Chapter Nine

How I came to be married to Jim Craddock

My time is given over to pleasure, yet ever it is tinged with sadness, for I never know what it is to be with a man and enjoy his company simply for the sake of knowing him. I am naught but bartered goods and can find no way out of my gloom but to indulge in the self-same deeds that saw me arrive in this situation.

I have spoken a little of my sister, who fell afoul of the mob after her fiancé died in desperate circumstances. I will never know the truth of that matter, for both are dead and there are none to tell of it. I can only talk of my life. Thus, I will explain how I came to be married to Jim Craddock and why it is I may not escape him.

I have said I was transported to America, charged and convicted of theft. I have also said that I found a way to return. This, in itself, carries much danger, for a person returning from transportation can be hanged. That said, it is not such a great thing for a woman of my talents to persuade an able seaman to bring me with him on his return to England, albeit that I must stow away and dress in a man’s clothes. Ah, but I know what you think, that this sailor must have been Jim Craddock and that I paid him by promising my hand in marriage. Well it is not so, but Craddock had a part in it and the result was the same. 

Alex Proudfoot could claim half-savage descent, but he treated me with kindness and, when I was found stowed away for England, gave me his berth aboard the good ship Assurance, together with such clothes as he could muster to cover my female parts and render me of neutral sex. When they found him out, Proudfoot gave himself to the lash and I to the bedding of the Captain, a man by the name of Julius Somerville, in exchange for free passage. On arrival at Falmouth, he delivered me into the hands of his sister, a Mrs. Hobbs. 

Mrs. Hobbs was a Christian woman who would have me as her servant, save that I was not for having. At the first opportunity, I told her that my former master expected my return to London and that I could not let him down. She wrote, of course, to the address I provided, which was naught but my old bawdy house, though Mrs. Hobbs was not to know that being, as she was, a good Cornish woman who trusted in the Lord and His Word.

Mother Shadbolt wrote by return (of which I was grateful) that she expected me to attend her forthwith. Mrs. Hobbs then made me a loan of a small sum of money, which was enough for me to get the stagecoach to London. It is true that I felt bad about this deception, but I did not want to remain in Falmouth. There was nothing for me there but fish and sailors and both smelled the same.

Thus, I returned to my old life and all was well until one day Captain Somerville paid me a visit. He said it was pure chance that brought him to our door, but when I thought on it later, he knew where I was all along because his sister had written to the address. Captain Somerville said he had ascended to loftier heights, employed by the Navy now, instead of a merchantman. He was abroad in the city and looking for some consolation. Thus, I kept him company and provided for his physical needs, such as they were. He visited me on three more occasions, each two weeks apart. On his departure from our final liaison he asked that I visit him in his lodging house, for he had but little time in the capital and would dine with me in a place other than the brothel in which I lived. He led me to believe that his intentions were honourable and that he wanted me for his mistress. Naturally, I was excited at the idea that I might at last be able to escape the confines of Mother Shadbolt’s nunnery and be a woman in my own right.

Alas, on reaching Captain Somerville’s lodging house, I was shown into the parlour where his sister, Mrs. Hobbs, waited with the Runner, Jim Craddock. She had entreated him to assist her in the recovery of the loan she had made to me.  Mrs. Hobbs told me that when her brother advised I could be found in one of the foremost brothels of our fair city, she took the very next coach from Falmouth. I asked her why she had not left the recovery of the debt to her brother, but she replied that it was not so much the debt that bothered her, but that I was a fallen woman. She wished, you see, to save me.

Let me be clear here; it is not that I did not wish to be relieved of my burden as a whore, but that I did not wish to find myself servant to an overly pious woman who thought that my salvation would go some way to assuring her place in Heaven. Mrs. Hobbs was a kind enough soul, but I could not spend my days on bended knee, either in Church or scrubbing her floors. I therefore declined her offer, at which point she asked for the return of her money. Sad it is to say, I could not repay her. 

There is something else you must understand; a whore does not own the clothes she stands up in, or undergarments, shift, shawls, footwear, hairpins, powders, food, or bedding. Her very presence in a house makes for uncomfortable living unless she earns her keep. All her income is forfeit. What little she does have she spends quickly on gin, on opium or hashish, on ale or ratafee. She does this to numb herself against the daily intrusions her body must suffer. She is disease-ridden and aged before her time. She must rid herself of any child that she may bear. Those born into this world suffer much from neglect and abandonment. It would seem that I was foolish indeed not to take up Mrs. Hobbs’ offer, if all that I could look forward to was to further my downfall in this manner, save for one thing -  I was young and did not know what I do now. So I told her I did not have the money and I asked that she excuse my debt, as I thought any good Christian woman must surely do.

I had not bargained for her temper to change as quickly as it did. She told me she had little patience for those who refused her charity. I thought this an hypocrisy and I said as much. At which point, she launched into a vile tirade upon my moral being and ordered that Jim Craddock arrest me and take me before the magistrate. I would be in debtor’s prison before the day was out and Mrs. Hobbs would laugh at my misfortune. 

I had not bargained for Craddock’s kindness in this matter. I did not know him then. I had seen him once or twice, but he did not frequent our home. We were, and remain, a house for the select few who enjoy the finer things in life, though I will forgive you for thinking that we are no better than we should be. In any event, Craddock offered to pay my debt himself. Mrs. Hobbs was taken aback, but Craddock offered up the cash, readily. It was all of two guineas, which I thought a fortune. Mrs. Hobbs then said she must add interest to the debt and the cost of travel to and from London. Craddock paid all without hesitation. We were allowed to depart and I, having thanked Craddock profusely, went on my way.

The following evening Craddock caught me in Covent Garden as I returned from the dance instructor. He told me he wanted naught from me, save that I become his wife. He would stand surety for me and in return I would, from time to time, agree to bed him whenever he so chose and promise I would not involve myself in any theft or other such criminal occurrence. He seemed to think that my being a common strumpet was no blemish on my record. If however, I reneged on the surety and stole from a cully, or otherwise profited from proceeds of theft, or another, more vicious crime I would go straight to Newgate and thence to a place of execution.

“My reputation is on the line,” he said. 

I could not believe my ears. For the price of one night’s play with a fine gentleman Craddock believed he had bought me for life? At first I refused, but Craddock made a persuasive argument. I did not wish to find myself awaiting execution, so it was that I agreed. We married three weeks later in the Parish Church of St Giles. We did not announce the wedding, nor invite witnesses other than a flower seller who happened upon the steps. In fact, no one knew of our matrimony at all, or so I thought.

I have tended to Craddock’s needs ever since. He does not want a real wife. He wants only that he does not need to pay to have his way with me, though he will give me boon when he feels inclined so to do.


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