Ralph Fox headed for Savile Row. The roads were wet, and the horses were churning up dirt and mud. He was wearing his country tweed suit as it was the least soiled and would indicate that he had just arrived in town, before changing at his club. He practiced his speech to himself. ‘Dinner at my club and a spot of cards’.
He did not belong to a club yet, but he had one in mind, where the members were minor aristocrats. That should do. It had the right atmosphere and was good enough to make acquaintances, who might put him up for membership somewhere better with asking too much about his ancestry. Ralph, or Sir Ralph as he was now known, had been well schooled as valet to a drunken second son in Italy. He acquired his master’s accent and a good smattering of Italian and French. He knew which wine glass to choose and how to undo a lady’s corset with style and grace. He taught himself to remain still with his chin titled up as he entered a room and surveyed the company. This kept the trembling to minimum until his pounding heart settled. He left his employer unconscious during a storm in Venice, and took with him a purse of gold sovereigns and some ebony shirt studs. He won a large sum of money at the tables the previous week and was now intending to order the suit of clothes that he needed to gain entry to society. He had stolen the tweed suit from a country gentleman at the public baths and it was threadbare and a bit itchy.
He turned into Sackville Street and tipped his hat to several passing ladies to get into character and compose himself. The hardest part was convincing the tailor. They had their hands down the breeches of aristocrats every day. He had been careful with his linen although the tweeds gave off a horsey smell. His accent was polished and clipped and almost second nature to him now. Early that morning he sent a groom from the tavern to announce that Sir Ralph Fox would be attending that day with the intention of purchasing a bespoke suit of clothes. The young man was bright and for a small coin he understood he should announce himself as ‘Sir Ralph’s’ groom.
He took a deep breath as he paused outside No 1 Savile Row. This was the test. He held himself still and folded his gloves elegantly into one hand. If he could convince the tailor, he was on his way into London society. The door ahead of him was opened by a footman and a portly Jewish gentleman in an immaculate suit, looked him over and then approached with his hand outstretched. They shook hands formally. Ralph’s hand was dry and steady.
‘Sir Ralph, I am delighted to welcome you. I trust your journey from the country was not too disagreeable?’
The faint odour of the stables had worked.
This story was written as part of an Advance Creative Writing Course in 2018