Darkness has fallen and now stars dangle in the sky like a row of pearls around an Ethiope’s neck. The Bald Faced Stag will do a roaring trade straight into the early hours of the morning, but our concern is not with the beer that will be drunk, nor with the imbibing of sherry as stolen silverware changes hands. Nor do we concern ourselves with the destiny of the hapless monk who now lies trussed up in the Tavern’s cellar. To have kidnapped one of the few to display an abiding and benevolent interest in the affairs of London’s working poor, to have trussed her up like a turkey, to have made off with her mercilessly! No we shall not reflect long on the fate of this mad monk, any more than we should. Instead let us turn to that which lies beyond the Bald Faced Stag Inn.
“Has that man arrived?”
“The minister of domestic affairs? Yes, your grace, where shall I place him?”
“The Grey Room”
“Not the Green Study?”
The merest tilt of her handsome head, the slightest gesture of her elegant fingers, is sufficient to halt Planchett in his tracks. Observe as she paces to and fro with her elegant be-ringed fingers clasped in front of her. Such soft, strong hands!
“The Grey Room Planchett”
“Yes your Grace”
As immoveable as a Caryatid pillar, as immutable in her determinations as Medea, observe the lady as she moves soundlessly towards the leather bound documents which take up all of her attention. Page after page of significant family trees which she has had a hand in significantly altering. There are two such volumes of these documents the official record of lineage and the Book of Occitan. Tonight, on this most dark and most heinous of nights, she seals the clasps of both books, reverentially returning them to their place.
It is with a sense of overpowering duty and with increasing ire that the lady proceeds to the Grey Room where Lord Rucklesmoot awaits her.
“Lord Rucklesmoot” his Lordship bows gravely
“T’is late in the day for a visit such as this and most inconvenient”
His Lordship smiles weakly,
“When it comes to affairs of state there is no such thing as inconvenience your grace”
“Is there not? T’is a little cold in here Ruckle-Smoot, do you know why that is?”
“No, your grace” he replies warily,
“I have the windows opened and the rooms aired several times a day, every day. I can scarce abide tainted air sir!”
“No your grace”
“Several of my most treasured servants have fallen ill as a consequence, three have even had the temerity to die, but I will suffer no pollution in the atmosphere of this house!”
The Grey Room is palatial in its proportions with it’s vast heavily curtained windows, ornate carpeting and richly upholstered furniture. A delightful room then, in the exquisite residence of the coveted keeper of the royal bloodlines. So why, does Lord Ruckle-Smoot feel as if he has fallen through the portals of hell? For since he has taken up this post feelings of deep unease have gripped him. Memorising his descendants from the nursery onwards, he had thought the royal lineage unimpeachable, he’d no notion of its needing protecting.
“It seems that we have been remiss Lord Ruckle-Smoot”
“We have lost a vessel, Lord Ruckle-Smoot, a vessel bearing a most important piece of the royal bloodline”
“It was last espied weeping beside the tombstone of the most recently deceased eminent politician”
“Planchette! It’s far too cold in here, stoke the fire!”
“Yes your grace” the butler (having never left the room) finds this an easy task to accomplish, stoking the fire can be done in no time at all, but on this occasion Planchette takes care to demonstrate the breadth of his skill with the ornate fireplace poker, this causes Lord Ruckle-Smoot to consider how fireplace pokers, when handled in such a dexterous manner, can have potentially lethal consequences.
“Your family has served mine honourably for centuries, it was the reason you were appointed, indeed, it was the only reason you were appointed”
My Lord Ruckle-Smoot finds himself caught between the ravening panther that is Planchette and his mistress the she-wolf, hungry, remorseless, and clad from head to toe in Chantilly Lace!
“The vessel you speak of was seen last in the company of a pick-a-ninny child and has not been seen by any since”
“Certainly not by any in your employ, Planchette?”
“Your Grace, I have it on good authority that Ethelbert Hardy-Smythe has er”
“Which brings me to my next problem Lord Ruckle-Smoot, what should one do with a politician who suddenly develops a conscience?”
“My lady, The Right Honourable Hardy-Smythe has honoured his duty to Queen & country most indubitably”
“I ave it on good authority from Fitchett iz butler, that he is az of late been suffering nightmares of a most audible kind, nightmares about a Master Hemphill-Skinner”
Caught betwixt a panther and a she-wolf with royal patronage, what is a man to do?