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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Of my time in Cavendish Square



I woke some hours later. I knew only that I lay in large four-poster bed, which was hung about with delicate embroidered drapes of the softest pink and cream. A gentle light gave into the room. The door was open and all beyond was bathed in a light too bright for my eyes to focus properly. In fact, the more I viewed my surroundings, the more my vision failed. A weakness took me and I sank back into the pillow. 

Footsteps.

They came as if from a long way off.

An indistinct shape became a man, but I still could not see him properly.  He picked up my arm by the wrist and kissed my limp hand. I remember the feeling of his lips as they burned into my skin. I could not pull away, for I had no power in my body. The man replaced my arm and walked around the bed to the window. Here he stood in silhouette, peering out through the gap in the curtains. I heard a voice, but it came from the wrong side of the room. 

“Is she awake yet?” It was no more than a whisper. 

“She is not yet fully conscious,” came another voice. 

The knowledge of this person’s identity came in an instant, despite my fogged state of mind. It was the one I blamed for all the wrong doing that had happened in the last few weeks. It was Westman. I fought my apathy, but could not bring myself to waken. At the same time I knew a thirst like no other.

“You have given her too much,” came the whispered voice. 

A face swam into view. It was not Westman, but Lord Appleby. He turned my face this way and that. I was powerless to prevent him. The other man gave out a laugh, which was painful to hear, for it was like a crow’s caw at dawn.

“Now is the time to take her. She is overcome with the tincture of opium and will not prevent you. Ah, but you have already supped at that fountain, have you not?” he said. 

I struggled once more to rouse myself. 

“Bring her something to drink,” said Lord Appleby. 

I licked my lips. Yes, I must quench my thirst. 

“We have tea. She will drink that, surely?”

“I am not your servant,” said Westman. “Call the woman, or Lucius. He will bring the tea.” 

In that moment, Lord Appleby turned on the other and ran him against the wall. I tried to sit up, but managed no more than to raise myself on my elbows. I saw them wrestle and shout at each other.

“This was not meant to happen,” cried Lord Appleby. “She requires more time.” 

“Idiot. She is broken. Now she will do whatever you wish. There is only the child in her belly to consider, but the opium tincture may yet take care of that and if not… I am sure I can find someone to administer a purgative. You would be best advised to bathe her. She stinks.”

I cried out and fell back on the bed. Two faces loomed large over me. Or at least, I thought… but no. In my dire state of mind they appeared to be one and the same person. It was only the sound of their voices that separated one from the other.

“Do you think she heard?” said Lord Appleby.

“She is a long way from us. But if she did, and mentions it at a later time, you will persuade her she is deluded.”

It was true; it could have been my mind playing tricks. A spoon was pressed to my lips. I supped the liquid eagerly, unaware that I was sealing my fate with the tincture therein offered. People scurried this way and that. I heard water pouring, pouring, and pouring. I was surely dissolving and drifting out to sea. I was lifted and placed into the tub before the fire. The water was almost too hot to bear, but I could not make myself understood. At the same time I was gripped by a terrible spasm in my belly. The steam filled the air and a fire burned in my bones. Still, I could not make myself clear. 

A woman with rough hands touched me gently. She took great care with my hair. It was matted with dirty blood and required much rinsing. I languished in a daze of ecstasy and pain until I was helped to my feet, at which point the woman screamed and I was released to sink back into the water. Fresh blood welled up. I was stricken with an urgent desire to rid myself of the child that had occupied my belly for such a short time it surely could not yet have taken human form.

The Devil stepped forward, pushed the woman aside and plunged his hand into the water between my legs. When he drew his hands forth, he held naught but a bloody mess, which he threw into the fire. The coals hissed and I fainted straight away.

I remember little else until I woke late in the evening. My mouth was dry and I still felt weak, but I was at least now in a sensible state. As I tried to sit up in the bed, a servant rushed to my side. She threw a clean chemise over my head and I allowed her to help me put my arms through the sleeves. From the feel of her hands I discerned her to be the one who had washed me earlier. I was grateful to her, for she had been kind enough.

“Thank you,” I muttered. She gave me a dish of tea to sup. It was cold, but I did not mind. I drank it down and ventured to get out of bed. 

“What is your name?” I asked.

“Clara,” she said. 

I pointed to the chair by the fire. There was now no sign of the tub save that the floor was damp from where the water had splashed. 

“Ere now, I don’t think you better be getting up just yet.” 

I insisted and Clara took me by the arm.

“Everything is laid out for you,” she said. She indicated a second chair, over which lay a rich assortment of garments. “His Lordship has provided for you.” 

Her face twitched with envy. She was not a comely woman at all, but pockmarked about the face and all bone. 

“If you are hungry, there’s cold meats and pastries,” she said. “I can fetch them for you.”

My belly growled at the thought of food. My head spun. My thoughts were all confusion and pain.

“I do not wish for anything from your master. Where are the clothes I came in?”

 “You cannot leave,” said Clara. “Your clothes have been burned. These here are very fine. I will help you dress, but you cannot leave.” 

She offered me newly stitched stays and a petticoat. I knocked them out of her hands. What had I been thinking to come here? I had entered a nest of vipers and lost my child into the bargain? Clara closed her hand over mine and smiled.

“I am so sorry you had to go through that. It was no more than blood and gristle. It knew nothing of the ordeal.”

I screamed: “You do not understand.” Truly, she did not. The child was mine. Mine. I had nothing else to call my own and I had loved it as surely my mother had loved me. 

My mother. 

I attempted to stand, but my legs would not allow it. I sank to my knees. Clara called out for help. Once again, strong hands lifted me. I made to push them away, but they gripped me like claws. I looked up into the face of Lord Appleby’s Blackamore manservant, Lucius. He set me down on the edge of the bed.

“You are not well my dear,” said Lord Appleby. He dismissed Lucius. The blackamore gave me a concerned look as he departed.

“You… you said you did not know him.” I plucked at my chemise. I wished for more covering. I could not appear like this to him. Not in this moment. 

“Who are talking about?” he said.

“William Westman.” His name was but sibilance. 

“You are still confused.” Lord Appleby backed away.

“No… no. Of this I am sure. He was here… here in this very room.” I took a few unsteady steps towards him. “You lied to me,” I said. “You lied, just like you lied to Polly. You are a mountebank sir.”

Lord Appleby shook his head and indicated to Clara. 

“Give her some more of the tincture,” he said. “You have been very ill my dear. You must rest. Perhaps we can talk when you are recovered.” 

Clara plied me with my medication. I did not resist. I do not often give way to tears, but this time I could not stem the flow.

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