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Jane and the sins of society 7-9

February 27, 2018 01:39PM
Ok, I've had no apparent interest after the first chapter, so shall I stop posting this after this tranche? I don't want to clog up the system if nobody is reading

Chapter 7

In the meantime, there was a pedestrian curricle race to attend.
The day was mercifully dry after two days rain, and Jane was much relieved. She would have supported Caleb in his interest had it rained, but not having to huddle under an umbrella was an advantage.
She took an umbrella, just in case. On due consideration, she left Nat, the pug, at home. He might try to chase the Draisines and get hurt.
Montgomery’s carriage was followed out to Hampstead by a crowd of urchins, including Ginger, and Montgomery’s man ceremoniously lifted the Draisine down as Montgomery passed it to him. Another coach was likewise being divested of its Draisine.
“You’d get less mud in the carriage, and be able to store it more easily, if you put a couple of hooks on the back of the body, and straps to make it more secure,” said Caleb, thoughtfully.
“By Jove, an excellent idea! Come and meet Grey; Mr. Roland Grey, the chap I’m racing against,” said Montgomery. “Grey, this is Sir Caleb Armitage, who is thinking of getting a Draisine, and his good lady, who supports his interest.”
“A wife whose price is above rubies,” laughed Grey. He had a metal wheeled Draisine, which Caleb regarded with interest.
Jane, however, had noticed something; there was iron swarf on the steering handle.
“Mr. Montgomery,” she said, “I believe you will have trouble steering, since your steering lever appears to be broken.”
Montgomery’s man gasped.
“What?” Alexander Montgomery whipped round and stared at the top of the steering handle near the pintle mount, where Jane indicated. “Oh no! Grey, we must call it off, if I ride that, it could be very dangerous, how can it have been so weak as to shear like that?”
“Mr. Montgomery,” said Jane, “I do not believe that a simple shear through accident would leave grains of metal swarf. I believe that someone has taken a fine file or what I believe blacksmiths call a hacksaw to your Draisine.”
Montgomery rounded on Grey.
“Have you done this?” he demanded, furiously.
“How dare you accuse me of something so low!” Grey was equally furious.
“Gentlemen! Let us not wrangle; I have no expectation that any gentleman sportsman would sink so low as to sabotage his rival,” said Caleb. “The same might not be said for someone with money riding on the race, but it is my experience that those who are enthusiastic would never spoil a good race.”
“That’s why I was angry,” said Grey, scowling at Montgomery.
“I apologise unreservedly,” said Montgomery. “Please forgive me, I was upset.”
“Damned right,” said Grey. “This is monstrous; you could have been killed if you had come off and hit a wall, or a rock or fallen under a carriage going the other way. What are we to do? All these people have come out to watch us.”
“Short of borrowing another Draisine, perhaps each of you might use Mr. Grey’s machine and race against the clock?” suggested Jane.
“It is not ideal, because the original bet was on whether wooden or iron wheels were better,” said Montgomery.
“What are the tolerances of the steering bar, and might the good one be dismounted and remounted on Montgomery’s machine, so each might then race against the clock on his own Draisine?” suggested Caleb.
“There is a smithy just past ‘The Spaniard Inn’, said another man. “Perhaps Mr. Montgomery’s Draisine might be mended?”
“The best solution!” cried Mr. Montgomery. “We shall repair to the smithy, and return in an hour or so.”
The crowd grumbled a little, and settled down to picnic, or to repair to the inn for a drink.
“Ginger,” said Jane, “I’ve a little job or two for you and your friends.”
Ginger grinned an urchin grin.
“Whatever you says, Missus,” the child said.
“Someone has done this, and it will have been done in the stables or wherever Mr. Montgomery keeps his machine,” said Jane. “It is possible that a beggar or urchin saw something suspicious last night. I fancy quite late, last night, since I am sure Mr. Montgomery checked over his Draisine to see that it was well lubricated and so on. Also, a hacksaw may have been stolen from somewhere that cuts metal. It is not like a common saw, with a wide blade and wooden handle at one end, it is a bow saw, with a fine blade, and a bow shaped metal frame on three sides of a rectangle. Farriers may use them instead of clippers to cut lengths of bar metal to length for horse shoes, and I believe that coach-makers use them to cut springs to length. Of course such a tool might even have been abandoned in the place where the Draisine is kept. Be careful if you find one, they are very sharp.”
“Cuh, Missus, how do you know all that?”
“Because Simon, Simmy, is very fond of horses and has spent long hours with the local farrier, and comes home to share it all with me,” said Jane.
The circumstances in which Simon had discovered about this amazing saw had been less than salubrious; the local constable had been entertaining some of the youngsters with how he could lock himself into his hand-cuffs, and get himself out with a bessy, or lock-pick, and had somehow dropped the key into the pond rumoured to be bottomless. Simon had suggested retiring to the blacksmith, where that worthy had used the said saw to release the chastened constable, whose lock-picking skills were not as good as he thought they were. Simon had felt it wise not to mention that he might have a good chance himself; and as he said, it was more fun to watch the hapless man being rescued. Caleb had decided that such a saw blade was a useful thing for an officer of the law to own, and now carried one in the seam of his coat, along with his own set of bessies. Jane possessed one too, which lived in her reticule, in her comb case, along with her own bessies in an etui box, and her muff pistol. One might never have occasion to use such things, which was all to the good; though Jane had most certainly used her pistol and kept in practice with it.
“What do you think, Jane-girl?” asked Caleb, as they waited for the Draisine to be mended.
“I think that there are too many possibilities to speculate too far, as yet,” said Jane. “As you suggested, it might be that someone has money resting on the outcome, who has paid someone to do this, or did it themselves; which means it might even be Montgomery’s man, who had the greatest opportunity. It might also be Montgomery’s younger brother, who appears to hold his brother in great aversion. Whether that aversion was enough to spill over from animadverting against his brother into attempting to hurt or kill him I do not know. I have to say, however, that I cannot help thinking that it is a most uncertain way to kill a man, and might even be a foolish schoolboy prank designed to embarrass Mr. Montgomery, without being aware of how dangerous it might be. We have to be aware, too, however, that it seems likely that the younger brother is Mr. Montgomery’s heir, as Mr. Montgomery is unmarried, and there is no suggestion of any other brother between. ”
“So personal, and possibly not meant to be deadly, or for gain, and again possibly not meant to be deadly. A broken Draisine would lose the race, without needing the rider to be dead. If it’s a matter of inheritance, it becomes a whole different matter.”
“Indeed. And unless we know whether Mr. Montgomery has any real enemies, we shall not be any further forward. What Ginger finds might, of course, affect what we know.”
“You want to adopt that brat, don’t you?”
“I do, Caleb; but I have written to Simon, explaining what I think I know about the child, and asking what he thinks,” said Jane. “Anyone who knew him could claim to be a friend, and I will not adopt anyone, however vulnerable, who is going to cause our oldest son any disquiet.”
“Thank you, for that, Jane-girl,” said Caleb, softly.
“I love him dearly,” said Jane. “He is happy as our son, and I do not want anything to disturb that.”
“I understand,” said Caleb. “If he is not happy, but knows nothing against Ginger, then we might take the child, and provide enough instruction in gentility and fair speech to then consider the sort of boarding school which takes illegitimate children.”
“An excellent suggestion,” said Jane, nodding. “Are those our intrepid racers?”
“No, just Mr. Grey,” said Caleb. “I’m going to have a word with Montgomery’s man.”
He slid soundlessly up into the carriage where the servant was sitting, waiting; and showed the man his occurrence book.
“Gawd!” said the valet. “Whaddya want with me, squire? I thought you was a gent.” His previously cultivated accent slipped rather.
“I am a gentleman,” said Caleb. “Bow Street employs me as a consultant with regards to crimes amongst the gentry. And we can do this the easy way where I have an informal word with you, or I can get one of my more formal colleagues to take you in. Your choice.”
“Not much of one, is it? Especially as I ain’t don’t nothing’,” said the valet.
“Well, this is what I want to determine,” said Caleb. “Name?”
“Matthew Coxsedge,” said the man.
“Very well, Coxsedge,” said Caleb. “Now, bear in mind, I’m willing to suppose that whoever damaged that Draisine didn’t know that it might be enough to risk life and limb; that it might have been a prank; or that it might have been because of the way betting went. In the light of my suppositions, is there anything you would care to tell me?”
Coxsedge shrugged.
“I know full well how dangerous it can be coming off one of them things; haven’t I physicked my master often enough? If you’re asking if I did it, the answer is a resounding ‘no’, Sir Caleb. I have a good position and I ain’t about to lose it. Did I bet on Mr. Grey? Yes, I did. But I wouldn’t need no sabotage of Mr. Montgomery’s hobby horse to win, because metal wheels is better, stand to reason. And you think so too.”
“I do,” said Caleb. “And it’s no crime to bet against your master, though I’ll not tell him you did so; he might wax wrathful.”
Coxsedge gave a half-hearted laugh.
“Aye, he would,” he agreed. “Thank ‘ee for that, Sir Caleb. If you are asking if Mr. Christopher might of done it, well, I couldn’t answer that. I don’t say as he might not do such a thing, being just a schoolboy, and that jealous of Mr. Montgomery’s time, but I ain’t seen him do it, and I ain’t had no clue that he might of done it.”
“A fair answer. Jealous of Montgomery’s time? He seemed most angry about his brother and to dislike him.” Caleb liked the way Coxsedge handled himself; he was nervous, but his willingness to look directly at Caleb, looking away with a frown only to think suggested honesty. Caleb could read a man well, something he had learned in the army, and he believed this one.
Coxsedge shrugged.
“Well, that’s the way it come out, ain’t it? He used to follow Mr. Montgomery round like a tantony pig, but he ain’t going to do that now he’s almost a young gentleman, is he? So he acts like he don’t like Mr. Montgomery above half to blow off his feelings about wanting more attention. See, if Mr. Montgomery weren’t mucking about with this dratted pedestrian machine, he might be teaching the young shaver to drive better. Or he might not, but the way Mr. Christopher sees it is that the Draisine is taking his brother away, Gawdstruth, I didn’t mean to make you think that was a good reason to break the ruddy thing”
“It is a good reason to break the ruddy thing, and a better reason than if he wanted his brother dead so he could inherit, which could be an interpretation without so lucid a depiction of the young shaver’s wild jealousy,” said Caleb. “And as well, if he did damage it, for him to take it out on a soulless machine than on a young lady if Mr. Montgomery starts courting. Or a young gentleman,” he added, as Coxsedge looked shifty.
“I didden say nuffink,” said Coxsedge, losing all semblance of learned speech.
“No, you didn’t, and it’s none of my business in any case,” said Caleb. “Right; when you stow that contraption tonight, you have a good look around and see if someone hasn’t left a metal-saw or a fine file around somewhere, and if they have, you turn them over to me, see? And rather than poke into your household, I’ll leave you to ask any other servants if they’ve seen anything.”
Coxsedge looked relieved.
“I can do that, sir,” he said. “Thanks for not pokin’ in, Mr. Montgomery wouldn’t like it, straight up he wouldn’t.”
Caleb sighed.
“I ought to question the cub,” he said.
“Please, sir, I can put a question, casual like, about whether he done it for a lark,” Coxsedge said.
Caleb considered; then nodded.
“Very well, I’ll leave you to be my deputy in that, and if you think he’s not being straight with you, then I can question him myself. I think your master has got his machine back on the road, judging by the cheers outside; are you going to cheer him on?”
Coxsedge gave a rueful grin.
“It hardly seems honest when I’ve bet against him, but he’d be monstrous hurt if I did not.”
“Aye, lad, that’s what I thought,” said Caleb, getting out of the carriage. He went to relay to Jane what Coxsedge had said, as private in a crowd as anywhere.
Jane listened seriously.
“And if, as I believe you surmised, he is Mr. Montgomery’s lover, he would not wish to harm him without good reason.”
“Now how the devil did you know I thought that, Jane-girl? I never said anything about it.”
“You didn’t say anything about it quite loudly, my love,” said Jane.

Chapter 8

The Draisine race was won, by some notable margin, by Mr. Grey, to Mr. Montgomery’s chagrin. The two young men shook hands, and returned their respective pedestrian curricles to their carriages. It was notable that the largely metal Draisine was swung up more easily than the wooden one.
“And that’s why it won; it’s lighter and yet just as strong and resilient,” said Caleb. “And what’s more, I’m going to have mine made by a carriage maker, and have the hub run with Vaughan’s patent ball bearings in for a smoother ride, and a better speed coasting.”
“How does that work?” asked Jane.
“Well, you know a simple wheel has axle-grease to allow it to turn on the hub?” said Caleb.
“Yes,” Jane nodded.
“Well, a ball bearing is a cylinder between the hub and the axle, or what passes for an axle in a Draisine, which has metal balls in it, which are also greased. Now you think about if you tried to rub two bits of wood, say, together, and how hard it would be to shift them. Easier if you put grease between them. But suppose you had Simon’s marbles between them...”
“Ah, I understand,” said Jane. “Much freer-running.”
“Yes, and when they first started putting bearings in carriage wheels, it was said that one horse could then do the work that would strain two horses without bearings. And ball bearings are the best sort of all, and they were invented about twenty-five or thirty years ago, and Robert Vaughan took out a patent, and I only know that because I was involved in a case where someone sold sub-standard bearings claiming they were Vaughan’s patent, and it killed someone when they shattered.”
“My goodness! You must certainly get good ones then,” said Jane. “They took a long time to get up to speed; that would mean you could do so with less effort and more quickly?”
“Exactly,” said Caleb, “and that means I wouldn’t be exhausted to start off either in a race or when chasing a crook.”
“It seems a good idea; why have others not done so?” asked Jane.
“They might well have done; what you have to realise, Jane-girl, is that a Draisine is not like a carriage of a particular type, which is, by and large, made to a similar design, as you may see in Felton’s treatise on carriages. A Draisine is made by a blacksmith, a carriage-maker or even a carpenter with knowledge of wheel-wrighting. I’ve seen one as simple as a straight piece of wood with the wheels depended from triangles and the front wheel turned because the turning mechanism is another straight piece of wood held with a simple wooden pintle. The steering handle was wood too, and looked most unwieldy. Grey’s Draisine, as well as being metal, is a more sophisticated piece of machinery overall than Montgomery’s, which is not unlike the one I tried out at Sir Nathanial’s, and even so is more sophisticated than some early ones. Ball bearings as part of the turning element of the steering handle might not be a bad idea as well.”
“I agree; if you can turn the wheel more easily, you can swerve out of trouble better,” said Jane. “However, if you manage a greater speed, remember it will be harder to stop.”
“I may ask to have a drag-shoe fitted to the front wheel, that I can release to arrest its movement,” said Caleb. “That would make it a great deal safer. And I’ll have the seat on a ruddy leafspring as well; I don’t want my manhood bounced out of shape.”
“Nor do I,” said Jane. “Ah, but my dear, you are approaching this as a man looking for a vehicle, not as a boy looking for a thrill.”
“Too right,” said Caleb.

“The saw was prigged from an ironmonger’s shop,” said Ginger. “The cove as runs it uses it to trim fings to size. Railings and the like.” The child was sitting on the floor, petting Nat, who was making happy snoring noises, which Jane thought too like a cat’s purr not to wonder about the unfortunate animal’s upbringing. However, Nat was happy enough, so maybe it was best not to worry.
“Makes sense,” said Caleb. “Did he give you that shiner?”
The child put a cautious hand up to the bruised eye.
“Nah, sir, that were the cove who were lurking arahnd Mr. Montgomery’s ken, when they got back. He weren’t pleased above half when Mr. Montgomery got out as chipper as ‘e might be for ‘avin’ lost, and told the fart-catcher to stow his hobby-horse.”
“I wager he didn’t call it a hobby-horse, though,” said Caleb. “What did you do to annoy this onlooker?”
“’E calls it a ‘Dray-zeen’,” said the child, in a fairly good mimicry of Montgomery’s cultured tones. “And I asked the feller what was ‘angin’ arahnd if he was new in the neighbourhood and if so, I could find any shop for him if he dropped me a groat. And he back’anded me.” There was a sniff which Caleb thought was of pain.
“What a nasty fellow,” said Caleb. “What did he look like?”
“Well, ‘e was dressed like a fart-catcher, but if you ask me ‘e looked more like a bully-ruffian from a bawdy-house, a Captain Hackum for Miss Laycock as you might say.”
“Well, I expect respectable people aren’t averse to having footmen or valets who can take care of themselves,” said Caleb. “My man is very good with his fambles in a tight spot. A lot of people hire on retired pugilists.”
Ginger considered for a moment, then the effulgent locks were shaken, positively.
“Nah, ‘e weren’t no retired pugilist, milord, ‘e ‘adn’t got the ears for it, no more the nose, so ‘e was either so good ‘e wouldn’t ‘ave to be nobody’s servant, or ‘e weren’t good enough that nobody would take ‘im on as protection.”
“That makes sense, well thought out,” said Caleb. “So was he swarthy or pale? Blond or dark?”
“’E was wearin’ a wig, so I couldn’ see ‘is ‘air,” said Ginger. “Mind, ‘is stubble was dark, so chances are, ‘e’s dark too outside o’ a wig. And ‘e’s more swart than pale. Tall, but not like you. Beefy, but ‘e ‘as a beer gut. Any good?”
“Very well done,” said Caleb.
“I follered ‘im.”
“You did? Were you seen?”
“Nah, but I lost ‘im in traffic off of Cheapside.”
“Ah well,” said Caleb. “If you see him again, you let me know. Here, that’s worth a hind coach wheel,” he added, handing over a crown.
“I like being an informant,” said Ginger, with a grin.

Jane looked up from the letter she was reading.
“This is a letter from Simon, which is a more grown-up version of the name ‘Simmy’, and is what he likes to be called now,” she said to Ginger. “He tells me you have ‘no adequate sort of parent,’ and I wondered what he means by that.”
“Oh, I have a Da, but he were took up by the pressgang. ‘E ain’t any loss to me and I don’t suppose ‘e’s any gain to the Royal Navy neither. ‘E might be dead for all I know; if ‘e weren’t killed by Frenchies, ‘e’ll of irritated someone wiv a cat o’ nine tails.”
Apparently Ginger had no particular affection for this errant parent.
Jane smiled.
“Simon also asked me to tell you that he thinks you would be a bene sister and would easily learn to be a swell mort.”
“’E told you I was a girl?” Ginger gasped.
“No; I told him I had met a girl he once knew, and I asked him about you. I knew you were a girl when I first met you,” said Jane.
“Swelp me! What give me away?” demanded Ginger.
“The way you moved; your slender hands; the fact that you wear bulky clothes, and most particularly the way you giggled,” said Jane. “The question is, would you like my husband and me to adopt you? There would be hard work in learning to speak like a lady, and behave as one, but Simon has learned to be a gentleman, and his opinion of you is high.”
“Cuh!” said Ginger. “Well, see, on the one hand, it’s a full belly all the time, on the other, what sort of cage would I find myself in, ‘aving to be a lidy?”
“A good question,” said Jane. “And I don’t deny that there are restrictions and a slavery to convention, in public at least, to which a lady is subjected. Simon says that he has seen you pick up a guitar and pick out a tune by ear, but I would expect you to learn to play the pianoforte from music as well. I would not stop you from strumming by ear as an amusement and an inducement to learn to play better,” she added, having seen the covert looks the young girl had been casting at Jane’s own pianoforte. “And if you wanted to, I would also be happy for you to help us out by pretending to be a street child.”
“You’d let me cut loose and do that?”
“Simon makes a very convincing kinchin zad at times, when we need him to. He goes out with a crutch, and looks a most disreputable object. At home and at his lessons, he is the perfect gentleman.”
Ginger made a face.
“I ain’t looking forward to lessons,” she said.
Jane smiled.
“And I thought you’d enjoy reading novels,” she said.
Ginger brightened.
“You’d let me read novels?”
“I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t; I do.”
“I’m scared of being confined.”
“Of course you are. But you need to also consider that if I am noticing that you are a girl, the older you get, the more likely it is that some lewd fellow will also notice. And then, before you know where you are, you’ll find yourself in the slavery of prostitution.”
Ginger nodded.
“Missus, you’re dead to rights! An’ when you puts it that way, there ain’t no contest, is there?”
“Well, I don’t think so, but we wouldn’t adopt you without you making the choice for yourself.”
“Missus! That’s bene of you!”
“I won’t make anyone do something against their will,” said Jane. “Now, if you go through the concealed door I will show you, there is a jug and ewer, for washing the hands after using the bramah closet. You are, of course welcome to use the closet for the purpose for which it is intended as well, but whether you do or not, I want your hands clean and properly dried on the towel there. And then you may play upon the pianoforte until we eat, which will be in about an hour. What is your real name?”
“Cissy,” said Ginger.
“Cecily is the full name of that,” said Jane.
“Yerse, in the parish book it’s Cecily Jane Davison,” said Ginger, disappearing into the bramah closet.
Some time passed, and there was the sound of the water flushing, and presently she emerged.
“That’s a bene contraption,” she said.
“Yes,” said Jane. “It is also possible for someone lurking in there to hear everything that goes on in this room, or the book room the other side. It’s why we had the closet put in there in the first place; when I first lived here, there were deep alcoves in each room. I first met Caleb, and incidentally, Simmy, after my first husband was murdered, and although I did not like Frank very much, I wanted to find his murderer. Having the ability to have a witness to conversations, hidden in a concealed closet, seemed like a good idea.”
“Cuh!” said Ginger. “I gets what you means, missus, I don’t like my da much, but if he was murdered, rather than getting killed in a regular sort of way, I’d want to know who done it, and avenge him.”
“Exactly,” said Jane. She took the little girl’s hands and examined them.
They were clean enough to pass muster, and the tide mark at the wrist might be ignored for now.
“Very well, Cecily, I will adjust the piano stool for your height, and you may play,” said Jane. It was a tussle with herself to let this disreputable child loose on her beautiful grand piano, but one had to begin trusting somewhere, and if the child thumped on it, then she might be banned from any but the nursery upright pianoforte until she had learned better.
Ginger sat down at the pianoforte, and Jane was startled to hear a popular air played with verve and fair accuracy, and with improvised chords. The child did not abuse the keyboard, and Jane heaved a sigh of relief.
After dinner, which they ate at an early hour, Jane bathed Cecily, and put her to bed in the room Dorothy had occupied. The child had done well in noticing this beefy footman, but if the fellow was more sinister than young Cecily seemed to think, then it was probably as well to get her off the street as soon as possible. They could disguise her better for another time.
Cecily was most amenable to being bathed, after having eaten with more neatness and grace than Jane might have expected.
“It won’t be too hard to learn to speak swell, I ‘ad – had – to learn flash whids to stay alive,” she told Jane. “Ma was a chamber-maid, and got into trouble, so Da ain’t even me da for real, but ‘e loved Ma, see. I ‘ad – had – a little brother and sister, but me brother were allus sickly, and he died of scarlet fever, well, the joint-ail fever what come after it, and me sister jus’ died. Then Ma died bringin’ a dead one into the world, and after that, Da took to drink, and lost his job. I took to beggin’ an’ Simmy, bless ‘is ‘eart, his heart, I mean, showed me how, and took me under his wing, and me thinkin’ as how he was the one as should be pitied. Nah, Simmy is just bene.”
“He is a remarkably good boy,” said Jane. “We are proud to be his parents, and I am sure we shall be proud to be your parents.”
“I’ll do me best,” said Cecily. “Cuh, look at all that muck in the water, I never knowed I was that darty.”
“Most of it’s from your hair,” said Jane. “I suspect it is a more glorious colour under the muck than just gingery brown, as we shall see when it dries.”
“Ma called it tishun,” said Cecily.
“Titian was an artist who liked to paint a particular colour of red hair. Was your mother red?”
Cecily shrugged.
“She had ches’nut hair, like the hosses,” she said. “’Bout the same colour as Nat.”
“Well, we shall be careful about dressing you in clothes that go well with it,” said Jane, “And avoid certain shades of pink, which will not be good with it. However, some shades of pink are quite acceptable, and do not fight with some shades of red, so we will take no notice of the adage ‘don’t dress a redhead in pink’, because it’s not entirely true. But for now, you will wear one of my nightgowns, which has been cut down, if not yet hemmed, and I will make over one of my gowns for you to wear tomorrow.”
“Cuh, you aren’t half kind, missus,” said Cecily.
“I know you do not want to forget your own mother, but I hope in time you might call me ‘Mama’,” said Jane.
“That’s different to ‘Ma’, so it’s not taking her place,” said Cecily, obediently letting herself be dried and dressed in a nightgown.
It was a relief to know that Cecily had received some training in the amenities of polite behaviour; it would make teaching her somewhat easier. And that would be easier on her, a girl of eleven or twelve, who would have been completely feral without a loving mother in her earliest years.

Chapter 9

Jane had to admit to being excited at the idea of crossing the famed portal of Almack’s. It was the holy of holies of social ambition, presided over by its notorious patronesses, like the high priestesses of some ancient and mysterious cult whose rituals took place behind closed doors.
Jane had an urge to do something outrageous when they got there, in the same way as she always had an urge, when chanting the creed in church, to stand up when declaring that ‘we are all miserable sinners’ and explain that as sinners went, she was actually quite cheerful.
She knew she would not do anything outrageous, any more than she would interrupt a church service, but it was the sort of urge which led small boys to throw muddy divots of grass at freshly laundered sheets to see the mark on them.
Simon had been working in the laundry to re-wash the sheets for that urge, and now appreciated the hard work which went into laundering.
It had been necessary to punish him, but Jane had understood.
She would write to him and tell him of her own unruly thoughts, because he would find it amusing, and also comforting to know that adults were sometimes seized by inappropriate urges too. The sort one regrets the moment after succumbing to temptation.
Meantime, a clean and sweet-smelling Cecily had been introduced to Fanny, Joseph and Susanna.
“I ain’t maternal-like,” said Cecily, eyeing them with suspicion, “But if they’re me sisters an’ bruvver, then I’ll do what I have to, to look arter vem.”
“They have their maid to care for their immediate needs, but I hope you will play with them from time to time, and talk to them, and answer questions when they are old enough to ask them,” said Jane. “At three, Fanny is quite a chatterbox. She’s Frances by rights, after her father, but I prefer to forget his influence.”
Fanny regarded Cecily quizzically. The little girl was used to people coming and going, her cousins and others temporarily under Jane’s eye.
“Story?” she asked, hopefully.
“I’m not sure it’s fair asking Cecily for a story just yet,” said Jane. “Why don’t you show her your dolls?”
Fanny seized Cecily by the hand and dragged her off to see her dolls, one of papier-maché, one with an ivory head, the latter with wooden body, and a number of small Grodenthal wooden dolls inhabiting a baby house, painstakingly dressed by Ella and Jane. There were also two larger wooden dolls dressed most exquisitely as fashion dolls, given to the little girl by Dorothy, from the shop, when they fell out of high fashion. Each of them had a number of hats, bonnets and headdresses, and Fanny showed them off proudly. Jane privately thought that Dorothy spoiled Fanny, but then, Dorothy had so wanted a child by Frank, and adored his daughter. Jane tried to make sure Dorothy saw Fanny when her family was in London, as she had a soft spot for her late husband’s unfortunate mistress.
“I had a doll once,” said Cecily, softly. “Ma dressed her for me. After Ma died, though, we had a housekeeper for a while, afore Pa was too much of a drunkard to pay for one, and she said I didn’t need no doll at my age. I fink she sold it, for the clothes would of been valuable. Ma did sewing for the lady of her house as well as being a chamber maid, and she knew how to make a lady’s clothes.”
“You shall have your own doll,” said Jane. “Even if you only keep her to look at!”
Cecily hugged her.
“Oh thank you!” she sobbed. Jane stroked her hair.
“My poor little girl, you have been robbed of a childhood, and I shall try to make it up to you,” she said. “Your real father should have paid for your upbringing; in law he is supposed to do so, but I suppose your mother was turned off without a reference and did not know she could make a complaint in law.”
Cecily shrugged.
“She said he weren’t takin’ no for an answer,” she said. “So it weren’t a nice fambly, were it?”
“No,” said Jane. “I’d like to see if I could get you compensation, but after so long, I doubt it’s possible. However, if I find out who it was, I can probably make his life uncomfortable for him, unless he is socially elevated. And maybe even then if the Prince of Wales continues to look favourably upon us. We shall have to see. But what is important is that you are our little girl, and we will look after you.”
Cecily leaned into Jane’s embrace, and Fanny demanded to join in. Fanny did not understand what was going on, but she did understand cuddles. So did Nat, and Jane found her arms rather full of a mix of little girl and dog.

In Highbury, Jane’s friend, Emma, had taken great delight in sharing Jane’s news after Christmas that her husband had been knighted with Augusta Elton. Mrs. Elton had never been very kind to Jane, and had taken a spiteful delight in denigrating Caleb, the reason Fowler and Henry Redmayne had initially come up with the idea of hinting that Caleb was the son of a royal duke. That this rough soldier who was so unlike the smooth, charming Frank Churchill, should have received a knighthood was gall and wormwood to the woman. She had taken delight in informing Emma that Jane had doubtless got it wrong. Emma bided her time; she knew that Jane was in London now, and was likely to have at least a passing mention in a gossip column at some point. Emma perused the columns with more interest than was strictly seemly, given that her motives were not charitable. However, she was rewarded in her endeavours by finding a piece in the gossip column which exceeded her expectations.
Emma took equal delight in showing Mrs. Elton the gossip column.
“Here is a piece about Jane, Mrs. Elton, and Sir Caleb!” she said cheerfully. “Listen to this: ‘We believe that the hero of Christmas, Sir Caleb Armitage, and his lovely wife, Jane, Lady Armitage, will be found in the hallowed halls of Almack’s when the season reopens. We are hoping that Lady Armitage will be wearing the demi-parure gifted to her by the Prince Regent, for her part in capturing the grandson of the Young Pretender and helping her husband foil the dastardly plot by infernal machine. The demi-parure is said to be modelled on a favourite set of jewellery of her late majesty, Queen Charlotte, made in her memory for the Prince, as the Christmas celebrations of the royal family were a part of her legacy to her children. Rumours that Sir Caleb is in the employ of the Prince to root out more misguided Jacobites have been denied by the palace. This newspaper is offering a cash prize to the best poem written to celebrate Sir Caleb’s ride ventre-a-terre across the countryside, knowing that if he was not in time, the entire royal family would be slaughtered. Also expected at Almacks ...’ oh, and other people listed,” said Emma.
Lines of mottled purplish-red anger adorned Augusta Elton’s cheekbones. Her expression was ugly.
“Really, Jane has done well for herself; do you know why she was given jewellery by the Prince Regent? Normally such things are given for ... other services.”
“If you repeat that ill-conceived speculation, I will communicate with Sir Caleb to sue your husband for your slander,” said Emma. “Jane has written to me that she has not even met the Prince Regent yet, and expects to do so. She trapped the Jacobite fellow, and locked him in a room in their house in Essex, which he had previously owned, and returned to, in order to retrieve incriminating papers he had left there. That’s why she was given a valuable piece of jewellery. One might speculate that His Royal Highness had already commissioned it for another recipient, and found it a way to reward her without further expense to himself, of course, but there is no scandal attached to Jane, and if you make some, you must expect to be exposed to the full rigour of the law, Mrs. Elton.” Emma then sighed. “Why did I have the courtesy to remind you of that when I might have had the pleasure of seeing you exposed before the law? I must be getting tolerant now I am a mother of two children.”
“Well really!” said Mrs. Elton.
Emma gave her a straight look.
“Yes, Mrs. Elton, really. You consider yourself an arbiter of taste, but you have the manner and the prurient mind most guttersnipes would be ashamed of. You continually speculate about everyone you meet, assigning to them the basest of motives and actions. I truly wonder if you can really be as base as you appear to think everyone else, since it is well known that a cheat calls foul play, and a thief calls theft more readily than any honest person. Good day to you. I am going to share Jane’s news with the Westons, who will be glad for her, as anyone with an ounce of Christian charity might be.”
Emma swept off, leaving Mrs. Elton gobbling in sheer rage. Emma planned to describe the encounter to Jane in a letter; it would be sweet for her to see how low the Elton woman was brought by her jealousy. Emma reflected that Augusta Elton had always been jealous of both her and Jane, since however poor Jane had been at the point when she first returned to Highbury, before her ill-fated marriage to Frank Churchill, she was still most definitely a lady, with all the manners of a lady acquired as naturally as breathing in her upbringing. Augusta Hawkins was a woman of no class or breeding who had nothing to recommend her but a respectable fortune from her family’s endeavours in trade. She aped what she saw as the manners of the gentry, and signally failed. Her spite came from her anger over her failure to understand in what way she was failing to act like a lady. And unlike the Coles, who did not pretend to be what they were not, but who would ask for help in dealing with an unfamiliar social situation, she could not even recognise how far she was from acting like a lady.
Emma reflected that she should be sorry for the woman; but she disliked her too much, and being the mother of two hopeful infants had not made her that tolerant.

In London, Jane had no idea that her old nemesis was receiving such a set-down; indeed, Jane was quite stunned that she had appeared in the social commentary of a well-known newspaper. Her main reaction was to wonder that the newspapers had so little to print that they felt a need to fill their space with such trivialities, save perhaps the speculation that Caleb was potentially hunting traitors, and to reveal that with a plainly disbelieving report that the palace had denied it. However, she kept a clipping of the column, with the appropriate header of the paper, for the amusement, one day, of any grandchildren she might have. She would have laughed to have known that this item was causing so much grief to Augusta Elton, but in truth, Jane did not even think about the spiteful woman. Once she might have felt some vengeful satisfaction that such a thing would cause Mrs. Elton pangs of jealousy, but she had left the Elton woman so far behind that she did not even think about her.
She was more concerned with asking Mr. Montgomery if he had any enemies, and had sent a note, asking him to attend upon her before they left for the evening.
As Mr. Montgomery was likely to bring his valet, being, like Fowler, a man of all work, Caleb might quietly find out what Coxsedge had found out at the same time.
Jane looked around her parlour with satisfaction as she awaited her guest. The cool, serene combination of blue, silver grey and cream still soothed and calmed her, as it had done when Frank had been in a bad mood, and on that day when she had to assimilate the news that he was dead.
Fowler had brought up the hot water urn, and Jane was ready to seethe the tea as soon as Mr. Montgomery arrived.
The sound of the doorbell caused her to smile in satisfaction; Mr. Montgomery was punctual.
It was a surprise, therefore, when Fowler announced Mr. Daventry Popham.

Jane and the sins of society 7-9

Sarah WaldockFebruary 27, 2018 01:39PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

Barbara VMarch 02, 2018 01:11AM

Re:Thank you! (nfm)

Sarah WaldockMarch 09, 2018 11:03AM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

NickiFebruary 28, 2018 10:03PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

RosymaryFebruary 28, 2018 09:04PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

ConnieRFebruary 28, 2018 07:19PM

Re: thanks all....

Sarah WaldockFebruary 27, 2018 05:30PM

Re: thanks all....

AlidaFebruary 28, 2018 12:19AM

Re: I just panicked ...

Sarah WaldockFebruary 28, 2018 01:04PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

ShannaGFebruary 27, 2018 05:04PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

ShaneeFebruary 27, 2018 02:33PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 7-9

VesperFebruary 27, 2018 02:03PM


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