London, July 1862
“I have one last stop in Belgravia and that is close to my hotel, “ Millicent said.
“There will be no problem ma’am,“ Mr. O’Hannigan replied graciously.
The taxi headed towards the river and then made a right on Oxford Street. The traffic flowed well on the major streets. She popped open her notebook. When she checked, no drones seemed to be in the area. So John Smith had still not caught up or was busy getting his team pacified. O’Hannigan stopped at Sloane Square. She got off the taxi and straightened her dress. Liam looked around and then asked, “Ma’am, are you seeing someone in the upper crust?”
“No, I suppose not. I had asked for scholarship students. I expect he works at one of these homes,” she said.
“I wouldn’t think to tell you how to do your job, but how are you expecting to contact him? I doubt the head man is going to admit he even works there. And you can’t go to the back door dressed like that,“ O’Hannigan pointed out.
Millicent was silent for a moment and then began pacing around with her arms folded. She fumed, “Blast this aristocracy. You are absolutely right of course. Since you have brought up this matter, do you have a suggestion Mr. O’Hannigan?”
O’Hannigan smiled and offered, “Well I might be able to arrange a meeting tonight. I expect the lad will be tied up until the lords and ladies are served and the dishes cleared. But I can pass a message for him to meet us at a local pub after work.”
“Interesting. While I have no desire to cramp your methods, how will your message get through when mine won’t?, ” she asked, trying to sound reasonable.
“Working folk get messages just like the gentry. They can even reply. Craft your message. I’ll find a runner and we’ll wait,” he said amiably.
She sighed and then climbed back into the taxi, “Then it is back to the Savoy and I shall craft my message.”
O’Hannigan climbed up to the driver’s seat and clucked and started the horse and headed towards the Savoy. The hotel was truly close – only about 15 minutes away. He stopped in front and Millicent climbed out. “I will write a message in the lobby. We’ll wait here. “
“Then I will stable the horse and arrange a runner. “ Liam guided the horse to the side of the hotel to the stable.
Millicent headed inside and stopped by the front desk. “Are there any messages for 204?”
The concierge checked her box. “No. Miss Morgaine.”
“Can you recommend a nearby dress maker? My wardrobe needs a bit of refreshing.”
“There is Madame Stein’s up the street two blocks. She does excellent work and has a variety of material to choose from” the concierge offered. Millicent gave him a small tip and said, “That is just what I am looking for.”
She headed to one of the tea tables and settled down. She took off her hat and pulled out her stationary.
Your name has been recommended highly by the Dean of the University. I have a client who is extremely interested in hiring an engineer specializing in structures and architecture. The dean says you have excelled in these areas. Might I have an hour of your time to discuss this offer? Please let the courier know a convenient location and time.
She folded the letter and waited for Liam O’Hannigan. In a short time, Liam came in the lobby with a young girl in hat and knickers. She was wearing a white shirt and tie and suspenders. She looked to be about fourteen with brown hair in a braid to her mid shoulders. There were a set of goggles that dangled around her neck and she had a satchel similar to Millicent’s slung over her neck.
“Here you go Millicent. The lass charges a proper rate.“
“Excellent Miss…” indicating to the girl that she wanted a name.
“’Lizabeth, ma’am …after the Queen !” the girl said a bit shyly.
“And she was a powerful one too. I have a message to be delivered to Belgravia. It isn’t far from here. “
“No ma’am. Just a few minutes,” Elizabeth said factually.
“Please deliver this and wait for a reply. When you return with the message, I’ll give you a second fee for that message.”
“Thank you ma’am.” And she made to go.
“Elizabeth, did you get any schooling?, ” Millicent asked.
“I know me numbers and letters ma’am. Messengers don’t need more. I gets enough to eat and share a room,” she said brightly.
“Just curious. I expect I will have other messages to deliver tomorrow as well. Assuming you want some business,” Millicent offered.
“Always ma’am. Always.” And the girl put a knuckle to her head and left.
Millicent asked Liam “How long will she be?”
“With that velocipede? Maybe an hour. Probably less,” he said.
“Well then. Just time for a meat pie and a drink. Where is a closest pub?,” she asked.
“Pardon me, ma’am?,” O’Hannigan asked sounding confused.
“I am hungry and thirsty. I find pubs far more entertaining than the dining room here. Lead on. I am buying lunch and drinks,” Millicent said.
“I’ll not say no to that, ” Liam said agreeably .
After a mug of ale, a meat pie and a quick game of darts, the two returned to the hotel and waited in the lobby for the messenger. Millicent ordered a pot of herbal tea to pass the time. Liam observed, “Ye are one of the strangest fares I’ve ever had.”
“Not the strangest?” Millicent said trying to sound disappointed.
“Just a day ago, I had another day long fare. It was perfectly normal, older woman. She was conducting interviews just like you. However the last interview seemed to have gone wrong and two people were attacking her. You wouldn’t believe a woman of her age could move so fast. I was ready to help, but somehow she had taken two younger folk down. She looked small and they looked a mite stronger than her.”
“How strange indeed.” Millicent tried sound neutral without sounding amused.
“It gets stranger. We fled as if we were being chased by the Devil himself, but I couldn’t see anything. I dropped her off at a busy location, a train station, and haven’t seen her since.” He drank his regular tea with a bit a slurp causing a local patron to grimace. He continued, “‘Tis’ remarkable that I should see a woman take down John O’Malley Sr. in the same week. Then a woman beats me at a game of darts at a pub and that woman checks me into the Savoy.”
Millicent smiled graciously, “I will need your services on a regular basis over the next few days and I so hate waiting. Besides, this hotel has extensive servant’s quarters that ought to be used. Not everything can be easily explained. If it can’t, it can be best just to accept and enjoy. I suggest you remember that over the next few days. “
“The quarters is nice. I’ll try to adjust.” He looked up at the door and waved, “I believe our messenger has returned.”
“Very fast, I shall have to tip well,” she commented.
“Make sure of the note first. I’ve been a messenger in my time. One can fake such things,” he said authoritatively.
“You are worth every penny on this week in advice and entertainment, Mr. O’Hannigan,” she said appreciatively.
“At your service Ma’am. “ To the messenger, “What’s the word, poppet?”
“I’ll poppet your knee. I’ve a response,” she said with a bite.
“Here is your fee. Let me see the note, and I may have a tip, “ Millicent said in a calming voice.
The girl handed over the note. It was Millicent’s note with a precise script note on the back.
I wish to know more. Meet me at the Damsels Skirt at 10PM. Wear a red scarf so I will know you.
“It seems to be in order. What was his job when you arrived?” Millicent asked.
“He was polishing the silver. He served as a footman,” Elizabeth answered.
“Tell me a bit about the house,” Millicent asking for more detail.
“Three stories high. It had two window boxes out front filled with pansies,” the girl sounded exasperated as she recited the description.
“Here’s a two schilling tip. Excellent work. I will have some messages in the morning as well,” Millicent said.
“Certainly ma’am,” the messenger said putting her knuckle to her cap and headed quickly over to the concierge in search of more messages to deliver.
As the messenger left, she handed the note to O’Hannigan and asked “Do you know this place?”
“Aye. Middling pub on the other side of the river, “ he said reflectively.
“Well. We have a couple of hours and I believe I have a new task,” she said definitively.
“Oh?,” he asked.
“I am going shopping. I will need help carrying parcels,” she said brightly
“I am not a hired servant. I am a cabby,” Liam said defiantly.
“I need new clothing. I need help and I have paid for your meals and I beat you at darts. You still owe me for that last round,” she continued in her bright tone and headed out the door.
“But shopping and parcels? From a women’s shop?” he asked plaintively.
“It won’t be all that long. I expect it will be less than two hours,” Millicent said lightly.
O’Hannigan groaned and followed Millicent as she headed off to the dress makers shop. The shop itself was a sizable place with two floors. Millicent suspected the second floor was where seamstresses worked in tiring conditions to make the dresses she ordered. Well, her contractors wouldn’t have all that much different conditions. Madame Stein was a smaller woman of stout build and greying hair. The shop itself had several two-tone dresses with lower bodices and higher bustles. Millicent looked around for more practical styles – less bustle and more bodice. Madame Stein finished with her previous customer and met Millicent.
“How might I help Madame?” the proprietress said with a thick Slavic accent.
“I am need of three new outfits. I am in a bit of a rush so the sooner they are done, the better,” Millicent said.
“Everyone one is rush. No one makes time for art. Rush, rush, rush…,” the woman complained.
“Too true, yet my schedule does not change,” Millicent said trying to sound sympathetic and knowing she was failing.
“Fine, what does Madame require in such rush?,” said Madame Stein spitting the last word.
Millicent pointed to one style. “I like that but I want less bustle and a sturdier fabric. I do a lot of walking.”
“Walking is bad for woman. However, I show you studier fabric. Egyptian cotton and linen. Silk feels best, but wears and snags. Cotton doesn’t take patterns good though. Boring.” She rummaged around in her fabric bin. “Here is navy blue and a white pattern on Egyptian Cotton,“ as she pulled out a blue roll of cloth with a shaded floral pattern and put it on a table. She let Millicent feel the firm, yet smooth fabric.
“Do you have a purple or red cloth available?,“ Millicent asked.
“Red …yes” and pulled out a red patterned linen cloth with a light geometric pattern.
Millicent pointed to a dress on a hanger and said, “I will take that dress with less bustle and a longer bodice in the red fabric. Use a white cloth for accent if it is needed. I will take a second dress in the blue and red. Use the pattern on the second mannequin by the door. The bustle on that is fine, but I still want the longer bodice and a bit lower chest line. I have a custom request – please add some slits in the skirt to the knee or higher on both dresses. I do quite a bit of walking and those narrow skirts constrain,” Millicent asked.
“Boring colors for Ma’am, but different styles. Could be interesting,” Madam Stein said appraisingly.
“Do you work in leather?,” Millicent asked.
“Sometimes. Needs special equipment and good workers. Takes time,” Madame Stein said.
“If I get the first two quickly, I can wait for the leather outfit. “ Millicent then described a short skirt, leather bodice and leggings. She added long cuffed gloves as accessories.
“Strange outfit. Definitely custom work. May take week or two. I would have to design it,” the proprietress said sucking in her lower lip.
“It has it’s practicalities,” Millicent offered.
Madame Stein quoted a price which was a bit more than Millicent had expected. But, this was a busy shop in an expensive district. Madame promised the two dresses in two days. The leather outfit would take at least a week to design and make. Madame Stein then took Millicent to the back and made some extensive measurements. Millicent was well above average height which required the aid to get a stool for the length and proper measurement of her bust. Madame Stein looked at the measurements made some notes about Millicent’s customizations and handed them to the worker who hurried into the back. Millicent paid half as a deposit and left. Liam was waiting outside.
“My apologies, Mr O’Hannigan. It all has to be made. However, if you are disappointed, I can go in and get something off the rack.” She doubted there was any rack in all of England that would have her size, but Liam O’Hannigan’s look of panic was worth the gambit. Millicent continued, “It seems that we are free until we leave for the pub tonight. What time should I meet you in if we are to be at our destination a bit early?”
“I expect we should leave here around 9:15.”
“Until then. I would suggest getting an overnight bag for your stay at the Savoy.”
 A penny farthing velocipede :