Subsection: 16 November 2016 (the Turkish Bath Plot) Up Subsection: 16 November 2016 (the Turkish Bath Plot) Subsubsection: Tuesday 27 May 1930 

Monday 26 May 1930

Gertrude and Bessie look for a docker of West Indian extraction, in the hope of getting some legends. They hire one man for the day, and he’s happy to talk about legends for a while; when Gertrude’s questions get more specific, he suggests they should really go and talk to his mother-in-law, and he’s happy to make the introduction.
The two matriarchs meet: Mrs Smith holds court in a laundry, and the washtub isn’t even slightly a cauldron. She’s distinctly edgy at first, but eventually talks about “the fighting fever”, rare enough that it can’t really be pinned down to a single island; it spreads, you have to isolate the people who get it until it passes, and a hot summer is supposed to deal with it.
Things are getting distinctly swirly in the steam: Gertrude and Bessie aren’t dizzy, but things are moving that probably shouldn’t be. Bessie tries sweeping her hand through the steam but isn’t able to make out what’s going on.
Audrey and Lin Tan go to the British Library to look up information from the West Indies – less anthropology, more memoirs of people who were actually paying attention to the imported population. There’s one suggestion that “fighting fever” led to a slave uprising; in one case there was a hot summer and people just seemed to lose interest; and on one occasion it stopped quite early, with one victim dying from a local fever and the other being pretty ill with it. (Lin Tan mostly fetches and carries books.)
Milly gets Bessie to bring an ornament from Mrs Orr’s old room, something with the shine on it, and spends the day trying various ideas for cleansing it. She starts with her parish church, where bringing it onto conscrated ground doesn’t do much and the priest isn’t immediately available; she then tries various folk wisdom from her lodgers. One young Jewish actor suggests burying it in the garden for a few weeks; if he ran into a problem like this he’d ask his rabbi, and he’s willing to introduce Milly, but he wouldn’t like her.
Milly also considers whether it might be possible to get the affected men forcibly hospitalised, and something about tropical diseases might be doable, but it would be tricky.
That evening everyone meets, with Miss Allen, at the bookshop; they consider what it might be about a hot summer that deals with the problem. If it’s just body heat, well, dockers don’t work in boiler-rooms… Miss Allen might be able to arrange arrests, but with difficulty, and then there’s the problem of what to do with them once they’ve been arrested.
Battling Tom Smith has a prize fight on Friday night. It would be unusual, but not unheard-of, for ladies to attend; this is definitely on the legitimate end of public fighting.
Some of the shine from the trinket has rubbed off in Milly’s pocket. Pouring boiling water over the thing removes the shine completely, and steam from a kettle cleans her pockets too.
The group considers borrowing or renting a Turkish bath, drugging the dockers, and heating them to drive off the shine. The men are clearly bathing reasonably often, as they’re no more offensive in odour than their fellows. This plan seems over-complex, needing cooperation from too many people; there’s one bath over by Walworth, but that’s clearly one big room judging by the way it has men’s and ladies’ days, and somewhere a bit iffy in Greenwich that appears to be a front for prostitution.
An alternative would be to dose the bottle Bessie found by Henwright’s bed, but Bessie reckons he only takes a small tipple at a time.
 Subsection: 16 November 2016 (the Turkish Bath Plot) Up Subsection: 16 November 2016 (the Turkish Bath Plot) Subsubsection: Tuesday 27 May 1930