No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 09

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

William was perfectly happy when on his beat. He enjoyed all aspects of policing, and had an opinion on each.

He had been thrilled when the Home Secretary, Mr Robert Peel himself, had called him to a consultation in Whitehall Gardens about the new force. If that ended up being the pinnacle of his career, Will thought, he could die a happy man.

Today, he was patrolling Downing Street, a duty he took very seriously. He had walked into work from home, which was a small terraced house in the environs of the Worship Street station of the Bow Street Runners.

That day he had let slip to his mother that he might take a slight detour.

“I can go by the top of Whitehall Gardens,” he said. “It’s barely off the route.”

His mother smiled.

“And why might that be necessary?”

“I’ll take a look along the street,” Will said defensively. “There’s no harm in checking. Our parliamentary men deserve the protection of the Runners. I might see Mr Peel himself.”

“Mr Peel will be at the Houses of Parliament.” His mother laughed. “It is his place of work, and you ought to be at your place of work, Will, so take this bread and cheese and go.

“You and the Home Secretary – you’d think you were bosom friends the way you talk!”

Will wasn’t admitting to himself that there was another person he hoped to spot in the vicinity of Whitehall Gardens.

He might encounter the young woman he had seen on the morning of the meeting with Mr Peel. He couldn’t forget her – her large, dark eyes, her slender figure.

He was examining the broken paving of a pavement on his way to Whitehall Gardens, squatting on his haunches and making a mental note of the location, when the wheels and front portion of a baby carriage entered his field of vision.

He stood up quickly, not wishing to obstruct its path, and came within two feet of the very girl he remembered from that day, dark eyes and all.

“Good morning,” he said, touching his hat.

The cogs of his brain began to whirl at speed as he wondered how to make the best impression. Will was not experienced at love or courtship.

He had barely begun when the cry of the baby in the carriage brought him up short, and he stared into it at an angry-looking child. The child stared back at him and let out a wail.

“He does that all the time,” the woman said. “He’s a trial. One day I will work out how to make him happy.”

She looked from the baby to William, and put her head on one side.

“Did we meet before?” she asked. “I cannot recall.”

“I think it was near number four, Whitehall Gardens,” he said.

His heart had plummeted in his breast as he realised that the girl was married.

This was her baby, and he was too late. Only now did William admit to himself that he had thought of her often since that day.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.