Plain he is not, pretty he may be, Thomas Jopson doesn’t fancy himself anything fine. No filigree nor fretwork to be found on his hide, and he’d be the very first to tell you so without batting an eyelash.
He knows his place: he is poor and thereby his life is of small importance. Any esteem he acquires is at the behest of greater men with higher regard than he would otherwise deserve. There is the occasional sigh from the Captain, of course, but the Captain is given to sighing so he doesn’t tally it against himself. In his opinion (should it ever be solicited) he is regarded rather well for someone of his station. He suffers no untoward abuse for his inferiority, but neither do the men in his purview exalt him as a novelty.
Greater shame then that, for all his mindfulness and gratitude, he cannot be convinced out of fancying Lieutenant Little. Lieutenant Little who is as
a man as Thomas Jopson ever fancied one to be.
It’s such a small, tender, thing, his heart. It goes so weak beating for that man; like Christ’s clay bird before it was given breath. The Lieutenant does not know, of course, how he molds the shape of it to suit him. How he kneads it as though it were cupped into his hands every time he chances to be near, or speak, or look at him with his dark eyes.
Society says that one cannot escape the moral fragility of their class and in testing times he reveres such principals.
They do make it easier to bear, for the Lieutenant cannot help his own demeanor either.
A serious man such as the Lieutenant might remark on how a frail little container is able to hold such affections, but Thomas isn’t the first servant to hide his natures. Miserable little cat-skin, with her sooty cheeks and moldering mantle, packed her three gowns in a nutshell and she bagged a king.
No worry, as the Lieutenant is noble enough to suit him as he is: strapping and straight as a lance with all that wavy hair. To catch the curve of his grin, or hear the secret of his laugh, or find himself reeled in to those good arms - well. That would be to catch the ring.
But the Lieutenant is a decent man; eyeteeth Thomas Jopson might give for the pleasure of his indecency.
A bolt of china silk, when they find this passage. He’ll spread himself on it like the robe of the cut sleeve.
He’d pay a ninepence, even. How many treats can you buy with an Irish shilling? he muses in the thoughtful solitude of his duties. He takes Little up and down the private streets he knows, fessing to his love of sweet things.
Nine penny-licks. An italian ice. A bag of chestnuts. Gingerbread, hot from the cart - the corners first, then the middle, then the icing dabbed off the paper with his finger-
He’s tempted to lick the dessert plates clean, and he knows how Little takes his breakfast tea by how he longs for a drop of sugar more when he finishes it. Should the Lieutenant catch him in indulgent acts he believes he’d be charitable; Thomas would take any scolding for pretending the tea’s left half drunk on the tray for him to find.
Handsome princes are meant to be generous to pitiful little things, after all, and he’s no dress of hammered gold or silver drape. He admits that without contestation.
But maybe if he bent his head the right way, supplicant perhaps, he’ll catch the light from the illuminator and the Lieutenant (sensible, decent, Edward) will see the coat of stars sewn right in his eyes.