Chapter 3; A Close Encounter
18th September, 1954
Having had an extraordinarily long and tiring talk with Lyman about my coming to New London, we bid each other adieu and retired to our rooms for the night. I had a unique latency to my actions, and so I set myself to bed and rested for the night.
I woke the next morning to greet my room proper. Without the haze of sleep threatening my view, I perceived a curious surrounding about me. The room was pleasantly papered in a faint beige patina, and I found the carpet to be a plain and rich navy. The dresser, in which I began to arrange my belongings, was placed adjacent to the bed itself, to allow space for the full-length mirror that possessed the opposite side of the room.
The monolithic thing had a peculiar serenity to it. Although intrusive to the design of the room, it appeared to have a natural command of the space; there was not one inch of the room that was not touched by its reflective gaze, and its surface was of an icy appearance, as if a constant frost were embracing it no matter what the heat in the room.
I brought my eyes from the mirror to my valise, and prepared myself again for my morning’s travel. As I left my room, however, I bumped into a maid as I passed her. It was an accident in its entirety; and as such, I apologised as any gentleman would, and offered my hand to help her to her feet. She seemed to have suffered a knock to the head in her fall, and her light was out by the time I had raised her to her balance. I gave her aid to help her sit, but as I laid her across the bench I started; for around her neck, wrapped in cold and glimmering silver, was a choker of the sort I had encountered the previous day. Remembering the hostility I had received upon sight, it seemed, from such neckwear-laden women, I laid her down quick, deftly pocketed the garment for closer examination at a later time, and fled before the maid could awaken.
I exited the hotel without disturbing Lyman, for despite the incident in the corridor, now was not the time for an intellectual discussion. I stepped again onto the street, and immediately noted a difference from what I had seen the eve before; the streets were empty, save a few drunkards still inhabiting archways and pavements. The air was also cleaner, for the factories had not yet started for the day, and I noted one more curiosity; a hansom cab was waiting, as patiently as it could manage, alongside the pavement by the hotel.
I gathered my suspicions, and there seemed a consensus; judging from the gratuitous smoke drifting from both the engine and the cockpit, it appeared to be the cabbie from the previous day. I stepped towards the vehicle and, lo and behold, the same gruff and weathered face came into view that had brought me here on my arrival. Walking briskly over to the hansom, I enquired as to his presence.
“Wha’? ‘ve ev’ry right t’be ‘ere, don’ I?”
I agreed, and explained to him my exact thoughts about his presence outside my lodgings in Putney. I still believe that I had remained tense from our brief encounter on the prior morning.
“’ere; I don’ ‘afta take abuse fr’m yer, y’know.”
Calmly regaining my comportment, I apologised for my outbursts. Evidently I was still shaken by the incident in the corridor, as I regularly pride myself on my manners; to a gentleman like myself, despite my lack of social prowess, a pleasant demeanour was always a goal to strive for.
“I though’, right, th’t yer would wan’ transpor’ to-an-fr’m yer bisness.”
I started; despite the truth in what he’d grunted – after all, travelling a city this expansive would necessitate transport – I couldn’t recall having mentioned any business.
“Wher’d you wan’a head to, then?”
I swiftly explained my destination, but carefully omitted the reason. I boarded the hansom and for the second time, the bar wound itself across the doorframe, and I was whisked away.
After approximately a half-hour’s journey, we arrived outside of the grand and towering hospital of St. Bartholomew. I bid a rather-too-sharp farewell to the cabbie, who gave his vehicle no hint to move. I paced along the pavement a little, looking up at the grand, majestic building.
Inside this looming, intimidating building was the main reason for my foray into New London.