Catherine travels by hackney to the physician's address.

The cabby is doubtful. "Bad part of town, miss."

"Please take me there. It is a physician's office."

The cabby shrugs. "Your funeral. At least it is early morning."

Catherine can see, peering from behind the curtains, it is an increasingly worse part of town. The houses are smaller and smaller and ramshackle. There is more and more trash, stray dogs and rats. Then children, dirty, in the streets, dressed in rags. Catherine shudders, her hands aching.

They arrive. It is an unpreposessing building. "Are you sure, Miss?"

There is a sign. Dr. Hakong, private physician. "Yes. Thank you." She pays him. She has enough funds to stay for a couple nights and then the long ride home. She plans a less expensive hostel, so that she can eat with what she has left.

She pulls the bell pull. She hears a distant ring. She is a little early according to her small pocket watch. Her mother gave it to her when she got the apprenticeship with the tailor. She feels her failure every time she looks at it. Failing her mother, her father, all of her siblings. Her hands ache like they have been smashed over and over.

The door opens. The servant is an oriental. Catherine stares at her. The servant stands aside, head bowed, for Catherine to enter.

The lobby is small and minimally furnished. The furniture is of good quality, worn and very very clean.

Catherine steps in. The servant closes the door. A woman.

"Do you speak English?" says Catherine. "I have an appointment with Dr. Hakong at 10." She speaks very slowly.

The servant bows slightly and moves to a desk. She holds up a slate and points. Catherine sees her name and nods.

The servant gestures to a couch near the fire. Catherine hesitantly walks over. The servant bows again and gestures to a peg rack. There are three coats hanging. Catherine slowly removes her wrap and coat and sits down.

The servant walks to a small table. There is a samovar and teacups. Catherine nods and the servant places a small amount of tea in a holder, places it in the cup and fills it from the samovar. She walks to the table and places it on a tray. She slides the tray towards Catherine. Catherine nods her head. "Thank you." she says.

The servant leaves the room.

What place have I come to, thinks Catherine. She has seen orientals in pictures. She has not seen one in person before. What doctor would have a woman oriental servant?

to be continued.
For Tell me a story quest

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