Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

Anne

October 11th 1885

Unknown Location

What I really want to know is how the bastards did it.

It’s the blackest part of the night, and I’ve woken up to find myself lying upon a bed made of straw. Although this in itself may sound rather conventional, it most certainly is not when a person went to sleep on a mattress stuffed with horsehair and layered with cotton.

How does one accomplish such a feat?

This is possibly the rudest thing to which I have ever borne witness. Or not, considering I was asleep. The sheer, bloody audacity of thieves these days!

I roll over and sit myself up, the utterly repellent material crunching underneath me. Something tickles my foot and I shriek, pushing the blanket away, gasping as I do so. Not only did they bring an insect breeding-ground into my house, they’ve stolen my quilt, too.

Of all the nerve…

Right.

I’m contacting the police. The audacious fiends shan’t get away with it.

I shuffle to the end of the bed, and stand. After all, if I’m quick enough to report, they won’t be too hard to find. A seven foot wide mattress is not an easy nor sensible thing to walk along a road with, even under the cover of night. I reach for my slippers, but, wait. Why am I standing on a cold floor? Where is…

They’ve done away with my Ambusson rug!

This is utterly outrageous.

“Beatrix!” I shout, walking towards the door. “Beatrix! Wake up, we’ve been robbed!” Wait, it’s too dark, and I’m cold. “Beatrix! Come on in here and light a light, will you?” I raise my arms out in front of me,  swinging my hands back and forth as I blindly search for my dressing gown. After walking a few steps, I bump into a wall that shouldn’t be there.

I run my fingers across it.

It is cracked and in a dire state of disrepair.

This is not my wall.

Something flakes off underneath my palms, and inside my mind.

This isn’t my bedroom.

I’ve been kidnapped.

No, no…it can’t possibly be. There must be a logical explanation for this strangeness.

Did I fall from my horse again?

Is it possible I hit my head?

Could I still be asleep?

The pain that shoots through my arm as I pinch myself is suddenly overtaken by a horrible ache inside my breasts; a hot, tender, bruised sensation. I ignore it, listening for a sound.

Any sound.

Where am I?

I turn in a circle, lost.

What does one do in such a predicament?

Am I in the servants quarters?

My anger is swiftly replaced by fear.

“Beatrix!” I hiss, keeping my voice low this time. I am rewarded with the dreadful sound of nothingness.

What time is it?

I start to walk in a straight line, searching for something, anything, that might inform me as to my location. A lamp. A door. A dressing-table.  My hands brush nothing but air until they hit what feels like another stone wall. I place my back against it, and follow it with my palms until I hit a corner.

I continue onwards, until I realize I have counted four corners and effectively walked in a square.

I’m in a room.

A small room.

A small room without a door.

As horrendous a prospect this may be, I follow my journey again. Slowly, carefully, I search for any grooves or handles that I in my haste, I undoubtedly missed the first time. Other than the bed, nothing of sufficient prominence nor irregularity informs me of my whereabouts.  If I can’t identify my location, then I should at least try to escape.

But I don’t find anything.

I sit on the floor.

How is this possible?

Every room has a door. If someone brought me here then there is a way inside, and therefore, a way out.

I don’t know how long I stay like this, thinking of everything and nothing. Frozen in place, scared to call out, too frightened to move, yet now terrified not to do both. I close my eyes for just a moment, and when I open them a small pool of light rests upon my arm.

I lift my head, searching for it’s source.

A small, square window hangs roughly twelve feet above the ground. It has unusual, horizontal lines across it. I squint. What could they be? Cautiously, I rise, intending to investigate, when a loud knock reverberates from somewhere nearby.

I shriek, and run towards the bed that I can now see; albeit faintly, grabbing the blanket off the floor and leaping into it. Pulling the cover over my head, I pray they won’t notice me.

My heart is beating too fast. I can’t breathe under this blanket and it smells.

“Lady Stanbury?”

Who?

“Anne?”

Me?

Oh, it’s Beatrix, dear-hearted Beatrix. I push the cover away from my face, readying myself to leap into her arms.

“Quick, Beatrix, come inside! Light a light, quickly now! What has happened to my bed, where are we-”

A familiar scratching sound; the lighting of an oil lamp. Held up to a woman’s face.

A face that is not Beatrix’s.

I scream.

She is wearing a white uniform complete with a starched collar; a strange wrap-around contraption, slightly reminiscent of a maids, yet, bewilderingly, subtly and grossly different. Her vast body fills the doorway, illuminated by an unknown source of light from behind her. She stands still for a moment, assessing me.

Doorway?

“Now, now, Lady Stanbury,” she says, her bosom heaving as if she is gasping for breath.  “I don’t expect any trouble from you now, especially not at this hour of the morning. Here is your breakfast.”

I push myself as far up the bed as I can, away from her. What has she done with Beatrix?

“Where is Beatrix?” I shout, as she puts a stinking tray on the floor next to my bed. Who in hell is this damned fiend, and does she honestly imagine I will eat my breakfast…off the floor?

“Beatrix will be along momentarily, my Lady,” she says, stepping away from me and smirking. She places her masculine hands on fat hips and with a small incline of her fat head, performs a wobbly, insubordinate imitation of a badly-executed curtsey. “For now, I am your maid.

I could kill her.

“Leave at once, intruder!” I scream. “I certainly did not employ you, you liar!”  Leaping out of bed, I back away from her. Where on earth is Beatrix?  “Father! There is a thief in our house!” Where is my riding crop? I shall beat her senseless.  I whirl around to find it, but wait, this room is not mine.  I have been kidnapped!

What is this accursed place?

“Calm yourself,” says the fat thief, approaching me with outstretched hands.

“Father! Beatrix!” My head feels strange: spots of black are floating in front of my eyes. Lord, if I faint in this monster’s clutches I’m doomed.  She might try to eat me.

Until my father or Beatrix arrives, I must find something with which to hit her if she attacks me.  An object to defend myself; though if need be I shall get her with my bare hands and teeth. Goddamn her! Yet sadly, there is only the thin mattress on which I awoke, atop which lie a couple of awfully colored brown blankets.  Bloody useless. The bed frame itself looks affixed to the floor. The room is roughly eight feet squared, and unfortunately, sparse.  No wardrobe.

Heavens.

And the window! It has bars across it! I have been thrown in a cell!  Lord, have mercy on my soul!  This is an exercise in utter futility.  There is nothing to make a weapon with here. My safety is a thing of the past.

“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….” I mutter, as I search the room. God will help cast out this devil.

In my haste to find a dangerous object, I fail to notice a lone flagstone in the floor which has risen above its neighbors. The one inch jut is adequate enough to trip me.

Landing on my head, pain shoots through my brain.

“Doctor!” The fat kidnapper shouts from behind me. Doctor? Does she imagine she can pretend  I am in a hospital?  This cell does not resemble a place of rest!  I consider the wall opposite me as I lie on my face.  It is a sickening yellow in dire need of paint, flaking off in places and somebody needs to fix this floor.  And what is that smell?  Sitting up, I look back at the offending slab. It mocks me, and threads of green grace it’s edges.  For the first time, I detect I am not wearing my own lacey white nightgown. This drab excuse is no Parisian beauty; rather a thin and awful green linen thing which trails below my feet.

The reason I tripped! The hem must have become stuck on the slab.   This gives me a sense of self satisfaction in that it was my clothes conspiring against me as opposed to my own unwieldy awkwardness.  Score one to Anne, zero to my obese jailer: you supplied me with the wrong size gown!  A manic laugh resounds inside my head.  This is evidence no doubt of her stupidity.  If she cannot judge the size of my frame then she will make a further mistake, which will enable me to escape.

I am happy.  Tomorrow she might give me the jailer’s keys for breakfast, and put the bowl of porridge in her pocket.  That would serve her right. I roll onto my stomach, the dizziness is overwhelming. She can have a view of my behind. She doesn’t deserve my face.

“Why is she laughing?” a man’s voice says.

“How am I to know? But she has fallen, and she has urinated upon herself!”

There are two of them? If this situation weren’t so dreadful, it would be almost comical. And who has urinated upon themselves? That is disgusting. Splayed in a most undignified manner on the floor, dressed in an appalling green gown, with blood trickling out of my head, I contemplate which is more worrisome. The state of my cell, no fit state for a Lady, or the fact that a man has an uncontested view of my unmentionables.

My head does not overly concern me, the warmth of the blood is rather soothing.

“Pervert!” I shout.

The floor is comfortable too.

I don’t want to get up.

Rustling and hushing from behind me.

Before I realize what is happening, I am manhandled into a sitting position. I squirm in a pathetic attempt to stay where I am, to no avail. What impolite, rude behavior.

“My father will not give you a solitary farthing!” I say, into the face of the ‘doctor’ holding me. “Unhand me at once and let me go home, you, you,” I struggle to find an insult strong enough. “You utter, foul sod of a rotter!” My voice breaks and I am ashamed and astounded that I start to sob.

“Lady Stanbury, look at me,” he says.  I refuse, and moan into my gown. “I am a doctor. My name is George, Dr George Savage. I am the chief medical officer here at Bethlem Royal Hospital. You are safe, and let me assure you, we have not kidnapped you. The courts’ requested that you be sent here at Her Majesty’s pleasure, until we can make you well again. You are not a prisoner, but a patient.” He attempts to rub my arms and is rewarded by a smack in the face.

This is outrageous.  They have the wrong person! My name is not Lady Stanbury, nor do I know of any person by that name. I don’t believe a word he says. Blood runs into my right eye, making it difficult to assess him in any detail. I make out a long brown beard and a well-fitting suit. How dare this degenerate masquerade as an eminent doctor? I am disgusted.

“My name, if you please, is Lady Anne. You have kidnapped the wrong woman, I never saw you in my life! Incompetents!” This is too hilarious. I start to laugh.

“Chloral?” asks the enormous specimen of a human by his side.

“No, no,” he replies, “We only dose them as a last resort. It is better to let her rest awhile, see if she comes to her senses somewhat by noon. Get the new attendant to come and clean her up.” They start to move away from me.

“Don’t you dare leave me alone in this place!” I shout, jumping to my feet, but I am too slow: they are at the door. With a somewhat evil glance behind her, the ‘nurse’ winks at me and slams the door shut; a yellow door which matches and blends perfectly with the walls.

I sit back on the bed and start sobbing once again.

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