ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant

On The Subject Of Chimney Sweeps

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“How long d’you think it’ll take them?” asked Bert,

“Oooh..not long” replied Boodoo, “Not long at all, the workers was already up in arms and what with that explosion, I wouldn’t fancy Lord Grid-Irons chances at all, he should have hiked it to the countryside but then there’s nowt so naive as the aristocracy” squinting off into the distance he could barely make out the orangey, pulsating, glow of the conflagration that had been St-Martin-In-The-Fields, dense grey-black smoke hovered above the spot. Boodoo felt exultant, with a little help from the Chimney- Sweeps this had been his best conflagration yet. And the fun wouldn’t end there, oh no, by this day’s end he would see the down fall of the one man who had parted him from his beloved sister, Emily LeFevre.

“Fancy a pickled bloater?”

“Nah”

“How about some fried tripe?”

“Nah”

“Well what about a roast potato pickled in turkey twizzler dripping? You can’t go wrong with some turkey twizzler dripping”

“Bloody hell Bert! Don’t you think bout nothing but food?”

“Oi oi! Here they come!”

Now, dear reader, envisage the scene at Grid-Iron square, the sombre and austere silence of three hundred smartly clad policemen, spiked helmets clutched tightly by grim hands, manning the barriers pop-eyed and expectant, and four dozen of her Majesty’s Huzzars, fresh out of the Crimean, sharpening the edge of their swords briskly, their eyes alight with unbridled glee, blood-shed was certain.

“Oi oi! Here they come!” Bert said once again and Boodoo, perched alongside Bert on the roof of Lord Grid-Irons town house simply smiled, “Ere Bert” he said serenely, “Toss us a Turkey Twizzler” munching speculatively on the cold and spicy meat they gazed out over the roof tops and down toward the preparations that were a-foot in Grid-Iron square. Overhead a pall of grey-black smoke hovered and undulated it’s way towards them from St-Martin-In-The-Fields, whilst on the ground all had come to a halt and the air was thick with expectant dread.

“There heeeeere” Bert declared shrilly, for not even his world weary gaze could quite take in the sheer enormity of the mob that had swarmed down from St-Martin-In-The-Fields and now seemed intent upon over-running Grid-Iron Square and tearing it apart, he thanked St. Gove he was perched firmly a-top a roof. And oh my dears! What a terrible sight! What a nightmarish spectacle for young eyes had they the wit to be terrified!

“Aieeeeeee! Aieeeee!” screamed the little chimney sweeps as they bore down like a roaring tide upon the hapless police officers,”Aieeeee! Aieeeee!” that shrill heart-stopping cry was as nothing next to the sound of the chimney scrapers they wielded, like a roaring tide of locusts devouring a cornfield, the chimney sweeps swept over the officers-of-the-law throwing themselves upon the Hussars. Then came the onslaught of the silk mill workers, who upon seeing their children joined in hand to hand combat with the Hussars, went to work themselves mopping up the leavings so to speak.

“Ere what Boodoo I didn’t know ‘erbert Wilkins was capable?”

Boodoo chortled, “E’s capable alright! Caught him trying his hand at badgering once, ‘ad to warn him smart” they both watched as little Herbert, a scarlet coloured band tied around his head, grabbed hold of a horse’s reins pulling himself up into the saddle behind the terrified Hussar. Plunging his fingers into the Hussars glossy locks he pulled hard, jerking the rider back, and causing the horse to rear, until all crumpled down into the ferocious millieux that would in time be known as the battle of Grid-Iron Square.

The two arsonists watched avidly, as wild looking women dipped beneath their skirts to remove their garters and then proceeded to use them as sling shots with which to aim and shoot bits of sharp edged debris at the enemies of promise. Here and there could be seen  police officers staggering under the weight of an enraged child, Hussars galloped to and fro caught in clear panic as chimney sweep after chimney sweep bit their noses, swung from their sword scabbards and gripped them fiercely by the hair. “A-ha!” shouted one Crimea Veteran triumphantly, ” I have you now!” as he gripped a child firmly by his soot-covered throat, ” Oh no you ruddy haven’t!” screamed another child as he flicked him aggressively in the forehead with the flat of his triangular shaped chimney scraper.

The sunset set at its usual pace as the workers and the forces of law and order grappled with each other, until at last only the workers (as well as those injured and near-comatose) remained. Those Hussars and police officers who could, had fled, and quite frankly who could blame them? For they had families to consider, “Its gone quiet for a bit” said Boodoo, “Pass me a spicy bloater” chewing speculatively on the meat his eyes passed over the crowd to a lady clad in a scarlet dress with a tri-cornered hat squarely a-top her head. Madame Guacamoley! It couldn’t be no other! He licked his lips with relish as the lady cantered briskly over the battlefield with the shrewd eyed union rep at her side,

“Comrades!” she roared, here eyes a-blaze with righteous indignation, “Our work is not over!Look around you! Does Lord Grid-Iron lie bleeding on the groud beneath your feet? Is it his loud groans you hear? Whilst your young ‘uns eat dried turkey twizzler mince, he dines on roast goose! Whilst you and yours warm yourselves by hearths heated by a single piece of coal, his face flushes with the warmth of a blazing log fueled fire! Comrades on your feet! Our work is not yet done! To Grid-Iron Manor!”

“To Grid-Iron Manor!” the workers roared their minds a-flame with thoughts of long hours and short wages “Avaunt thee Grid-Iron!” bonfires had been lit hither and thither by the workers who had tossed the various Hussar and Police officer’s uniforms upon them, in the midst of those alternately crimson, scarlet and amber coloured flames it seemed as though the workers had become the very denizens of hell, “Blimey!” said Bert as he prepared to dig into his fifth dried Turkey Twizzler, “They ain’t done yet!”

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Of Webs Well-Spun

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The Union Rep stared across a vista of pale, pinched, human faces, they were the familiar faces of his brothers and sisters in the struggle. In front, the silk mill workers, dark shadows nestling underneath their red eyes and all but a few of them eating breakfast (potatoes roasted in turkey twizzler fat), as they stood there. The match factory workers, mere children barely out of infanthood, scampered and skipped next to them, filling the air with screams of glee, clad as poorly as they were they seemed oblivious to the cold. There were some who could barely walk, let alone skip, white bandages wrapped tightly around crumbling jaws, a side effect of being repeatedly exposed to the phosphorus the match sticks were dipped in.

Behind them the chimney sweeps, their faces all ruddy from being fiercely scrubbed, they were as stolid as they were silent and had dressed in their Sunday best for this meeting. There was hardly a child amongst them not holding a scarlet coloured banner aloft, stolid they were and as silent, but the Union Rep could almost smell their rage. For one of their own had been made to climb up Lord Grid-Iron’s chimney whilst it was still burning, and had paid dearly for that cruelty with his life. As had the Master Chimney Sweep,Turple Sleath, he had been found dangling from that same chimney.

The cotton mill workers were stationed just behind them, whilst the ‘Nunnery’ keepers milled around everyone, for the most part they were ignored since theirs was considered to be a disreputable profession, but everyone had joined together in this dispute over pay and conditions. The Union Rep smiled sweetly at each and everyone of them, they had proved useful when it came to getting the better of a politician in the past, and should push come to shove he would need the help of them all and he knew he would get it. Then there were the music hall dancers swirling their skirts and tra-la-la-ing through the swarms of workers who made room for them and then closed around them and joined in the singing. Prime amongst them was the greatly esteemed Madame Guacamoley, she was clad in the bright red dress that had expedited her ex-communication from the Church of St. Gove; and to which she had added a tri-cornered hat,with arms outstretched she moved amongst the people singing ‘The Worker’s Anvil’ to the tune of ‘Down At The Old Bull & Bush’

” Strike! Strike! The worker’s anvil! Strike for the cause of freedom! For each friend and neighbour, strike for everyone! Strike! Strike! The worker’s anvil! Strike against the factory bosses! Strike against the dim-wit Grid-Iron! Then may we be free!”

A fine woman was Madame Guacamoley, her jet black locks flowing freely down her back and her face flush with the enjoyment of it all. The Union Rep noted with much satisfaction that none of the chimney sweeps were smiling, dancing or singing, their rage was palpable. Cantering back and forth on his horse he scanned the crowds looking for the union stewards who would marshall and direct the masses on the march to Grid-Iron Square, he waved his blue flag vigorously at them as he cantered to and fro. On that signal each produced a whistle blowing mightily on it until at last the comrades were quiet, the Union Rep cleared his throat, ” Brothers and Sisters” he said, “I was born not far from where you stand, at the workhouse of St. Gove the Martyr, raised by me Gran whilst me Ma worked for a pittance, as a cog-oiler at the Grid-Iron distillery”

Booes and hisses greeted the mention of St. Gove, but that was as nothing compared to the potatoes that went flying through the air when Lord Grid-Iron’s name was mentioned, (so far so good).”Torn from me Gran’s arms at the age of seven I were sent to the Industrial Academy at Spital Fields and t’was there I experienced the heart breaking oppression of factory life. Walking six mile each morning to the mole stretching factory, sitting from four in the morning to late at night, steaming and stretching suede gloves and mole-skin trousers. My little arms covered with blisters my little back scarred from the birch beatings I took, and my pay? One Shilling and six pence! One shilling and six pence! for being torn from the arms of my family, one shilling and six pence! For nought, but stale bread lunches and dinners! One shilling and six pence!”

The crowd shouted imprecations, it roared for blood, “Yesterday one of our dear brothers was murdered!” uneasy mutterings swept over the crowd, “Yes! My brothers murdered! Forced up a Grid-Iron chimney where he choked and burned to death! And d’you know what his wages where? One shilling and six pence!” Now the chimney sweeps howled and bellowed their rage, their little faces demonically contorted and flushed beetroot red. “My brothers! My sisters! It has been four decades since my birth, is it right that thirty three years on from when I was first apprenticed, the wages and the conditions should still be the same?”

“No!” roared the surging hordes,

“Is it right that we and ours should find ourselves stuffed into the same workhouses our parents endured when the bosses close down their factories for months on short time, to preserve their profits?”

“No” they roared again,

“Our grandmothers and grandfathers thrust onto straw pallets in a workhouse? No care in their old age? And us to follow them? After years of one shilling and six pence? Nay brothers! Nay sisters! I say strike! Will you strike with me?”

“Yes!” roared the multitudes, their banners held aloft, the crowds surged forward, eager to make their way to Grid-Iron Square and that is when it happened…

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Wendy Woodbine And The Little Match Factory

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There once was a child, and he was young, and tender, and wondered a great deal about many things, this child had a sister, and she was also young and tender, though made of sterner moral stuff than her sibling, who could sit for hours, and hours, gazing at fires, as they crackled and sizzled in the fireplace, in fact, gazing at all kinds of fires, and eventually (to the great misfortune of many), setting them.

Once, the two siblings skipped merrily along broken cobblestones, wondering at the fragile off-white daisies that stubbornly grew in their muddy back yard. But, alas, though both were initiated into the Govean way, only one elected to cling to the path, and so they had parted, the one to pursue her sainted calling, the other his incendiary lusts. From time to time Boodo would think about his sister and he did so now, imagining her bathed in the moonlight flooding through the factory skylight, dancing hither and thither, her dull, grey, eyes fixed reverentially on the testament of St. Gove held aloft in her small hands.

“Now gentlemen, let’s be clear about this, what we’re involved in ‘ere is the art of primitive accumulation”

“D’you what?”

“Primitive accumulation, the discovery of silver and gold (if there is any), and the extirpation of anything what might bring us a little bit of profit”

“Extir-what?”

“The surgical removal of valuable stuff you dunce!….Thieving!”

“Oh yeah!”

“This ‘ere warren, what we intends to plunder, has one extremely, lucrative, piece of merchandise, what we needs to find specifically and extirpate, but there’s also this primitive accumulation what we needs to extirpate also, so that we may profit them pawnbrokers and also….eat!”

“Oh and what’s that then?”

“Ask ‘im” they all looked expectantly at Boodoo, Francis stifled a groan,

“Phosphorus, large quantities of it, enough to blow London sky high if we wanted to” muttered Boodo, If it was possible for human eyes to glow, Boodoo LeFevre’s eyes were doing so now as he contemplated the multifarious, and incendiary uses to which the said phosphorus might be put. He was in seventh heaven though he didn’t look it, and the fact that he didn’t look it made Frances uneasy, for Boodoo’s penchant for wandering off midway through a job, and then setting fires, burning factories down whilst his accomplices were still in them, was well known. Francis expressed his concerns about Boodoo to his mistress repeatedly, but all she did was chuckle as Bert his vagabond-in-arms was doing now.

“Oh Boodoo!” said he, the rotted stumps of his teeth in full view, “You are a card! Blow up London? There ain’t no money in it!”

Frances muttered a quick prayer under his breath, “Gentlemen our time is somewhat limited, the longer we spend here the more likely it is that we shall be detected. Feel free to steal anything you wish, in fact you may dismantle the entire factory” Francis eyes glittered with malevolence, “Just make sure you fulfill my client’s wishes to the last degree”

Boodoo and Bert glanced at each other and then at the little black page boy, ” Complained about our services ‘as she? Lady Grid-Iron we means. We’d like to see her hitch up her petticoats and climb up them ladders that’s hard work that is, then clambering back down them with them boxes full of phosphorus….”

“BISMILLAHIIIII!!!!!!” Frances hissed in frustration, he struggled to calm himself,” Gentlemen if I threw doubt on your abilities I humbly apologise”

Bert snickered, “That’s more like it. Boodooo where’s the phosphorus?”

“Storeroom at the back. You know Ella Ward what has the crumbly jaw?” a warning glance from Bert shut him up and they all quickly set to work, it took less than an forty minutes for them to remove sufficient quantities of phosphorus for indeed an hour was all they had. They were almost done when a sudden commotion alerted them to the fact that somebody else was moving about on the factory floor, hastening quickly into its darkest corners they unsheathed their bludgers and lay in wait.

“Beer, beer, duty-free beer!
Fill yourselves right up to here!
Drink a good deal of it-make a good meal of it,
Stick to your old-fashioned beer!
Don’t be afraid of it-drink till you’re made of it-
Now altogether a cheer!
Up with the sale of it-down with the pail of it-
Glorious, duty-free beer!”

The cheery little voice warbled and tottered its way through the verse, only occasionally faltering, as the grimy faced, teenage girl singing it, swung her hips first this way, then that, twirling her tattered and torn skirt with her grubby hands and throwing a flirtacious glance here and a shoulder there. For an instant Boodoo’s hands twitched and shook with the urge to simply knock her on the head, and get on with the business of removing the final load of phosphorus. But it was what she did next that altered his inclination. Her smile faltered, then crumpled altogether, and with her eyes gazing heavenward and a worn copy of the ‘King James Bible’ clasped to her chest, she uttered the following prayer,

“St. Gove, father to all of God’s desolate children, comfort my Dominic, St. Gove, as he flys to thy side, wrap thy loving arms about him”

“This is blasphemy!” muttered Francis yet even he was moved by the sobbing, supplications of the pale and grimy little match-stick girl whose rags gave off a phosphorescent glow. Boodoo stepped slowly out of the shadows so as not to frighten her, “It’s Wendy Woodbine, isn’t it? Wot you doing ere girl?” at the sight of Boodoo, Wendy, drew back, everybody knew creepy Boodooo,

“What you doing here?” she challenged him, her eyes casting about anxiously.

“Now now my girl” said Bert stepping out of the shadows, “There’s no need for that, he means you no harm”

“Uncle Bert!” Wendy Woodbine exclaimed,”Dominic’s dead Uncle Bert! Master Turple-Sleath made him go up a burning chimney and now he’s dead! He’s dead!” Francis,keeping to the shadows (for his mistress sake), murmured a speedy rakat for the poor, abused, and now apparently dead, chimney sweep’s soul. And when he was done, he said this, “You’ll need to take the girl to Madam Guacamoley’s music-hall and you need to do so now. Master LeFevre! Stay where you are! There’ll be no factory burning today! We will visit Master Turple-Sleath first, and then, well, we shall see”

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Of Wild Roses & Narrow Vestibules

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Lady Grid-Iron was tired, she was tired of reading the bible day in, and day out (and of trying to look demure whilst doing it).Tobias had developed an abiding fascination with the book of Exodus, particularly where it pertained to the sacking of Egypt, indeed he had memorised the entire chapter and never tired of reciting it to both her and the servants. She was tired of crocheting purses and sewing ribbons on bonnets, the common pass time of women born high and low throughout the realm, supposedly,(when in tarnation would she get the time to clean her Winchester rifle?), most of all she was tired of London (give me the prairies any goddamn day of the week!). But she dared not let the irritation show, for one thing, she was married to the honourable Lord Grid-Iron, and that required a degree of ladylike finesse, a degree of turning out, she had hitherto not much required.

And then, of course, there was Francis, her negro page boy, why his eyes became liquid, unfathomable pools, if he stood in Lord Grid-Iron’s presence for longer than thirty minutes, and what was worst she knew what he was thinking. He loved a good hunt, in fact he had a gift for it having been born, raised and enslaved in the Sudan (by Arab Militia men). He had been sold to a plantation owner in the Americas and subsequently freed by the underground railway. The potential consequences of his patent and potent distaste for Lord Grid-Iron might have terrified her, had he not been recruited by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and then assigned to her by Allan Pinkerton himself. “Mah-dear” she cooed, smiling sweetly at the big, old, galoot she had married, “Ah-m tired”

“Tired m’dear? Damn it! I’ve invited Lord Montaperti to brunch! Who’ll entertain him?”

“Montaperti? Why? Such a strange little man. If I but once turn my back on him I catch him rubbing the silk of my gown between his fingers, like a common dressmaker!”

Lord Grid-Iron chortled, ” He is a common dressmaker my dear! He’s in textiles, yes! Quite common and very rich, and since we both have an uncommon fascination with the great unwashed he will lunch with us this morning!”

“And what of the mill worker’s strikes my love? Countess De Lacey tells me all sorts of terrible things about them. Is it true they’ve threatened to burn down the mills unless their working conditions improve and their wages are raised?”

“Not entirely my dear, they’ve threatened to dynamite them. You know, I sometimes wonder why we ever bothered improving the cost of living. Since Lord Aberdeen became Prime Minister we’ve cut the beer duty tax, introduced ‘the right to buy your own berth in the workhouse’ policy and introduced two further alms-giving days. We had much rather they kept their little ones in the industrial schools we’ve reformed, is it our fault they choose to put them to work? The proles are their own worst enemies”

“Ah-shall have cook send up a pot of Earl Grey and some of those pastries Mademoiselle Lefevre bakes, she really is the most delightful find”

“Most delightful” the great galoot replied with a lascivious twinkle in his eye, Kitty Grid-Iron feigned a yawn and fluttered her lashes watching his face grow flush beneath their influence, delicately discarding her embroidery, she lifted her satin skirts and minced over to him, pecking him most delicately on the cheek she sighed,

“Toby mah-dear I do so tire of these interminable brunches with interminably boring elevated tradesmen, promise me my love that this will be the last one…for a while” her large, brown, doe’s eyes met his watery blue ones and as ever he blushed and became a little flustered, “My dear” another delicate peck on his hirsute cheek and she was gone.

He gave no thought to regularly attending Parliament, though he had fought tooth and nail for his seat in the lower chamber, and certainly none as to how he should persuade the mill workers not to make good on their promise to blow up every Silk Mill in London. Kitty supposed the British government would have the infantry open fire as per usual (all the really big guns were stranded some place in the Crimea). And then of course there were the little boat trips to New South Wales, the judiciary had that down to a fine art; caught stealing a loaf of bread? New South Wales. Arrested for rioting against poor pay and conditions? New South Wales. Kitty supposed that sooner or later they’d run out of penal colonies and then where would they send them? The America’s were now independent.

“You sent for me m’aam” Maggie made a small curtsy, little Maggie, so neat and pristine in her prim little mob cap and prissy blue gown complete with frilly white apron, it made Lady Grid-Iron want to scream,”Did you sleep well Maggie? You look awful peaky this morning”

“Yes M’aam” said she, her eyes downcast, “I slept as well as might be expected, thank you m’aam”

“Lay out the primrose coloured water-silk and the satin slippers will you? And then you may run my bath”

Maggie curtsied,” Will you need me to fix your hair m’aam?” Kitty shook her head, “My hair’s fine, would that my contemplations were so”

“Contemplations m’aam?” Kitty smiled wryly, four years had been the most time she had ever spent on any operation in the United States of America. She’d been married seven years, widowed three, out on the hunt for secessonists in Alabama for four, and all of that had been a walk in the park next to being married to Lord Grid-Iron (two years and three and a half days,forty minutes and thirty seconds).”M’aam I couldn’t help but to notice the brooch you always wear, excuse me for asking but m’aam that lettering, what does it mean?”

Kitty’s eyes narrowed, she smiled brilliantly and in that moment she seemed most unlike her feminine, demure self, “Numquam Somni? It’s Latin child, it means, ‘I never sleep’, I’m a lot like you in that respect mah-dear” she said, hugging the child who was her maid very gently.

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My Little Pony

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“Will Scroggins cough up?” Emile asked with a smirk, they’d had no problem setting the fire, since old man Scroggins hadn’t fixed the roof. But he’d been thoroughly suspicious of the miraculous appearance of Boodoo and his fire cart, the instant the conflagration really got going.

“E’ will if he wants ‘is fires putting out” Bert replied, “What’s ‘e taking us for? Clambering up them ladders requires a great deal of expertise, if ‘e don’t like fires ‘e should fix ‘is roof, fancy a beer?”

“Nah, but I will take a glass of sherry, where’s Boodoo?”

“Behind you”

Emile turned round to see Boodo delivering a swift kick to a pitiful looking young lad who’d crept quietly up behind him,

“Dig your sly fingers into my back pocket will you?! Hook it Milty!”

“But I was only thinking to ask you something”

“Oh was you? Thinking to ask me the way to New South Wales was you? You’d better HOOK IT!”

Milty slunk away his arms hanging temporarily by his sides as he wriggled his way through the crowded pub and out the door.

“You didn’t need to be doing that, Milty’s mum’s took bad, been laid up in bed with the cholera for the past week ”

“I bet. The water round ‘ere is minging and she has more than a fleeting acquaintance with gin laced beer that one”

“That’ll be the reduction in beer duty, Mrs Hayes ‘as been talking on it something rotten, ‘er custom has dropped at the nunnery.”

Boodoo chuckled, “Reckon she’ll lower ‘er prices?”

Emile shook his head, “Birch rods she uses, soaked in tubs of fresh cold water, to keep ’em pliant, costs a deal of money to do that. It’s a gent’s nunnery, cost-price ain’t in it; how’s your sister I ‘ere she’s gone into service”

Boodo shrugged, ” She’s cut me off. She says she has no liking for the company I keep and then of course there was the fire”

Emile’s blue eyes twinkled, he stroked his moustache pensively,”What? St Bacchanalia’s asylum? How much did you make on that one?”

Boodo frowned, he rubbed both his hands over the stubble on his head and considered,

” T’was a mere trifle…forty shillings”

Emile whistled, “forty shillings, well I never, there’s a great deal to be said for fixing the roof whilst the sun is shining, particularly when it comes to setting fires”

Boodoo shrugged, “Fancy a glass of sherry?”

Emile nodded “I’ve got a job for you which requires an increased skill set and a certain degree of expertise, if you’ve a mind to do it, we can discuss it over a glass”

Wading carefully through the crowded pub they made their way over to the bar where Boodo’s associate, Bert Marsh, was already seated with a glass of sherry. Sitting down alongside him they looked the pub over, business was booming without a doubt, though Emile couldn’t help but to note that few were drinking beer. For it was taken as a given, that if Lord Aberdeen’s government was giving anything away to the poor, he had to want something for it. And so here they all sat drinking sherry and gin paying twice over the odds what they would have on beer.

” Well, well my boys!” said Bert, his face all rosy and flushed after five glasses of sherry “You’ll never guess what Donny Doyle’s gone and done now! He’s definitely for the rope this time!They found his landlady laid up in the cellar…in pieces ”

“Will you keep it down?” Boodoo hissed, he glanced around “There might be beaks in ‘ere there’s no telling”

Bert nearly fell off his stool with laughing, “It’s a beak what told me! What’s you done with ‘er? They asks him, and you know what he replies? I was merely painting her miniature, if it’s anything to do with you” Bert looked fit to die from laughing, though it certainly wouldn’t have been a laughing matter for Danny’s landlady.

Emile and Boodoo looked at each other, Danny Doyle, coerced supplicant at the altar of Gove, ex-member of the Rouge Bull Posse and currently a miniature painter extraordinaire. If ever there was a man with a speedily increasing skill set it was him.

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T’is late at night and the rowdy, brisk, hustle and bustle of London street life has dimmed to a barely audible hum. The streets are pitch dark and mostly empty; save for Inspector Girdy, pristine in his midnight blue uniform, fashioned from garbardine and replete with several well polished brass buttons. He is patroling Berkeley Square in as leisurely a manner as possible taking in every polished and gleaming cul-de-sac and lamp post. He would be about as likely to meet a thief, here on these streets, as he would be to meet an Irish nun, drunk and dancing a jig. And so, humming a cheery tune and waving a lantern before him, he waddles gently on his way. T’is late at night and the streets gleam and are damp with gently downpouring rain as two slender figures slip out of the tradesmen’s entrance to Lord Grid-Iron’s estate, and hurry off into the night.

“I know t’is better to give than to receive Emily, but I can’t help thinking that this game pie would be better off placed back in the pantry”

“Now Maggie, think of them little ones with their bellies all nice and full, and their cheeks all flushed with joy as they wash that pie down with some beer. Won’t that warm thy heart Maggie?”

They hurried on through Clothilde Avenue where sparkling white lace curtains parted, to reveal candles glimmering on the window sills and Oleander Square where gleaming cobble stones lay bathed in the glow of rows of street lamps. Faster they walked as the downpour grew heavier, glossing the slimy cobblestones which lay half disintegrated beneath their boot-clad feet, and causing the soot encrusted bricks to gleam darkly in the amber half-light radiated by lanterns hung from doss-house doors. Faster and faster, past the darkened doorways in which little children huddled over their tiny slates, on which were inscribed the tenets of St. Gove. Past the sallow faced, haggard looking door men perusing copies of Milton’s Paradise Lost, in-between ejecting surly customers soused on tax-free beer.

Down Young Gilly’s pass they travelled, pulling their bonnets still lower over their brows and averting their faces from lascivious sights, which might other wise have accosted them, as they travelled past one dimly lit side street after another. “Homer’s Odyssey” whispered Maggie as they walked into St Giles Square “What?” replied Emily her mind intent upon what lay ahead, “The last alley we passed where the prosser were beating up a customer, it were Homer’s Odyssey she had in her hand” Emily frowned,”Maggie Settleworth, you would do better to focus thine eyes on the words of St. Gove inscribed upon thy heart, to err is human, but to achieve is divine! We’re almost home child, hitch up thy skirts”

Carefully they picked their way amongst the various heaps of wet clothing piled up at the front door, making their way down the steps that led into the basement that had once been Maggie’s home. As quietly as possible Maggie pulled the makeshift door to, signalling to Emily not to say a word, behind the ragged door lay the family hearth wreathed in smoke from the guttering fire, which had barely heated the room. Quickly Maggie turned to the window restuffing the fragmented glass with the damp rag that had fallen onto the floor. Reaching into her pocket, she removed the lump of coal she had stolen from Lord Grid-Iron’s coal shed. Quietly uttering a pray of penitence to St. Gove she tossed the lump of coal onto the fire, stirring it back to life.

“Your ma’s not here” Emily commented as she unwrapped the vast woolen shawl she’d packed into the bottom of her basket and covered the little boy asleep on the hearth with it, he stirred briefly, opening one sticky glue-rimed eye, “Maggie” said he, “Is that you?”

“It’s me” she murmured gently tousling his hair “sleep” she said “sleep” and for a little while she lay down beside him, wrapping her cape tightly around her whilst she stirred the fire back to life. Gradually the room warmed and as Maggie fell asleep Emily laid a clean napkin on the ricketty wooden table in a corner of the room, on it she placed the game pie wrapped in a linen hanky, and the two bottles of beer which she had also purloined from the larder. Emily stepped delicately over the damp & grimy floor boards towards the huddled form tossing restlessly on the dank floor in the far corner of the room. Digging deep into the pockets of her gown she pulled out a bottle of Dr Purkleberry’s Laudunum, much as she loathed it she could little doubt it’s medicinal properties, having administered it so frequently at St Bachanalia’s asylum. She administered it now and at once observed its quietening effect on the restless form of Maggie’s mother. Nudging Maggie awake she got to her feet, her last act before leaving the room was to move the baby’s cot a little further away from the fire, one family member with tuberculosis was more than sufficient she reasoned. ” Maggie” she asked as they made their way back to the Grid-Iron residence, “Who is thy family’s landlord?” Maggie bit her lip, “Lord Tobias Grid-Iron” she murmured.
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Academies, Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

The Musical Scuttle

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