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Jane and the sins of society 25-27 end

March 18, 2018 02:16PM
Chapter 25

Jane was not expecting Mr. Grey and Mr. Montgomery to turn up on her doorstep, both in accord with each other not rivals, and awed by Caleb’s Draisine in the area, and horrified when a pair of mutes arrived.
“We wanted to give our respects and do what we could,” said Mr. Montgomery, soberly.
Jane made a fast decision.
“Gentlemen, you have become good friends,” she said. “My husband is not dead, as we are letting people think, because he wants to preserve his family from danger from the retribution of a dastardly murderer whom we cannot yet prove to be a killer. We are going to fake his death, and the mutes are soldiers lately from his own regiment, who have agreed to the uncomfortable imposture in order to keep the illusion of a house in mourning. However if you would also like to lend your presence to my house as a pair of good strong men, I’d not turn it down.”
“We’re both useful in a mill, Lady Armitage,” said Mr. Grey. “And I owe you greatly for helping me win the fairest girl in the world.”
“And I owe you for stopping attempts on my life,” said Mr. Montgomery. “Is that why you are in danger? Because it was this killer?”
“No, you may rest easy on that score, Mr. Montgomery,” said Jane. “I found out who had made the attempt, and it was all over a misunderstanding. You will have no more trouble.”
“That is good to hear,” said Mr. Montgomery. “Thank you for sorting it out! I am only glad it was not my brother. He is considering trying a Draisine with springs, you were quite right!”
“The world is Draisine mad, my son wants one made to size too,” sighed Jane, “And doubtless my daughter, who borrows his clothes, will want to ride too.”
“She sounds a corky lass,” ventured Mr. Grey.
“At eleven, she can still be permitted to be, so long as friends remain mumchance,” said Jane, tapping the side of her nose. “Only if you are staying, she is likely to surprise you by turning up dressed as a boy. Come and have a glass of wine and some cakes. It’s been a busy day.”

A shabby figure sidled down into the area, but gave a knock Mrs. Ketch recognised. Will had gathered up some helpers to watch and run errands, promising them good pay and food from Mrs. Ketch. Mrs. Ketch sent him up to see Jane while she made up a basket of food for Will and his troops.
“Name’s Chalky, missus, Chalky White,” said the soldier. “Will said as how it was bowman to tell you anyfink. Said ‘e’d as soon foller you as most officers.”
Jane gave a demure smile.
“I believe I could outdo any cavalry officer, anyway, not needing a horse to do my thinking for me,” she said.
Chalky gave a crack of laughter.
“Missus, any mort wiv half a brain could outdo them jackanapes,” he said. “But if Will rates yer, ma’am, I’ll trust ‘is word. Anywise, ‘e bid me tell you that cully the second ‘as returned to the coop, and set out again lookin’ like a fart-catcher. That’s a footman, ma’am.”
“Fortunately, Chalky, I am familiar with most vernacular and a lot of cant; you need not worry.”
“Cor, fanks, missus, that do make it easier not to have to watch me whids for flash all the time. I ain’t a criminal, mind, but when you grows up in certain places, talking flash come natural.”
“Indeed, and I have not suggested that I suspect you of frequenting flash kens, nor doing your work in the darkmans, with or without the aid of bessies,” said Jane.
“Cor, missus, that do sound queer comin’ out in a swell voice,” said Chalky. “Missus Ketch is gettin’ food for them of us as Will gathered, is that bowman?”
“It is entirely bowman, Chalky, and of course while you are in our employ, we will feed you,” said Jane. “I expect Mrs. Ketch will slice you some raised pies and put in some ham and pickles and some fruit. She is used to preparing baskets to keep the troops fed, as you might say.”
“That’s bene of you, missus,” said Chalky. “Will sent Curly and Pete to foller the footman cove, so Pete could say where he’d gone, and I could go join him to help out a Mr. Fowler if he needed it.”
“That was good thinking on Will’s part, and please tell him so,” said Jane. “Did Mrs. Ketch give you a drink?”
“Yes’m, fanks,” said Chalky.
He was relieved to be on his way, the finicky rooms of gentry morts made him nervous.

Simon found Cecily without any trouble.
“’Lo sis,” he said. “Or should I call you brother right now?”
“Please yourself if nobody’s listening,” said Cecily, nonchalantly. She flicked a stone near a sparrow which was sitting on the railing of the nearest area, chirping hopefully for food. The sparrow hopped one hop along the railing. It was used to being targeted by children and this one wasn’t even trying.
Simon gave her a narrow look.
“What’s eating you?” he asked.
“I dunno how you feel about me bein’ your sister, do I?” said Cecily.
“Well why do you think I’d write to Ma and Pa and tell them I wanted them to adopt you if I didn’t want you?” said Simon.
“You did?”
“’Course I did. You looked out for me. But I had a chance to survive another winter, and I took it, as well as liking Pa already. And you did have a Da, even if he weren’t much of one.”
“He got took up by the press,” said Cecily. “I like being a swell gentry mort, but some of it’s easier to stomach when I can be a kinchin as well.”
“Yes, I used to feel the same,” said Simon. “I like being a gentleman fine well though, now, but I’m glad I can still help Pa.”
Cecily nodded.
“I’ve been running messages for Fowler, I told them I was his son. I also whistle Lillibolero if I want him to take notice. Another time we can be street musicians when Toby can dance again.”
“He’s a nice dog and Nat likes him. I wasn’t sure about Nat at first, he was spoilt, but Ma don’t spoil him, and he’s a proper dog now, even if a bit small. He isn’t much of a gun dog though, and he has no idea how to retrieve a pheasant. D’you think Toby might learn?”
“Reckon Toby could learn ‘most anything,” said Cecily, loyally. “I wouldn’t like a spoilt pug, I don’t think.”
“He was fat, and puffed a lot and was a bit mean,” said Simon. “But he’s nice now, and his eyes can talk to you.”
“I like dogs,” said Cecily.
“Me too,” agreed Simon. “Game o’ marbles?”

The two strangers caught the eye of the two children. It was not their shabby clothes, although beggars might be expected to be given short shrift anywhere in the better neighbourhoods of London, it was their air of looking for somewhere in particular, and the fact that they stopped outside the Radcliffe residence.
“So how does we get to talk to this Fowler cully anywise?” asked one. The other shrugged. The one who spoke was a big, burly, bald man, with huge hands. The other was wiry, not short, but not over five foot six, with dark, shaggy hair and a brisk, nervous manner. You could never mistake him for anything but a Londoner.
Simon got up and went over as Cecily gathered up the marbles.
“You were looking for Mr. Fowler?” he asked, quietly.
“Get lost, brat,” snarled the big, bald man, pushing Simon. It was not a gentle push, but was designed to hurt. Because of his game leg, Simon fell, and Cecily flew at the man, hitting him with hard little fists, and screaming shrill abuse at him. He backhanded her and sent her flying.
By this time the row had alerted Fowler, and the younger Radcliffe, and both came running out of the house, took in the situation, and without need to confer, advanced one each towards the men. The fight was short, ugly and one-sided. Radcliffe boxed as did so many young men of his class, and Fowler and Caleb sparred together without Broughton’s rules to hamper them.
“What do we do with them?” asked Radcliffe, eyeing the bloody creatures lying on the cobbles. One had a broken nose which was flowing profusely, and the other had two black eyes already developing into all the colours of the rainbow, and was missing several teeth.
“Can’t leave them here,” said Fowler. “Might attract rats. Ain’t a clean death for a poor rat to chew on vermin like that.”
“They mentioned Fowler,” said Cecily.
None of them noticed the unassuming man in footman’s livery who had been approaching the house, and stood, just inside another house’s area, to observe.
“We’ll take them inside and I’ll interrogate them,” said Fowler. “You youngsters better come in; Pierce will give you a hot drink. Have they hurt you bad?”
“I’ve had worse falls,” said Simon, shrugging. “I know how to fall now. It was a cruel blow to my sister’s head.”
“My head is ringing like St Clement Danes,” said Cecily.
“Well, you sit quiet while Mr. Radcliffe and me find out what’s going on,” said Fowler.
“I’ll tell Pierce to make them chocolate,” said Radcliffe. “He knows, er, Cecily as your son, Fowler.” It was half a question.
“They’re Sir Caleb’s children, and Simon fresh out of school before the end of term,” said Fowler, disapproving.
“I got permission account of Pa being hurt,” said Simon. “I’m ahead of everyone anyway.”
“So you should be, bright lad like you,” said Fowler.
Radcliffe issued orders that Mr. Fowler’s sons were to be given hot chocolate, on account of foiling a couple of house breakers they had overheard plotting, and getting hurt for their pains. The children were made much of in the kitchen for that.
“I’ll get what I can out of this precious pair, and then you can run home to your ma,” said Fowler. He did not have to tell them to report. He and Radcliffe manhandled the men into a store room and tied them to chairs. They were groaning back into consciousness now. The one with the black eyes, who was bald, spat out another tooth.
“Right, what did you want to talk to me about?” asked Fowler, coldly. “I’m Fowler, and you have my undivided attention.”
“Whaddya hit us like vat for?” mumbled the bald man with a sore mouth.
“For hitting the children, of course,” said Fowler, scornfully.
“Oony brats, wassit to you?”
“Well, as they are my outside contact and Simon spoke to you about me, I should have thought that was bleedin’ obvious, cully,” said Fowler.
“Well ‘ow was we to know they wasn’t tryin’ to take a rise?” whined the other, rather nasally and with a few horrid bubbling noises.
“A sensible man would find out first,” said Fowler. “Who are you? Who sent you? What do you want?”
“Gawd, try an’ do a man a favour an’ he get violent over a pair o’ brats!” said the bald one. “Will sent us, to see if you needed ‘elp. ‘E’s working for some cove called Sir Caleb. I’m Curly; ‘e’s Pete.”
“And so you took it on yourselves to ignore the help I already had, and beat on children I love as dear as if they were my own,” sneered Fowler. “That’s the sort of help I can do without! I’ll pay you for the day and then you can get lost, and don’t go cozening round Will, him and me we understand each other. And if he finds out you hit Cecil and Simon, you’ll get more lumps out o’ him, Jackie and Daniel than you have from me, you understand?”
They did not really understand, Fowler could see; why anyone should care if children were beaten on was beyond their comprehension. Fowler suspected that Curly at least was the sort of man to go out of his way to kick cats, dogs and disabled beggars. He gave them a shilling each, and manhandled them roughly out of the door, past the children, having to smell the delicious smell of chocolate, and not have any, which Fowler considered fitting. If only Pete could smell anything but blood right now.
Fowler lurked in the area to see that they left.
It was then that he noticed the man dressed as a footman approach and question them; but fortunately, Curly was in too bad a mood to do anything but snarl, and advance threateningly on the man. The two ex-soldiers slouched off, painfully, and the footman set off with purposeful feet.
Fowler swore, and went back in to speak to both Messers Radcliffe.
“I think that our little altercation has scared off the assassin,” he said, without preamble. “I didn’t notice anyone in the street, but a man dressed as a footman, in livery enough like yours to pass muster, tried to talk to those precious pair. He got nothing, I think, but he went away. I’m guessing he’s now aware this house is a trap.”
“And that don’t mean we’re safe, does it?” said the older man. “After all, someone else had his house burned down.”
“He did,” said Fowler. “Which is why I ain’t leaving you nohow. But I’m sending those childer back home with a message to Lady Armitage to be very wary, and goodness knows, I’d rather be there than here, but I swore I’d protect you, and protect you I shall.”
“Sir Caleb must be quite a man to inspire such loyalty, and obedience.”
“He is, sir,” said Fowler. “And I’m glad my wife, Lady Armitage’s dresser, has a pistol and has learned how to use it.”
“Who are the children? Yours?” asked the old man.
“Sir Caleb’s,” said Fowler. “And his daughter as good a son as his son, bless her. Villains don’t respect the family of a Bow Street Officer, sir, so they prefer to be ready to fight back as best they might, by playacting as street children, to run errands and loiter to overhear things. Master Simon makes a most disreputable beggar brat,” he chuckled. “He helps his pa a lot. Mrs. Jane keeps a closer eye on Miss Cecily.”
“Good grief! I must find a way to thank them for helping you care for me, appropriate to their station; if they had been your children, or street children you had recruited, I would have given them money, but that’s an insult to young gentry.”
“They’d be pleased to be appreciated,” said Fowler. “They do it for their pa and for the sport.”
“Well, well, a book each, perhaps? Feeding young minds is always good.”
“If you wish, sir. Simon is starting Greek, so something inappropriate in Greek that his tutor won’t show him, perhaps? And ... I’d have suggested music for Miss Cecily, as she’s a talented girl, but Lady Armitage has most music. A book of Perrault’s fairy tales, perhaps?”
“Excellent, excellent!” James Radcliffe nodded. Fowler bowed, and took himself back down to the kitchen to brief the children in a low voice, and send them back to Jane with a warning.
“And if I was her, I’d get Sir Caleb into the house tonight,” said Fowler.

Chapter 26

Fortunately, Sir William and Rohini were not upset at a change of plans.
“My house has extra guards. I cannot help fearing that the desperate men we seek might choose to finish Caleb off if they think him alive,” she said. “I will risk harming his leg, as I know he will agree, to save violence towards you and your family.”
“I do agree,” said Caleb.
“We do not give in to threats,” said Sir William.
“You would if they were threatening to rape all your infant daughters if you did not give me up,” said Caleb. “Believe me, Jane and I know what such people can be like.”
Rohini paled.
“But you also have children!” she said.
“And servants trained with firearms,” said Caleb. Annie had been made to learn how to use a pistol in defence of her charges, and though she hated it, she had accepted it as necessary. Ella outwardly disapproved of practising with a pistol, but was actually quite glad to be able to defend herself!
“You had better take my gong as well,” said Sir William. “I will loan it to you. It is very loud, and we have not yet had occasion to use it, since Sir Caleb had already roused those on the top floor.” He sounded regretful. The gong was a grotesque thing, the actual gong a good three feet across, suspended between two carven figures with excess arms.
“Take it round later, in case someone is watching the house,” said Rohini.
“Ah, a good idea, my love,” said Sir William.
And Jane, noticing a figure across the street, watching, was not displeased to be removing a possible danger from the kindly couple. Jane waited until the Wetherbys had returned to the house, after the coffin was put into the carriage, to draw a long, shuddering breath, and say in a low, intense voice, which she thought the watcher would still manage to hear,
“Damn you to hell, you evil creature, for killing my husband.”
It was, she thought, more convincing than tears from a woman known to shoot highwaymen.

Caleb was pale by the time Jackie and Daniel lifted him out of the coffin.
“I can’t say I’m enamoured of the style of transport,” said Caleb. “Nice touch to have the hooves muffled on the horses.”
“Black plumes an’ all, Capting,” said Jackie. “All in the proper mode, you wouldn’t be ashamed o’ bein’ buried that way.”
“Jackie, I’d be ashamed of being buried any way at the moment, it would mean I’d let my family down,” said Caleb.
“Manner o’ speaking,” shrugged Jackie.
Caleb was thoroughly embraced by Simon as well as Cecily.
“I’ve seen you worse, Pa,” said Simon, critically, “But not a lot.”
“I’ve been worse,” said Caleb, “But you haven’t seen me that bad. I’m going to be a cripple for a while, but I’ve been there before, and I won’t get impatient.”
“Good,” said Jane. “We have Jackie and Daniel, and four funeral mutes who are no such thing. Dusty, Johnny, Charlie and Smitty are taking turns to be on guard outside, but the two who are resting are also available inside. They’re sleeping in the nursery on truckles, as guards to the children. Mr. Grey and Mr. Montgomery have taken up a position in the coal cellar, in case anyone comes through the coal chute. They consider it a lark.”
Caleb nodded, chuckling over the dispositions of the Draisine fanatics.
“’Struth, well, the young gentlemen aren’t hardly any older than Henry Redmayne, and I swear he’s as much of a schoolboy as Simon,” he said. “Good to have those off duty, as it were, on the watch in the nursery.”
“The funeral wands is shod with iron, too,” said Jackie. “No point givin’ men staffs if they ain’t staffs as what they can do a bit of good wiv, and you can’t see nuffin’ wiv all that black crepe all over them, nowise. Hide a multitude o’ sins wiv that you can.” He did not mention that the crepe hid a little more than iron-shod staves.
“So long as they won’t trip over the crepe wrapping on their top hats,” said Caleb, dubiously.
“They’ll ditch ‘em if they has to fight,” said Jackie.

Dusty and Johnny kept their eyes resolutely forward when the carriage drew up, and the gentleman followed by his man got out and came up the steps. It was too late for visiting, really, and anyone might see that the house lights were out. There was, however, the click of the lock, and the man and his valet went into the house.
Dusty looked at Johnny as the door shut.
“Like ‘e’s supposed to be ‘ere,” he said, softly. “So y’reckon ‘e’s one o’ the fambly?”
“Not ‘ardly,” said Johnny. “Look, there’s Chalky, dropping off of the back of their carriage.”
Chalky melted into the shadows to sidle up alongside the coachman, and hit him with an economy of motion with a small cudgel, which drew approving smiles to the two false mutes. He was stowed inside the carriage well trussed with his own muffler and neckcloth, and Chalky undid the horse from its traces and gave it a good slap on the rump.
Free from the confines of the harness, the horse did what any sensible horse will do on a drizzly March evening, and headed smartly for home.
Will came pelting round the corner at this point, along with the other watcher who had not been fired by Fowler, a youth known as Peewee for his small size.
“Bessies,” said Chalky.
The five of them slid quietly inside the door. Chalky and Peewee slid off towards the back door, at a hand signal from Will, Johnny headed down to the servants’ quarters, hefting the shotgun he had had strapped to his wand, and Will ran quietly upstairs. With a maniacal grin, Dusty picked up the striker for the huge gong loaned to the family by Sir William, and hit the three-foot bronze gong as hard as he could.
The sound reverberated through the house like the knell of doom, making the soldiers jump. There was no way the house would sleep through that!
“Cor!” said Dusty, impressed, as he readied his own shotgun.
“Loud,” said Jackie, coming out of the butler’s pantry. “Right, we got a pair of housebreakers trapped. The capting can’t pin murder on them, but if they’re dead, they can’t get off.”
There was the sound of pistol fire from above, and a rather falsetto scream.

Jane awakened at the sound of her bedroom door opening.
She slid her pistol out from underneath her pillow and under the bedclothes and sat up.
“Who’s there?” she asked, sharply.
“Someone who would rather not kill you, Lady Armitage,” said the voice of Hillborough Ferrant. “Too many deaths in one family get ... suspicious. However, children die all the time, and unless you promise me that you are going to keep your silence, my associate is going to smother one of your children. And believe me, he can get in any time to kill one at a time if you happen to forget.”
“Mr. Ferrant, I think you overestimate his chances,” said Jane. Quietly she shifted herself across the bed, and off it on the far side.
At that moment there was a loud bell-like detonation of sound. Jane used the masking reverberations to finish her move.
“What the devil?” Ferrant had jumped.
“How splendid, it works,” said Jane. Almost immediately she heard a quick bark, and then a pistol shot, and a thin, male falsetto scream. “Ah, I think your confederate has encountered my children’s nurse.”
“I’m going to kill you now, you bitch,” said Ferrant, lunging for the bed.
There was not much light from the sky through the window, but Ferrant had kindly placed himself between the window and Jane.
She shot him.
“What a mess you are going to make on my sheets, worse than birthing,” said Jane, with distaste. She found a tinderbox by feel, and lit a candle.
“Mrs. Jane!” Ella tore into the room, waving her own pistol.
“Ella, dear, cover Mr. Ferrant while I check if he’s alive or not,” said Jane.
“Jane-girl!” Caleb’s anguished voice called. He was sleeping in the dressing room, on a truckle behind a screen, with Ella to tend to any needs he was unable to fulfil on his own.
“I’m perfectly well, my dear, which is more than I can say of Mr. Ferrant,” said Jane. “I appear to have killed him. Lucky shot.”
“Mrs. Jane, you shot right through his neck,” said Ella.
“I was aiming for his chest,” said Jane, apologetically.
“Well don’t admit to that, Mrs. Jane,” said Ella, indignantly.
“It was dark,” murmured Jane. “I am going to the nursery.”
She lit another candle, and hurried upstairs. There was the sound of several babies wailing, Annie having hysterics, a pistol still in her hand, and the sobbing, gulping cries of a wounded man, clutching where his manhood had been before Annie, unable to bring the pistol up high, had shot him. Toby and Nat were growling at him, teeth in each wrist, and Cecily was kicking him. Simon had another pistol trained on him, and so did Charlie and Smitty.
“Ma, good, did you kill the other one?” said Simon.
“How did you know there were just two?” asked Jane.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was looking out of the window and saw the two of them come in, so I woke Cecily and Annie, and the men, and one of the murderers came up here real quick, before one of our men could sound the gong, and he laughed at her and said she wouldn’t shoot, and I didn’t think she would, only then there was the gong, and she did,” said Simon. “Annie’s got more pluck than I thought.”
Jane personally suspected that the gong had caused Annie to convulsively tighten her finger on the trigger, but she would praise the girl for her fortitude.
And for now she would give Annie into the care of her sister, and let Molly cuddle her while she went to Frances, Joseph and Susanna.
“Help me with the babies, Cecily; and you too, Simon, Charlie and Smitty may guard him well enough.”

Halliwell was the officer of Bow Street who was sent to make a report. Ferrant was found to have a knife in his hand, and had ripped the pillow with it. His valet, who looked enough like Ferrant to be a relative of some kind, died of blood loss by the time Halliwell had arrived. The coachman was a witness to their arrival, and the only one who would be tried for conspiracy to murder. Halliwell put in his report that he suspected that desperate criminals meant to silence Lady Armitage, believing her widowed, to get their hands on Sir Caleb’s Occurence Book. Sometimes, having no imagination was useful, but the good man sobbed with relief to learn that Caleb was not dead, and that it was a ruse to try to prevent an attack on him.
It never occurred to him that the mutes might be a ruse as well, to get more men in the house. And the extra mutes and Will’s recruits melted away below stairs, out of sight before Halliwell arrived.
There would be an inquest, of course; but it would be a matter of form.
Jane sent for Beau Popham first thing in the morning.
“Will you head the search of Ferrant’s house?” she said.
“Probably, it has been my own project,” said the Beau. “Why?”
“If he kept records, can you lose anything about a murder of a Mr. William Devlin?” said Jane. “Devlin used him to kill his father-in-law, and he was a most abusive husband to his wife, and was beginning to turn his cruelty onto her older daughter. I cannot think it does anyone any good to see her prosecuted for protecting her own life and that of her children, even if the law calls it murder.”
Popham nodded.
“Consider it done,” he said.
There were a large number of arrests made amongst impeccable seeming members of society. The charges would not, of course, stick; it could hardly be made illegal to make a bet, after all, such a thing would be unthinkable. But it meant that their names were published, and everyone knew who had arranged for those convenient accidents. The idea that they had misused gambling was almost as bad as if they had cheated at cards or dice. It was a kind of cheating, decreed the leaders of society. Those involved would never hold their heads up in society again.

Caleb received a substantial award from the Duke of Braxstrode, in the form of shares in the funds, since the duke knew that a gentleman would accept money quite happily if he was offered it in the right way. Caleb was much gratified, as he had not expected it, since Ashall had been killed. Braxstrode also wrote of his personal thanks for saving the lives of Ashall’s servants. The duke was finding the displaced servants positions in his household or with friends, and also sent his thanks to Sir William for his timely aid to the women, and offering the protection of his roof to the men servants too. The duke also wrote to Caleb that his duchess was blooming, but that he had no intention of naming their offspring, at the suggestion of his daughters, ‘Archibald, Bartholemew Charles David Edgar.’ Caleb laughed.
“Remind me, Jane-girl, to never permit any of our offspring have any say in naming children,” he chuckled.
“Considering that Simon named the barn cat’s kittens ‘Antigone’, ‘Ismenia’, ‘Nemo’ and ‘Philoctetes’, you may be sure that I will avoid doing so,” said Jane.

Chapter 27

Nothing was as easy as Jane hoped, of course.
They could scarcely leave town without royal permission, having once been commanded there, and the regent wanted, moreover, to meet the boy Simon, who had featured in anecdotes told by Beau Popham, and his gallant sister.
“I can’t meet a royal prince, I don’t talk swell whids enough!” wailed Cecily, when Caleb read out an invitation to breakfast at Carleton House with his excellent son and daughter as well as his wife, of course, when his wound was sufficiently healed to permit this.
“Just smile a lot, with your mouth closed, and say ‘yes, your highness,’ or ‘no, your highness,’” said Caleb. “He’ll assume you are shy and tongue-tied, which is the way most young girls would be, so he won’t wonder at it.”
Breakfast at Carleton House was at an hour Jane would have designated as late luncheon, almost afternoon tea, but then, the upper ten thousand lived their lives to a different reckoning of time to most of the regent’s subjects. Simon regarded the house with disfavour while they sat in a reception room waiting.
“Draughty, and looks like a brothel,” he muttered.
“Hush,” said Caleb. “And I don’t want to know how you think you know what that looks like.”
When ushered into the royal presence they made such courtesies as were appropriate; a bow which owed more to military efficiency than courtly elegance from Caleb, a curtsey which was a thing of exquisite grace from Jane, a bow with an entirely unnecessary flourish to it from Simon, and a rather schoolgirlish bob from Cecily, mostly hidden behind Jane’s skirts to disguise her deficiencies in the matter.
“Ha, splendid,” said the prince. He was sharing breakfast with his brother Frederick, the Duke of York, who waved a cheerful acknowledgement whilst rising for ladies, as of course did the regent. They were seated and Prince George turned to Simon.
“Hear you’re torn between the bar and the more profitable legal larceny of being a solicitor?” he said.
“The Beau has ratted me up, sir,” said Simon. “I am torn, because there’s enough of the showman in me to feel drawn to posturing in court.”
“Young shaver!” laughed Prince Frederick.
“You ain’t got plans to be Prime Minister, then?” asked the regent.
“No, sir, I have my pride,” said Simon. “I don’t have a long enough spoon to go into politics.”
The regent gave a shout of laughter.
“Oh, my dear boy, I am glad to have a loyal subject with so much integrity,” he said. “I beg you to satisfy my curiosity, how is it that you have a droop to the side of your face? If it is impertinent, I will withdraw the question.”
“Oh, it is no secret, sir, I was born lopsided. It’s thought that I suffered a seizure in the womb, and it left me damaged on one side. But I can ride, and fish, and fire a gun if I have an arm brace on my weak arm, so what more does a gentleman need? Other than an illegible hand with which to plague his tutor.”
The regent laughed again.
“Very droll, very droll. I am sure you are a good scholar.”
“Well, sir, I am twelve, and I am covering everything I would need to enter Oxford in September, as my friend Gregory is sixteen, and I keep up with him. But Henry, my tutor, says that I may be ready for Oxford, but Oxford is not ready for me. He feels I need a few years to become distracted by women so I spend less of my time and energy devising pranks and japes to entertain the dons.”
“Sounds a wise man,” said York.
“Undoubtedly,” laughed the regent. “And Miss Cecily Armitage. Funny, I’ve only seen that shade of hair before on the Earl of Strathbreckon.”
“Cecily is adopted, your highness,” said Caleb. “Her mother was a maidservant, and I knew her father was a gentleman who did not take ‘no’ for an answer. I was hoping to discover her father one day and explain to him the duties of a gentleman to his dependants, as he appeared to have the rapacity normally found only outside Covent Garden.”
“I will be speaking to him about his responsibilities,” said the regent. “A mutually agreeable arrangement is one thing, violation is another.”
“Thank you, your highness,” said Caleb.
“Now I hear you’re my byblow,” said York.
Caleb almost choked on his coffee.
“I have never claimed so, sir,” he said. “But I also have to confess not having denied it too hard when it got gentlefolk to be civil enough to answer questions.”
“How did the rumour start? I’m interested, don’t be afraid to speak up.”
Caleb looked at Jane.
“How did it start?” he asked.
“It was in Highbury, my aunt Hetty said that you were every inch the gentleman and one might take you for the son of anyone of distinction. Mrs. Cole took that and declared to all and sundry that you were definitely the son of Somebody, and with such a noble and military air, someone like the Duke of York no less. And we weren’t going to refute it in front of Mrs. Elton, who is a nasty-tongued, nasty minded woman, your grace, who has nothing but malice in her, as well I know from the time I have lived in Highbury. She is a woman who drops sly hint and innuendo, and makes up out of whole cloth a scandal from a chance meeting.”
The duke nodded.
“You need say no more; there are plenty of those at court, too. Should be drowned at birth, if you only knew which ones to drown.”
“The next bit was Fowler’s and Henry’s and my fault. Faults? Is that singular or plural, Ma?” asked Simon.
“Fault, for ‘the next bit’ is singular,” said Jane.
“By Jove, you’d have caught me out,” said the regent. “Go on, young Simon.”
“Well, sir, we dropped a lot of hints, or rather, used misdirection, like mentioning that Pa didn’t rely on influence in the army, along with pointing out that the royal dukes have too many sons to take a personal interest in all of them, and things like that,” said Simon. “Mostly it was to irritate that Elton female, but it did really come in useful, you should have seen the way sneers and scowls turned to sudden sycophantic fawning, it was perfectly sickening, but then, if it got the job done, it did what it was supposed to do.”
“Well, I never, I feel a bit like a voucher to Almack’s,” said York.
“I’d have been proud if you had been my father, for I’ve followed your career with interest,” said Caleb, “But I am also proud of my own father, who was a poor man, yet he took on my mother when she was with child, being in a similar situation to Cecily’s mother, except that Sukey’s, that’s my sister’s, brother is trying to track down all his family. I’ve a lot of respect for Wulcombe.”
“Felix Lovell, Earl Wulcombe?” asked the regent.
“Yes, sir. A good man and a good friend,” said Caleb. “He said he wished he might have shaken my father, my sister’s stepfather as you might say, by the hand for raising her to be a good woman. I am proud of my father and I’m not ashamed to say so.”
“Sir Caleb, I’ve more respect for you for admitting your pride in your father, and in telling me you have made use of me outrageously,” said the Duke of York. “My brother and I have put our heads together, and we wanted to thank you for your stepping aside to deal with this little problem, which may not have been a Jacobite plot, but proving it was not a Jacobite plot is as valuable as foiling one. We would like you to accept a small stipend, which I have asked Parliament to grant you in my name from my civil income. Now, I’m not acknowledging you any more than you’ve acknowledged me, but word will drift down, and I have to say, I’m not ashamed to have a clever, resourceful and courageous man like yourself misnamed as my son. So we shall misdirect and enjoy it without a single acknowledgement, hmm?”
“Thank you, sir; you are more than generous.”
“You haven’t asked how much it is.”
“To tacitly accept the false rumour is generous, sir, were it a stipend of a guinea a year.”
“By Jove, you are a gentleman worthy of being born of any royal prince,” said York.
Jane privately thought that Caleb was more of a gentleman than any of the royal princes or their offspring, but it would be most impolitic to say so, so she just smiled.
“So, you’ve followed my career, and you were at Corunna; 1809 was not a good year for either of us, hmm?” said the duke.
“No, sir, and all of us cursed that woman and her rapacity for forcing you to resign, and being so corrupt, we were all impressed by the reforms you were bringing in,” said Caleb. “I for one was glad to see the scandal die down so you could get back to it. And I’d like to see a training establishment for officers of Bow Street based on your training academy for officers of the army, which will teach good deductive methods based on facts, how to question suspects for the best effect, and how to fight bare-handed against weapons as well as teaching marksmanship, and how to act in groups against mobs. Bow Street is a shambles, sir, and if you ask me, because of the scandals attached, needs to be swept away entirely, and replaced with a new entity, to remove the stigma of the corruption which is still attached to it. I don’t much like people assuming I’ve made my way up in the world by taking bribes.”
“No, I can quite understand that,” said the Duke. “You’d like to see the officers of Bow Street more like soldiers?”
Caleb frowned in thought.
“No, sir, not exactly. That would be putting his majesty’s troops against his majesty’s people, and that would be wrong. But I’d like to see them trained to the level of precision any of his majesty’s troops have, knowing their jobs, using training as second nature. I’ve trained my men to do things like learn the lie of the land so they can get around an area they’ve visited blindfold, or in the dark; and to glance around a room and meticulously list everything they have seen there in detail. Sometimes you come upon a crime, and for some reason when you have a proper chance to examine it, things have been moved. Drawing a crime scene is also useful. My wife does this for me, and it’s very useful to look over after a body has been moved.”
“A lady of much fortitude, by Jupiter!” declared the regent.
“I do not like dead bodies, your highness, but to bring justice to them, I will tolerate their unpleasantness so the bloodied lips which are their gaping wounds might speak for them,” said Jane.
“Julius Caesar, Shakespeare,” said the regent.
“A trifle mangled, I fear, but yes, sir,” said Jane.
The Duke of York was nodding.
“I hope that you may get your wish, Sir Caleb,” he said. “Alas, such matters are not in our hands, but with Parliament. But I will speak to such men as have both influence and an interest in the justice system,” he said.
“That I appreciate most kindly,” said Caleb.
The duke laughed.
“More than the money, I do believe!”
“Why, sir, I know how to live frugally, but I cannot bring back the lives of my colleagues killed for the want of training,” said Caleb, soberly.
The duke nodded, gravely.
“A soldier always regrets lives lost that should not have been,” he said. “I am glad that you made the leap which preserved your life, even at the expense of opening an old wound. Was it truly seven feet?”
“Nearer five foot six,” said Caleb. “But it’s remarkable what the human body will do when the pit of hell is opening up underneath you. I really don’t remember much about it and I had hysterics like a little girl afterwards.”
“Ay, but it was afterwards,” said York. “Most people try to hide that they are having hysterics beforehand, and fail to act because of it.”
“If Sir William Wetherby had known, he would have done as much,” said Caleb, “But I did not know him then, nor have the measure of him.”
“A man to keep an eye on,” smiled the Duke. “I trust that a thousand pounds a year is not too meagre?”
“It’s beyond generous,” said Caleb.
“Don’t tell him that, he might bargain you down,” laughed the regent.
“I want to be sure that a man who can catch traitors is not wanting, so that you can drop any lesser task for the Crown’s needs,” said York. “I was right next to that infernal device, and I appreciate being still alive.”
Caleb bowed his upper body.
“That, sir, I can understand well,” he said. “I am always at the disposal of the Crown.”
“Thank you,” said Jane.
“I think you are very nice!” said Cecily, giving the duke a kiss on the cheek.
“Now that has made my day!” said York.


Jane and the sins of society 25-27 end

Sarah WaldockMarch 18, 2018 02:16PM

Re: looks as though the 3 in one format is popular!

Sarah WaldockMarch 20, 2018 12:50PM

Huzzah! Huzzah!

ConnieRMarch 19, 2018 08:57PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 25-27 end

NickiMarch 19, 2018 12:39PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 25-27 end

VesperMarch 19, 2018 12:14PM

Re: Jane and the sins of society 25-27 end

KarenteaMarch 19, 2018 01:19AM


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