BI Book 1 – Chapter 9 – Some progress

The following morning Cousin Rupert called as arranged. He was dressed in a smart morning coat and matching gloves and for the first time since she lost her Guardians, Amelia noticed that he was quiet a good looking young man with excellent manners. For some girls, his lifestyle could be seen as ‘daringly attractive’, with his membership of dubious clubs, his gambling, his drinking and his unmentionable ‘other activities’.  He was in a good mood, having won a considerable sum the night before at cards, so he had no need to ask Amelia for a loan (he had not paid back the previous one) and was able to relax and show his charming side to her.  He shared with her some of his recent exploits, including his success with the cards and Amelia mentioned that perhaps he should use some of his winnings to pay some of his debts, referring to his landlady to whom he owed a considerable amount. As far as he was concerned, that would be throwing money away as if he were to be thrown out for none payment of rent, he would just go home for a period and tolerate the strictures of his parents and elder brothers.

After a period of drinking coffee and this general discussion, which consisted almost exclusively of  his own exploits, he turned the conversation round to what Amelia had been doing with regard to her investigation into the deaths of her Guardians. She was aware that he was unhappy about her pursuing the matter, so she told  him only of the negative response she had received from Scotland Yard and the disappointment of not being able to persuade Dr Watson to assist. She did not go on to mention that she had hired Ruddock. If Ruddock found nothing then that would be the end of her investigation so there was no point in causing an unnecessary argument. He seemed pleased and relieved at her story and repeated  the opinion he had put forward before, namely, that she should leave any investigation in the capable hands of the police.  Rupert continued to be pleasing in his conversation, but said nothing more of import and soon afterwards took his leave. Like his previous visits to her, except when he asked for money, Amelia was at a loss as to why he had come and the only thing she could think of was that he was just being polite. Although he was charming on occasion, he had never actually given her the impression of wanting to press his suit with her.

In the afternoon of the same day, Samuel Cooper called. He had been trying to find out what had happened to Major Hawthorn’s luggage and he reported that he had met with some success. The ship bringing the bulk of the Regiments luggage had been held up even longer that Samuel’s had, but he had finally located that the cargo had been unloaded in Portsmouth and was now in Shaw’s Depository, a dockside warehouse.  It would be necessary for Amelia to travel to Portsmouth to claim it herself and he had ascertained that she would need proof from a lawyer that she was indeed the Major’s heir, before she could reclaim it as her’s.  She thanked Samuel for his efforts and invited him to stay for tea which he agreed to do expressing his thanks to her for her kindness.  Amelia thought how lucky she was to have two eligible bachelors visit her on the same day.  After he had left, her thoughts turned to what she might discover in her late Guardian’s luggage and what she might do with what she found. She also thought with a small thrill that perhaps Ruddock would come to her on the morrow with news that he had found the ruffians who had attacked and killed the Major.

Amelia visited Alice in the evening. Alice finally had to admit that she was no longer able to go out walking and he two of them talked. Amelia described her two visitors and Alice teased her about which one she would choose to marry, fully aware that her friend was adamant that she would not marry and thereby give up her freedom and her wealth to a husband she knew very little about. In any case although both men were attractive each in his own way, she did not feel herself falling in love with either, but then she knew nothing of love herself, only at second hand from what she had read in books and of course the experience of her friend “Perhaps” she said “I may think about getting married, if I ever have the feelings towards any man that you have for Mckenzie and are sure that he has the same feelings towards me, that Mckenzie has for you” Following more conversations covering mainly love and the effect on the Worcester household of a baby in the house, Amelia gave her good wishes to Alice and returned home.

The morning of the following day passed slowly for Amelia, Ruddock did not come and she began to think that he had found out nothing and was unwilling to come to her and admit it. However, looking out of her window soon after lunch, she spotted him coming along the road, with a slightly unsteady gait and looking quite a bit worse for wear. Clearly he had been drinking, but it was also clear from the expression on his face that he was quite pleased with himself and she became quite agitated to get his news out of him.  Having sat him down and supplied him with a flagon of ale, she demanded to know his news. He took his time replying; yes he had tracked down two men, who it was alleged by people in the know, had attacked Major Hawthorn. They were among the tavern low life who eked out a living by robbing vulnerable people in the street and whose lives were interspersed with sessions in jail, when a particular robbery could be pinned on them by the police. Sometimes the police got the right men for the right crime, but in general the police nailed who they could for what they could but on balance the number of crimes committed far outweighed the number solved, the problem being, from the point of view of the police, the magistrates, who from time to time demanded evidence that the felon in front of them had committed the crime of which he was alleged. Ruddock had had to be very careful in his enquiries. The instance of Major Hawthorn was very unusual in that he had ended up dead, and felons for all their ruthlessness had an aversion to the thought of a hangman’s noose. In her excitement in finding this, admittedly slender, lead it being the first in her investigation which could lead somewhere, Amelia insisted that this very day they should confront these men. Ruddock became very nervous. He was sure that this was not a good idea. He expressed his concern that he would be unable to protect a lady of her standing in Society in the haunts frequented by the robbers. She would be ridiculed, insulted, fondled and perhaps even attacked and robbed. She would be treated with suspicion from the start and there no way that she would be able to engage the men in conversation to ask the questions to which she needed the answers.  But she had already worked out that to enter such a place she would have to adopt a disguise of some sort, and the clothes she had worn when out with Alice would suit admirably. She described what she had in mind to Ruddock and although he continued to protest the danger, she was adamant and he being in the position of someone newly in post which he wished to keep, finally stopped his protests. The robbers frequented a pub in run down part of town, and Ruddock explained that they would probably be out looking for victims late in the evening, so that if they were to find them, they should go after dark, but not too late, and a time was arranged for Ruddock to return and a carriage be available to take them to the tavern in question. In great excitement and with great relief, Amelia shed her corset and put on the rough and ill fitting blouse and skirt she had used before. An old shawl and a scruffy mop cap completed the outfit and she was ready for action.

They stopped the carriage some distance from the tavern and walked the short distance through the dark and filthy streets. Ruddock pushed open the door and they entered. The cacophony of sound which greeted them threw Amelia back on her heels. The place was packed and everywhere, men were drinking, shouting and pushing their way through the crowd.   Hardly had she got into the room when she felt a sharp pain in her bottom. She spun round to find a swarthy with rotten teeth and terrible breath leering at her. She protested but he took no notice and reached out for her breast. Amelia screamed and turned round to follow Ruddock who was quite a distance away. He muscled his way to a vacant bench behind a table, covered in empty beer mugs and running with ale. Very quickly her clothes had absorbed some of the liquid and she was already beginning to smell like a bar maid. Ruddock signalled to a passing bar maid, one of the very few women in the place, Amelia noticed, and she went off to fulfil the order, clearly transmitted to her wordlessly. Amelia had time to relax a bit and take in her surroundings. The variation in the men who were there was huge and the thought crossed her mind that her hero, Sherlock Holmes, would have enjoyed discerning the lives of every single one of them. She tried to shout to Ruddock above the noise, but he indicated he could not hear her. He drew her close to him and said very quietly “If you speak into my ear, you will not need to shout and I will hear you clearly”. She pulled back and smiled at him, then leaned to his ear and said “Have you seen the felons we have come to interview?” He shook his head. “After I have had my ale I will go and look for them.” The two flagons of ale arrived the contents liberally sloshing over the table, and they drank. Amelia had never drunk ale before except for a taste when she was a child. It was warm and bit the back of her throat as she poured it down. Ruddock drank down three quarters of his ale in a single draught, smiled at his companion and set off into the crowd on his mission. Following his progress from her seat, Amelia did not notice another man slide onto the bench next to her and the first thing she was aware of, was a hand sliding across her thigh. Instinctively she put down her own hand to prevent this intrusion, but the man grabbed her other hand, pulled it down to the one on her thigh and held the two tightly in a single grasp. She was powerless to stop his spare hand from caressing her and then she felt him begin to pull up her skirt. She let out a piercing scream, which was loud enough to attract the amused attention of a few of the men nearest the table. The man assaulting her leaned forward, leering into her face, attempting to kiss her and she saw her chance. She bared her teeth and bi him in the face as hard as she could. He screamed, and let go her hands, she pulled herself free and attempted to get up from the bench and round the end of the table, much to the amusement of the bystanders, more of whom were being attracted by the fracas. She had got halfway to her feet when he reached out in anger, grabbed her skirt and pulled hard. There was a tearing sound as the material tore, revealing her underskirt, and through her torn petticoat, her drawers. The watching crown roared their approval and the nearest man grabbed at her free hand. Amelia’s emotions were crashing from anger to fear and back again, and she screamed at the top of her voice. She was really frightened and her only thought was to get away, but there was no chance. She was trapped between the first man who had assaulted her and the second. The crowd was beginning to increase in number and there was much ribaldry going on. It was a scene that the hostelry witnessed from time to time and was always greatly enjoyed by the patrons. any woman who entered the place was fair game, even more so if she had been deserted by her protector. One man was still pulling at her skirts, threatening to pull it and her petticoat off completely and he was being urged on by the crowd.  But the focus of the widening crowd had caught the attention of Ruddock, who became aware of the commotion from half way across the room, and he endeavored to rush back. He was impeded by the crowd so that just as he arrived close enough to assist Amelia, she finally parted company with her skirts altogether. The crowd roared their approval, the man held his trophy aloft in triumph, but she was free. Ruddock laid into the man holding onto Amelia’s other arm, some of the crowd decided that he was spoiling their amusement and laid into him, then the whole thing descended into a melee and a general fight. Amelia was struggling hard to get away, in the vain hope of getting towards the door, but there were fights going on all around her and Ruddock could not be seem. Rescue came in the form of the tavern landlord and his ‘heavies’ much used to this type of disturbance and laying about themselves with sticks. They eventually reached Ruddock at the base of a scrum, and grabbing him and Amelia dragged them both to the door. With a heave they were both pitched out into the street, with a ‘don’t come back here again, you’re barred’ following them into the mud and filth of the street.

Rather gingerly, a dirty, disheveled Amelia, missing her skirts stood up, and turned to Ruddock who was trying to get up himself and moaning in anguish. His face was battered and bruised, he had a black eye and a split lip. She gave him her arm and the two of them, much the worse for wear, staggered towards their cab. There was a small amount of relief on Amelia’s part, that the area of town they were in was unlikely to be frequented by anyone who knew her; such was the depth of her immersion in Society. They arrived at Conaught Mews, and with a word of apology, she wished Ruddock good night and ran embarrassed into the house.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s