Hypocritical Cant

Reflections Upon The Milk Of Poor Law Kindness

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T’is a little after one in the afternoon (that is approximately three hours before tea-time) and  precisely seven hours before Mr Ethelbert-Smythe must find himself in attendance at the home of the eminent politician. T’is only three sleeps before Christmas but a’las the poor are ever with us, for they line the alleyway leading up to the Spitalfield’s workhouse as if the mills and the match factories scattered through London had no vacancies!

Some slouch against the grimy walls of the workhouse alley as if those were the only props that might keep them standing. Others appear to have heaped themselves one upon the other, a heap of damp, muddied, half-filled clothes on the equally muddied, cobbled, path. All form a ragged queue straggling down the length of the alleyway,through the narrow entrance way, and into the workhouse stable yard (known to the poor as the casual ward). Some will be lucky enough to spend their first night in the workhouse itself, the rest will sleep here,in their undergarments (the rules of the workhouse do not permit otherwise), amongst bales of hay.

T’is festive enough for the destitute is it not? After all did not Our Lord spend his first night in a cow shed? Safely swaddled and laid a-bed by sweet Mary in a cow’s crib? And attended by no fewer than three eminent sages? Now step forth the guardians of the gate-way, Billy, Gilly and Alfie Croft, known to all as knows them as ‘The Croft Brothers’ and to their betters as the work house porters. At a glance they can tell who can be touched for a sovereign (ere they be let through the gate) and who is likely to be bringing in opium pipes or gin and will thus need throwing out again. “What? You ‘ere is you Milty? Still on the swell I takes it? Well my boy you ‘ad better hook it! And fast! We ain’t feedin none as is destined for Newgate! Hook it proper!” the brothers advancing as one muscular force, their hint is at once taken.

In they advance as one, the wretched armies of the poor, exposed to the brutal unflinching gaze of porterhood. In staggers Queenie McKillen with her baby, little Ellen, clutched to her scrawny chest. Oh she has tried her best to dress herself appropriate for the scrutiny of them that governs who is fit to enter the workhouse; but it is not these pitiful efforts which gain her entrance. Gilly Porter takes in her fragile, heart shaped face and the worn once-costly garments she wears. ‘Whore’ thinks he and visibly bridles with righteous indignation; but then his hard unflinching gaze takes in the child carried close to her bosom. The child whose pitiful pain-wracked whimpers send chills down his spine, though the heart rending cries are as nothing next to the faint reek of vomit emanating from the shawl she is wrapped in.

Gilly Croft stops her as she reaches the entrance and is about to slide through the iron gates. “Where is thy ‘usband gel?” he enquires but she does not hear him, raising a pale trembling hand to her brow Queenie pitches forward, the child falling out of her hands and into those of Gilly Croft who looking with dismay upon the child, cries out for the infirmary nurse to be sent for right quick. The nurse, or rather such as may be named one, arrives in due course. A gin bottle hidden none too discretely in her pocket, she weaves her way through the stable yard until at length she reaches Queenie, now dragged to one side and propped against the iron -gate “Cholera is it?” she enquires loudly squatting down in the mud to examine the face and hands of the half-conscious mother, “Cholera no doubt” mutters Gilly gently clasping the babe in his hands “She’ll be dead by the morn, t’is Bobbish Todger’s woman”

The nurse rises abruptly she does not look at him, but he can see that despite the gin, a rosy red flush grows on her cheek that is indicative of anger. Bobbish Todger as laid his hand to any work he could for the sake of wife and child and now lies dead; hanged by the neck at Newgate.”She’s gawn! Bury er, an gie the babe to me” gently Gilly hands the child over to the nurse who clasping the swaddled babe to her, staggers back toward the infirmary. There is room for four more in the workhouse, besides the child who need never suffer the scrutiny of the workhouse committee.

Alfie Croft looks over the worn and weary souls that have passed through and now lie slumped in the yard. A handsome man of average height, rippling with muscle, soberly dressed, is never likely to know the suffering and hardship that has assailed and assaulted the destitute souls sitting on the ground before him or so one would think. “Felicia Tarpin! George Wedum! Luke Crudd! Amelia Fard! Get ye in through that door right quick! You’re to stand before the committee this eve!”

“And who is he as ‘eds the committee?” one brave soul loudly asks, “Ethelbert-Smythe!” Alfie replies glancing at the expressionless faces of his brothers, “The Right Honourable Ethelbert-Ruddy-Smythe?!” Alfie nods his head. There is much dark muttering all around at this, for was it not he who shut down the Spitalsfield Orphanage, on the grounds that the toddlers nurtured and nourished therein was fit for work? And was it not he ‘as shut down the Infantrymens’ Rest-Home for the Disabled and then forced men as had next to no health onto the streets a-begging? “Tell us true Gilly! Tell us true!” everyone cries in panic,”Is there any as makes it  through that door into the workhouse?” Gilly glances at Alfie who in turn looks across to Billy, “Some do” they declare in unison, “Now!” bellows out Alfie Croft. “The rest of you kit orff! And into the stables you goes!” this time another brave soul cries out, “I say! Is the straw heated?”

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, The Hearthlands of Darkness

Chapter 1: The Hearth of Darkness

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As we rowed down the Lualaba River, I could not help but to reflect upon the series of mysterious events that had drawn us onto this quest. We had traversed the hinterlands of Um Bongo Bongo and now journeyed through the dense forests of The-Niger-Farage. At the behest of the British Commissioner we had travelled accompanied by a minimal crew of thirty natives, (most of whom had abandoned us mid-route upon the ferocious emergence of an AdministrataIainusDunkannSmithus, who had slain one of their number). The journey had been as unrelenting as it had been arduous, fierce heat beat down upon our sunburned faces whilst overhead giant Um Bongo Bongoan grasshoppers chittered loudly and leapt from tree to tree. On this stage of the journey we had opportunity to make camp, this we duly did establishing a clearing for ourselves and building a great fire in the midst of it, so that we might have light all around.

I took this occasion to re-read the last ever missive sent by my mentor Professor Powell;

‘The darkness and savagery of Umbongo Bongo is without imagining my dear! It is as if we had travelled backwards in time and become stranded in some pitiless, empty void, one where only the harsh strains of ‘Twerk It’ prevail.There are lap dancing clubs here my love! Places of unimagined and near ungovernable horror!, places where the chidren of Eden (just west of eastern europe) have risen up to dance and play! Oh my dear! The wrath of God! It is limitless!’ here the letter broke off becoming a series of dis-jointed rambling scrawls.

Abandoning all civilised constraint we travelled ever deeper into the dense bosom that was The-Niger-Farage. “I say oughtn’t we to go back? I have a feeling we’re lost!” casting off the remnants of my shirt I shook my head, “Not much further now” I said, “The Lualaba lies dead ahead, if we travel north by north west we should soon reach it”

“But won’t that mean we pass nearby Bulgaria?!!” I nodded,

“Only by fifty thousand miles,there is a shorter path over the snow capped mountains of Kilimanjaro but then we would have had to traverse sixty thousand miles within the multifarious dangers of Romania and few have survived that ordeal!”

We journeyed on from time to time stopping to take a nip of gin & tonic from our canteens. At length the forests of The-Niger-Farage fell away and the rushing, tumultuous waters of the Lualaba lay before us. What an awesome sight! But our travails were not yet over! A lengthy river journey lay before us “I say! That is Captain Dunrudy’s tugboat is it not?” and indeed my friends so it was, for I had arranged for him to join us on this, the second leg of our journey.

“A hale and hearty welcome gentleman welcome aboard!” roared Captain Dunrudy “I trust the waters of the Lualaba find you in good health? I had begun to think you would never arrive, for many have lain down to sleep in the midst of The-Niger-Farage never to arise!”

And indeed Captain Dunrudy looked like one such for I observed with disquiet the cauliflowered nose, the severely ruddied face (too indicative of excessive inebriation) and worst of all the partially unbuttoned trousers, a’las that we had ever left London! The river boat journey begun I drew the Captain’s attention to the sudden appearance of pale, wan faced beings drifting along the length of the river bank. The Captain nodded,”The natives refer to them as the Wahiri Hiri, it is an Umbongo term meaning plenty rouble makers”

“You mean trouble makers surely?” Captain Dunrudy shook his head,”They runs money making presses or so I’m told, renowned they is for the troubles they cause wherever theys apt to migrate theyselves, t’is said they are of Romanian and Bulgarian descent” he shuddered, glancing briefly at their pallid and attentive faces before turning back to the ministrations of his tug-boat. The boat continued on it’s merry way and we made progress ever closer to the Nederhiwi Ivory Station, that place from whence Professor Powell had prophesied ‘rivers of blood’ would hence flow. What foul delusions would have swamped his mind as he moved amongst the Umbongo Bongo, a lone English man in the midst of conquered natives, I could not fathom, suffice it to say that it had been his cry out of the primitive dark that had drawn me forth. And caused me to take upon my lone and narrow shoulders a venture I should never have contemplated otherwise. “Awww my god! Aww mercy! Sweet God! They is ere! They ‘as launched themselves upon us!” so cried out Captain Dunrudy as one by one and then on mass the Wahiri Hiri launched themselves upon us and clung tenaciously to the sides of the boat.

“Oh mah gawd!” screeched the panic stricken Captain “We iz gawn to diiiiiiiee!” and it did indeed seem to be the case for the boat lurching fro to fro sped hastily over the edge of a waterfall which, a’las in his panic, the Captain had forgotten to navigate us away from……

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Academies

Oh My America! My Newfoundland!

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The reader will have the goodness to imagine the delicate frisson of the hunt, hunting is not a novel occupation by any means, no, this traditional practice has existed for centuries. It is depicted upon the interiors of the caves in which Neanderthal man is said to have dwelt, it is a part of the Native Indian’s intiation into manhood. To position one’s self in close proximity to one’s prey and from a very specific and precise vantage point. To observe one’s prey gently cantering to a spot nearby, to watch it  stop and ponder, to see a troubled look cross it’s brow. More extraordinary still, to watch as it cocks-a-swagger and struts abroad, parading the length and breadth of the docks with it’s red headed doxy! It takes a fastidious disposition to restrain any sudden impulse to throw one’s target to the ground, to take one’s game captive. To wait. To observe,then to move in steadily and with immediate effect and success, such was the inclination of the man Geraghty and such was his practice.

“Well and if it isn’t my Lord Grid-Iron! Gone to ground in a flop-house by the sea! And with his little red headed moxy too!” The men surrounding Seamus Geraghty laughed at that, their tanned and weathered visages crinkling with mirth at his humour. When Tobias tried to join in the joke all fell silent, their faces becoming mirthless and grim, their eyes ablaze with something that felt a bit like hate, except that Lord Grid-Iron had difficulty defining it quite so precisely. From his birth he’d known that there were those who would envy him his position in life and hate him for it, but he’d always managed to keep those people at arms length. “It’s Seamus isn’t it?” Tobias smiled tremulously, ” Seamus Geraghty? Mary Geraghty’s lad? How is Mary by the way?”

“Starved to death along with my Da, Mr Geraghty, her husband” Tobias Grid-Iron scratched his head, he glanced at the four burly men surrounding him, he gulped as they glared back at him “Oh” he spluttered, “I am sorry” Seamus Geraghty looked him up and down before giving his men a curt nod, “Into the carpet bag with him before I change me mind” Tobias screamed, he struggled, he bit, he swore and all to know avail. Flailing around like a done to death piece of Haddock,he was slung head first into the oversized carpet bag whose clasp was then firmly padlocked. Thrust into that cramped and stuffy cocoon of fabric he started to panic and then passed out. Just as well, for at the instant he was so imprisoned, the door to his lodgings were flung open and in piled three sabre wielding Indian Fakirs. Astonished by the dramatic entree of the three Indians the Molly Maguires retreated from the carpet bag which they had been about to boot and stomp upon.

The eldest of the Indian Fakirs lowered his sword and affected to bow deeply before the Molly Maguires, “You will please forgive us Sahib for stealing that which you have so recently acquired, our need is greater than yours” catching hold of the carpet bag he tugged it towards the door, “Says who?!” roared Geraghty, his face flushed a deep crimson, “Where it not for that Gombeen my Da and Ma would be alive still! Gabriel O’Hara would not be enslaved in the mines, he’d be working his own lands! And Cathy O’Houlihan’s brother would be alive still! Instead they hung him for preventing his family from being evicted! All the men that stand here alongside me, they and their families have suffered for the sake of that baggage! We want justice and we’ll not give it up!” he tugged the carpet bag back into the room.

Navendra Patel sighed, this whole business had become so very tiresome, that Lord Grid-Iron was a terrible man with a terrible reputation was a fact beyond disputing. Indeed so terrible was his reputation that one had to fight one’s way through the many just men who wanted to acquire him, in order to ensure that he faced…justice. “We too wish for retribution, we are the three Brahmin of the Banashankari Temple, he stole an artefact from our temple, this with the help of an associate we have retrieved. But it is our earnest desire that this devil, one of many who participated in the wholesale slaughter of the people of Jhansi, should face divine retribution!”

“We’ve no argument with ya there! If we cart this to the America’s he’ll be judged and hanged nice and swift, the best kind of divine retribution there is!!” the Fakir sighed, “That is almost what we had in mind but not quite, we had hoped to have him brought before the village elders in Jansi and then poisoned”

“Ye don’t happen to know Father Fitzpatrick d’yeah?” Navendra’s face lit up at the mention of the name, for everybody in Jhansi knew the name of the good father, if it were the same man. “The holy father I knew rescued many a wounded and starving villager from the hands of the Imperialist forces, may Krishna curse and ravage them!” Seamus nodded, “That’ll be the good father, forever sticking his nose in where the British didn’t want it! We’ll take this gift” he kicked at the carpet bag inside of which Lord Grid-Iron let out a hale and hearty shriek, “To the good father, he’ll know what we should do with it” the three Fakirs nodded earnestly in agreement but the eldest coughed politely and raised a slender wizened hand,

“May I ask why it is that you refer to Lord Tobias Grid-Iron as it?”

Seamus snorted, “What else d’ye call a man that treats other human beings as if their needs were of no consequence next to his own? To treat those you were called to serve as if they were little more than upright walking beasts. Why, such a man is a man no longer, he has become a beast himself!”

And so dear reader, we observe the first ever Indian-Irish treaty in action, a mutually agreed and agreeable determination to decide Lord Grid-Iron’s fate over tea and biscuits at Father Fitzpatrick’s asylum, prior to carting him off to America or if the fates decree India. And so these men of justice joined arms to haul the carpet bag and its contents down the stairs, out of the front door and round the corner to an alleyway where a horse and cart had been stationed, ready to cart Lord Grid Iron and his pursuers away. Night has not yet fallen dear reader, but there is a splendiforous sunset on the horizon and it is towards this that our vigilantes cheerily ride.

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 God rest ye merry gentlemen

Christmas Eve is a mere three sleeps away and Thomas Holton’s meat cleaver has never been busier. For last year goose was all the rage but this year it is turkey, and Holton’s farm breeds these in prodigious quantities. Polished and sharpened to within an inch of it’s life, the sliver thin edge of Holton farm’s meat cleaver sparkles joyously, and in readiness, for that ceremonious occasion which is yet to come. “Mrs ‘Olton! I says Mrs ‘Olton! Is you ready ma’am?” Mr Holton cries out for today is a big occasion, the offering up of the Holton Farm prize turkey, to be slaughtered and bled out; plucked fastidiously and proffered at great expense to the royal kitchens and no lesser. Mrs Holton shuffles forward, clad in her Sunday best (a silken black worsted gown), with a leather apron fastened tightly around her waist, “Mr ‘Olton I says Mr ‘Olton sir! There’s no need to take on so! The turkey shall in due course be plucked, and singed, and scrubbed, and then sent on it’s way to ‘er Majesty’s kitchens! Only don’t take on so sir! T’will make you ill! T’will never do sir!”

“T’will never do? T’will never do? Why t’is the Queen, ma’am, we serve! And if we serves er well and serves it up well we may be rich ma’am! Acknowidged as a farm of ‘igh repute and with the monies we makes we may does as we wish!” cleaver in hand Mr Holton marches briskly out of his parlour through the kitchen and into the backyard, immense wealth is to be his! He espies it hung around the neck of Holton Farm’s prize turkey!T’is but a short walk to the barn but oh! Horror of horrors! Upon entering that dark and foul smelling place Mr Holton and Mrs Holton observe a most disturbing thing! The turkey has fled! For in the farthest corner of that damp slaughter quarter lies an empty nest. Mr and Mrs Holton marshall the servants; the servants search both far and wide, but the much prized bird is in no place they can find. Oh tragedy! Oh ignominy! But, dear reader, let us become airborne with the turkey, as in prophetic anticipation of its imminent demise it takes flight and wings it’s way over field, and dale, and hill, till it comes to rest, at last, on the roof top of a certain house, overlooking a little scene, being played out on the corner of Ponsonby Street in the heart of London.

“Bonjour Monsieur, l’argent ‘sil vous plait!” a begrimed old lady holds out a shaking hand, Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe glancing down at the hand, grasps it gently in his gloved one and examines it in minute detail. Although decidely filthy, it is a soft hand, unused to hard work, in fact unused to work of any kind, Mr Ethelbert-Smythe sighs, “Parlez Anglais?” she nods, “My Anglaise” she whispers clasping her flimsy, ragged, shawl to her painfully thin chest, “It iz not very good” Mr Smythe nods, he smiles brightly. A French speaking gentlewoman fallen into disrepute no doubt, he knows exactly the palliative that would cure her of her ills. “Connais vous le workhouse? Vous tournez a gauche et allez tout droit, eh voila! Le workhouse!” stooping forward and tipping his hat towards the horrified woman he wishs her a hearty “Good day!” he places his hat back on his head and strides off.

“Madre de Dieu! As ‘e no shame?” whispers the shocked petitioner for alms (who incidentally hadn’t eaten a thing in two weeks), “A curse on ‘im!” mutters the elderly gent across the road from her who has had the great misfortune of being privy to this cheerfully conducted verbal exchange, “Such as ‘im wouldn’t give you the scrapings orffa ‘is quill pen! The work ‘ouse?! I’m waitin on the day of judgement as it says in them revelatiunns orff of King James! For then such as ‘e will be toasted broww’ner than an overdone turkey twizzler!!”

Unaware of the ire he has provoked Mr Ethelbert-Smythe continues merrily on his way to the Spitalfield’s Workhouse, wherein lies the greater part of his business for the day for he is senior guardian there. First, however, he must stop at the the pie shop on Petticoat Lane, there he orders a a game pie such as Messrs Hobson & Flynd are held in renown for, to be delivered to his house in Sloane Square, freshly baked on Christmas Eve. Then to the butchers, Tarquin and Pettership, to order the Christmas goose and finally to Master Redwood’s toyshop whereat he purchases a cherrywood rocking horse for his son, Thomas Ethelbert-Smythe and a Georgian doll’s house for Edwina Ethelbert-Smythe (his daughter).

Hypocritical Cant

It’s Not What’s Under The Tree That Matters

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Hypocritical Cant

Oh Mio Babbino Caro…


0475“If you do not help me Olly I do not expect to live past the end of the week! The Molly’s are out Olly! Out and about and looking for me!” Lord Tobias laid a scented hankerchief beneath his nose and sniffed at it, he dabbed at the tears which trickled down his cheeks freely, dampening the knot of his scarlet cravat. “It’s not as if I’ve done anything to deserve this! I’ve been an admirable Chancellor of the Exchequer, my brilliance has shone out past the confines of old England even to the boundaries of our beloved empire! Why does nobody inquire as to where I am Olly? Why does no one inquire after me?” Lord Tobias sobbed a-fresh into his scented & monographed hankerchief, his head reclined against the back of a plush (and overstuffed) chaise longue and a pale hand clasped to his elegantly waist-coated breast. Oh his was a tragic dilemma! Though he had never been more elegantly dressed.

“Toby my dear” demurred Oliver Micheletti,”One can hardly complain can one? Your wife thinks you dead, Parliament thinks you dead, the Mollies are sure to attend your very public funeral, and once they are satisfied as to your evident demise, and have returned to the Americas, you may resurrect yourself and go on as you always have” Oliver puffed langorously on his cheroot, savouring its bitter sweet taste. Cheroot’s were supposedly ladies cigars; but he had picked up the habit of smoking them whilst fighting alongside the Umbongo Bongo during the siege of Khartoum in the Sudan. That particular fray hadn’t ended terribly well, though he had at least acquired an elegant smoking habit. “True you may have to relinquish the role of Chancellor as well as that of Second Lord of the Treasury” Lord Toby sobbed afresh, “But at least you will have retained that most valuable of assets, your life” knocking back a small glass of absinthe he surveyed Lord Toby’s rooms. Not bad for a man who was being hunted by his former tenants, the relatives of those who had either starved to death during the Irish potato famine, or frozen to death out of doors because he’d had them evicted….from a distance.

“Oh, how can those people hold me responsible for whatever tragedies they might have endured in that veritable Irish wasteland? I was nought but a child at the time! A veritable child!” Oliver smiled sardonically at his none too bright friend, who had, at the time of the Irish potato famine, been in his twenty fifth year, nevertheless he had ascended to the chancellery and made his mark there, as the silk mill workers strike and the Battle of Grid-Iron Square had clearly shown.

“My dear the poor are ever with us. Come now! Cheer up! Do! How is Becca?”

“My constancy has become a veritable proverb!” opined Lord Toby with more tears in his already considerably swollen eyes,”I would have been cast a-drift! Alone in the world! Were it not for her! Mon Ange! Though I do wish she would come to see me more often than she does!” a cloud passed momentarily over his visage,”But no matter! She alone of all women deserves my unbridled admiration and when I am accepted into public life once more she shall be duly rewarded”

“I hear Lady Grid-Iron is in London” Oliver remarked, feigning disinterest, for if ever there was a lady he’d have liked to ravish ferociously it was her, meek and mousy though she appeared, there was a steely intensity to her carriage and a sparkle in her eye that spoke of more than just bonnet beribboning or embroidery en pointe.”Oh is she?” Lord Toby knocked back his fifth glass of absinthe and reached for his opium pipe. His lack of interest in the woman he had gone to such lengths to marry amused Baron Micheletti, who gently despised his friend. For here was a man whose emotionally disconnected approach to economic policy making, had brought poverty, and destitution, to the working class minions of the empire.

Whether sweet England and its people prospered or starved he ate heartily, drank heartily and caroused with abandon. It never occurred to him that the poverty and destitution he so blithely imposed could breed the kind of tenacious hatred that had led to him being holed up in the Nag’s Head. Baron Micheletti smiled absent mindedly at the little white mice he had brought with him on this final visit to his erstwhile friend.”You know my friend, I was once like you, a staunch aristocratic capitalist, but then I met Madame Guacamoley and the rest, as they say, is history”

Lord Grid-Iron observed the mice frolic and scamper upon Baron Micheletti’s hand and forearm with rapt disgust, for it seemed as if the stark white furry rodents scampered and chittered in time to Baron Micheletti’s rendition of Puccini’s Rigoletto. Could mice decipher music? Toby Grid-Iron was so rapt at the sight that he did not notice the Baron pulling out a Colt revolver as he quietly opened the door to the Lord Chancellor’s lodgings. Though he did with horror note the discomfiting sensation of a sudden gust of cold air accompanied by the emergence of a manifestation he had desperately prayed he would never be privy to, t’was shorty Seamus (his former nursery companion) in all his monstrous glory. “Oh ye kin run” hissed Seamus Geraghty, leader of the Molly Maguires “But where’s there to hide?”

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

A Momentary Respite

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There are no words to describe the traumatic shock which overcame  Emily Lefevre upon her  espying Boodooo peering fervidly at her through Lord Grid-Iron’s leaden casements. Lord Grid-Iron’s lascivious admissions, coupled with Boodoo’s aberrant manifestation, were sufficient to catapault her into a state of catatonia, from which it was at first believed she would never recover.

Indeed, had it not been for the compassion of Lady Grid-Iron, the love of Maggie Sitwell (Lady Grid-Iron’s maid), and the selfless devotion of Francis the pageboy, Emily might well have borne out her remaining days in a lunatic’s asylum, such as the Northern Star wrote about and campaigned against.  She had lain prone in Lady Grid-Iron’s bed for nigh on a month, pale and silent, her large blue eyes brimming frequently with tears. Francis had asked for and been granted permission by Kitty Grid-Iron to sit with her during the day, “La!” said she,

“I can hardly see as how you’re presence by her bedside will help any!”

“I miss her pastries and she is the only woman ever to cook Lamb Berrebeis and Couscous just the way I like it ” he replied gravely, “If there is anything I can do to help bring her back to herself, I will gladly do it” Kitty Grid-Iron sighed, and as she smoothed out her gown she said “You won’t desert me will you? Not in the agency’s hour of need…..in my hour of need?” she shook out her little leather riding gloves before looking up into his startled face, “Ma’am?” said Francis, one eyebrow raised,”I am a Muslim, t’is a declaration of loyalty I’m making by attending the bedside of one whose gentle, sweet and refreshing nature is wholly deserving of it. T’is hardly a profession of love. Besides I was contracted by Mr Pinkerton to appropriate Jedidiah Kane Thickett and he is still at large!” he looked reproachfully at Kitty who breathed an audible sigh of relief,”Thank you Francis, for your sense of loyalty and duty”  Francis bowed and quietly left the room. Kitty was partly heartbroken; for there could be no doubt about it, he was in love, she was also elated, the idea of Francis dying alone on some secret mission for the Pinkerton Agency had never really appealed to her.

The night watches were the worst, what with Emily burning feverishly whilst in the grip of some terrible nightmare and from time to time crying out “Boodoo! Noooo!” as she rose from her bed and tried to hurl herself out of the bedroom window . Maggie fortunately was on hand at those times, and ever watchful had nursed her patiently. Whilst Francis watched over the sickly Emily from afar, Maggie had dilligently watched over her charge night after night, proffering much prayerful thanks to St Gove as she did so.

T’was on one such fraught and torpid night, that Maggie espied a familiar figure from Emily’s bedroom window, a short,stocky form huddled close against an Oak which lay just beneath the leaden casement, clutching her Goveen Rosary beads to her chest, Maggie quickly rose and went in search of Francis the pageboy. She did not have far to travel, for he had been quietly taking up his station outside Emily’s bedroom door for quite a while, certain as he was that Boodoo’s obsession with his sister had yet to run its course. “Oh lor Mr Francis!” she cried, “He’s come for er! Boodoo ‘as come for ‘er!”

“Indeed” remarked Francis who murmuring a quick prayer under his breath arose from his lounge chair, revolver in hand and marched downstairs with Maggie in tow. At a little past one in the morning a tranquil silence pervaded the house, the servants were all a-bed and Lady Grid-Iron was away on business in London. In a way Francis was relieved by this for it meant there would be fewer witnesses to anything he might find himself impelled to do.

Walking slowly and oh so carefully through the trademen’s entrance, Frances sidled around the back of the house towards that part of the wall which lay beneath Emily’s window. “Ho there! Miscreant!” he shouted, “Step forward and make thyself known! Or by the righteous indignation of Allah’s most sacred prophet! I will surely shoot you!” there was no discernible movement at first, but when Francis audibly pulled back the trigger and aimed his gun the shadow suddenly parted company with the silhouette of the tree and slid forth into the mooonlight.

“Sweet Gove have mercy!” cried Maggie crossing herself thrice and thrumming the Goveen Rosary through her fingers with such speed that Francis had to restrain himself from shooting them out of her hands. For there Boodoo stood in all his terrifying beauty, his large brown eyes were limpid pools of expressionless, pent-up violence. In the several intrigues they had executed together Frances had never known what made Boodoo tick. And now as he scrutinised the deranged features of this arsonistic madman, he wondered why it was that he couldn’t bring himself to shoot him. He was an aberration of nature, this he felt to be true, but he was also sweet Emily’s brother, a most unfortunate state of affairs.

“Is Emily ere?” Boodoo whispered hoarsely, Francis and Maggie glanced at each other “No she isnt!” they replied in unison, Boodoo took another step forward, his muscular hands clenched “God ‘elp them as tries to keep me separated from my Em! D’yeah ere me! If anyone seeks to keep me separated from my dear sweet sister God elp em!” Boodoo took another step forward and then another. Raising his revolver Francis narrowed his eyes, cocked back the trigger and fired off a warning shot, roaring with pain Boodoo leapt upon him and a struggled ensued, which would have ended with Boodoo’s hands wrapped tightly around Francis throat, were it not for the three Indian Fakirs who slid miraculously from the shadows and leapt upon Boodoo wrestling him to the ground.

“Bismillahi! What infamy is this?!” Francis exclaimed as he clambered to his feet, revolver in tow, the eldest and most sprightly of the men leapt to his feet, delivering a swift kick to Boodoo as he did so, “Navendrah Patel at your service my lord! If I may explain” he glanced towards the two other men both of whom were seated upon the prone Boodoo. “We are in England to right a wrong and recover two assets” Francis raised an eyebrow “Two assets?” he trained his revolver on the sprightly elderly man. Three Indian Fakirs who had travelled all the way from the Indian continent on an errand of retribution (for what other errand could it be?) and lain all this while undetected in the grounds of the Grid-Iron country estate? The elderly Indian bowed once more, his hard, black, eyes were unwavering in their determination”Two assets, the Sapphire of Agar Khan” he grimaced as he said this, but his hard little eyes glittered as he uttered the next words “and Lord Tobias Grid-Iron”

Francis shrugged, glancing at the prone Boodoo he said “Get rid of him first and I will tell you all you wish to know” Francis turned to Maggie who stood at once rapt and amazed at the sight of these three turban-clad strangers “Mademoiselle Maggie” he murmured, “She must never know her brother was here” Maggie’s eyes flashed angrily at Boodoo, “And you may trust that she’ll never ere it neither! Not from me!” sweeping her skirts up in her hands she marched towards Boodoo, delivering a swift kick with her little booted foot and marching just as swiftly back to the house. “Now” said Francis lowering his revolver, “Let me tell you precisely where you may locate your quarry”

BlackVictorianGentleman

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Hypocritical Cant

On The Irregular Indulgence Of A Natural Impulse

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‘It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.’

– Edgar Allan Poe

It is well past midnight when the eminent politician’s Brougham pulls up outside Ah Tack’s Lodging House in Pennyfields. The mood of his driver is baleful for has he not spent the greater part of two hours travelling through every iniquitous den and dive in London, being made to wait in the cold (and the pouring wet), outside many a strike-ridden nunnery? There is hardly a dive in London where his Lordship has not tried to threaten or admonish proprietor after proprietor. And now, here they are at last, forced to canter down into ChinaTown to Ah Tacks, where, much to the suspicion of his Lordship’s driver, the eminent politician is welcomed with open arms by none other than the voluptuous Canton Katey ‘erself. “Oh lor! My Lordship! After all these years! Well I nevah! What brings you ere?! You ave not deigned to sample our wares in some time!” she winks lewdly, chuckles raucously and at last his lordship starts to relax. Sliding a plump arm around his waist she whisks him into the utter darkness of her rookery.

Lit just well enough for its denizens to find their way deeper still into its nooks and crannies but not lit too well. Led by the plump well-rounded hand around his waist, the eminent politician travels deeper still into the lodging house that Canton Katey calls home. It is like fumbling one’s way through a dense London fog, for the air is suffused with the heady aroma of opium, thick and dense and intoxicating. All around him he can hear the pain filled groans and unearthly sighs of men awash on the ethereal shores of opium addiction. The pragmatic, principled side of his nature is horrified. What in God’s name is he doing here? But his fleshly and more carnal impulses prevail, he has no wife, he has no fiancee and there are certain entirely natural impulses which must be sated if he is to remain sane and by God! Sate them he will!

“Off with that hat my Lord! Make yourself comfy! Ah Tak! Attend ‘is Lordship! Ang Sing? where’s Ang Sing? There’s a gent ‘ere needs soothing and no mistake! Fetch Ang Sing!”

Ang Sing, the command is uttered by one mouth, and then another, until the room his ‘lordship’ is in resounds with that name wondrously spoken and until at length, Ang Sing appears. His Lordship is uncloaked, his cravat loosened, he reclines easefully on Canton Katey’s chaise longue and Ang Sing, a prodigious beauty of not inconsiderable girth, materialises and lies beside him. Gone is his irritation at being nay-sayed by a professed leader of the lower classes, one whom he has consigned to Newgate (along with all those intellectually challenged fools who followed his lead). His irritations soothed, his natural impulses sated, he slides into slumber like one drugged.

“Poor Sot! A fine time he’s had of it!”

“Who? Him?” the eminent politician’s driver jerks his thumb towards his Lordship and raises an enquiring eyebrow, Canton Katey displaying genuine affection for  a gent? Well he never! Smirking, Katey shook her head, “The union rep ye dolt! Him as called the mill workers strike! What I should like to know is why ‘im as has the best interests of all at heart should be destined for Botany Bay!” Glaring down at the supine figure of the eminent politician she let rip a mirthless chuckle, “As for him? Such as he should know by now that when we calls a strike we means it!”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would!”

“You didn’t!”

“Oh calm down won’t you! It’ll be at least a month before the symptoms show, plenty of time for you to find other employment”

“He’ll do for you!”

Now Katey cocks her head at an angle and stares at him hard and direct, the smoke has cleared, all the dreamers have gone and a cold wind whistles through a broken, rag stuffed window pane. “He’ll do for me will e? What? Like e’s done for the sons and daughters of the ‘fallen women’ he’s so fond of ‘avin? Get im out of ere!”

And so, dear reader, the driver departs with an eminent politician in tow and a dark foreboding in his heart. Driving back through the near empty streets of London in the glistening, glittering dark, hunched low in his seat he reflects grimly on this night’s doings. All unionised girls were clean, it therefore followed that the girl Katey had given to his Lordship wasn’t unionised and therefore hadn’t yet been given a clean bill of health.His Lordship had always been a man of probity where his natural impulses were concerned, he’d always made sure he’d indulged them with the very best. How could he have fallen so low.

“Terrible! Simply terrible!” the driver utters these words aloud and in the same breath curses his luck. Whipping his horses into a dreadful frenzy so that the Brougham quickly gathers pace he departs the hinterlands of ChinaTown and heads back to the plush surroundings of the eminent politician’s residence in Sloane Square.

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