At the Mouth of the Taddle


An interesting coincidence: remember how I made Edmund into an inventor in order to give him something better to aspire to when he finally turns against Aldous Birge and accepts the fact that he doesn’t have a head for business?

Well, I’ve written the scene, post-climax, where his patent comes through. Actually, the story has it that Rosemary finished the patent papers for him just after he’d given up on the idea, and forged his signature. As an extra gift, she did the initial legwork for him and arranged a meeting with Alexander Graham Bell, telling Edmund, “he’ll drive a hard bargain, but stick to your guns. Trust me, he can afford to pay you handsomely.”

Then Cameron reminds me, what was Bell’s famous first words through the telephone? “Watson, come here, I need you.”

I realize that the telephone was invented in the 1870s, but it’s an interesting coincidence. The question is, will it be enough of a deft touch for historians to say “oh, haha, good one”, or will they just call for my guts?

The Young City Scorecard:
43441 words
Ten chapters
174 pages

On the other hand, the discovery of piezoelectricity, which may be the core of Edmund’s invention, did occur in the early 1880s…

I’ve decided that one of the things that Edmund has built as a result of his experiments with piezoelectricity is, essentially, an antique barbecue lighter. Don’t laugh. To him, it just creates interesting sparks as he flicks it, but he tires of it when he gives up on his inventions and falls under the influence of Aldous Birge. Aldous ends up taking Edmund’s flashmaker and toys with hit, symbolic of his hold over Edmund. It should help build a fiery conclusion.

The story has moved to the mouth of the Taddle. The scene I’ve enclosed in this post follows on the scene where Rosemary gives herself up to maintain Faith’s freedom and her chances of escaping and finding help. Rosemary has allowed herself to be taken onto a boat, and is now heading towards Aldous’ lair…

Rosemary sat on the cargo platform in the middle of the long boat. With her hands draped over her knees and her back straight, she looked, despite her ruined dress and the squalor of her surroundings, like the Queen of the Nile, the three boatmen her attendants. The boat continued downstream, flashes of brick sweeping past.

The bowman, a young lad wearing Wellingtons and a cap, looked back at her. He was a silhouette in lantern light. “I hear you gave our boys a lot of trouble.”

She gave him a steel smile. “I’m very glad to hear that.”

The bowman stared at her with something approaching respect. “There must be more to you than your dress and glasses.”

“Maybe,” said Rosemary. She continued airily. “Or maybe I just took everyone by surprise.”

Behind her, the oarman chuckled. “Glad you saw sense in the end. Saved us having to go in after you. Saved yourself a lot of trouble.”

Rosemary ignored him. Instead, she asked, “What’s it like, driving these boats? Why do it? It can’t be pleasant. No sun, the smell, always on the run from the police…”

“Never saw the sun, much, anyways,” grunted the oarman. “And as for the smell, maybe you never smelled the like, with your Yonge Street store and your schoolin at the edge of the city. Try to make a living in the back alleyways of factories, and you’ll see why driving a boat is better.”

The storm sewer widened steadily. They passed other tunnels, as large as their sewer had been at the base of Edmund’s basement, with jetties attached and some with boats moored. One boat was being loaded with boxes as they passed. Rosemary thought she caught sight of a Seiko logo, but it went by in a flash. They passed two other boats, heading upstream.

“Why is this better?” asked Rosemary. “You’re criminals, and you’re trapped all day in watery tunnels. When the police come for you, where will you run?”

“The police will never find us down here,” said the bowman. He pointed at the ceiling. “Up there, on the surface, if you do nothing but sit on a church step all day, they’ll lock you up for vagrancy. They’ll tell you to find work where there is no work. And if we do find work, what do we get? Our backs broken in factories? A pittance selling papers to people who’d spit at you as soon as look at you? I’ll take my chances with what his nibs has found down here.”

“What has he found down here?” asked Rosemary. “Don’t you wonder how all this can be?”

“We don’t get paid for asking questions,” said the oarman. “But it’s making him rich, and it will make us rich if we stay long enough. You’ll see. Around the next corner, you’ll see.”

And they eased around a long bend, and Rosemary saw.

They had arrived in a long, low, wide cavern supported by huge wooden beams. The stream ebbed, and the water got rougher; the boat bucked against waves coming in from Lake Ontario. Rosemary stared across the jetties and the boats and saw the narrow horizon turning navy with the approaching dawn.

The mouth of the Taddle had been converted into an underground port. Gaslights lit the walls at the start of each dock and jetty. The place was a hive of boats waiting for other boats to dock. People loaded and unloaded cargo. Other boats departed upstream, some laden, others empty. The sound of people working and speaking, calling out the distance left to dock, drowned out the slap of water. Voices echoed and rang across stone.

Rosemary saw a flash of light and heard a faint crackle-snap. She looked, and there was Aldous Birge, in his impeccable suit, standing at the end of an empty dock, surveying all. Edmund’s invention was in his hand and he flicked it absently, like someone with a retractable pen.

“We found her!” shouted the oarman as the boat drew up to Aldous’ empty dock. “We found Faith Watson!”

Rosemary bit her lip. The moment of truth approached. She hoped Faith had found her way out of the sewer, now, before the hunt for her began again.

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