Sunday, 23 August 2020

Fireside Chat With Johnson Nottidge from Belle Vue

Today we have part two of our C S Alleyne interview weekend and a Fireside Chat with Johnson Nottidge from her novel, Belle Vue.

Fireside Chat with Johnson Nottidge

“Welcome everyone, to another Fireside Chat. I’m Richard Dale, your host. Today, our guest is the Honorable Doctor Johnson Nottidge, of the Belle Vue Asylum.” Richard Dale holds out a hand in greeting.

Nottidge gazed at the outstretched hand with a slight moue of distaste. He brushed a non-existent speck from the lapel of his frock coat and, after carefully adjusting his straight legged trousers, seated himself.

Richard Dale takes his own seat, a slight scowl on his face. “Why don’t we begin with a bit of your life story, shall we?”

“Let’s not. I am here at the behest of a chum, who is Chairman of the Metropolitan Asylums’ Board solely to provide information about my role in capturing that murderess Mary Grady who dared to bring Belle Vue into disrepute. Her poor sister, an inmate at the asylum, who died in unspeakable pain. I knew immediately it was that shameful trollop and was more than happy to play a key part in revealing the culprit and her guilt and see justice done.”

“I see. Perhaps we’ll get to that later. For now,” Richard leans forward slightly, “describe your relationship with your father.”

“Distant. Which suits me. His lordship has a sense of noblesse oblige whereas I have none at all. Every man for himself. It used to worry him, he even threatened to disinherit me but my exposing the murderess has seemingly made him feel I can be in his words ‘saved’. The title and estates will be mine on his demise and I shall carry on as normal doing exactly what I want.” Nottidge gives a broad smile but his eyes remain cold.

“Interesting. What is your involvement with the Mephisto Club?”

“What is that?” Nottidge leaned forward his piercing gaze raking Richard’s face as though seeking any malicious intent. “I am of course a member of the best clubs in London but don’t recall one with that name. If it exists, perhaps it is some sort of secret society who doesn’t want all and sundry,” Nottidge’s mouth tipped upwards for a bare second, “poking their noses and causing undesirable consequences for themselves.”

The sound of clinking cups interrupts the tense conversation, as a distinguished gentleman enters the room carrying a tea tray.

Richard eyes his guest and says, “Ah, here’s Jenkins with refreshments” Richard turns to the butler. “What’s on the menu today, Jenkins?”

“I have a lovely Darjeeling tea today. And some scones fresh from the oven, as well as strawberry jam.” Jenkins sets the tray down and asks Nottidge, Would you care for a cup, sir?”

“No thank you.”

Richard adds. “My usual cup, please. And one scone.”

Jenkins pours one cup and serves Richard Dale, before retreating.

Nottidge takes out an impressive gold watch from his fob and opens it. He raises his eyebrow then puts it away. “Are we done yet?” Nottidge asks with not a smidgeon of enthusiasm.

Richard Dale takes a sip of his tea and asks, “Almost. We’ll continue with a more mundane question. Tell us about a fond childhood memory?”

“You’re assuming I had any. Or would speak about them to you. Your questions are very impertinent. The past is over and nothing can change it. The present and future are what interest me and how I can profit from and enjoy whatever it is I choose to do. That will create the memories I want to retain. Mary Grady’s hanging next week will be one for instance.

“A sad affair that. Of course, you got involved in that sordid mess through your work. How do you find your career at Belle Vue? Fulfilling?”

“Not fulfilling, rather the means to an end. The dregs of society are off-loaded in ever increasing numbers to the Belle Vue Lunatic Asylum. I study them. Study—and experiment—on them. On occasion that part of the work is fulfilling but mostly dealing with the imbeciles, cretins, drunks and worse from the rookeries and workhouses—and my responsibility is for the female inmates—can be extremely tiresome. They want so much attention and I am an extremely busy man who has far more important matters to deal with. But they have their uses…” Nottidge stopped there and this time the smile did reach his eyes.

Richard Dale’s eyes and lips narrow and his fingers tighten over the arm of his chair. “Let’s get a bit philosophical. What would you consider your perfect life?”

“I have it now. I do what I want, I have everything – and everyone - I want.  Little bothers me. I love the gambling tables as the element of risk is what excites me.  My only concern is that life becomes boring. So it’s about continually raising the stakes. Winner takes all.”

Richard Dale nods. “In your own opinion, what are your best features, and your worst habits?”

“My best is that I always win. Anything less is not acceptable. It may take a little while – as Mary Grady has found out to her cost – but I will not rest until I am the victor in whatever battle I choose. I think your definition of worst habits and mine would greatly differ. And I am not going to share them with you as doing such a thing creates vulnerability. That is a failing I despise. It is something I will never suffer from.”

“One last question. What does morality mean to you?” Richard Dale finishes his tea as he waits for an answer.

“Nothing I need worry about. That is for the lower orders. Like religion, it keeps them in their place.”

“Thank you, Doctor Nottidge, for joining us today.” Richard Dale doesn’t offer his hand to his guest, nor does he rise as the man sees himself out.


Check out Belle Vue on Amazon

You can read an excerpt of Belle Vue here: 

Prologue and first two chapters

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