In Which We Attempt Escape

Miss Higgenbottom came to, bound hand and foot laying in the straw littering the floor of the cell. She was spitting mad – or would have been, if it weren’t for the dry old rag shoved roughly in her mouth. She could wriggle a bit, but with her rheumatism and the predicament she found herself in hardly thought it worth the effort. A clatter of young, untrained boots came from the wrought-iron staircase outside her prison; she promptly feigned unconsciousness. This situation simply would not do, and she intended to learn what she could before she unleashed the fury that can only be unleashed by a spinster of a certain age.

As anticipated, the two guards who tramped their way into the prison were barely of age to serve; mere pups, the pair of them. Furthermore, Miss Higgenbottom’s nose had already detected a clue; they were both extremely intoxicated, and one of them had very recently been sick. She dared to open one bespectacled eye just a slit – the tall, gangly one was sitting on a barrel; the shorter, plumper one was sprawled on the ground. He belched; the two broke into gales of laughter. Gangly choked out, between guffaws, “I – ha! – I think you’d better sleep it off down here, pal, before the Cap sees you like this. Don’t worry, Dave; I’ve got your back. You just keep the old broad company, and I’ll come back for you when I can. Sleep tight, mate.”

When he’d left, Clara Higgenbottom opened her eyes fully, and met the gaze of the incapacitated Dave. They were roughly the same build, the same height; he should do. As she gazed into his eyes, glaring the glare of her people, the young man eventually got to his feet and shuffled to the door of her cell, unlocking it, untying her. Once her hands were free, she pulled the rag from her mouth, made the youth shut his eyes for decency’s sake, and began undressing. She snapped her fingers, and he undressed as well – his eyes still closed. “It’s a good job I’ve got such a firm grasp on mesmerism – honestly! If he’d been less drunk, or if they’d thought to blind-fold me – I couldn’t even chant! Still, Clara, get ahold of yourself; this’ll do, this’ll do.” She dressed the young man in her skirts and bonnet, rifling through the pockets of her apron before she tied it around his waist. She shoved him into the hay and bid him sleep before binding him as she’d been bound, and, irritated, put her spare spectacles on his sleeping face.

Quickly dressing in his abandoned uniform, she thrilled with a hypocritical shiver -if she’d caught young Fidelia in such garments as she was donning now, Fidelia would never hear the end of it. Still, needs must when the devil drives. Fully dressed, now, in the uniform of  – well, it wasn’t the city police, at that, was it? Fully dressed, now, in the uniform she didn’t quite recognize, Clara Higgenbottom cast a final glamour on the sleeping form and on herself, and began to effect her escape in earnest.

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