The Rookery of St Giles finds itself without the slightest pretensions to architecture and very curious to behold as a consequence. The crumbling crowded tenements lean one against the other like a group of old friends nursing a too long enduring hangover after the inebriation of the night before.
T’is the playground of the rich, hence no expense has been spared, alleyways darkened by towering tenement blocks abound and vast maze-like houses of such intricacy that not even Lewis Carroll’s pens could conjure them in existence! For these are vast rat-like warrens filled with the rookery’s gentleman rats; rats whose agility and strength has garnered them many a purse, watch and ring. Who may count, dear reader, those gentlemen most richly endowed of purse who have ambled drunkenly into such residences, never to wander back out again. These are the risks at night and yet my! The scandalous pleasures!
As the sun rises brilliantly over the hills and lush pastures of Molten Tussock Minor, so it rises but dimly over the rookery estates; indeed were it not for the children playing rough and tumble in the streets and the women gossiping on tenement steps one would think it still night. Theresa Ward wrinkles her nose at the sight, and the stench, which so many have grown up in, and thus grown used to.
She considers the gin wagon still lying on its side in the middle of Dorset Lane, and those carting off its fragments to use as firewood. Why to be stuck in a place such as this, and for life, she will have none of it. But having fallen for Lord Henry Pembroke and being left with child what else is there?
“Theresa! Theresa I say!”
“T’is I who call for you! Not your ma! Ye scandal raising devil!”
See then what Teresa Ward’s life has shrunk most unmercifully to, t’is he whose inebriate breath has glowered over her since ere she was an infant. He whose drunken, leering, violent, cursing ways, have tainted every day she has spent in this accursed room, and in that accursed place. A drunk he may be and prone to a most irreligious outlook, but Cain Ward prides himself on never having strayed from hearth and home, and this has been his blessing and his family’s curse.
“Theresa! Theresa! You! Wee bairn!” says he pointing to the youngest of ten,
Fetch yon harlot forth! If I have birthed a fiend under my roof I will know it, and have words with it! Theresa! Theresa I say! Come forth!”
“Leave her be, the poor creature!” cries Theresa’s mother a woman looking as old as Old Testament’s Abraham’s Sarah was ere she bore Isaac, but with neither the brightness of visage nor the plumpness of cheek that accompanies a bright hope.
“Shut your cake hole!” comes the vicious reply, “I’ll have nought out of such as birthed this harlot wot has brought such crushing disgwace down upon this family!”
“But ave mercy upon er! Is she not flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood?” her mother never yet having learn’t the benificent wisdom of silence now finds herself set upon yet again by the gentleman styling himself pater-familia.
“Oh have mercy, have mercy!”
“Raise a slut and a hussy in my house would you? Have my name tarnished by a petticoat lifting harlot? Nevah!” each assertion accompanied by a viciously administered slap and a swift kick. Fair wages and meaningful employment might have softened his manners a little, but fair wages and meaningful employment has never been the way of the Spitalsfield’s bosses. Which is to say that such vigorous domestic interactions where hardly exceptional within Spitalsfield’s households, if anything, such beatings and curses had become the distinct norm.
“Oh have mercy!”
T’is those pitiful wailings alone that draw Theresa forth from the sanctuary of the grimy streets, to face the baleful glare of the man who calls himself her father.
“Why you’d think t’was the Duchess of Monmouth come to keep us company, but it ain’t! T’is the Whore of Babylon!”
“Don’t you father me! I’ll ave none of ye! Where’s me sherry!”
He sucked at the quarter bottle till the noxious fluid ran in small rivulets down his beard yet it did not calm his mood any. Ten shillings a month from a scullery maid’s wage is nothing to be sniffed at, and she had contributed much of it to the upkeep of the family and now where was it? Gone! And in its place lay the pervasive stink of bad luck and ill-fortune! Did the little fool not know what happened to such as were got with child by a member of the aristocracy? T’was the stuff of nightmares and he would ave it nowhere near his house!
“Well, and wot has you decided? We have nine left to feed, nine as do their fair share of earning, there’s nowt as live and eat for nothing in this house!”
Theresa’s eyes flashed with anger for now she was fallen she had grown exceeding reckless,
“An don’t I know it? The gin money was welcome enough when it was flowing! Cast me out in the streets would ya? Well you’ll not have the pleasure! I’ve means enough to see me through, and I’ll not plead for a roof over my head from such as you!”
Cain Ward grimaced, t’was the most he could muster by way of a smile,
“So it’s settled, you’ll be on your way then?”
His smile grew low and crafty,
“You’ve had three nights at least under this roof that’s worthy of a shilling apiece at least before you depart”
“Oh lord ave mercy! That it should ave come to this! Me own husband casting our child out on the streets! Oh have mercy! Oh show pity! cried the wife
“Oh leave off!” replied the husband,
“Ere! Ave it! There’s your three shillings!” Teresa cried vehemently, gathering her shawl and her carpet bag together she swept to the door in a fury, for she was every inch her father’s daughter, passionate and intemperate to the point of moral ruin!
“If me own kin won’t shield me in me hour of want I’ll to the Salvation Army!”