The honourable Robert Farthengrodden, defended in an appalling admirable manner by the Kinsella QC (and so, acquitted of the murder of sweet, Mary Parnham, upon the defence of sonambulistic wanderings). Estranged from Lady Bedelia Farthengrodden, mother of his six children, who, as a consequence of the scandal entered holy orders as a novitiate of the Goveen Sisterhood. Having gained his freedom he took up a position as a work house guardian that he might atone all the better for his past sins. And once he had won the favour of Miss Peepy, he took over the onerous duties of auditing the Workhouse accounts. Well, she said, he said iz duties was ‘onerous’ and indeed they must have been, for six months into the job, he disappears and a hundred pound of charitable contributions disappears with ‘im!
T’was a tragedy dear reader! T’was a horror that such as once graced the corridors of power should have stooped to such immoral depths. That a gentleman of such good breeding should willingly have plunged into such swirling, suppurating deeps as these! Why sirs! I know not what to comment! Except, that in the words of St. Gove that translucent effervescence, sic transit gloria mundi, so passes away earthly glory. And furthermore,non teneas aurum totum quod splendet ut aurum (self explanatory).
And so, from Monday to Sunday (and back again) I lay in wait for Robert Farthengrodden, whom, I heard told, had taken lodgings at the East India Club. As a rule, once a man has succoured himself extensively (and in public), upon the bosom of iniquity, the upper echelons keep their distance. Not so with Farthengrodden and, once I had ascertained that he would be in residence for some time,I was able to avail myself of a lunch invite in the company of Alf (the fence)De Quincey.
“Well” says I, “This is a pretty pass, twenty minutes sat here drinking turtle soup and still no sign of him”
“Oh he’ll be in to dine right enough, he’s taken to one of them gels what lives in the cupboard.”
“What cupboard?” says I,
“That cupboard.” says he, lifting one delicately manicured thumb and jabbing it towards a large ebony wood grandfather clock wot lay behind him. Well as I turns me head I see’s the most peculiar sight. There’s a door at the base of the clock and as it opens slowly I see first a pale hand and then a foot wriggle itself out of the compartment, followed by a reed like neck and two blinking peepers! “Well, well,” I says, “This is a most peculiar practice, a most peculiar practice, stashing one’s servants in a grandfather clock! What will the ruling classes think of next?”
“Tis the necessities of the Crimean” says Alf with an air of mystery.
“The necessities of what?” says I flummoxed by the pale, reedy looking gent quickly clearing away our soup dishes. “The Crimean, they’re refugees and since they ain’t got regular papers” (the reedy gent proffers a soiled gloved hand for a tip which Alf won’t give, on principle), “They works ‘ere for board and lodgings” well, my eyes narrows at that and I asks,”Whose idea was that?”.
“Ask ‘im” he replies jabbing his thumb once more behind him where I espies none other than the once honourable Farthengrodden squeezing hisself into the Grandfather clock lodgings. He has half disappeared into the cupboard already, but with all speed I leap towards him and grabbing ‘im by the scruff of the neck I declares,”Not so fast my lad! You’ve charges to answer!”
“Charges?” says he all innocent and such,
“Of Larceny!” Says I, not put off in the slightest by his gentlemanly appearance, for t’was upon my breast that the elderly Miss Peepy cried her poor Christian heart out! “Larceny!” I exclaims once more, tugging on the collar of his dinner jacket. “Look lively my lad! Come to it! For my name is Sergeant Qwinty sir, and you are to attend the the Magistrate’s pleasure!”
“Magistrates pleasure?” says he looking suitably puzzled for our conversation has drawn the attention of other gentleman, and are they bemused by the sight of refugees wriggling out of their hiding places? Not at all! They look prodigious perplexed that such a gentleman as this should have fallen once more into scandal in the midst of their club. “Magistrates pleasure!” I repeat the words casting my eyes around the gentlemanly gathering in a meaningful sort of way, whereupon they draws themselves up indignantly and pointedly resumes their dining. “Come along peaceably won’t you?” and eventually he does for there’s no evading justice once it has you in its grip. And so, dear reader, I carried the depredatory gent off to Bow Streets Magistrates. And once there, in due course, the rascal charmed the Magistrate into letting him off.
T’was nigh on a week later when I spotted the ‘Spitalfield’s Workhouse Robber” strolling back to the East India Club, he was arm in arm with a pallid, wan looking creature, a Crimean lass no doubt. I had little time to reflect upon this as I was headed toward Bow Streets Magistrates, this time with a pickpocket in tow. But later in the day, over a glass of Sherry at the Nags Head Tavern, the following words sprang to mind,
“It’s the same the whole world over,
It’s the poor what gets the blame,
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,
Isn’t it a blooming shame?