His Lucky Charm - Cover

His Lucky Charm

Copyright© 2012 by Argon

Chapter 31: Forgiving Nature

London, September 1868

Upon reaching Heyworth House, Jim insisted that both women went to their bedrooms to rest. Rose was eight months pregnant and the day had exhausted her. Priscilla had been missing sleep for over a week, and she had stood in the dock all day. Jim promised to wake them in time whilst he gave instructions to his housekeeper and the staff to prepare the house for an impromptu soiree.

He had some time to think as well. With Priscilla's acquittal, the Tremaynes could now focus on the impending addition to their numbers. It would be good for Rose to be relieved of the anxiety over her friend, and Jim would be able to give his attention to his wife.

There was a problem looming ahead, and that was Priscilla's situation. It was unthinkable for her to return to her husband, yet Jim was dubious of her chances to be granted a divorce. Unless the Morlake woman testified there was little hope to prove adultery on Crewes' part, even with the cruelty and desertion that could be claimed. No, in all likelihood, Priscilla would spend her life as the estranged wife of a maniac.

Jim sighed. What he almost feared was that Rose would once again try to bring about a menage a trois. Jim liked Priscilla well, he cared for her in no small way, but he saw the future complications of such an arrangement and the consequences for all involved.

At six o'clock, the maidservants woke Rose and Priscilla so that both would be able to prepare themselves for the soiree. Rose was the first to come downstairs to join him, and he realised that she was now very close to giving birth. His heart went out to her, and he held her for a moment.

"I love you, my darling. We shall have more peace now."

"Oh, I feel very well now," Rose smiled back. "Poor Cilla is rehabilitated with not even a small blemish to her reputation, and it was my husband who brought that about. You are quite the detective."

"Let us not get carried away. It was a stroke of good luck that let us find the cab driver."

"I should rather ascribe it to your tenacity," Rose contradicted. "Whether it was luck or tenacity, I am proud of you."

A little while later, Amanda with her two stepdaughters appeared, and then Priscilla descended the stairs wearing the same charcoal dress from the trial. The Kennedy girls had not been allowed in the courtroom, and they were eager to show Priscilla their adoration.

Thanks to the efforts of their staff, the downstairs of the house were now ready for the guests to show. Among the first was Lady Wilkes who upon entering gave first Priscilla and then Rose emotional hugs. She was then introduced to the Thrushs and their stepdaughters before an upholstered chair was produced for her use. Lord and Lady Lambert with their son Anthony, his wife Sarah, and their daughter Siobhan Pryce arrived next, all offering a blushing Priscilla felicitations and sympathies for her trials. Samantha and Alistair Donovan showed then, and both hugged a grateful Priscilla.

Sir Archibald Pendrake arrived together with Mr. Barstow. Their greeting was slightly more formal, but Barstow showed no sign of grudge over the outcome.

Higgs, the cab driver, had begged off the invitation, but the young Alison O'Hare and her employers, the Warners, came and also Mr. Hayes who was shy in such illustrious company. Priscilla made it a point to greet each of them and she thanked them for the help they had provided. Mr. Hayes looked as if he had something on his mind, but he never spoke up.

Melissa Martin and Colleen MacAllister were the last to arrive long after ten o' clock, both looking satisfied in the extreme. The former had been able to sell the picture of Jane Wharton to several newspapers whilst the latter had reported about the trial for The Times. They had printer proofs with them from which Colleen read to the assembled guests. She certainly had a way with words, and she managed to describe the rather dull proceedings in a fetching manner. It was clear to everybody that for a few days, Priscilla's would be household name all over London.

They had to describe then how Melissa Martin had taken the photograph with the help of which Jim and Ned had questioned cab drivers and chemists alike. Mr. Barstow opined that this was a wonderful idea and that the Metropolitan Police should have a collection of photographic images of all notorious criminals.

Rose could not help but give Colleen MacAllister a smug grin, and the writer gave her a lopsided smile in return. But for their discussion at Lambert House, Melissa Martin would not have taken up photography.

The soiree broke up a little after midnight, for the main protagonist showed signs of fatigue after a more than taxing day. One of the last to leave was Mr. Barstow, who again made it a point to assure Priscilla of his support and help in the aftermath of the trial. Rose stood by her friend's side when she watched the prosecutor leave.

"You have made quite the impression on Barstow."

"He is a good man," Priscilla sighed. "Would I had met him or a man like him rather than the ninny I married."

"He is a barrister. He can help you to win a divorce," Rose said practically before she started a giggle. "He'll have a personal motivation to succeed."

Priscilla blushed only a little. "We shall see," she said almost dreamily.


By necessity, breakfast in the Tremayne household was late on the next morning. At eleven o' clock, they were still sitting around the table. Rose was a little preoccupied this morning because the growing child was lively, and several of the other house dwellers were a little the worse for wear after indulging freely in the offered wines and spirits. When the maidservant breathlessly announced that Mr. Barstow was asking to see Lady Crewes, Jim could not help but laugh.

"The fellow's forging that iron whilst it's red hot!"

"I'm neither an iron nor am I red-hot, Mr. James Tremayne!" Priscilla retorted fighting a smile. She turned to the maid. "Ask Mr. Barstow in, Emmy!"

When Barstow entered a few moments later, his face showed that courtship was not on his mind. He bowed to the men and women before he approached Priscilla.

"Lady Crewes, I fear that I bring the worst of news. Last night, on approaching midnight, there was an altercation at Sir Hamilton Crewes' house. To deduce from the testimony of a maidservant, but also from the evidence found, Sir Hamilton tried to choke the Morlake woman to death. In the struggle which took place in his study, she managed to get a hold of a brass microscope with which he hit him on the head. His skull was bashed in, and he died. From all we know so far, it was a case of justified self defence."

Priscilla sat silent for a moment shaking her head. Then she looked up at Barstow.

"Did she escape?"

"No, she was in no shape to run after being almost throttled to death. The detective constable in charge called the police surgeon when there were signs of suffocation, but she recovered somewhat later in the night. She is at Newgate now awaiting her trial for poisoning Sir Hamilton."

Priscilla took another deep breath and shook her head. "I wanted to rid myself of him, but I should have preferred a divorce. Please, Mr. Barstow, do not think badly of me if I fail to mourn him. He abandoned me in the cruellest way, he deceived me, and he slandered me. I cannot think of him as my husband anymore."

"Madam, in my humble opinion, you have every right to feel the way you do. I for my part will not think badly of you."

"You are very understanding, Mr. Barstow. Now I shall have to find mourning attire." She shook her head again, now with a touch of anger. "Another year of my life wasted on a worthless ninny!"

"He was that as even Inspector Mellard observed," Barstow sighed. "Be that as it may, Lady Crewes, let me please be the first to offer my condolences, if not over the loss of your husband then over a year spent in mourning."

"I accept and thank you for your kindness, Mr. Barstow. Once again you have proven to be a man I should be happy to have as a friend."

He bowed deeply and kissed Priscilla's hand. "I do not merit such distinction, Lady Crewes, but if you will deem me worthy of it, I shall gladly and with pride call myself your friend."

Priscilla contrived a sitting curtsey before she looked down at herself.

"I don't suppose this charcoal grey will pass for black, at least until we finish breakfast?"

"To me it looks black," Jim judged. "Mr. Barstow, if your duties allow for it, why don't you sit and share the breakfast with us? You must be famished after this morning."

John Barstow nodded and gave a polite smile in return. "This is kind of you, and I accept gratefully."

It was another hour before Priscilla reluctantly left the table. Amanda volunteered to raid Sir Hamilton's house for Priscilla's clothes, and Ned declared that he would accompany her. In the meantime, Mr. Barstow thanked his hosts and bade his farewell.

"That's not the last we'll see of this fellow," Jim mused. "Mark my words: there'll be another wedding a year from now."

Rose put her hand on her husband's arm. "She could do worse. Oh dear, she did worse twice already! He's by far a better man though."

"That's how I judge him, too. Let us see whether his devotion will hold through a mourning year."


Sir Hamilton Crewes' funeral was a small affair attended only by those obligated. Rose begged off, but Jim accompanied Priscilla to the service. Luckily, it was over quickly enough, for it was a hot day and Priscilla almost suffocated under the black widow's dress and the layers of black veils.

Sir Hamilton had died intestate, and he had no close blood relations. Priscilla thus became the sole heir by default. The house became hers, but also investments in the amount of over £21,000; not quite a fortune but close. This, together with the trust fund from her father, would allow her a comfortable existence.

Naturally, at dinner that evening, she, the Tremaynes, and the Thrushs discussed the case again. To Priscilla's amazement, Rose expressed an understanding for Betty Morlake. Speaking in a low voice so as not to be overheard by the staff, she professed a feeling of sympathy for the plight of the young woman.

"Had I met a man such as Jim or any decent man in the Baltimore tavern where I was forced to give myself away, I would have readily killed for the chance to stay with him."

Priscilla thought a lot about that, and on the next morning she surprised her friends with the request to be driven to Newgate Prison. Jim accompanied her of course, and it was already past ten o' clock when she sat at a table across from Betty Morlake in the visitation room.

The woman had been at Newgate Prison for four days, and like Priscilla she had nobody to pay for a private cell or for outside food. She looked terrible, and the dress she wore still bore the signs of her deathly struggle with Crewes.

"Are you satisfied to see me such?" Morlake asked in a calm voice.

Priscilla slowly shook her head and shuddered. "I would not wish for my worst enemy to be locked up in the common cell."

This brought a reaction from Morlake. "That wasn't my intent. I never thought he'd be so cruel to you. I thought he'd just separate from you, honestly!"

"Your testimony did not help me, did it?"

Morlake lowered her head and bit her lips. "I was mortified. I never thought things would go that far. Ham ... Sir Hamilton was quite set on having you condemned. I ... That wasn't my plan!"

"Your plan was for a separation and a future as his live-in paramour?"

"I only wanted you away. I thought..."

"Tell me about that Watkin's Inn."

That startled Morlake. She was quiet and Priscilla could see pain in her eyes.

"Watkin's Inn was not so bad. I was young, I was the prettiest of the girls, and I could get every man there. Well, the men who visited such a place. But I saw the older wenches, the ones who'd been there for five or ten years, some for twenty years. They were so miserable! I couldn't stand the thought!"

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