Scarborough Fair - Margarita Morris - Showcase and Excerpt

Historical Mystery/Thriller
Date Published: 20 March 2016
Publisher:  Landmark Media

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Scarborough Fair
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

1899: Alice isn’t mad. So why has she been put away in a Victorian lunatic asylum without any hope of escape?

2016: Rose is excited when Dan asks her to go to the fair with him. But an encounter with some dangerous men leads them to an abandoned lunatic asylum with dark secrets of its own.

Visiting Scarborough over a century apart, Alice and Rose’s stories are nevertheless connected in mysterious ways.

Scarborough Fair is the first in a thrilling historical trilogy. Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

About the Author

Margarita Morris was born in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She studied Modern Languages at Jesus College, Oxford and worked in computing for eleven years. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons.

  Read an excerpt:



 19th August, 1899

    I am not insane. I was brought here under false pretences. Henry told Dr Collins that I am delusional, that I had tried to harm myself. He showed Dr Collins the wound on my arm, saying that it was self-inflicted and that I would have done worse if he, Henry, had not been there to prevent it. He always likes to portray himself as the hero, a knight in shining armour, when in truth he is nothing but a deadly serpent, full of lies and rotten to the core. I tried to protest but was too shocked, and weak from the loss of blood and I fear I may have come across as confused and incoherent which did not help my case. 
   “You have done the right thing in bringing her to us,” said Dr Collins to Henry in what seemed to me a conspiratorial manner. The doctor, a balding man with a pointed nose and penetrating eyes, regarded me with curiosity as if I were a specimen in a museum. “We will see that she receives the very best medical care. However, the mind is a delicate organ and I should warn you that her treatment may take some time.” 
   “Take as long as you need,” said Henry. “My only wish is that she should be returned to me in full health and in possession of her wits.” 
   Doctor Collins started explaining to Henry the latest techniques that he would use in my treatment. I understood little of what he said. It was the words “returned to me” that struck a note of dread in my heart. I was Henry’s possession and he would have me back once I had been brought to heel. My own wishes were of no consequence. 
   Doctor Collins picked up a little brass bell from his desk and rang it vigorously. Moments later two stout-looking women in nurses’ uniforms entered the room. Fishwives, the pair of them, they both had strong arms, rough hands and unsmiling faces. 
   “Nurse Barrett, Nurse Cooper,” said Dr Collins, addressing each of them in turn. “Please admit Miss Hawthorne to the women’s ward.” 
   As the nurses approached, I roused myself from my stupor. “You can’t do this to me!” I shouted at Henry, but my voice came out more like a whimper. 
   “It’s for your own good, Alice,” he said, turning his back on me and staring out of the window. 
   The nurses took hold of my upper arms, one on each side of me. The wound on my left arm throbbed painfully at Nurse Cooper’s tight grip. They pulled me to my feet. I tried to resist but they were too strong for me. 
   “I hate you,” I hissed at Henry as the nurses dragged me away. Henry refused to turn around or even acknowledge that he had heard me. 
   The nurses led me down the corridor and up a flight of stairs to the bathroom, a cold, tiled room with a row of sinks along one wall and three bath tubs lined up on the opposite side. I had never before seen a bathroom more lacking in privacy. 
   “Ge’ yer togs off,” said Nurse Barrett. She spoke in an abrupt Yorkshire dialect and when I looked at her questioningly she pulled at my clothes so that I understood she expected me to undress. Shocked by this request, I hesitated. She clucked her tongue in impatience and went to unfasten the buttons on the back of my dress. 
   I recoiled from her touch, but Nurse Cooper held me firm by the shoulders. “I’ve ’eld down lasses bigger’n you,” she said, “so you can stop yer faffin’.” I stared at her in fright.  
   Nurse Barrett yanked at the buttons of my gown, not caring if she tore the fabric. One of the buttons popped off and rolled away into a corner. Between them they pulled the black dress over my head and tossed it on the floor. 
   “Ooh, ge’ a gander a’ that,” said Nurse Cooper, fingering the jet necklace that hung around my neck. It had been hidden under my gown so not even Henry had noticed it. Especially not him. “’Ow much di’ tha’ cost yer? From a fancy man, were it?” I tried to swat her hand away from my neck, but she grabbed hold of my wrists, gripping them so hard that I winced. “Take it off,” she said to Nurse Barrett. Nurse Barrett undid the clasp and dropped the necklace onto the floor next to the dress. I suppressed a sob. I didn’t want these women to know how much that necklace meant to me. 
   With my dress off, the wound on my upper arm was now revealed in all its goriness. The blood had spread onto my chemise and stained the white cotton a deep red colour. “We’ll ’ave to burn this shimmy,” said Nurse Barrett, pulling the fabric off the wound where it had stuck and causing a fresh trickle of blood to run down my arm. Neither nurse was concerned to tend to the wound itself. 
   Nurse Cooper went to the nearest bath tub and turned on the taps. There was a sharp sound of metal grinding against metal and then water spluttered into the tub with a deep-throated gurgling noise as if it was being drawn from the belly of the building. 
   “Ge’ yer kegs off,” commanded Nurse Barrett, folding her arms across her ample chest. This time I understood her only too well. She expected me to remove my underclothes. “What?” she scoffed. “Y’ain’t shy are yer?” 
   I glanced at the door, which they’d left ajar. For a brief moment I saw myself making a run for it, but where could I go dressed in nothing but my drawers, corset and chemise? 
   “Flippin’ ’eck,” said Nurse Barrett, losing patience. She untied my corset, dragged the chemise over my head, and ripped off my bloomers and stockings. I was shaking more from shock and humiliation than from the cold. I hung my head, covering my face with my hands. 
   “Get in’t tub,” said Nurse Cooper. 
   I stepped gingerly into the water. I needn’t have worried about it being too hot. It was barely lukewarm. I gasped in surprise as Nurse Cooper’s rough hands pushed me down into the water. “Righ’ under,” she said, forcing me down beneath the surface. I struggled against her hands, thinking she meant to drown me, but she let go immediately and I came up spluttering and choking. 
   “On yer feet,” ordered Nurse Cooper. I stood, shivering, and she handed me a thin bar of rock-hard carbolic soap. “Cover thissen in that.” 
   I rubbed the soap in my hands, trying in vain to produce a decent lather. My hands shook so badly that more than once I dropped the soap and had to fish for it in the rapidly cooling water. My only thought was, the sooner I get this bath over, the better. When I was covered in a thin lather from my shoulders to my knees, Nurse Cooper picked up a long-handled brush and scrubbed me as if she were spring cleaning the pantry. I winced as the brush skimmed over the torn flesh of my arm. She pushed me under the water one more time to rinse off, but this time I was ready for her, holding my breath and squeezing my eyes tight shut. 
   “That weren’t so bad, were it?” said Nurse Barrett, as I stepped, dripping, onto the cold, tiled floor. I could have sworn she was laughing at me. She rubbed me dry with a threadbare towel, then went over to a row of lockers and came back with a pile of clothing.  
   “I’m not wearing that,” I said, staring aghast at the coarsely woven, blue smock dress that she held in her hands. 
   “Ooh, ’oity-toity,” said Nurse Cooper. “Yeh’ll wear wha’ yer given and stop yer mitherin’.” She handed me a pair of greying bloomers from the pile. “Or yeh can go round in yer birthday suit. Tha’ll give the male patients summat to talk ’bout.” They both laughed at her cruel joke and I felt myself colouring. All the clothes were too big for me but that didn’t seem to matter to the nurses. Nurse Cooper pulled the shapeless, woollen dress over my head and handed me a pair of black boots to wear. Then they each took hold of an elbow and walked me up another flight of stairs and down a corridor, unlocking and locking doors behind them as we went. 
   We came to a large room with a dozen beds in it, six along one wall and six along the opposite side. The room was full of women, all wearing identical clothes to the ones I had been given. Some were sitting on their beds, not doing anything; one was marching up and down the centre of the room, talking to herself. When she saw me being brought in she shouted at the top of her voice, “Ooh, a new lady. Looks like she thinks she’s the Queen of Sheba!” A few of the women sitting on the beds lifted their heads to look at me, but most of them just ignored her. 
   “Tha’s yer bed,” said Nurse Barrett, pointing to an empty bed in the corner of the room. They exchanged a few words with the nurse in charge of the dormitory, then they left me there. The woman who was talking to herself came over and prodded me on the shoulder. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked. 
   “Nothing,” I said. 
   “That’s what they all say,” she said. She laughed in a high-pitched cackle before resuming her pacing. 
I curled up on the bed and turned my back on them all. This is where I am now. I must escape from this place by whatever means. Or die trying.

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