The thought of traveling by steamer across the Atlantic to London was frightening, if not terrifying, for Emma Alice Peterson. She had been in the employment of Sir Bradley Livingston for some time now, and despite his attempts to reassure her of her placement within his small, unusual company, she still had her doubts. That is not to say they were completely unfounded as she was a woman holding a career in a world generally attended to by men, but there was an odd and somewhat quirkiness to her employer that enabled Emma to believe he did have the utmost faith in her.
“The world is changing Miss Peterson. Soon you shall find that women will no longer be mere housewives but will stand among the greatest professionals of the world.”
His words, though filled with genuine sentiment, were empty to Emma. She could not see the world through rose colored glasses as her employer did. To her, New York was nothing more than a filthy slime filled cesspool where the fortunate, abused the unfortunate in order to further their own success.
Part of her fears concerning the journey to England was that she would not want to return to her modest apartment above Sir Livingston’s business. Or perhaps that merely being home for even the smallest amount of time would cause her to grow so smitten with her old life she would never leave. Either way she knew it would be no easy task.
Her life, the life she had left behind, was not unlike many other children who had become wards of the Monarchy; incorrigibles as they were once known, it was the only term she had been known by until that fateful day. She became a servant in the Livingston household at the tender age of seven. Lady Livingston had hand selected her and with their family; she had remained a near daughter to Lady Livingston until Bradley announced he was leaving London to make his fortune in New York, and he was taking Emma with him.
The life Emma led was never oppressive or controlled like the stories she had heard the older children tell at the orphanage. She was given her own room which stood across the hall from Bradley’s. Emma never lived in the downstairs level of the manor where the butlers, maids, and laundress lived. Despite her affluent stature in the house, Emma did have chores. None of them were too lofty or even what could be considered servant’s work. Instead, the expectation held by Mrs. Livingston was that she would learn to sew, learn to do fine embroidery, and would tend to Bradley during her free hours when not in the company of her Mistress.
Each day when she retired, Emma scrutinized her room to see what had been changed in her absence. It was a forced habit from living at the orphanage where no item truly belonged to any one individual.
Her room was a soft shade of peach, adorned with dolls of the highest caliber, and her closet was nearly overflowing with dresses. It was the dream of every little girl to become a princess which was exactly what had happened to Emma Peterson. The truth would not be known to her until many years later; she had been selected to be a companion to the young Master Bradley because Mrs. Livingston could not bear another child.
The staunch and depressing gloom of the orphanage was still deeply entrenched in her memory as the years passed at the Livingston Estate. There were times when the smell of mold and mildew permeated her senses with the same vigor it had during her tenure at the orphanage. On these days, her sadness was deeply visible, and it was on such days as those she often found comfort in the words of young Bradley Livingston. Bradley had always looked after her in one fashion or another from the moment she arrived at the Estate. Being separated by only two years in age, he nearly regarded her as the younger sister he never had. Emma’s loyalty to him was unmistakable. When he requested she accompany him to New York she never hesitated even though she really did not wish to leave Lady Nora, the new life she had grown to love, and the lush green expanse of the estate.
“Emma Alice, do not be sad, no tears, for ours is a life of adventure,” he said to her on more than one occasion, “that I cannot accomplish without you.”
As she packed her trunk for her two-weeks travels, Emma could not help but smile as she thought about how Lady Nora and Sir Robert had been so very kind to her. She prayed the business she was about to embark on would not keep her occupied for the entirety of her trip. She did wish to visit them and let them know firsthand the life Bradley had made for himself and her along with him.
A knock at the door stirred her thoughts. “Come in,” she said, turning toward the door.
“Nearly packed, I see.”
“Yes,” Emma said with hesitation.
“I know this is not a journey you wish to take, Emma, but the client for this procurement of Mr. Lewis’ items of interest will provide us enough money to purchase a nice home and a parcel of property in Lennox Hill where we can begin a life together.”
“A life together,” Emma mocked, thinking Bradley was teasing her.
He reached for her hand, turning Emma toward him. “Yes, a life together. Surely you didn’t believe I would just bring you to New York because I wanted you to continue working for me as a servant, Emma. I love you. Perhaps I was naïve to assume you understood how deeply my feelings for you run. I hoped here, you would become my wife.”
“Don’t be preposterous, Bradley.”
“Emma, this isn’t England. Here, I am not a Lord of an Estate. I am just a businessman making a living in this grand city with the most beautiful woman in all of New York at my side. I have always loved you, Emma, from the first day you arrived at Livingston Downs. I always assumed you understood my intentions when the announcement was made we were to leave for America.”
Her heart soared as Bradley continued to relate the life he hoped to build in New York with her as his wife, and the business they would own together as equal partners.
She stared at him, how his brown curls framed his face, how the suitcoat he wore fit his broad shoulders perfectly. He was handsome by any standard of the day, and Emma had secretly loved him all her life.
He pulled an envelope from the breast pocket of his jacket and placed it on the corner of the bed before he left the room. Emma admired the cream vellum paper and the raised words ‘you are cordially invited.’
She turned the envelope in her hand, breaking the lavender colored wax sigil on the back and removed the invitation. The invitation itself was blank but tucked inside was a handwritten note from Bradley which read, ‘should you accept, a formal announcement and gala will be yours.’
Emma sat on the edge of the bed and laid the blank invitation at her side. What he proposed was not possible had they remained in London. Marriages were nothing more than a business deal. A woman such as herself marrying above her stature would certainly have been considered an upstart. She did not have a generous dowry; in fact, Emma Peterson had no dowry at all to offer. There were no financial aspects of the marriage to discuss since she literally had nothing of a monetary nature to offer. Yet Emma knew as she stared at the blank paper she had the one item so many upscale women in London did not have when they were married. Emma Peterson truly loved Bradley and would not have to wait for her heart to grow tolerably fond of Bradley.
Emma stood and walked to the window overlooking the street below. There would be no welcoming by the family as was customary in England. She would not have to send invitations to announce the courtship and host cousins, uncles, aunts and such whose eyes would be upon her for approval of the marriage, which of course, would never happen. Though Mrs. Livingston considered Emma to be the same as a member of her family, the remaining relatives did not. Emma was a servant. Nothing more. Nothing less.
New York was so different than London. She sometimes wondered how they could be part of the same century. Emma returned to packing her clothing for the trip and secretly smiled. She could not imagine in her youth that her life would take a turn such as this.
Sir Livingston did not use his title after arriving in New York. From the moment, they stepped off the steamer, Emma was instructed to refer to him as Mr. Livingston. He did not want his affluence to gain him notoriety or fame upon arrival in his new home. The first purchase he made was a storefront on Fifth Avenue.
He converted the upper levels of the building into living quarters; one for Emma and one for himself. From that moment forward, she was no longer his servant; Emma Alice Peterson was his partner, employee, and closest confidant. He found a niche in procuring unusual items, items one might call abnatural, for the elite members of New York society. Emma was well received and her services were highly sought after. Her life had been one of privilege, luxury, and glorious freedoms in New York, yet it had not fulfilled her as she thought it would.
With the last of her clothing safely tucked inside the trunk, Emma waited patiently for the driver to arrive and transport her to the loading station at the port. The hour passed with her barely noticing. Soon, Emma found herself standing in the New York Port Authority Station with Mr. Livingston discussing the terms of her assignment.
“The auction is set to begin at one o’clock sharp. I would recommend arriving at least an hour early. I have already made the arrangements for all your travel to and from the boarding house to the auction house. I also gave them explicit instructions to accommodate your needs, whatever they might be, and informed them you are acting on my behalf. You should not expect any trouble.”
“And do not hesitate to send a wire or reverse the charges of a Trans-Atlantic call. The costs will be covered.”
“Yes, sir,” Emma replied with her eyes lowered, not wanting to look Bradley in the eye for fear she would burst into tears and create an emotionally languid scene on the boarding dock.
“Goodbye, my sweet Emma. I shall miss you while you are gone,” he whispered, kissing her on the cheek before turning away from her.
Emma looked up to see he had vanished into the swarm of well-wishers who were frantically waving to loved ones already on board.
The steward escorted Emma to her quarters on the ship as soon as she stepped onto the deck. No expense had been spared. She had one of the finest arrangements available on the main level. Her meals were brought directly to her room. Each day the Steward escorted her wherever she wished to go so she would never be alone. It made her smile to think Bradley cared so deeply for her safety traveling abroad and without escort.
Upon her arrival in England, Emma was instructed by the ship’s Steward to wait for the arrival of a personal driver to take her to London. He stood waiting for her on the dock when she arrived.
“Miss Emma,” the man called out waving frantically to gain her attention.
Emma smiled and quickly waved to him. The port was a frantic swarm of men who were saying goodbye to their loved ones before leaving for war.
“My name is Henry Goodson. I shall be your escort during your travels. I work for the Livingston family.”
“Thank you, Henry. Will it be a long journey to London?” Emma asked as she removed her gloves.
“Several hours I am afraid. There are many roadblocks to clear with the preparations for war beginning. I do hope you have all your travel papers in order. Travel by ferry up the Thames is forbidden at this time; so overland we must travel.”
“Let me take you to the motorcar, and I will arrange for one of the Stewards to bring along your luggage.”
“I brought only a travel trunk, Mr. Goodson.”
The fog rolled in off the port with a dense thickness that nearly obscured their view as they walked. Emma had forgotten how lovely the fog could be since living in New York. She waited patiently in the car as Mr. Goodson returned with her trunk.
The conversation was pleasant but not of any importance. Soon Emma was fast asleep in the back seat of the Henry Ford steamcar as it motored its way across the countryside. Once they arrived at the London Ambassador Hotel, Mr. Goodson paused to shake her gently.
“We have arrived Miss Emma. I will check us in at the front desk.”
Emma followed behind Henry as he led her inside. Once he had their room numbers, they were quickly on their way to the elevator and into their suites.
“I asked for a wake-up call at precisely 6 a.m., Miss Emma. I do hope that is not too early. Mr. Livingston asked that I have you at the sale of Mr. Carroll’s estate early to meet with the curator. He has made arrangements for you to view some of the items in private.”
“Thank you, Henry. I will see you in the morning.”
Her room was quite lavish, which somehow did not surprise her. Bradley never spared any expense when it came to her comfort regardless of where she traveled. Emma opened her trunk and placed the envelope that her employer sent with her under the mattress before removing her suit for the next day. The suite had a nearly panoramic view of London as she twisted the crank to open the window and allow the fresh air to permeate the room.
“How I have missed you,” Emma whispered. “How I have longed to come home.”
She stood at the window for nearly an hour watching the glow of the gaslight lamps below her. All of London was on high alert. It seemed the entire world felt the same, except America. To Emma, it nearly appeared that America felt they were exempt from the war and what might happen even though the rest of the world knew that couldn’t be further from the truth.
With her head hung and filled with worry, Emma turned from the window and readied her bed for a deserved night’s sleep. The sheets were soft, luxurious, and freshly pressed as she slid between them and closed her eyes.
Her room buzzer chimed at precisely six a.m.
“Miss Peterson, this is the wake-up call that was requested. Would you like tea brought up?” The desk clerk asked from the other side of suite door.
“Please, Earl Gray, hot with lemon and could you please bring a cup for Mr. Goodson as well?”
“Of course, Miss Peterson, we will have it delivered to you as requested.”
Emma sat forward, stretching the tiredness from her body. The sun was just beginning to crest over the city and cast its first rays on the sleeping streets. Despite being gone for several years, London had barely changed in her eyes.
The smell of factories and industrialism filled the air with the scent of coal fired furnaces, yet it was not enough to disguise the scent of the city. The London the rest of the world knew was not the one Londoners knew. The poor lived in horrid, overcrowded conditions that bred disease and cholera. Had it not been for Joseph Bazalgette and the countless miles of tunnels and pipes laid to furrows that bore sewage away from the city and into the Thames, cholera may well have continued its rampant rage. Nothing but nothing could disguise the stench of chamber pots dumped into the streets from the windows of homes that had no modern plumbing.
There was a markedly different reality for the poor and the rich, one Emma had seen firsthand by living with both.
She sat on the edge of her bed waiting for her tea to arrive, wondering what the day would hold. The morning was quickly giving way. In only a few hours, Emma needed to meet with the curator of the auction.
A light knock on the door drew her attention back to the present and the task at hand.
“Miss Peterson, I will leave your serving tray in the hall for you.”
She paused for a moment until she was certain the steward had left before opening the door, then carried the tray to Henry’s room, and knocked lightly on his door.
“Mr. Goodson, I ordered tea. I do hope you like Earl Gray.”
There was no response. Emma knocked slightly harder, with more intent, hoping that he had only overslept, yet there was still no response.
Slowly, she reached for the doorknob nearly afraid to open it. Her hand trembled as she opened the door. Her fears were immediately alleviated when she heard the shower running behind the closed bathroom door. Emma left his cup, along with the teapot, on the nightstand before taking her own cup back to her room and locked the door.
The tea was exceptionally refreshing considering a true cup of Earl Gray could not be had anywhere in New York despite the many shoppes that claimed to sell it. Each sip was savored down to the last drop. Only then did Emma shower and ready herself for the long day ahead of her.
The suit she chose was one of Bradley’s favorites, a dark blue with lighter blue pin-stripping and a cream blouse. Though it was not customary for women to wear suits unless they were a school marm or the likes as such, Bradley insisted, stating it would give her a presence the other bidders at the auction would recognize as serious.
It certainly was not what she was accustomed to wearing as she looked down at the hem of it and noted how it skirted just above the ankle, allowing her navy-blue boots to show. Emma slipped her shoulder holster over her left arm and nestled her pistol into the snug piece of leather then slipped on her suit coat. Emma buttoned her coat quickly and twisted her nearly white blonde hair into a tight bun, picked up her attaché, and exited her room. There was no need for Mr. Goodson to know she carried a gun or that she knew how to use it.
She met Mr. Goodson in the lobby where he escorted her to their waiting motorcar, a fantastic beast with an enormous engine and steam rolling from two large pipes that carried the stench of petroleum into the air, permeating her clothes. Emma was uncertain which was worse, the scent of horse apples lying in the street or the smell of diesel.
“Is Mr. Carroll’s estate outside the city?” Emma asked as she pulled her scarf about her nose and mouth while watching the row houses pass as the drive began.
“The auction is actually being held at McPhearson’s Auction House here in London. There seems to have been a bit of dispute between several of the family members. Three of them were quite averse to the auction being held and refused the use of the manor.”
How strange Bradley did not mention that to me. Why would he fail to mention such an important detail? Emma pondered while smiling.
“I see,” Emma commented.
“It will not take us long to arrive at McPhearson’s. It is just a scant bit of a ride.”
As the motorcar hit a bump in the road, Emma closed her eyes tightly.
“You all right, ma’am?” Henry asked.
“I shall never become accustomed to these motorcars, Henry, no matter how fashionable they become.”
Emma tapped her fingers on the envelope lying across her lap, which contained the blank check for the procurement. Just as she was about to question Mr. Goodson further, he abruptly parked the car in front of a very unassuming building.
“Mr. Livingston instructed me to wait for you, Miss Emma. I will be right here when you are ready to leave.”
Henry exited the motorcar and offered Emma his hand as she stepped onto the sidewalk. He closed the door behind her and resumed his place in the driver’s seat. Emma tucked the envelope into her attaché and walked the long length of stairs leading to the auction house’s doors. The doorman, who was dressed in a suit reminiscent of an 1800’s Naval Captain, quickly opened the enormous oak door and bowed to her.
“Welcome, Miss Peterson, Mr. Wheland is awaiting your arrival.”
The inside of the row-house was not what Emma had anticipated with its vaulted ceilings and highly Victorian stylized architecture. It appeared the same as any other common man’s home from the exterior.
“Miss Peterson, I am George Wheland. I am very pleased to make your acquaintance. If you would accompany me to the vault room, please, there are several items we would like for you to view before the auction begins.”
“Of course,” Emma said while smiling. She followed Mr. Wheland through several doors before finally stopping at a large set of pocket doors with guards on either side. Emma was quite shocked when she realized the door required each of the men to surrender a key. Once open, George ushered Emma inside.
“Mr. Carroll’s estate had several first editions of his work that I took the liberty of placing aside for Mr. Livingston. We also discovered two incomplete manuscripts plus the original sketches from pre-publication which I also have secured.”
“Thank you for your dedication. Mr. Livingston will be quite pleased.”
She waited until Mr. Wheland closed the doors behind him before opening her bag and removed her white gloves.
Emma spent the next hour before the auction surveying the contents of what had been carefully placed aside for Mr. Livingston before deciding to call and inform him the looking glass was not among the contents of the box.
“Exhaustion is not one of my strong suits, Bradley. This whole extravagant journey has proved to be nothing but a ruse. If a mirror belonging to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson exists, it certainly is not among the boxes at this estate auction. I have been through nearly every single box but one. I am telling you it is not here.”
Emma Peterson was losing her patience. Bradley Livingston had never been an easy man to understand, but she had grown accustomed to his strange and rather eclectic ways over time. He was a collector but not in the normal sense of the word. He owned quite possibly the largest collection of First Edition runs of what were considered classic prose by nearly every author imaginable. Yet that was not how he made his fortune.
His carefully attained wealth came from what he could procure to accompany the manuscripts. The latest object of his obsession was a looking glass belonging to the man who many knew as Lewis Carroll and not by his true name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. A purchase of this magnitude would fetch a fine sum when sold along with the First Edition copy of Alice in Wonderland; that was if he decided to part with it.
It was difficult to understand for Emma, at times, why Bradley was so dead set on creating his own wealth in New York when he had such a large amount at his fingertips whenever he desired. She imagined it was something he felt was necessary, to make his way in New York profitably and on his own terms. No one knew his background or that he held an English title. Perhaps it was all part of his grand plan all along. They could be married without whisperings beneath the surface.
Bradley was somewhat a recluse but held elaborate costume galas each year where the guests were required to come as a character from one of the many great volumes in his collection. It was at these galas Bradley was often able to seek out and secure an idea of what the circle of collectors he surrounded himself with were searching for or what they were simply dying to own. When six of his most closely guarded clients attended the costume ball dressed as the figures from Alice in Wonderland, Bradley simply could not stop himself from finding the one item they would fight to the death over.
Rumors began to circulate that a direct descendant of Lewis Carroll was about to hold an estate auction to raise money for charity. There were too many factors that bothered Emma for her to become excited at the prospect of traveling from New York to Boston to London on a wild goose chase. First, the lineage was not proven. There was no legal documentation to prove that Cherilynn Henderson was a descendant of the author or that the items truly belonged to him. Secondly, Emma had a nagging feeling that would not stop despite her best efforts. Somehow, someway, she knew the whole escapade was an enormous waste of her time. But, in the end, she conceded, and as she stood on the veranda arguing with Bradley over the telephone, it all seemed a bit preposterous.
“Buy the last box regardless of the contents. I have it on good authority that looking glass is part of the auction. Money is not an object, Emma. You know that.”
Before she had the opportunity to argue, Emma found she was listening to the tone of a disconnected call.
“Damn it,” she whispered before slipping her gloves into the pocket of her black and white Hound’s Tooth coat. “That damn looking glass is not going to be in that box.”
She edged her way through the crowd, excusing herself frequently, all the while praying the bidding had not started without her. Emma reached the main room of the manor just as the bidding was about to start; she took her place, and readied her auction fan to wave it frantically.
The auctioneer began with a steep bid of one thousand dollars, far more than any of the other lots had begun with, which led Emma to believe somehow Bradley could have been right.
“Here,” she shouted, raising her No. 27 fan into the air.
Quickly, Emma found she was out-bid by a rather unassuming looking, but rather handsome man only two seats away from her.
“Two thousand,” he said, lifting his paddle into the air.
“Twenty-two fifty,” Emma quickly shouted.
“Three thousand,” the man replied.
“Four thousand.” Emma looked at the man sternly to convey how serious she was about winning the bid.
The war between them lasted nearly thirty minutes with several other bidders jumping in here and there until they reached a bid of nearly twenty thousand dollars. By that time, only Alison and the young man were left haggling between each other.
“Twenty thousand,” he said.
Emma, who was growing weary of the game they played, decided to make a rash decision.
“Fifty thousand dollars.”
A hush swept through the room that was greater than if the Queen herself had made an unannounced entry.
“Going once, going twice, sold to the pretty little lady with paddle 27.”
Emma stood and bowed to the man who had been her staunch competitor before turning to claim her goods. The man, who did not seem angered by her brazenness, stood and called after her.
“Congratulations to you ma’am. I do hope your employer understands the gravity of his purchase.”
Emma stopped, turned slowly, and brushed the few strands of blonde hair that had fallen away from her eyes.
“Am I to feel badly that I outbid you, sir? Is that not the point of an auction?”
“It is entirely so long as you understand what it is exactly you have acquired. I certainly hope that is the case.”
He approached Emma, reached into his pocket, and presented her with his business card.
“Once you begin to understand what it is that you have exactly in your possession, feel free to give me a ring. Good-day.”
He bowed his head slightly before walking away leaving Emma slightly dumbfounded.
“Come with me Miss Peterson and we will finish making the arrangements,” the Porter said as he edged her toward the podium. “Your employer said you were not a woman to trifle with, and I must say you taught that lesson to Mr. Hatter rather well. He does not like to lose.”
Emma, who was still a bit shaken after her encounter with Mr. Hatter turned her attention toward strictly business. “I need to make arrangements to have the contents shipped after I view them, if you do not mind.”
“Certainly, I will have two of our men escort you to a private room.”
Bradley Livingston sent his trusted procurement agent, as he called her, with an open authorization in hand wherever she went. He never allowed her to pay with an extended line of credit since it made the purchase more traceable. It was one of the peculiar traits of how he did business. The account was not even in his name and instead was under one of his many pseudonyms. She would not even know which one was being used until she arrived at her destination. It was always the same no matter where he sent her. All Emma needed to do was to make a single phone call; the funds would be transferred, and she could be on her way home to New York.
She sat at the large oak table waiting for them to deliver the box.
I hope I didn’t just spend fifty thousand dollars on a box of toiletries...Emma thought.
Her fears were alleviated when she heard the distinctive sound of metal clanking as the man carried the box into the room. He placed the box at the end of the table and laid a key at the edge.
“For your protection, ma’am, we request you lock the door after I have exited. Our security is impeccable, but it is a standard precaution.”
“I understand completely. Thank you for your thoroughness.”
Emma stood, picked up the key, and locked the door as soon he had closed it. Without haste, she unfolded the clumsily folded cardboard and began removing the contents. At first, it did not appear to be as great a find as she had hoped. Several silver candlesticks lay in the top of the box on yellowed sheets of paper.
“This does not look promising,” she said aloud.
But as she began to remove the papers, Emma noticed they were covered in writing that was obviously quill and ink. She pulled her white, linen gloves from her attaché and slipped them on before handling them. After many years of working for Mr. Livingston, she had a comprehensive understanding of how delicate paper could be and how easily the oils from the hands could damage them. Pausing to read some of the documents, Emma soon understood they were written by a man on the verge of madness.
‘Through the glass darkly have I walked in light without light and in darkness without hope under the shadows of those who pretenses would kill; this night the one whose embodiment is that of free-flowing blood haunts me as no other has and there shall be no escape.’
The writings, though fluid and beautiful, were haunting and deeply disturbed. It was enough to make Emma shudder. She removed the remaining papers and stacked them neatly to the side until she reached the bottom of the box. When she pressed against the bottom, a secret compartment opened. There, alone, without newspaper wrapping or even a cloth to protect it, was the finest mirror Emma had ever seen.
“The looking glass,” she whispered. “He is never going to let me live this down.”
Despite its age, the condition was near perfection. She knew Bradley Livingston would be nearly ecstatic though he would never allow it to show. The scroll work on the hand-held mirror was perhaps the finest work Emma had seen in quite some time. The only craftsmanship she had seen during her employment that was half as exquisite was a setting of silverware belonging to Mary Shelley. But this appeared to be much older than the time-period of Lewis Carroll; it could have very easily been a creation by none other than Benvenuto Cellini.
If this is a Cellini, it could bring millions.
There was something about it that was somewhat enticing. It possessed something that drew Emma to want to keep it for herself. It was inexplicable the way she felt as she continued to hold the mirror. Her thoughts began to wander without reason. A nearly dreamlike feeling washed over her. Slowly, Emma turned the mirror over and gazed into the glass.
The glass was smooth; and absolutely flawless without a single imperfection. It did not have the silver reflective appearance that was commonplace. Instead, the mirror appeared black with a dark purple sheen. As she continued to gaze at the looking glass in her hand, Emma failed to notice one very important detail; no other reflection was cast in the mirror but her own. It did not show the reflection of the light in the room. It did not show the striped wallpaper behind her. The only thing she saw was herself, and she was more beautiful than she could have ever imagined.
“Miss Peterson,” a voice called from the other side of the closed door. “I do hate to disturb you ma’am, but there are several clients here who need access to their safe-boxes.”
The Porter’s shouts startled Emma, snapping her back to reality. She shook her head and attempted to refocus.
“The gentleman who bid against me, does he live far from here?” Emma asked as she quickly hid the looking glass in the bottom of the box and opened the door.
The Porter looked at her with a curious gaze before commenting.
“Mr. Hatter lives in South London, about an hour from here. He rarely resides at his estate though, ma’am. He is a bit of a wayward soul, always traveling about and searching for the next great item for his collection.”
“So, Mr. Hatter collects for himself, not on the behalf of others?”
The young man looked over his shoulder to be certain no one was near before speaking.
“It is rumored he collects items of an unusual nature, ones that should not be in circulation, ones that are cursed or abnatural.”
“Cursed, how could an object be cursed?”
Emma was not one to believe in folly and could hardly believe a man as respectable looking as Mr. Hatter would be prone to delusions.
“Just between you and me, he works for the Monarchy. They say there are objects that if they fell into the wrong hands could sway the direction of any war. I am not certain what it was he hoped to find today, ma’am, but Mr. Hatter was certain it was here.”
He turned and walked away from her without uttering another word certain she would keep the secret he revealed. Emma was even more perplexed about her encounter than she had first been given what the young man had told her.
Certainly, there could not be any truth in what he just said.