“See there, the six shot revolving cylinder and there the small striking pin?”
Lord Wilberforce is enraptured by the little steel signet ring to which the miniature revolving gun cylinder is affixed.
“T’is a ‘Petit Protector’ invented by Master Casimir LeFracheux, I am told Lord Everard Hesketh-Elderberry wore this one on the night he shot his steward! Apparently the old scroat denied him access to his own money!
“Lord Everard was hung wasn’t he? Hung for want of good manners and a full purse?” “Dear nephew” replied Lord Wilberforce, “They made a servant the trustee to his master’s finances! A servant put in charge of his master’s purse strings? A parlous state of affairs! Was he to have shared the marital bed too?”
“Lord Everard was a rabid epicurean whose dissipation threatened to ruin the entire family, his children fled the family home as soon as they could walk, and his wife died a piteous wreck, addicted to the Whisky she had learned to imbibe from the profligate who married her. I am told the hanging was a scandalous affair, no remorse, no apology, he made a riotous end, and that in front of his inferiors! T’was a repugnant mater from start to finish!”
“Twas the stuff of legend! The servants certainly gossiped and laughed over it a great deal when I was a boy!”
“But were not you raised in the Dowager’s household? I can’t think she would’ve allowed such talk?”
With what dark look of triumph is that remark greeted!
“The old goat sought moral probity in all things, she sought to get the better of me and rear me according to her expectations but in the end” said he,”I got the better of her”. Lord Elderberry had not the slightest idea what he might mean by that, but so sinister was the import that the hairs on the nape of his neck stood on end. An elderly man with elegant streaks of gray in his shoulder length hair and the hawk like profile of an aristocrat, tis scarce to believed he is a loon, tis most perturbing. A family loon at that, tis beyond imagining!
Yet, here he and the loon sit, smoking Cuban Cigars and quaffing Port!
They had spent the better part of the morning admiring the retributive qualities of England’s Criminal Courts, they had seen a hanging or three handed down at sentencing at the Old Bailey Courts. They had watched as the condemned swore, shrieked. One, a Portuguese dock worker, fell into a swoon as if the rope were round his neck already, all these distressing sights and sounds Lord Wilberforce absorbed and enjoyed avidly.
Lord Elderberry on the other hand, found the surroundings seedy, the inmates of Newgate Prison offensive in manners and smell, and the hysteria of the dockworker most tawdry. It had been his uncle’s request that they visit Newgate and he assented merely to keep him from visiting the Seven Dials instead.
“Remarkable! Most remarkable! See how he tears at his hair with tears in his eyes! Real tears my boy as if for all the world he were generally sorry! A remarkable performer!”
“Can such a one be capable of duplicity when faced with the prospect of death? Should he not be thinking of what punishments lie beyond this life and await him in the next life?”
Lord Wilberforce rolled his eyes, he recalled perfectly the hour in which he confessed to his papa his part in the demise of the Dowager Hesketh, he had sobbed and wrung his hands like a true penitent, even so they knew he had not meant it, genuine remorse had been beyond him, it still was.
“One may cry out to the very heavens for forgiveness and truly not wish to be forgiven! See how he sobs and berates God to intervene on his behalf, and yet his eyes are as dry as the Deserts of Sinai! Does he regret that he robbed and murdered? I think not, does he regret that his life must be so precipitously ended? Of course he does!” Lord Wilberforce chuckled as the Spaniard crying out for mercy received none and instead was hoisted down to the cells which lay below the court.
They had dined at Lord Elderberry’s club where Lord Wilberforce had engaged the head waiter in conversation and asked if he still served Filet of Turkey Twizzler done in a brandy sauce,
” Tis forbidden M’Lord, not since the Grid-Iron Riots have we served such a dish!”
“The Grid-Iron Riots?” Lord Wilberforce was nonplussed, had Lord Grid-Iron fallen into scandal then? Coughing gently Lord Elderberry moved the conversation on to that of Roast Pheasant,
“We have a plentiful supply of Roast Pheasant M’Lord, for two?” he looked questioningly at Lord Wilberforce whose face seemed very familiar to him for some reason.
“For two Boodle,accompanied by your most excellent roast parsnips”
“M’Lord” Master Boodle bowed gravely but not before he’d favoured Lord Wilberforce with a sharp look, to talk of Filet of Turkey Twizzler in this gentleman’s club was not the done thing.
Lord Elderberry had consciously chosen to lunch at that time of the day when few other gentleman members would be present, indeed the fewer the better.
“I have endured a time of much trial but now I trust my woes are over and I may, in part, return to the life I once knew”
“In part” replied Lord Elderberry duplicitously,
“I do not mean that I wish to enter into society as I once did” continued Lord Wilberforce “a dozen scandals bearing my name have long since barred that path to me, but to be able to enjoy the company of a select few.
To have the freedom to indulge those few hobbies with which I am acquainted” a peculiar expression crossed Lord Wilberforce’s face as he said this, an expression that so far as Lord Elderberry was concerned could only bode ill. Meant Lord Wilberforce to resume his murderous taxidermy practices?
“I trust that you will avail yourself of my hospitality for at least as long as it will take Montaperti to discretely lease appropriate property on your behalf?” replied Lord Elderberry.
“Discretion is key” said Lord Wilberforce glancing at his nephew with a keen eye “To be able to discretely entertain one’s friends and indulge one’s proclivities, yes, discretion! I count myself fortunate to have a nephew such as you, and I most gladly accept the hospitality you offer”
Lord Elderberry shuddered, Sweet Gove! Discretion!The man was the very antithesis of it! To have only recently escaped from a lunatic asylum, and then to demand a tour of Newgate Prison and the Old Bailey?! Why only now did he (Lord Elderberry), rue having committed his sane aunt to an insane asylum! But for the two million sterling, he’d have her brought back and let her manage the scandal-smirched loon who was his uncle! But t’was too late now, and he must keep hold of his nerve long enough to place his uncle in the hands of the Goveen Brotherhood, whom he desperately hoped would dispatch him swiftly from this world and pitch him mercilessly into the next (wherever that was!).
“Shall we drink to the end of all trials and your excellent prospects uncle?”
“Indeed we shall! To my excellent prospects and your good health!” Lord Wilberforce exclaimed as he wondered whom he would murder and taxidermy first, Lord Elderberry or the smug, self-righteous prison librarian.