Chapter Nineteen

Of the discovery

I took the ratafee from Lord Appleby and drank it quickly. He hovered. Eventually, I handed the glass back to him. I would be direct in my speech. There would be no deception. If we were truly friends, then surely I would have his support no matter what? Still, I hesitated.

“There is no need for explanation,” he said, quickly.

“I have none to offer, save that this man is a person of interest in the matter I have previously spoken about.”

“You haven’t told me anything. You wished to know if you could trust me first. Have you come to a decision? Will you tell me what ails you? Is it this business with Harrington’s gambling club?”

I wave his words away and turned to stare into the fire. Oh, but the flames licked sensuously over the coals. I could not fathom how Westman knew of my condition, or why he should be at this masquerade, unless he was a person of some importance. Yet if this was the case then surely Bozzy would have said as much? Had he not told me Westman was a gambler? Many aristocrats had lost entire fortunes at the gambling table. Was Westman one such man?

“Did you recognise him?” I said.

“Why do you ask?” 

“He is strange. Perhaps, dare I say, evil?” 

I spun round to face Lord Appleby. For a moment, in the flickering firelight, I thought Westman had replaced him - the resemblance was uncanny. 

“What is it?” he said.

“Nothing. I thought… but no, it is nothing.”

He frowned. I lowered my voice. 

“I must be able to count on your discretion.”

“Why do you challenge me thus?”

“Because it is a matter of life or death.” 

I was sure that Westman meant me harm. Yet, if he had murdered two men, why had he not killed me also? It made no sense.

“And the child you carry? What of that?” said Lord Appleby.

I shook out my fan. So, he had overheard Westman.

“I am hot. I must find somewhere cooler.” 

Lord Appleby stood aside. I walked to the door. He followed and took my elbow to guide me through. It was brighter in the ballroom. At the far end, the windows were open and the cold night air seeped into the room like the icy fingers of some embittered wraith.

“You did not answer my question. What about the child?” Lord Appleby said. “Do you know who the father is?”

“No. No. There is no child.”


“You should not have been listening. There is no child,” I said, emphasizing the words. 

There were certain poisons that would take the child from me. Mother Shadbolt favoured savin. She had made me take it once before. The effects were not so dangerous as to render me insensible, but simply caused a drawing down of blood. Please do not think ill of me. I did not wish to rid myself of this child. I believed its life was a gift from God, but Mother Shadbolt would not allow me to remain while I carried it and I would end my days as a beggar. I suppose I could leave the babe at the Foundling Hospital, but then few survived and those that did could expect a life of drudgery. Even though I was resigned to the fate Mother Shadbolt had in store for my unborn child, my heart ached for it. How could I do this? I stared at Lord Appleby. He understood my intent, of that I was sure. I had no time to explain, for the music stopped abruptly and people rushed to the windows. The path was filled with men as they ran to the river bank. 

“What has happened?” I asked. 

All around was panic. Masqueraders crowded forward. I heard breaking glass as a window gave under the weight of onlookers. 

A cry went up from outside: “It’s a barrel.”

And another, “bones!” 

Panic stricken, I pushed through the melee until I found the door to the garden. Lord Appleby shouted my name, but I ignored him.  I knew what it was. It could only be the mysterious man who had died in my bed. I knew of no other barrel containing bones. Outside, I paid no mind to the ice. If I was to be a condemned woman, then I wanted to look on corruption and be able to tell truth from a lie. 

Men ran past me. Twice I slipped, but managed to right myself. A group of people were gathered halfway down the parterre garden. In a blind panic, I forced my way through. The barrel was broken open on the flower bed; the contents spilled for all to see. Bile rose in my throat and I covered my eyes. An arm went around my waist to prevent me from falling should I faint. I saw putrefied flesh and bones. A great many bones. I stifled a cry.

 “It’s not a pleasant sight,” said Lord Appleby. He was at my side. I sank into him.

“No,” I muttered, my eyes on the hair-plastered skull at my feet. 

People murmured at the horror, for it was not every day that a decomposed body washed up on the shore at the end of the garden at Northumberland House.

“We were coming back,” said one of the men who had set the fireworks. “We saw it stuck on the steps. We couldn’t tie up for it being in the way. Joseph here had to manhandle it out. It just broke apart.”

“There’s writing on it,” someone said. I could not listen. I knew what the writing said. I tore myself away from Lord Appleby. 

“I must go,” I said. I started towards the gate. I had to get home. I had to tell Mother Shadbolt that the Devil had found us and we were all doomed unless we found a place of safety. Someone shouted for the night-watchman. It would only be a matter of time before the Runners were called – and I had already told Craddock about this foul crime. Surely, now he would hunt me down? It is not as easy to buy your way out of a murder charge as it is return from transportation.

“You cannot walk. Wait,” shouted Lord Appleby.

“Bradley’s - in Covent Garden,” came a cry. 

“I know it,” said another. “Regular gin palace.”

Lord Appleby came after me, but I continued as fast as I could. I did not care that my dance shoes were sodden through or that my petticoats dragged in the ice and snow. I had to get home. I had to.

“You cannot go on your own. We will take the carriage,” Lord Appleby shouted.

“Leave me be,” I cried. He took my arm and spun me to a standstill. My heart beat hard in my chest. I was a wild woman on the edge of a precipice. Panic threatened to engulf me if I could not check my fear.

“What is going on? Why are you running from me?”

“I’m not running from you.”

“Then what? That?” He pointed to the barrel. “Are you afraid of that? It is death. You have seen death before. It is nothing to be afraid of unless…”

I stared at him, my blood boiling with fear and anger both.

“It is something else isn’t it?” he said. 

“I cannot say.” 

How foolish I had been to think I could trust my secrets to this man. He might cause me more trouble than ever could Craddock. 

“You must.” said Lord Appleby. 

He signalled to a carriage in the courtyard. It pulled up alongside us. I resisted his attempts to bundle me inside.

“I cannot go with you. I must return to Mother Shadbolt. I must warn her.” I flailed at him, but he caught my arm and pinned me against the side of the carriage. 

“For God’s sake woman, tell me what this is all about. I saw your face when you looked on that skeleton. You were terrified.” 

I said nothing. Exhaustion washed over me. My life was impossible. 

“You cannot stay here and you cannot walk home. Let me take you,” he said.

I had little choice in the matter. My attack of panic had left me with the shakes and only now did I register how very cold it was. 

“Very well,” I replied, with much reluctance.

I mounted the step on the carriage and sat down inside. Lord Appleby sat next to me and tapped on the roof. The driver’s whip cracked and the horses lurched in their harness. I waited until we were well underway before I spoke again.

“A man died in my bed,” I said, quietly. 

I would gain little by withholding information. Lord Appleby made to say something, but I stayed his words. 

“No, let me speak. Mother Shadbolt ordered the body removed. Our bully took a barrel from Bradley’s gin shop and that’s all I knew of the matter until now.”

“You mean… this body? He was in your bed? The bed I shared with you?”

 “I had the mattress changed.” I thought him selfish indeed if all he was worried about was the state of the bed. I was wrong. He cared not for the bed, but for the man himself.

 “How did he die?” he said.

“His throat was cut… but not by me. No… I had nothing to do with it. I believe we were drugged. At least… The gin was missing.” 

It was a mystery that still bothered me. I thought that someone had probably administered a poison and this had rendered us insensible. It was the only way the perpetrator could have done the deed.

“Can I believe this? You found him dead, but you did not know how or why?” Lord Appleby seemed mystified and not a little angry.

“It is the truth. I swear it. You must believe me. Someone took his life in the night. I think… No, I know we were drugged.” 

It is true, for it was the only way it could have been done without my knowledge.

“Very well. I am prepared to believe you. Do you know his name?”

“No. For a while I thought he was William Westman. It is the name he gave Mother Shadbolt on entry to our establishment. But it seems it was not he because…” Lord Appleby looked at me in a most strange way. I was hesitant to continue.

“Because what?” he said.

“Because the man you saw me with tonight was Mr. Westman.” 

I waited while he considered my words. We were not far from Russell Street now. I would soon be home. 

“The barrel is identified,” said Lord Appleby.

I nodded. An emptiness settled in my heart. I would do anything to turn back time. The shadow at the man’s shoulder… it had been the Grim Reaper. I felt sure of it.

“This will bring the Bow Street Runners to your door,” said Lord Appleby.

My voice was barely audible. “I know. They will question John Bradley, but once he has attested to the fact that he knew nothing of the body, Jim Craddock will assume the worst and come to us.” I dared not say that I knew Craddock would not wait for proof of Bradley’s innocence. Craddock already knew what had happened. He would come for me directly. 

“Jim Craddock? Who is he?” said Lord Appleby.

“A Runner. I know him of old. He will not let this go, even though no one will identify the dead man and certainly, not now he is all bones and naught else.”

“So you are in trouble. And Will… Mr. Westman? What part does he play in all this?” 

It seemed odd that he had corrected himself. I thought back to the glance he had given Westman as they passed in the doorway. Perhaps they knew each other.

“I believe he is the murderer,” I said.

“You have proof?”


I could not say that I thought Westman was the Devil Incarnate. Similarly, I could not tell of this night’s disturbing vision. I did not wish to be branded a lunatic. I wrung my hands in agitation as the carriage came to a halt. 

“We are here,” I said. 

Lord Appleby opened the door and attempted to get out, but I held him back with a hand to his arm.

“No. Go home,” I said. “It would look bad for you to be here when the Runners come.”

“They may not arrive for some time. They will speak with this man Bradley first. They will probably take him into custody and interrogate him. They will find out all they can from him. There will be time for you to ready yourself.”

“I think not. Craddock already knows much of what happened,” I said. 

Why had I gone to the Brown Bear? Why, when I knew it would end as it had; in torment and pain?

“How so, if it has only now come to light?” said Lord Appleby.

“I have said too much. You must forget it. Promise you will say nothing.” 

I dipped my head and held my petticoats high as I ascended from the carriage. I could not tell what time it was, but it must have been very late for the lights were out in the Inn across the street. Even The Finish was dark. I did not have much time. I slammed the carriage door. Lord Appleby leaned out.

“I promise I will say nothing, but send me word if there is anything you need,” he said. 

I turned away. He seemed a dear man and I was nothing and no one – embroiled in the most complicated subterfuges and yet easily swayed this way and by those with power over me. I felt sure that before long I would be incarcerated in Newgate to await the hangman’s noose. My hand went instinctively to my neck. To be so close to love and yet, so far.


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