A Gaslit Conversation | Teen Ink

A Gaslit Conversation

November 10, 2014
By LadyZ SILVER, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
LadyZ SILVER, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
5 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
From the movie adaptation of Going Postal, "The only problem with having a bright tomorrow is getting through the night before."

      In the customary pall of London’s fog, the evening shadows lengthened across the gaslit cobblestones. Marley leaned against a streetlight, making his customary observations of humanity. His sharp eyes darted back and forth under the brim of his glossy silk top hat as he adjusted his cravat. For the past fifteen minutes, as decided by his unreliable pocket watch, he had been trailing a young working woman on her journey to her lodgings. Marley’s eyes were focused entirely on her pocketbook, which called to him from across the street as she perused the offerings of a bookseller.

Marley was fully aware of his pickpocketing tendencies. He also knew that he was quite good at it. He could count on one hand the times he had made out from the peelers, whistles blowing, experiencing the exhilaration of the hue-and-cry. If dressing as a dandy and trailing London’s naive put bread on the table for his dear old Mum and two younger sisters, Marley was into any scheme with enthusiasm.

      Licking his lips, Marley sidled across the street to the bookseller’s, ran his hands across the rough cloth bindings, and selected a book, flipping it open as he casually leaned his lithe frame against the brick wall. He fished in his pocket for his knife. A clean cut on the leather strap and her salary would be his.

      Stealing a glance out of the corner of his eye, he saw the woman was reading Marx. Quite the intellectual. He clipped the pocketknife through the purse strap with one hand, then smoothly tucked his prize into his inside coat pocket, retrieving his handkerchief for a seasonal effect. Smirking, he snapped the book shut and edged it among the other tomes. He strolled down the alley next to the bookseller. His work was done.

      Marley rounded a corner and emerged into a narrow, deserted street. Already the acrid smell of fish hung with the fog. He was nearly home now.

      Marley turned right into another alley. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and whistled.
      “Turn around,” a crisp voice commanded from behind him.

      Marley turned, startled. The young woman stood in the alleyway, holding a rather darling pistol at him.
      Marley threw his hands up, cowed by the force of her expression. Her eyes, once wide and innocent, had narrowed to slits.

      “I would like my pocketbook back,” she asked levelly.
      Marley gulped. This outranked any encounter with the peelers.
      “I fully intend to fire.”
      Marley searched his head. Women knew how to handle firearms?
      The girl removed one hand from her pistol and reached into her pocket. She held out a card. Typewritten was the business address of Miss Valentina Ruffle.
      “My father taught me many things after he rescued me from the streets.”
      Marley raised an eyebrow. Was she feigning her aristocratic accent? 
      “I have had a rather curious education,” Valentina smirked. 

Marley dropped his hands, unsure of what to make of this curious figure in such a perfectly tailored crimson coat. He noticed she hadn’t blinked once through their entire encounter.

      Valentina’s perfectly stoic expression changed to a thundercloud of feminine rage. She shifted her weight and tightened her grip on the pistol. For several long moments they held eye contact, each pushing against the other’s resolve.

Marley turned to stretch his neck. As he turned Valentina cocked the muzzle. The streets were growing dimmer.

      Marley halfheartedly stood a few more seconds, then sighed and took Valentina’s purse from his jacket. He had already had a prosperous week. Stepping forward, he swallowed his pride and handed it to her.

      Valentina nodded and sheathed her weapon inside an ingenious compartment in her muff. She throughly checked all the areas of her purse.

      “I request additional payment.”
      “Why?” asked Marley.

      Valentina counted on her fingers. “One, seeing as you severed the leather strap such that I must purchase a new purse, and two, I will arrive at my lodgings considerably later, not taking into account crowds, slush, or other predicaments along the way. I shall probably miss my landlady’s excellent supper.”

      Marley sighed again and reached for his own wallet to count out bills. As he handed them to her, she preoccupied herself with smoothing and checking their validity.

      “Miss, um, Valentina, would you care to have dinner tonight? Seeing as you’ll be missing your landlady’s?” Marley was unaccustomed to polite conversation.

      Valentina tilted her head and blinked, disposing of her card with a flick. “No, thank you.” She tucked the bills into her purse.                


 "Everything seems to be in order monetary wise. Good night to you.” Nodding, she turned about and rustled down the alleyway, turning up her lapels against the rapidly chilling air.

      Marley sighed as she turned the corner and disappeared like vapor into the air. He’d better be getting back. Mum would be worrying, keeping the soup hot and sniffing into her handkerchief.

      As he was about to turn, Marley noticed a single clean item on the dirty London street. He knelt to pick it up. Valentina’s card had neatly fallen into a pile of indefinable filth so that only a corner was soiled. It was propped upright, as if waiting for Marley to retrieve it.

Marley laughed aloud as he plucked the card and tucked it into his breast pocket. He smiled as he strode down the street, now dusted with flecks of new-falling snow.

The author's comments:

Zinni N. is a sophomore. Her loves in life include classical music, rainy days, chocolate, and many genres of books. She lives with her family and vintage typewriter outside of Bellefonte. 

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This article has 2 comments.

LadyZ SILVER said...
on Nov. 30 2014 at 12:00 pm
LadyZ SILVER, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
5 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
From the movie adaptation of Going Postal, "The only problem with having a bright tomorrow is getting through the night before."

How sweet! 

on Nov. 29 2014 at 9:40 pm
lenaokay BRONZE, State College, Pennsylvania
4 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Well done! Your characters, while they're not particularly relatable in this first installment, are well thought out and fascinating. Can't wait to read more of your work! :)