“We have a sick man on our hands, the eminent politician lies on his death bed and I am come to negotiate in his stead”. Lord Palmerston coughs nervously, it cannot be easy for him to appear relaxed in the presence of men as grim faced as these are,”and so we must come to some arrangement”. The Union Rep squats on the window sill, pipe in his mouth and Carbine in his hand,”Oh must we?” he quietly replies, leaning the Carbine against the sill and taking the pipe in his hand. His eyes flicker briefly down towards the butt of the Carbine on which lies engraved on a small brass plate the name of the manufacturers of the gun. Lord Palmerston’s eyes also flicker towards the brassplate for a brief minute and then, startled, dart just as quickly back to the bemused face of the Union Rep. Neither man says a word for a moment, though both know why settling the silk mill workers’ dispute has suddenly become an issue of the utmost importance.
“You know our terms, indeed you knew them ere we was imprisoned and transported!”. The men that surround him more grim faced than he, wave their guns and sticks of gelignite in the air. Lord Palmerston feels decidely nervous and the Union Rep would not have him otherwise.”Eight hour days, serious negotiations over pay and working conditions. The immediate release from prison of all as took part in the strike and riots and the pardoning of all as are due to be hanged”.
Whispering briefly into the ear of the indomitable Mr Bass, M’Lord Palmerston inclines his head.”You do know of course that two of Lord Monataperti’s factories have been all but burned to the ground and, that Lord Grid-Iron is missing? It is believed his life was most wickedly taken by an as yet unidentified rioter. In light of these unfortunate facst it is unlikely that any of your conditions will be met”. Snorting derisively the Union Rep casts a meaningful glance at the Carbine and then at a certain dapper looking, bewhiskered young man.”Lord Grid-Iron is missing you say?” he casts a glance round his men all of whose eyes gleam with malevolence at the very mention of the rapscallion’s name.”Well, we only have your word for it!” he inclines his head towards the bewhiskered young man. “I am told by this gentleman,that Lord Aberdeen may yet have cause to regret his venture into the Crimean. I am told by others that the Battle of Balaclava did not go well, and that a wealth of fathers, brothers and sons, of good men, may ne’er return from the battlefield”.
Lord Palmerston’s face pales, his small, hard eyes glitter and for an instant he looks like a cornered rat might,”T’is always darkest they say before the dawn and the conflict may yet turn in our favour” he replies smoothly. The Union Rep feels inclined to agree with him,”It might. It would be less than patriotic to say otherwise, but it might not. All the journalists and their War Photographers have said as much”. Now Lord Palmerston’s face starts to take on a most sickly hue,”War Photographers you say?” smiling wickedly the Union Rep nods.”I am told that once one secures a good vantage point amongst English sharpshooters, one may photograph almost anything. As I’ve said our workers are willing to lay down their arms and return to work, for an eight hour day and serious negotiations over pay and improved working conditions. We will also require the immediate release from prison of all as took part in the strike and riots and the pardoning of all as are due to be hanged”.
M’lord Palmerston is dismayed but Mr Bass is confused, to be sure he had anticipated a struggle of wills betwixt his Lordship and the tradesman. But this? This was instant capitulation to a bunch of gnarl fingered, iniquitous felons who had incited their own kith and kin to attempt several acts of arson. One darest not bargain with fanatics such as these!”I shall take your demands to Lord Aberdeen who doubtless, once he is in possession of all the facts” he glared coldly at the young man who scrupulously refused to acknowledge his presence,”will grant all you have requested”.
Clambering to his feet and grasping Lord Palmerston’s gloved hand the Union Rep shook it heartily, as did all the men who were with him (once they had lain their guns and gelignite to one side). Escorting the gentleman and their entourage (two terrified Bow Street officers and one bemused Hussar) to the Newgate Prison gates was a lengthy process. For there were many hands to be shook, smiles to be returned and, back slaps to be endured as the party of politicians and guards made their way toward the relative safety of street and Brougham Carriage. “Well, and what was that?” inquired the Right Honourable Mr Bass once they were safely away from the prison. For, it seemed to him, that the Union Rep had more insight into the obscure workings of government than he did. “Don’t ask!” cried Lord Palmerston shrilly. Climbing into the plushly upholstered carriage he screeched “Driver! Montpelier House please, we must pay a visit to Lord Tennyson!”.
“Well and what was that?!” asked Nathan watching the carriage shoot down the road and careen left into Greville Street. It had been his experience that in any skirmish with the bosses the workers always came off worst. “That?” said the Union Rep with a twinkle in his eye “That is the end of our starvation and ill-paid slavery!” .