No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 16

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

A few days after William’s encounter with the nursery maid, his senior officer at the Worship Street station handed out a new pattern for the patrolling of the streets.

“Grant, you’ll take St Paul’s,” the sergeant said.

The men were sitting on benches, some polishing their buttons, some brushing their hats.

William stood up and gave the customary salute.

“Yes, sir!” he said.

His mind was working fast. He wanted to retain the Downing Street beat more than anything.

He told himself that it was a sense of duty that motivated him: his dedication to the protection of public figures.

His friend George Ainsworth looked up at him, and his amused look told William that George saw something other than duty in his face.

Surely George could not detect there the fathomless dark eyes of Clementine Denny?

The senior officer scanned the rows of men.

“Ainsworth, I’m giving you the Whitehall beat, and keep sharp for once, will you? I don’t want you half asleep with the Duke of Wellington looking on!

“The Prime Minister doesn’t want a Bow Street Runner with only half an eye on the safety of his ministries!”

“Sir,” William piped up. “I’ve noticed Ainsworth’s got a cold in the head.”

George turned to him and frowned.

“What’s that? Cold in the head?” the officer barked.

William saw George open his mouth to say something, then close it again.

“I was thinking he ought to be at home, sir. This morning he was sneezing and spluttering all over –”

“Thank you, Grant,” the sergeant interrupted. “Ainsworth? Speak up.”

George glanced at his friend for a second, the hint of a grin spreading across his ill-shaven face.

“I didn’t want to say, sir,” he said in a voice of suffering. “It’s my dose.”

“Your what, Ainsworth?”

“I can’t breathe so well, sir.”

The officer sighed.

“Well, stay here for today. Grant, you’ve been on the Whitehall beat before, so take it for now. St Paul’s can do without. Let’s hope the Lord will smite anybody picking pockets around the cathedral.”

William was rewarded for his clever manipulation. He got another sighting of Miss Clementine Denny.

It took five days of pacing the streets with his eyes peeled, but at last he saw her, with three small boys and a slightly older girl striding ahead, wearing a dress of white lace but with a face and bearing more like that of a cavalry general leading a charge.

“Miss Denny, what a surprise!” he called.

The smallest of the boys suddenly detached himself from her hand and headed at speed into the path of the oncoming horses.

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.