. He really was ugly in this light, why had she agreed to come! His eyes were devouring her, she felt vulnerable, precariously isolated in this dark place. As her heart pounded and he drew closer she felt like an animal, trapped and in desperate peril. The very odour he exuded was inducing fear.
‘My dear’, he sneered, ‘how amazing to find you here.’ She backed away, ambushed, now with no escape, feeling the cold metal behind her.
Exposed now in this harsh lamplight, his face appeared more distorted. The rocking boat swung the light back and forth.
Everything she hoped for was now in jeopardy. With a sickening sense of foreboding she tried rashly to smile. The deck tilted suddenly.
‘Hello, Mr. Jones, you frightened me to death.’
‘If you lay a hand on him, you will remember the struggle and never do it again!’
The quote came back to her. A quote about a different monster. The mythical monster.
He was not a myth but was the real and immediate threat. The waves crashed against the hull, and in the dark recess of the lifeboat dock she was hidden from view. Few strollers were out on deck tonight anyway. The biting wind kept them in their salons. The liner was not due to dock until morning. In New York, a job waited, and her new employers. A chance for her to get a toehold on life, and help her mother.
Jenny’s strong spirit had kept her seeking change. It was what set her apart from the wenches serving in ale houses and in service. Her bright eyes and creamy skin, her love of living. In spite of the reality of her life, she had always been an optimist. Always tried to see the good in others; until Mr. Jones that was. Her chance to leave the squalor and poverty of London hanging in the balance.
‘I saw you leave the dining room and thought how brave you were my sweet one.’ His podgy hands reached out to her.
‘What do you mean?’ she said shrinking away.
‘You said we could meet sometime, and we have much to discuss, but on such a night! ‘
Jenny had a bunk in steerage, he had sent numerous messages from his first class cabin, most of them she had ignored, till this one. Her final decision was one of desperation. Hidden in her sleeve she took the only weapon she had, and hoped it wasn’t needed.
‘You should not delay me sir, tell me what news you have of my Mother, I’m cold and need to get back inside.’
Jenny thought about her Mother, last seen at the door of the almshouse, desperately thin and resigned to her final days being in that dreadful place. Having money defined who you were, or if the path you followed was smooth or rough.
The man now before her had a pock marked face, skin puckered and erupting in pustules. His huge frame swelled even larger in the middle, buttons strained on his snakeskin waistcoat. He towered above her, and slowly pushed his hand into a pocket, taking out a pocket watch before replying.
“You have reasons to be nice to me’ He replaced the watch, his piggy eyes surveying her, smugly waiting for her reply.
Jenny shook her head, ‘I know nothing of those reasons Mr. Jones.’
‘Well my dear lady, I have been busy, when I heard you were to sail from Southampton, I so wanted to be on the same vessel, and had much to arrange Mr. Mancula has my authority to find a small cottage, your Mother can be more comfortable, her needs are few, she can see her days out on the edge of the Forrest of Dean, now isn’t that kind of me?’ He looked pleased with himself.
Dark waves and small glinting lights distracted Jenny. The shore was getting closer.
She remembered her first meeting with the vile Mr. Jones. In the service of Lord Hall and his family, he had been a guest of the family invited because of his business connections. There for the shoot, he had quickly shown he found her irresistible.
Why hadn’t he wanted Annie instead ?, Annie would have bedded him; no, he wanted her, and made that plain. Jenny had managed with some help from George the footman to get away, or keep herself in view of the family. Mr. Jones found out as much as he could gleaning information from Annie, who was not likely to pass up a chance for easy cash.
Jones lunged suddenly grasping her around the waist, trying to put his face close to hers.
The name of the liner she sailed on was the same as the monster she had read about as a child, she remembered snatches of the story... her body fought as her mind tried hard to find a way out.
She twisted away trying to get free from the wall and closer to the rail. With her left hand she pushed at his face. Her right hand delved into the sleeve, but then his strength defeated her. For a moment he smiled a foul smile of triumph and he attempted to pull her supple body closer.
Her courage returned and she smiled a hestitant smile. She needed a moment or two, some precious recovery time, for one final act. Concentrating on a spot on his throat her eyes tried to keep focused as he kissed her cheek and slobbered in her ear, his evil breath made her blanch, but she kept her resolve. With a sudden pounce she stabbed deep into the side of his neck, hitting the jugular. He twisted in pain away from her; The small paring knife in his throat, silencing him, except for a choking sound as his blood oozed.
Horrified Jenny leapt back away from the torrent of blood. He slumped across the rail his head low towards the sea, as if the fates were there to help her, he lost his grip and went almost slowly into the dark waves. The engines churned on and he was soon lost.
There was a faint sound of music from the salon, a late dance still in progress. Jenny felt nausea wash over her, and stumbled towards the lifeboat. The cool bulkhead behind her head supported her until she recovered. A squall of gale force swirled around the ship, and lashing rain washed the deck.
Her whole body trembled,, and her teeth chattered. There would be a cold dawn to face, and moments of pain when this returned in nightmares. The enormity of her actions may haunt her forever. Yet as she went towards the music, she felt only release.
She imagined sending her mother money and bringing her to this vibrant city, it would be so good to spend their days together.
Her job as a nanny and the thought of the beautiful park where she would walk the children lifted her spirits. Yet for Jenny the sea would never give her rest. She eventually settled in the mountains far away from the sound of the relentless waves.
Footnote the ’Leviathan’ first took paying passengers in 1923, it stopped service in 1933, and was broken up in 1938.
Quotes about the mythical monster;
Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he keep begging you for mercy? Will he speak to you with gentle words?