Only in America: Skinner's Story
A TPDoEQ special edition
by Lady Norbert
Editor's note: While Mr. Rodney Skinner was not in the habit of keeping a personal journal at any point in his life, this is how such a document might appear if such were his routine. The events outlined in this manuscript correspond to those in Miss Elizabeth Quatermain's personal diary regarding the American exploits of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
25 March 1900
Spent some time with Henry and Mina after lunch, as they're still working on my antidote. Left them alone after awhile, and went to see where Bess had gone. I was pretty certain she was in the library, bookworm she is, but I took my time getting there.
I was right, of course. She was sitting at one end of the huge davenport on the right side of the room, not far from the rug Nemo had made from the puma that attacked her in Peru. I let myself stand in the door and just watch her for a minute; she had no idea, from the look of things, that I was there.
I leaned against the door frame, waiting to see if she'd notice. She was so into her book that she didn't notice anything. She was curled up in a little ball, the book cradled in her hands. Now and then she'd twist a section of hair through her fingers, or tuck it behind her ear.
"There you are," I said finally, as though I'd been searching the sub high and low. She jumped slightly, but when she saw it was me, she smiled. "Have you been down here since lunch?"
She stretched a little. "Why, what time is it?"
"Half past three," I said, to which she looked a bit surprised. I walked over and sat at the other end of the davenport. She was reading something called Sense and Sensibility, by a woman author called Austen.
Since I wasn't visible apart from my clothes, I could sit there and look directly at her without her realising it. That was convenient, I thought. After a minute, though, she said, "What brings you down here?"
"So read something."
I wasn't too keen on the suggestion. Books are all well and good, but I'm not as fond of them as she is. But I let her pick something out for me from the Dickens collection, A Tale of Two Cities. She made the comment that the one bloke in the story, Sydney Carton, is "extremely shady but very honourable underneath. Reminds me of someone I know."
Subtlety, thy name is Elizabeth.
So I sat there with her, pretending to read the book. Now and then I'd turn a page. What I did see didn't look too bad, honestly, but there were more interesting things to look at than a book about the French Revolution.
Then I had an idea. Actually, I had a number of ideas, but this one I could actually do without getting slapped.
I pretended to fall asleep, snoring lightly. I had my eyes open the whole time, not that she could tell; she seemed to think I really was sleeping. She looked at me for a minute, then chuckled and shook her head. She put aside her book and came to take the Dickens away from me.
And she was very close. So close that I could smell her - that odd mix of roses and cinnamon that's always on her clothing. I exhaled, and I saw the hair near her ear twitch in the moving air. She sort of froze; her eyes were huge. We were very, very close. If she would just turn...
No. Damn. She took the book and walked away. Then she got her own book and sat on a different chair, I guess so she wouldn't disturb me. I rolled over, already quite disturbed. I shouldn't have even been thinking about that, much less hoping.
2 April 1900
Touring the city of Washington, mostly just driving around looking. These hansom cabs are rather small, not like the nice big vehicle we used to ride around in Athens, so our party had to be split up. I sat with Nemo in one and Bess and the Jekylls rode in the other.
Nemo's a great man, and one thing I've always liked is that he knows how to keep his mouth shut. If it had been me and Tom, I think he might have been badgering me a bit. Too smart for his own good, that one. Granted, I was kind of obvious about things down in South America, but all the same, that doesn't mean I want to be bothered with questions.
We had a fine time riding around the city, anyway, and going up in the Washington monument was rather corking. Bess is a funny little thing, couldn't decide which window offered the best view so she kept going round to each of them.
Tom came back for supper and said that his boss is apparently pleased with his work. The important part is that he gets to stay with us. We were all glad to hear it - he's a good egg, Tom is - and I think Bess was particularly happy about it. They're rather fond of each other.
He calls her "li'l sis" ever since his birthday last month. I'm a little surprised by it, because I really always thought they'd end up married. They may yet. He's probably better for her than just about anybody - he's a good man, brave, smart, and her father would have approved.
Allan would've never approved of me. He was my mate, sure, but I don't think I'm what he would have wanted for his only daughter. 'Course, the point is moot. I'm not about to ask her. Don't think she'd have me, for one thing, and for another, I'm definitely not the right man for the job.
Doesn't mean I'm looking forward to her meeting someone who is, though.