Little Rosie. Prologue

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring,
Rosie filches everything
Sneaking, snatching, this and that
Crafty as a creeping cat
Bolt the doors, the shutters bar,
Rosie reaches near and far,
All in rags, not dainty frocks
Little Rosie laughs at locks
I may be an old woman, young man, but there is nothing wrong with my memory I assure you.  Of course I remember that silly little ditty.   I suppose I was a little bit flattered by it. after all how many little girls are immortalised in playground chants and songs?
Oh don’t look so surprised, goodness but you’re a dreadful hand as a liar.    No don’t act all innocent sir, for it won’t wash.  You knew full well that I was the Little Rosie referred to in that piece of doggerel and don’t dare deny it.   That’s why you’re here, and why you’ve spent the last few weeks ingratiating yourself with all the right people.  Or the wrong people, as most would say, eh?   Oh yes I was fully aware of your little investigation, and of all your little questions.   And the amount of money that you’ve been spreading around to ensure that word of your nosing didn’t reach the wrong ears.   I hope you got receipts for that sir, for it was money ill spent.
Sit down, sir, sit down, don’t take offense.  Allow an old lady her mischief won’t you?   Of course you will.   Sit down and take your ease.   Yes I knew you were nosing around after me, but I still agreed to meet you didn’t I?   I did.     So don’t stand on your dignity.   You’ve been sniffing out the trail of the infamous Little Rosie Lochlan, and you’ve found her.   So clap yourself on the back, sir, and if you’ve learned that you’re not as cunning or as devious as you’d flattered yourself that you were well that’s a lesson learned, and cheaply too.   There are many lessons that are taught a lot less kindly I assure you.
Do you know, I’m not entirely sure why I agreed to meet with you.  After all I’ve spent the best part of… oh many more years than I’m happy to recount… avoiding attention, and certainly avoiding enquiries about those days in the old Rookery of St Giles.    The worst place on Earth, sir, and beyond.    What?  An unusual turn of phrase?   Perhaps it is, but I must be allowed my little ways, at my time of life, eh?   I must.
It has been a long journey from the squalor and the slums of that hellish warren to the life of a lady of wealth and influence, indeed it has been.   Look around you sir, and allow me to confirm your base speculation … don’t deny it… that barely a pennyworth of this luxurious home and its fittings has been honestly obtained.    Perhaps the occasional small ornament was fairly and legally purchased, but even good Homer nods occasionally.
What?

Don’t flaunt your erudition, sir, it is beneath you.  I do not speak the wretched language.   As you will know if you know anything of the infamous Little Rosie, you will know that I did not receive a formal education.  Greek and Latin, sir, were no use in the shadows and the cellars, and profoundly pointless when scampering along the slippery rooftops of London’s foulest haunt of the poor and worthless.    No formal education indeed, but many lessons to learn.   And many taught in very hard ways.

I began my education as a child so young I cannot recall the early days of it.   I was set to steal, sir, or to offer distractions while others stole.  I neither excuse it or apologise for it.   And I proved to have an aptitude that may have been bred in the bone, for my father was equally adept at the arts of the cracksman, the prigger and the fine-wirer.   Hmm?  Pickpocket, sir.  Fine-wirer is a pickpocket, but a very good one.   The everyday pickpocket was a dip or a… oh you know the term ‘dip’?   How very well informed you are, sir.   Goodness, yes.
Oh don’t pout so, sir.  A little gentle mockery, that’s all.   Not enough to drown a flea.    Now where was I?  Ah yes, my father.   I do not recall a mother, though I presume I must have had one at some point.   He never spoke of her, and I don’t recall it ever occurring to me that I should ask.       He was a good man, though many would disagree, and a good father so far as I can judge.   He put food in my mouth and clothes on my back, yes and he taught me how to do the same for myself.  He began my education, sir, and taught me the tricks of that disreputable trade when I was still too young to know right from wrong, thank heavens. What a burdensome complication that would have been, eh?
Yes, my father began my education, sir.   But he did not complete it, alas no.  He was taken from me when I was most in need of him, when the darkness and the danger were closing in on every side and when there was literally nowhere in this world I could turn to find a safe refuge.
Oh now that is a knowing look, sir, indeed it is.   When I said ‘nowhere in this world’ you practically smirked.  A most unpleasant expression to find on the features of a gentleman of quality.    You know something don’t you, sir?   No don’t deny it, I can smell deception a mile away upwind, my life has depended on that skill for me to be easily gulled.     Well not another word will pass my lips until you prove your honesty.   You know where I found my refuge don’t you?   No evasions, sir!   You tell me what you’ve heard, and if you’re right then I’ll carry on with my tale, otherwise the rest is silence.  I’ll not be played for a fool.   If you’ve heard something of my tale, then tell me and I’ll go on.    Where did I find my refuge, sir, where did I complete my training as the finest thief in her Majesty’s empire?  Well?
Goodness.  You are well informed.   I must confess I am surprised, and more surprised still that you say the word without a hint of mockery or condescension.  And that, sir, suggests there is more to you than meets the eye.   Excellent.  It has been a long time since I was surprised and it is quite a pleasant sensation.   Yes, sir, Fairyland indeed.   But not as most people would understand it.

Reach for the rope and ring for my maid.   This is a story that may be long in the telling and we’d both appreciate a little refreshment as we discuss it.

Make yourself comfortable.   Then we’ll begin.
***
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