The fangs of the serpent are hid in the bowl,
Deeply the poison will enter thy soul,
Soon will it plunge thee beyond thy control;
Touch not the cup, touch it not….
– A Temperance Hymn
And as he stared at her intently he was struck afresh by her beauty, for it seemed to him that he had never seen her so attired. For her extraordinary yellow and black outfit was so befitting her handsome figure, and serene countenance, that she ought always to dress in this manner (weather and police constables permitting).
“I” she declared, “Am an ant! Indeed” said she fastening her bright yellow souwester firmly under her chin, “I am one of a legion of constituent ants! I ” she said, pointing one pale tapered finger heavenwards, “Am part of a veritable spiritual hive of battle-ants! Invulnerable to fire and impervious to flood!”, she buckled her yellow sailor’s waterproof tightly around her waist, pulled on a vast pair of black, oil-skin breeches and stepping nimbly from the boat anchored to the docks, waded into the shallow waters of the River Thames. Almira Fielding was not alone, for upon hearing of the Toolley Street conflagration, the entire temperance society (armed with yellow souwesters and oil skin waterproofs),hailed several hackney cabs, and sped round the corner from the ‘The Sozzled Maidshead’, to the source of the roaring conflagration. Indeed, they would have buckled on their waterproofs and sallied forth much sooner, had it not been for the river engines rendering the waterways around the back of the Tooley Street warehouses impassable.
“What does they thinks they is doing?” exclaimed Jakes Monmouth, the owner of the Rye Street distillery, “Don’ts they knows that there’s a fire a-roaring out of control but seventy yards in front o them?! They’ll be burn’t to a cinder crisp if we ain’t careful! Gilly! Gilly! Get afta them! Bring ’em back or so God elp me we’ll swing for it! There’s five amongst em at least listed in Lord Swansby’s who’s who! Get after them!”
Gilly Croft shrugged, there was blazes sprouting up all over the shop, his hands were full, besides which them temperance ladies could be marvellous spiteful if they was messed with, he’d near lost a toe on more than one occasion round them! “You seem them axes they’s carrying? Ever seen them in action over a bar? I ave and I ain’t touchin em!”
“Sister ants! Fix thy courage to the sticking place! And let us march forth!The Parnham Industrial schools lie just ahead! Our little charges lie in the path of a monstrous, devouring conflagration with none to defend them! ” drenching his cloak in the foul waters of the Thames, Lord Harry Pembroke wrapped the heavy garment around his head and shoulders and followed in their wake. In truth Lord Harry had meant to risk what little vestige of reputation he had at the Nag’s head, but the beauteous ferocity of Miss Fielding had left him smitten. He would have followed her to hell and back, indeed he was about to…..