And The Clearwater Companion
Today, and now and then from now on, I am going to put up parts of the Clearwater and Larkspur series that were cut from the final publications. It’s probably best if you only read these after you have read the book in case there are any spoilers. Eventually, there will be a separate area on my site for these outtakes, and for other material that was/is destined for ‘The Clearwater Companion.’ I’ve decided that putting my energy into producing the companion for print will take me away from what I want to do when I get back to a new series in a week or so. Thus, over time, I’ll work to build up the companion online, so anyone can access it for free.
Meanwhile, it’s a rather long chapter that never was, but here is what was to be chapter twenty of ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’ In a nutshell, Dalston, Joe and Andrej are travelling across Europe to meet the boat but must make a stop in Vienna, where Andrej has been called by his father who works for the Emperor.
Note: This is the first draft and hasn’t been proofed. Some of what happens here is related later in the book by Bertie Tucker, which, I thought was a better way of telling this part of the story.
DAY 10 of the Legacy voyage
Brought up in the workhouse, Dalston Blaze never imagined he would one day cross the channel on a steamer, ride a train to Paris, travel on night sleepers, or roll through the European countryside, let alone visit Vienna. The journey had taken four days, during which he had gazed from the window marvelling at the different styles of buildings when the train pulled into towns and cities, steamed through tunnels, and crossed land both flat and mountainous. During it, when not examining platforms for anyone who might be looking for them, he had sketched and read.
Joe had been doing the same, studying his ancient Egyptian writing, and pondering over Lord Clearwater’s clue. Keen to see the country they were making for, he was less interested in the scenery and more in the history and customs of where they were going once Mr Andrej had completed his business. The hours between changes, he spent flicking through a book, turning the words into images in his silent mind, and now and then showing Dalston something of interest. A pyramid, a thing called a sphinx, tombs and columns, but also drawings of strange creatures; a man with a hawk’s head, crocodiles, and, the image of their clue, a man with the head of a jackal. On one page of his book there was a plate, and when he showed that to Dalston, it chilled his blood. “Anubis,” the caption read, “God of Death.”
At that point, Dalston said he’d seen enough, and turned to Mr Andrej for conversation, asking where they were, and if they had to change trains again that day.
The Ukrainian had made the journey a few times before and knew exactly which train to catch from where, when to change and where to stay on the two nights they had broken the journey. At those times, he had been vigilant when sending their location back to Larkspur, but so far, they hadn’t noticed anyone on their tail.
Mr Andrej had also spent time looking at a small portrait Dalston had made of his intended, and not long after they’d left Paris, said, ‘What shall we call him?’
‘What?’ Joe signed, and when Dalston translated, signed, ‘She is a woman, and she has a name. Lucy.’
‘I think he means the child.’
‘He knows it’s a boy? How?’
‘Da, will be a boy,’ Mr Andrej said when Dalston explained. ‘I feel this.’
‘Have you talked about names? Andrej, perhaps?’
‘Would be find name, da, but, Miss Lucy says she already has one child called Andrej. Maybe, I call him Danylo, for my brother.’
‘Or Daniel, if he is to be British born.’
‘Is idea, da.’
The conversation had been repeated several times, both while traveling and when they stopped in a city to wait and send word back to London. On the nights they booked into a hotel, they stayed long enough for a reply to come back from Mrs Norwood.
Your message sent on to LH. W just left as planned. God speed.
Messages, Mr Hawkins had said, were to be as brief as possible, and as carefully written in case they somehow fell into enemy hands, but it didn’t take much for Dalston to work out that news of their journey was being sent to Larkspur and that Mr Wright, Frank and Chester had left for Greece and Egypt. Although leaving a few days after the Egypt party, so as to make tracking more difficult for Kingsclere, Chester would overtake them somewhere on their route, because he was joining an escorted tour that left France with a party of tourists and took them across the sea to Alexandria. There, he would leave the group, and, with any luck, vanish into his own people and set about his preparations unnoticed. Before the parties left London, Mrs Norwood had suggested they memorise their routes and arrival times, so every man knew where he had to be by when, but Dalston hadn’t been up to that challenge, and instead, wrote the journeys in symbols in his sketchbook. By his reckoning, as the train slowed to arrive in Vienna, James and Frank would be two days away from London, at the point where Chester was to leave them and make his way to the coast in the south of France. From Marseilles, he would travel with the Cook’s escorted tour directly to Alexandira, and if anyone was watching him, he would be able to pick them out with ease from among the well-to-do and rich; the only people who could afford the ticket. At the same time, according to his notes, the Legacy would be sailing east towards Genoa while Chester’s steamer cut across in front of it. A few days ahead of them, prehaps, but it was the same sea, and the crossing routes made for an interesting pattern in his mind.
Also, according to his notes, they were to spend no more than three days in Vienna before taking a complicated journey to meet the ship. Chester had shown them the route on one of his maps, and said it was one thousand miles by road, a figure Dalston couldn’t comprehend, but they had eleven days to reach the port, and he wasn’t unduly worried. They would probably take trains, and make more stops, however, because there was no rush, and apart from putting Kingsclere off their scent, Dalston was keen to see Venice, San Marino and other places he had never dreamt of seeing.
From the workhouse to this, he thought, as he closed his book and, began to gather his things.
‘You thinking what?’ Joe asked, after waving in his face.
‘Nothing. Just setting the journey in my head.’
‘Yeah. Pack up.’
No matter how exquisite the décor in a first-class carriage, there was nothing better than the relief of standing up after hours of sitting down. Dalston stretched his long legs, and, as the other two found their bags, and Mr Andrej scoured the carriage just in case, Dalston lowered the window to watch the approaching platform.
The locomotive made a great fuss of slowing, emitting groans and huffs as if it wanted those on the platform to know it had done a masterful deed and dragged these people all the way from Munich without stopping, when, in fact, it had stopped several times. He ducked back inside to avoid a cloud of steam, and when he looked again, through the last of the mist, he saw yet another sight he never thought a boy from the Hackney spike would ever witness.
Two liveried men stood on the platform, upright, arms behind their backs and their heads held erect. There was nothing new in seeing servants stand in that way, all the waiters in London did it, but these men weren’t waiters. They were dressed in yellow tailcoats finely adorned with thick, gold braid on the inner sleeves and the lapels, and beneath, they wore grey waistcoats with buttons that sparkled in the sunlight. A beam of it fell through the station roof as if specifically designed to highlight them, and left the other passengers gawping in shadow. The men had dark blue breeches to high stockings, and flat, black shoes beneath. They were several steps up even from Mr Nancarrow’s fine livery, but at least the Larkspur butler didn’t have to wear a wig of the last century.
‘Blood hell,’ Dalston said as the carriage stopped directly in front of the pair. ‘There’s some right nob on this train, and no mistake.’
The mistake was his.
Mr Andrej said something that sounded like a swear word, and added, ‘Why?’
‘Is the emperor aboard?’ Joe signed with a shrug.
‘Must be.’ Dalston looked along the tops of the seating, but saw no-one else rising. He assumed it was bad form for anyone to leave the carriage before the Emperor, and so hung back, but when Mr Andrej swore again and opened the door, it dawned on him these men were there to meet them.
‘I told them we stay hotel this night,’ Mr Andrej said, standing back to usher Joe onto the platform first. ‘Why they do this? My father has sent them…’
Dalston stepped down next, leaving Mr Andrej mumbling behind, and as soon as the Ukrainian set foot on the stone, the two footmen snapped their heels together as suddenly as they jerked their heads down and up. Expressionless, one raised his arm to direct the party to the station exit, and the situation became even more strange when onlookers stood aside to let them pass. One footman, as Dalston assumed they were, walked ahead with the three of them in the middle and the other uniformed man behind, and it reminded him of being marched to the cells in Newgate prison.
‘We are shit at being secret,’ Joe signed as they walked, and his hand movements caused people to stare, worsening the spectacle.
‘Just follow, and keep your head down,’ Dalston signed. ‘At least no-one’s going to attack us when we have an escort.’
‘For Mr Andrej?’
‘Because he’s the son of a baron, and his father’s high up in the court. Weren’t you listening?’
‘Oh shit. Is worse.’ It was Mr Andrej who said that, and when he was led from the station and into the sunlight, Dalston saw why.
The footman led them to a carriage, but one unlike any Dalston had seen. Bowl-shaped, the body sat high above four wheels, the back one larger than the front, and its top was adorned with fancy gold leaves pointing skywards. It had gold trim around its windows, large, ornate lanterns, and a crest on the door. Even the wheel spokes were trimmed with gold, and the two horses wore plumes, with their manes braided. They were held by another liveried man, this one wearing a cloak and tall hat, and holding a whip. He also bowed sharply when Mr Andrej approached, and one of the footmen opened the door, inviting the men inside. It was only then that Dalston realised they’d not collected their luggage.
‘Our bags?’ he said, but Mr Andrej wasn’t listening, he was trying to ask the footman something, but the man made no reply.
‘Not speak English,’ Joe signed.
Porters arrived with their belongings and began loading them onto the back of the carriage where one of the footmen secured them.
‘We go,’ Mr Andrej said, and bent to climb aboard.
With no other option, Dalston followed, and took a place on velvet-lined seats, where furs had been provided against the cold air.
‘We go where?’ Joe signed, and Mr Andrej told them they were in an imperial carriage, so they were being taken to a place called Hofburg.
‘Is that a town?’
‘Nyet. Is where my father works and lives. Why he send this?’
Dalston’s guess was as good as anyone else’s. ‘To surprise you?’ he suggested.
‘Is big surprise, da.’ Mr Andrej smiled. ‘I write to tell him when we come, and I have two friends. Maybe he want to meet you.’
‘Maybe they’ll drop us at the hotel,’ Dalston said as the carriage set off.
It glided over the cobbles as though someone had put down carpet, and, as it took its leisurely pace through wide streets, he was able to admire the buildings. They passed a large park on one side, and four-storey houses on the other which became grander the further they rode. Well-dressed pedestrians stopped to stare in, as if they were expecting to see royalty, while others ignored the carriage and went about their business of parading beneath parasols, or wrapping shawls tighter as they sat outside street cafes sipping from delicate cups.
They had just passed a square with a statue in the centre, when Joe signed he wanted to ask Mr Andrej something.
‘He wants to know why you don’t live here,’ Dalston interpreted. ‘Why, if your father is a baron in the Royal Austrian court, do you work as a groom in England? Sorry if he is being a bit personal.’
‘Nyet, Vohon.’ Mr Andrej was still smiling, and it broadened when he used his nickname for Dalston which, he’d said, translated as Fire. ‘I will tell him. I am not groom, I am Master of the Larkspur Horse, and I live where I live because I love Geroy, and I love my Lucy. I have my friends at home, so why I want to come and be here? You see how they treat me. Is embarrassment.’
‘But your father is here.’
‘Da. But this I not know until nearly two years ago.’
Dalston explained to Joe, who had been reading Mr Andrej’s lips, but he still wasn’t satisfied.
‘Joe asks a lot of questions, sorry,’ he said. ‘He doesn’t understand how you ended up working for Lord Clearwater when you came from abroad, and why you don’t now live in a palace with your father.’
If Mr Andrej was annoyed by the intrusion, he didn’t show it. He placed one of the furs over his knees, and rested back into the plush.
‘Is long story, Mr Joe,’ he said. ‘I leave my homeland when I was younger, I think fourteen, maybe not. My father… The man I thought was my father was dead. So was my mother, and my sisters and brothers, maybe. I not know. Our neighbour, Yakiv Blumkin, he tries to take me away from Russians who are killing our people, but I say, no. I go my own way. I come to England on ship with Captain Kent, who is now with Geroy on sea. I meet Banyak… Mr Hawkins. We meet Geroy, he gives us job. Then, January last year, I go with Pianino long way to Rasnov. Is in Transylvania, and we stop in Vienna where Mr Blumkin is, but he is not Mr Blumkin the neighbour, he is Baron Kubinsky of Judenburg, and he is in high position in court because his title puts him there. He tells me… He shows me he is my real father. But, I stay with Geroy, and I have Miss Lucy, and I have friends, like you have Joe, and I am happy where I am. Now, that is enough, questions, Mr Joe.’ He glanced from the window. ‘We are there in minute.’
Dalston had kept up with the translation as best he could, but it wasn’t easy when Joe interrupted him asking who Pianino was and what was Transylvania, which Dalston didn’t know how to spell. Pianino was Jasper Blackwood, he explained, the pianist, and he couldn’t say why they had made the trip, but all he and Joe needed to know was they were probably being taken to meet an important man, and Joe had to behave himself.
‘Me?’ Joe gaped. ‘Fuck off.’
Dalston grinned. ‘We never know, someone there might speak our language.’
‘Not likely. How long we stay?’
‘Why? We have lots of time. Maybe we stay longer?’
‘No. We have a schedule.’
‘But look…’ Joe pointed from the window. ‘All this. You draw. Look there, museum… and there, big church. No hurry to get to boat. We have ten days.’
‘What he saying?’
‘Joe wants us to stay in Vienna longer than we should. He thinks we have plenty of days before we need to be in Italy.’
‘Da, Mr Joe is right, but we must do what we are told. Jimmy knows best. I see my father today, tomorrow, and after, we start again on journey. We stay in one place too long, the svolochi find us easy. Safer is, we go in two days. Da?’
Dalston wasn’t going to argue with him, but Joe wanted to. However, their entry into a large, open courtyard put paid to more questions, because there was nothing else to do but stare in awe at their surroundings. After passing through a columned gatehouse, the carriage took a graceful curve, following a line of arches supporting columns that in turn supported a balustrade four floors up, beneath which were tall windows in a classically fronted, semi-circular building of immense size.
‘Fancy house,’ Joe signed as if he was bored, when his wide eyes betrayed what he really thought.
The carriage pulled up beneath another arch, where the weakening sunlight was supplemented by flaming torches, and Dalston waited for Mr Andrej to move first. The horse master himself waited until one of the footmen had opened the door, and Dalston assumed that was the form. Once the step was lowered, Mr Andrej ducked out, and they were met by another man wearing a military uniform who greeted them with the customary snap of head and heels.
‘Herr Blumkin, welcome,’ he said in English, but offered no hand to shake. ‘I trust you had a good journey.’
‘Was long,’ Mr Andrej replied.
‘Of course. I am Herr Gruber, assistant to Von Kubinsky. Your father waits for you in his chambers. You will stay at the palace, Sir, and I will show you up, but perhaps you would like your companions taken to the hotel. I can arrange it.’
‘Nyet. Why am I here?’
The man, no older than thirty, Dalston thought, but assured and upright, twitched at the bluntness.
‘Your father’s request, Sir. I will explain on the way.’
The man faltered. ‘Perhaps it would be best if your friends returned…’
‘Nyet. They stay with me.’
That time, Herr Gruber both faltered and twitched, his confidence waning. ‘As you wish, Sir,’ he managed. ‘They might wait outside the baron’s rooms.’
‘What is wrong?’
Mr Andrej growled in his throat. ‘You not tell me why we come here. You want rid of my friends. What is wrong?’
‘It really would be best if we were alone…’
‘Gruber, you say?’
‘Yes, Sir. Assistant to…’
‘Gruber. I not go anywhere without these two. They are under my protection. They stay with me. That is that. Now, why my father call me here straight from stinking train? We are hungry, we are tired, and we want rest. Find them rooms with me, but first, tell me. What is wrong?’
Gruber had paled, but waved a gloved hand and said something to the footmen who unloaded the bags and passed them to two more servants who had appeared from inside.
‘Please, come with me,’ Gruber said, and showed the party into a hallway.
It was not like any hallway Dalston had encountered. Their shoes squeaked on a marble floor as they entered something as large as the refectory at the Hackney workhouse. A massive stone staircase climbed to a gallery and split either side, with chandeliers hanging low from a ridiculously high ceiling. White and gold painted doors led to who knew where, and the walls were covered with paintings of uniformed officials, and women in glittering gowns. For all its grandeur, however, the entrance was cold, and Dalston chilled further when it dawned on him that Mr Andrej had demanded they stay the night in a royal palace.
Joe nudged him, and signed, ‘Fuck’ with his jaw dropped, but remained still when Dalston glared.
‘Before we go up, there is something I must tell you,’ Gruber said, one eye on the servants disappearing with cases. ‘Your father called for you because he is not well. He was keen to…’
‘What you mean, not well?’
‘I mean he is ill, Sir. Gravely ill.’
Gruber dragged out his words to give them weight, and Mr Andrej’s pallor soon resembled that of the official.
‘I must be honest with you, Sir. Your father, although sound of mind, is very week of body. The physicians have suggested your visit is timely. A few days later, and you may have been too late.’
Mr Andrej said nothing, but marched past Grubber to the stairs, and began to climb. Gruber, protesting, followed, leaving Dalston and Joe with no choice but to do the same. There was no time to explain to Joe what was happening, but Gruber had spoken slowly, and his English was good. Joe had probably read his lips, because he, too, looked grave as they took the stairs, following Mr Andrej’s ever-quickening pace.
‘My father is in his rooms?’
‘Yes, Sir, but please, we must ask the nurse if…’
‘We ask nothing. Why he not tell me this before?’
‘He was reluctant to inform you at all, Sir, for fear of upset. It was me who insisted you be called.’
‘You were right.’
‘I am glad you agree, Sir. To the left here.’
‘I know where my father lives,’ Mr Andrej yapped, and led them into a wide, heavily decorated corridor where windows overlooked a manicured garden.
‘Of course, Sir. Please…’ Grubber managed to slow the tall Ukrainian by placing a hand on his arm. ‘Quietly and slowly. We must ask the nurse if it is a suitable time to visit.’
Having passed through one set of double doors, Mr Andrej came to a halt outside another, his urgency evaporated, and his shoulders slumped.
‘Will you wait here, Herr Blumkin?’
‘Da,’ was all Mr Andrej said, and he turned away from the doors as if not wanting to see what lay beyond when Gruber slipped into the room.
‘Can we help?’ Dalston said.
Mr Andrej shook his head. ‘Sickness, I am used to,’ he said. ‘But this, I was not expecting. Why? Every time, why?’
Dalston could only shrug when Joe asked him what that meant, and seeing Mr Andrej’s distress, knew it wasn’t the time to enquire.
The servants appeared with the cases, but kept their heads down as they passed, and entered a room further along the passage in silence.
Dalston and Joe were under Mr Andrej’s protection, but at that moment, it felt as if the situation had been reversed. Mr Andrej, usually so assured and dignified, was trembling, and his eyes had moistened.
‘Would you like us to come in with you?’ Dalston whispered.
The big man turned to him, glanced at Joe, and beckoned them close. ‘Vohon,’ he said, and grabbed Dalston’s hand. ‘I not want you to come in with me. I need you come in with me. Please?’