#3 Penny Dreadful
The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler
An Illustrated journal of amusement, adventure and instruction
The German Affair (Part two)
I won’t bore you with the details of the evening; the dancing, oh how these German types like to dance, the drinking, even if I say so myself, I did hold my own against even the most august soldiers there (to the disapproval of several ladies. (Rule #2: approval is not required)). Needless to say, I drank too much, sang too loud, smoked too hard and showed too much ankle, amongst other things – according to reports later. But, I had secured an invite to Graf Frederik von Saxe-Coburg’s castle, or schloss as the square-heads called them.
And so here I was, on a spectacularly glorious day, speeding my way through Bavaria on the Counts private steam train. The sun striking the verdant forests and distant snowy peaks. On board were a number of English, Prussian, Austrian and French. Nobility, merchants, myself and a Welsh engineer. Hywel Lloyd was the inventor of the Llap-Goch Discombobulator Device or as he called it “LGDD, the good lady wife.” He would not disclose anything other than its name, he would not make an acknowledgement when I tried to guess as to its application and definitely would not show it to me. He was hoping the Count would become his patron, Count Frederik apparently had a taste for the bizarre and eclectic.
Lloyd’s luggage consisted of huge rolls of paper plans, boxes of loose parts, a crate with a working device and miscellaneous trunks and wardrobes. All the while we talked, he tinkered with pieces of mechanisms, a jeweller’s loupe in one eye and a miniature screw driver in his hand, adjusting diminutive screws, assembling intricate parts and polishing with a moleskin. Lloyd became excited when I told him of the Professor Selwyn, he was a great admirer of the work of Cavor and solicited an invitation to Lancashire in the near future with a promise of a ride in the balloon sphere.
Schloss Hartundschnell was quite magnificent. Not one of those tall, white, castles with icing-like filigree and fairy tale charm. This was more manor house come functional castle. It was pale to be sure, but a stolid, masculine sandstone without the limestone covering. Resembling its current owner. We were assigned rooms and given ample time to bathe and dress for dinner. I didn’t, as a rule, go in for extravagant dresses or dresses at all usually, but I had deigned to buy a peacock blue silk jacket and skirt, decorated with, silk ribbon and silk covered buttons, the front had a military influence with a Medici style collar. It also had a deep, concealed pocket where I stashed a small pistol – well you never know! The dinner was a very formal affair. Afterwards the ladies, trailing Count Frederik’s wife, Hildegard, drifted into the withdrawing room. Seeing the snow sparkling on the gardens outside I couldn’t resist, and invited Hywel Lloyd to partake in a snowball fight. Looks of scorn soon turned to envy as we laughed and frolicked amongst the white powder and soon we had ourselves a jolly battle – the men had become young boys again, dodging behind topiaried shrubs and dashing from icy projectiles. A figure in the open double doorway drew my eye, the Count smoking a fine cigar, detached, staid and dry. I couldn’t resist. The tightly packed ammunition sped unerringly to its target. He glanced down at his shirt front, looked at me from beneath a raised eyebrow then indicated for me to join him indoors. The gentlemen followed me indoors, heads bowed as before their headmaster.
“Fraulein Lockhart, I would like to speak to you about your proposition.” I searched my memory, I didn’t remember making any proposition, and so I merely presented an expectant expression.
“Your plans and the possibility of my financing such a venture.”
“Ah…yes, of course.” What on earth had I said to him? I must have been drunk! I drew a blank when I attempted to recall the conversations at Lord and Lady Wendover’s party.
“Gentlemen” he addressed the room, “I will speak later, please, avail yourselves of the Pool Room, Library and do help yourselves to cigars. Ms Lockhart, follow me please.” And with that he sailed out of the room, I hurried after him taking in the various doorways we passed (always know your routes out), staircases ascended and finally arrived at a door in duck egg blue. He opened it, bid me enter and as I stepped in I heard the door close behind me. I spun around and was seized about the waist.
“Oh fraulein, Ich mochte sie. Kuss mich.”
His nostrils flared, his pupils were hugely dilated in his ice blue eyes and he was breathing heavily. Pressed close to him I inhaled his aroma of cigar, pine trees and wurst, his black hair remained perfectly styled, his handlebar was perfectly waxed and, I reminded myself, his wallet was inordinately large – in for a penny in for deutschmark, I resolved.
The ice king melted…
Amidst the tangle of snow white sheets, lolling in the crook of his arm, Frederik and I smoked cigars. I now took in how small this room actually was, beautifully furnished, but definitely not the bedroom of a couple.
“I suffer migraines” Frederik explained “I hate to disturb Hildegard, and so I come to sleep here.”
I was about to voice my doubt when a distant voice made the Count sit bolt upright.
“Quick! Leave!” he burst out
“What? Where? There is only one door Fre…”
“Nein, nein, nein,” he moaned, as we scrabbled around for stockings, boots, corsets and so forth,
“You don’t understand, I love my wife, I don’t want to do anything to hurt my schatzi.”
“Count!” I interjected “Calm down, what do you expect me to do, there is only one door and one…oh no, you have to be kidding”
“Ja mein Lucy, please, I’m begging you.” He began hustling me to the one window in the room.
“Its two stories up!”
Pulling on items in any order.
“I will do anything Lucy, but please go, my wife, she is coming.”
I began to clamber over the threshold, a ledge below looked promising.
“Anything?” Tapping at the door…
“Ja, Yes! Yes!”
And so I dropped from the window…
To be continued…