Now that introductions had been made, Mrs Quervish returned to business and lashed out with her dagger.
RUTH AND JOHN
As John and Ruth headed for the door, a commotion came from downstairs. They could hear banging at the front door and Mrs Quervish grumbling as she went to answer.
“Quick,” said John. “We better get going.”
“I’m coming as fast as I can,” snapped Ruth, who had not finished tying her boot laces.
“Don’t worry about that now,” said John. “We need to get out of here fast.”
He bustled Ruth out of the room and started to lead her down the stairs. They got about half way down, on to a little half-landing when they saw that any further progress would be impeded by the great bulk of Mrs Quervish who stood before them.
“Good day Mrs Quervish,” said John raising his hat. “May we just ease past; we’re on our way out at the moment.”
A hideous expression came across Mrs Quervish’s face.
“Are you well?” John inquired.
“You’re going nowhere,” said Mrs Quervish, and from her garters she drew a long dagger and slashed out towards John.
John ducked back and the blade whistled past him, only inches away from cutting a nasty gash though his waistcoat.
“What is the meaning of this,” John protested. “I promise the back rent will be paid within the week.”
“Let’s stop playing around,” said Mrs Quervish. “You know who we are and that is why we must kill you.”
“Well I don’t,” said Ruth. “Who are you?”
“We are the Holy and Invincible Southern Sudanese Sept of the Secret Satanic Sect of the Sacred Serpent Set.”
“Who?” exclaimed Ruth.
“I said, we are the Holy and Invisible Satanic Secret Sept of the Southern Sudanese Sect of the Scared Serpent Set.”
“The Holy and Indivisible Slithering Serpent Set’s Secret Sudanese Sept,” asked Ruth.
“No,” growled Mrs Quervish, “The Holy and Incredible Sinister Secret Slithering Southern Sudanese Sept of the Sacred Serpent Set.”
“Sorry, you lost me again,” said Ruth.
“H.I.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.” said Mrs Quervish.
“Ah,” said John, who it must said, didn’t seem to be at all surprised, “H.I.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.”
“Who are hissss?” asked Ruth.
“H.I.S.S.S.S.S.S.S,” corrected Mrs Quervish. “We are a diabolical secret society of devil worshipers who are hell bent on taking over the world and unleashing the dark demonic might of Satanic Set on the unsuspecting inhabitants of London. Making you all our slaves.”
“Why ever would you want to do that?” asked Ruth in surprise.
“Because,” said Mrs Qurvish, with a dramatic flourish, “we are evil.”
Now that introductions had been made, Mrs Quervish returned to business and lashed out with her dagger, again John sprung back to avoid the blade, but this time, the tip of Mrs Quervish’s dagger sliced through his cravat.
“Punch her on the nose,” called Ruth. As John continued to dance away from Mrs Quervish’s attacks.
“I can’t,” replied John. “A gentleman never strikes a lady.”
Oh for goodness sake, thought Ruth to herself. Must I do everything for myself?
Ruth stepped in front of John to protect him from further injury or damage to his clothing.
“Please see reason,” Ruth implored.
“Get out of the way,” said Mrs Quervish. “I’ll gut you too without a second thought.”
Well, if that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is, thought Ruth, and hitched up her skirts.
Ruth, in her childhood, had longed to escape the domestic grind of a housemaid and had dreamt of running away to Paris to join the Folies-Bergère. In preparation for this, she had practiced the Can-Can every night for an hour before she went to bed since an infant. She had kept up this practice even while employed at the Dunns’ Household and her friend Lottie had joined her in the exercise. Subsequently, heavily pregnant or otherwise, it was a simple matter for Ruth to raise her knee to around chin level and then flick out her foot into Mrs Quervish’s face, catching her square on the nose. By mishap, the heel of Ruth’s boot seemed to lodge itself straight into Mrs Quervish’s eye socket. When Ruth attempted to with draw her foot, the boot was stuck fast and would not dislodge, as blood and ichor poured down Mrs Querish’s face. With a tug, Ruth manged to free her foot, but her boot remained thrust like a stiletto into Mrs Quervish’s forehead.
Thank goodness I never had time to tie the laces, thought Ruth.
Mrs Quervish dropped her knife and fell backwards with a loud scream of pain and anger. Then she landed at the bottom of the stair where she lay writhing in agony.
“Where ever did you learn to do that,” asked John?
“At the dance hall,” replied Ruth.
“Remind me not to go dancing with you,” said John with a grin.
Mrs Quervish stopped writhing in the hall and lay still.
“Now is our chance,” said John. “Run.”
“I can’t run,” said Ruth.
“Why ever not,” asked John.
“My waters have broken,” said Ruth.
Sure enough a pool of straw coloured liquid started to drip down the stairs.
“Either way,” said John, “we better get going.” And taking Ruth’s bag with his, held her hand as they walked down the stair, stepped over Mrs Quervish as she lay motionless.
“I am sorry,” said Ruth. “I do hope you feel better soon.”
“I will have the rent by Thursday,” called John, and they opened the door stepped out into the street and started to head off.
“Excuse us,” said John as they pushed past the crowd that had gathered round Mr Quervish’s mangled body where it lay after his fall from Ruth and John’s bedroom window.
“Where are we going,” said Ruth between clenched teeth. “We won’t get very far walking with all this luggage, and me with only one shoe.”
“Perhaps you should take off your other shoe,” suggested John.
“I don’t think that’s really the problem,” Ruth answered with a glare.
“Alright, wait here, and I’ll see what I can do.” John dropped all of the bags and ran off down the street.
Typical man, thought Ruth, as soon as there’s a hint of trouble they run off. But she comforted herself thinking about what was left off the gold sovereigns. John wouldn’t run off without those. It might be an idea, she thought, to check them, just for safekeeping.
Ruth opened John’s bag and rummaged around. After a few moments, she sat down in despair. She could not find the money anywhere. The money is gone, John is gone, and those contractions are getting closer and closer. And I have lost one of my favourite pair of shoes.
End of Part Seven