Natural selection in microcosm, the estimable Darwin perceived that which the ruling classes had practiced for centuries, and was astounded by it. T’was the process by which our great empire and its worthy custodians had ruled the world entire!
Alas, little did they realise that whilst nature may be trusted generally to do its work, at times a vicious whimsy causes things to go astray. Hence the tragic demise of Lady Edina Pembroke, who upon sensing a genetic deficiency in Lord Henry, deemed it expedient to abandon him at birth on a Cornish cliff top.
Alas that her sacrifice resulted in her own premature death from Pneumonia and the rescue of the child! The family of Lord Hesketh-Elderberry was far more discerning. Lord Wilberforce bore a most sadistic disposition and a minor physical defect, but this wasn’t deemed so debilitating as to necessitate his demise. His sister however, nursed an obsessive fondness for her servants, their children and their grandparents.
To forestall this abhorrent and degenerative progression the family sent her to a Goveen Priory at the age of five. However having entered holy orders Wilhemina was hastily sent home for stealing the Abbess’s treasure chests. She had been caught in the middle of Molten Tussock Minor tossing the Abbess’s gold into the grimy hands of the poor. T’was obvious the child was not cut out to sit at the feet of Gove and so a family conference was called to discuss her fate. The Dowager Hesketh-Elderberry suggested the family watch the girl closely and wait. Mayhap further imbecilic traits would surface obliging them to consign her to St Bacchanalia’s Asylum, mayhap not.
A decade passed as both children evolved and their intellects burgeoned and flourished and then, one summer’s eve, the Dowager Hesketh-Elderberry disappeared. T’was a moonlit night, the night of the village ball, when the aged Dowager was escorted up to her rooms never to be seen alive again.
The estate would have passed to Lord Wilberforce in time, were it not for one inescapable fact, his deranged and obsessive devotion to taxidermy. Many such gory specimens of his flawless talents were to be found, scattered throughout the rookeries of London. Though, to be sure, the police were a little confused as to who to attribute his murderous handiwork to. The Dowager Hesketh-Elderberry’s cadaver was discovered a little after the rookery murders had mysteriously ceased. There she sat, propped up in a rocking chair in a corner of Lord Wilberforce’s study, unsmiling, grim faced as ever, decidedly dead and pristinely stuffed. Upon this discovery Lord Wilberforce’s manservant turned pale and fainted, the chamber maid ran off to fetch her ladyship who in turn sent for the Reverend Unctuous.
“Natural selection” he sombrely declared, “Has accomplished its work! Consign the loon to St Bacchanalia’s Asylum! Rest assured his further degeneration will be kept in check!”
Alas then that fifty years later he should have made his escape! And L’eauregarde with him! Oh calumny! Oh perturbation! But worse was to follow, for even amongst the aristocratic breed there is a tendency to revert back, to that most base and avaricious character lost during some former generation.
“Think what it is you do Edmund! Untie me!”
“You have strayed beyond the bounds of reason! I shall not!”
“Recant your philanthropy!”
“Recant your beliefs! They are heresy Edmund! Direst heresy!”
Lord Elderberry chuckled softly to himself, a deliciousness stole over him at the sight of his aunt trussed up on the bed. Lady Hesketh-Elderberry sobbed quietly, the sheer devilishness of him daunted her. There was an unnatural gleam in his piercing gaze that betokened madness, t’was the same look his uncle had if he but knew it! A vicious whimsy urged him on to this, but she, in her naivete was to blame! She had welcomed him into her home and her heart, and the brute had seized his chance to depose her!
“You have tainted the sanctity of this family’s reputation with your incessant hankering after the poor! The honour of the Hesketh-Elderberry name is sacred to me! As sacred as my loyalty and duty to England! The ragged schools you have funded shall all be shut down and the poor returned (by force if need be) to their slums!”
“You are heartless Edmund!” sobbed Lady Hesketh-Elderberry “Heartless!”
“I’m pragmatic!” replied Edmund, “The family coffers can only stretch so far, I have my inheritance to think of! I am tightening the purse strings!”
“But you cannot!”
Edmund nestled up to his elderly aunt who had been forcibly tied into a strait-jacket. The sadistic gleam in his deep-set eyes seemed to blot out all sane and moral reason. Lady Hesketh-Elderberry flinched, she averted her eyes and tried to wriggle away, but like the relentless serpent he was he wriggled closer.
“In the event of your sudden descent into lunacy the inheritance the family bequeathed to you, passes to me”
Suddenly he leapt off the bed and enquired of one perturbed (a doctor no less),
“In your most considered opinion could it be said that Lady Hesketh-Elderberry is mad?”
“Yes, indeed, I do believe she is M’lord. If you might be so kind?”