Sunday, 18 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

Despatch Box

Mr Merry for many years was employed by our Government as a Diplomat, and retired to Dedham upon a Pension of fifteen hundred Pounds per annum for his services.  Upon his death, he appointed me [ER] his Executer, with a very handsome legacy, and his Diplomatic Gold Snuff Box.  As his Executer, and of the desire of his sister I became in possession of his Diplomatic, and valuable boxes, one in particular termed the Despatch Box, with the Crown, and G.R. upon it.  I frequently used it when with my family.  I left home, the last time was in London, and in endeavouring to unlock it unfortunately broke the key, the only way to obtain the valuables enclosed was to destroy the bottom of the box, and the next morning I took it to a Locksmith in order to have it immediately repaired.  In the evening I called for it, and to my great surprise was requested to leave the Shop and retire into the Counting House, where I found Mr Pairce the Superintendent of the Police waiting to take me as a State Prisoner, and convey me without delay to the Foreign Office.  It appeared the reason for this rather unexpected compliment, arose as consequence of an inscription engraved inside the lock stating, “If any person shall be detected injuring this Lock, the informer shall upon conviction of the offender, receive 100£ reward by applying to the Foreign Office”.  The Locksmith lost no time in conveying the mutilated box and key to the Office required, and Lord Palmenston sent the Superintendent to secure and bring before him the delinquent.  When we arrived, his Lordship was gone home but left Lord Minto, in his unavoidable absence.  The Lordship’s first inquiry was, “Who are you, Sir, and in what manner became you possessed of the Government Box?”  No sooner was he satisfied with my honest answers, than he begged my pardon, confessed the Mountain had proved a Mole Hill, and hoped I would partake of their dinner in waiting, which I endeavoured politely to decline, feeling very naturally not a little annoyed at my first appearance in the character of a State Prisoner.

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