‘I won’t forget I is a lady’

The Daily Post 1895

I, Annie Cross, of Hackney Fields, well-known for my abilities in my own defence… having been affronted by Mrs. Knowles, styled the European Championess, do fairly invite her to a trial of her best skill in Boxing, for 10 pounds…

And the reply:

I, Judith Knowles, of Billingsgate, have not fought this way since I fought the famous Boxing Woman of Deptford for 29 minutes and gained a complete victory… but as Annie Cross, of Hackney Fields, dares me to fight her for the 10 pounds, I… doubt not that the blows I shall present her with will make her smart.

‘My Dearest, should you wear that hat, do you think?’

‘Now Ralph, you knows very well that if yer wear yer sola top, I am bound to wear my Sultana’s turban and white muslin frock. It is part of the show. It is my costume and I look well in it.’

Annie preened herself a little.

‘But white muslin, Dearest. Think of the blood. We won’t get it clean in time for Sunday Chapel. And we must be there, Dearest, I am expected. A man in my position, a leader from the colonies, it is such an honour to be asked to read the lesson.’

‘Ralph, you know as well as I do that the only ‘colony’ yous ever seen was the public hause near the docks, where yer got yer hat from a drunken sailor.’

Sir Ralph Cross wriggled his fine moustaches and slightly pursed his lips at his wife’s remarks. The truth was not something he wished known publicly. Annie was circus – born, and she was having trouble sticking to the story they had agreed on. It would be helpful if she kept her mouth shut and let him do the talking. ‘Mrs’ Cross could be easily abandoned if needed, but it was hard to find a woman of breeding who was prepared to scrap in the public arena with her bare knuckles. Annie looked the part. Her tanned skin and tall figure hinted at a former life in India, and the crowd loved the idea of an aristocratic lady fallen to fisty cuffs. He considered the while muslin dress. It looked well on her.  Another could be found in the Borough Market if needs must. Dead women’s clothes were cheap these days. The cold took them off when they were in childbirth and the relatives sold what they didn’t want for a profit. Ralph sighed. For now, Annie was the best ‘wife’, he could find and she was not without talents. He smiled at the recollection of her many bedroom talents.

Annie adjusted her hat pin. There were numerous other small sharp pins hidden amongst the plumes. She was pretty sure that ‘Mrs. Knowles, the European Championess’, as the newspaper put it, would go down fairly quick once she saw a few spots of her own blood. A quick pick with a pin always worked a treat and Annie really saw no need to fight fair. Annie spat and then looked up to see Ralph frowning at her.

‘Sorry, Sweetie. I won’t forget I is a lady.’


This story was written as part of an Advance Creative Writing Course in 2018