Millicent Morgaine started her recruiting with Rachael Weiz. And Rachael Weiz said no. Rachael Weiz started as a plot device: what would Millicent do if a candidate said no and for decent reasons. How would Millicent win that candidate over? Of course, I threw in John Smith and Millicent’s normal methods were too slow. Rachael has become a central character in the Omicron Matter and very fun to write for.
This entry is longer than my normal limit (2000 words). But I removed as much as I could from “The Search Begins” and her meeting with Rachael. The original chapter had a meeting with John O’Malley as well and that is gone. I had her start by meeting with Miranda at the university – that is no longer there. This was her first official meeting with Liam O’Hannigan and I could not remove that. I also found I could not remove much from the scene in the clock shop. Everything felt required.
So for your enjoyment (it’s a little long), Millicent Meets Rachael. Look for more Thursday.
The First Candidate
She left the office and crossed the leaf strewn quad, walking briskly past clots of bundled students. Glancing at the addresses, she noticed two were in the area of Stepney. From that main road, she hailed a taxi. A cart arrived with the usual smartly dressed driver. “I need to go to Stepney.”
“Beggin your pardon ma’am. Tis a rough neighborhood and I’ll not likely get a fare back.“
“I shall pay your for the fare there and back to St. Paul’s. I won’t ask you to delay further while I conduct my interviews.”
“Nay ma’am. Your money is nought good when it’s nicked.” And he drove off.
“Spineless twit,” she muttered.
Millicent hailed two more cabs with similar results. On the fourth try, she found a cabby willing to take her. Remarkably, it was the same driver who had offered such sound advice about the train station just yesterday – Liam O’Hannigan. The adept O’Hannigan would not recognize her from her previous disguise. Millicent straightened her hair and her skirt and made her request.
“Stepney can be a rough place ma’am. “
“Yes, I know. Three of your competitors have refused to take me there even with return fare. “
“We can be a pusillanimous lot. Round trip fare in advance ye say?”
“Yes and a tip if I make it there and back before 6PM.”
“How long will your business take?”
“I can’t be sure, but less than two hours.”
“I’ll take your fare.”
“You’re not afraid of the dark and dangerous Stepney?”
“Nay, ma’am. I live there. You should be, but that’s not my business. That will be 10 bob each way. “
“Here is four crowns. You’ll get the tip on my return. I have two addresses near here. I expect both calls will be quick.”
“Might I see the addresses?”
Millicent handed over the slip of paper. O’Hannigan reviewed the names and addresses. “Mordecai, the watchmaker. You’ll find him off Gold Street. After that, it is the O’Malleys mechanics. That is down toward the river off High Street – close to the Fields. ”
“Very well, Mr…..”. Millicent decided it was best to maintain her previous guise.
“O’Hannigan. Liam O’Hannigan esquire at your service.” He bowed broadly and tipped his top hat.
Amused, Millicent handed him some coin. “Your service is noted. Is six pence enough to get a meat pie and a mug?”
“More like a schilling.”
“Here’s two. I might do with a sausage roll when I return. Be sure to tip the vendor properly,” Millicent said.
“Aye ma’am. I’ll be here.”
Heading down Wellington, she made a right turn on Gold Street. About half way up the narrow cobbled street, hung a huge gold watch that showed the current time. She at least knew where she was going. The shop had a red façade with a recessed door to the right of the small lot. The windows were barred so it was difficult to see the wares. The door tinkled not unlike the door at Abigail’s café. However, when the door closed a metal ball was released that rolled down the track. At certain intersections, the ball would hit levers that would set off clocks and other devices. First a cuckoo popped out of clock and began its call. Then a clock chimed the hour. As the ball turned a corner, a ballerina came out to sounds from a music box and started twirling. The track continued ever so slightly uphill on the final run until the ball rested lightly against a stop. An Archimedes Screw drew the ball up to its original height where it rolled out and rested lightly against a stop. The cacophony of cuckoos, clocks, and music boxes seemed to reset. Millicent paused for a moment and then clapped her hands together.
“Bravo. Wonderful.” Millicent was impressed at the ingenuity and playfulness. It was perfect.
“You like all that noise? Me, I think it’s crazy. Kids open the door when I work with a customer and Oy. “ The gruff voice came from a man a bit shorter than her, with gray hair and a well-trimmed salt and pepper beard. He wore a vest and sleeve protectors. A device attached to his glasses allowed him to see things with extra magnification.
“I think it is magnificent. How much time does it take to reset the lift?”
“Eh… not much” he walked over to the wall and pulled a chain which reset the counter weights.
“That’s it?” she exclaimed.
“There should be more? The rest seem to reset themselves, “ he said proudly.
“This must have taken you months.” She asked.
“Me? I’ve got a business to run. My daughter made this. Every so often she adds some new tchatshke. ‘Enough’ I say, but does she listen? No. ‘I want to try this gear’ she says. ‘I want to add a new automaton’ she says. ‘I can make it reset on its own ‘ she says. ‘Who needs it ?’ I say” The words said complaint, but the pride in his voice was obvious.
“Now what does a nice lady like you want in some old watch shop on the East End?” he asked. “Need a watch for some man? Or a clock for your wall?”
“Oh dear, my apologies. I think the entrance overwhelmed me. Here” She presented her greeting card. “My name is Millicent Morgaine and I would like to speak to Rachael Weiz.”
“My daughter? You want to speak to my daughter? Why?” The friendly gruff voice suddenly got very short and protective.
“That is between us. However, at the moment I want to complement her on the work out here and her success at the University.”
“You are from the University? Now you want to talk? I should toss you out. You broke her heart and you have the chutzpah to come here? Out.. out.. we want nothing to do with you. You sucked the life out her, you ghoul. What do you want ? – the body? OUT” The enraged man made to push her out the door.
Millicent resisted to push and pleaded, “Please Mr. Weiz. I asked for the names of excellent students and she was suggested. Hear me out.”
“Suggested? Suggested for what? That place wouldn’t give her the time of day when she graduated. She was better than all those arrogant worthless bastards. “
At least she was not longer “with the University” – that could be called progress. She also noticed that his Yiddish accent was giving way the east end patois.
“Please Mr. Weiz. I want to give her a chance. Will you let me talk with her a bit?”
Mr. Weiz looked up at the track and ball. He polished the track for a bit and then sighed heavily.
“Her Uncle taught her to read. Oh, you should have heard my father rage about that. ‘Girls do not read the Torah. They do not need to read.’ Oy, you would think he was still in the Old World. But Morris kept at it. ‘It is different here’ he said and I thought so too. I even pulled a string or two to get her into the University. The temple helped a bit on the bill. Each time she came back, I could tell it was tough. But she stuck it out. Graduated with Firsts even. But no one would talk to the ‘Jewish Girl’. It’s not the Cossacks, but it tears you apart no matter. “
“What does she do now?”
“She fixes the clocks and watches. She’s a natural.” He looked at the track. “She hasn’t added anything to the track since she came back.” He sighed and polished one of the balls that ran the track. “You’ll give her a chance?”
“I’m particular. I only want the person who can do this.” Pointing around the room “But there’s a price she has to be willing to pay and I can’t make it small.”
Mr. Weiz viewed her warily. “Follow me.” He led her though the swing doors. The back room had two work tables. Clocks hung from the wall. Shelves filled with carefully organized gears, springs, levers of varying sizes were stacked to one side. At one table, a woman a bit taller than her father was leaning over a cuckoo clock. Her long hair was braided and hung down. She wore trousers with an apron to protect form solvents and metal shavings. She had the same vest and sleeve protectors as her father. A magnifying lens was illuminated in some fashion and over some small pieces. She was looking at the small pieces with a pair of jewelers glasses fit tight against her eyes.
Her father went up to her. “Rachael. There is someone here to see you.”
Rachael didn’t look up from her work. “I heard. You’ve wasted your time. I want nothing from the University.”
Millicent responded, “I am not surprised. I can’t argue with you. The creator of that room I came through deserves far more than you got. I am not from the University. I represent someone else. I may have a position for you.”
“May? Still too Jewish?”
“My client has no interest in your heritage or traditions. However, the position is long term and remote. Not everyone is interested.”
“What is the position?”
“You will be working on mechanical engineering. Small work to start with. You’ll need to design and create devices like the clock and the dolls out there only far more complicated. “
“Why me?,” the voice sounded tired.
“Do I need to point to that track again? You demonstrated your creativity and humor when I walked through that door. My client appreciates fun and humor. Your projects were consistently in the top five of your class. My source says they could have been top if not for this absurd prejudice. I suspect you knew that and kept exceeding expectations just to annoy the class prigs and professors. Am I wrong?”
Rachael didn’t say anything but carefully started assembling the clock together.
Millicent continued. “Despite your hard work and clear abilities, the second raters got the jobs. They had the connections. They went to the right church. This world slapped you in a way that school never could. You can’t prove yourself here because you will always be held back because of who you are; because of what day of the week you worship. Those four years of showing how good you are probably feel like a waste of time.” Millicent looked at her fingernails, “I would bet some of your classmates at University had the temerity to tell you that. And as if that wasn’t enough, they probably told you that you will amount to nothing. You scared people Rachael. Genius frightens people. They pull it down by any means possible. I find the method you suffered particularly abhorrent. ”
Rachael’s hand shook for a second as Millicent’s merciless barrage finished. She inhaled deeply and placed the longer hand on the clock. The light reflecting off the clock face showed hers to be damp.
Millicent said more gently, “You’ve passed all the hurdles I am going set before you. I have someone who wants the person who can make children laugh and fathers proud with a bit of clockwork. “
Rachael moved the hands and the cuckoo clock made the familiar tootle. “I have a job here.”
Her father spoke up now. “Rachael, this is a chance your grandfather dreamed of and he never got. A place for you to succeed and be you. You can do great things. That’s what any father wants.”
“Why would anyone pass up such an opportunity?” Rachael demanded.
“There is a personal price. The term is 10 years and the location impossibly remote. Not everyone wants to leave everything for the unknown. There are other conditions that are difficult to explain at the moment, but they are not easy either. “
Mr. Weiz asked “What’s that mean ‘impossibly remote’?” sounding worried.
“I mean that she will have no contact with you after she leaves with me to her position. Anyone who takes this position is leaving everything and everyone they know.”
“Like running from Cossacks,” he said sadly.
“A bit less risky. The travel is easier and she has a guaranteed job, but the analogy is apt.” Millicent paused and then addressed Rachael. “Your father has my card and my address. I will be contacting you shortly regardless. I do hope you’ll think about it. Please consider what I offer.”
Millicent left the two and made her way to the door on her own. She looked around and then opened the door and watched the ball proceed. Again the clocks cuckooed and chimed; the music box played and the ballerina danced. She stepped out into the alley way and headed back to Spring Green where she had left Mr. O’Hannigan esq. and his cab. She walked the three blocks briskly as always. O’Hannigan was waiting and he had a package of news wrap.
“’’ello Ma’am. Interview go proper?”
“Not as well as I had hoped and better than others might expect. There are times when I find your country’s quaint prejudices quite annoying”
“Mr. O’Hannigan, your carriage is in good working order. Where do you have it serviced?”
“Henry’s place off Commercial and Cannon. He does proper work”
“If Henry employed a Jew, would you continue to go to him for work?”
“ye’ don’t know Henry too well if you ask that question”
“I know too many people like him. Answer the question.”
O’Hannigan scratched his chin. “I suppose don’t really matter as long as the job’s done right.”
“Thank you Mr. O’Hannigan. I needed to hear that from someone. Now hand me my sausage rolls and let’s go to the O’Malley’s. ”
 Stepney – poor section of East End London that is heavily favored by immigrants especially Ashkenazi Jews, Irish, French Heugenot in the 17 and 1800s. It was always considered poor and rough and a bit dangerous.
 Archimedes Screw – i consists of a screw (a helical surface surrounding a central cylindrical shaft) inside a hollow pipe. The screw is turned usually by a windmill or by manual labor.