On the appointed evening, after the household had retired, I wrapped myself in a cloak and met Emma on the stairs. We silently left out of the back of the house, and snuck into the dark alleyway. I had traced the steps several times the day before and hoped that I would not become lost in the dark.
In short order we arrived. He was located in a business district nearby. All of the shops were closed. There was a small gate between two shops that lead to a darkened stairwell. I closed the grate quietly behind us and climbed the stairs, Emma following close behind me. I knew she was frightened. We both knew very little of this procedure, but there was no doubt that pain would be involved. I rapped on the door softly. No answer. My heart was in my throat. I tried again, this time louder. I could hear rustling and footsteps and breathed a sigh of relief. The bolt slid free and the door cracked open. When Mr. Jenkins saw that it was me, he opened the door further and ushered us inside.
The apartment was lit by a number of oil lamps. There was a table at the center of the room that was covered with an oil cloth. Several instruments were laid out. A tenaculum, a dilation probe, a curette. At least there was not a knitting needle. Somehow, the clinical appearance of these instruments was reassuring.
“Mr. Jenkins, this is Emma.” He had seemed surprised to see her, as if he had still not believed that I was not the actual patient. I shrugged out of my cloak. Emma pulled hers tighter.
He turned to Emma. “Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Ms. Douglas and I have some business to attend to.” He indicated a large, overstuffed chair that appeared a bit worn but was still in fair condition. She sat, silently, hands clasped in her lap. She stared fixedly ahead. He nodded to her, then took my elbow and led me with a firm grip to a doorway. He paused to allow me to pass through first, then entered and closed the door. There was a lock. He turned it.
“Is that really necessary, Mr. Jenkins?” I turned to him.
“So we are not interrupted, Ms. Douglas.”
The room was clearly a bedroom, though it was tiny and dimly lit by a single candle that resided next to a washbowl and pitcher on the dressing table by the door. There was a small bed in one corner with a worn yellow coverlet, a bare chair in the other corner. The floor was bare.
I began by digging out the dozens of pound notes that I had pulled from my stocking drawer. Those notes represented years of savings, my safety net. I had not had any idea why I was doing it or what I would need them for, but here I was, grateful that I had had the forethought to bring the collection on the voyage.
“I am not looking for money, Ms. Douglas. Let me be clear. You cannot pay me the amount of money that I require. I have, however, found your figure most pleasing for some time and have had quite the many carnal thoughts about you. To be quite plain, for me to perform the operation on your maid, I require the use of your body for ten minutes.” I reeled. What? “Do I have your consent?” He waited expectantly.
“You want me to do what?” I hissed.
“You heard me.”
I stood for a moment in shock. Fortunately, I was near the dressing table. I placed my hand on the cool surface to steady myself. I needed time to think.
“Do I have your consent?” He demanded, more firmly.
Emma. Her plight was in some way my fault, I knew. As the Bible said, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation…” Was this my penance? Would this pay my father’s debt?
I slowly nodded my assent. I could not speak the words.
He did not leave me time to even blink. He was on me in a flash. He forced me face down on the bed, hiked up my skirts as he deftly removed his belt, parted my legs, and then searing pain flew into my mind as tears poured down my face.
While it seemed an eternity, he was in actuality through in a matter of seconds. When he withdrew himself from me, he turned me over.
“Look at my face.” I refused to comply, silent sobs wracking my body. “Look at my face!” He grabbed my chin with his left hand and forced me to look at him. “I am your first apparently but I will not be your last. There is a solution of alum with sulfate of zinc in a syringe in the top drawer of the dresser. Clean yourself out with it. I do not need any bastard children.” With that, he stood and buttoned his trousers. I seethed with anger and humiliation. Someday, he would pay. But tonight, for now, I would get what I had come here for…freedom for Emma. I lost myself to the silent sobs again, rocking back and forth on the edge of the bed. I do not know how much time passed before I realized that he was sitting in the chair in the corner, watching me.
I resolved at last to cry my last tears. I used the syringe as instructed as he looked on. To be certain I did not want him to have any bastard children either. I prayed that it would work. Once my skirts were situated and I had washed my face with cold water from the pitcher, I moved to the door. He followed.
I stopped dead in the center of the room. Emma was gone!