Dunstable, July 1862
The first darts game resulted in a narrow victory by Candace. After much protesting about how unfair it was, Jason purchased Candace another pint. Stephanie and Rob joined the crowd and a challenge game pitting women against men ensued. This time the men prevailed as Kimberly was not as good as her sister and Stephanie had not spent time learning darts in the bar. As the game progressed, it was clear that John and Kimberly had something of a relationship. Candace seemed always to be next to Jason. Jason didn’t mind. There were few women at University and he had so little time and they all had little interest in him once his relative status became clear.
At the end of the second game, Jason announced “Well, I have a bit of a ride home. Thanks for the games.”
Candace looked annoyed and asked, “Are you sure? Rob can be quite funny after his fourth pint.”
Jason said to Candace, “I appreciated your sympathetic ear earlier. Findley managed to get to me. You managed to get me right again. But I’ve really got to go. I’ve got to clean the stables tomorrow and doing that with a hangover is beyond torture. I shall see you on the morrow,” affecting his best Shakespearian accent.
Candace responded with an east end accent, “oh very well. Walk me home at least.”
“What about Kimberly?” he asked.
“She is a big girl. Besides, I suspect she and John have plans for the evening.”
Jason raised his eyebrow a bit, and responded “Well I guess I can walk a pretty girl home.”
Jason grabbed their coats and met Candace at the door. Somehow he managed to put the coat on her with her not having to twist too much. Jason’s velocipede was secured outside. Gathering the bike, the pair headed North on the main road arm in arm. The shops had long since closed and the restaurants were dimly lit as waiters and bussers finished the last of the preparations for tomorrow. As they approached the only other bar open at this time, a number of figures were outside milling about. Candace gripped Jason’s arm as they approached the crowd.
The throng parted for the pair and bike. The noisy conversation continued and the smell of tobacco drifted in the air. A small bit of relief seemed to settle on Candace as they reached the other side of the group. And then a voice called over the horde.
“Well if it isn’t Candace, the waitress and Jason the town poor boy. Fancy that. Care for a drink at a real establishment? After all you owe me one. ” Findley leaned against the wall, with his chums on either side. He was still wearing the striped pants and blue vest, but the vest was now unbuttoned and featured a large stain at the top. Chester, with his bright blue paisley vest had now sobered up and was looking menacingly at the two.
“Just keep moving” Jason whispered to Candace.
“I was talking to you two. That’s not very polite to ignore someone. Especially after you doused them with beer. “ Findley shouted.
Jason and Candace made it past the bar and the next store when two figures popped out of an alley way and blocked their passage. It was Cedric and Phillip from earlier in the evening. Cedric was the stockier of the two. He was wearing a pinstripe suit with vest and his bowler. Phillip was taller and thinner and trying to look fierce. The goatee and his light colored suit did not compliment his gaunt figure. Turning around, Jason saw Findley and Chester approach. The crowd outside the bar seemed to hush as the four closed.
“I think I am still owed a drink. Jason ought to pay since he spilt the first one. How about joining us for a drink inside?” Findley said in a more normal voice as he approached.
Findley reached for her, but Jason knocked his hand away.
“Findley, let it go. Tell your pretty boys to move on before someone gets hurt.”
“You both owe us drinks. My vest is stained and I expect recompense. In fact, I think we’ll take her into Smithy’s to see she pays for them proper. Of course, you’ll pay out here. “ The two from the alley shifted forward.
“Can you handle Findley, if he were alone?” Jason whispered to Candace.
“A waitress has some defenses”, she smiled at him evilly.
Louder, “Findley, last time. Let it go. Someone is going to get hurt.”
Findley laughed “You poor clodpoll. Of course, someone is going to get hurt. Why do you think we’re here? To discuss politics?” He reached for Candace again. This time Jason did not knock away his hand. Findley grabbed her and pulled her towards him as the two from the rear closed in on Jason. The three others laughed, but Jason winked at Candace. The velocipede was a used model he got from a message deliverer in London. It wasn’t one of the fast big wheels, but it was a substantial bicycle built in France. The wrought iron frame and wooden wheels combined for a weight close to 100 pounds. Jason lifted the bike and pivoted on his heel spinning around once and then a second time. He flung the heavy object towards to two men behind him like a large discus. Years of lifting bales of hay, moving animals made the 100 pound bike look lighter than it really was. It hit the two men hard. There was at least one sick crack and a scream as an arm broke. Jason turned back to the trio of Findley, Chester and Candace. Chester was still moving towards him, but slower now that it was only him.
Candace had stomped hard on Findley’s instep and then grabbed Findley’s balls – hard. Chester turned towards the noise of Findley’s scream. Jason rushed Chester and tackled him before he could reach Candace. Both landed hard, but Jason was on top and a satisfying “whuff” came from Chester indicating he had been stunned and the wind thoroughly knocked out of him.
“Candace, you ok?” She grinned at Jason and then grabbed Finley’s nose and banged his forehead against the wall. Jason looked at Chester and said “Stay down”.
He turned around. Cedric had lifted the bike off Phillip as he held his misshaped arm crying. Cedric then charged at Jason. Jason dodged a little and threw a fist into the man’s gut and brought his knee up to his face. There was a crack as a jaw broke and Cedric collapsed. He turned back to Candace and Findley. Candace had him backed up against the wall and was holding his balls and nose tightly. Findley’s hands tried to reach for her, but whenever he got a grip she twisted one hand or the other. He placed them on his head in frustration and pain.
“I think you can let him go now, Candace”.
Candace replied angrily, “I’m not sure I want to. He owes me an apology.” She twisted her wrist and Findley squealed through clinched teeth. He hit her head which threw her off for a moment and she released her grips. But then she brought her knee up hard into his now tender groin and she rounded and punched him in the nose. Findley fell over onto the ground and Candace stood over him staring at him angrily.
Jason, stunned for a moment, recovered . “Findley, did you know that she has to move around kegs during the day. And all that sewing…that has to makes fingers strong”. Candace cracked her knuckles meaningfully.
Findley mumbled “I will ruin you” through a bloody nose angrily which made it sound like “I’b bill ruin you”. Candace kicked him in the groin again and he groaned, “ahh Gad”.
“Candace, I heard you crack walnuts with your hands for customers?”
“Alb right, Alb right, Ib apolobize” Findley said curled up in a ball.
Candace stepped away and Jason grabbed the lapels of Findley’s tailored jacket. Jason lifted him up off the ground and up against the wall. Findley’s feet didn’t touch the ground.
“Not so big without the crowd are you?”
About this moment, whistles were blown as the constables arrived. A stocky mustached patrolman in a blue uniform and cap arrived. “Jason McNeil. Jason, let Mr. Findley down won’t you?”
Jason dropped Findley who landed on the ground with a whimper.
“What seems to be the matter here?”
“Those two assaulted me!” Findley managed to cry out sounding like “Dbose do asbaulted be”.
Candace shouted a protest, but Jason signaled her to be quiet. “How’s Mary, Bill? Isn’t she due soon?”
“Aye she’s due come November. And how are your Aunt and Uncle?”
“Two doing the work of three as always. I am thinking of building a water system in the barn – just need a bit of cash.”
“Aye, they’re like that. Probably have you working as well.”
Findley, appalled at the exchange, “They assaulbed us. They came here and assaulbed us.”
“Jason, I have to ask” Bill the patrol man said apologetically.
Jason shrugged, “Candace and I were walking home. Those two blocked the sidewalk whilst Findley and Chester blocked this way. Findley grabbed Candace. We took some exception. If Harry’s talked to the crowd, I expect some of them probably saw that.”
“Lies. He hates me.” Findley protested.
“Now Mr. Findley. Let’s take a look at some facts. Here’s a handkerchief for that nose. 1) This is on the way to Miss Candace’s flat. I expect Mr. Jason was accompanying her like a proper gentleman would to a lady.”
Candace curtsied for effect. Bill tipped his hat to her. “2) Why would a gentleman and delicate woman would lie in wait for four healthy men? 3) I expect at least some of that crowd is going to confirm their stories. It seems like I ought to be taking the four of you in for something. Jason, you want that?”
“It was Candace that was grabbed” Jason replied.
“I can let it go this time, Bill. Findley, put a bit of ice here and there and you’ll be right as rain in a day or two” Candace said.
“Bitch”, Findley muttered under his breath.
“Why Mr. Findley, I find that rather rude to address a lady in such a manner, “ the constable sounded shocked. He leaned down and whispered to Findley, “You’ll be making a proper apology or I’ll have you spend the night with the town drunks. They don’t much care for your lot.”
Findley’s face turned red as the humiliation grew. “I was out of line. My apologies seamstress’s daughter.” Findley’s speech was becoming easier to understand as the blood staunched.
Jason commented “I think we’ll go. I imagine the two hit by my bike will need a doctor. “
Harry, the other constable arrived and consulted privately with Bill. After a few moments, he returned.
“Miss Candace and Mr. Jason you’re free to go unless you wish to press charges. It seems the vast majority of the crowd corroborates your story,” Bill intoned. Findley closed his eyes in anger, frustration and pain. Jason, lifted his bike. The handle bars were askew, but otherwise the sturdy bike was still serviceable if a bit more scratched. He and Candace continued down some distance.
“You seemed to have Findley under control.” Jason observed dryly and then burst out laughing. “I think the squeal was what I really enjoyed. “
“Crack walnuts with my bare hands? I wish, but I could have cracked his.”
“Oh I know. Where did a lass learn such things?”
“One can’t be a waitress and be defenseless. Stephan taught us a couple of ways to control unruly patrons until he could be present to deal with them properly. I’ve only had to used that stuff once before and that was with an out of towner. Everyone else knows better to than pull such things in the Pig and Cow.”
“I shall be careful not got get fresh with you or Kimberly and your dishes shall be spotless hence forth.”
“I can’t imagine you getting fresh. Besides you took down three on your own. “
“Really only two are going to hurt tomorrow. Chester just figured better. University isn’t all study and experiments. I had a row or two on occasion. “
“Well thank you for defending my honor brave sir.” Candace took a deep mock curtsy
“Tis my sacred duty as a noble member of the Secret Knights of Ingeniare to protect damsels in distress and mend broken water pumps. I could do no other.”
Candace giggled again.
“Here is my flat.”
“Then my duty is served mistress and shall ride off in search of the fearsome Belching Boiler. I’m told it is running amok in the lower part of town steaming windows and dropping coal bits in bad places.”
“Oh please stop that, I can’t breathe. Come here” she said laughing.
When Jason got closer, she grabbed his waist and gave a lingering kiss. Jason enjoyed it for a moment. “What was that for?”
She responded, smiling “ You’re quite cute, very smart, have a sense of humor and no pretentions. Now don’t say anything or you’ll ruin it all.” And she kissed him once more.
After they broke, Jason said “I don’t know what to say”. Candace responded, “then don’t say anything.”