BE Book 1 – Chapter 5 – The Next Steps

The following morning, while Amelia was getting ready to visit the confined Alice, Rupert arrived at the door. Mary showed him in and was offered so tea and refreshments which he accepted. He seemed a little nervous, but after the exchange of a few pleasantries, Amelia launched into a description of her meeting with Samuel Cooper. Rupert listened in silence and after a short pause said “Amelia I don’t think that you should give any consideration at all to investigating the death of your Guardians. Co-incidences do happen you know that, and anything you discover will only add to and extend the heartache you have suffered.  Perhaps though you should think if following up what has happened to the major’s luggage. There may be items of value and more especially, items with great sentimental value for you.  However, I hope you don’t mind me changing the subject but I have come to you regarding a quite serious matter of my own. I borrowed some money off a friend and have every intention of paying it back, but he has fallen into a financial crisis and demands that I pay him back immediately, which I am unable to do. Can you see your way to helping me please. if you can, rest assured that I will pay you back from my next allowance.” Amelia went to the cabinet in her study, unlocked a small drawer and took out £20. “Is this enough?” “Oh that is far too much” he replied “But if you don’t mind I will take it to cover other of my debts. I will definitely pay you back all that you lend me. Thank you so much” and he kissed Amelia on the cheek. He finished his tea and refreshments and left. Amelia completed her preparations for going out, and entered the carriage that Joseph had called and set off for Alice’s house.

When she arrived, full of the story of the visit of Subaltern Samuel Cooper, she was brought up short by the sight of Alice in her night clothes with a housecoat over the top. “Are you ill?” Amelia demanded. “Only a little” Alice replied “I had a slight cold and Dr Pennington advised that I start my ‘confinement’ immediately for the protection of both the baby and myself. I’m sure that this is unecessary, but McKenzie, bless him, insisted. Much as he wants a child he said, he does not want to lose the loveliest wife in the world, and you can’t really argue against that sentiment can you?” Then looking down to her clothes she continued “Ah. Did you think that I was ill because I was in my nightdress? Well, I realised that although I will probably be totally frustrated by not being allowed out, the relief at not having to wear a corset is amazing, but as it happens, I don’t really have anything to wear, which does not need a corset. I shall have to find something and now I’m beginning to understand what confinement is all about, because there is no way I can go out in Society without my corset.” Amelia allowed her imagination to run on a little. What would a woman wear out if she was not properly structured underneath and she realised that she herself had nothing fashionable that would not require a corset?

They both sat down to tea and Amelia launched into her story of yesterday’s visit. Alice signaled agreement with Amelia’s distress, without interrupting the flow of the story. When Amelia had finished Alice said “What an inconsiderate young man. You were right to take him to task for his boorish behaviour. Were you frightened at his agresssive attitude?”. “I was a little, but I was more surprised at his ill-mannered behaviour.  I do not understand what was the reason for his agression.” “I have no idea, but did you realise that he did set you a challenge? Obviously, you missed it at the time, but a year or two ago, you would have been mortally offended if someone had suggested that you hired a private detective. You were so keen to follow in the footsteps  of Mr Sherlock Holmes that you would have undertaken this investigation yourself, even if” she went on seeing the reaction on Amelia’s face “you were convinced that the deaths so close together, were a co-incidence. The Great Detective would have confirmed that for himself and not jumped to any simple conclusion.” Alice had not taken on board the old saying ‘If you are in a hole, stop digging’ and she realised that her speech had roused Amelia to the same level of indignation she must have felt in the original interview. Saying ‘sorry’ would only have made matters worse and she shut up, covering herself by stirring the remains of the tea and pouring another cup for herself and Amelia. Alice looked at her friend in supplication, and Amelia slowly began to unwind. Then a rather naughty look came across her face “To return what you were saying earlier about being frustrated if you cannot go out, I have an idea. Perhaps we can find garments to wear which do not need a corset underneath. Just think of those working class women who never do. Their clothes are loose fitting and we could find some which would be comfortable for you even in your state.” Alice grimaced. She realised that Amelia was getting her own back and decided she would have to take it but she protested “I could never be seen out dressed like that” “Ah but wait, we could find some of our things which with a little adjustment would suffice. We would still look smart without being in the height of fashion. We could go out in the evenings, when the light is fading and we would not be noticed at all.” “Are you offering to do the same and accompany me on these evening jaunts?” “Oh yes” responded Amelia “of course. it would be quite exciting to go out in disguise. I have a selection of evening capes large enough to envelope the largest evening dress and with hoods to hide our faces. Go on I dare you!” “But McKenzie would never allow it.”  “If you told him how staying in the house for the remaining months before the baby is born would drive you to madness, I’m sure he would relent. Remind him that spiritual health is as important as physical help when it comes to bringing up a child. I’m sure a smile will see you get your own way, and if all else fails, tears will do the trick” “You absolute devil” said Alice with a laugh. They both laughed, peace was restored, the friends were friends again and Amelia took her leave in a better mood than she had at one moment thought would be possible.

On her way home, here mind strayed to what Alice had said about investigating what had happened. The two deaths had happened over 3 months ago, and in detective parlance, the trail was probably cold. But she remembered the rows of papers by Dr Watson and the papers and monographs produced by the man himself. Holmes had been missing for many months and just recently it had been reported in press that he had been confirmed dead. Tears welled up as she thought of both of her Guardians lying cold in their grave. but as she sniffled back the tears and wiped her nose (she was relieved that she was inside the coach and her grief could not be seen.) she thought, had Cooper had a point. Wasn’t there a responsibility on their Ward to obtain justice for them? And as Alice had said, she should not reach the conclusion that it was a coincidence if she had not actually carried out at least a basic investigation, and there were dozens of papers on her shelves to assist her. She was sure that once she got back to reading her memory would return. She had read everything Holmesian time and time again. By the time she reached home she had resolved to carry out an investigation. It would be a measure of her resolve and maturity to follow it through and face up to whatever results she came up with. She would visit Dr Pennington and Scotland Yard, and then she thought, I could perhaps in the absence of Sherlock Holmes, go and see Dr Watson. I’m sure he will be sympathetic when he hears my story and he may even offer to help.

 

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