No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 42

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

The duel fought between the Prime Minister and the Earl of Winchilsea was a topic of discussion among the men of the Metropolitan force for years afterwards.

The police strongly discouraged duelling, even between the highest men of the land.

Mr Robert Peel reckoned that Wellington angled his weapon away at the crucial moment, and that Winchilsea possibly did the same, so that both men were able to quit the field with honour, and not be murderers. William knew it to be true.

Whatever their motives, little Robert had been in the firing line, and Molly had saved him.

The men, both angry and frightened, had not seen the bug-hunter running towards the Duke of Wellington, eager to show off his moth.

William, Molly and Clementine were the last to arrive back at No. 4, Whitehall Gardens that morning, following the Peel carriage home.

Molly cried most of the way. She barely made sense, rambling about the guns and the shock, mingling folly and regret with relief at saving the boy.

“I’m so happy!” she said. “Can you imagine that little lad, shot and lying on the ground?” Then she burst into tears again.

“I’ve been miserable, Will! My father came and he wasn’t what I thought.” She leaned on his arm. “I don’t know who I am, Will. Is that a thing a mad girl says?”

“You’re not mad,” Clementine assured her. “You had a hero and you were disappointed.”

Molly began to sob again.

It was quite a tableau in the drawing-room of No. 4, Whitehall Gardens, when all of them were gathered.

Both Molly and Mrs Peel shook with emotion. Molly stood alone, gazing at the little boy whose life she had saved.

Mr Peel kissed his wife and held his son tightly in his arms for a moment.

“Well,” he said, “except for mud on his breeches and distress at losing that moth, Robert is well.”

William saw the relief in his expression.

The children were removed by Miss Everett, and Mr Peel stood before the mantelpiece.

“This is the young woman?” he asked.

William nudged his sister to step forward.

“My sister, Molly Westall, sir,” he said. “We had an appointment this morning.”

“A remarkable coincidence it has been,” the Home Secretary said. “I must express my gratitude, Miss Westall.”

He turned calmly to Molly and William.

“My wife is unaware of your crimes, Miss Westall, and how they might have compromised this very household.”

Mrs Peel looked surprised. Molly opened her mouth to speak, but Mr Peel continued.

“Here you are with your brother, who understands right and wrong. I see that with help you can find a straight path.

“My instinct tells me that you are not a bad woman, just a misguided one.” He looked at William.

“Have your superior officer at the Runners find Silas Browne and inform him that his days as a fraudster are over.

“If he should approach Miss Westall again he will truly understand the weight of English law enforcement.”

Molly’s body shook with a repressed sob. William held her hand tightly.

“Right away, sir,” he said.

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.