A word of caution
Mission: Chapter 9: Steam City
Erm and Every had returned with the supplies requested. Jefferson noted the look on Erm's face, which was slightly flushed. He thought it might be time to have a little word with the young man. He beckned Erm to take a seat.
They sat opposite each other in the common area, Erm squirming in his seat, Jefferson looking grave and grandfatherly.
"Son," he said, feeling paternal, "Son, you're growing into a fine young man."
Erm looked confused. Was Jefferson coming on to him?
"I see how you look at ... erhh, young women... of the opposite sex." Jefferson never had to have this kind of talk before, he realised. Most young men he had been working with were much less innocent than Erm seemed to be. Of course, this was an exceptional situation. He'd never been ashore for such a long time, with a crew that still behaved as a crew on a ship.
"I am sure you know," Jefferson started again after a pause, "that men ..., and indeed women, are ... well, Men and women can ... enjoy..."
"Yes," blurted Erm out. "I am old enough to know these things, Master Jefferson." He laughed nervously. "I don't need a birds and bees story."
Jefferson squinted. "I am sure you do, however, need to be aware of the dangers," he continued, "of eh, fraternising with women of eh, a certain allure."
Erm nodded slowly. It was still quite an awkward conversation, but he had heard sailors talk about sex, he had seen the ravages of some diseases men claimed they got from women. And maybe Jefferson was trying to tell him how to be safe.
"Well, now, it has come to my attention," Jefferson said as he willed his eyes not to linger on Leftheris, "that there are certain ... women in town, who will allow a man liberties in exchange for coin."
Erm leaned back and shook his head vigourously. "Oh, I don't have coin," he said. Then he grinned. "I rely on my charm." The gangly young man truly believed his own magnitism on women.
"Nevertheless," Jefferson tried again, "you must refrain from ... doing anything with these women." He looked at the young man for a time. "I have been told that they suffer from a condition known as crotch rot. It can spread quite easily from a woman to a man."
Erm nodded. He had heard of it, of course. "But I haven't seen any wh... women like you said."
Jefferson leaned in. "In a town like this, they are not like the women in ports. They would be arrested by the militia, or run out of town by angry wives. No, in towns like Kanesville, they operate under a guise, as it were."
"Yes, they will pretend to be one thing, but sell their favours on the side, as it were," Jefferson said. Erm blinked, Jefferson sighed. "The Vaudeville girls, Erm. The Vaudeville girls! Do you honestly think that in a town such as this there is a place for singers and dancers? They use the stage to show their wares, as it were! The men come in to look them over and afterwards pay a price and take them to a place to f... have their way with them!"
Erm paled. Jefferson pressed his point. "It has come to my attention that one, some, sailors have contracted crotch rot. I am warning you, boy, you'd better not be the next one. And you leave the girl be!" he said sternly.
"What girl?" Erm asked confused.
"Every! I can't stop the men from taking the vaudeville girls, but I can stop them from spreading it to our women!"
"I don't have crotch rot!" Erm said exasparated. "I have not been near the wh... girls! Any girls!"
The old man leaned back from the table. "Hm," he said. "Clever boy." He slammed his hands on the table and stood up. "Well, that's all. Carry on."
As he left, he nodded to Faizel, who looked relieved.