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Chapter Three 

In which I tell of my family and of a literary gentleman



I found Daisy huddled with Lizzie in their room under the eaves. I sent Lizzie away and sat down next to Daisy on the bed. She had not dressed and her hair was neither curled nor combed. She looked up at me. I brushed away her tears. I would not cry before her. She needed me to be strong.

“Tell me you did not do it,” she said.

“Sweetest, how could you think that?”

“I do not. Not really. It is just that it is too horrible a thing.”

“Sprue will remove the body and we will say nothing more.” I hoped my words would placate her some. Certainly, they did nothing to quell my fears. 

“We will get to the bottom of it.”

“But how can you work? What are you to do?” said Daisy. She was ever the anxious child, eighteen years old and not a year in London. A quick study, I had delighted in tutoring her. I thought it prudent to keep the news of my removal to Islington to myself. I did not want to upset Daisy any more than she was already. That said, I was not sure I could rely on Priss to keep the matter quiet. I would have to watch her; ere long she would see my downfall as her gain.

“These things happen,” I said. Fear welled in my breast. I stared out of the window. Rooftops, wisps of clouds and naught much else caught my gaze. I was reminded of my country life and of the family I had left behind in Norfolk. If I had remained with my mother…

“I had a sister once,” I said. “She died quite young. You remind me of her, Daisy.” 

But it was more than that, for my sister died in my arms, having been most foully accused of stabbing her beau. She suffered at the hands of a mob hell-bent on revenge. Not for her the safety of Bridewell or Newgate - if you could call it safety. No, they came upon her as she walked from Church. Her pretty face was bruised, her hair shorn and her hands tied behind her back, they dragged her through the streets until she bled from a thousand cuts. This was after our father died and our mother was left destitute with none to defend us. The mob is cruel in the shires. I could not think they would be any kinder in the city. In fact, I knew as much. Oh, but I must tread carefully. I must remain resolutely calm and in control, for if I did not, I might give myself away.

“What of …?” Daisy screwed her face up. “Did he give you cause for concern? Was there anything in his manner that might suggest he had an enemy?”

I thought again of the dark shadow. Was it the Devil come for me at last?

“No,” I said. “Nothing.” I remembered my drunken discussion with Westman. “He spoke a little of philosophy and free will. He said he was intrigued by Dr. Johnson. He dallied on thoughts of literary greatness and on the way in which money enables one to do anything one pleases.” I choked back a tear.

“Oh,” said Daisy. She noticed my discomfort and attempted a distraction. “And Dr. Johnson? Who is he?”

“A learned man who has achieved greatness with his dictionary,” I replied. Dear Daisy. Here I was, trying to keep her from feeling anxious and all the time, she did the same for me.

“I do not know what a dictionary is,” she said. 

“Ah, well. I will have to teach you to read, won’t I?”

“I would like that.” She smiled up at me like a little child who, fearful at her mother’s tears, would do anything to re-establish the equilibrium.

“Dr. Johnson has a friend by the name of James Boswell. He has something of a reputation amongst our kind and fancies himself a great lover,” I said. My words drew a nervous giggle from Daisy.

“I know of him. We call him Bozzy.”

“Quite. Our visitor knew him also.” 

“Really? And you think he may have a hand in… in the murder?”

“It is unlikely that he had anything to do with this business. Have you seen Bozzy? He is a small man. Round. He would not be quiet on the stairs, nor be able to creep through a window. He would want to keep up a commentary on the whole business.”

Daisy giggled again and it gladdened my heart somewhat. Those who do not know violent death and danger do not understand the necessity to make light of it, so as to remain sane. 

“I have heard tell he enjoys a gutter mouth, but is long on wind and will not pay over much,” I said. “It may be though that he knows something of our recently departed friend.”

Westman had spoken little of his acquaintances, but he had mentioned Bozzy. If I could find a way to speak with the literary gentleman, then perhaps I could learn more of the dead gentleman.

Daisy squeezed my hand. “Be careful dear Kitty.”

“Bozzy meets his cronies in various taverns and coffee houses. I could linger. It would not be uncommon to for me to do that. Perhaps he will speak of… of him.” 

“I’m scared for you. He may have friends who are looking for him. Or family.” Daisy clutched up my hand to her bosom. I was reminded of Mother Shadbolt’s words. 

“But Daisy, that is my intention. I need to find out who it is that might come looking for him. The bookseller is but a few doors from us. I enjoy reading well enough. I could make a discreet enquiry.” 

The thought of actually doing something helped to alleviate some of my despondency. 

“Surely, you will be found out.”

“I think not. I am a woman of certain ability. Yes, I am a whore, but we are all actresses at heart, are we not? The risk will be if someone should miss our dead man and can trace his whereabouts before I have had a chance to find anything out. If this happens, then Mother Shadbolt may give me up to the Runners when they come a-knocking.” 

Once more my heart sank. I did not think I could face their interrogation. I knew them of old. Particularly, one Jim Craddock. No, whatever I felt on the inside, I must not allow it to colour my outer appearance, or I would be undone. I must maintain a semblance of normality, as if nothing untoward had happened at all. Only in that way would I be safe. I would make light of everything for Daisy’s sake and for my own. Daisy twitched a smile. Such a sweet girl.

“Listen,” I said, and patted her hand. “We must not dwell on it. I will see what I can learn. I do not think our dead gentleman had anyone in his life.”

“Not a wife?”

“Mother Shadbolt thinks so, but I think not. Though it may be that he played a most devilish trick. Some men are given to lies and subterfuge.” 

“This is so.” 

“Leave it to me,” I said. “I have a strange feeling about this. All is not as it seems.”

Daisy shuddered.  “I hope no one ever dies in my bed.”

“I hope so too.”

I pulled Daisy to me and clung close to her. “I could do nothing for my sister, but I may help myself.”

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