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Chapter Twelve

Of a revelation



The scene, dear reader, was one of chaos. The audience assembled within the stalls readily watched the play unfold, yet it did not pay over much attention to the quality of acting, nor even to the story. It was almost entirely given over to discussion and flirtation. This is the way of it at the theatre.

For a while, I could not see Bozzy and believed him to have left the building. I had all but given up on my plan, when I spied him talking to a young wench. I observed them for a moment, noticing the way that Bozzy looked young of face, yet his body was portly, no doubt due to overindulgence in both food and drink. As I approached, snatches of their conversation came to my ears. He had a soft Scottish brogue, not over-pronounced and pleasing to the ear, yet his words were vulgar in the extreme. I could not believe that this was the man who wielded such a lyrical pen. The wench laughed at him as he whispered something (doubtless crude) in her ear. It was then that she noticed my presence. Indeed it was hard not to miss me, for the tide of humankind had parted to admit me and stood now in attendance. Bozzy twitched with obvious delight and indicated for the girl to depart. She gave me a backward sneer and spat on the floor. I thought her something of a fusty luggs. 

Bozzy, stood, offered his hand to assist me to the seat next to his and, when I took the same, kissed mine with moistened lips. I readied myself for an onslaught of profanity. None came. 

Instead he uttered: “My dear. Have I had the pleasure of your acquaintance before? Perhaps on the Strand, or in Soho? No, don’t tell me, I’ll remember in time.” 

He pondered. I noticed his shirt cuffs were stained with ink. I was reminded of Westman’s fingers. They too bore the marks of a man of letters. 

“You are Fanny? Or Betty?” He looked hopeful. 

I thought him stupid, for all his education.

“I am Miss Ives.” I said, gently. “I am come to converse with you on a matter of literature.”

“Oh that,” he said, and sank down into his seat. “I suppose you fancy yourself one of these women who thinks they can write?”

“Do we not attend a play written by a woman?”

“Ah, yes,” he muttered. “You are too pretty a thing to be inclined to write for a living, for I can tell you now, no living is to made from it and you will suffer much if you believe that others will purchase your words for their education or entertainment. Have you thought of the stage? You have the look of an actress.” 

His flirtation was obvious to behold. I gave out a sigh and touched him lightly on the forearm.

“You have found me out,” I said. “I had thought I might write my life story and I asked for help from a young gentleman, whom I believe you know, but he disappeared and I want to find him again.”

“Yes? And what would be in it for me? I would lose you to a rival? I do not think so. Who might he be? Or did you not get his name?” 

The inference was clear; he believed me to be a common whore, albeit my conversation more educated than most. He was correct in his thinking, though I do not think of myself as ‘common’.

“His name? Oh. It was Mr. Westman. Yes, that was he.”

“Westman?”

“He spoke highly of you. Said he had met with you at Davis’ bookshop in Russell Street. He offered to tutor me but…”

“But instead he took your maidenhead and left you in want of more,” Bozzy said, with a wink. 

“Certainly not,” I said. “He was kindness personified and wanted only to help me with my writing.” It seemed a perfect subterfuge. I dare not tell that I knew something of grammar and could make myself understood perfectly well on paper. He frowned. The audience gave out a raucous laugh and I turned to the stage to observe Polly blinking and fawning over the actor thereon.

“Would he be William Westman by any chance?” hissed Bozzy. He emphasized ‘William’.

“Yes, that is he. Do you know of him?”

“Do I know of him? He was here, not ten minutes ago.”

I could not believe my ears. “He could not be.”

“But he was.” Bozzy stood up. “There, over there.” He pointed.

“Sit down,” came the shouting from behind. I followed Bozzy’s pointing finger. I could not make out anyone I recognised, least of all poor dead William Westman. 

“I do not know to whom you refer,” I said.

“There, he’s there. Look. The man in the maroon coat and yellow waistcoat, next to that pretty thing with the feathers in her hair. He has no wig. He thinks highly of himself if he can appear bareheaded in public. He is no writer, my dear. He is a gambler extraordinaire.”

Who was Bozzy pointing out? I could not tell. I saw the girl and her feathers, but could not make out her neighbour.

“A gambler?” I said, searching the crowd. I remembered the books and the papers I had found in the trunk at Mrs. Trencher’s. It sounded like the same man, but… but it could not be the same man.

“Indeed, a gambler, but I would not hold that against him.”

I looked again. There was indeed, a man without a wig sitting next to the pretty mort. He wore a maroon coat and yellow waistcoat, but it was not William Westman. At least, not the William Westman that had been ripped ear to ear in my bed. He was the man I had met, briefly, in Lord Appleby’s box.

“Are you sure this is Mr. Westman? Mr. William Westman?”

“As God is my witness. It is,” said Bozzy. 

Then, thought I, just who was the man who was so cruelly murdered in my bed and why would he have claimed to be someone else?

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