Welcome to our board! Log In Create A New Profile
Use mobile view


Jane and the sins of society 22-24

March 15, 2018 07:30PM
Chapter 22

Jane and Caleb remained for the evening to be polite. Caleb tried to find out where Ashall and the other young men had gone, but though he saw several of the young men he thought had been with the viscount, he did not see Ashall himself. Jane had a dance with each of Gregory Aspinall and Hillborough Ferrant. Mr. Aspinall was, as Miss Elliot had said, quite boring on the subject of his racehorses.
“So have you owned your horses long?” asked Jane, brightly.
“Eh? No, bought them last year, after the end of the Season,” said Mr. Aspinall.
“Oh, all at once? Not one at a time?”
“Well, when my old gager of a grandfather died, I had the money to get as many as I wanted,” said Mr. Aspinall. “Got them as soon as probate cleared.”
“Dear me!” said Jane. “Your grandfather loved racing, too, then, that you made your stables a memorial to him?”
Aspinall stared.
“No, he hated horses, silly old fool, best thing that ever happened to me, having him die, and worth ... worth having to wait for probate.”
“And the wager worth every penny,” said Jane, brightly.
“Oh, I didn’t realise you were in the know,” said Aspinall. “That’s how come you and that bruiser of a husband of yours popped up so suddenly. Well, we’re in the same boat, so let’s not rock it, eh?”
“Indeed,” murmured Jane.
Mr. Ferrant was a most pleasant young man. He smiled a lot, and kept up a babble of small talk when he did not manage to draw Jane out about herself. His mouth smiled but his eyes did not, and Jane felt sweat pooling down her spine. However, she laughed at his stories, and thanked him for the dance.
“Oh Lady Armitage, what did you think of Mr. Ferrant?” asked Miss Elliot, as soon as she could get Jane to herself.
“He ... he reminded me of my first husband, who was very charming and made me fall in love with him,” said Jane.
“Oh! How romantic!” cried Miss Elliot. “Isn’t it?” she saw Jane’s expression.
“Frank was very charming and very good with older ladies too, at flattering them with arch little comments,” said Jane. A slight frown showed that Miss Elliot recognised this behaviour. “He liked to play games and have secrets. When we were married, the big secret was that he beat me, and expected me to put on the appearance of great wealth when we were actually quite poor because he was addicted to gambling. I’ve seen Mr. Ferrant in the gaming rooms.”
“Everyone ... but yes, he does gamble rather a lot,” said Miss Elliot. “Do ... do you think he would beat me?”
“I think if he thought you ever knew any secrets about him, he would kill you,” said Jane.
“You are scaring me!”
“Good. If you are scared, you will think twice. If you do not see a man as a safe haven from all troubles, one you can tell everything to, and who you expect to tell you everything, one who you know can procure a hackney carriage in the rain, organise the dismissal of a troublesome servant, arrange a funeral, go and change when the baby has been sick on him without raising his voice, then he is not the right man for you.”
“I see,” said Miss Elliot. “Well if you have had two husbands, you have twice the experience of most people. It looks as though I may have to share my life with a Draisine, for Mr. Grey has offered for me, and he is capable of speech outside of Draisine racing.”
“I’d accept if I were you,” said Jane. “He is a pleasant and honourable young man, a little hot of temper, but quick to cool off if taken to task for it, and a man who will extend every courtesy to a rival is a man who will also extend every courtesy to his wife.”
“Why, thank you, ma’am,” said Miss Elliot.

Jane met up with Caleb.
“I know who I think it is,” she said.
“Yes, I have seen the fellow who was behind you that day, and had a name put to him,” said Caleb. “Of course, getting the evidence on him is the problem. I had intended to follow Ashall, but I stopped to speak to Radcliffe, and lost him. I was foolish enough to assume he would speak to someone in this building and then stay at the ball, but he’s gone. I suspect he was told to go straight home, and whether he would meet with an accident there or on the way to his home, I do not know. The actual killer may not even have returned to town yet, but I have a nasty feeling that Viscount Ashall is already dead. I must check that Radcliffe went straight home from here. I don’t think he would have gone after Ashall, leaving it in the hands of fate, as you might say, but I’ll want Fowler’s nice sense of timing to tell me when he got in.”
“I think I would like to go home, now,” said Jane. “I fear we may have a busy day tomorrow.”
“I fear you may be right, Jane-girl,” said Caleb. “However, I shall have a busy night tonight, because I am going to Bow Street to ask for assistance to go to Ashall’s dwelling, tracing his footsteps from here. I’ll see you into the carriage, and I’ll ask Grey if I may borrow his Draisine.”
“He’ll probably say yes; he’s just got engaged,” said Jane.
“Excellent, he can persuade his mother-in-law elect to take him home,” said Caleb.

Caleb found it rather exhilarating to bowl along the streets in the middle of the night, when there was almost no traffic. It was after the hours of any delivery, and before most party-goers left their various venues to return to their own homes. Soon he was being accompanied by two more Bow Street officers in a gig, and it was tempting to make a race of it. When his own Draisine was finished, Caleb thought the gig would have been left far behind, even allowing for the paucity of traffic, and his own need to mount the pavements when on roughly cobbled streets.
They arrived at the viscount’s town house to find smoke and flames pouring out of a second storey window, and the fire brigade busy trying, rather ineffectually, to put it out. A maid was shrieking on the top floor and others huddled behind her.
Caleb said one or two words which would have had Jane raising her eyebrows. Caleb turned to the gawking inhabitants of the house next door.
“Get me a ladder and take me to your top floor,” he said.
His air of command was enough, and the butler, with trousers hastily pulled on over his night gown, did as Caleb asked. Caleb put the ladder across from the raised front of the house he was in to the one next door. The maids’ rooms might not have balconies like the lower floors, but their windows were hidden from the street with false frontages, and there was a good foot of flat roof between the false front and the slope of the roof into which their windows were set.
“Here, you, sit on that end,” said Caleb, to the butler. “You!” he pointed to an older maid, “You be ready to help them across that gap, and G-d help you if you let them fall.”
“Yessir, I mean, nossir,” said the maid, with a gulp. Caleb gritted his teeth, decided he did not have time to be cautious as a window blew out on the floor below the servants’ rooms, and walked across the ladder.
He slapped the girl who clung to him.
“Listen you dozy mort, you’ll kill your silly self and your friends and me if you don’t stop that histrionic nonsense,” he said. “I don’t expect anyone to walk, but you can crawl. Come on, now.”
“What about our trunks?” wailed one.
“If you think things are more important than your lives, go stay with your trunk and burn with it,” snapped Caleb. “Otherwise, one at a time, onto that ladder. Here, you look a likely girl, you show them the way,” he picked up a little girl who was probably the tween maid and set her on the ladder. She blushed scarlet but inched her way along it, and was retrieved by willing hands at the other end, the servants next door happy to help when told what to do.
“What is the meaning of this?” a head appeared from the house next door, presumably from the master bedroom.
“The meaning, sir, is that the servants of your neighbour are in mortal danger, and your house was convenient,” said Caleb. “Sorry to have woken you.”
“Who the devil are you?”
“Sir Caleb Armitage. A passer-by, as you might say,” said Caleb.
“I’ll come up and help,” said the man. Sure enough, as Caleb had the second servant girl on her way he appeared and added his own weight to the end of the ladder.
The hysterical one took some persuading, but her fellows called to her and shrieking like a banshee all the time, she managed to get to safety.
It was not a moment too soon; the end window blew out, and sparks settled on the ladder, setting it alight.
“Drop it,” said Caleb. “Move them all back indoors!” He stepped back, took two running steps, and jumped.
The floor crashed in beneath where he had been a moment ago.
“Shite,” said Caleb, and sat down hard.
“My dear Sir Caleb! Bravest thing I ever saw! Let me help you in,” said the gentleman of the house, dressed in a gaudy banyan and embroidered slippers. Caleb managed to get himself inside the house and sat down again on a serving girl’s bed.
“Might not be a bad idea to get everyone downstairs on the ground floor, in case the fire spreads,” he said. “Sorry. I think I scared myself silly and I’ve wrenched an old wound from Corunna. You organise your servants, sir, and I’ll make my own way down, and I’m sorry, but I’m going to slide down your banisters the way my son does.”
“I have no intention of leaving you, Sir Caleb! Belby can get them all downstairs, you girls pack a satchel each of essentials, and bring blankets for yourselves and these other poor girls. Belby, see the memsahib and the children are brought down.”
“Sorry to visit trouble on your house,” said Caleb.
“Nonsense! Sir William Wetherby is capable of handling trouble,” said Sir William. “So’s the memsahib; shot a snake in Calcutta.”
“Sounds like my wife,” said Caleb. “She shot a highwayman in London.”
“Now, my dear fellow, I like the sound of your wife already!”
“I wager she and your wife will be bosom-bows immediately they meet,” said Caleb. He could hear the sound of a female voice marshalling servants and children. “I can stand.” He got to his feet.
His thigh screamed at him, but he limped across the floor to the door that led to the stairs.
“I’ll get you a stick,” said Sir William. “Excuse me.” He went on ahead, and was presently back with an ornate but strong looking black cane. “Ebony,” he said. “Bought it because I liked the carving.”
“As good a reason as any and lucky for me,” gasped Caleb, sighing with relief as he let the stick take some of his weight.
It seemed like an age that it took to get downstairs, and when the lady of distinctly Indian origin bustled Caleb into a big wing chair with a footstool and a glass of brandy, and tucked a gay quilt around him, he merely murmured thanks and accepted the ministrations.
“Will your wife still like mine?” Sir William asked, sardonically.
“Lud, why should she not? A woman who can take charge is beyond the price of rubies,” said Caleb.
“She’s also part native,” said Sir William.
“Why would that bother us?” said Caleb. “We all bleed red.”
“Demme, I like you,” said Sir William. “That neighbour of ours said the neighbourhood was tainted.”
“Well he was a murderer so I’d say it was him doing the tainting,” said Caleb. “And too much of a coward to do the job himself. I’ve reason to think that fire is a result of a falling out between ... well not thieves, but murderers.”
“Demme!” said Sir William. “Never liked him. If he’s dead, couldn’t happen to a nicer person.”
“Yes, his victim was about the age of the oldest of your children over there,” said Caleb. “I expect, if we find a corpse, it was probably dead before it burned; at least in the fires of this world.”

Chapter 23

Jane rose to find Caleb’s Bow Street friend, Gabe Stogumber waiting in the parlour. He had reduced both Nat and Toby to drooling adoration, and Cecily was sitting there looking scared.
“Papa is hurt!” she blurted out. Jane paled.
“He ain’t dead, Mrs. Jane, not nowise, but he done open that hem wound he took in the army,” said Stogumber. “Bloody hero he is an’ all, saved the lives of half a dozen serving wenches from a blaze, then jumped afore the building fell in. He said to tell you not to be scared, he’s under the care of a formidable lady from Calcutta and her excellent husband and is about half cut on good brandy.”
Jane heaved a sigh of relief.
“Can I get you a brandy as well, Gabe?” she asked.
“Bless you, Mrs. Jane, I dursen’t, I’m on dooty until I’ve rendered my report,” he said. “But I swung by here so you’d hear it all from a friend not read it in the paper.”
“Bless you, Gabe,” said Jane. “At least have breakfast.”
“Now that, I won’t turn down,” said Stogumber.

Jane arrived at Sir William’s house, looking at the burnt-out shell next door with a gasp of horror. It was fortunate that the houses here were separated by several feet, instead of being built as a terrace. Jane could only imagine what might happen if one of the houses in her own house’s row went on fire. The fire brigade would barely be able to contain it to the house on each side. However, presumably Viscount Ashall’s fire insurance was paid up to date if an engine had come out, and the estate would be able to claim. The building would have to come down, and soon: it was unsafe.
Jane was hailed by a man working cautiously in the wreckage.
“Mrs. ... that’s to say, Lady Armitage, isn’t it?” he called.
“Yes, I am Jane Armitage,” said Jane. “Can I help?”
“If you’d be so good,” said the man. “I’m with Bow Street, and he’ll want to know there’s three burned skellingtons, well, three blackened skulls, any road. Ain’t a cat’s chanst in Hell o’ sorting out bones from charred timber, and not wanting to dig too much for fear of the whole ruddy lot coming down.”
“No, you must not risk your life,” said Jane. “I will tell him. His daughter is informing his man, who is waiting for a murderer elsewhere. You’re Halliwell, aren’t you?”
“Yerse, milady, fancy you remembering me!”
“I know Caleb has said you are a very sound man,” said Jane. He had also said that Halliwell had the imagination of a garden snail, but she did not repeat that. Halliwell beamed. Jane reflected that honesty was better than imagination in any case.
She rang the bell, and was presently ushered into a small reception room which appeared to have become her husband’s sick room. He was occupying a day bed, under a gay quilt, and with a number of pillows propping him up. He was dressed in a nightgown and a gaudy banyan, with a velvet cap on his head.
“Oh Caleb!” said Jane.
“Now don’t go ringing a peal over me, Jane-girl, someone had to rescue them, and nobody else seemed to have any idea what to do. I reckon Sir William, that’s the cove who lives here, would have done, but he was sleeping at the time. And there weren’t time to do anything but act.”
Jane came forward and dropped a chaste kiss on his lips, and drew up a chair.
“As you did not get yourself killed, I forgive you for being a hero,” she said. “What happened? Gabe isn’t very articulate.”
“And the sea is damp,” said Caleb, ironically. He sketched what had happened with an anxious eye on his wife. Jane winced at the idea of him running across a ladder five storeys up, but nodded when he said it was the only way to do it.
“What impresses me is that you got a pack of daft women to cross it,” she said.
“I got them more scared of me than of the crossing,” said Caleb. “And the tweenie managed it, fortunately unaware that her bum was hanging out of where her nightgown was hitched up, and the rest followed. It was touch and go, though, I only just got them over before things got a bit exciting.” He eyed her with some trepidation.
“Just tell me about it,” said Jane. He did. Jane said nothing but she buried her face against him.
“I have too much to lose not to have made that jump,” said Caleb, quietly. “I know you’ll love me if it’s crippled me for life, though demme, it’d be a waste of the Draisine I ordered.”
Jane began laughing, and if her laughter was a little hysterical, it was better, she thought, than crying over him.
“You will ride that pestilential machine, I’m sure,” she said. “Is Sir William’s lady a competent nurse?”
“Yes, and as managing as you,” said Caleb. “She cut off my dress smalls and has taken them away. I’m wearing a nightgown and banyan of Sir William’s, and it’s fortunate he’s almost as large as me, and carrying enough embonpoint for it not to be tight on the shoulders. The cap she insisted on so I wouldn’t go into shock for being cold.”
“Sensible,” said Jane. “You look like a Member of Parliament.”
“Decrepit, pompous and venal? Hardly flattering, Jane-girl.”
“I was thinking more statesmanlike but gouty,” said Jane.
“Madam, when I am up and about again, I will have my revenge for that,” said Caleb.
“I look forward to it, my lord,” said Jane, demurely. “Well, I will not interfere with the ministrations of someone who knows what she is doing.”
Caleb blushed.
“It’s a long way up my thigh, as you know,” he whined.
“And I have sons whom I have bathed, and it’s nothing I haven’t seen,” said a soft voice from the door. “Lady Armitage, I do apologise for not greeting you, there is much to do.”
Jane got up quickly and took the hands of Lady Wetherby.
“Oh, I owe you so much, thank you for the good care of my husband,” she said. “I am so grateful for all you have done.”
“I am sure you would do the same for a hero rescuing the people next door to you,” said Lady Wetherby. “Please, you must call me Rohini, which is my name.”
“How pretty!” said Jane. “I am Jane, a plain workaday name.”
“Ah, but English names are as exotic to me as doubtless Indian names are for you,” said Rohini. “We have given all our children Hindi names as their middle names; my husband is keen for them not to forget their Indian heritage, even though they are only a quarter Indian. My mother was the governess to my father’s children, my half-siblings, you understand,” she added. “He married her, and always joked it was to save on paying her wages.”
“It sounds a convivial marriage.”
“I believe they had some frictions through being of different cultures, but they made jokes to overcome it,” said Rohini. “My father said I was more English than Indian, and was glad to find me an English husband. I am very fond of my husband, despite our age difference,” she added. “My father chose well.”
“I always used to disapprove of the arranged marriages of the past,” said Jane, “But having seen the bumblebroth young people can make of choosing their own lovers without a lot of help, guidance, trickery and coercion, I sometimes wonder if it might not be as well for more experienced people to do the choosing. Or at least to present their offspring with a choice of several suitable people from whom to chose a husband or wife.”
“I think guidance is certainly needed,” said Rohini. “Jane, would you care to dress your husband’s wound? I know he is embarrassed by my ministrations, but I felt it important to see it right away.”
“I agree, and so, I’m sure, does he, embarrassment despite,” said Jane. “It was never, I suspect, treated properly at the time.”
“No, that too I thought,” said Rohini. “I packed it with honey and turmeric, which is an excellent healing spice, and I sewed it up. His fortitude is considerable. I think if it had been sewn in the first place, it would have healed better.”
“They told him he would never walk again and left him to it,” said Jane. “I think they were more concerned with the broken bone than the torn muscles.”
“Ah? I think he will have more mobility in it than he has had since before the first wound, so long as he takes care of himself. He must eat food with turmeric in it as well as garlic and onion as cleansers, and plenty of meat. I have used the English pork jelly for him, which is also very good. It is no good to treat a wound on the outside if you do not treat the man on the inside as well.”
“An interesting idea, but as the Indian culture is so old, I will not dispute it,” said Jane. “I am relieved to hear no mention of bleeding him.”
Rohini made a noise not quite an unladylike as a snort.
“Bleeding is barbaric,” she said. “It weakens a man. If he is choleric, then he should drink hibiscus and cinnamon tea to reduce the choler. And that, so far as I can see, is the only use for bleeding, to reduce choler, and it is a brute force way of doing it, if you ask me.”
“I will certainly take your words under consideration,” said Jane. “Fortunately, Caleb is never choleric. I will see about getting turmeric for our medicine chest, however.”
“I will leave you to dress the wound; the things are waiting,” said Rohini, clapping her hands. A tall Indian man in a turban pushed in a dumb waiter with bandages, an urn of hot water, and bowls of honey and a yellow powder. Rohini addressed him in her native tongue, and he bowed, and left.
“I saw the excellent job you made of healing the wound on his shoulder,” said Rohini. “I will leave. Clap your hands when you have finished and Ram Das will take everything away and bring us tea, and I will join you for that.”
“Thank you,” said Jane.
Caleb obediently rolled over so that Jane could get at the old wound. It had been a livid-coloured mark where a ball from scattered grapeshot had ploughed into his thigh and shattered the bone. The bone had healed, after a fashion, but the muscles around were torn, and Caleb had always found that they separated easily, causing him at best severe cramps. Good living over the last few years had helped a lot, but the weakness remained, and the jump had ripped muscle and skin right open.
The neat stitches along the wound looked as though they pulled everything together, and Jane washed off the wound, and smeared it well with honey, adding a good pinch of turmeric to it. Caleb was panting.
“I have to tell you that Halliwell found three skulls in the debris of the house,” said Jane, to distract him. “One, I presume, will be Ashall.”
“And the other two the missing butler and valet,” said Caleb, “The only servants not accounted for. The men all slept in the basement as is common, and got out. I’ve talked to the coachman who brought him home.”
“Excellent; did he have anything useful to tell you?” asked Jane, folding a square of cotton cloth to place over the wound as a new dressing.
“Damned right, he did,” growled Caleb. “He told me how his master was so drunk, his friend had to assist him into the carriage, and stayed with him to take him home, and asked him to wait to return him to the ball. He said that the viscount was so drunk he wasn’t even bothering to try to walk.”
Jane gasped.
“So Ferrant killed him at the ball and had the effrontery to take him home and use Ashall’s coachman to get him back in time to be dancing with people like me?”
“Yes, he’s a bold villain, and we have no proof at all. The coachman described him as ordinary looking, and said he did not really look at him. The ones waiting up for Ashall appear to be dead, which is to say the butler and the valet. I imagine Ferrant used Ashall’s key to let himself in, and possibly even asked the butler to help carry his master. He killed him, and the valet, and then he set the fire. It isn’t a long jump from a drunken master to one who spills the brandy in the fire and sets fire to the house. I suspect the room was dowsed in brandy, and the casement opened just a little to create a draught. A singularly callous crime.”
“Indeed, without thought or care for the servants,” said Jane. “Lift that leg slightly so I may wrap a bandage and tie it off.”
“He didn’t even care if it spread next door,” said Caleb. “Fortunately, a footman with a sensitive nose woke up, and ran for the fire brigade. It drives home the importance of paying the premium, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, well worth ten shillings a year to the Westminster Fire Company,” said Jane. “It was lucky the houses were separate.”
“Indeed,” agreed Caleb. “Ah, that feels better, Jane-girl. I didn’t enjoy having stitches in, but Lady Wetherby is deft and quick. Help me get back to a civilised position, will you? Thanks.” As Jane helped him roll back, and readjusted his pillows.

Chapter 24

“One; we know Ferrant can do his own dirty work if he has to. Two; we can be moderately certain that his confederate is not back from Hertfordshire yet, staying to the last possible minute to try to kill Braxstrode. Three; I’d be surprised if Ferrant ain’t at least a bit rattled by this. He may be capable of doing the dirty work, but he’s always relied on another. This killing was hasty, and to cover up having Ashall blabbing to everyone. I wouldn’t mind betting ....” Caleb paused. “Actually, I don’t want to even think about betting. I suspect that Ferrant actually lost his temper with Ashall for demanding that he pay up, asked him to come out to his coach where he had the rhino available, and killed him the moment he was alone, without thinking about the consequences. He’ll be looking for the newspaper.”
The door opened and Rohini tripped in.
“You were wanting the newspaper, Sir Caleb? It is full of your heroism.”
Caleb groaned.
“Just what I didn’t want.”
“My husband assumed that you were there in your official capacity as there were two officers of Bow Street with you,” said Rohini. “He sent the officers on their way, and told the men from the press that far from visiting Ashall, you were visiting us, since your family has connections in India. You did mutter something about your sister.”
“I did? Sensible of me, and very clever of Sir William.”
“Well, he was a magistrate out there,” said Rohini.
“I knew he was a peevy cove,” said Caleb. “A clever man, ma’am.”
Jane took the paper Rohini offered and read out loud.
“A tragic fire in the city has caused the unfortunate death of Viscount A – , a well-known man about town. Dead too are feared to be his butler and valet, who have not been seen by the other servants. A daring rescue by Sir C – A – means that the maids who slept on the top floor were saved from the gruesome fate of being burned to death. Fortunately Sir C – was visiting his friend, Sir W – W –, and his wife, who are friends of the family from Sir C –‘s family’s interests in India. We all remember Sir C – ‘s discovery of how emerald smuggling was being effected last year! Sir C – daringly ran over a ladder from Sir W – ‘s property, to help the maids escape, making a daring leap back himself, as the roof fell in beneath him! We understand that Sir C – has been badly wounded in making so late an escape, and remains beneath the roof of Sir W – . We have seen no doctors, however, so remain hopeful.
We understand that the fire was caused by the heavy drinking of Viscount A – , heir to the Duke of B – , who has recently remarried. We might speculate that the drinking was because the viscount expected to be supplanted as heir within the year. However, his hopes are definitely dashed now due to carelessness with brandy. A friend who preferred not to be named says that he saw the viscount home, and he was damning everyone’s eyes and calling for more brandy. We warn all our readers against the excesses of heavy drinking, not merely for their good health but to avert more tragedies like this.”

“I’ll say he don’t want to be named,” said Caleb. “If he was too drunk to move his feet, or, as I surmise, dead, he wasn’t damning anyone. Well, we know who the friend is, then. And I’m cramped if I hope to get him.”
“Two ways of doing this,” said Jane. “Either let him know that you know, and hope he panics; or be entirely baffled, and hope he goes ahead with the attempt on Radcliffe.”
“I rather think he has to; it’s a matter of honour now, and he can’t duck out of a wager,” said Caleb. “However, I think by pretending ignorance, we have a better chance. Also I don’t think he rattles much, or easily; he lost his temper with Ashall, but I suspect once he had killed him, he planned the rest coolly. You have to be cool to drag out a dead man making jokes about how drunk he is. And he must be as strong as an ox too,” he added, meditatively.
“I agree,” said Jane. “However, the first thing to do is to write to Simon, and tell him that I have seen you, and that you are not about to die, he’ll get a shock if he reads it in the paper. Jackie will have to take it, and Fowler be without a messenger for a night.”
Caleb nodded soberly. He would not put it past his adoptive son and friends to borrow a vehicle and horses just to find out the truth.

Cecily had managed to talk to Fowler before the paper arrived, explaining that one of Caleb’s friends had said that he was not badly hurt; and, Cecily told Fowler, Mama was going to see to him.
“He won’t dare die with Mrs. Jane looking after him,” said Fowler. This got a watery smile from Cecily.
Fowler had to answer questions from old Mr. Radcliffe once the paper did come.
“Not knowing what the paper says, and having only had an incomplete report that my master was hurt in the line of duty, I cannot answer you, sir,” he said.
Radcliffe thrust the paper to him. Fowler’s normally perfectly controlled eyebrows rose considerably as he read.
“Gawd, I hope young Simon don’t worry when the papers get to the provinces,” he said. “No, Mrs. Jane, Lady Armitage I should say, will have written to him. You asked me if this was true, and if it’s what my master did, sir, I’d say it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s not only true but underplayed. I had word that he was hurt but not badly, a matter of an old war wound. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, he’ll have bled like a stuck pig if it opened right up, but it ain’t going to trouble him long term nowise, sir.”
“Good; he has gone to trouble on my behalf and I would hate to hear he was caused trouble through being without you. Are you wishful to rejoin him?”
“Whether I am or not isn’t material, sir. He asked me to guard you, and unless I get orders contrariwise from him or milady, I’ll carry on guarding you,” said Fowler. “Sir Caleb don’t pike on a job once it’s started, whether he has a ball in him a wound, or not. Not even on his wedding day when a wounded man turns up calling for sanctuary. Looked after the poor devil, he and Mrs. Jane did,” said Fowler.
“Well, well! Why was he really there?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Radcliffe, and I’m paid not to wonder if nobody tells me it is my business,” said Fowler, somewhat mendaciously, as he always wondered. Ashall was one who was a threat to his uncle, so likely there was some element of dubbing the cully’s mummer, thought Fowler. He had no intention of saying so out loud to a relative stranger, even by employing the polite language of saying it was to shut someone’s mouth.
Mr. Radcliffe looked disappointed. And he could, thought Fowler, stay that way. He was here to guard the old gager’s body, not entertain him.

Cecily managed to find her way to the house next door to where the fire had been, simply by asking people.
Caleb and Jane heard the chime of the door, a brief altercation, the butler declaring,
“Be off with you, you urchin .... Oy!” and the shout of,
“In here!” Caleb called, and Jane went to the door, and neatly moved herself between the small missile that was Cecily and the butler.
“I’d be obliged if you believed our daughter when she tells you who she is, another time,” said Jane, sweetly.
“But ... but she’s done up like a street boy!”
“Hardly,” said Jane. “She is wearing good, hardwearing nankeen breeches and cloth de Nimes for her jacket, as she is wearing her brother’s play clothes. He’s at school, and I have written to him, but hearing about her father this morning without seeing him has plainly upset her more than I realised. For goodness sake, man, shut your mouth, I know it’s too early in the season for catching flies, but I have no desire to look at your tonsils.”
The butler shut his mouth with a snap.
Lady Wetherby tripped down the stairs.
“Is there a problem?” she asked.
“Not at all,” said Jane. “Our daughter has come, she’s worried about her papa; you’ll excuse her borrowing her brother’s clothes, I’m sure, most inappropriate for a young girl to traverse the streets dressed in her own clothes, and the house is at sixes and sevens with no spare servants.”
“Of course, what a brave little girl! How old is she?”
“Eleven; a year younger than Simon, who is at school. My step-children, as my two oldest children are Caleb’s step-children, but it doesn’t matter.”
“It must be nice for them to mingle all together,” said Rohini.
“We think so,” said Jane. “Come and meet her.” Rohini followed her in. “Lady Wetherby, may I present my daughter, Cecily? Cecily, this is the lady who patched up your papa so well.”
Cecily flew to Rohini and hugged her; and made a friend on the spot.
“Goodness, Cissy, leave some of Lady Wetherby’s ribs intact after breaking all of mine!” said Caleb, laughing.
“She has done no such thing,” said Rohini. “Jane, do you stay, or will you go home?”
“I would like to go home, for there are the little ones,” said Jane, “But now Caleb is apprised of all I know, and I, of all that he knows, I can leave him, and just come to do his dressing in the morning, and pass any messages that need passing, until he is well enough to get back home.”
“Another night will see it, if I may impose on you, Lady Wetherby,” said Caleb. “I’m grateful, but there’s nothing like familiar surroundings. And I like to shave myself, too; army habit.”
“Ram Das said you were averse to his ministrations but were too polite to say so,” said Rohini. “Very well; you shall go home tomorrow if Jane brings you clothes to change into, as well as changing the dressing, and you will need to take out the stitches in eight to ten days, Jane. I am happy to come to do so, but I am sure you are able.”
“I will call on you if I find myself unequal to it,” said Jane.
“And I will prepare a jar of turmeric for you,” said Rohini.

Caleb sent Cecily running to Fowler to tell him that a new man might be expected to come for a job any time now; and told Jane to send Will to watch Ferrant’s house.
“I’d have liked all the boys on it, but Jackie’s away to Essex, and I want Daniel in the house watching over you all, with Fowler and me away from home,” he said. “If cully even suspects that I know, he won’t have any hesitation in going after you and the children to send me a message.”
“But Caleb, how foolish that would be. If he kills all that you hold dear, then you would have nothing to lose in just killing him; would he really want a desperate man after him?”
“You know that, Jane-girl, and I know that. But cully is lamentable cautious of his own skin, and I suspect he believes other people are as well, and so he will believe that in viciously killing a man’s family, that man will do anything to preserve his own skin. Because he would do so himself, not understanding the depth of feeling decent people may feel for each other. I doubt he could even conceive of the idea that if I lost my wife and children that I would no longer want to live, for I am sure he perceives any female as replaceable, and able to bring more children into the world. I have observed that to men who are willing to kill without giving a moment’s thought to it do not see others as of any importance at all.”
“Well, while he thinks you at death’s door, we are safe,” said Jane. “Dear me, I am tempted, having brought you home, to hire a pair of mutes so people think you are dead. It worked very nicely before, though of course you did not rank mutes then.”
“It ain’t such a bad idea,” said Caleb. “Only get a couple of Jackie’s mates and trick them out as mutes.”
Jane nodded.
“I will send Will to find me some before he goes to watch Ferrant, unless Jackie has made good time and has returned,” she said. “Indeed, I will have them at the door tonight if I might.”
“Not a half bad idea,” said Caleb. “I’ll ride out of here in a coffin if you will procure me one: Jackie can drill holes in it and afterwards we can either paint it to be Egyptian to go with that mournful decor in the vestibule, or we can put it away safe in case we have to use it again.”
“Men are such little boys, aren’t they, Mama?” said Cecily.
“I’m afraid so, my love,” said Jane.

Simon launched himself into Jane’s arms when she got back to the house.
“He would come, Mrs. Jane,” said Jackie, apologetically. “He told Mr. Sylvain to stay put.”
“Pa isn’t Sylvain’s pa,” said Simon, obscurely. “And I know he’s from the Channel Isles not France, but he can be a bit French at times. I like him fine well, but I didn’t want gloomy predictions, I wanted Jackie’s optimism.”
“Ain’t a lot wot’ll make the capting turn up his toes,” said Jackie.
“No, but other people don’t know that,” said Jane, crisply. “Will is to go and watch the house of one Hillborough Ferrant, and you, Jackie, when you’ve rested enough, are to procure me a large coffin and drill holes in it strategically, and line it with quilts so the Captain isn’t bounced about like a pea in a frying pan. We will need two more good soldiers decked out as mutes.”
Jackie nodded.
“I ain’t as good as Mr. Fowler, but you leave it to me. I know a couple of good Methody soldiers who can do as Friday-faces as you want. It’s acoss they ain’t allowed liquor,” he added. “And I’ve had a pasty off of Mrs. Ketch and a heavy wet, so I’m bowman for anything.”
“Where’s Ginger?” asked Simon.
“Cecily is in the clothes we got you for being a grocer’s boy, running messages for Fowler,” said Jane. “He’s waiting to stop a murderer.”
“I’ll go get changed and catch up with her,” said Simon. “Is the hobby horse which was delivered Pa’s? It’s famous!”
“It is indeed to your father’s design and no you’re not to play with it before he has a chance to do so,” said Jane, correctly interpreting the implications behind the question. “I hope someone returned Mr. Grey’s Draisine to him.”
“I could ride it to his house, where is it and where does he live?” asked Simon.
“You will not; you are not tall enough and you will have an accident. Pester your father about having one your size made if you’re that keen,” said Jane. “However, you may run an errand to Mr. Grey’s house telling him where his Draisine is, if you will permit me to pen it for you while you change. You look far too much the young lordling not to get rolled in the gutter by people like Ginger’s friends.”
Simon chuckled, and ran upstairs, with scarcely a limp these days now his short leg had strengthened for always wearing a built up sole.
By the time he was dressed in similar garb to Cecily’s, Jane had written a polite note to Mr. Grey, thanking him prettily on Caleb’s behalf, and asking him if he would mind collecting his vehicle from the area of Sir William’s house, where it had been put by the Bow Street officers. She hinted that Caleb was too badly injured to move, and that bad news might be forthcoming. Mr. Grey would cheerfully gossip to his circle. Simon might then find Cecily; it would be a pleasant surprise to her, Jane hoped.

Jane and the sins of society 22-24

Sarah WaldockMarch 15, 2018 07:30PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 22-24

KarenteaMarch 16, 2018 11:33PM

Re: on Jane and her growth

Sarah WaldockMarch 17, 2018 02:20PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 22-24

AlidaMarch 15, 2018 10:46PM

Re: I knew that cast list would be wanted!

Sarah WaldockMarch 16, 2018 03:53PM


Your Email:


Spam prevention:
Please, solve the mathematical question and enter the answer in the input field below. This is for blocking bots that try to post this form automatically.
Question: how much is 23 plus 5?