Oh the privileges of a safe criminality! Of places where one may safely rob someone of a purse or cut a gentleman’s throat! Such places are as rare as the proprietors that manage them, once The Bald Faced Stag was such a place, but no more. Though on an occasion such as this, the mistress of this reputed establishment is more than willing to make an exception. As fond as she is for the beer Boodoo and Bert cultivate and deliver she has little fondness for the men themselves, scarce redeemed arsonists as they are. But the Hesketh-Elderberry School is another thing entirely,
“Abducting Lady Hesketh is they? An thought to stop by my pub wot as served her ladyship and er kin all the days of me gran-fader’s life and me fader’s life? Half my kin attend her schools, little Charlie is to graduate from thence to Worth Chilliministers Esquire! Kidnap Ma Hesketh? Wot woz they thinkin orf?”
“Them? They’re Goveen spawn! Wots thinkin got to do with it? Can I do it?”
Mistress Dormers glanced over at the Goveen Monk who was now so merry in his cups that his plump face was flushed, Lucinda, her most comely serving wench leant forward as if to replenish his beer and that was when it happened, the gas lights dimmed momentarily and flickered, once, twice, on the thrice turn they resumed their normal brilliance. But when they had, the plump faced monk had disappeared and another had taken both his seat and his beer.
“She’s a one with that club our Lucinda, never hired a wench like that afore! Only fourteen that one but my what a wrist!”
Insensible to the world, the unfortunate monk is quickly dragged into the snuggery, which just as speedily empties of customers once they realise that some skullduggery is afoot. A robbery is a rarity at the Bald Faced Stag the mistress of the tavern rarely permits it, thus upon sighting her husband laying about the Goveen Monk the customers took it that this particular robbing was very well deserved.
“On with that cassock Anansi! Quick now!” Boodoo looped the rope-belt around Anansi’s waist and tied it three times with three Lark’s Head knots, just as he had seen the Goveen Monks do when he had been an initiate at St Bacchanalia’s Asylum. “Pull the hood further down over your face, remember ow Bert walks when e’s ad a few? Show me” Anansi tottered and swayed drunkenly, t’was a most convincing performance and Boodoo didn’t doubt that he’d acquit himself most admirably on the ride to Grodden Parnock.
“The ride down will be swift my child and the journey into that hell hole terrifying! Make sure you keep yer wits about ye! Find owt where they place her, report back to me!”
“Pa, wot if I can’t get owt?” Boodoo hated to see Anansi’s face pinched up so with worry,
“Think on Barley Plimsoll my cove! What’s she to do without her mama? Think on her my lad!”
Anansi’s little face seemed to glow with a most unnatural light, his eyes were awash with an affection that made Boodoo almost envious,
“Barley!” oh with what yearning that sweet child’s name was uttered! Truly a lover’s confession!
“Sweet Barley! I must save Barley’s mama! I will save Barley’s mama!” now Anansi’s eyes lit up with much fervour and determination as he strode forth like St George going to slay the dragon.
“Are you certain about what it is that you do ere Boodoo?” Michael Dormer wasn’t known for his softness of heart, but he had seen much that was good enter Boodoo’s life as a consequence of his having a son. He dreaded the notion that any harm should come to the child that might unman his friend.
“I az no choice, do you fancy your Daniel attending an Industrial Academy?” Michael Dormer swore a whole slew of curses,
“Let me burn in hell first and my son with me!”
“Exactly, now where’s Barley Plimsoll?”
“Upstairs having a bit of dinner, fair tuckered owt the child was, t’is a terrible state of affairs!”
“For them at St Bacchanalia’s it is! He should never have took her!” Boodoo’s deep brown eyes seemed alight with the very fires of hell, “I’ll make him regret he took her!”
“Now Boodoo…” cautioned Michael watching the colour drain from his friend’s face,
“They stole my Emily from me, but they’ll not take Lady Hesketh!! Now where’s Barley?”
See first the abundance of corn blonde hair, pinned this way and that so poorly that stray bits of it drift upon her face, see then those eyes, little black buttons that twinkle from time to time with mirth and are now filled with copious tears. How the child trembles, how she clutches Master Boodoo LeFevre’s burly fist with both of her tiny palms. “Must Anansi travel up to that place Master LeFevre? Can we not spirit ma away here?”
“Er nephew will be looking for er my love, nah there’s nuffin for it, but we shall soon ave er back me love” Boodoo was silent for a spell for now he must propose something to this child that was most unusual,
“T’is alms-giving day tomorrow at St Tobias-in-the North”
“Alms-giving? How can I think of that on such a day as this?”
Master LeFevre looked at the child most intently, more hair and boundless petticoats than anything, and those eyes, twinkling and glistening with such feeling!
“At an alms-giving any petition may be asked of the queen, any at all”
“Any?” said the child thinking on it,
“Any, even the freeing of your mama!”
“But how?” Boodoo shrugged,
“I feel certain you’ll think of something”
The evening has turned cold and blustery, and as Boodoo seats himself once more upon his beer wagon his expressionless gaze alights upon the Brougham now swiftly exiting the yard of the Bald Faced Stag Inn. Darkness, all is darkness, with only two gas lamps hung either side of the wagon to light Boodoo LeFevre on his way back to St Giles and the Sapphire of Jhansi Pub. An autumnal moon hangs low in the sky and Anansi hid in the shadow of the carriage travels up with Lady Hesketh. He has wiped the tears from her eyes with his most treasured ragged school hanky and now he reassuringly strokes her wizened hands,
“Don’t you worry Ma Hesketh, don’t you worry”
Darkness, all is darkness dear reader, though they do say t’is when it is darkest that you may see the stars.