Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Letter A : The Choose Your Poison #AToZChallenge

 
The A to Z Challenge runs the month of April. Each day (Sundays excluded) challengers will post a blog entry featuring the day's letter of the alphabet. My theme this year is "poison", and each post will be either a story or an informative article of some sort. If it's a story, then the poison involved will be revealed at the end. Enjoy!

Eliza's story was one of a thousand; good family, prospective husband in the form of a neighboring farmer's son.  Along came a handsome soldier, with every intention of keeping her, whether as wife of mistress we will never know.  Having run off with him in the dead of night, and succumbed to his charm and his uniform, she soon found herself stranded in London lodgings when his regiment was posted overseas.

There were no positions anywhere. The city was overcrowded, filled with ex-soldiers, ex-shopgirls, ex-maidservants, subsisting on gin and what adulterated foodstuffs could be had for pennies.  The gaols were filled with "disorderly girls" awaiting Transportation To Parts Beyond the Seas or death for stealing the master's silver.

Eliza was determined not to join the ranks of the prostitutes, currently being driven like cattle by peace officers from the city into the outskirts and back again. To lift her skirts in a filthy alley - no, she would rather seek solace in the Thames with the others who washed up with unremarked regularity. With the little money remaining, Eliza determined to win her way back into the world by the one avenue which remained - turning the tables and compelling a man to succumb to her charms instead. A trip to the linendrapers produced enough goods (both bought and secreted beneath her petticoats) to fabricate an emerald-shaded gown worthy of looks, sighs - and with any luck, invitations.

The current craze for all things green (particularly Scheele's) suited Eliza admirably, with her brilliant red hair swept high and a few loose ringlets fetchingly arranged so as to draw the eye to her bosom.  When she appeared at her cousin's birthday ball, every woman's tongue wagged and every man's gaze was fixed on her luminous eyes - or perhaps, a smidgen below.  All were willing to to dance, of course, but most attempted to take liberties with the fallen woman so happily appearing in their very dull midst. It appeared that the only invitations forthcoming would be in secret gardens rather than back alleyways. The dress was successful in one respect;  it worked its vengeance upon the male guests (although exacting its toll on the wearer as well) while they danced together in a poisonous cloud.  As Eliza swooned in the heat and disappointment, the men's eyes reddened and their heads pounded. An early departure was in order for most;  they wrapped up well, sealing in the arsenic particles for their families at home to enjoy. 

As for Eliza, she and the dress were welcomed and soothed to sleep by Father Thames, who gathers all of his children to him no matter what their station in life, and renders them all equal in the end.




* The colour green was a craze in Victorian England, and was used in clothing, wallpaper, paint, beauty compounds, toys, and other everyday objects. Scheele's Green contained high amounts of arsenic, a highly toxic compound; painted on surfaces, or used to dye fabrics, it gave off particles that could be inhaled as well as transported place to place via clothing, hair, etc.

16 comments:

  1. I guess she decided that if she was going out, she'd take a few with her. If only she'd married the farmer's son...

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  2. Absolutely! Unfortunately, young people often suffer their entire lives for mistakes made early in life.

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  3. Great story. I didn't know about that color containing poison; very interesting. And I greatly enjoyed the descriptions in this piece.

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    1. Thanks Chuck. I learned a lot researching this topic!

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  4. That was an interesting and an insightful read. Didnt knew about colour green and arsenic! Thanks for sharing, Li :)
    Co-Host AJ's wHooligan for the A to Z Challenge 2015

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  5. That's interesting, I never knew that about green or arsenic :)

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    1. Thanks Laura! Turns out that several early dyes/pigments contained toxic substances.

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  6. Very Nice. At first I thought it said... Choose your Prison, not have my coffee yet!

    Welcome in the "A"... as a host I am stopping by to say thank you!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2015]

    There's no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!

    HOLLYWOOD NUTS!
    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood... is Nuts?

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    1. Hmmm. Choose your prison. Maybe that's a theme for next year! Thanks for dropping!

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  7. What a brilliantly written piece of fiction, Li. I'll endeavour to stop by every day in April (and beyond!) to see what other delights you have up your sleeve. As for arsenic, well who knew? I do love a piece of writing with a little bit of history thrown in. #AtoZChallenge
    from Carol Cameleon at VirtuallyAllSorts.com @AllSortsHere

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    1. Thank you Carol, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love history myself, and I learned quite a bit in high school by reading good historical fiction. It's a painless way to gain knowledge (although you have to make sure that the author has actually done the necessary research).

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  8. Enjoyed this tale. Rumour has it that Napoleon succumbed to arsenic - it was in the green wallpaper where he was held captive.

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    1. I had heard that as well. I'm wondering if any hair samples exist, and whether they would still show traces of poison (if there was any) after all of this time.

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  9. This reminded me of James Burke's first Connections series and the wonderful episode he did about mauve dye being discovered. Burke had another episode featuring a woman who had a fibreglass dress made; Eliza' s dress is so wonderfully right.

    Makes you wonder what's in the stuff we use, eh?

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  10. I just recieved your posts yesterday so I'm going to read the all! Now this one is fascinating. I did not know about this. I will have to read up on it now!

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