The sun has risen and set and risen and set yet again ere the carriage ferrying Lady Hesketh-Elderberry reaches St Bacchanalia’s Asylum. As it passes through Grodden Parnock, the evening has fallen into its dotage and a scarlet tinged twilight has fallen.
“Lift the shutter Anansi, what is it you see?”
“Heathland Missis Hesketh! Miles and miles of it, all brown and yellowish! Tis sickly looking!”
Lady Hesketh-Elderberry’s eyes are full of fearful misgiving, so! They were almost there! Grodden Parnock, home of Iron-Slitting and Mole-Trouser-Stretching bade them welcome; with its howling winds and vast tracts of sickly looking heathland.
“We are but half a mile from St Bacchanalia!” whispered Lady Hesketh as the carriage rolled on, all has sunk blooding to sleep upon the heathlands, and yet Anansi and Lady Hesketh sense they are being watched.
“Missis Hesketh” whispers Anansi his eyes wide with fear, “It feel like we being watched” Lady Hesketh nodded, she had heard of the sinister practices of the brotherhood, “Tis the Goveen way, the roads to and from St Bacchanalia’s are watched day and night by the guardians of the asylum!”
The vast tracts of heathland grow darker and more oppressive looking by the minute. Darkness glowers over the swamplands of Brume Polder, tis the place where dozens of apprentices drowned, and hundreds contracted Scarlet Fever. Twas this appalling scandal that prompted Lady Hesketh-Elderberry to open a dozen or so ragged schools. To think that her nephew, the villainous ingrate, intended to close them all! Oh that she were back in London and able to fight for her schools tooth and nail! Twas all she asked! Tears welled up in her eyes and streamed down her cheeks, how fortunate that Anansi should be there to comfort her with his much used hanky!
Evening having tumbled away into darkest night the carriage rumbles ever onwards, whipped on by the ferocity of the driver and the efforts of the near exhausted horses. Till at length the carriage halts and a gruff voice calls out,
“Who goes there?”
“Tis I Brother Adam, I have another loon bound for the asylum!”
“Pass in peace brother! May the essence of St Gove be with thee!”
Peeking out of the window Anansi espied the great wrought iron gates creaking slowly open, now he spied his chance!” Now Missis Hesketh” he whispered as he gently patted the stricken noble lady’s hand, ” Don’t struggle none with them! Jus do as they say I gon be right there wid you!” after placing the gag back over her mouth and binding her hands Anansi slid out of the carriage, passing through the carriage gates as quietly as a crocodile gliding through the waters of a New Orleans Bayou.
A lesser boy would have blanched at the notion of entering such a terrible place, but Anansi was born and bred of a Hoodoo mother, an ill-fated soul unlucky in love, and he did not frighten easily. You must believe me dear reader, when I say that this child had seen things that would have made the blood of the average churchgoer run cold!
Now lingering a little behind the carriage as it passes swiftly through the gates and now running alongside it crouched low, Anansi follows it closely till it stops at the rear of the asylum, where vast ebony wood doors are thrown open and a tall ornately robed gentleman strides forth.
“Ho there Brother Daedalus!What is this we have here?”
“Tis the Duchess of Albermarre your reverence!”
“What? Another Hesketh-Elderberry to join our happy band! Good, good! Have the loon brought forth!”
Father Cicero, for that is his name, is so delighted with the asylum’s latest acquisition that he dances up to the carriage calling loudly for Brothers Beneficio and Jean-Baptiste to ‘please attend upon the patient’. This they duly do, shuffling swiftly towards the carriage and manhandling the terrified philanthropist with as much delicacy as is due a lunatic member of the English aristocracy.
Anansi watches all of this with rapt attention until, with their backs turned fully upon him, he is able to step nimbly across the grounds and swiftly through the doors of the asylum. How many well-written tomes may suffice to explain the horrors resident within? How to convey the despair and desolation of aristocratic kith and kin bound up in this place? Dear reader, I cannot, and as to the revelatory experiences Lady Hesketh-Elderberry found herself exposed to therein, suffice it to say that she who believed herself cabined and cribbed, soon found that much good may be done for others, in the midst of most dire and distressing circumstance.