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To Be Beside.

 

To Be Beside

A tale of Victorian Seaside life.


by Chris Cook

Copyright

Copyright © Chris Cook 2016

All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

ISBN.

Chapter 1 – Friday October 29th 1841 London Victoria Railway station

The damp autumnal air hung heavy with coal smoke as the lengthening orange rays of the sun sliced through the haze above the newly completed terminus.

Outside; another handsome carriage turned the corner of Buckingham Palace Road to join the excited throng outside the concourse of Victoria station. There was an air of great expectation at the prospect of being one of the first to travel at break neck speed on one of the new locomotives of the London and South coast line.

A distinguished figure in full length mackintosh descended from the steps with the assistance of a servant.

Another servant carried two cases and the three hurried toward the platforms amongst the steam, hustle and bustle.

‘This will do Giddings. The railway porter will help me aboard from here I am sure.’

‘Certainly, your lordship,’ replied the servant placing the luggage at the feet of the porter.

His lordships servants watched enviously as he disappeared into the dense exhalation of steam from the engine snorting at the buffers.

The place was like a vast iron and glass cathedral to the mighty god of steam. The porter continued with his lordships luggage to the guards van and then escorted him to his seat in the first-class carriage compartments.

‘This is your seat Sir.’

‘And this is for you my good man.’ said his lordship handing him some coins which he seemed really pleased with.

The First-Class compartment interior was cosy and luxurious and a welcome relief from the smoky hustle of the platform. Inside was not too dissimilar from the most comfortable of horse drawn carriages but offered so much more speed and excitement, cutting the fifty-mile journey from six hours to just over one.

‘Hello Benson my good chap.’ said his lordship to his neighbour as he sat down.

‘Hello Edward you old scoundrel.’

There was no Lordship from this gentleman – he was of the same social class as Lord Edward Lytton in fact they were at school together at Eton College.

‘So, are you looking forward to your exciting weekend of fun and debauchery in beautiful bohemian Brighton?

‘Yes, very much and also to help you find a new abode by the fashionable seaside which I can purloin from time to time.’

‘Yes, I too old chum, me too. But of course, you must have some free time you know. I have things to do and I would not wish to take all your time with my wild dreams.

John Benson nodded. He knew his place. After all they had shared the formative years of their lives like brothers. Even now they were rarely parted at social events and functions.

Lord Edward was seeking an alternative lifestyle away from his banking hierarchy, where he could truly unwind without the attentive glare of London. Brighton with its new travel links and Bohemian lifestyle seemed the perfect place and less than half a day’s journey.

Two ladies dressed in very fashionable attire joined them on the other seats which faced back towards the end of the train. They also seemed excited too and rather giggly at the prospect of the journey.

‘They do say that the human body cannot survive the speeds that these locomotives are capable of.’ said John rather loudly so the ladies could hear.

‘I do hope they are wrong. I feel that I am too young and have not experienced enough of life.’ said one of the ladies fluttering her fan in front of her pretty face.

‘Are you ladies continuing to Brighton?’ Enquired John although he felt that Edward would rather him not ask.

‘Yes, Sir and you?’ replied one of the ladies.

‘Yes, I am accompanying my friend Lord Lytton here to locate seaside accommodation for him.’

The two ladies nodded as their gazes fell on Lord Lytton who oozed quiet confidence from centuries of aristocratic blood and breeding.

‘Allow me to introduce myself. I am John Benson and this is Lord Edward Lytton. ‘

The ladies looked suitably impressed.

‘In that case I am Elizabeth Gaunt and this is Lady Isabella Russell, we too are going to Brighton to discover and partake in its charm.’

Just then the compartment door opened and in dashed a rather breathless gentleman who sat down beside Elizabeth.

He was confident in his manner and handsome in a humorous smile provoking way.

He said nothing simply placed his carpet bag on the overhead rack as the train whistle blew accompanied by excited shouts from the guard in the next carriage and suddenly the train lurched forward and began to trundle out of the station.

As they picked up speed they soon crossed the river bridge and could see the bridges of the Thames to the West silhouetted in front of the watery orange setting sun.

‘Tickets please. As the door slid open the collector stood with his clip to authorize their journey.

The late arrival was first to offer his ticket.

‘I am afraid you are only second class Sir and this is first class. You will have to pay the difference or leave.’ said the conductor.

‘Oh, sorry I didn’t appreciate the rules.’

‘I know Sir it’s all new to us all but I will have to ask you to leave.

‘Certainly, and sorry to trouble you kind folk.’

He left; with his carpet bag intact and headed down the train.

The others barely showed their tickets before the collector continued on his way.

A little further up the train the gentleman with the carpet bag finally found a second-class carriage which was also comfortable but rather more open, crowded and smoky.

He sat opposite a lady and gentleman who were very well attired. Along side him sat another man who seemed to be examining a beautifully manuscripted family tree. Out of the window; the houses and rooftops of Clapham sped by.

‘I imagine this whole train will arrive in Brighton God willing?’

‘The couple looked surprised at Sylvanus’ remark.’

‘I imagine so.’ replied the slightly startled gentleman.

‘That’s good I would not like to leave part of me in some Wealden town on the way. Are you holidaying in Brighton?’

‘Er no we are visiting my wife’s sister who is living in Brighton and married to a steam engine driver.’

‘Ah good so if we are lucky he is driving our locomotive and will guide us safely to our destination.

And you kind Sir what is your intention?’ He enquired of the gentleman to his side.

The man turned his gaze for a moment from the papers and muttered.

‘I have family business to attend to and I would prefer you didn’t remind me of this breakneck speed and situation.’ Immediately he folded his papers and returned to his window staring blankly out at the passing buildings sprawling south of the expanding capital along the iron artery of the railway track.

With that Sylvanus took a weighty book from his carpet bag and continued to read with occasional glimpses out of the window as glowing embers from the engine flew by and the smoke billowed closely at the windows as a result of a tunnel or bridge.

There were only a couple of stops before the locomotive pulled hesitantly into Brighton Terminus about a quarter to nine in the evening to the excited expectation of the travellers.

There was a frenzied atmosphere as the riders dismounted their carriages and found porters or headed heavily burdened for the exit.

Outside the concourse there were numerous hackney cabs awaiting the expectant travellers and to take them to their destination.

Sylvanus queued in the damp evening air and inhaled the salty flavour from the nearby ocean. He was used to smoggy coal tar laden atmosphere of Pimlico so Brighton had already improved his demeanour.

‘Can you smell the ocean?’ Sylvanus enquired of the man behind him in the queue.

‘Yes, I believe I can.’

Soon Sylvanus was perched in his carriage. ‘Imperial Hotel please.’

‘Right you are Sir.’ Replied the cabby and pulled out of the station into the night air and headed south down Queens Road to the seafront. Their path was lit by modern and beautifully crafted iron gas lamps. At the ocean, they turned right and headed west as the waves crashed beside them and glinted in the streetlights. After about half a mile the cabbie turned into a rather majestic Georgian residence recently named the Imperial hotel.

‘Here you are Sir. Threepence ha’penny.’

‘Very good kind driver here is sixpence – enjoy some beer on me. I am in party mood.’

Sylvanus trudged to the door with his bag where an attentive doorman took it from him and escorted him to the desk.

‘Good evening Sir and welcome to the Imperial hotel.’

‘Thank you, kind Sir, – I have a reservation under the unfortunate name of Kent. Sylvanus Kent although I have to say I prefer your county of Sussex to that of my name.’

‘Ah yes Sir you are in room 223. Buttons here will take your luggage to your room on the second floor. Are you alright with stairs Sir?’

‘Yes, yes still able to negotiate a couple of beautiful opulent flights of stairs with red carpet, brass and ironwork and all lit by ornate candelabra.’

Buttons led up the opulent staircase to the second floor and opened the door for him.

‘There you are Sir – sea view room. If you would like anything, please do not hesitate to contact one of us. There is a bell chord beside the bed.’

‘Well since you asked. I would love a cheese on toast and a glass of gin.’

‘Certainly, Sir it will be with you immediately.’

Buttons accepted the tip once again with excitement and hurried to place the food order.

Sylvanus hurried to the window and strained to see the sea lapping not a few hundred yards away. The Imperial was not quite the best hotel in Brighton being at the Hove end but it certainly was one of the new top ten and was becoming used to dealing with eccentric gentlemen down for a weekend fun from London.

It was hardly more than 15 minutes before his food and drink arrived.

‘Here is your order Sir.’

‘Thank you, young man. And here is your reward. Now tell me two things. Is the bar still open and where are the pretty girls?’

‘Yes, the Imperial bar is open until midnight and often there are pretty girls there but the guarantee of the most beautiful girls you should go to the Mannequin club.’

‘Thank you again.’ said Sylvanus over-tipping the man so his eyes were on stalks. ‘Maybe you can give me directions tomorrow or arrange for me to get to the right places.’

‘Yes, certainly Sir, certainly Sir. I will be on duty and at your command Sir.’

Sylvanus returned to his plate of cheese on toast. It was not the most exotic meal but one he had cherished since childhood and which could guarantee to make him feel warm and loved. Although he was a man of some means Sylvanus was content with simple pleasures in life.

He gently sipped his gin along with mouthfuls of delightful toasted cheese

On completion, he looked at his pocket watch and discerning that it was still before midnight decided to venture to the bar.

He retraced his route to the ground floor and entered the room behind reception.

There were only a few people still drinking, three single men dressed in fine tweed suits, a couple and two women both of whom he decided were a little too involved for his attention.

The barmaid however was rather sweet so he decided to sit at the bar to maintain her attention.

‘A gin please young lady, against room 223.’

‘Certainly Sir.’

He watched her turn to the worktop behind where there was an array of bottles. She had long hair which was tied up under a pretty white lace cap. As she turned their gazes met and he was transfixed by her natural beauty. She returned to him with the glass like a goddess bearing offerings.

‘223 Sir.’ she replied.

‘Yes, and here’s a little something for you.’ replied Sylvanus after a moment’s hesitation.

His tip was more than the price of the gin.

‘Thank you, Sir, – very kind.

I am not sure if you know but the bar closes at midnight.’

‘Ah yes but I am sure I can get some room service if I fancy a little extra, can’t I?’

‘Yes, Sir without doubt.

‘What is your name?’ enquired Sylvanus.

‘Annie Sir.’

‘Well Annie it is a pleasure to be served by you. Now tell me are all the girls in Brighton as pretty as you?’

‘I wouldn’t know Sir. I have only been working here in Brighton for around 6 months. My home is just the other side of the South Downs in the village of Poynings.’

‘Ah very nice. So, would I have passed through it on the locomotive from London?

‘Not quite Sir, you would have gone through a tunnel through the hills about 3 miles East of Poynings at a small village called Clayton. It’s called the Clayton tunnel.’

‘Ah I see. So, do you travel home regularly?’

‘I have only been home once in the 6 months I have been here. I live in the worker’s quarters in the hotel basement but I feel quite happy here for now.

My mother has popped in to see me and to do some shopping once or twice.’

‘Whisky and ginger please.’ One of the gentlemen enquired of Annie.

‘Certainly Sir’

‘You have a very sensual way of pouring drink Annie. I like you very much.’

‘Why thank you Sir. I like you too. It is not often I can have a sensible conversation without a male customer wanting to get me to their room.’

‘Really, I am surprised.’ Said Sylvanus but then again, he wasn’t so surprised.

Sylvanus was a little taken aback that he may not have been the first to try to attract Annie’s attention.

‘What are you in Brighton for Sir? If you don’t mind me asking’

‘Not at all. To be honest I have no particular intention. I wanted to be among the first to discover this new fangled locomotive thing and also I have heard that Brighton is very good for the soul both in mind and with the curative air and waters of the sea.’

‘Well I am not sure about the waters at this time of year Sir, but certainly many swear by them and there have been many ailments cured simply by being here and enjoying the local produce and the fruits of the sea.’

‘You speak very well young lady. Very poetically.’

‘Why thank you Sir, I have half a mind to write my memoirs some day or some tales that come into my head but for now a barmaid I shall be, morning, noon and night.

‘Well it has been a pleasure knowing you but I think there is little more time to drink here so could you send a double gin to my room for my nightcap.’

‘Certainly Sir 223 isn’t it?’

‘Yes, quite right dear girl and I do hope to see you again before I return to London. Who knows I may decide not to return, but remain here and enjoy the delights.’

He took her hand as he descended from the bar, bending deeply to kiss the back of her hand with a lingering kiss.

‘She could also feel some more money being pressed into her palm.

‘Thank you again kind Sir.’

Sylvanus was soon in his room and once again squinting into the darkness for a sign of the nearby ocean.

A knock came on the door.

There was Annie herself, clasping a glass of double gin.

‘Your order Sir. It was changeover for the room boys so I though it best if I deliver it on my way to my bed.’

‘Oh, Annie you are wonderful. However good this place is you are too good for it.

Could you leave it on the table while I find a little something for you?’

‘There is no need Sir. You have tipped me quite enough tonight; you do know there is no need to tip more than 10%, don’t you?’

‘Dear girl money is nothing. It is merely a token which allows access to things. I shall be glad if I ever manage to rid myself of the bond of money but I do believe in spreading some happiness which it appears to do.’

As he slipped some more coins into her hand she took the opportunity to kiss his cheek.

‘How very lovely thank you Annie. Here are another couple of coins for the kiss.’

‘Don’t mention it Sir. It’s just my father has not been well and this extra money will help him get some medicine.’

‘Oh, Annie you are a sweet girl. How much does he need for medicine?’

‘You have given more than enough and I may even be able to get myself a new bonnet so please, no more.’

‘Not even for another kiss.’

‘No; another kiss is free for your kindness.’

They embraced and this time she kissed him squarely and passionately on his mouth.

‘Are you busy tomorrow Annie? For I would love to help you choose that bonnet and I am in desperate need of a guide to your torturous backstreets I have heard of called the Lanes.’

‘My shift starts at Midday Sir so I can be yours until then. They do not like us fraternizing with guests though so perhaps we could meet a little distance from here. How about 10.00 o’clock at the seafront end of Queens Road. I will be waiting and hoping to see you. You will love the Lanes. I promise.’

‘Me too.’

With one more hug, she was gone down the hallway and down the stairs leaving Sylvanus with a slightly amazed and confused expression.

Perhaps this girl is more special than he could ever imagine.

Chapter 2 – Saturday Morning October 30th 1841

Sylvanus awoke excitedly around seven. His dreams and night thoughts had been filled with Annie and the exciting possibility of their forthcoming walk through Brighton. Since he was keen on living well and lucky enough to have money he felt that he should try to keep as fit and live as long as possible to use it up.

Stumbling to the window he could finally see the sea properly from his bedroom window and flung up the sash window to get a deep inhalation of the air.

The waves were small and perfectly formed crashing with a restful hush on the distant pebbles of the seashore. The only other sound was the faint clip clop of the horse’s hooves on the freshly metalled road; Brighton was at the forefront of modern road planning and streets ahead of London’s archaic system.

He was excited to have a date. The strangest date he had ever found himself with. Even now he was not sure who arranged what but, he was excited that he might spend more time with the sweet Annie. He had never quite met anyone like her who he felt so easy and natural with. He could not wait to buy her a bonnet and not out of the tip money either. This would be a no expense spared very best Sunday bonnet.

After staring at fully fifty or more waves he decided it was time for a wash and breakfast.

Neither disappointed. The washing facilities in the hotel were the very latest with the latest in water closets in each room. He dressed and tied his finest bow tie and set aside his tail jacket and top hat for the promenade later.

At breakfast, there was a choice of porridge, fresh fish from the ocean, bacon and local sausages and many other delicacies fit for a king and of course it was the king who was making Brighton famous lately.

After his hearty breakfast, he bade farewell to the door boy and headed East for Queens Road where he hoped to see the beautiful Annie again.

Sure, enough as he crossed to the railings above the beach he could see her looking even more beautiful than the previous evening, no longer in her work clothes.

She was a very special girl he could tell. One capable of holding her own in any situation.

‘Annie it’s you.’ He exclaimed.

‘Yes, Sir it is, and I am pleased to see that it is you too this morning.’

‘I was thinking of you all night you know.’

‘And I you my Lord. And the help you can do for my father. Mother is coming to town today to collect some money for his medication.’

‘What is wrong with him?’

‘He has chest and breathing problems but the medicine should make him better.’

‘Well I am only pleased to help a little,

Annie kissed him after checking there was nobody spying on her.

‘Where would you like to go?’ enquired Annie.

‘I am all yours beautiful lady. I would like to experience the beach and maybe the Chain Pier and of course there is the matter of your bonnet to buy.’

‘The bonnet can wait; first you must experience Brighton come.’

She grabbed his arm and dragged him to the beach and continued to plough across the pebbles between the fishing boats where fishermen were repairing their nets and selling their catch, right at the waters edge.

‘Come on.’ She requested as she removed her shoes and hoisted her petticoat before entering the foaming waves up to her knees.

Sylvanus soon removed his shoes and socks and joined her on the periphery of the ocean. For a moment, she hugged him while she danced and kicked the water.

‘I think we are safe here. Remember the hotel don’t like staff fraternizing with the guests. I can’t resist fraternizing with you though Sir. I hope you don’t mind but it has been so long since I have had the company of a gentleman. There are only three bachelors in Poynings and they are all taken by my three eldest sisters. There are another 6 of us who must roam far and wide for love.’

‘I am quite surprised that they did not choose you over your sisters.’

‘I am just a simple girl Sir.’

‘I think not Annie, I think you are more special than any I have met before and you have a special role to play on this earth.’

‘I hope so Sir.’

‘Oh, and please call me Sylvanus. Sylvanus Kent is my full name but please call me something of your liking.

‘Sylvanus is a bit of a mouthful how about Vaney as a pet name?’

‘Fine; nobody has ever called me that to my knowledge so Vaney it is.’

Again, she stood on tip toes and hugged him enough that she could plant a kiss on his waiting cheek.

‘Now come on I have something new to show you, the likes of which you have seldom seen.’ Said Annie

‘You mean the bathing machines with their big wheels.’ replied Sylvanus pointing at the large huts on wheels which could transport ladies in bathing costumes from the beach to the ocean in privacy.

‘No something more rare and exciting.’ replied Annie.

Together they clambered back across the beach between the piles of fishing nets and pots to the promenade and crossed the road to the row of seaside shops.

The pavement was filled with throngs of revellers promenading in heir fine clothes, seeing and being seen. Gentlemen in top hats and breeches and ladies in long flowing, colourful crinolines.

‘Here, it’s only been open a couple of months. In this shop, you can get your portrait drawn by light. It is an invention of Frenchman called Daguerre and you get an image on metal plate of your likeness.

There were several Daguerreotypes displayed in the window and beyond there were a few people sitting for their portraits in front of a large mahogany and brass camera.

‘I saw that lady on the train last night. Unfortunately, I was in the first class so I had to move but she was there with another lady and a couple of gentlemen. That may be them all together now having their portraits created.’

‘It is a very costly process I understand, so they must be wealthy, but it’s amazing to think you can capture your soul on a metal plate for all to see.’

‘Perhaps we can have our portraits taken one day Annie. ‘

‘Perhaps Vaney. Now come we have more of Brighton to discover.’

As they turned the corner Sylvanus could see the distant pier positioned out to sea.

‘Can you see the chain pier? It is a masterpiece of engineering and one can walk out over the ocean and enjoy a true connection with nature. Boats sometimes dock there and can take you as far as France some 20 miles south across the waves. They say a kiss at the end of the pier is worth 200 kisses on dry land.’

‘Come on then I shall never let it be said that I missed the chance of 200 kisses in one moment.’

‘Oh Vaney; you are real, aren’t you? I am just worried that I will blink my eyes and you will vanish leaving me once again alone and desolate.

‘I assure you Annie I am totally real as is my affection for you.’

Once again, she gave Sylvanus a little hug, more than was usually permissible between a man and a woman promenading.

As they reached the pier Sylvanus was a little scared to enter.

‘Are you sure it is safe?’

‘Yes, yes. Thousands of people a year have walked the boards and it is very safe even during storms. There are four solid piers with strong chains joined a top of them and wooden planks are slung under the great chains.’

In moments, they were soon walking out across the waves.

‘This is most sensational. I am not sure if I should really adore it or be petrified.’ said Sylvanus. ‘It is wonderful to see the boats from on the water and in their world, in their surroundings.’

‘Adore, adore. Je t’adore.’

‘Oh, my Annie you can even speak French.’

‘Just a little Vaney and only when I am nearer to France but some very meaningful words for you.’

‘Is this normal to be falling in love so quickly? I mean I have never really been in love before and it all seems so sudden.’

‘You have heard of love, at first sight haven’t you? Well this feels like it to me.’

‘You are sweet Annie – so sweet.’

Together they skipped to the very end of the pier where there were moorings for deep water boats to run pleasure cruises up and down and across the channel.

Through the planks, Sylvanus caught sight of the undulating waves and his legs turned a little to jelly. Or was it the effect of Annie?

‘Now remember what I said. This is worth 200 kisses.’ said Annie.

‘I remember and I can’t wait.’

Their lips joined in a very long embrace as their arms coiled round each other. Sylvanus had literally never felt anything like it before. They seemed to deliciously move under their own subconscious power and they scarcely needed breath.

Finally, the clench broke and both were left helpless.

‘My knees have gone very weak Annie.’

‘Mine too Vaney.’

‘I am not sure that was 200 times, more like 547 times more powerful than a kiss on dry land.

Now how about a new bonnet to celebrate?’

‘Don’t worry I will remember that moment for all my life.

‘No! A bonnet I demand. And a bonnet you shall have – lead me to the best bonnet makers in Brighton.’

It took some 20 minutes to walk back to the Royal Pavilion from the end of the pier.

‘This used to be King George’s palace by the sea. Rumour goes that he had a dream and had his architect construct his dream in reality. A dream of domes and amazing towers and he built them all here in little Brighton.’ Said Annie.

‘Apparently, there are underground passages where nocturnal visits took place.’

‘How magnificent. I can’t believe we are in England with this extravagant architecture. It is like a cross between the Taj Mahal and some Islamic edifice. The beautiful domes and minarets make me feel like I am in a dream too.’ replied Sylvanus.

‘I hear tales from the servants that work there that the inside is even more opulent with Chinese hand painted wall paper and golden dragon chandeliers. Apparently Queen Victoria is not keen on the place though. It is too public for her and Albert and their new baby.’ added Annie.

It was just a few hundred yards more to North Road shops.

‘This is Madam Matilda Ganders Bonnetry and the best in Brighton so now you can help me choose my bonnet.’

They entered the emporium and Sylvanus stood in awe.

‘I have to say I never imagined a milliners would be so amazing inside.’ said Sylvanus.

The shop was bright with large windows displaying beautiful frilly creations in all colours with large mirrors reflecting the light and the vast array of hats on head height poles just ready for a lady to slip on.

It took a full 20 minutes more to be sure that she was buying the very best bonnet. Then just as her money came out, Sylvanus stepped in to the situation.

‘NO, NO I am paying for this.’ He said.

‘No I have the money.’

‘Yes, my money and that is for your father. Here take it out of this and keep the change’

He handed over one of his usual audacious amounts.

Annie looked even more beautiful with her bonnet framing her pretty face which was filled with wonder and excitement as they left the Bonnetry. They headed south down a very narrow alley.

‘This is the area called the lanes. In fact, we Sussex people more correctly call them twittens but it’s the lanes to the rest of the world. This is the original old fishing village, all houses jammed together with no room for even a cart to pass in front of them. Another part of Brighton that there is nothing like anywhere in the world.’

‘I love these quaint old places. Can we buy one?’ enquired Sylvanus. I adore them with their upper stories almost touching and everywhere is the smell of salt and the ocean. The fishing nets hanging and drying from the rafters with the light glinting through them, it is a magical sight.’

‘We can’t buy anything with my money I am afraid, maybe you can afford one though. The prices are rising steeply since everyone is deciding to come to Brighton.’

‘Well it has certainly been good for me.’ said Sylvanus. ‘One could say it has changed my life. Maybe I will buy one.’

‘Where did you get all your money if you don’t mind me asking?’

‘You can ask Annie. It is a family fortune which was left to me so I have done little to earn it and all I am trying to do is redistribute it.’

‘Where did it come from?’

‘I am ashamed to say that some of it came from the old family businesses of iron smelting and slave trading which is another reason why I am keen to be rid of the stuff.’

She fell silent.

‘It was all fair and square under the law of the time and also a lot of it came from the iron industry in these parts so totally lawful all of it but all the same not to my taste.’

‘Speaking of slavery, I should be getting back to work and my Mother is coming.’

‘Well if it is OK with you I will continue to familiarize myself with Brighton. Will you be working this evening?’

‘Yes, this and every evening I expect.’

‘Well I look forward to seeing you later in the bar then. And my regards to your mother.’

‘I will look forward to that and we are getting near the staff entrance anyway so I must leave you here. Thank you again Vaney.’

‘No! Thank you and I am just pleased to be able to share a little happiness.’

They kissed again before she hurried off down one of the small lanes heading West leaving Sylvanus to continue his exploration of the nooks and crannies of the brick paved twittens.

Chapter 3 – Saturday October 30th 1841 noon.

Annie was soon back in the building and dressed in her staff uniform on duty for midday in the bar.

Until midday there were occasional drinks but it was mainly a coffee and tea bar.

She had with her, her mother’s money to buy father his medicine.

Soon after 12 O’clock her mother entered.

‘Hello dear.’

‘Hello mother, how is father today?’

‘Not so good but we hope the medicine will pull him through. He slept very poorly last night as it is all on his chest and he can hardly breathe.’

‘I have the money and some more. I will change it up into notes to make it easier and you hurry to the chemist to make him better.’

She emptied the contents of her pockets into the till and replaced it with notes which she passed to her mother across the bar.

‘Now hurry to make father better and send him all my love and you too.’

With that, her mother turned to make a swift departure from the hotel.

By now Sylvanus had reached a tea house in the Lanes and entered. In truth, it was little more than the parlour of an old cottage.

‘May I have a coffee please?’ He asked at the counter.

‘Certainly Sir; I will bring it to you. Will there be anything else?’

‘Yes, how about that nice bath bun there.’

‘Certainly Sir.’

Looking around Sylvanus found that the bar was rather crowded but there was a stool available in the window next to a working man. Sylvanus headed there.

‘Is this place taken?’ enquired Sylvanus.

‘No! It be free.’ replied the local in a thick accent.

‘Are you a local to Brighton?’

‘Um Yes Sir. I am a fisher. Got a boat on the beach.’

‘It’s my first time here and I am already loving the place. I came down last night on the Locomotive from London.’

‘Ahhh, were getting plenty of your sorts down here these days. I like to see a few different sorts here and it drives the price of my catch up but there are them that ain’t so sure.’

‘‘Why is that?’

‘They say the town bain’t big enough for all sorts of queer folk who don’t understand the locality. I, on the other hand like the fact I can get a coffee or tea whenever I want now and all that other stuff. It’s driving the price of homes up sharp too. At this rate the youngsters will never afford a place and I have seven with another on the way.’

‘Large families are much the thing then.’

‘Well the boys help out on the fishing or the farming if you live outside town and girls make babies to cook and carry on so it’s as simple as that.’

‘Your coffee and bun Sir. Is there anything else?’

‘No thank you my good man. Here’s a little something for you.

Once again, a good handful of coins was forced into the waiters hands.

‘I met a sweet girl working in the bar last night. She said she was from Poynings.’

‘Ah yes Sir, a little hamlet over the hills. Them sort are not to be trusted. They are only here for the money. Especially the girls.’

‘She seemed sweet and honest enough.’

‘She may seem it Sir but you should let time be a judge of that.

Sylvanus started to sip his coffee and bit into his bun.

‘Wonderful food and coffee.’ he continued

‘Yerm, it is my Auntie Elsie’s shop. T’was her living room but now she are making hand over fist what they ever made at fishing by supplying the gentry and me with cakes.

Life is good if you are doing well.’

‘Life is good dear man.’

‘Now I must go and repair some nets ready for the morning catch tomorrow. Oh, trust I may see you on the beach ready for me landing around nine.’

‘I will be there.’

‘Good because you can take some mackerel off me and get your hotel or wherever you are staying to cook them up for your breakfast. There is nothing better than fresh fish breakfast. It sets you up for the day.’

Sylvanus shook the old mans hand which was gnarled and impregnated with years of the sea.

‘My name is Sylvanus what is yours my good man?’

‘Henry, Henry the eighth as a consequence of being the eighth child of a Henry Goldsmith.’

‘Pleased to meet you Henry the Eighth and I can’t wait to try your fish.’

Henry nodded and left.

Sylvanus finished his refreshments and wandered out into the lanes and back to the beach all he could think of is Annie.

As Sylvanus explored the streets, the manager of the Imperial Hotel and an assistant entered the bar and walk up to Annie at the till.

‘Annie, may I see you in my office for a moment, Edward will cover the bar.’

Annie followed him in silence and trepidation to his office. Perhaps something had happened to her father before her mother could reach him with the medication.

They enter his office

‘Please sit down.

Now it has been reported to me that you have been seen giving your mother money from the till. What do you say?’

‘No that was my money Sir. I simply changed it up from the till.’

‘Anyway, why were you giving her money?’

‘My father has been very ill and needed medicine.’

‘So, you helped yourself from the till?’

‘No that was my money Sir that I had been saving.’

‘How long has your father been ill?’

‘Just a fortnight Sir.’

‘Hardly long enough to save up enough money from your wages for medicine then?’

‘I had it put by Sir.’

‘I am afraid you know the rules Annie. No pilfering will be tolerated.’

‘You can check the balance Sir. There is nothing missing.’

‘I am afraid the rules are there for a reason and I am going to have to let you go.’

‘No Sir; honestly it was my money.’

‘Where has it come from? I do not believe you saved it from your wages.’

‘I cannot say sir, lest I divulge a secret.’

‘Then Annie you see I have little choice to let you go. Please collect your belongings and any outstanding wages from Mrs. Parker and leave immediately.’

Annie was heartbroken. She was so near to finding her perfect man and a wonderful life but it had suddenly and cruelly been taken from her as if it was out of her reach. Sometimes fate is a hard master.

She trudged dejectedly through the lanes hoping to bump into her Vaney but knew she would have to be at the coach station by 5 to catch the last coach north to Pycombe from where it was not too long to walk to Poynings.

She was devastated and cried for most of the journey home and could only hope that her father could find a way to forgive her.

Sylvanus returned to the hotel around 5 after a bracing day out in Brighton and popped his head around the corner of the bar.

There was no sign of Annie so he continued to his room to relax and change for the evening.

‘He was so looking forward to seeing Annie again.

He looked out of his bedroom window to view the sea and hoped he would see her later but for now a change of clothes and a trip to the famous Mannequin club which had to be done if nothing else for the experience.

At 7.00 he returned to the hotel door and spoke to the doorman.

‘I have a booking for dinner and a show at the Mannequin club.’

‘Ah yes Sir. Shall I call you a cab?’

‘Please.’

One of the horse drawn cabs was soon at the door of the hotel and Sylvanus was aboard for the short drive to the club.

The uneven and cobbled streets were bustling much like London but with a more exclusive, expectant air. This was a young adolescent city which felt capable of wild mood swings.

There was a short queue of cabs at the door of the Mannequin club and one by one the passengers alighted and scampered inside the club.

Soon it was Sylvanus’ turn.

‘Penny halfpenny please Sir.’

He paid the driver with his usual flourish and headed inside.

‘I believe I have a booking for Dinner and a show – a front row seat was requested. Sylvanus Kent is the name.’

‘Ah yes Mr. Kent you are on table 7 right in the middle of the stage. Enjoy your meal and the show. Follow me.’

Sylvanus eagerly followed the waiter right to the centre of the stage where the heavy velvet curtains were still firmly closed and seated him at table 7.

‘Would you like a drink to start with Sir?’

‘Yes, I will have a bottle of red wine please. Do you have soup?’

‘Yes, Sir we have consommé.’

‘Good; that seems a popular soup around these parts. I would like to start with that if it’s alright. I will choose my main course when you return.’

‘Of course, Sir.

We have a special goose for main course if you are interested but all the other selections are on the menu.’

Sylvanus settled into his ringside seat. The interior was much as Annie had described the Royal Pavilion with its colourful hand painted wallpaper and chandeliers. There was a heavy air of cigar and pipe smoke across the tables and a gentle hubbub of gentlemanly conversation.

Very soon the waiter returned with a nice bottle of claret and the consommé

‘Thank you, dear man. And for my main course I believe I would like the goose which you have suggested.’

As Sylvanus began the starter the band struck up from somewhere half under the stage in front of him. He enjoyed the excitement as the music began to build and couldn’t help but tap his feet to the interesting and strangely sensual rhythms.

After the overture the curtain opened to a warm up act of a fire eater. She was in the person of a very beautiful girl in a tatty costume and seemed to be caressing the fire as she juggled and ate her flaming torches.

As the main course arrived a team of dancers in tiller girl costumes started to entertain with slightly titillating and high leg licking dances but nothing which Sylvanus would want to miss any eating time for.

He was very aware that being this close to the performers allowed every slip and rip of their costume and every hint of imperfection to be displayed but the excitement of the spectacle was driving his spirits higher every moment.

Once again, the orchestra struck up as a charming girl singer strode on stage as the orders for desert were taken.

‘I would like pineapple cake with custard please.’

‘A very good choice sire. And will you follow that with port and the cheese board Sir?’

‘What an excellent idea. Oh, and some more exciting dancing please.’

‘Don’t worry Sir this is very much the warm up section of the show I can assure you.’

The desert arrived and was very much to Sylvanus’ taste as he had rarely eaten pineapple and he was soon onto the cheese and port finale.

As the waiter returned to top up his port he leaned over.

‘The real show is about to begin.’ He whispered

The curtain opened to display a very beautiful girl in a scanty leopard skin performing with snakes.

Sylvanus was scared but exhilarated by the danger and the proximity of the deadly creatures and the very beautiful girl just feet from his table.

Next the dancers returned doing a far raunchier number and then it was interval time.

To Sylvanus surprise at the end of the number the dancers walked out onto the tables near the stage and started dancing for each individual table.

As the music stopped the dancers jumped down and sat at the table they were dancing on and chatted with the guests. Sylvanus took a metaphorical step back and surveyed the surreal scene from a French painting scrutinising the faces of the crowd.

‘Good evening Sir and I trust you are enjoying the show.’ said the girl in a thick French accent. French girls were all the rage in the post Napoleonic era.

Her breathing was slightly deep and rapid after her exertion and some beads of sweat were evident on her soft brow. Even across the table her face and make up were perfect.

‘I am very well; thank you and I see you are very well all over too.’

‘Why thank you, you are a kind gentleman indeed. Of course, I am dancing for everyone this evening but I am mainly dancing for you and of course I can continue dancing for you as long as you would like me too.’

‘How wonderful, my own private dancer and such a beauty.’

She kissed him on the cheek leaving him in no doubt about his possibilities.

‘I must go to change for the next act but remember my name is Martha I am here just for you.’

‘And I for you dear girl.’

The music soon struck up again and the dancers were once again a little scantier clad and Sylvanus’ dancer Martha only seemed to be dancing for him making continual eye contact and seductive moves just above his gaze.

Next on was a burlesque type stripper leaving a little to the imagination of the discerning crowd in her red bodice.

As the curtains opened next an act with a scantily clad girl and crocodile on a lead was on stage.

The beautiful girl put her head right inside its vast jaws before leading it round the edge of the stage just feet from Sylvanus’ table.

Then the dance troupe again but this time Sylvanus personal dancer and the central girl Martha on the stage slowly and seductively disrobed whilst dancing right down to her frilly bloomers then just as they dropped the lights blacked and the curtain closed.

Sylvanus was left in a very excited state. He decided nothing would be better than a brisk walk back to his hotel along the sea front followed by a nightcap with Annie.

Even the seductiveness of Martha greeting him in the foyer could not deter Sylvanus from his plan although he did leave her a nice hefty tip and kiss on the hand to remember him by.

Chapter 4 – Saturday October 30th 1841 after dark

Sylvanus left the club and managed to traverse a couple of lanes west before turning south toward the ocean.

The twittens were dark and silent at this time of night apart from the odd cat. It felt a dangerous place where vagabonds could lurk on every corner.

As he turned into a larger passage a side door suddenly opened beside him and a wench came hurrying out bumping into him and almost knocking him to the ground in her haste to rush past him in the direction he had come in.

He continued, thinking no more as he heard her steps disappear behind him until a blood curdling scream led him to turn on a sixpence. Just as he did he saw the wench drop to the floor and a dark cloaked person standing over her turned and ran in the opposite direction to where Sylvanus was heading.

Quickly Sylvanus rushed to her aid and immediately could see even in the shadowy darkness that her white bodice was covered in blood from what seemed to be a wound in her left breast. She seemed to have been stabbed and left to die.

Carefully he cradled her in his arms calling ‘police police,’ at the top of his voice as he watched her trembling lips wracked with pain and the inevitability of death. She fought one last time to speak.

‘Shhaa… she gasped before her body went limp in his arms starling upwards into the dark night sky.

It was but a minute before the next passer happened on the scene. Sylvanus sitting in shock with the wench still cradled in his arms.

‘Get the police for Gods sake, and a Doctor.’ shouted Sylvanus.

‘Police, Police.’ cried the passer by and sped off to the East in the direction of the new Town Hall and police station.

All Sylvanus could do was to hold her and to hope that this beautiful lady would survive and recover from her injury.

He prayed for her as he studied her exquisite face which seemed to show she was losing its fight for life. Her thick cloak had fallen open as she tumbled to reveal a maid’s costume with white lace trimmed apron over a lace up bodice. On her head containing her tresses was a matching white lace trimmed cap.

Sylvanus was still slumped over the body when the police arrived minutes later blowing whistles. There were two uniformed officers and another gentleman.

‘This gentleman is a Doctor Sir, please allow him to assist the lady.’ said one of the policemen.

‘I think she is dead officer. I can feel the warmth leaving her body through the gaping hole in her chest.’

Sylvanus carefully placed the body down on the brick walkway and stood with his cloak and shirt stained by her blood.

They looked anxiously as the doctor pronounced his verdict.

‘I am afraid she has already passed. Stabbed probably through the heart.’ said the Doctor.

Sylvanus wept at the prospect of being there but unable to help her in her last dying moments.

‘If you will wait here Doctor we will take this gentleman back to the police station and send a stretcher to collect her body.’

The Doctor nodded in agreement.

As they walked toward the station Sylvanus made conversation.

‘My; I have only been in Brighton one night and already have fallen in love, seen wild animals and witnessed a murder. What kind of place is this?’

‘It is a very nice town usually Sir but like every town there is a share of unlawfulness.

Here’s the station. Would you like a cup of tea while we take a few details form you?’

‘Yes please; to calm my nerve a little. It is a very nice police station I would say.’ said Sylvanus staring up at the classical columns and proportions of the majestic building.

‘Thank you, Sir. It was purpose built as part of the new Town Hall and in the latest architectural style. There is also a very sound Jail house and cells in the basement.’

‘Well I hope never to visit those but I am sure they are very comfortable.’

‘Comfort is not really their prime purpose but I am sure you would be welcome.’

The two officers led Sylvanus into a room with just a single table and sat him down. With a pad and pen at the ready they started to ask for details of his evening.

‘Now Sir can you tell us exactly what you saw.’

‘Well I was just returning to my hotel after an evening out.’

‘Where had you been Sir?’

‘At the Mannequin club for a meal and the show. Very pleasant it was too.’

‘And I imagine they can confirm your attendance.’

‘Yes, I imagine so – table 7.’

‘If you don’t mind me saying so you were perhaps leaving rather earlier than most single gentlemen leave that club.’ added one of the policemen.

‘I was keen to have a nightcap with an acquaintance I had made last evening in the hotel.’

‘And who might that be Sir?’

‘The barmaid Annie at the Imperial hotel.’

The policemen looked at each other.

‘That’s interesting Sir. It is not the first time her name has been mentioned in this establishment today.’

Sylvanus looked confused.

‘Yes, she is a sweet girl and I wondered if she had word of her father who is rather unwell.’

The policeman rapidly changed the subject back to the factual.

‘Then what happened Sir? When you left the club.’

‘I walked down a couple of lanes and had just turned south.’

‘Why didn’t you take a cab like most gentlemen would at that time of night? The streets can be dangerous for a solitary gentleman Sir.’

‘I was in a carefree mood and wanted to take a glimpse of the sea before bed and maybe throw a few pebbles in for good luck.’

The officers looked at each other again and continued to document the interview.

‘So, you turned south Sir and then what?’

‘Soon I was alerted to a dark coloured side door opening beside me and a lady came rushing out stumbling into me and almost knocked me to the ground in her haste. She continued in the direction from which I had come for a good few running steps before letting out a dreadful scream.’

‘There is no way that she may have impaled herself on something about your person when she collided with you is there. Perhaps a dagger or sword?’

‘No Sir, I carried nothing, and it was a good few seconds after the collision before I heard her scream.

As I turned around I saw her slump to the ground at the feet of a person in a dark cloak.

The person then ran off away from me and I raced to her assistance.’

‘Can you describe the person? Height build eye colour etcetera.’

‘They would have been a similar height to me, it was very dark so difficult to make out features. Their cloak hood was over their head. I imagine they were approximately medium build but they ran rather fast from the scene of the crime. They did not run like an older gentleman.’

‘So, it was someone broadly like you who wore a cape like you.’

‘Yes, that is the best description I can offer.’

‘I rushed to the girl and tried to make her comfortable. She tried to speak but almost nothing much came out, just a sssHar sound as the breath left her body and then she was gone. Staring.

Dead.’

‘Did you know the lady?’

‘No but I have to say there was something familiar about her. I recognized her from somewhere.’

‘Ah here’s your tea now.

Why don’t you just drink it slowly and relax a little and see if there is anything else you can remember before we wind up this interview.’

Sylvanus sipped the tea gratefully.

Sylvanus checked his watch. Pulling it out of his shirt pocket stained in blood brought back the terror of the evening. It was five to midnight and he was never going to see Annie that evening. How strange the police had heard Annie’s name apparently mentioned today. Sylvanus hoped that Annie was well and not mixed up in criminal activity.

Within ten minutes the tea was gone and the officers returned.

‘So, do you have anything else to tell us?’

‘No I don’t think so.’

‘Well in that case where can we contact you in case we have further questions?’

‘Room 223 in the Imperial Hotel.’

‘And how long do you plan on staying there Sir.’

‘Well I have no precise leaving date but probably for the rest of the week. Then I will probably return to my Apartments in Pimlico, London.’

‘We would ask you to inform us first Sir, before you leave the town because you are the only witness so far and your statement could be crucial.’

‘Certainly officer.’

‘Would you like us to call you a cab?’

‘Oh, that would be good I may still make it back by midnight.’

‘Why is that Sir?’

‘Well I was hoping to see Annie.’

Once again, the officers exchanged glances but said nothing.

Sylvanus arrived back at the hotel some 5 minutes after midnight and there was still no sign of Annie just a man tidying up the empty bar. He hoped he had not given his beloved Annie the impression that he spent the evening with a dancer from the Mannequin club.

Sylvanus collected his keys downheartedly from the reception.

‘223 please’

‘Are you alright Sir?’ remarked the receptionist spotting his bloodstained clothing.

‘Yes, I imagine so. I just witnessed the murder of a poor wench in the Lanes and could not save her. She was cradled in my arms as she passed away stabbed for no reason.’

‘Oh, dear I am so sorry to hear that Sir. Brighton is not usually renowned for these kind of things.’

‘I am sure but I am still rather in shock. Could you send up a gin to my room to help me sleep?’

‘Certainly Sir. Gin to 223 it is.’

Sylvanus was soon in his room once again staring into the dark seascape. This time his thoughts were with the dying woman and with the missing Annie. How he craved it to be her when the knock on the door came with his gin.

‘Your nightcap Sir.’

Sadly thought Sylvanus, it was the same man who was tidying the bar.

‘Thank you, young Sir. Here is something for your trouble. You don’t know Annie, do you?’

‘No Sir Sorry Sir it is my first night, I was only taken on today.’

‘Oh, that’s alright sorry to trouble you.’

Chapter 5 – Sunday Morning October 31st Halloween 1841

The next day; Sylvanus was up early because he couldn’t sleep. Most of the night, all he could see when he closed his eyes was the face of the girl who died in his arms.

By 8.00 he was wandering the beach and sending prayers and hopes for her soul. Although Sylvanus was not outwardly religious he succumbed in times of stress and always carried his own religion with him.

He threw several stones into the sea and sent several wishes for her peaceful return to this earth and for Annie and her return to his company.

As he walked east he soon passed the fisherman’s landing where they brought their boats up onto the beach.

There were several sailing boats and rowing boats already returning with the mornings catch.

Sylvanus was hoping at 9 o’clock he would see Henry the eighth return triumphantly with his breakfast mackerels but his demeanour was feeling rather deflated and let down this damp and misty morning.

Sylvanus wandered up the beach and past the Chain pier almost all the way to Black rock before returning to the landing. Sure enough as 9 approached a coaster fishing vessel returned clearly named Henry VIII.

‘Henry, well done. Did you catch my breakfast?’ Sylvanus shouted.

‘Ahhhh Sylvanus the Londoner, isn’t it? Yes, I have mackerel onboard and skate and some sole it’s all yours for the right money. You can even help me winch the boat up if you like.

Several fishermen crowded round to help connect the boat and then walking round the capstan, chanting and hauling the boat high and dry across a wooden trackway in the pebbles. Sylvanus helped on one end of the capstan and enjoyed the ‘Whey haul away’ song that went with the work.

Henry quickly jumped off the bow to help as soon as he was on dry land.

Once well clear of the waves and positioned according to his instructions Henry scampered back on board to collect the three baskets of today’s catch.

‘Now you can be my first customer of the day, what would you like Sylvanus?’

‘How about two mackerel for breakfast and a sole for this evening’s meal?’

‘Very wise Sylvanus and as you can see nothing could be fresher.’ Said Henry flapping the mackerel in Sylvanus’ face.

‘Look at them lovely bright eyes won’t ya.’

Sylvanus handed over a hand full of money and happily took the fish in paper back to the hotel breakfast room.

‘Could you have the Mackerel prepared for my breakfast and the sole for tonight’s evening meal? I believe you should also eat the most local produce and this could be no more local and fresh.’

‘Certainly Sir. Would you like a drink or anything while they are being prepared?’

‘Yes, please that would be wonderful. Some coffee and some toast would start my day off well.’

‘Certainly Sir.’ said the waiter hurrying off to the kitchen.

He returned promptly with coffee and toast and then some time later with two beautifully prepared and presented mackerel.

A little while later the waiter was caught by Sylvanus as he passed. ‘This is magical young man. The fish tastes like it was still alive half an hour ago, oh it was.’ He chuckled. ‘Please send my congratulations to the chef. Truly wonderful.’

‘Thank you, Sir. I will pass it on.’

Sylvanus planned to enjoy some more of Brighton that day and perhaps he hoped to see Annie again.

After writing some letters to family and friends Sylvanus contemplated his time in Brighton as he gazed with defocused eyes from his window.

He returned to the bar around midday.

Once again, the new young man was on duty.

‘May I have a gin please young man?’

‘Certainly Sir.’

Sylvanus received the gin and said.

‘So, is Annie not here today?

‘Ah no Sir. As I said I only started yesterday but apparently, she does not work here any more hence my position.’

‘Oh, I see. Do you know where she has gone?’

‘No Sir. At her home, I imagine.’

‘Do you know why she left?

‘No Sir; I am sorry, all I know is I have taken the position vacated by her. I am sorry.’

‘Don’t worry I am sure I will find her if I am meant to.’

Just then the two policemen entered the bar.

‘Ah Mr. Kent I wonder if we may ask you a few more particulars.’

‘Er yes if I may ask you some.’

The officers looked a little confused again but continued.

‘Perhaps we could go somewhere more private?’

‘How about the far corner there, nobody is in earshot.’ Replied Sylvanus

They drifted over to the far corner of the ornate bar.

‘Now what do you need from me now.’

‘Could you tell us precisely which doorway the lady came from?’

‘Well I remember it was painted a dark colour. I think I can show you if you allow me to accompany you to the location.’

‘Yes, that would be good Mr. Kent.’

‘Do you know who she is yet?’

‘We have no idea yet Sir but there is a theory that she may be a lady of the night. There is a lot of that sort of thing that goes on in that part of town.

Did you say you recognized her?’

‘There was something faintly familiar about her although not in that way I would assure you.’

‘We are thinking it may be a pimp who was annoyed that she may have been withholding money from him, we found a large amount of cash on her person.’

‘Interesting. She was dressed to look like a lady of the night but I believe her clothing was of the very best quality as if it was a fancy dress or masquerade.’ responded Sylvanus in attempt to help as much as he could.

‘An interesting assumption Mr. Kent. Do you have any other theories on her death?’

‘Not at all but I do have one question before I assist you further. Yesterday you said that you had heard of Annie the barmaid here. I wondered what you heard.’

‘Only that the manager notified us of a possible theft. No charges have been filed so for the moment it is just for the record.’

This left Sylvanus confused as to why she may have been accused of theft where is she? did she just want his money or was there more to it.?

‘Well officers, Brighton is certainly turning out to be an exciting town to visit. It seems that at every turn there is murder and intrigue and I have only been here 2 days.’

The policemen nodded.

‘May we attend the scene of the crime now Sir. Perhaps while there you would describe your exact movements and actions.’

‘Yes, I would be glad to.’

They left the hotel and walked inland a little and East a few lanes before they reached the scene of the night before murder.

There was still blood on the pavement where she died and a few flowers strewn in the area by some good wishers.

‘Well I was walking this way from the Mannequin club.’ Said Sylvanus.

The officers waited at the scene for him to demonstrate. He walked down from the North past the blood and continued until alongside two doors.

‘This door is the one I was passing then it flew open and the girl raced out. I was about here and she bumped into me before heading back where I had come from. I continued maybe three steps and then heard her blood curdling scream.’

As Sylvanus said the words the spine-chilling feeling returned to him and he could feel the blood draining from his face as it had from the wound in her chest.

‘Did you see anyone?’

‘No, well not before the scream, but it was very dark and I was intent on reaching the beach.’

‘It still seems a strange thing for a gentleman to be doing in these dark alleys and twittens to head this way.’

‘I am a strange individual officer. I can assure you of that.’

The officers nodded in agreement.

‘By then I was reeling a bit from the collision and cast a glimpse over my shoulder before continuing on my route. I saw nothing but the girl heading away from me.

It was moments later that I heard her scream.

I image the assailant was coming from there, behind me, and she had run into him and his knife.

As I turned I saw her drop to his feet and he turned and ran North in the other direction from where I had come.’

‘So, he either followed you this way or came out of the doorway too and stabbed her.’

‘I imagine so. Then I ran to her side and bent down to see if there was anything I could do. I glanced up in the direction he had gone but I saw nothing.

It was then I sat down and cradled her in my arms. I could feel the life ebbing out of her body. I felt so helpless. She looked so scared deep into her eyes. I could see she wanted to talk but all the managed was a sort of ghostly haaa…. sound as the last air left her body.’

‘Her heart and lung was punctured by one skilful knife wound with a small bladed knife. Whoever killed he was an expert or very lucky.’

‘Or she was very unlucky.’ replied Sylvanus.

‘So, is there anything else you can remember now you are returned to the scene?’

‘Not really, just the helplessness I felt as she died in my arms.’

‘And you are sure you have never seen this woman before?’

‘If I have I cannot recall who she is or where I saw her. As I mentioned her face looked slightly familiar but I cannot be more specific.’

‘Well I have to tell you that although you are the only witness you are also under suspicion as you were at the scene at the time of the murder so we have to ask you again not to leave the town without informing the police and getting our permission.

This is a very nasty case and the Sergeant wants it sorted out as soon as possible before the name of the town is tarnished.’

‘But I assure you officer I was merely a witness.’

‘Could you go back to precisely where you were when you saw the murderer and look back across at us two while I play the murderer and the other officer the deceased on the ground.’ ‘Oh why do I always have to be the deceased.’ said the officer on the ground.

‘Now what do you see. Does the scene look familiar?’

‘Well interestingly enough I think the murderer was a little smaller than you officer. I am not sure how large you are but definitely smaller than you. Would you run away up the alley like they did?’

With that the officer turned and ran a few steps and walked back.

‘Definitely someone more slight than you and much more dainty at running more like a gazelle.’

‘I will not take that as an offensive remark but just a statement of fact Sir.

You; I repeat, are a witness and our only suspect thus far. I hope you understand.’

‘But officer what motive do I have?’ replied Sylvanus.

‘There are strange folk around who need no motives like normal god fearing beings. Some do such acts for entertainment. Some, because they have some grudge against women or mankind and some because they can. I hope you understand our position.’

‘I imagine I do, but I also tell you that you are wrong and if nothing else I intend to prove it.’

‘Well you are free to go and find any evidence you can so long as it doesn’t mean leaving Brighton ‘

Sylvanus went back to hotel and wrote down all he could remember about his trip so far in an attempt to solve the crime. Everything about everyone he could remember seeing since he left London and since he arrived in Brighton in case any of it made any sense.

There was no way that he was having this crime pinned on him and if Annie was anything to go by it seemed as if the police here were just interested in pinning a crime on someone it didn’t matter if it was their fault.

By the time he had finished his memoirs of the Brighton trip it was time for him to go down to Dinner. As he descended the stairs he realized that it was Halloween. The festival of summer’s end, the night when demons and ghosts come out to play.

He handed over his letters to the reception for posting the next day. He has chosen not to worry his family with any fears about his impending situation but just detailed the niceties of Brighton life.

He headed in to the restaurant for Dinner and sat in his usual table beside the window. He was definitely not in the mood for the Mannequin club tonight just a quiet evening trying to understand what was happening.

‘Ah Young man I believe I have a very nice freshly caught Sole on my menu for tonight which I supplied myself.

I believe I will have the consommé as a starter and another nice bottle of that Chablis like I had last night.’

‘Certainly, Sir I will get chef to prepare the sole. I believe he has it in his cold store.’ ‘Very good.’

The consommé was magnificent as usual, clear and shining, but the fleshy sole was even more special.

‘I have to send my compliments to the chef again and also to the fisherman because this is probably the best fish I have ever tasted.

It seems like I may be staying here a while so perhaps I will be partaking of the fisherman’s market every morning if this is the outcome.’

‘Thank you, Sir, I will pass on your compliments.’

As Sylvanus settled down to sleep that night the day’s events and Annie went through his mind again. He wondered if this is some pay back for the slavery element in his family fortune. He wondered if he would sleep tonight or spend another night tossing and turning with the ghosts and ghouls of Halloween.

Would his world ever be the same?

Chapter 6 – Monday Morning November 1st 1841 Imperial Hotel – All saints day.

Finally, Sylvanus managed a good night’s sleep and awoke at 9.30. The gin and nervous exhaustion seemed to have finally counteracted the events which had taken such a toll on him.

After washing, dressing and breathing deep breaths of the fresh sea air Sylvanus appeared at breakfast only to find a message waiting for him at his table.

‘Dear My Kent.

It appears that there have been some new eventualities in the case. We now know who the lady in question was. She was Lady Isabella Reynolds and there is to be a memorial service for her in the newly built Brighthelm Unitarian Church hall near the station this afternoon. Tomorrow morning her body is to be transported to London and then to her ancestral family seat burial ground in Hertfordshire.

We discovered the identity of the deceased yesterday afternoon when her companion reported her missing. You may have already seen the announcement in yesterday evenings late edition of the Evening Argus newspaper.

You are invited to attend her memorial service as the person who offered her solace in her last moments and also to inform the police if you spot anyone conspicuous in the congregation.

The service is 3.00 P.M. after which we would like you to report your findings while all the attendees are also interviewed.

‘My, that is a turn up for the books.’ said Sylvanus to the waiter.

‘What is that Sir?’

‘Apparently, they have found the identity of the lady who was killed the other night. Far from being a lady of the night she was the very aristocratic Lady Isabella Reynolds.’

‘Very interesting Sir.’

‘Well it does shed some new light on the case and as I am implicated by being the last person to see her alive it may make a difference to me.’

‘What would you like for breakfast Sir?’

‘Er yes, how about two poached eggs on toast and some further toast and honey to follow.’

‘Excellent Sir, and the drink.’

‘Some of your excellent coffee.’

Immediately after enjoying a sumptuous breakfast Sylvanus went back upstairs to update his notes and to enter Lady Isabella Reynolds in every position where the deceased was previously written.

There were still so many unanswered questions like what was Lady Isabella doing in Brighton and who with.

Sylvanus arrived early for the Memorial at around two thirty in order to make a note of all attendees.

The chapel was another superb example of modern religious architecture with symmetrical Doric columns and pediments and Venetian windows of multiple panes of fine glass.

The first two arrivals were two very regal looking gentlemen. One of who was physically distraught.

‘Good afternoon gentlemen. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Sylvanus Kent and I was the one unfortunate enough to find her Ladyship in the alley and was with her when she drew her last breath.

‘Thank you for offering her some comfort dear fellow. I am Lord Lytton and this is my companion John Benson.’

‘Well I never. Now I know where I saw you before. You were in the first-class compartment which I was evicted from last Friday evening do you remember?’ The men looked shocked and dismayed.

‘Yes, I do remember, what a coincidence. I trust you are having an enjoyable stay in Brighton.’

‘I was until last evening. Well all of yesterday would have been better if it had not happened to be honest, but that’s another tale, I shall not bother you with at this time.

The two gentlemen then broke away as if their time with Sylvanus was up and they, or at least Lord Lytton did not want to divulge any more.

Next; came five impeccably dressed ladies who were ushered straight to their seats. A couple of them looked familiar but not so as to be recognisable.

Then another revelation sprung to his mind. It was Lytton and Benson who he had seen with two ladies in the Daguerreotype studio. A fact he immediately noted in his book for later analysis.

Several members of the police then arrived and sat at the back of the congregation.

Just as the service started one final gentleman arrived. Once again, he was vaguely familiar but Sylvanus couldn’t put his finger on where he had seen him.

‘The human mind is such a poor receptacle of knowledge.’ thought Sylvanus.

‘Dearly beloved we are gathered here to remember a wonderful lady struck down before her time and before her chance to blossom into maturity.

We remember her today as she would wish to be remembered as a fine pillar of society yet to make her full mark on the world.

Let us remember her today of all days along with all of the saints who gave so much for us and who we remember on all saint’s day along with the countless others who should not be forgotten.

Let us sing a hymn and remember her ladyship through the words. The lord’s my shepherd.’

After about thirty minutes the memorial was coming to a close. The pastor stood and addressed the congregation.

‘And now the final blessing before her ladyship starts on her journey to her final resting place.

In the name of the father, the son and the Holy Ghost bless all of you and especially the soul of our dear departed Isabella. Bless that we will all dwell in your sight in heaven. Amen.’

‘Amen.’ repeated the congregation.

‘The coffin will now be carried back to the chapel of rest and tomorrow to London by locomotive and then on to Hertfordshire where the burial will take place in 3 days’ time.

As you can see this is a brand-new building so we would appreciate any donation to help us serve the people of Brighton in this mission.’ continued the pastor.’

‘The police have also asked if after we have bid the funeral procession farewell that all the congregation return to the hall in order to give statements regarding the final few hours of her ladyship in order that the perpetrator of this crime be apprehended as soon as humanly possible.

Thank you all for your kind attention and understanding at this time of great sorrow.’

With that the coffin was raised and carried out onto a horse drawn funeral carriage and set off for the chapel of rest before her final railway journey the next day.

‘Now if you wouldn’t mind all returning back inside the hall we will take a short statement from you all.’ announced a policeman.

They were all ushered gently back inside the hall with little chance to escape by four burly policemen who surrounded the congregation like sheepdogs.

‘Lord Lytton would you come into the office please? And Elizabeth Gaunt into the pastor’s room.’

Aha thought Sylvanus. Elizabeth Gaunt another he remembered the face of from the train. I think she was sat beside me in the train. Perhaps she was Lady Isabella’s companion.

Elizabeth entered the pastor’s room and was greeted by one of the officers.

‘Is your name Elizabeth Gaunt?’

‘Yes.’

‘And how did you know the deceased.’

‘She was my companion or I hers. We have been life long friends.’

‘And can you take me through the events of Saturday when the murder took place.’

‘Yes, we arose and breakfasted around 9. Then at ten we had arranged to meet Lord Lytton and John Benson for a promenade.

We met them outside of the Grand Hotel where they were staying. During the promenade, we passed the Daguerreotype studio and his lordship offered to treat us all to portraits.’

‘When did you first meet Lord Lytton and John Benson?

‘I first met them on the railway journey to Brighton. I believe Lord Lytton and Lady Isabella had some previous encounters but nothing was said of this.

We promenaded until lunch time when we returned to the hotel and prepared for an afternoon of shopping.’

‘And were you aware of the gentlemen’s plans for the afternoon?’

‘I believe they were looking for a house for Lord Lytton to purchase. He had been coming under a lot of pressure from his anti slavery campaign and his banking interests and was looking for somewhere to completely relax out of the London glare.’

‘Did you arrange to meet again?’

‘Yes, we arranged to meet the next day for Lunch and when I found Lady Isabella missing at breakfast and subsequently at the hotel that is when I reported her missing.’

‘And it was you who identified her.’

Elizabeth started to break down as tears tumbled down her pale cheeks from her sorrowful eyes.

‘Yes. The last thing I expected was to see her dead. That last evening at tea she was the most vibrant and excited I have ever seen her. She was getting on so well with his Lordship like love at first sight and I was so pleased for her.’

‘And how about you and Benson?’ asked the policeman.

‘We had already become good acquaintances but nothing like the bells and whistles which Isabella and his lordship were exhibiting.’

‘One final question. Can you think of anyone who might have done this? Who might have something to gain by the Death of Lady Isabella?’

‘Not really. She was such a sweet lady and a friend to everyone.’

‘Well I thank you for your time Miss Gaunt. I understand you will be travelling back to London at 11.00 tomorrow but please if you could make yourself available for any final questions before that we would be very grateful.’

She soon stood and was escorted to the door.

‘John Benson, would you like to come in please.’

The policeman called the next person to be interviewed.

Sylvanus noted the highly emotional state of Elizabeth Gaunt and assisted her to a seat beside him.

‘Are you alright dear lady?’ asked Sylvanus.

‘Yes, just a little shaken by everything.’

‘Me too. I was the one who found her lying in the street and was with her until she passed away.’

‘Was she in pain?’

‘I don’t believe she was. Just in shock at the realization that her life may be nearing its end and neither of us could do anything.’

‘I had to identify her you know. It was horrid. I have known her all my life.’

‘I understand. I believe I recognize you from the train. I was the one thrown out of your first-class carriage.’

‘Ah yes, I apologize, but I did not get much of a glance at you before the collector came.’

‘Did you have business in Brighton?’

‘No, we were just young and free and decided that Brighton was a fine place to be for a weekend. What a serious mistake that turned out to be.’

‘Well if there is any way I can help or console you if you wish to discuss things please do not hesitate to contact me. I am a psychiatrist by profession and I’m staying in the Imperial. Room 223. Now I expect you want some time of quiet reflection but you know where I am if you need me?’ comforted Sylvanus.

He handed her a piece of paper which he had written his contact details on and moved to sit next to the other man

‘I thank you dear Sir.’ She called as he went.

In the other room, Lord Lytton was also being interviewed by the police.

‘Your Lordship I understand your distress but if we may take a few details from you.’

‘Yes of course anything to capture this scoundrel.’

‘Can you tell me when you travelled down to Brighton?’

‘Yes, that would have been Friday evening with my trusty companion John Benson.’

‘And can you tell me when you first became acquainted with Lady Isabella?’

‘I have known her for many years as a passing acquaintance at events and gatherings and debutante balls.’

‘How long have you known her well?’

Lord Lytton hesitated a little before answering.

‘I have known her well these past couple of weeks. Much too short a time to be robbed of her friendship.’

‘And what was your business in Brighton?’

‘I am looking for a residence here away from London where my every movement would not be under the glare of spotlights.’

‘And where were you staying?’

‘At the Grand.’

‘And were you aware the Lady Isabella was killed just outside the servant’s entrance to the Grand?’

‘No I was not.’

He looked physically shocked by that revelation.

‘And were you aware that she was last seen leaving the servants entrance to the Grand moments before she was murdered?’

‘No I was not.’

‘Did she visit you the night of her death your Lordship? Dressed in Servants clothes?’

‘She did officer. The actual truth is that we had been seeing each other secretly for a couple of months and this was our opportunity to cement our relationship in the open as it were.

We planned to meet up in Brighton regularly until we managed to sort out some family situations.’

‘And what exactly were these situations?’

‘Nothing serious, it is mainly that our family remained catholic after the reformation so there are a couple of other minor issues with aunts and uncles. Priest holes and all that.’

‘I see Sir.’

‘So, can you think of anyone who would want to kill Lady Isabella?’

‘No, she was the sweetest person. I can think of many that might want to kill me but not her.’

‘Alright Sir. You are free to go but please be available for further interviews before you leave Brighton. When are you due to travel?’

‘Tomorrow morning on the eleven o’clock train to London.’

‘Will you be attending the funeral Sir?’

‘If I am afforded an invitation I shall clearly attend.’

Lord Lytton left the interview and returned to the hall to await the return of his friend John Benson who was still being interviewed in the other room.

‘Now Sir I believe you are John Benson – Lord Lytton’s man friend.’

‘I am and I have known him for practically all my life.’

‘So how long have you known Lady Isabella?’

‘Honestly I have known her since Friday evening when her and her lady friend travelled in our first-class compartment to Brighton.’

‘So, you were not aware of her before that?’

‘No. Although I think his Lordship had her acquaintance. If not, they seemed to be the most special couple.’

‘Did you not ask him?’

‘No perhaps if there had been more time I would have but the whole weekend was such a whirlwind. I was only here to help him to locate a new abode.’

‘Where were you on the night of the Murder John Benson?’ asked the policeman in a slightly threatening way.

‘I was rather tired after dinner as was his lordship so we both retired to our rooms agreeing to meet for breakfast the next day.’

‘He did not suggest that he might be meeting anyone that evening?’

‘No. He honestly seemed rather exhausted from the day.’

‘So, you would have been surprised if he had met Lady Isabella that evening?’

‘Yes, I would be surprised but as I said I was in my room all evening so I would not know.’

‘Can anyone confirm your alibi? Did you call room service or speak to anyone perhaps?’

‘No I wrote some letters then went to bed with a nightcap.’

‘Did the room service deliver the nightcap?’

‘No I brought my own flask as I always do.’

‘So, you have no alibi and could easily have murdered Lady Isabella.’

‘Apart from nothing being further from my mind and nobody saw me leave the hotel I can assure you.’

‘Did you know Lady Isabella was killed just outside the servant’s entrance to your very hotel?’

‘I did not know this.’

‘So, you were not laying in wait for her outside your friend’s room and followed her to her death?’

‘No. Certainly not, what do you think I am?’

‘I am sorry Sir but we have to eliminate all possibilities.

So, who is likely to have wanted Lady Isabella dead?’

‘I honestly do not know or I would tell you if I did to sort out this mess immediately.’

‘Unless it was you of course Sir?’ suggested the policeman.

‘Well as I assured you, it was not me. I am afraid you are wasting your time.’

‘Thank you, Sir. Please do not leave Brighton without reporting to the police first.

Meanwhile Sylvanus had struck up conversation with the solitary gentleman who was still awaiting his interview.

‘I was the last to see her alive you know. How did you know her Ladyship?’ Sylvanus enquired.

‘She was a family member. I just happened to be in Brighton and saw her demise reported in the Paper.’

‘The Argus? The Evening Argus?’ asked Sylvanus accusingly.

‘Yes, I imagine so.’

‘Were you a close relation?’

‘Look I am sorry; I would rather not discuss the matter. I am far too upset. I will have to tell her aunt you know. It is hard enough for me being in this heathen so called chapel. I am a protestant and a very staunch one; any other religion is the work of the devil.’ He said fingering the silver knurled knob on the top of his walking stick.

‘Well did you share Grandparents for instance?’ continued Sylvanus.

‘Yes, as a matter of fact we did, now please leave me in my misery.’

Just then John Benton was released from questioning.

‘Sir would you oblige.’ The officer called in the man who Sylvanus had been questioning. He made his way slowly relying heavily on his cane to steady his limp.

‘Sit down Sir. Can you tell us your name?’

‘Charles Reynolds.’

‘And how did you know the deceased, Lady Isabella Reynolds?’

‘She was a distant cousin.’

‘And may I ask what you were doing in Brighton?’

‘I was merely here for some entertainment. The Mannequin club you know.’

‘I know of it Sir, but alas a policeman’s wages do not allow such extravagances.

And how did you hear of the memorial?’

‘In the paper. The Argus I believe it is called.’

‘Very good Sir. How well did you know Lady Isabella?’

‘We used to play as children. That is before we moved away.’

‘Why did you move Sir?’

‘My father lost his job with the bank so we had to move to a more modest accommodation.’

‘And which bank would that be?’

‘The family bank. Anyway, that’s all sorted out now and I am a rather important businessman and importer of fine carpets.’

‘Very good Sir. And where were you Friday evening?’

‘I was at the mannequin club with that rather annoying man out there, Sylvanus something.’

‘With him Sir?’

‘Well at the same performance.’

‘Really Sir and when did you leave.’

‘It was well after midnight. I had some private dances and got a cab back to my lodgings.

‘So, you are saying that you were at the Mannequin club at the time of the murder, and that story can be proved?

‘Yes.’

‘And where would your lodgings be?’

‘The Grand of course. Room 113.’

‘Ah I see Sir. Did you realize that she was killed very near the staff entrance of the Grand?’

‘I did not Sir.’

‘Well we would like the opportunity of interviewing you again before you return home. When will you be leaving, and will you be expecting to attend the funeral.’

‘I doubt I will go to the funeral. Family business and all that and I have paid my respects. I am hoping to leave tomorrow on the 11.00 train to London.’

‘That seems to be a very popular train Sir.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Nothing Mr. Reynolds. One last question. Do you know anyone who may have benefited from Lady Isabella’s death?’

‘No. Not at all. I did not know her well but I understand she was a charming and beautiful lady.’

‘Thank you, Sir, you may go.’

‘Sylvanus Kent, would you come in now please?’

Sylvanus was the last person remaining in the hall.’

‘Now Mr. Kent have you managed to remember anything more about the murder?’

‘I am afraid not. How about you officers? Have you discovered who the murderer is?’

‘In all good time. We have a lot of evidence to sift through and maybe tomorrow we will have a better idea but for now if you can help us no more we will say good day to you Sir.’

‘Well I do have one thing to ask. Am I still the only suspect?’

‘We have open minds, that’s what makes us good police officers but let me say that anyone without an alibi is a suspect.’

‘And who might those be? Seeing as I am one.’

‘Lord Lytton although unlikely as he is a much larger build than the person you saw, if indeed you saw anyone, John Benson, Elizabeth Gaunt all have no alibi for the time of the murder. Or of course it could be someone totally undiscovered as till now, a dreadful mistaken identity or accidental death.’

‘How about Charles Reynolds?’

‘He not only has an alibi but he also walks with a stick so is unlikely to run like your gazelle.’ replied the policeman.

‘And of those, are any being told to remain in Brighton apart from me?’

‘No Sir they may wish to attend the funeral and most seem to be taking the 11.00 a.m. train tomorrow along with the coffin.’

‘And so, might I. Good day to you officers.’

‘I remind you again that we require you to remain in Brighton until further notice.’ He shouted after Sylvanus.

Sylvanus walked home still dreaming of his Annie and wondering if he would be in jail for murder tomorrow. If he remained the only suspect to be told to remain in Brighton and with the authorities so keen on solving the crime in someway or the other. Perhaps Annie was there already accused of theft.

There was so much more he gleaned from today’s service but could he solve the murder before he was framed?

On returning to his hotel Sylvanus once again returned to his paperwork. Modifying all the names and events with the information he had gleaned from today’s memorial and his conversations.

Chapter 7 – Tuesday morning November 2nd 1841 – All hallows / Saints day

After a night wracked with fear and apprehension about his future, Sylvanus arose at 7.30 and wandered the busy beach trying to unravel the pieces of the murder jigsaw he was involved in. Today was the day that the poor lady’s body was to return to London. He was to remain behind for an indefinite period.

After walking past the chain pier again and back he reached the fishermen’s beach just after 9.00.

‘Henry how’s the catch today?’ called out Sylvanus.

‘Very good. I missed you yesterday – are you wanting your brace of mackerel and a sole again? Or I have some sea bream as sweet as the dawn.’

‘Give me the mackerel and a bream then. I only hope I am free to eat them.’

‘Free to eat? What do you mean?’

‘Well I came across a dying woman and as I have no better alibi than I was there I am the leading suspect.’

‘That is crazy. I will vouch for you. Where shall I go?’ said Henry.

‘Well thank you very much and I will let you know if I need a character witness.’

‘I will do anything I can.’ Henry thrust the wrapped fish into Sylvanus’ hand.

‘And I want nothing for the fish – put the money to helping you. Think! Fish are good for the brain you know. I know you will come up with the answer as you eat your mackerel.’

‘I do hope so Henry.’

Sylvanus reached the hotel a little after 9.30 and presented the waiter with his fish.

‘Same as usual please my good man.’

‘Yes Sir. With toast and coffee?’

‘Yes please. I need to think.’

After breakfast Sylvanus stayed in his breakfast seat staring at the waves and pawing through his papers until suddenly sometime after 10.30 he was struck by a sudden vivid revelation.

‘How long will it take to reach the station?’ He asked the waiter who was finishing up clearing the tables.

‘Maybe 20 minutes by cab.’

‘Thank you, young man. Here for your trouble.’

Sylvanus rushed to the doorman.

‘Quickly a cab for the station.’

‘Cabbie the station and as fast as you can. I mean as fast as humanly possible.’

‘The cab set off East clattering along the seafront before turning and skidding North up Queens Road toward the station. The cabbie paid heed to Sylvanus’ words and sent several pedestrians scattering in fear.

As they neared the station Sylvanus could see a ring of police around the entrance.

‘Stop at nothing cabbie. I will make it worth your while. Stop at nothing until you reach the platform.’ said Sylvanus thrusting a handful of notes in his hand.

As they broke through the police cordon the police turned to give chase and were hot on his heels as he jumped from the cab and headed for the last door as the train whistle signalled its’ imminent departure.

He managed to scramble aboard just as the train started moving and found himself immediately in the guards van facing a coffin and two policemen soon followed by two more police officers who leapt aboard.

‘I know who the murderer is. I know who the murderer is.’ Repeated Sylvanus as the train continued to gather speed. The policemen hurriedly restrained him and handcuffed him.

‘I know who it is.’

‘Who is it then?’ replied one of the policemen who he recognised was there on the night of the murder and who was accompanying the coffin to London.

‘I need you to assemble the suspects and all those implicated in any way and I will reveal the culprit.’

‘Let’s humour him, we have no better lead. Collect up the others. I believe Lord Lytton and John Benson are in first class with Charles Reynolds and Elizabeth Gaunt.’

As they all assembled in the guards van the train plunged into darkness of a tunnel.

‘It’s only a short Tunnel at Patcham.’ said the guard.

Soon they were out of the tunnel and into the cutting and light again.

As the train continued to chuff north Sylvanus Kent began to address the assembly.

‘Someone here would stand to gain a great fortune if Lady Isabella were to die and would loose a fortune if she were to marry Lord Lytton.’

He paused and scoured the faces of the assembly for signs of emotion.

Lord Lytton sputtered a retort. ‘I am not being spoken to like this by some upstart.’

‘Only one person here can look very different with a cloak and a slight change to their appearance.

Only one person can run like a gazelle at will.’

The policemen tightened their grip on Sylvanus as the train lurched.

‘Only one person has a name that sounds like her dying breath.’

Sylvanus approached slowly and snatched away the stick of Charles Reynolds.

‘Only one person has a concealed small blade weapon.’ said Sylvanus slipping the knob from the walking cane gently and revealing a blade.

‘And still with traces of her blood on it.’

Suddenly the train plunged into the darkness again of the even longer Clayton tunnel and all was dark and silent in the guards van.

As the train emerged Charles was nowhere to be seen.

‘Quickly find him.’ shouted the policeman.

As two of the policemen headed for the door another policeman in the next carriage entered with Charles Reynolds by the scruff of his neck.

‘I caught this one trying to escape Sir. He was nimble as the proverbial gazelle.’ said the officer.

Sylvanus continued. ‘I believe you will find in his bag some documents showing that as her cousin he would stand to inherit the Reynolds fortune and title as there were no other descendants of Lady Isabella’s parents.

I believe it also grieved him that his Lordship was a catholic and not a protestant. Chaaarrrr……. les. (her dying breath) would inherit the family fortune with her gone otherwise it would go to a catholic family leaving him destitute.’

‘I am arresting you on suspicion of murder.’ said the leading police officer taking hold of Reynolds.

‘But I was at the mannequin club all night.’ said Charles Reynolds.

‘You could have easily slipped out like me and committed the evil deed before returning to spend time with your dancer.’

Just then the locomotive started to slow.

‘Hassocks station approaching.’ said the guard.

‘We will be taking you off here Mr. Reynolds.’

‘And if I may I would like to disembark here.’ added Sylvanus.

‘Yes, you are free to go.’ said the policeman.

‘Thank you Mr. Kent for solving this terrible crime and hopefully bringing the guilty man to justice. Hanging is not good enough for him.’ said Lord Lytton.

‘Thank you for helping to solve the crime which may well be see the first ever murderer to be apprehended on board a moving steam train.’ added the policeman.

As the train stopped at Hassocks, two officers got off followed by a handcuffed Reynolds and one other officer.

Then Sylvanus stepped triumphantly from the train.

‘Thank you again Mr. Sylvanus Kent. I am sure we will be calling on your analytical powers again if you should be in Brighton.’

‘I believe I may, but hopefully my next visit may start out a little less traumatically exciting. Talking of exciting are we in easy reach of the village of Poynings?’

‘Yes, I would say it is no more than four miles away, an easy journey by cab.’

Chapter 8 – Tuesday afternoon November 2nd 1841 Hassocks station.

Sylvanus went straight to the lone cab standing outside of Hassocks station.

‘Take me to Poynings will you kind Sir. As fast as you may.’

‘Certainly Sir, as fast as.’

They set off West along the road signposted to Hurstpierpoint.

‘Anywhere special in Poynings Sir?’

‘I am looking for a lady. Annie is her name.’

‘Lots of young gentlemen are looking for a lady.’

‘This is a very special lady. I am just a little worried that she may be spoken for and not quite the lady I knew just a few days ago, in Brighton.’

‘Well I imagine that there should be someone in the Public House there who will know the name. It is a rather nice establishment known as the Royal Oak and I don’t mind to say that I have had a few beers in there myself of a Saturday night.’

They passed through the beautiful Wealden village of Hurstpierpoint perched atop a sandstone ridge before turning left at the crossroads beside the old church to head south down Brighton Road.

‘They call this here Muddleswood crossroads for some reason and if you look to the hills over there at the foot you will see Poynings. They have very good spring water all along there.’

Sylvanus basked in the autumnal morning and relished the distant views of the rolling green downs as the horse continued its regular clip clop punctuated with the occasional snort.

It took hardly more than another half an hour before they passed Poynings church on the left and dropped down across the chalk stream and past Frank Shaw’s blacksmith forge.

‘Frank is the reason I have been here often. He is one of the best smithys around and can turn his hand to anything from hooves to wheels. He will be closed for lunch, in the pub more likely.’

As they entered the village proper the pub was clearly evident on the right.

‘Would you like me to wait while you get directions?’ asked the cabbie.

‘No I think I will be fine from now on kind Sir. Here’s some money for you, I hope it is enough?’

‘Yes, Sir three times enough.’

‘Keep the change. You have been very kind and it is a long way back.’

Sylvanus took a deep breath before entering the Royal Oak and walked directly to the bar. Inside it was dark and cigarette smoke hung heavy under the creamed ceiling.

The bar was built of massive oaken timbers like those from the Wealden forest which had supplied the world with timber since Roman times.

‘Excuse me landlord, I am looking for a young girl with several sisters called Annie.’

‘Annie, you say. That sounds like your sister in law Annie Norman doesn’t it Frank.’

‘Sure does.’ replied Frank.

‘Are you the famous Frank Shaw the blacksmith?’

‘I am and who would you be?’

‘I am an acquaintance of Annie from Brighton. I have to say my cabbie was very complimentary about your skills.’

‘You haven’t come to chase for the money have you.’

‘No. Not at all. I gave her the money for her father’s medicine.’

‘Well that is a kind gesture Sir. He is my father in law William. Annie is my wife’s younger sister.’

‘I heard she was from a large family of sisters.’

‘Yes, and right beauties the lot of them.’ Replied Frank proudly.

‘Anyhow you should find her attending to Bill across the street at Dyke View the family house. You can’t miss it across the road and the right hand one of the two houses.’

Sure, enough the right-hand house was named Dyke View, Sylvanus once again plucked up courage to knock. The door was neatly inset under a porch in the North-West corner of the house beside an alley which led to the hills beyond the allotment gardens.

‘I’ll go.’ He heard a sweet voice say from behind the strong oak door.

As the door opened he saw a picture of beauty framed in the hallway.

‘Annie, is it you?’

‘Oh Vaney, I though I would never see you again.’

They hugged spontaneously.

‘And I you. I was lost without you.’

‘I was wrongfully sacked from the hotel as someone saw me changing the money up in the till. Sacked without proof or evidence.’

‘Never mind Annie. I too was nearly in the same or worse condition when I witnessed a noble lady murdered on Saturday evening but I too am exonerated.

I have to ask if you are free and single as I supposed?’

‘I am Sir and you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Who is it dear?’ came the call from inside.

‘It is the kind gentleman who supplied the finances for father’s medicine.’

‘Bring him in.’

‘Good day, Mrs. Norman, is it?’

‘Yes, and I believe we have a great debt owing to you for saving my husbands life. He is much better now thanks to the medicine. And here he is in his favourite chair to prove it.’

‘I am truly indebted to you Sir.’ replied William with a croaky chesty voice.

William sat in a throne like chair facing the roaring fireplace and in the plain light of the large sash windows which looked out on the high street.

‘No, it is not I but your daughter that saved you, I am only here to offer her a job if you would permit me?’ replied Sylvanus.

‘I am a psychiatrist by profession and I would like to start a Psychiatric practice and detective agency in Brighton to accompany my London practice and I would like Annie to be my housekeeper, personal assistant and administrator and assistant if she would consider it.

I will also send you £5 a week for the pleasure of letting her work for me and to allow you to keep fit and strong.’

‘Oh, Sir that would be wonderful if Annie considers it a fitting job.’ added her mother.

‘Well Sir, as I have no better offer today I would like to take you up on your wonderful opening.’ said Annie.

‘Excellent; well we must waste no time to find an establishment with boarding for you in fashionable Brighton.’

Annie looked as excited as can be without exploding and replied with her final verdict.

‘Well the coach will be through in an hour and I can be ready if I start now.’

‘Wonderful, I will see to it you get a room of your own in hotel, or perhaps we will take two rooms in the Grand. Here is to all our futures and a wonderful fresh beginning for us all.’

Bibliography and other Books

Free Books

I like to give away books free from time to time. I have a couple that are always free on Amazon and Shakespir. e.g.

60+ secrets of Professional Photographers

Sylvanus Kent’s first story. To Be Beside.

Gift Books

Also, I am happy to give some books as gifts if you would like to get in touch e.g.

Composition tips of professional photographers.

Sylvanus Kent’s 2^{background:transparent;}nd^ Story

Simply send me an email at [email protected] stating the format or device you would like the story for e.g. Kindle or P.C.

Alost all other books are regularly available at Amazon or Shakespir.

Genre’s

Self Help

Living the Dream series

Other books in this Living the Dream series

The Calabrian dream – how it all started (2016)

Mafiabria (2016)

The Calabrian (Mafia) Cookbook (2016)

Sun Reiki (2016)

How to write an eBook in a month

PhotoSafari Photography Series

Mediterranean and holiday / vacation photography (2016)

How to retire Gracefully (Post Brexit)

Bloomsbury Group publications

Bloomsbury group books,

Virginia Woolf.

Life in Squares -

Virginia Woolf, Monks House and the Bloomsbury group

Charleston @ 100 – The first hundred years of Charleston house under the Bloomsbury group.

The Longest Walk – Virginia Woolf’s amazing existence.

Sylvanus Kent Novels

Sylvanus Kent stories – by Chris Cook

1. To Be Beside –– set October 1841 Published August 2012

2. “Love to be” set over Christmas 1841 it is perfect seasonal reading. Published October 2012.

3. Beside the Seaside set Feb (Valentines 1842) Published August 2012 1,2, and 3 published as ‘The Seaside Trilogy’

4. ‘Oh I do’ The grand Tour of the Mediterranean and Italy. Set June – Sept 1842 Published August 20135. The hunt continues (to follow)

Follow Sylvanus on Facebook [email protected] / Twitter @SylvanusKent, web site http://sylvanuskent.webs.com/ and blog (join the Sylvanus members club)

Other Novels by Chris Cook

Deia Vu

Where the Time Goes Treasure Quest (Pub 2015)

The quest for a pirate treasure.

MHXXX – The story of the lost airliner (2016)

Messages in Bottles

Other Publications by Chris Cook

MAVIK – philosophy & Religion

Children’s books

The Giants of Mid Sussex -

Winner of the Mid Sussex Author of the year competition.

The Last Dragon

Ruby The Dinosaur.

Availability

Books are available from Amazon Kindle – Shakespir or in a variety of formats from the publisher and Author. Email :- [email protected]

Other Formats of eBooks- Other Publications available for Kindle, P.C. Apple, Sony, Nook, Tablet on...epub, .mobi . htm .pdf and. .txt format etc.

Reviews

Thank you so much for reading my book. Gaining exposure as an independent author relies mostly on word-of-mouth, so if you have the time and inclination, please consider leaving a short review wherever you can.

Any review, positive or negative, could help other readers determine if my work is worth their attention or not and give me hints on what you might like to see in future publications. It really does make a difference.

Writing is a very personal experience for me and I like to think that I am writing each book personally for you so any feedback is greatly treasured.

If you would like to send me an email you can at [email protected] you can get a free gift book and advance knowledge of publications and news.

Thanks again for your time.

All the best

Chris Cook

Chris Cook Biography

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Chris Cook lives on the Sussex coast in England where some of his stories are set and he has another house in Calabria, Southern Italy.

He has travelled the world lecturing in 36 countries from Brazil to Japan and all stations in between.

Chris was a full time professional photographer from 1972 but also turned in later years to training, writing lecturing, instructing.

Chris is also pleased to speak at events on all things related to writing, and publishing, photography and the Bloomsbury group.

In recent years Chris has been working at Bloomsbury Group houses in Sussex to improve visitor’s experiences.

In 2016 he set up Vivendum Ltd. which is a consultancy for fine art publications and to help people live their dream.

Get in touch with the author…

You can contact the author at [email protected]

© Copyright 2016 Chris Cook

[email protected]


To Be Beside.

To Be Beside. Is the first story in the Sylvanus Kent series. It's 1841 and Sylvanus takes his first trip to the seaside on the steam railway. He arrives in Brighton and discovers a whole new exciting life, career and future.

  • ISBN: 9781370108428
  • Author: Chris Cook
  • Published: 2016-12-31 09:50:13
  • Words: 19073
To Be Beside. To Be Beside.