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

Chapter 2: The Error of Captain Jamieson & The Way Of The Wahiri Hiri

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In The Year Of Our Lord 1888

My Dearest  Mater,

Having survived the tumultuous waters of the Luabalaba and the furious onslaught of stray Wahiri Hiri, we have now arrived at the Nederhiwi flatlands. Staggering ashore and dragging our provisions with them, the Umbongo Bongoans were soon able to collect sufficient kindling for a bonfire. This they set to building immediately, setting it alight with a flint that one of them had, had, the foresight to clench between his teeth when we had slipped over the waterfall. But once the fire was lit what a ghastly discovery was made! For Jamieson’s dinner jacket (along with his charcoals for sketching) had been lost to the waters of the Luabalaba! Captain Jamieson put a good front on it however (though I noted with much apprehension, the minute tremor beneath his left eye) and we were soon able to make camp for the night.

My darling, how best may I describe to you the savage wonders of the Nederhiwi? The infernal wonderment that suffused my weakened bosom each time I gazed up towards the stars?  The brooding sense of foreboding that overcame me as I listened to the lurid squawks of the Hysterius Ukippus? I can only quote those phrases handed down to me by my mentor in his last missive,‘Gone! The faces of my loved ones. Gone! The works of Louis Pasteur and Purcell and that cultured enlightenment that can scarce be glimpsed at by these primitive hordes! Gone all vestige of  culture, all civilised pretence. For I too am of Umbongo Bongo and all I may do now is twerk! Clustered around the roaring camp fire, we sipped on our gin and tonics and expressed the hope that we might make good progress towards the Ivory Station tomorrow. “Will there be time to stop by Ribakiba?” Jamieson inquired to which I innocently replied,”Hardly, why?”

“I have a fancy for painting some watercolours of the terrain” was his disingenuous response and this I did not question, for it was well known that Jamieson had a brooding artistic obsession with Umbongo Bongo. But later that evening, when all save I had fallen asleep, Pasher Arshad (our Syrian interpreter) voiced his disquiet. “I do not think sir” he murmured,”That you ought to let Captain Jamieson anywhere near the Ribakiba”

“That’s hardly for you to say!” I retorted, but the deferential manner of Pasha Arshad stopped me dead in my tracks and so I inclined my hand for him to continue,”The Ribakiba are infamous for their cannibalistic practices, Captain Jamieson spoke of this in the hearing of several of the boys, indeed, he purchased several boxes of watercolours and a little girl for the purpose”

“For what purpose?” asked I to which Pasha Arshad calmly replied,”To paint the rituals of cannibalism in the minutest detail

“Dear God! Has he gone mad?!” I cried but Pasha Arshad eyed me sombrely, “No more than any other Englishman I have served” he replied. Such is the nature of the Umbongo Bongo my dear, it makes savages of us all!

The following morning we struck out for the Ivory station and were pleasantly surprised to find that we had not very far to go at all. Indeed, but for the ferocious emergence of a tribe of Moncktus Brenchley we would have reached the Ivory station by noon. T’was as though nature herself conspired against us and had it not been for the bravery of the porters, she would have had her way. As it was our path lay strewn with the mangled bodies of several porters, who had, had, the good fortune to impale themselves on the enemies spears for our sake, and so our journey continued.

How shall I describe that final journey over the heartlands of darkness my dear? How may I best convey the creeping on of shadows, fast obscuring the faltering light of day and the relentless heat? So that as fast as we consumed one flagon of beer, another had to be prepared. It is hard to describe my desperate yearning for the journey’s end and yet the dawning horror of its conclusion. To lay eyes on my mentor at last, to observe what changes this brutal terrain had wrought upon his person. We had left the waters of the Luabalaba lapping seductively against the shore and in its place? We had entered a place of boundless terror, of limitless despair,”What are they?” Jamieson cried out, clutching the little girl tightly by the hand. “Lithuanians” Pasher Arshad murmured,”Perhaps even Poles” he continued unsheathing his sword. “Poles?” I cried, “This far inland? What could they possibly want with us?”

Pashar Arshad shrugged,”Who knows? Maybe they’re between jobs? Try throwing some beer at them” we had wrestled with death and emerged victorious but worse was to come.”Pasher Stanley! Pasher Stanley! Where is Captain Jamieson?”. Oh, we knew beyond any reckoning where he had gone, for the little Wahiri Hiri child was not to be found either, but tempus fugit. I could only hope that Captain Jamieson might remember his breeding, that and the fact that he was heir to a lucrative whisky business, and change his mind.

Pasher Arshad’s distaste, on the other hand, prompted him to draw my attention to article thirty-five of the constitution of Umbongo Bongo, which he assured me dealt with the suppression of savage customs,”Cannibalism” he assured me was such a custom. It was my painful duty to assure him in return that the British Empire could never be signatory to a barbarous convention such as this. Furthermore, next to the acquisition of that Ivory station and the discovery of Mr Livingstone, the death of one Wahiri Hiri was of little consequence.

Pasher Arshad paled, he seemed profoundly shocked by my response, though I could not for the life of me see why, after all had he not stood as military interpreter to General Gordon of Umbongo Bongo?

P.S

Parts of this tale are based on a true story, the question is which parts?

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

King Leopold’s Soliloquy

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 “Take up the White Man’s burden–

Send forth the best ye breed–

Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another’s profit
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden,
And reap his old reward–
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–
“Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?”

– Rudyard Kipling

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Pile on the Black Man’s Burden.

‘Tis nearest at your door;

Why heed long bleeding Cuba,

or dark Hawaii’s shore?

Hail ye your fearless armies,

Which menace feeble folks

Who fight with clubs and arrows

and brook your rifle’s smoke.

Pile on the Black Man’s Burden

His wail with laughter drown

You’ve sealed the Red Man’s problem,

And will take up the Brown,

In vain ye seek to end it,

With bullets, blood or death

Better by far defend it

With honor’s holy breath.

H.T Johnson

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Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Jaunt To St Pauls

 

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It is a truth seldom acknowledged that the rich are just as much addicted to crime as the poor. In fact dear reader, one may go so far as to suggest that savage tribes living a primitive existence, present a far more edifying spectacle of respect for person and property, than some of the most cultivated aristocrats in Europe. Take for example, Lord Grid-Iron, Earl of West Peepyshire, Knight of the Purple Garter and Chancellor of the Exchequer. A third generation descendant of General Gordon Grid-Iron of Um Bongo Bongo, it is inconceivable that he should prove anything other than a patriarch and a patriot. Inconceivable! Alas dear reader that this should be the mooted truth, that he, a patriarch of empire and bastion of the countries finances, might be guilty of high treason! High treason! Alas! For the term speaks of conspiracies in the dead of night, of murderous plots effected in murky shadows, of inscrutable wickedness bent solely towards malevolent intent. The destruction of the British Empire and our queen with it!

“How long have you known?”

“That Lord Grid-Iron has been engaging in financial congress with the Russians? I shall have proof of it, once Inspector Depta arrives”

“Inspector Depta? What the devil does Depta have to do with it?”

“The information came through one of his informants, a Mrs Hayes I believe”

“Mrs Hayes? But isn’t she a blowen?”

“Quite so” replies Lord Palmerston examining some invisible stain on his gloves, “I am told that Lord Grid-Iron visits her often and that during the course of several of his…visits he has spoken of his financial arrangements with the Russians”

“With the Russians?!”

“It would seem that he has been supplying them with guns and munitions to the hurt of our cause in the Crimea, Prime Minister”

“But that’s unconscionable! For how long?”

Lord Palmerston is silent, which suggests to Prime Minister Aberdeen that he can’t know the extent of Lord Grid-Iron’s treachery. T’is often said that crime is but the offspring of poor breeding or degenerative disease, but Lord Grid-Iron’s criminality has been more the result of  errant stupidity. Why the queen herself had expressed outrage at the very notion of Lord Grid-Iron running the economy, she had even gone so far as to proffer her Hindu Munshi as a replacement, but the Prime Minister would have none of it.

“The role of Chancellor of the Exchequer has been held by three generations of the Grid-Iron family, not to appoint him would be an insult!”

“Then insult him!” cried the queen trembling with indignation,”But pray, do not place him in charge of the nation’s purse! The man is an imbecile! I should know, he’s my sixth cousin!”. The Prime Minister disagreeing with his queen, raised one firm eyebrow, gracefully bowed his head and hastily withdrew from her majesty’s presence. Alas, that Lord Aberdeen had not abided by her majesty’s judgement! For here they now sat, debating the potential fall of a Whig government .

“As to law” Lord Palmerston continued,”The charge is obvious, high treason but the question is this, could this government countenance the scandal?”

“It could not! As well you know! But what choice have we in the matter? The man has sullied his honour and betrayed our great empire! What other outcome could there possibly be?”

“His disappearance could be discretely ordered and just as discretely arranged, but that would also give rise to a charge of high treason. An undesirable state of affairs, most undesirable, unless” and here Lord Palmerston coughed discretely into his scented handkerchief.

“Unless?” asked Lord Aberdeen a look of desperate irritation upon his face,

“Unless….ah! Inspector Depta! But what time call you this?!”

“Pardoning your lor’ship such time as I could make, given the vicissitudes of St Giles!” Inspector Depta jerked his thumb towards a pew at the rear of the cathedral and in which he had deposited a dishevelled heap of a man. “Up at the crack of dawn an ain’t had a moments peace since…what with one thing….and another” he eyed Lord Aberdeen surreptitiously,”Take Mrs Hayes for instance, running an owse of most ill-repute! Terrible it was in there! Terrible! We’ve ‘ad er in custody since the crack of dawn!”

Coughing politely Lord Palmerston asked,”But what of her clientele?”

“Very polite considerin, middle class gents solely! T’was too early in the morn for the other sort! ”

“The other sort?”

“Upper class gents, here’s my report!” dipping his bear like paw into a pocket inside his coat he pulled out a scroll tied with pink ribbon, this he handed directly to Lord Palmerston who in turn handed it to Lord Aberdeen. A glance passed then between the inspector of the Bow Street force and Lord Palmerston who had perused the ‘report’ a week earlier. Indeed the instant his eyes had fallen upon that foul parchment, he had come to the conclusion that Lord Grid-Iron must be done away with, but how to carry it out? No peer of the realm would contemplate being complicit in an act that could lead to their being hung, drawn and quartered!

“Oh god, oh dear god, oh dear god…” Prime Minister Aberdeen paled visibly as his eyes roved over the report, till at length he thrust it from him and leaping to his feet cried out,”Great god! How could he? Such heinous treachery! How could he?!”

“Indeed” demurred Lord Palmerston his eyes twinkling with a mirth no one else in that cathedral dared share,

“Now the question is, what are we to do about this?”

“Is he still married?” Prime Minister Aberdeen asked, his face hardening by degrees,

“To the American? Of course he is!”

“Then there really isn’t a problem, is there?” he narrowed his eyes,” We have a ‘package’ that needs dispatching, Inspector Depta?”

Stifling a grin the Inspector inclined his head,”M’lord!”

“You have worked with Pinkerton detectives in the past have you not?”

“Yes M’Lord!”

“We require you to work with them again as per the abduction and discrete removal of Lord Grid-Iron. The crown requires that you call on them with all speed!”

“A Pinkerton yer Lordship? In England?!”

Lord Palmerston smiled, “As a rule this Pinkerton goes by the nomenclature of Mrs Kitty Warne”

“Bloody hell! Er!” exclaimed the Inspector his eyes twinkling with merriment, “With pleasure yer Lordship, but pray, what is the address?”

“Sloane Square, Grid-Iron Mansions she is the wife of Lord Grid-Iron!”

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Transported

Of Triumphant Emancipation From Waged Slavery!

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Of all the righteous deeds that ever took place beneath the sun this was the best, of all the pleasures that from justice should ever transpire this was the most enduring.  To see now the gates to Newgate Prison opening slowly and the prisoners both dazed and bemused stumbling forth. T’is a clear, cold, day my friends and one as will be etched in the memories of those who reluctantly did the liberating for some time to come. To have made reparations for a great social wrong and to have been made to do it, for fear of blossoming scandal! Why, even the bells of St Sepulchre ring out exultant over this triumph!

Look there my brothers and sisters look there! T’is the Union Rep! Valiant yet shrewd, heroic and yet longsuffering! Borne away upon the bowed shoulders of the silk mill workers, they whose reputations once smeared and sunk in calumny, now stand vindicated. An open cart stands a’fore the prison gates and as they place him down in it there he stands, waving his arms aloft and waiting for silence. All necks are stretched eagerly in his direction, all starved faces upturned. So many earnest faces, so many hope filled gazes from those who have braved the workhouse and prison for this victory.

“My Brothers and sisters! I stand before you as a man humbled by your sacrifices! For whilst I have slept comfortably upon a prison bed, many amongst you have braved the charity of Mr Ethelbert-Smythe and his workhouse!”.

Hearing the muttered curses and surveying the scarce hidden rage of the workers the Union Rep smiles inwardly, he continues “Ours has been a great sacrifice, family members transported to the colonies ne’er to be seen again if our masters had their way!”. Here and there loud sobs and howls of rage may be heard and still the Union Rep speaks on,”We have lost much my brothers and sisters, so much and yet in the end, they as called themselves our masters were forced to defeat! The eight hour day is ours my friends! It is ours and with it decent pay!”

“How much?” cries first one soul then another, for though word has reached them all, they will not believe it until he as has led them says it is so.

“Five shillings a piece for every adult, two shillings for every child”. Silence and something worst than silence, a thousand faces struggling betwixt faith and disbelief, five shillings? Five? They glance at each other, they look up at the stolid face of a man who has never yet lied to or misled them. Five shillings? Can it be true? After all this hardship and heartache? To return to work with improved wages and working conditions? Without further transportations or hangings? Can it be so? The adults struggle with this good news, but the children roar exultantly,“Hurrah for the Union Rep! Hurrah Hurrah for the Union Rep!”. And soon their cheers are joined by their mothers and fathers, their aunts and uncles, their brothers and sisters and grandparents, in short all the vast, grimy forest of indigent poor bearing London aloft on its shoulders. “Hurrah for the Union Rep!” the cart makes its way through the crowds that throng it and is soon lost amongst them as it is driven back to that place from whence it came,St Giles.

“Can it be true? Are they indeed freed? It seems but a dream! Would that my brother were here to enjoy this sight!”

Wendy Woodbine tilts her beribboned bonnet at the cart as it passes her, “T’is certainly strange” remarks the young man with her, tilting his hat with one hand, whilst the other, gloved in grey leather, rests upon an elegantly carved cane, “One would think he was royalty!”

Not since the funeral of that venerable fireman Master Braidwood, have such crowds lined the streets and thronged the byways of London. Not since the hanging of Mother Birthe-Rugge has there been such high spirits and good humour. See there calmly marching the chimney sweeps, red scarves tied around their necks, their scarlet banners held aloft for all to see. The music hall entertainers trail behind them, armed with musical insturments and waving their bowler hats in the air, whilst the ladies twirl their skirts and dance to the tune ‘Oh Susannah!’.

All the traders along the way have shut up shop, and now they also line the streets cheering and waving their caps in the air,”Hurrah for the silk mill workers, hurrah, hurrah and down with the rich!”. Hurrah and down with the rich! What a cry to freeze the heart and chill the bones of the aristocracy were it to be taken seriously! But only a few of its members are present and they are wholly disinclined to attend to the brayings of an impoverished mob. See there that glossy black carriage with the Westminster Palace coat of arms emblazoned upon it. But pray who is seated within it? None other than the Prime Minister and Palmerston!

“Is all in order?” asks the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston nods,

”Yes, but there were complications”

“What complications? How hard can it be to make off with a carpet bag?! Don’t tell me its still here! Lord Grid-Iron cannot still be in England!”

“A robbery was attempted by American secessionists and foiled by the Bow Street Police”

“By whom?!” The Prime Minister looks horrified but Lord Palmerston smiles,

“Mr Thickett-Kane whom we now have under arrest, fortuitously Inspector Depta was on hand with his men and so was able to take matters in hand”

“But what would he want with Lord Grid-Iron? Please tell me they shot the ingrate! The carpet bag, where is it now?”

Lord Palmerston pulled out his pocket watch, glancing down at it he said, “At this precise hour he’ll be aboard the Resurgam and on his way to the Americas, I don’t expect we shall ever lay eyes on him again

“But what if he should think to return?”

“He will already have been apprised of how much the government knows, about his business dealings in the Crimea, t’is an act of high treason he has committed. I feel sure that once he comes to his senses he will consider his imposed exile a mercy!”

“Excellent! Now tell me, how goes our venture in the Crimea?”

One hundred and eighty dead from the failed Light Brigade charge in Balaklava, five hundred dead at the Battle of Inkerman…in fact this ‘venture’ fares not very well at all. Truth be told with statistics as inconvenient as this mounting up like the bodies of the dead, t’is a relief that such as Lord Tennyson exist. “Why such soaring prose as his stirs the patriotic and urges us on to further bravery, for ours is a just cause!” declares the recalcitrant Palmerston. The carriage glides on through the crowds with its politicians deep in discourse and wholly oblivious to the power of the poor that will, in due course, bring about the downfall of the cabinet, if these politicians but knew it!

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