Lady Grid-Iron was tired, she was tired of reading the bible day in, and day out (and of trying to look demure whilst doing it).Tobias had developed an abiding fascination with the book of Exodus, particularly where it pertained to the sacking of Egypt, indeed he had memorised the entire chapter and never tired of reciting it to both her and the servants. She was tired of crocheting purses and sewing ribbons on bonnets, the common pass time of women born high and low throughout the realm, supposedly,(when in tarnation would she get the time to clean her Winchester rifle?), most of all she was tired of London (give me the prairies any goddamn day of the week!). But she dared not let the irritation show, for one thing, she was married to the honourable Lord Grid-Iron, and that required a degree of ladylike finesse, a degree of turning out, she had hitherto not much required.
And then, of course, there was Francis, her negro page boy, why his eyes became liquid, unfathomable pools, if he stood in Lord Grid-Iron’s presence for longer than thirty minutes, and what was worst she knew what he was thinking. He loved a good hunt, in fact he had a gift for it having been born, raised and enslaved in the Sudan (by Arab Militia men). He had been sold to a plantation owner in the Americas and subsequently freed by the underground railway. The potential consequences of his patent and potent distaste for Lord Grid-Iron might have terrified her, had he not been recruited by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and then assigned to her by Allan Pinkerton himself. “Mah-dear” she cooed, smiling sweetly at the big, old, galoot she had married, “Ah-m tired”
“Tired m’dear? Damn it! I’ve invited Lord Montaperti to brunch! Who’ll entertain him?”
“Montaperti? Why? Such a strange little man. If I but once turn my back on him I catch him rubbing the silk of my gown between his fingers, like a common dressmaker!”
Lord Grid-Iron chortled, ” He is a common dressmaker my dear! He’s in textiles, yes! Quite common and very rich, and since we both have an uncommon fascination with the great unwashed he will lunch with us this morning!”
“And what of the mill worker’s strikes my love? Countess De Lacey tells me all sorts of terrible things about them. Is it true they’ve threatened to burn down the mills unless their working conditions improve and their wages are raised?”
“Not entirely my dear, they’ve threatened to dynamite them. You know, I sometimes wonder why we ever bothered improving the cost of living. Since Lord Aberdeen became Prime Minister we’ve cut the beer duty tax, introduced ‘the right to buy your own berth in the workhouse’ policy and introduced two further alms-giving days. We had much rather they kept their little ones in the industrial schools we’ve reformed, is it our fault they choose to put them to work? The proles are their own worst enemies”
“Ah-shall have cook send up a pot of Earl Grey and some of those pastries Mademoiselle Lefevre bakes, she really is the most delightful find”
“Most delightful” the great galoot replied with a lascivious twinkle in his eye, Kitty Grid-Iron feigned a yawn and fluttered her lashes watching his face grow flush beneath their influence, delicately discarding her embroidery, she lifted her satin skirts and minced over to him, pecking him most delicately on the cheek she sighed,
“Toby mah-dear I do so tire of these interminable brunches with interminably boring elevated tradesmen, promise me my love that this will be the last one…for a while” her large, brown, doe’s eyes met his watery blue ones and as ever he blushed and became a little flustered, “My dear” another delicate peck on his hirsute cheek and she was gone.
He gave no thought to regularly attending Parliament, though he had fought tooth and nail for his seat in the lower chamber, and certainly none as to how he should persuade the mill workers not to make good on their promise to blow up every Silk Mill in London. Kitty supposed the British government would have the infantry open fire as per usual (all the really big guns were stranded some place in the Crimea). And then of course there were the little boat trips to New South Wales, the judiciary had that down to a fine art; caught stealing a loaf of bread? New South Wales. Arrested for rioting against poor pay and conditions? New South Wales. Kitty supposed that sooner or later they’d run out of penal colonies and then where would they send them? The America’s were now independent.
“You sent for me m’aam” Maggie made a small curtsy, little Maggie, so neat and pristine in her prim little mob cap and prissy blue gown complete with frilly white apron, it made Lady Grid-Iron want to scream,”Did you sleep well Maggie? You look awful peaky this morning”
“Yes M’aam” said she, her eyes downcast, “I slept as well as might be expected, thank you m’aam”
“Lay out the primrose coloured water-silk and the satin slippers will you? And then you may run my bath”
Maggie curtsied,” Will you need me to fix your hair m’aam?” Kitty shook her head, “My hair’s fine, would that my contemplations were so”
“Contemplations m’aam?” Kitty smiled wryly, four years had been the most time she had ever spent on any operation in the United States of America. She’d been married seven years, widowed three, out on the hunt for secessonists in Alabama for four, and all of that had been a walk in the park next to being married to Lord Grid-Iron (two years and three and a half days,forty minutes and thirty seconds).”M’aam I couldn’t help but to notice the brooch you always wear, excuse me for asking but m’aam that lettering, what does it mean?”
Kitty’s eyes narrowed, she smiled brilliantly and in that moment she seemed most unlike her feminine, demure self, “Numquam Somni? It’s Latin child, it means, ‘I never sleep’, I’m a lot like you in that respect mah-dear” she said, hugging the child who was her maid very gently.