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as much as you please…

The Fishing Fleet

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By Jennifer Walker Teh

Part One

‘What do you mean, we’re not going in Simla,’ Ainsley asked. ‘We’re on the train to Simla.’

William looked away from his new bride and spoke with his eyes down.

‘We are honeymooning in Kasauli; it’s a hill station near Simla.’

Ansley was silent; it was sweltering, and she dabbed her forehead with a handkerchief. There was only one Simla, the summer home of the British India Government set in the cooler cedar green foothills of Himalayas and known for its lively social entertainment. Ainsley had her heart set on Simla.

‘Yes, I know where Kasauli is. It’s further down the mountain, and they have a sanatorium for rabid patients there,’ she replied a little curtly.

William continued to look out the window, ‘That is where my work is.’

‘Oh,’ Ainsley said softly realizing she now had responsibilities. As of this morning, she was a married woman, Mrs William Cartwight, and must follow her new husband. He was a doctor, after all. She must do her duty but living near people infected with rabies, that was very concerning.

‘Look here, I may not have been exactly honest with you,’ William said, twisting his hands.

The train pumped forward and rattled as they left Kalka Station.

‘Dear girl, I’m not a doctor rather I’m a hospital orderly. Awfully sorry to have misled you.’

Just then, the train descended into darkness as they entered the Koti tunnel. It was cool inside, but the blackness amplified the hissing of the steam engine. The two of them sat in silence, invisible to each other as the train chugged through.

As they drew out of the blackness, a mob of wild monkeys ran along beside the track trying to jump through the open carriage windows. Ainsley reeled away from the window and screamed, ‘Get away!’

William held her and said, ‘It’s alright. The monkeys can never catch up with the train.’

‘That’s all right for you, William, you are used to rabid animals.’

‘Dear girl, I fell in love with you and had to have you. Nothing matters when you are in love,’ said William.

‘At lot matters in life,’ cried Ansley. ‘Rabies matters, Kasauli is uncivilized, it’s down the mountain, and the unsanitary winds from the plain make it hot. It’s not a true hill station; it’s just somewhere they put half-mad rabid people, and I’m sure it will have cholera.’

William took a deep breath. ‘There’s no cholera; the water is so clean they even have a brewery,’ putting his arm around Ainsley’s waist.

‘Don’t touch me, you deceived me,’ Ainsley snorted, tears rolling down her face. ‘You knew I was vulnerable, that I didn’t have a family to question who you really are.’

Then she said, ‘I’m not one of those girls who come to India to fish for a husband.’

William was angry now, ‘Well they did call your ship, the fishing fleet.’

‘How dare you!’

He added, ‘At your age and with your looks, you had no prospects in England. You have nothing to complain about,’

They each glared out the train’s window with arms folded firmly across their chests.

Part Two

Dear Bishop,

I write to you concerning an irregular episode associated with my parish here in Simla. It primarily involves one of my former parishioners, a Mrs Cartwright.

I first met Mrs Cartwright on a train to Simla. I was returning to Simla from the Vicar’s Synod in Calcutta when I sat in the same compartment as Mrs Cartwright and her husband. During our journey, Mrs Cartwright became extremely distressed.

Mr and Mrs Cartwright had married that morning and were travelling to make their home in Kasauli after having become acquainted only two weeks earlier.

The unmarried Mrs Cartwright had sailed to Bombay alone and unchaperoned to take up a position as governess in a household in Lucknow. Sadly, her future employer and the entire family had perished in the recent outbreak of cholera in Lucknow.

Mr Cartwright met his future bride in a guest house in Bombay, and within four days, he had proposed marriage. She accepted.

Unfortunately, Mr Cartwright deceived his wife by stating he was a doctor when indeed he was an orderly at the Kasauli Sanatorium.

Upon hearing Mrs Cartwright’s great distress on the train, I compassionately intervened and was informed of this deliberate deception. In the spirit of Christian concern, I suggested Mrs Cartwright accompany me onward to Simla where with the help of my good wife, I hoped to convince the bride of the Holy and binding nature of her marriage vows.

Mr Cartwright agreed to this arrangement, and he disembarked at Kasauli while Mrs Cartwright and I continued onto Simla.

However, shortly after Mr Cartwright was dismissed from his employment at the sanatorium for impersonating a doctor. Neither Mrs Cartwright nor I know of his whereabouts.

Mrs Cartwright spent the summer season in the Vicarage with my wife and me.

In the Autumn, my wife, in sound Christian spirit, was able to secure a position for Mrs Cartwright as a governess in the household of Major and Mrs George Wentworth of Meerut.

However, it appears an unchristian relationship has developed between Major Wentworth and Mrs Cartwright. Unfortunately, Mrs Wentworth sailed for England with her children a week ago.

I have written to Major Wentworth’s commanding officer, Colonel Bradshaw, about the continued presence of Mrs Cartwright, unchaperoned, in the home of Major Wentworth. It is not a good example to the many Christian men under the command of Major Wentworth.

I am saddened this unfortunate circumstance developed, particularly as my wife and I, only attempted to do our Christian duty.

Yours in Christ,

Reverend August MontgomeryChrist Church, Simla.

Part Three

Dear Reverend Montgomery,

Your colleague, the Reverend Little of St John’s in Meerut, has already written to me about this irregular liaison between Major Wentworth and Mrs Cartwright.

He has informed me a position was found for Mrs Cartwright by your wife only after your own improper relationship with Mrs Cartwright became apparent.

This is not the first time I have written to you about matters of this nature.

I had hoped the move to Simla would prevent you from forming these inappropriate relationships. It is after all, far from the Bombay Dock where the so-called “Fishing Fleets” of unmarried English ladies arrive.

At the end of this month, you will be relieved of your position as Vicar at Christ Church, Simla.

Please present on the 8th November to your new position as Curate, St Andrew’s, Lahore, North-West Frontier Province.

Yours sincerely

Bishop Howard Rochdale.


Author: jenniferteh1

I am Jennifer Walker Teh, a garden lover, gentle traveller and occasional writer. I'm also a retired hospital pharmacist, and the Latin term Quantum Vis sometimes appears on prescriptions. It means to take or apply 'as much as you like' and so is an appropriate name for my website. Please drop in as much as you like. Jennifer

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