Epilogue 1 - Whitehall - Saturday July 30, 1881
Saturday was a working half-day at both Whitehall and the Horse Guards. So Saturday morning found Colonel Lethbridge with the Home Secretary Sir William Vernon Harcourt and the Earl of Granville, the Foreign Secretary, sorting through the latest reports on the thwarted bombings .
Colonel Lethbridge shook his head as he reviewed Inspector Abernathy’s and Constable Palmer’s reports, as well as a lengthy note from Vastra. “It seems I owe my new acquaintance an apology. Although I was ready to back up Sergeant Parker testimony, I admit that I had some doubt as to Madame Vastra’s reliability. But she stuck with the investigation, and no one can argue with her results!”
Sir William frowned. “But surely Inspector Abernathy solved the case?”
The Earl of Granville shook his head. “I know it’s tempting, but it doesn’t do to underestimate the ladies. They can be surprising. My late American fiance certainly was.”
Sir William was ready to argue, but then paused a moment. “Madame Vastra… I’ve heard that name.” He searched his memory for a minute. “Ah, yes! Dawes mentioned her during the Masked Lady case. Something about rescuing ledgers that helped draw him into the case...”
“The lady does seem to have a… talent for being at the right place at the right time,” agreed Lethbridge, reading some of the details in Abernathy’s report.
“Have we discovered who the officer was yet?” asked the Earl.
“Not yet sir. Corcoran said the carriage belonged to ‘Major Shaw.’ However, no officer of that name was anywhere in the area. And the carriage was reported as stolen to the police first thing yesterday morning. By a reputable solicitor. But when we do find out who the officer was, I’ll make sure he’s quietly cashiered.” Lethbridge finished with a scowl.
“Very well,” said the Home Secretary. “I’ll leave it in your hands. Make sure it’s tied up well is all I ask. And for Heaven’s sake, try and keep the Duke of Cambridge from interfering, will you?”
“Yes, Sir William.”
“Now about the situation in Egypt we discussed last week,” said the Earl. “There`s been a…rather unconventional complication. That new group of fellows that Her Majesty decided to put together… well, the fools may have bitten off more than they can chew.”
Lethbridge kept his face still, while inwardly seething. Her Majesty had shown some odd quirks ever since she’d met up with that damn gilhlie John Brown. Her creation of a group of half-witted ‘scientists’ called the Torchwood Institute was the latest mad start. Lethbridge, like many of the men who quietly tried to keep the ship of state known as the British Empire on something resembling an even keel found the idea of enemies from the sky ludicrous, and privately hoped that Her Majesty was not becoming as mad as her grandfather King George the Third!
“Now what’s the matter?” he asked mildly. “Do they imagine they’re being chased by werewolves again? Or is it a vampire this time, perhaps the one that Le Fanu fellow wrote about?”
“No Colonel. They claim that a Mummy is after them.”
There was a long pause…
“I beg your pardon, Milord?” asked the Colonel.
“Yes, I know it sounds daft. I’m not convinced that they haven’t been sneaking whiskey into Egypt and getting blind drunk despite the laws against alcohol. Personally, I’m in favour of letting them take their medicine, but the situation in Egypt in general is rather unstable, with Colonel Urabi stirring things up amongst the natives.”
Sir William shook his head. “It’s fussing over nothing. I’ve lent Lord Granville one of my best men to go and have a look. He’ll sort them out. Now I need to beg leave of you gentlemen, I have another meeting to attend…”
They saw the Home Secretary off. When he was gone Colonel Lethbridge looked thoughtful for a long moment, then smiled thinly. “If the situation in Egypt is ‘unconventional’, and Sir William’s chap can’t do much, then I believe we know just the person to investigate it.”
The Earl frowned a moment, and then nodded slowly. “Yes. And likely do something about it as well…”
Epilogue 2 - Taylor at the American Legation (Sunday July 31, 1881)
“The Secretary will see you now.”
I thanked Williams, the legation butler; we’d hit it off when I found out he’d been a corporal with the one of the Colored Troop regiments at the Siege of Petersburg. Anyone who lived through that hell, especially that disaster at the Crater, was all right by me. Didn’t hurt that for such a giant of a man, he could move like a cat. Made me wonder what other ‘duties’ Mr Lowell assigned him to, safeguarding the interests of the United States of America in the capital city of our old enemies, the British Empire.
Mr Hopkins, the first Secretary for the legation, was waiting for me in the study. Not as formal as some of the rooms, better for enjoying a drink and a smoke.
“Good evening, Mr Secretary. Any new word on the President?”
“There seems to be some hope.” Mr Hopkins replied. “There’s talk of Alexander Bell using a metal detector to locate the second bullet.” He sounded doubtful. “But there’s been a lot of fool nonsense as well. The English doctors I’ve talked to at some of our events keep going on about ‘germs’ and some fellow called Lister. They seem convinced that the President’s being harmed by something we can’t see. There’s talk of moving him to somewhere with better air though, that might help. It’s just… well… it’s in God’s hands.”
I shrugged. “Not my area of knowledge, I’m sorry to say. I can kill people; and I can make friends with people. I can’t heal ‘em. Don’t know many folks who can do all three.”
“Your last visit we talked about the Rifle Matches. You mentioned some concerns about radicals targeting Whitehall. Anything come of that?”
“America’s name been kept out of it. This time around.” I shook my head. “Those ‘chemical schools’ in New York though, they’re causing trouble.”
“That’s a problem for the British, not for us.” Mr Howell shot me a questioning look. “What about this Scotland Yard fellow I’m hearing muttering about? Abernathy? Damn silly name! But word is he brought down some bombers?”
I’m just about to put him right, when I have enough sense to keep my trap shut for a moment. I’m near certain that Madame Vastra had more to do with solving the case than Inspector Abernathy. Mr Lowell and Mr Hopkin through, there’s no chance they’d believe a woman could be that smart.
‘Course they never worked with Kate Warne of Pinkerton’s either.
“There might be more to it,” I hedge. “I heard another inspector botched up the investigation; Abernathy might have just got lucky.”
Or had some help. Think I’ll keep an eye on Madame Vastra. Not sure yet if she might be an ally or a threat. I’d rather have her on our side though.
It’s not likely that she’d have cause to interfere with American secrets.
Or with mine.
Can’t be too careful though.
And besides; Jenny as cute as a button and as brave as Deborah Sampson.
It’s scary how much she reminds me…
Of a girl I knew…
When I was her age...
Epilogue 3 - Thirteen Paternoster Row. (Monday August 1, 1881)
On Monday August 1, Mr Parker brought Jenny and Madame Vastra back from Wimbledon by carriage, and delivered them to Madame’s new house on Paternoster Row. They drove up to a townhouse, nestled near the end of a row, with a freshly painted deep blue door. The estate agent for the house was there to greet them and hand over the keys. He told Madame Vastra that the house had been cleaned, and fresh curtains, mattresses and sheets provided, as had been agreed. Jenny was pleased to hear that Mr Thackeray had insisted on this when Madame had signed the lease. The agent then gave them a tour of the house, while Parker and his assistant brought up their trunks. The agent had also brought two strong young men ‘to help move things about.’ As it turned out, it was a wise idea.
The house had a narrow front but was long, narrow and tall, fitting a great number of rooms into what looked on the street to be a very small space. As they were exploring, Jenny joked that it was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside. At that moment, and without realizing it, Madame Vastra decided to do her best to keep Jenny with her forever.
The house was filled with furniture. Neither Vastra nor Jenny could figure out just WHY there was so much of it. “Goodness, the man was a pack-rat!” said Jenny. “There’s more tables and chairs in here than in all the flats in Beer Lane!”
They spent a good part that first day just deciding what needed to be moved into storage. Eventually they reached what the agent said was the Family Suite. It included the bedroom, a small separate wardrobe, a dressing room, a bathroom and a water closet. Madame Vastra promptly claimed it as her room.
Vastra could see the bed, but there were also a great many chairs in the room, none of which seemed to face the same direction as the others. Several of the chairs had books piled on them. Vastra lifted one and read the title aloud, “A Theory of Moral Sentiment…” She tossed it back on the pile. “This is ridiculous! Jenny, why do A.. your people need so many places to sit?”
“No idea, ma’am. Never seen this many chairs together, aside from that meeting room for the tournament t’other week.”
“Very well. Give me a moment and I’ll choose two that look comfortable. We’ll leave one here, near the window; I will use it for reading. The other can go in the dressing room.. You may take one or two to your room, when we decide where it is, for the same purpose. All the rest can go into storage in the attic.”
To Madame Vastra’s surprise, there seemed to be some question about where Jenny should sleep. The agent showed them the fourth floor (Vastra thought he’d miscounted; surely this was the fifth or sixth floor in the building, including the basement?) There was a room for two maids, a housekeeper’s room, a room for the Lady’s Maid and a nursery where the agent said ‘the family children and a nanny’ would sleep, all in the attic. Vastra thought all those rooms were too far away from her room for Jenny to be bothered with, and they were small and stuffy as well. Vastra loved the heat, but the lack of air made the rooms unpleasant even for her.
In the basement there were quarters for the butler and the footmen, which so far as Vastra could understand the description, were tall ‘handsome’ apes who opened doors and carried packages while leaving all the real work to the females and were paid more to do less than the maids.
Jenny looked around the basement. "If you don’t like me being in the attic, I could take the men’s room here? Then I could hear the upstairs rooms’ bells in the servant’s hall." Jenny pointed to the row of bells, numbered and labelled so the servants knew which room they were being summoned to.
"Only if you need a nap during the day, or in the summer heat. You are NOT sleeping in the basement year round! I’d only see you at practice time!” Vastra shook her head beneath her veil. “This is foolish. You will sleep in the other room on that same floor as me.”
“Ma’am, the agent said as that was the guest suite.” Jenny pointed out. “It’s too fancy for me.”
“Nonsense. If it makes you feel better, you may temporarily give it up if we have guests. But for now, I want you close enough that I can call you, or you can call for me if needed.”
They were interrupted by the arrival of George and one of his friends, bringing groceries from Mrs Crawford and meat from their butcher. Jenny checked the orders, signed the bills, and stowed away the food in the pantry and the larder.
While she was working, Jenny saw Madame Vastra head towards the rear of the basement, her tall form filling the narrow passage. Jenny frowned; the ceilings down here were lower than the ones upstairs. There was enough room to be comfortable, but they wouldn’t be able to practice single-stick down here. And the other rooms seemed too fancy. Well, Madame would likely have an idea or two; Jenny doubted that she’d have leased the house otherwise.
“Happy we don’t have any black beetles in the kitchen.” Jenny said when she re-joined the adults once she was done. “Your people done a nice job cleanin’ the place up for us!” she told the Estate Agent. “Right thankful for it, I am!”
“Black beetles? Are they tasty?” Madame Vastra asked her quietly, after they’d bid the men goodbye and closed the front door.
Jenny gave her a fondly exasperated glance. “Never ate one, ma’am. Was never that hungry. If we ever catch one, you’ll just have to try one and let me know.”
In the early evening, Jenny changed into her shirt and trousers, picked up her single stick and staff and met Madame in the kitchen as ordered. Madame led Jenny past the small servant’s hall to the rear stairs in the basement, beyond which were the laundry room, the bedroom for the footmen, and the vault for the dustbins. They took the stairs up to the fenced in terrace behind the house. There was another building here, and Vastra produced the key, opened the door, and stepped inside.
“This is our Coach House,”Vastra explained. “But as we seem to be happy with Mr Parker and his cabbies, I thought that instead of keeping horses and carriages, it would do nicely for our studies in the warrior arts.” She turned up the gaslights as she spoke, and Jenny just stood there, stunned.
The room was huge, at least to Jenny’s eyes; almost as big as the dining room in the house. There was lots of room to swing their swords, and even Jenny’s broom-handle staff. There were wooden blinds on the windows, so they could practice in private, or let in lots of light.
“This room is usually the stables. However I told them to dismantle the loose box, and store it in the carriage room next door, to clear the floor space.” Vastra continued. She glanced over at where Jenny was still standing by the door. “What do you think?”
“Oh this is smashing!” Jenny finally said, grinning hugely. “We won’t be tripping over ourselves every three steps anymore!”
“Yes, and the building’s walls and ceilings are quite strong. I want to use that to teach you other skills that may be useful, such as climbing and abseiling. And of course, now that we have room, we can also work on some hand-to-hand techniques as well.”
“Abseiling is using a rope to descend from a high place to a lower one safely. I read an article that mentioned it the other day; your people consider it a very new technique, although of course our warriors perfected the art long ago.”
“‘Course they did,” said Jenny with a smile. She was in far too good a mood to even roll her eyes at Madame’s pride. They could practice any time they liked, summer or winter, rain or shine. This was going to be so much fun!
“Well then,” said Madame Vastra as she waved Jenny to take up her position for the ‘salute.’ “Here we go!”
Side by side, they ran through increasingly complex Silurian sword forms. Vastra was delighted. They had lots of room, plenty of place to store and prepare food, and Jenny was happy. So long as the house was warm in the winter and the roof didn’t leak, what more could they possible want?
Despite the heavy work they’d done during the day, the lively workout they’d had in the coach house, and the late hour they’d gone to bed, Vastra couldn’t fall asleep. Of course, normally she needed less sleep than a human during the summer months. But tonight she actually felt tired, yet restless at the same time. She wanted to sleep, at least for a few hours. All she could do though was twist and turn in her new bed.
The bed itself was fine, and the room, while deliciously warm, wasn’t stifling. So what was the problem?
She was on the verge of getting up and simply reading for a while, when she heard a slight squeak from the door. Immediately she tensed, a trained warrior reacting to a possible attack. She was lying on her side, facing away from it, so she couldn’t see the doorway, but with a quick flick of her tongue, she could taste Jenny’s scent in the air. Vastra stayed still, maintain attach readiness, but all she heard were Jenny’s bare feet padding across the floor, and then a squeaking sound which Vastra suddenly realized was coming from the large chair they’d left between the window and the empty fireplace. She waited but Jenny didn’t move again. Was the human preparing to attack? Vastra scoffed at herself; if anything Jenny was even more tired than she was. So why was the young human here? Finally Vastra decided to casually roll over and look with half-closed eyes, feigning sleep.
Jenny wasn’t exactly sitting in the chair, instead her legs were draped across one arm of the chair, and her head rested near the opposite edge of the back. Her eyes were closed, but she didn’t look very comfortable.
“What are you doing?” asked Vastra in her normal voice. Jenny practically jumped straight out of the chair in surprise, and then remained on her feet, almost at ‘attention.’
“Ah, well, you see, ma’am… my room’s just grand and the bed’s nice and everything, but well, I’ve never really had me own place to sleep alone before. I keep… hearing things. Know it’s just the house, or out on the roadway or back in the lane, but the only time I’ve slept by myself was on the streets, and I learned pretty quick to keep my ears open. Makes for good survival, but bad sleeping, you see.” Jenny shrugged. “Thought if I was in the chair, I’d know you’re in the same room, so maybe I could get some rest. Very sorry to disturb you…” She started edging towards the door.
Vastra frowned but nodded. “That makes sense. The first night in a new place can sometimes be unsettling for one so young.” She motioned Jenny to come closer. “Take your side of the mattress for tonight.” Jenny nodded eagerly and almost jumped onto the bed.
‘Well,’ thought Vastra as her young human curled up under the light covers, ‘hopefully my own restlessness won’t keep her awake.’ She listened to Jenny’s breathing quickly even out, and smiled. It amused her how effortlessly Jenny was reassured that she was safe. If only all problems were solved so simply. She sighed; for an ancient lizard such as herself, there would be no such easy rest, more than likely she’d be away most of the night, guarding against any possible intruders… still, it wouldn’t hurt to close her eyes for a bit…
Each now reassured that the other was safe and close by, within minutes both the young human and her ancient lizard were sound asleep.
Next Story: Guy Fawkes Eve brings deadly visitors to London; a stranded Doctor and his lock-picking companion are granted refuge by Jenny at 13 Paternoster Row; and in Egypt the Foreign Office has handed Madame Vastra a Mummy Case…