I never did the like the name Eliza, but my pa had a liking for it and that was that. My ma never got much of a look in when it came to making decisions whatever they might be. At least they did the decent thing and got married when I came along; now that may just have been ma’s doing so perhaps I was wrong about her not getting her own way. I was not an only child for long; three sisters came along at various intervals, the last of them when I was in my teens, but I have my own theory about that. No, I will not be tempted to share it with you thank you very much. I was nineteen when the final sibling poked his head into the world. Fountain they called him; pity the poor lad who has to grow up with a name like that. There I was, a skivvy to my mother, helping to raise this tribe. All the time I wanted to get out and make my own way in the world, well, who wouldn’t? But those sisters and brother of mine just got in the way and you could say I resented them for it and if you did, you would be right. Not that any of them liked me anyway, not even Emily who at least was a similar age to me, not that stopped her being demanding. I was convinced that I was destined to be a spinster, not that I wanted to be, but meeting men, suitable for marriage or otherwise was not an easy thing to do with all the fetching, skivvying and chores I had to do week in, week out. John asked me twice before I eventually accepted, well, I was twenty-eight and I figured it was him or the shelf. He was a cousin on my ma’s side, first or second I don’t recall nor did I much care to be honest. Of course we couldn’t afford a place of our own at first; well I guess you could say we never really had a place of our own. Mind you, the addresses we did live at sounded rather grand; Montpelier Place, Brook Mews, South Bruton Mews. South Bruton Mews, that was Berkeley Square you know, Mayfair you know. They might have sounded grand, but they weren’t. The Mews houses were little more than stables, well, I guess that’s what they were alright. John was a coachman you see, I think he loved his horses more than he loved me, all the time he took over fussing them and grooming them. He used to reckon that he could polish a horse’s coat so fine that he could see his face in it, not that I ever saw the point in that.
4d a night at Willoughby’s, not bad I thought an’ I know I can earn that easily like. Thrawl Street wasn’t so bad either, it wasn’t the worst street around and wasn’t the best, just normal like. There were four of us sharin’ the room an’ we got on alright, we was good company for each other an’ if one of us was short of doss money the others would ‘elp out. Emily, now she was a nice old stick an’ did more than the others an’ me to keep things tidy like in our room. Anyway, you would ‘ave found me in the Frying Pan that night, always good for a spot of business an’ the landlord looked out for us gals. I was in the money that day alright, ‘ad turned a few tricks an’ got my doss money three times over, but bleedin’ well spent it three time over too. Tried my luck anyway back at Willoughby’s, but the deputy caught me in the kitchen wivout me money and slung me out into that filthy night. Lawd, how it thundered that night, never seen so many flashes of lightnin’ before, must ‘ave jumped a ‘undred times or more. Still, told ‘im I’d be back with me money before long. Pointed at a pretty bonnet I ‘ad found. What do you think of me fine bonnet? It’s only fine if it ‘elps you get your doss, Polly ‘e says. Like I always said, no good asking men ‘bout things like that, they aven’t a clue. Then I seen ‘Em down on the corner of Osborn Street. She ‘ad to give me an ‘and as I nearly fell, well, I ‘ad been drinkin’ my doss money away and was well gone. Are you coming back, Polly? Soon I says, if not I know a place to stay, old ‘Enry won’t throw me out. Didn’t get that far did I? I thought there’s a nice looking gent. Fancy doing a bit of business, darlin’? ‘Allo I thought, got a quiet one ‘ere. It’s usually 4d love but you can ‘ave me for 3d I says to him, how ‘bout a 3d upright? ‘E mumbled somethin’, might ‘ave been a yes, could ‘ave been anything. Point was ‘e seemed willin’ enough. He steadied me as like I said, I was a bit under the drink, seemed a right gent unlike others I ‘ad come across. Steady girl ‘e says. We’ll go in ‘ere shall we? Whatever you say sir, I says to ‘im all posh like. The rain had started to come down ‘eavy like again an’ I was ‘oping for a bit of shelter while we did our business. This way ‘e says. Lawd, what a voice ‘e had, all soft like. ‘E put his cloak over me and just then there was a huge flash and I could see by the sign I was in Buck’s Row. He leaned in close like and there was another great flash of lightning and I could see ‘is face clearly An evil face. A familiar face too, but I ‘ad no time to think ‘bout that. ‘Ow did I ever mistake ‘im for a gentleman? I looked into ‘is eyes and prayed it would be quick.