One night in the August of 1919, at about three of the clock in the morning, Mrs. Fox and I had finished aiding in the delivery of a stillborn to a twelve year old mother in a lean-too rudely built against a farriers fence on William Street. Whilst Mrs. Fox was in the throes of helping the young mother deliver the placenta, I had a moment of respite after the ordeal. Unnoticed, I was chatting to my blonde friend, through a window. He was seated in a dark room in the parlour of the Blacksmiths residence.
Whilst in discussion with my suitor, a woman I recognised immediately as a prostitute approached him. The foul beast was grey haired, slightly more than five feet in height, and somewhere between 40 to 50 years of age. She was staggering, quite the worse for drink, across to us and plied her words of trade upon my love.
I was utterly enraged by her! For her to believe she was worthy enough to entertain his conversation, let alone ply her affections upon him?! Never would I allow such a thing!
With balled right fist I struck the side of her face, sending her crashing to the ground. Bending down to deliver another blow, she produced a chisel from the folds of her much stained apron. Holding it in her right hand, I removed it with my left, turning her, her back against me. In my all consuming rage, I used her chisel, and stabbed the wench hard in the neck and chest. How many times I cannot say.
A brief examination of the harlot revealed she was certainly dead. Casting my eye back to seek my love, I found him to have gone.
Once more rage entered me, and I punched her again, dragging her away by her feet from where she lay, skirts rucking up as I did so, leaving her on her side in the gutter. I knew the stable boys would not be far from opening for the day, and theoretically, raise the alarm, and alert the police to their discovery. Mrs. Fox was completely unaware of the incident, and was just starting to lead the heart broken child mother, who, sobbing grasped her rag swaddled dead bairn to her chest, and out of the stables as I returned.
The blood of the aged prostitute mixed with the rest of the blood that coated my being, as was the badge of my profession. Being one who is ambidextrous, blood and other fluids had a tendency of coating me fairly evenly.
Exhausted Mrs. Fox and I retired to our lodgings. On arrival we washed, Mrs. Fox first into the bath, as she was far less coated than I in bodily fluids. After bathing in the warm and faintly darkened water, I fell to my bed, and slept unbroken for full five hours; I then dressed and shaved, returning to Fremantle Public Hospital.
Back unto the breach once more I strode.
The days and nights had begun to blend as one. My courtship with my beautiful blonde love was progressing nicely, although was becoming somewhat difficult with Mrs. Fox aiding me in my nightly ministrations to the ill or broken. So much trust I had gained in my beautiful suitor, that I had fully confessed to the deception of my gender. He was to tell me that his eyes were for me alone, fully knowing I was a woman from that start as “no man could mimic the beauty that is you.”
We had talked of children and marriage and moving away from this life we both existed in. Both of us longing to escalate our intimacy beyond the confinement of talking through windows to one another.
He and I were now saving our meagre incomes as best we could, with the notion of moving as far away as possible from this very hell of Fremantle. Somewhere as one. Somewhere truly ours, not to be shared with others. Somewhere without the destitute, and the sick, and the horror of it all.
‘Hell’ was the best description of my life now. With my work and the hours I kept, I was permanently exhausted. No longer could I discern the difference between night and day. There was just surgery sporadically at the Fremantle Public Hospital, and my rounds with Mrs. Fox of the denizens of the night.
At around the same time I began to notice, that I had become ever so slightly a part of the nocturnal woodwork. Whilst conducting my nightly ministrations, I was initially known by those local to the area as “Doctor”; after some weeks my street title was then lengthened to “Doctor Peel”. Sometime later and following evolutionary suit, I became “Doctor Jack”, then “Our Jack”. Not surprisingly, “Jack” was to follow. Lastly, the affectionate title I carried for the remainder of my time in Fremantle was that of “Jolly Jack”. Where the ‘Jolly’ came from, I had no idea, but I can conclude that it did not come from either myself nor my demeanour.
Weather was becoming an issue. While I enjoy the brace of a stiff sea breeze, as did my love coincidentally, September had remained ever so cold, and with great rapidity. I found cause to keep those preloved gifts, my winter ensemble that Mrs. Fox gifted me; they had been her now dead husbands. These being a heavy scarf, a magnificent pair of rabbit skin gloves, and one of his old dark, heavy, cloaks to throw about myself. My only addition was my tamoshanter which I had arrived with back in 1914. As the rest had been her husbands, and when questioned if was indeed proper for me to take his clothes, she said “He will not be wanting for warmth where he is now, Dr. Peel.”
After a long night of patients displaying all the hallmarks of influenza; I helped a lad of no more than eight who had a load of gravel accidentally dumped upon him, very nearly killing him. His ribs were nearly all broken, and had developed an intracranial bleed which I drilled and drained on the spot. Gravel dust caked me head to toe, giving me a rather swarthy appearance to put it mildly. Mrs. Fox was none the cleaner, and I had a lad escort her home to wash and change.
It must have been the around 5.30 that morning, likely September, and time had lost all meaning to me. When I finally caught up with the man I had taken to be my future husband, he was seated in a darkened room on across the road from the Newcastle Club Hotel. I was telling him through the window where he sat of my evenings events, and he of his plans for our future together, when, as with the occurrence of the week prior, a woman in her mid 40’s approached him. She was more lewd and gutter mouthed as I thought was possible, describing the joys of ‘a knee trembler’ to him; my beau. As with the previous wench, this filth laden beast was quite obviously one given over to prostitution, and I found myself staring blankly at her in a state of momentary shock. It was then my rage side stepped all conscious thought; reason and rationality fled me.
Grabbing and twisting the kerchief around her neck I beat her to the ground with my heavy hawthorn stick, and dragged her into the small yard behind what appeared to be a house of sorts. My rage drew strength from me that I did not know I possessed. As I rained blow after blow on her head and upper body, I felt the thrill of the iron-hard wood vibrate up my arm, turning her bones from hard lengths, into soft and pliable short pieces. Blood may well have spurted, but I was not to notice.
Rage like fire continued filling me, there was no chance she would ply her trade on my beautiful love, now or ever. How it arrived in my hand, I do not know, but I found I was holding the short dirk I keep around my person filling it. Perfectly weighted, and incredibly sharp, I opened her like a ripe melon. All was done in silence. She, unable to vocalise, and I, too enraged for speech.
As for the horrid form whom had dared cast her dastardly wiles around the gentleman I loved beyond words, attempting to ensnare him, just as did those other fallen women, should they be included within such an austere gender, that I had finished with in my own way.
Taking in the smear on the ground that I created, that was this whore of damnation and revolt, I spat on her. Grabbing a booted foot, I dragged her behind a pile of rubbish. Striking a match, I threw it into the detritus. A merry blaze began, and the smell of burnt pork began to fill the air. Jolly Jack was done for the night.
That said, even though our glance at one another was fleeting, we both shared a smile in acknowledgement of one another. He was a rather attractive chap I found upon closer exception. (you had this written up where she first saw him)
Slowly climbing the stairs on return to Mrs. Fox’s lodgings, I slowly completed my toilet, bundled up my cloak, hat, scarf and gloves, then scrawled the following.
‘Mrs. Fox, please have these garments laundered. The grime upon them is the coal dust of our dealing with the wee lad we helped. I will be requiring them in the next day or so. Respectfully, Dr. J.G. Peel.’
Click the above picture, something to the left of usual awaits. Something that scared the absolute hell out of me as a child. I recall hiding behind the couch with my sister to escape the images, when it was on the tv one Sunday afternoon.
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