BJ Book 1 – Chapter 10 -A Birth

The morning after the debacle at the tavern, Amelia rose later than usual. She did not dress but threw on a robe and went downstairs for breakfast. She felt very depressed and extremely ashamed. She had totally ignored Ruddock’s warnings and by doing so had put both her’s and Roddock’s well being in danger. If the situation had turned out slightly differently she could have been raped. She had been very foolish and she put any thought of tracking down the felons who had attacked her Guardian totally out of her mind.  She felt so abject, that she could hardly stop a tear welling up into the corner of her eye. And to add injury to insult, she was still aching from the numerous slaps and rough handling she had experienced.

While she was picking at her breakfast in a desultory manner, she saw out of the corner of her eye, a man limp past the window and with a start realised that it was Ruddock. The doorbell rang and Mary came in to confirm that , yes, it was Ruddock at the door. telling her to keep Ruddock waiting a few minutes then show him up to her consulting room, she ran up stairs, washed her face briefly in the adjacent bathroom and sat down in her usual chair. She could hear Ruddock struggling upstairs and realised that once again she had made a mistake by not entertaining him in a ground floor room. When he limped through the door, she gasped. He looked a real mess. His face was battered and bruised, with cuts that had hardly begun to heal and he clearly limped from the bruises he had received in the fighting. She was so shocked, that without thinking she leaped up from her chair and hugged him “Oh you poor man” she said “Are you badly hurt? Is there any permanent injury?” He grimaced with the pain and she pulled back. “Here, come and sit in this chair and I will get you some refreshment” She moved him towards a chair and found a cushion to put on the seat, before she gently helped him to sit. She told Mary to bring two glasses and a bottle of brandy. When he had gulped down a glass and she had done the same, although with nothing like the same alacrity, they both began to relax a little. Unfortunately, Amelia was unused to brandy and the burning sensation in her throat resulted in her choking. This gave Ruddock the opportunity to launch into his speech, which he had been practicing since instructed to do so by his wife. He began “I am sorry. I should never have taken you into danger and I was unable to save you from being attacked. I know you will dismiss me, but I tell you that I will find the two criminals you are looking for and beat the truth out of them, so that you know what happened to the Major”. A recovered Amelia sprang to her feet, “Oh you strong, brave loyal man. It is I who should be saying sorry to you for overriding your advice thinking I knew better. I will not dismiss you. I have just been weak and emotional in the way that I said I never would, and you are right, we will go on together and track down the villains. But one thing at least will change. I will never again disguise myself in the costume of a woman, from now on, if I disguise myself it will be in the clothes of a man. In polite society, women are put on a pedestal, trapped in a corset and protected by a bustle from assault from the rear, but when she is married she becomes a chattel of her husband and nothing more than a baby machine. A common woman is given no respect at any time as I found out in a hard lesson, so in disguise I will appear as a man. Now Ruddock (who had been sitting quite startled at this turn of events, and who started at the mention of his name) take this shillings on account. I will double your salary to 12 shillings a week if you agree to stay with me (he nodded) Then, go home and rest for a couple of days and when you feel refreshed, come back and we will take up the investigation again and this time we will succeed”. Not actually coming to terms of his good luck, Ruddock mumbled his thanks and shuffled out of the room and down the stairs. After her amazing outburst, Amelia sank down into her chair, but firmly resisted the temptation to once again burst into tears. What would the Great Detective who himself was devoid of all emotion, have though of me? He would just have written me off as a typical silly woman. Well not any more. Not Amelia Ecclestone!

Once Amelia had settled down from her meeting, her mind turned to her friend Alice. She had not seen her for a couple of days and she knew that Alice’s baby was due quite soon. She had received no messages and she decided to visit her friend after lunch. On her way, she paid a visit to her dress maker. When she arrived at Alice’s house she found her spread out on a settee looking like a beached whale and rather unhappy. She brightened up when Amelia walked in. She noticed that Amelia was limping slightly and grimacing when she sat down. She demanded to know what had happened. Amelia described that she her and Ruddock had been in an altercation, but insisted that she was told how her friend was.  After a rather detailed description of the past few days, Alice revealed that the baby was due anytime now and that the doctor and nurse were on standby, but so far nothing of import had happened. Then she insisted that she be told the story and Amelia set off on a description of the previous night’s encounter. She described how she had dressed in the clothes that she had worn when they had gone on excursions together, without of course wearing the opera cape she had worn then. She became incensed again at how the ruffians treat women and said that, in future, if she were to wear a disguise then it would be as a man, else it would be no use. She would wear a man’s suit and Alice interrupted, “Do you mean the kind of costume worn by  male impersonators in the music halls?”

“That’s just what my dress maker said when I asked her about making me one, so I suppose it must be right, but I’ve never seen them on the Halls. Anyway, I intend also to wear a mask to cover my female features and a large cape to cover my female form, which so seems to excite men. I shall practice walking like a man and try to cultivate a deeper voice.”

“How exciting. But Amelia you are hiding from me just what happened last night. I want to know every detail”

“Well we dressed as I said and Ruddock and I took a carriage to the tavern where he had located the villains who had attacked my Guardian in such a cowardly fashion” and she went on to describe what happened when they entered the premises and subsequently what happened when Ruddock left her to seek out their prey.

“Surely you did not expect that removing your corset and wearing some poor ill-fitting clothes would hide your obvious good looks and nubile figure?” and Alice began to laugh. Amelia was chastened especially as she feel bad about the whole exercise anyway. When she reached the bit where here had Ruddock had been unceremoniously pitched into the mud and filth of the street, Alice started to laugh even more, with the inevitable consequence. The laugher turned to a scream as she went into labour. “Tell MacKenzie and send for the nurse and the doctor its started” she said though bouts of pain. Her husband quickly appeared and he, the maid and Amelia managed to get Alice upstairs and into her bed, with some difficulty and lots of screaming. When the nurse and doctor arrived Amelia asked “Would it be better if I went”. “Don’t you dare” was the screamed reply.  In India, young Amelia had witnessed a number of births of Indian children, but she had never been allowed to witness the birth of a child to an English mother, something Amelia thought quite peculiar at the time, but had kept the opinion to herself. She had thought that somehow the processes were different between Indian and European women, but she had realised later that there was no difference and she was quite relaxed to stay with her friend if she was wanted.  Alice had the usual symptoms of pain with intermittent quiet periods. The doctor decided that it was going to be an extended birth and Amelia and the nurse settle down to a long night. As she drifted in and out of sleep, Amelia went over how they had met and become lifelong friends. When she was brought over to England she was immediately put into a school for genteel ladies by her Guardian. Amelia had the dark skin of a child who had spent many hours in the sun, and that allied to a quite rebellious spirit, made her the target for the school bullies. She was punched and kicked and the girls called her terrible names and would not allow her to join in any of their activities. She was very unhappy. In addition she was unused to what she considered to be silly rules. In India during her early childhood the only rules that were applied were those to keep you safe; don’t drink river water, be careful of tigers and cobras. All other rules she considered ‘silly’.  This went on for her first few months and she began to despair and start to think seriously about running away. The only girl who did not join in the baiting was a very studious girl with glasses, called Alice, who kept herself to herself and always appeared to have her face in a book. Then one day, the bullies tiring of attacking Amelia turned to their vicious attentions onto Alice who almost immediately burst into tears. Amelia saw red. As soon as she saw the girls doing to Alice what they had been doing to her she launched into the attack and hit out with fists and feet until there was mayhem which brought the teacher Miss Till, who pulling Amelia out of the scrum started laying about her with her cane. The perpetrators roared their approval at the teachers actions, but Alice recovering herself, called on the teacher to stop and tried to explain what had really happened. There were jeers and denials from the bullies, but Alice’s intervention led to a quietening down of the situation and an instruction from the teacher for everyone to settle down. From that day on Amelia and Alice became firm friends; Alice welcomed the assertiveness of Amelia and she in her turn began to take much more notice of her school work. In fact, Amelia thought afterwards, she would never had gained the education she needed if it had not been for the encouragement of Alice. The night passed, with intermittent periods of painful activity, until just as a faint light began to appear in the sky, Alice became the proud mother of a beautiful baby boy. After the obligatory cleaning up, MacKenzie was allowed in and the two of them celebrated as new parents with their first child do. Amelia took her leave, and yawning profusely took a cab and travelled thorough the early morning lit back to Conaught Mews. She went into the house and straight to bed.

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