Bertie and the Beast: We don't belong to Glasgae, Chapter 10 Part 4
Created | Updated Dec 12, 2010
Once again we are beholden to the current executors of the Knolly estate for letting us publish this, the second package of the great man's journals and memoirs.
We don't belong to Glasgae
Chapter 10 Part 4
What a to do!
Charlotte rushed to my dear wife's aid but alas, at the last minute was distracted by the red garments fluttering from her hand and pounced upon them before they hit the floor, tossing the knickers back up to the ceiling with a deft flick of her hand (Lord knows I was tempted to write "paw" then).
I growled at her as I had heard Elspeth recently do in order to draw her attention that she was being too obviously feline. This had the desired effect (although it did make my throat rather dry) and soon we had gathered up my wife's limp form and laid her down upon the bed.
Leaving Charlotte to keep an eye on Elspeth, I went toward the galley to fetch a glass of water and to see if Hobbs had stowed away anything pharmaceutical aboard – and by that I mean smelling salts rather than any additional supply of brandy or other alcoholic beverage that Bertie and I had not already come across.
There was a slight jolt to the carriage as the Navy locomotive, now coupled, took up the strain ready to move us off when commanded.
I hurried back down through the carriages, glass of water in hand, but nothing more in the way of a medicinal nature, knowing that Bertie and Ladybouy would soon be knocking on the door and Elspeth would not want to be found indisposed.
My wife, it seemed, had not stirred since I left her, but her breathing seemed fine, as did her pulse. I set about unbuttoning her blouse, at which point I noticed Charlotte looking concerned. I was just about to start on loosening my wife's corset when a slight stab of pain to my hand stopped me; I looked to see the point of a claw emerging just enough to exert some pressure on the skin between my fingers.
"I think, my dear, that that is Charlotte's way of telling you to stop," came a woozy sounding voice from the pillow.
I looked down to see a smiling Elspeth and then turned to see a very scowly-faced Charlotte, who still had not yet removed her hand from mine.
"Goodness my dear, you gave us both quite a turn there!"
Extracting my hand without any bloodshed on my part I handed my dearest the glass of water.
"What caused the sudden faint?" I asked. "Is it the baby? Are the carriages too warm? Something you ate perhaps?" I laughed.
"Or maybe, aha ha, the little matter of meeting unexpected visitors so far from home?"
Elspeth coughed and spluttered through the sips of water and then regained enough composure to give me a very hard look indeed.
"That, Knolly is not being helpful."
She sat herself up at this moment, obviously feeling much improved.
"Now I suggest you go and tidy round whilst I make Charlotte and myself presentable for company that you have just reminded me about."
I backed out of the bedroom feeling somewhat annoyed. However, this soon passed as I looked around the office/saloon part of the carriage and decided that to my mind it was tidy enough. Oh, I tidied away the maps and removed anything else that would give the mission away. But all in all, it was very presentable. After all, it was a train carriage, not a London sitting room.
There was a knock on the door. It swung open, and in clambered Bertie and Ladybouy with much huffing and puffing. (It is often forgotten how far above ground level a train sits when there is no platform to stand upon).
"So this is the famous Train then?" asked Ladybouy. He whistled silently as he took in his immediate surroundings.
"I've heard many a story about it."
"Ah well, it's not in its original configuration. It has been through many refits since we brought the idea back from our travels. You're aware, no doubt, that it was used during the recent Royal funeral?"
"Indeed so! We were very lucky to get hold of it at such short notice."
"... and you needed it because?"
"Would you like a tour before we set off?" offered Bertie, quickly derailing the Captain's thought process.
"Why, that would be most..." Ladybouy halted mid-sentence and stared over my shoulder, from whence came a voice.
"Why Mr Ladybouy, once again you come riding to my rescue and this time on a steam locomotive. How delightfully modern."
"Elspeth... Mrs Devries... er... oh... um...!"
I took my wife's hand.
"Captain Ladybouy, you know my wife do you not?"
The fellow had visibly paled at my wife's entrance. He mouthed the word "wife".
"Of course he does Knolly, you silly blighter," chipped in Bertie, giving Ladybouy time to regain his composure and his colour, which he suddenly lost once more when, from behind Elspeth, Charlotte appeared, dressed in walking out clothes rather than my oilskins.
"Good Lord, Knolly! Is this the same young lady who flagged us down earlier?"
"Captain, may I present Miss Charlotte, my travelling companion?"
Elspeth made a sign and Charlotte offered her gloved hand which Ladybouy took and kissed.
I saw Bertie wince at this, as he conjured up various "what if scenarios". For myself, I tensed, not knowing whether Ladybouy would suddenly find himself flung against the wall, with Charlie suddenly upon him claws and teeth out for blood. Charlotte looked at Elspeth who gave a slight nod and she curtseyed in a most delightful way, but said nothing.
"Charmed I'm sure, Miss Charlotte ..." said Ladybouy, and he waited for a response.
Elspeth filled the following silence by informing him that Charlotte was deaf from birth and, alas, could also not speak, although through patience she was beginning to learn some words. Inwardly I smirked at the knowledge that even here our original cover story was being stuck to. If only Bertie would do similar ...
Ladybouy said nothing but instead performed a fluttering dance with his hands which produced a beaming smile from Charlotte.
"I say!" exclaimed Bertie.
"That was interesting and rather bold of you Captain, if I may say so," said Elspeth.
"Apologies to you all, but seeing your use of sign language earlier, I thought it seemed very familiar to that used by some of the native Bushmen I had encountered during my time in Africa, so I thought I'd try something."
"Captain, you are, as I have noted before, an observant young man. Indeed I have been using hand signals from the Bushmen along with some additional signals she already knew."
"Pah!" muttered Bertie under his breath so only I could hear. "I know one hand signal I'd like to make ..."
"So now you have met everyone, perhaps you can get us on to the branch line before any thing comes up behind us?" I asked trying to keep the situation less explosive.
Ladybouy excused himself and went out to make this happen.
"Well, that was interesting wasn't it?" grumbled Bertie.
"Hmm, yes, I think he knows more than he is letting on. He's an astute fellow, and we need to keep him onside. Top marks to Elspeth though for carrying on with the charade."
Charlotte was "talking" with Elspeth and pointing at Bertie. Elspeth laughed, Charlotte shook her head and then gave Bertie a playful shove in the direction of the Gymnasium.
"She's trying to cheer you up Bertie! She doesn't want you to be jealous of the young Captain," said Elspeth.
"Jealous? Me? No, you have it all wrong. I'm not jealous at all. Why would I be ... I mean, I want to protect her of course but ..."
I smiled at his predicament.
"Perhaps we can discuss this later," I said. "Ladybouy will be back soon and I don't think he's ready to see Charlotte in fighting mode, so your sparring will have to wait."
"Indeed, and I don't think much of your tidying up either Knolly."
I sighed and the carriage lurched.
"Ah!" I said. "We are off once more. Places everyone! Our guest will be through that door any moment,... and I want to lay out some ideas."
With us all seated, I put forward my plans for the next few hours. Elspeth was more than happy to be given a guided tour of the city. In my mind, I could already see new tartan apparel overflowing from shopping bags. Bertie and I would join the group for lunch later, after making contact with Hobbes and Merrick.
Ladybouy hauled himself aboard as we began to move off.
"Soon be off the main line and then I propose a tour of Glasgow for an early lunch. What say we all to that?"
"That's a capital idea," I said. "But Bertie and I have some business to attend to if that is all right with you. I'm sure that you won't mind entertaining the ladies for a few hours, eh? We'll rendezvous with you later."
Ladybouy seemed unsure of himself. He looked at Bertie, then me and then Eslpeth.
"Yes, yes," he finally said. "That will be fine. Of course it will be fine, just two ladies and me. Nothing wrong there at all."
"Are you all right, sir?" Bertie enquired, noticing that Ladybouy was beginning to look a little agitated and flustered.
"Yes, fine, I'm fine," he said. "So ... where shall we meet up?"
"Oh, how about a hotel?" I suggested.
"A hotel!?" squeaked Ladybouy.
"I'm sure the Captain can do better than that Knolly," interjected Elspeth. "There must be many a fine eatery in this city. After all, the exhibition is on later in the year, is it not?"
"This is true, Mrs Knolly, for although it does not open until the Summer months, plans are well in motion and travellers from far and wide are already beginning to set up shop."
"Well that's settled, then," I said. "Bertie and I will head over to the Exhibition area after we have done here. I'm sure we'll be able to find you, and then we can eat."
"Excellent!" added Bertie, punctuating it with a loud stomach growl. "I could go for something spicy, or something exotic, perhaps?"
Once the train had stopped, Ladybouy shot off to find a cab or similar transport to take himself, Elspeth and Charlotte into the city. I helped Elspeth down from the train.
"He seems rather nervous around you m'dear, don't you think?" I asked quietly.
"Who, the Captain?"
"I think it is more that he is nervous around you, Knolly. The hero, the adventurer and all that."
I patted her hand. "Yes, well, that might be so, but he is acting rather oddly for an officer."
"Perhaps he is concerned for his command. You know what the Navy think of having women about the place."
I chewed my lip and thought on this. "I need to find out what he knows about the goings on at the Loch, and if he has received any new orders. You and Charlotte can help. He's bound to say more if I'm not around."
"And how am I supposed to bring that up in conversation whilst shopping?" asked Elspeth.
"I don't know, but please try ... perhaps a different hat?..."
Elspeth rolled her eyes and went off in search of Charlotte.