Coming to Terms
Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle
Volume 12: Consequences Impend
Clorinda, Lady Bexbury’s intimates observe her to be in a strange unwonted mood: like Patience on a monument, she is concealing her unexpected fall into love towards her protegée Leda Hacker. While Olverham and Plumwell have fled abroad in disgrace, the repercussions of their machinations are still felt. The Season has begun, placing exceeding pressures on that most fashionable of modistes, Mamzelle Bridgette. Geoffrey Merrett, well-contented with his somewhat unconventional marriage, is briefed for the defence in a high-profile murder case. Nat Barron finds that his reputation for getting the job done is extending further than he knew. Leda, and Matt Johnson’s other inquiry agents, have a deal of work upon hand.
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Read Chapter 1 ...
Sure she had never supposed
Leda Hacker, once known as Bet Bloggs, was feeling particular flush of funds. Even though had lately been about buying a deal of Christmas presents, sure she had never supposed she would have such friends and acquaintance!
But, just before that season, Matt Johnson had called her into his office, and bade her close the door, and sit down, and she had hoped ’twas naught adverse concerning her work. He had smiled, and said, here was Mr Dumaine, went express his very great appreciation at the way Babsie Bolton — that had been Leda’s masquerade as a St James’ doxy — showed up those sharpster flat-catchers Olverham and Plumwell, and went show his gratitude in material form. So generous it quite took her breath away! And, Matt went on, is in some hopes may solicit Babsie again when he has some suspicions of cogging play.
Leda said that was far more than civil of Mr Dumaine — above and beyond kind — would certainly wish to be of service, only that there was that matter that Babsie would need not to be distracted by fellows endeavouring making her acquaintance —
Matt guffawed and said, indeed would have to provide escort — would think upon it — indeed fancied Solly Abrahams might have a useful eye for sly hands — minded that Hacker had not yet had a chance to make Solly’s acquaintance, had been about a lengthy matter in Manchester, has the very nicest insight into embezzling schemes. Daresay ’twould be useful to you to convoke a little with him.
Indeed that had been quite the revelation! Bet Bloggs had known a deal about moving money from others’ pockets into her own, had had a fine light hand at the matter, but how you did that with account books and bank accounts — why, she wished she could go talk to Grigori on the subject! fancied he might know somewhat of that business himself.
Law, she had never anticipated to have such friends — Ginevra Frinton and Tess Halloran at the agency, Maude Coggin and some of the other lodgers at Mrs Mitchell’s lodging house, and above all, the ladies at Yeomans, where she had been invited spend a little holiday over the Yuletide season.
O, she had been in some turmoil of mind what gifts she might make ’em, but very fortunate, there was, close by her lodgings, a curiosity shop, where she was able to find quaint out of the common things that would entirely suit. Had been very puzzled what she might give Lady Bexbury, but had noted the cabinets of very good china in her parlour, and there had been various items of china in the shop, and one of the things that Grigori had used to discourse of to Bet in the old Seven Dials days was how you could tell when a thing was real quality, a matter most material to a pawnbroker’s trade. There has been one piece, that she fancied was a good deal better than one would anticipate in this place.
Nonetheless, she was in a considerable fret when presents were being exchanged at Yeomans, around the tree sparkling with tinsel and candles, the children a-playing on the floor, and Lady Bexbury came to hers.
Oh — o, ’tis charming. Was that a catch in the lovely voice?
Was that a glance exchanged ’twixt Flora Ferraby and Hannah Roberts? Mr MacDonald coughed.
And with a swan depicted! O, Leda, how very pretty of you.
O, that had been a fine holiday! Romps with the children — cozy gossips with Ellen and Verrie — a deal of excellent conversation to listen to — Lady Bexbury a-telling of stories —
Now she was back in her lodgings and about business, came to an understanding that perchance did not need to scrimp and save every penny — think carefully before allowing herself a little treat, as it might be a paper of roasted chestnuts on a cold night — had savings laid up, and not only that, had friends to look out for her. Friends to look out for her that had the ability to help. For she and Lil and Joan had looked out for one another as best they could in those streets and alleyways, but there was little enough they might do for one another — little loans in hard times, warnings of particular men, sometimes making a distraction —
Partly it was money, but it was also knowing people. And knowing things.
It was Sunday evening in the lodging-house. Maude Coggin desired Leda to come take tea in the parlour with her, very civil indeed.
Leda said she apprehended that Miss Coggin was about coming upon the bustling time in her trade?
She sighed and said ’twas so, the Season was ever thus. And that brought her to one matter she desired open to Miss Hacker, that was, Miss Richardson, the actress, that they had been dressing at Mamzelle Bridgette this great while, for Mr Dalrymple pays her dressing-bills, never makes any bother over ’em, though I daresay these days she could well afford ’em herself, had been so very pleased with her latest gowns that had give her passes for the play, and sure as things were at present could by no means attend. Would Miss Hacker be able to make use of ’em?
Leda said that was a very kindly offer, and should be entire delighted, thinking that mayhap she might invite Frinton or Halloran to come with her.
T’other thing was, went on Miss Coggin, is a word of advice. ’Tis entirely prudent oeconomy in ladies that are obliged to earn their living to have well-fitting shoes: la, I am on my feet all day and ’tis of very material importance.
Why, thought Leda, there was entire sense in that. Remembered how sore her feet had been when she had been a-tramping round backdoors going buy my lucky white heather! to see whether stolen goods were being purveyed in like fashion. She said, she appreciated the advice, but did Miss Coggin have any particular recommendations for shoemakers?
Miss Coggin said indeed she did, ones that would make good serviceable shoes, none of your fancy flimsy stuff, would give this card to Miss Hacker, and did she mention her name, fancied would be well-attended to.
Why, that is most exceeding thoughtful of you, for indeed I am sometimes obliged to be a deal on my feet.
And it could do no harm to convey a little gossip to Miss Coggin about a certain matter of a case very similar to that her friend had been concerned with: but had not been a fellow already on their books as a scoundrel bent upon beguiling hard-working women out of their savings, so had had to do a deal of chasing about and asking about him, very tactful and surreptitious — and sure he was by no means the well-provided fellow he gave himself out to be! Very well-known at the local pawn-shop!
But then there are women play a similar game — No! — the fellow supposes they are about to marry, have a place to live, she says, my darling, my dove, give me the money to go furnish our little love-nest — and levants.
Miss Coggin snorted and said, all very well for that beguiling sort, she supposed, but fancied it would be a risky endeavour. And less honest than walking the streets.
Leda minded that Miss Coggin was now in a superior position, but that needlewomen were oft obliged to resort to the streets during the slack time o’trade. Was that not what that scheme for making clothes for orphans was intended to prevent?
The parlour clock chimed and Miss Coggin said, time for her to turn in, had an early start the morn.
Well, thought Leda — passes for the play, an introduction to a fine shoemaker — sure I come on.