Bertie and the Beast: Chapter 9, Part 5

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Chapter 9 Part 5

It was with some relief that I finally climbed into bed, although this process was not as immediate as I had hoped for. Firstly Elspeth had to check that Charlotte had finished her toilette was out of the way and in her own room. I had thought to remind her that I had seen her without any clothing before, naked would not be the correct term, but I could tell that this would not be a smart move given the recent circumstances and my wife's' given condition, and so I waited outside the bedroom, listening to her bustling around like a mother hen.

Bertie had bidden us both goodnight once it became abundantly clear that young Charlotte would not be making any further appearance that night and he went off muttering to himself about a quick workout in the gymnasium, but not before tidying away the cups and teapot under Elspeth's stern gaze.

At last the door opened and Elspeth stepped out, making me jump to one side. She looked me up and down and wrinkled her nose.

"I think it would be best if you left your clothes outside, dear, and then make your way to the washroom taking care to touch nothing on your way through and to walk only on the brown paper path laid out."

I peered past her at the sheets of paper laid out neatly across the floor.

".. I've filled the basin with hot water, so all you need to do is wash."

I looked at her with a face that I hoped spelled out that I just wanted to get to bed, but she declined to notice. There was no point in voicing my opinion on the matter, especially as she suddenly handed over a coat hanger. Elspeth had a fixed mouth throughout watching me disrobe, not once did she let a smile creep in, it was very disconcerting. Once I was down to my combinations and my grubby clothes neatly hung or folded accordingly, she gave an approving nod; pushed open the bedroom door as far as it would go and marshalled me to the washroom like a border collie with a truculent ram.

The room we were now to share for the remainder of the journey was strangely not as I had left it. Gone was the military formality, it now seemed far more feminine. Elspeth had obviously brought some touches of home with her in the various trunks but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, and nor was I allowed the chance to stop and stare.

I had hoped that once in the sanctuary of the "head" I would have a few moments to myself, alas I was wrong. Elspeth decided that my route back to cleanliness needed to be closely supervised. My tiredness brought about a horrible flashback to a time when Aunt Lettice had discovered me riding on the milk wagon, and although it was only midday, sent me to bed, but not before scrubbing me from head to toe with carbolic soap and a heavy duty brush used normally by the maid for scrubbing floors, my knees and elbows glowing bright red by the end of it.

The water was very black by the end of my meticulous washing and had to be changed a few times (Thank goodness Hobbes and Meads had got the hot water functioning, for it would have not been at all amusing in cold water). Elspeth handed me a pair of pyjamas (which I had not seen before, so were obviously part of her shopping expedition in London).

"I thought it was time you had some new ones, the ones that came back from China were rather worse for wear." She raised an eyebrow and smiled.

"Indeed, but very functional night attire nevertheless, these, however, seem very modern."

"They are the very latest in what the shop assistant called leisurewear, I think the poor fellow was rather taken aback at Charlotte and I purchasing men's' attire."

I thought about this scenario and winced.

"Well, come along, put them on!"

I waited to see if she would turn her back, but she continued to stare and so I struggled out of my undergarments as quickly as I could. The new garments seemed very comfortable and not at all scratchy against my skin.

She continued and moved to grab my rear. "See Knolly, there is a handy flap at the back of the trousers and also buttons at the front."

I backed into the washstand, not sure what she was trying to accomplish with her pointing fingers.

"You discussed these additions in the shop then?", buttoning up the accompanying bed jacket.

Elspeth giggled. "No, not at all, what do you take me for?"

I sighed and relaxed. "Sometimes I'm not sure my dear, but can we go to bed now, it has been a very long day and breakfast, I fear, cannot be that long away."

As we settled in to bed and turned off the lights, a low, rumbling noise came from the adjacent room. I looked at Elspeth.

"That will be Charlotte, she does snore so."

"Hmm, but then she has had a very busy few days with you m'dear."

"She has indeed..." I'm not sure at what point I fell asleep during Elspeth's monologue describing her and Charlotte's' adventures since I had left her alone in the house. I'm pretty sure I made it all through the various shops they had visited, but not certain, and I definitely have no recollection of her tale of Charlotte coming face to face with a busy railway station, complete with noisy steam engines. I desperately wanted to hear how she had managed to get Charlotte to "talk" more, however the comfort factor of sheets, the new leisurewear and the closeness of my dear wife meant that this would have to wait until the following day.

Grey daylight was trying to sneak its way around the door that led to the "head" when I eventfully awoke alone; Elspeth had already arisen and so, it seemed, had Charlotte, as the door to her room, too, was open, adding more light, however I couldn't hear either of them. I must have been in a very deep sleep as I'm sure that my wife would not have let Charlotte use the washroom with me so close by otherwise. I lay still for a while, listening to the sound of the wheels on the tracks below; so we were still moving at speed, but how far north we had travelled since Crewe I was not aware of. I checked the nightstand for my watch and then remembered that it was still with my clothes outside.
There was no option now but to get up and as I did so I felt a cold draft. How odd, the rear flap of my trousers was unbuttoned. Turning awkwardly this way and that to cover my behind I spied a note on the floor which I must have knocked down. Interestingly the brown paper pathway had now been tidied away. How that had been accomplished without waking me from my slumbers I have no idea – Dear reader, why not try and pick up multiple sheets of brown paper without making any sort of rustling noise, it is not an easy task .

I picked up the note and sniffed its perfume, then unfolded it to see Elspeth's elegant curved script.

"Dearest husband, Bertie has kindly offered to escort Charlotte and I to the Dining Car for breakfast. There is not being anything in the galley we fancy and the smell of bacon seems to be somewhat overpowering. Will ensure all precautions are taken, and bring something back for you. Elspeth xx"

My brain screamed as it took in every word, then backed up and read it again. What were they thinking of! I opened the bedroom door and sniffed, the distinct aroma of bacon seemed to waft from the guard's van and beyond. I could see their point and I decided that I must quickly join them before it was too late, that is too late to be served breakfast.

I stood in the middle of the bedroom, finally taking in the additional flowery cushions, flounces and whatnots which had transformed the room into more of a lady's boudoir rather than a happy couples bedroom; I shook my head and hoped that all of these additions had not been at the expense of additional clothing for myself.

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