Popham. Jane and Caleb had met this deceptively willowy exquisite soon after their marriage, in relation to a case in which Caleb had been involved at the request of an old schoolfriend of Jane’s. Jane greeted him readily when Fowler announced him, and asked for tea.
“Why, Beau, how nice to see you!” she said.
Beau Popham chuckled as he kissed Jane’s hand. He also bent stiffly to pet Nat, who came out from under the chair when it was apparent that this was a friend.
“I didn’t put you down as the sort of woman to own a pug, Lady Armitage,” he said.
“I’m not; he owns me,” said Jane. “We had to arrest his owner for attempted murder, in which she almost succeeded in poisoning poor Nat, and would have killed our Simon as well as the boy she wanted dead. Nat had nowhere else to go.”
“That explains a lot,” laughed the Beau. Jane gave a small, demure smile.
“How are you, and how are those of your family you are still talking to?” she eyed him with amusement, always amazed at the lengths he went to, in order to dress in such a way as to be written off as a dandy of no account. His bow was stiff for the exceedingly high neck cloth he wore, and Jane suspected him of using a corset to hide the muscular build he concealed in his work as a spy within society. It creaked a bit under his cherry coloured waistcoat. He had bowed to the largely accepted dictates of Beau Brummel, even though that worthy had been forced abroad by debts and his quarrel with the Prince of Wales, and his coat was a very dark claret colour over his yellow Inexpressibles.
“Surprisingly enough, I’ve managed to keep on speaking terms with all those I was on speaking terms with when we last met,” he said. “Luke decided he was going to marry the yeoman farmer’s daughter after all; mostly on the grounds that she was a better conversationalist than most of the ladies he knew, and I gifted him some land adjacent to the farm as a wedding present. He’ll hire a manager when old Reed dies, and will lose less money by paying out for the wages of the same than by trying to run it himself. The girl reads novels, and passes well enough in country society and has no ambition for any more, which is just as well since Luke, for all his airs, is suited to be a country squire.”
“I am glad he did the right thing by her, and is happy with the arrangement too. I take it he is, or you would animadvert upon the situation with sarcasm?”
“Yes, he’s happy enough. Had the acumen to buy out a couple of colts broken too early and throwing out splints, but from good bloodstock, he’s using them purely as stud and selling the resultant colts to accredited trainers. Less profit than selling them trained, but a more sure thing.”
“And what of the Kemps?”
The Beau shuddered.
“The Rev. Kemp irritated me enough to press charges. I’ve taken the children as my wards, having petitioned to have them removed from a most insalubrious household, and cousin Nessie stayed on as chaperone to Emma. I rather thought Nessie might be going to marry the family solicitor, he certainly came courting, but she sent him on his way, and then cried all over me. Said that though marriage was security, she was only twenty-four, and it might be vanity, but she did not want to be leg-shackled to an old man. Have to say, I took her point. One forgets she’s the same age as you, Lady Armitage, she flutters enough to be twenty years older.”
“And you should realise by now all that fluttering is an act to gain protection.”
“Yes, and she hardly flutters at all when taking care of Emma, I know.”
“And what of the, er, ‘Angel boys’?”
“The twins have improved considerably since being out of the influence of their wretch of a father, and I made Aunt Hester my pensioner because I don’t know what else to do with her, and sent her off to live in a boarding house in Brighton for the good of her health and the retaining of my sanity.”
“I couldn’t live with her,” said Jane.
“And Jane is the most tolerant person I know,” said Caleb, coming in. “Good to see you, Popham.” Fowler followed Caleb with the tea things, and Caleb reflected once again how suited Jane was to the dainty room, serving from the fine china. These days, at least, he no longer felt too big for the room or clumsy beside her.
“And you. I have to ask, how is the inestimable Simon?” the Beau raised an eyebrow.
Caleb and Jane shared a look.
“Inestimable!” they said with one voice.
“I asked for that.”
“He’s doing very well,” said Jane. “Henry Redmayne has abandoned thoughts of the law to open a schoolhouse, because he enjoys teaching so much, and has a few other pupils, including our nephews and a ward we took on last year.”
“Really? I must ask Gabriel and Michael if they’d like to do a year or two there, Simon made a favourable impression on them.”
“The more the merrier,” said Caleb. “And Gregory would like, I’m sure, to have friends near to him in age, even if Simon outstrips him at study.”
“Good, I’ll write to them and suggest it,” said the Beau. “They might be improved but we go through tutors at a fair rate, and the local grammar school virtually burned me in effigy for suggesting they go there, apparently they’d heard of them.”
Jane laughed.
“I doubt they’ll give Henry any trouble; he seems to keep the boys all interested,” she said.
“And it won’t do them any harm to have to deal with being surpassed by a younger boy,” said Popham. “By rights they should be away to university, they’re sixteen already, but they are not ready for it, academically or socially.”
“Henry will have them ready by the next academic year, I wager,” said Caleb.
“How much do you wager?” the Beau looked interested.
Caleb laughed.
“Oh, I don’t bet. It was a figure of speech,” he said.
“My first husband was a gambler; I dislike it,” said Jane, suppressing a shudder as she recalled Frank’s perfidies. It had been in this room that she had met Caleb, bringing news of Frank’s death.
“You should be careful, in society,” said the Beau, frowning thoughtfully. “In society betting is a way of life, and wagers are taken on anything – whether a man takes a particular woman as his mistress, which raindrop runs down the window first, whether a lady’s décolletage will fail her, not to mention sporting events. It means nothing, but if you say you wager something will happen, you’ll be taken seriously enough.”
Caleb whistled in surprise.
“I’ll be careful, Beau, thanks for the warning. I am not suited to all this flummery.”
“You’ll carry off the flummery very well, and so will the lovely Lady Armitage.”
“I’d as soon not have to do so, either, but a royal command is a royal command,” sighed Jane.
“Ah, well, partly it might have been my fault,” said the Beau, looking a little shifty.
“And how did that come about?” asked Caleb, narrowing his eyes.
“Well, I’ve been trying to clear up an ... anomaly,” said the Beau, “And I happened to be talking to Prinny, and he asked me if the man he had just knighted was the same one I’d mentioned in regard to my little family problem, who also had a clever wife. I, er, confirmed that this was so, having followed your exploits, you understand.”
“And he said that for a knight to present his lady in public and show off the demi-parure his highness had sent her would be quite a good idea and we were to help you, I suppose,” said Jane.
“More or less,” said the Beau.
“So what is this ... anomaly ... of yours?” asked Caleb. “And why choose that word?”
The Beau sipped the tea which Fowler had served while they exchanged pleasantries.
“Because I am not sure if it is a problem, or not,” he said. “People die, some younger than you’d expect, and that’s the way life is. But it seems to me that an uncommonly large number of people who need money have been inheriting sooner than might be expected; people with tolerable expectations but hale and healthy ancestors. Only those ancestors have been meeting with accidents. Too many accidents.”
“Accidents do happen, of course,” said Caleb. “But your instincts don’t like it?”
“That’s it exactly, Sir Caleb,” said the Beau. “Something feels wrong. And you are two fresh pairs of eyes whom, I am hoping, will see something I’ve missed. Because not one of the people who had inherited has been anywhere near their deceased relative at the time they died; all have been demonstrably elsewhere. And to me, that is almost as suspicious as anything else.”
Jane nodded.
“By the law of averages, one might expect an assiduous young relative to be visiting their prospective benefactor when an accident occurs,” she said. “Or at least not to be able to prove their whereabouts. For all to bear an alibi is suspicious.”
“Yes, exactly,” said the Beau.
“Oh, well, it will make the tedium of society a little more interesting,” said Caleb. “Be careful what you wish for, Jane-girl, you were decrying an onerous duty.”
“So I was,” said Jane, dryly.

Chapter 2

Jane was not expecting a caller the next day, when Fowler announced,
“The Countess Lieven, my lady.”
Jane almost leaped to her feet like a gauche teenager. Caleb rose with alacrity and bowed with formality as Jane sank into a graceful curtsey. Nat disappeared under the chair.
“My lady, to what to we owe this honour?” asked Jane. Caleb pulled a chair forward and Lady Lieven, who had returned a brief curtsey, sank gracefully into it. She was a neat, slender woman, with dark hair and eyes. Her clothes spoke of quiet, but impeccable, style.
She smiled.
“Curiosity,” she said, with a faint, foreign inflexion. “Prince George asked if I would sponsor his latest knight and his lady to Almack’s, and I wished to meet you. Especially as rumour would have it that you are, Sir Caleb, a ... connexion of his highness.”
Caleb flushed.
“His highness was moved to be amused by the rumour, when I explained it to him,” he said. He had been mightily relieved that the Regent had been amused rather than angered. “I’m one of his most common of commoners, my lady. But I have a very loyal valet, and when I married my excellent wife, we lived for a while in the village where she was born, and there was, and as far as I know, still is, a most spiteful woman. My man started some counter rumours, and my son’s tutor, who was at the time a youth still at Oxford, thought it a tremendous lark to embellish the tale, and before I knew where I was, I had acquired an illustrious father whom I would not have chosen for myself, for my own father was an honest, hard-working man.”
He gave the Countess a limpid look. Fowler came in at that moment with tea, and Jane busied herself in making it.
The countess gave a delighted laugh.
“Why, if you put it that way to his highness, I am sure he did find it amusing, apart from Clarence he has little time for his brothers. And with a record of the army not the navy, naturally it was one of the others.” She smiled at Jane. “Milk, please, but no sugar.”
Caleb smiled ruefully, and went on,
“I believe Henry let others make up their own mind who it might be, and to be honest, I enjoyed the look on ... no names ... on the face of the female in question. The rumour grew in the telling, and Sir Nathanial Conant was of the opinion that it would help me in my work when investigating crimes amongst the gentry. I’m a Bow Street Runner, ma’am, and if you wish to rise and walk out of here, neither Jane nor I will take offense.”
“I like a man who is proud of who he is, and what he does,” said the countess. “I dislike people who pretend to be what they are not, and your explanation is perfectly satisfactory. A military man can never displease, when he is an honourable gentleman.”
“My initial commission was a field commission, ma’am,” said Caleb. “My captaincy was purchased, however.”
“I commend you the more for carrying off every air of gentility,” said the countess. “Lady Armitage, are you looking forward to entering society?”
“My lady, I am happy to obey a royal summons,” said Jane, carefully.
Lady Lieven shot her a shrewd look.
“I have my suspicions that the regent has asked more of you than being in society, but I won’t ask. I do, however, have a request to make of you, if it does not conflict with the regent’s needs.”
“Certainly, my lady; we would both rather be doing something useful whilst in town,” said Jane. “If, indeed, it does not conflict with the favour we have been asked to do.”
“Then I will tell you about it. There is a lady of impeccable background, Lady Caroline Hale, an earl’s daughter and a knight’s widow. She is introducing a friend and her friend’s daughter into society, a friend who is a distant connexion of hers. The friend’s name is Mrs. Jane Fielding, which is the name of the cadet branch of Lady Caroline’s father, and her daughter is Cora. And though I have nothing to put my finger on, I ... I am uneasy. If you could look into her more closely, as an Officer of Bow Street knows how to do, I would be grateful. One hesitates to cut the relative of someone quite unexceptionable you understand, but why would Caro Hale introduce someone who was not genuine? I would not like to think of her being fooled and made use of.”
“Certainly we will look into it,” said Jane. “We would be grateful for a brief family tree as much as you know, and the direction of this cadet branch. We will send agents to examine parish records as a start.”
“Ah, excellent, I hoped you would know what to do. Anyone may claim to be almost anyone, and if there is good reason they have not been in society before, why, if vouched for, it is impossible to disprove.”
“Believe me, my lady, I know how to prove and disprove such matters,” said Caleb.
“Excellent. Almack’s will not be reopening its subscription balls until March, but I will arrange vouchers for you both. Do you waltz?”
“The new German waltz? We have danced it together, ma’am, but I am not entirely sure we have all the moves correctly,” said Jane.
“I will send a dancing master to ensure that you know all the exchanges of holds and how to change tempo,” said the countess, standing. “Thank you for the tea, it was an excellent brew.”

“That was interesting,” said Caleb.
“Yes, but I have no illusion that she would have been so accommodating had we not been prepared to look into the antecedents of her friend’s connexion,” said Jane. “And of course Prinny would never have expected us to appear at Almack’s but for the little headache Beau Popham wanted us to look at. I thought it seemed odd.”
“I’ve heard the Beau refer to him as ‘George’; I believe he’s moderately close, though not for his sartorial style. Prinny still follows the ways of Brummel, even if they are at odds.”
“I don’t think anyone the Beau truly likes are in any wise fond of his sartorial style. He’s a hornet in butterfly’s clothing,” said Jane.
“I like that description,” chuckled Caleb. “I think he was chagrined that he missed all knowledge of James Charles Donald and his treacherous little plan to blow up the royal family.”
“He has no need,” said Jane. “Donald was a lone madman, convinced he was descended from the Young Pretender and Flora MacDonald, and whether he was or not isn’t the issue. The fact that he plotted to act on his beliefs are what counts, and he was missed by such society spies as Beau Popham for the simple reason that he did not move within society, did not involve any members of society in his plotting, and played a lone hand outside of the footman he suborned to place his infernal device. There is no way that the Beau could have known; and had it not been for us buying the house where Donald did most of his plotting, wherein excitable children found his secret room, nobody would have known. Really it’s not you, who should be knighted but your youthful nieces and nephews and Simon.”
Caleb laughed.
“I said as much to Prinny and he hinted that he would see if he couldn’t raise me to a baronet if I continued to distinguish myself so Simon would be duly honoured in the long run. He was joking of course, but I suspect he may keep an eye on Simon’s career,” he said. “Of course, it would have been a blow to the country, but Donald was a foolish optimist, the government would never have accepted him declaring himself king. He should really be in Bedlam, not hanged.”
Jane shivered.
“I think, on the whole, I’d rather be hanged,” she said.
“Actually, you have a point,” Caleb sobered. “And of course on the coat-tails of this treasonous attempt, what Popham is not saying, I suspect, is that he fears that the ones who are inheriting unexpectedly have been promised this inheritance so long as they support a traitor. And it may have crossed Lady Lieven’s mind, too, that this Mrs. Fielding and her daughter are spies for another descendent of Charles Edward Stuart.”
“I hadn’t considered that, but I don’t say you’re wrong,” said Jane.
“It’s foolishness if it is such an attempt,” said Caleb. “Because however you look at it, you have to take out all of parliament to bring about a change of governance. It’s not the king, or the nobles, who make the decisions. We cut off our king’s head in sixteen whenever it was to prove that point, and equally reinstated his son when we found being a republic didn’t work as a hereditary thing. Having an idiot for a protector was a bad thing, having an idiot for a king, who is a figurehead, is almost required. But he has to be an idiot who is accepted by parliament.”
“That’s probably almost treason,” said Jane, cheerfully.
“Maybe, but I support a king, even if he is an idiot, because his main duty is to be a balance to parliament,” said Caleb. “The king or regent can dissolve parliament in an emergency, and moreover in the military we make our oath to the king. Liverpool may be Prime Minister but he can’t lead the army and navy to war without the consent of the king. And in theory the king, or regent, can veto any law, but unfortunately Prinny doesn’t understand enough issues, or care enough, to do things like refuse to put through the Corn Laws. Liverpool is a bastard, but he’s a legally elected bastard, and unfortunately we’re stuck with him.”
“Maybe you should go into politics, my dear,” said Jane.
“And I thought you always believed me to be an honest man, Jane-of-my-heart,” Caleb pulled a mock injured look. Jane wrapped her arms around her husband.
“I wouldn’t suggest it seriously,” she said. “But you were getting quite worked up there, and passionate. I wouldn’t hold you back if you wanted to go into politics.”
Caleb sighed, and kissed his wife thoroughly before answering her.
“I’ve the passion for the common man, Jane-girl, being one, and I know that I should protect my people, and I do my best for all those who work for us. And if it were a question of just representing the people of a constituency, well, doubtless I’d make a reasonable job of it. But it isn’t just that. It’s about getting to know the right people, trading favours, laying on the lard to the correct high-ups and sneaking around doing deals. And I’m not cut out for it.”
“I’m not displeased by that,” said Jane.

It was necessary to have new gowns of course; if they were to pass in society, Jane must be fashionable, even if she did not need as many new gowns as a young girl embarking on her first Season. Waists were back up, after having descended slightly, and puffed sleeves were de rigeur, whether as short sleeves or topping an Andalusian sleeve, a sleeve with a puff at the top, and straight to the wrist, and the puff might, or might not be slashed to show a contrasting colour lining it. Ball gowns showed a lot of shoulder; indeed Jane regarded the January offering from Ackermann’s Repository with some disfavour, as the sleeves were so far off the shoulder she feared that she would feel that they were about to head south, and that she would want to keep hitching them up. Day dress, conversely, had high necks and small ruffs, more after the fashion of the Jacobean than copying the excesses of the Elizabethan age. The bottoms of gowns were heavily trimmed with flounces, ruches of net, with vandyked patterns and fabric flowers. The ball gown of February’s issue of the Repository declared that the trim was net roses and velvet leaves between two rings of ruching, which disappointed Jane, who felt that the illustration looked more like heavy embroidery or light quilting. An attractive effect might be made using Italian quilting, however, and the weight it would give would mean that the gown would sway pleasingly when dancing. Many of her gowns could be refurbished and made over, which was good. The addition of some extra trim, and the replacing of the sleeves would do very well. Feathers were still in fashion, and she would need to replace hers, as they were looking rather sad, for the most part. It was a shame as feathers did not come cheap, but that was life. At least the regent had decreed half-mourning for the Queen from January, a generous gesture over the death of his mother the previous November, especially in the light of the traitor’s attack, which could have been more of a tragedy.
Jane did intend to have a new bonnet to display her new feathers; the French invention known, confusingly, as British Leghorn, which used fine cotton plaits made to resemble the straw of Leghorn. It would be delightfully cool in summer. She would also have new gloves, slippers and stockings. A Season, even before the main Season was underway, would be hard on such things. A few shawls would cheer the mourning up, as touches of colour were permitted.
Jane had to admit that a bit of shopping would be exciting; although the money voted to Caleb did not match the amount of rent they were losing for having to occupy the town house, but they had at least put some rent away over the previous couple of years. It was unfortunate but a royal command was a royal command. It was a shame that a supposed honour led to having to perform more favours which would leave them out of pocket. Since the Prince of Wales was said to be continually in debt and never paid his bills, presumably he did not consider that other people would find this situation at all uncomfortable.
Sometimes, Jane could feel a twinge of sympathy for France’s revolutionaries or Cromwell’s men.

Chapter 3

Jane was sure to buy her millinery from Mamzelle Claudette’s shop. Mamzelle Claudette, also known as Hepzibah Smith, had taken under her wing the pathetic waif, Dolly. That individual was rapidly becoming insistent on being known as Miss Dorothy, who had been Frank Churchill’s mistress. Jane had feared that the town house would bring back unpleasant memories, but if she was honest with herself, she had to concentrate to even remember what Frank had looked like. Dolly, or Dorothy, rather, she corrected herself, might still have romantic visions of him; but then, they had not been together long enough for Frank to show Dolly his less pleasant side, or from what the young girl had let slip, had couched his wishes to dominate as games. Well, Dorothy was doing well, a partner in the business for having displayed a good eye and shrewd business sense, and she had half a dozen French emigrée women under her. Jane found it highly amusing that the waif from London’s east end was ordering about the daughter of a comte, amongst others.
Dorothy herself came forward for a customer.
Ah, madame, bonjour, comment ca va?” she asked, with a beautiful Parisian accent. She was a good mimic. She spoiled it by going pale and positively squawking, “Lawks, Mrs. Jane, Ma’am!”
Jane suffered herself to be thoroughly embraced.
“You are doing well, Dorothy,” she said.
“Gawd help us, Mrs. Jane ... I mean, how delightful to see you, are you spending much time in town?” Dorothy switched effortlessly to a refined accent.
Jane laughed and embraced her back.
“I’m here for a month or two; please feel free to drop in to drink tea,” she said.
“I’ll do that, Mrs. Jane, I have a taste for it now, better nor blue ruin,” said Dorothy, seriously. “Better nor the coffee them Frenchies maudle their innards wiv as well ... my goodness, seeing you brought back the old language so to speak, I must be careful.”
“It doesn’t trouble me, but it is a habit probably best forgotten,” agreed Jane. “I thought I’d let you talk me into spending too much on hats for the year.”
“Well, now, Mrs. Jane .... you’re Milady now, aren’t you? I read it in the paper, and I thought, that’s Mrs. Jane that is, and Mr. Armitage, Sir Caleb I should say.”
“Oh, I may be Lady Armitage, but I answer to Jane to old friends,” said Jane. “I’m thinking of a bonnet in this French mock Leghorn.”
“Just what I was about to recommend!” said Dorothy, enthusiastically. “Eh bien, Suzelle, les nouvelles chapeaus s’il vous plait, toute-de- suite!”
“Oui, Mademoiselle Dorothée,” a girl went running.
“Thick as slurry but willing,” said Dorothy. Jane worked on not raising an eyebrow; but then, Dorothy might not be the sharpest knife in the box but she had her native shrewdness.
“You have learned French well and quickly,” she said.
“Had to,” sighed Dorothy. “Hep and I took on a few Frenchies and all they could manage was to gabble in their own tongue. Hep knows a bit, and we tossed for who was going to hire a French master, and I lost. But seemingly I pick things up quickly, so it paid off, and we have eight of them now, half of them actual aristos, and oh! Mrs. Jane, Jane I mean, I can see why their own people threw them out, they don’t even try to learn a Christian language.”
“Ah, well, your facility with French will earn you business,” said Jane. “English aristos like to think they are fluent in French as well as English, which many are not, but they like the cachet, the high class, of a French milliner or modiste, and that you can speak English to them, and order around the workforce in their own tongue will impress them mightily. I hope I may send more business your way now the Captain and I have to move in higher circles.”
“Yes, that’s why I shall be doing you a good deal on your hats, as well as because I owe you everything,” said Dorothy.
Jane eventually left with an order for four hats, two more than she had intended. Fashion had moved away from the face-concealing coal-scuttle hats, to her relief, and Dorothy had picked some very fetching ones. The black mock-Leghorn would do nicely while they were still in mourning, and with contrasting trim when they were out of it. It was currently trimmed with three ostrich feathers, which graduated in colour from black to white, each feather itself graduated, and the whole caught with silver ribbons and rosettes. It had more trim than Jane would normally have chosen, but Dorothy had demonstrated that it was not too much. Jane had ordered clusters of feathers, one set dyed from purple through blue to turquoise, a very dashing mix of colours, and one set in coqueliquot in the anticipation of the ending of mourning. She might also wear the toque de Ninon as evening wear, trimmed as it was with a jet butterfly pin as its nod to mourning. Dorothy had not been able to talk her into any extremes with this, it was of modest size and the feathers that cascaded down the side were plain white ones, matching the toque. A bonnet of lavender gros de Naples would do for half-mourning and because Jane liked lavender in any case, and at the moment it was trimmed with black and lead-coloured feathers. Finally was a cap, for day wear, with a modest caul, trimmed with silk roses. Well, Caleb was happy for her to have new bonnets, being of the opinion that it was good for a woman’s sense of self-worth. Oh! How lucky she was to have Caleb, and how difficult it was not to be glad that Frank had got himself murdered.

On returning home, Jane was presented, by Fowler, with correspondence.
“Came by a finical type of footman, wafting clouds of flour from his ridiculous wig. Either his employer is too skinny to pay the tax on powder, or he has an allowance for it, and is cheating his boss.” Fowler considered. “On the whole, I’m inclined to the latter, as the rest of his appearance was quite impeccable.”
“Well, if it is from someone I like or respect, I shall warn the party concerned,” said Jane, calmly. “Ah, it is from Lady Lieven; I will most certainly apprise her of the solecism. Dishonesty in one thing can be an indicator of a generally dishonest nature. Any decent footman with a sudden burden on him, like a sick relative, would surely apply to his immediate superior for relief.”
“He wouldn’t have got it off of Mr. Frankie,” said Fowler, dryly. “But if I’d had a problem, I’d have come to you.”
“Lady Lieven is not known as a skinflint,” said Jane. “And the appearance of her footmen reflect on the whole Russian Embassy.”
The letter included both vouchers for Almack’s, apparently paid for by someone else, and a short letter inviting Sir Caleb and his lady to an informal musicale, to meet people in pleasant surroundings.
“I am asking my guests to perform if possible, perhaps you can let me know in advance what you might be able to manage,” Lady Lieven had written.
Jane wrote her reply.
Dear Lady Lieven,
Many thanks for the vouchers for Almack’s and for the invitation, Sir Caleb and I look forward to attending your musical soirée.
Sir Caleb begs to be excused from performing, being more accomplished at a military kind of percussion with musket than with any instrument. I am tolerably well accomplished with the pianoforte, however, and will be happy to volunteer to accompany any singer, being able to play music sight unseen. For myself I would prefer to play Bach, but will be guided by any choice of yours if that does not suit the mood of the evening.
I should point out that I have every reason to suppose that the footman who delivered your letter may be using flour rather than hair powder. There may be a good and rational explanation for this but I felt I should mention it so you may undertake your own investigations.
Your ob’t servant,
Jane, Lady Armitage.”


“I like the way you describe my musical endeavours, or lack of them,” said Caleb. “I can beat the advance and the retreat, but any drummer-boy would laugh at me. I’ve had to do it when our drummer was shot, and me as the Colonel’s batman being something of a supernumerary, as you might say, being there to stand around to defend his person and stop any damned Frenchman from spoiling the set of his coat.”
“And standing around is of course how you got wounded at Corunna,” said Jane with a straight face.
“No, that was following Sir Henry into the breach, and discovering that the Frogs aren’t egalitarian at all in who they shoot at, preferring people who look like officers. I copped a bullet in the knee and another in the thigh, dragging him back out again.”
“It took a lot of courage, and I’m not surprised Sir Henry Wilton awarded you a field commission,” said Jane, softly. “It also took a lot of courage not to believe the sawbones that you would not walk again.”
“It’s more stubbornness than courage,” said Caleb. “The knee is stiff, still, but it works, which is the main thing, and the other wound healed well enough. I wager if you’d have the healing of me though, I’d be as good as new.”
“Oh, I am no miracle worker,” said Jane. “Just stubborn about my patients. A trait we share.”
Caleb smiled at her, remembering that when he had first known her, he had known no better than to grin. At least his teeth were good, but it must have been a shock. And yet she had still loved him, despite his many social solecisms!

Jane did not relish the idea of going out, but one could not really refuse such an invitation. It had been sunny when she went out to the milliner’s shop, but the wind had been rising, driving before it clouds whose leaden bottoms looked to be weighted down with snow or sleet, dodging jeeringly in front of the cold, but welcome, sun. They might have hot bricks, however, and Jackie would see to having the same reheated at the house Lady Lieven was using, as it was not an official Embassy function.
She dressed carefully, with Ella’s aid, in a gown of Esterhazy grey silk, trimmed with three rows of lead-grey ruched net with two ruches of black net between, and a bodice beaded with jet and silver beads. Over it she wore a lead grey gros de Naples spencer with Spanish sleeves slashed with silver tissue. The ensemble was completed with a grey lace veil after the Spanish fashion, held with the hair ornaments from the diamond parure. It might as well make itself useful.
“You look good enough to eat, Jane-girl,” said Caleb.
“You look moderately splendid yourself,” said Jane. Caleb was dressed in black satin small clothes with black silk stockings, and a coat of black superfine made by Scott. His waistcoat was silver grey, of the same silk as Jane’s gown. He had stuck to the Mathematical for his cravat, since a musicale was not a sufficient occasion to feel the need to torture himself into the Trone d’Amour. It was, however, more formal than the Four in Hand which Caleb had recently discovered as a fast, easy knot to tie.

“Ah, Sir Caleb, Lady Armitage! Delighted to see you,” said Lady Lieven. “Permit me to introduce you to Lady Caroline Hale; and of course, her friend, Mrs. Fielding, and Miss Fielding too.”
“Delighted,” said Jane, curtseying just as she ought, as Caleb bowed.
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” said Lady Caroline. “Are you newly in Town?”
“To be honest, we are happier in the country,” said Jane. “We were in London for a while after our marriage, but we had family bereavements, and did not socialise. We have a nice little place in Essex, which we are very fond of.”
“Indeed? I don’t know Essex,” said Lady Caroline. “I am from Devon, and my husband’s people from Wiltshire. Jane Fielding is a connexion of my husband, of course.”
“Oh, what part of Wiltshire are you from? I know some people from Avebury,” said Jane. “Such a lovely part of the country, all those chalk hills and most inappropriate carvings as the local folk made in the chalk, must be quite embarrassing to live somewhere that overlooks such things.” She smiled brightly, blessing the example of dear Aunt Hetty that she might indulge in such bibble-babble.
Mrs. Fielding gave an austere smile.
“I prefer not to notice them,” she said. “The family comes from around Devizes. What is the name of these people you know?”
“Pargeter,” said Jane, who had known a Miss Pargeter from Avebury, a young lady whose father had been a vicar, so it was unlikely that she would have moved in the same circles as Lady Caroline and any connexion she might legitimately be supposed to have.
Mrs. Fielding shook her head.
“I do not know the name,” she said.
“Oh, it is of no consequence,” said Jane. It was of no consequence; it had been a tool to elicit information. “Are you enjoying town, Miss Fielding?” she addressed the younger woman. The girl was beautiful, there was no denying it, with golden locks which were dressed to tumble artlessly from a Greek filet, and had probably taken hours to arrange. Her eyes were big, blue, and quite vacant of any kind of thought.
“Oh, it is very busy,” said Miss Fielding. “And there are so many people, I am quite overwhelmed.”
Mrs. Fielding laughed.
“Silly puss, why there are hardly any people in Town yet,” she said. Miss Fielding cringed slightly. Jane felt a twinge of sympathy for the poor girl, who put her forcibly in mind of Dorothy when the girl had still been Dolly, a child in a world she did not understand. Dolly, however, took what life handed out and learned as she went. This young girl had an air of sweet helplessness which was entirely unfeigned and Jane strongly suspected that her understanding was severely limited.
And that could, indeed, be the whole answer to the problem of why it seemed havey cavey to Lady Lieven; that this was a plot to get a girl of dubious intellect married as quickly as possible while she was still blooming with youth’s dewy freshness, to keep her protected in marriage.
“Lady Lieven says you will play for me to sing,” said Miss Fielding. “I know ‘Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill’, for Mama has made me learn it, so I will not get it wrong. Do you know it?”
“I know it very well,” said Jane, keeping her voice neutral. It had been one of Frank’s favourites, but there was no need to frighten the girl with her negative reactions. It was not her fault, nor even the fault of the ballad.
Jane made her excuses, to hope to meet others; it would not do to spend more time than she had to with Mrs. Fielding and her daughter.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Jane and the sins of society

Sarah WaldockFebruary 21, 2018 11:15PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society

NickiFebruary 22, 2018 11:32PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society

AlidaFebruary 22, 2018 06:18AM



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