Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Inspector Depta – Contrapasso

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“Is e dead?”

“Has hell frozen over? Pour that Claret down iz throat! Gently, gently! He’ll come round soon enough!”

“Oh am I glad you iz ere! What a to do!”

“Iz he often like this?” asked the inspector looking down at the semi-conscious politician, Master Fluttock favoured the inspector with a grim look.

“E’s bin like this ever since Hemphill-Skinner died, he weren’t too bothered about the death of that chimney sweep, the one what burn’t to death up that chimney, but when Master Hemphill-Skinner croaked it, well, its a fine day when he ain’t reeling rown’ the workhouse reekin’ of Claret!”

“What he die of?” Master Fluttock scratched his head,

“Well that’s the puzzle of it, he was put on the Cholera ward but that t’aint wot he died orff”

“What did he die orff?”

“They said it was an Opium overdose, but iz neck woz broke!”

“You sayin t’were neglect?”

Master Fluttock glanced slyly at the politician who now ran the workhouse, “Something’s amiss that’s wot I’m tellin ye! Though there’s no provin of it! ”

“Ere ere! He’s come round!”

When on a case there’s nothing the inspector likes better than a compliant suspect, for when a predicator is thoroughly themselves they are disinclined to say what they ought. Let a little vulnerability, a little weakness, creep in and the tale unfolds altogether different. And so like a tender-hearted nursing mother the inspector delicately helps the workhouse guardian into his armchair, whilst Gerty Fluttock administers little sips of Claret. The inspector notes the intermittent shuddering and the tremulous lip, the occasional tear (a form of suppressed repentance for something though he didn’t know what as yet), and the death-like clamminess. Now what form of crime (as yet unconfessed) could e’ ave committed to make him take on so?

“Come, come” says The inspector, “You’ve had a fright that’s clear”

“A terrible fright” the workhouse guardian confesses, “A most terrible fright! I thought he was alive you see, but he can’t be, he’s dead! I should know”

“Who’s dead?” asks the inspector

“Hemphill Skinner! Hemphill!”

“Be calm sir, be calm, ere, take another nip of Claret” the Right Honourable politician takes several, whilst the inspector tries desperately to recall Master Hemphill-Skinner. He recalls a man with a fondness for Madame Ah-Tak’s Opium Den, a pallid looking man with tiny pallid hands but what had he to do with the guardian of the workhouse?

“Hemphill-Skinner…..” the inspector mused, he knew of some scandal linked to that name, but in what capacity he couldn’t fathom, but t’was too late to enquire further of Ethelbert-Smythe, for he had recovered his composure sufficiently enough to rise from his seat. The inspector noticed how Fluttock quickly donned his customary subservience, noticed how he stooped over and shuffled to and fro seeming much older than his forty or so years. He took a powerful bit of notice too, of the well fed gentleman who, whilst others starved and died of cold, sat in his well heated study having nightmares about a man of no social standing, t’was most curious.

“You must forgive me for incommoding you inspector”

“T’is nothing, I am glad to see you are yourself once more and yet I fear that I must add to your griefs, by bringing to your remembrance one whom you consigned to Bethelem Asylum over a year ago, a Master Doyle”

“What of him?”

“T’would seem he has been released”

“Highly unlikely, he has been in the medical care of Dr Garrick for much of the time”

“Nevertheless one fitting his description has been seen in certain parts hereabouts”

“Whereabouts?”

Inspector Depta smiled the smile of a disinterested cynic, one who was ever used to the rich poring over the deeds of the predicatorial, only as they pertained to their own safety and well-being. Why the same murderer that would be wrestled to the ground and near strangled for ambling along Downing Street, could drag his prey into the back streets of any impoverished neighbourhood (save St Giles or Bow Street) and have near murdered his victim ere help would arrive.

“T’would appear Master Doyle az bin seen in certain quarters of the rookery…St Giles Rookery”

“Impossible!” the master of the workhouse declared none too convincingly. Oi oi! Thought the Inspector though he darest not exclaim it, so all was not well at the Bethlehem either? Small wonder since it was clear that the gent had other distinctly criminal matters on iz mind, matters which the inspector doubted not he would need to look into, very closely.

“Well, if you say the mad miniaturist is still confined, then still confined e must be”

God help you if he ain’t, he thought but didn’t say, god help you and the rest of us! The inspector recollected the last occasion he’d been called on to attend one of Doyle’s murders, the putrid stench and all them body parts, whose idea was it to put the idle rich in charge of asylums and such? He’d have a word with him if he could! He could list a dozen murders his men needn’t have investigated save someone had forgotten to lock a ward door, and out a murderer ‘ad wandered! And always the same polite enquiry.

“Excuse us yer lordship, but we az a murder your lordship, what we is certain could nevah ave bin committed your lordship, coz we locked the codger wot normally does it, in your gaffe!”

“Really?” the dimwitted peerage holding asylum trustee would reply,

“So far as I know my insane asylum is reputably run and most humane, he can’t possibly have escaped, it must be some other you seek!” it must be some other you seek. The inspector who had spent so many hours walking across, over and beneath London, that there was no corner of the city his eyes didn’t know. Show him a break-in and the tools used and he could tell you which quarter of London the robber hailed from. Recount to him the manner in which a cove had been robbed and the weapon he was threatened with and he would tell you what rapscallion had done it. It must be some other you seek, these were words you used with one as had never worked the Seven Dials nor Bow Street. If he sought a man he was the man, oh these idle rich who knew the cost of everything and yet the value of nothing!

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Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Very Modern Substitute For Whipping

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There are odd corners in the brains of many of us, corners which are suffused with queer fancies, and thus should be kept well out of sight. But should these slight, queer, fancies -which some might choose to call ‘an attack of consciense’-be deemed madness? Nay dear reader, for if some of us were used according to our desserts in that way, who then should ‘scape the modern substitutes for whipping?

Consider the most estimable Ethelbert-Smythe MP, who upon having seen Lady Clarence to her carriage and the Reverend Farthengrodden to his, now stumbles fearfully towards his study. The vast empty corridors of the workhouse echo beneath his feet, its interiors are as dark and dank and forbidding as any empty house would be, for the wards of this supposed sanctuary are half full. Many have whispered that it is his intention to do away with the workhouse and keep only the casual wards, this despite the poor who daily clamour at his doors for want of hearth and home.

His richly furnished study is the only part of the  workhouse supplied with a vast well lit fireplace, and comfortably upholstered furniture, yet the guardian enters his domain with a most unexpected timidity, with a degree of apprehension and agitation one would not expect of he who had so dramatically shrunk the population of a workhouse, from nigh on seven hundred to a hundred and fifty. 

Indeed, as guardian of the workhouse his first act was to ensure the creation of a well stocked study and office, a warm and comforting place, where prodigious amounts of Claret might be consumed, cigars smoked and business conducted. His second was to extend the horse barns considerably, transforming them into the casual wards of the workhouse. Consider dear reader, a practice which when first suggested, horrified Miss Peepy the elder,

“What?!” cried she indignantly, “Are we to debase the poor still further, since they have no employ, by likening them to horses and what pray tell, shall we be feeding them? Hay?”

“If they’re berthed for the night, and sent out to look for work during the day is there any need to feed them?” the right honourable Ethelbert-Smythe observed coolly. On hearing his reply Miss Peepy felt an impending sense of looming disaster, was it possible that the poor would allow themselves to be lodged as horses and starved without there being consequences? And of the direst sort? She suggested this to the indefatigable workhouse guardian whose reply was this,

“Consider the Scottish fir-”

“The Scottish fir?!” cried Miss Peepy disbelievingly, ” Now we are to liken human lives to lumps of wood? Take Care Ethelbert! That you summon not up the hordes of vengeance! Remember the Grid-Iron Riots!”

Remember them? Why it had taken him six hours to reach his his home! The selfishness of the poor! The sheer wanton, violent, selfishness, it was positively Malthusian! Indeed it has proven most Malthusian once the fatalities (his lordship included) were counted.

“Rioting within the rookery? My dear, the environment has been favourable for so long, that the populace of this slum, have begun to mistake Spitalfield’s Workhouse for a tavern, in which an abundance of provisions may be devoured, and nought paid for them. They are far too comfortable to consider rioting! T’is time we discomfited them!”

And so his suggestions were considered by all the workhouse trustees, voted upon and passed. This included the apprenticing of all children past the age of four to apprentice masters of the direst sort. Why, Master Turple-Sleath had apprenticed and near killed a dozen chimney sweeps, before he lit upon Dommy Woodbine, the child whose cindery death had provoked the Grid-Iron Riots! Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe braved out the death and since he had taken charge workhouse commerce had flourished, and the costs of keeping the workhouse poor had diminished to a most inconsequential amount. On the whole his reforms had been feted, though not by Miss Peepy. Miss Peepy being unmarried and therefore prone to frequent misdirected tendernesses of heart.

Yet in the early hours of each morning he felt himself plagued by nameless and terrible fears, and he suffered increasingly from nightmares, such terrible nightmares! T’was as if he were being mercilessly, sharply, prodded by the stern finger of god, and yet he knew himself to have committed no sin, no obvious act of wrong. Perhaps he had been a little tardy in his prayers, a little lethargic in his recitations of The Goveen Creed, perhaps that was it.

Fatigued and a little overwrought from long working hours (and ever shortening nights of sleep) he slumped into his favourite study chair, but oh horror of horrors! A clammy hand firmly grips his own, holding it fixed beneath its hairy grip. Shrieking fearfully his gaze alights on that place where the phantasm that touched him should be, but there is no one, nought but him, pale and trembling before a roaring fire.

Sitting down once more, he pours himself some brandy in an effort to calm his nerves and after several quick gulps it appears to do the trick, but then he espies something wrong with the fireplace. Indeed he fancies that something or someone is moving amongst the flames, and frighted well past all his previous allayed terror, he leaps out of the armchair, only to be held fast by a grimy hand that has slithered out of the flames and snaked itself around one of his ankles.

“Have you forgot me?” croaks the face that accompanys the hand, it glares up at him out of the flames with a degree of malice that does not bode him well at all, “T’is I! Master Hemp-Hill Skinner!” the soot covered visage staring up at him seemed goatish and crafty and its eyes! It’s eyes!

“Aaargh! Aaargh! Cthulu fd’aarghen!!!!” Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe screams as though a nameless terror has clutched him by the throat and is now in the process of tearing him limb from limb. He screams as if the very hounds of hell are gnawing and gnashing at his ankle, he screams until he is hoarse with screaming and then he faints. Outside, on the streets the sun is shining ,and those poor who have been allowed into the workhouse, go about their daily labours with pure hearts and a clear consciense.

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

Lupus Est Homo Homini

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There is much to be said for dark, flowing locks and large dark eyes with a hint of the gypsy about them, And what maid will not swoon at the sight of one whose masterly gaze complements their muscular and athletic build?

Alas, then, that this gentleman’s eyes are set far too close together, and though they are a most striking azure blue, their gaze is so eerily transfixing that one might fancy oneself a specimen in some zoo.

Shorn of head, with a powerful muscular build, the gent is impeccably dressed, from the dapper midnight blue suit to the grey kid-skin gloves upon his delicate fingers. So impeccably is he dressed that he has drawn the attention of that estimable inspector of the Bow Street Force who fancies that he recognises that face and the criminal history tied to it. The gent stands out and now the inspector, lurking in a nearby doorway observes him closely as he enters his lodgings.

“T’is im beyond a doubt! The miniature portraitist extraordinaire! Well I nevah! But e’s locked up ain’t e? What calumny is this?!”

The inspector knows not as we do dear reader, that the vicissitudes of life are many. For who in their right mind would entrust the care of lunatics to attendants thriving solely on a diet of gin, rum and porter? Danny Doyle’s attendant at Bethlem Asylum was more sober than most, and with her ‘most pleasing’ physical attributes she soon succumbs to Danny’s charms. Using what few oil pigments he had secreted about his person he readily painted her portrait in miniature, and so striking was his rendering the poor girl burst into tears, and that was her mistake.

“Ain’t no one never thought to have me physical aspect painted save you” she sobbed disconsolately.

Danny was dismayed, streaming tears left her grimy face most disconcertingly streaky looking. He glanced irritably at the maid then back at his rendering of her, now it looked imperfect. He decided there and then that his talents had not yet reached the height of their perfection; a little something extra was needed. And so another fell victim to the dismembering lunacy of Master Doyle. How he escaped, and to what end will become readily apparent as our story unfolds, lupus est homo homini my friends!

“Nah” muttered the inspector watching the lit candle upstairs, “That ain’t right, there’s something very amiss” and strolling across the street he knocked briskly on Mrs Byers front door, she was not long in answering, “Yes?”

“Mrs Byers is it?”

“None other, and you are?”

“Inspector Depta of the Bow Street Force, you az a new lodger az you not? I spied im comin in?”

“Az I? I’m at a loss as to who you mean?”

The inspector grimaced at this for there’s nowt so vague as rookery folk when they’ve a mind to be.

“Az you a gent wot goes by the name of Master Doyle, Master Danny Doyle?”  the inspector watches her reply closely; for there’s many a lodging house lady who has been romantically ‘took’ by a murderer or housebreaker. Even to the point of joining in the crime themselves! He should know, he’d collared his fair share of em!

“Wot? E az painted iz landlady’s portrait, and afore he chopped er to bits?” she replied looking suitably outraged, “ I opes not! So far as I know I’m boardin none like that ere!”

Abundans cautela non nocet dear reader, the finality with which Mrs Byers spoke, the air of innocence she cultivated as she spoke, these things made the hackles on the back of his neck rise and he knew she was lying. 

“My mistake dear lady” he crooned a shark-like smile flitting across his handsome face,

 “You’ll not take it amiss?” he added,

Mrs Byers smiled, her eyes a-glitter with malice,

“ A member of the detective force rolls up on my highly respwectable doorstep, wot ain’t been disgwaced in this way before, and I not to take it amiss? You may find such as that down at the workhouse, but not ere, I cater to a different sort!” and with that she slammed the door. The inspector, stepping back from the front door looked up at a first floor window where he saw the lace curtains faintly twitch, and behind them a shifting shadow. 

“I see’s you my lad, I see’s you and in time I’ll nab you!” he mutters as though each word Inspector Depta mutters can’t be heard by one and all as if he had spoke it aloud. A murdering miniaturist in the Seven Dials? Just down the road from Saffron Hill? Ain’t e suppose to be in Bethlem Asylum? I’ll wager Master Ethelbert-Smythe don’t know e’s gawn!

“E’s there! Upon my honour t’is im! What the devil’s e’ doin owt? Does Ethelbert-Smythe know e’s owt?” but the truth of it was that what with the death of Donny Woodbine on his consciense, and the scandal of Mother Birtherugge’s trial and hanging, would he have noted his escape? For beyond doubt this was an escape.

“Master Doyle weren’t expected to be owt this soon, he weren’t expected to be owt ever! Well nah ere’s a to do! But I’ll ave you my lad” he declared quietly and firmly looking up at the chamber window once more. “I’ll ave you eventually, the ole Bailey ain’t nevah bin cheated yet and neither ave I!” and with that he sauntered off.

Inspector Depta of the Bow Street Police traversed cobbled street upon cobbled street and all of them were quiet. Folks intent upon gonophing slunk back into the dark of the alleyways, girls plying their trade and mingling it with a bit of badgering, scuttled off to the Sapphire of Jhansi for a dram. The partakers of Tom Gin wiped their mouths carefully and reluctantly travelled back to the tottering tenements they were obliged to call home.

“What a gent! What a handsome gent!T’is the courageous Inspector Depta is it not? Detective par excellence of the Bow Street Constabulary!”

Some might be heard to whisper as the inspector’s muscular physique swaggers its way along Martyrs Lane and up Saffron Hill, or mayhap not, t’were all one to him. This was his kingdom,these were his streets.

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Fortuitous Convergence of Natures

Gin-Lane-by-William-Hogarth

“Is this not truly moving my dear? Perceive how they help each other climb over the overturned wagon, that they may equally partake of the spilt gin!

T’is a bright, sunlit day in London and some of that light and euphoric bliss has lit upon St Gile’s Rookery. For a much inebriated Master Scroggins has upturned his wagon in the rookery’s cobbled streets, smashing several barrels of gin and creating much unintended cheer as a consequence.

“What a debauch!” declares The Headmaster, “ Why they sup as if their very existence depended on it!”

Abilene Montaperti is not so quick to condemn, she has visited the Salvation Army outpost here and has seen first hand the abject miseries of the rookery.

“As well they might my love, observe those gaunt and sallow faces! The docks have placed all their workers on short hours and there’s little enough work to be had at the mole trouser stretching plant on Saffron Hill! Let them sup to their hearts content!”

“T’is both a shame and a disgrace nonetheless! Are there no workhouses? Drinking in the streets is a most regrettable past-time, are there no prisons for them?” enquired The Headmaster, who, but for the efficacious intervention of Master LeFevre would have wound up burnt to a cinder during the Tooley Street Warehouse fire.

“Oh there is a workhouse and there are also prisons, though I’ve frequented neither meself” replied Master LeFevre nonchalantly, “I’m told the Spitalsfield Workhouse services all who live here, though the place is barely filled. They ain’t letting no one in.”

“A workhouse failing in its duty towards the poor? What nonsense!”

But Boodoo merely smiled, “There’s but a hundred souls rattling around on them wards! The rest his lordship packs into the stables in their underwear, like cattle!”

Abilene Montaperti paled at the mention of the workhouse whose infamy had spread through the rookery like cholera.

“They gets given their clothes the following morning! Master LeFevre continued, “So as they can look for work!”

“But there is no work!” Abilene wailed,

Boodoo shrugged, so long as he could remember the ways of the exacting rich had ever been thus, imperiously demanding the impossible, whilst the poor, deeply mired in the gutter, strove to meet the exacting commands of their masters.

“If there’s no work they spends the following night in the stables, not the workhouse”

“Outrageous! Who, pray tell, is the workhouse guardian?”

“The most honourable Ethelbert-Smythe” Master LeFevre sneered “They do say he is most loved by the workhouse patrons, he has saved them so much money”

“Ethelbert-Smythe say you?”

“You have heard of him sir?”

“I have buried nigh on a dozen persons whose relatives blamed him for their deaths! There is talk of dark goings-on, of things most sinister in that place!”

“In that place?”

“The Cholera ward of Spitalsfields they say takes many in, though few come out”

“Few say you?”

“Indeed, and the tales they bring with them…most terrible so they say”

“That would follow” replied Master LeFevre looking curiously at the Headmaster and then at the Spitalsfield’s Workhouse whose rooftop loomed over every other tottering  edifice in St Giles,

“They do say he runs a tight ship, but he has of late taken on Dr Garrick and iz reputation, is devilish, I wouldn’t trust that one administering a dose of Laudanum!”

The Headmaster, who had of late taken up grave digging as a means of earning his keep, looked on at the Bacchanalian liquid feast. A healthy flush and expressions of radiant joy could be seen upon the faces of all. Mothers stooped down to douse their linen handkerchiefs in the clear liquid and squeeze the potent droplets into the toothless maws of the elderly. Children little older than ten soaked their scarves in vaporous pools of gin sucking on them as they staggered off in search of work. The dusty, dirty streets reeked of it , the cobbled streets glistened with it, parents wafted the vapour into the nostrils of their infants. For the earlier the introduction of gin, the happier their working lives would be.

“Shocking my dear!”

Disgraceful, yet wholly understandable!” replied Abilene

“Never did agree with lazy thieving!” was Master LeFevre’s reply

“Anansi! Anansi my son! Where is you! We’ve a load on!”

and off he wandered in search of the child he had of late adopted. Observe, dear reader, the starvation and want  seeping from the very pores of the gin sodden poor! Why, the rats scurrying about their streets, the cockroaches nestled in their slums, indeed the tics buried in their mattresses, ate more palatially than their owners the residents of Saffron Hill in the rookery of St Giles!

“Where is you my boy? Anansi!”

“Here papa! I is here! Over by the Saffron stall!”

The child pondered wonderingly over the presence of such wondrously scented flowers, perched in abundant profusion, upon a rickety stall outside his home, the Sapphire of Jhansi Pub. The deep purple flowers reminded him of the African Violets his mother had kept and tended at home, before the dispersal of retribution.  Her flowers had oozed an almost suffocating scent, these smelt more like lush hay. 

“Six pence a bunch”

“Why six pence and not a shilling”

“The rich use Saffron to flavour what they eat. Down ere they use it to keep down the stench of the sewers, and the rotting plaster as it peels away from the walls. I do better trade down ere than I do in Covent Garden!”

“Anansi hook it! Them beer barrels can’t wait all day and I ain’t liftin em by meself! ”

“I’se comin papa!”

T’is a wonder to all as inhabit London, that one such as Boodoo LeFevre, at one time the very devil incarnate when it pertained to setting unwanted and unwarranted fires, should now be pater-familia and of such a child! Hazel of eye, walnut skinned, and ferociously protective of his doe eyed father whose intense love of fire in all its forms, made him the terror of half of London (the other half kept themselves most diligently insured against unsolicited fires as a consequence). But our attention dwells not unduly upon them as yet, but upon the shaven, bow legged and well turned out gentleman who has lately taken up residence at Mrs Byers guest-house.

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Uncategorized

The First Appearance of a Peculiarity

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Natural selection in microcosm, the estimable Darwin perceived that which the ruling classes had practiced for centuries, and was astounded by it. T’was the process by which our great empire and its worthy custodians had ruled the world entire!

Alas, little did they realise that whilst nature may be trusted generally to do its work, at times a vicious whimsy causes things to go astray. Hence the tragic demise of Lady Edina Pembroke, who upon sensing a genetic deficiency in Lord Henry, deemed it expedient to abandon him at birth on a Cornish cliff top. 

Alas that her sacrifice resulted in her own premature death from Pneumonia and the rescue of the child! The family of Lord Hesketh-Elderberry was far more discerning. Lord Wilberforce bore a most sadistic disposition and a minor physical defect, but this wasn’t deemed so debilitating as to necessitate his demise. His sister however, nursed an obsessive fondness for her servants, their children and their grandparents. 

To forestall this abhorrent and degenerative progression the family sent her to a Goveen Priory at the age of five. However having entered holy orders Wilhemina was hastily sent home for stealing the Abbess’s treasure chests. She had been caught in the middle of Molten Tussock Minor tossing the Abbess’s gold into the grimy hands of the poor. T’was obvious the child was not cut out to sit at the feet of Gove and so a family conference was called to discuss her fate. The Dowager Hesketh-Elderberry suggested the family watch the girl closely and wait. Mayhap further imbecilic traits would surface obliging them to consign her to St Bacchanalia’s Asylum, mayhap not.

A decade passed as both children evolved and their intellects burgeoned and flourished and then, one summer’s eve, the Dowager Hesketh-Elderberry disappeared. T’was a moonlit night, the night of the village ball, when the aged Dowager was escorted up to her rooms never to be seen alive again.

The estate would have passed to Lord Wilberforce in time, were it not for one inescapable fact, his deranged and obsessive devotion to taxidermy. Many such gory specimens of his flawless talents were to be found, scattered throughout the rookeries of London. Though, to be sure, the police were a little confused as to who to attribute his murderous handiwork to. The Dowager Hesketh-Elderberry’s cadaver was discovered a little after the rookery murders had mysteriously ceased. There she sat, propped up in a rocking chair in a corner of Lord Wilberforce’s study, unsmiling, grim faced as ever, decidedly dead and pristinely stuffed. Upon this discovery Lord Wilberforce’s manservant turned pale and fainted, the chamber maid ran off to fetch her ladyship who in turn sent for the Reverend Unctuous.

“Natural selection” he sombrely declared, “Has accomplished its work! Consign the loon to St Bacchanalia’s Asylum! Rest assured his further degeneration will be kept in check!”

Alas then that fifty years later he should have made his escape! And L’eauregarde with him! Oh calumny! Oh perturbation! But worse was to follow, for even amongst the aristocratic breed there is a tendency to revert back, to that most base and avaricious character lost during some former generation.

“Think what it is you do Edmund! Untie me!”

“You have strayed beyond the bounds of reason! I shall not!”

 “Set me free you wicked, wicked boy!”

“Recant your philanthropy!”

“Recant your beliefs! They are heresy Edmund! Direst heresy!”

Lord Elderberry chuckled softly to himself, a deliciousness stole over him at the sight of his aunt trussed up on the bed. Lady Hesketh-Elderberry sobbed quietly, the sheer devilishness of him daunted her. There was an unnatural gleam in his piercing gaze that betokened madness, t’was the same look his uncle had if he but knew it! A vicious whimsy urged him on to this, but she, in her naivete was to blame! She had welcomed him into her home and her heart, and the brute had seized his chance to depose her!

“You have tainted the sanctity of this family’s reputation with your incessant hankering after the poor! The honour of the Hesketh-Elderberry name is sacred to me! As sacred as my loyalty and duty to England! The ragged schools you have funded shall all be shut down and the poor returned (by force if need be) to their slums!”

“You are heartless Edmund!” sobbed Lady Hesketh-Elderberry “Heartless!”

“I’m pragmatic!” replied Edmund, “The family coffers can only stretch so far, I have my inheritance to think of! I am tightening the purse strings!”

“But you cannot!”

Edmund nestled up to his elderly aunt who had been forcibly tied into a strait-jacket. The sadistic gleam in his deep-set eyes seemed to blot out all sane and moral reason. Lady Hesketh-Elderberry flinched, she averted her eyes and tried to wriggle away, but like the relentless serpent he was he wriggled closer.

“In the event of your sudden descent into lunacy the inheritance the family bequeathed to you, passes to me”

Suddenly he leapt off the bed and enquired of one perturbed (a doctor no less),

“In your most considered opinion could it be said that Lady Hesketh-Elderberry is mad?”

“Yes, indeed, I do believe she is M’lord. If you might be so kind?”

 The bespectacled gentleman uneasily proffered an official paper, which his lordship quickly signed. Oh horror! Oh villainy! With an almighty groan her ladyship propelled herself off the bed and onto the carpet. Wriggling feebly along on her side she tried in vain to reach the bedroom door and so make her escape, but an asylum orderly dragged her to her feet and hauled her over his broad shoulders. Carrying her down the stairs of the family seat he flung her roughly into a waiting Brougham carriage.

“Help!” she screamed, “Help! Oh help!” but t’was too late! Away went the carriage and the lady with it! Off and away to the hinterlands of Grodden Parnock and the lunatic’s asylum of St Bacchanalia!

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Three Escape From St Bacchanalia or The Whimsy Of Lord Wilberforce!

 

great_expectations

The banks of St Bacchanalia’s Asylum are deep solitudes, places of dark and sombre reflection. Yes dear reader, places in which many a Goveen monk, pondering the marshes of Grodden Parnock , whilst lifting his heart to the thunderous heavens, has leapt head first towards the essence of Gove and out of the abbey’ windows. Indeed the boglands of St Bacchanalia’s Asylum lie surfeit with the rotted skeleton of these devotees, who have, they say, ascended unto the essence of Gove! Sweet Gove! Oh that these acolytes might have found more prepossessing ways of embracing thy exalted munificence!

Here scuttle two such initiates now, red-eyed, cassocked and manacled. Manacled?! Manacled! Stumbling over bog and marsh, grunting and panting profane utterances, moving at such a speed that one might think the hounds of hell to be at their backs. As indeed they might be for hark! The alarums of St Bacchnalia’s Asylum shriek maniacally in the distance, t’is certain the farm dogs are not far behind!

“Faster damn you! Move faster Horace! Molten Tussock lies ahead, t’is but half a league I tell thee!”

Mah Lord I cannot! Me legs won’t take me much further, I’m tuckered aht!”

But Lord Wilberforce will not be thwarted, for murder most foul, accompanied by utter incompetence, has now thrust this angel of the apostasy forth upon this world and he will not be thrust back! Had anyone but Horace L’eauregarde hampered his progress! But t’is Leauregarde, co-partaker in his crimes and sufferer-in-kind of the horrors of St Bacchanalia.

T’was he who had freed them from that vast maw of madness! T’is he whom he regales with tales of murders past (bestial and depredatory)which they have committed and intend to commit. Murders which led to the abrupt termination of the life of debauchery they had so vigorously enjoyed! Shocking crimes which, whilst staining the family honour irrevocably, provoked no more than a languorous yawn of pleasure from his Lordship Wilberforce, hence St Bacchanalia!

Leauregarde, his strength renewed, hobbles on and soon finds himself entering a well-worn graveyard on the outskirts of Molten Tussock. Ah! Molten Tussock! Lately home of the deceased Reverend Tout-Puissant who now lies in that part of the graveyard reserved for unhallowed deaths. But now here lies a sight for which the wit of man cannot conceive an explanation, a boy, cherubic in appearance kneels before a gravestone, a worn copy of the Testimonies of Gove clasped to his little breast, a lone, forlorn presence in in this solitary place, he alone mourns the passing of the Reverend.

“Oh, but look your Lordship!Look!” dishevelled and devilish, Leauregarde his face awash with murderous glee, advances but the cold grip of Wilberforce Hesketh-Elderberry stops him.

“Oh Sweet Gove! Mystery of mysteries! Oh! Tueri of my soul! Have mercy upon me!” cries out Monty sobbing so quietly (that even these two fresh escaped inmates must creep closer to hear him) Monty Eckard plucks a sparkling white handkerchief from his pocket and wipes his flushed face with it.

So bereft, so heartbroken, once plucked like a brand from the burning and now plummeting back into that vast maw of Malthusian catastrophe some called London, for now his Iron-Slitting apprenticeship is past where else is he to go? The Union Rep had promised him a berth at the most prestigious ragged school in all of London, run by the most estimable Lady Hesketh-Elderberry, but what mean’t that to such as he? Severed from the succulent vines of the Goveen priesthood he must surely perish!

The poor boy sobbed and sobbed as if his little heart were as broken as his little neck might well have been, had Leauregarde (and not Lord Wilberforce) grasped it.

“Keep still you little devil or I’ll cut your throat!!”

“Oh don’t kill me sir! Don’t hurt me! You are a Goveen are you not sir? Does it not say in the Testimonies of Gove that none are so deserving as the poor?”

“Which sonnet?” asked Lord Wilberforce as he tightened his hold on the boy’s shirt front,

“The Patriarcha! As composed by Brother Filmer!”

“Recite it to me!” said he loosening his grip and the child did so, hand upon his shirt front as he swayed hypnotically from right to left and back again reciting the Sonnet of Patriarcha in the sonorous tones of the late deceased Tout-Puissant. T’was wondrous to behold and Lord Wilberforce little doubted that, with Leauregarde kept in check, the child would prove a most affable companion on his long journey back to London.

“Cor ad loquitur my child! Your utterances have flooded my spirit with such joy!”

Clasping the child’s small, cold palm in his, his eyes rolled heavenward and he sighed,

 “The last time I felt such ecstasies t’was at St Paul’s Cathedral, in the company of the Reverend Unctuous! Then stood I before the altar of Gove bathed in that sweet radiance which his presence alone exudes!”

“The blue light?”

“The bluer light my child! So smitten was I by his holiness that I prayed that he might take me up to the third heaven. To that exulted paradise whence sit all those who have attained a degree of spiritual perfection!”

“Where sir?”

“I’m hungry child, have you something I and my companion, Brother Leauregarde, may eat?”

“I have a little bread and some cheese sir, and a cold chicken stuffed with Turkey Twizzler compote”

“Dear boy!”

And as the two men fell upon the victuals ravenously was ever a boy more rapt with joy? Alone no longer, no longer bereft, but rapt! Rapt with joy and no longer alone! Seated upon the gravestone of the Reverend Tout-Puissant, swinging his dainty legs to and fro, he observed his two companions. He noted for the first time their manacled feet and hands and hesitantly asked,

“Shall I fetch an iron file from the blacksmith’s forge? Then you may cut your chains and we may be away to London!”

L’eauregarde favoured the child with a calculating look, does he mean to report them to a constable? But Lord Wilberforce clasped the child to his muddied cassock and bestowing kisses upon his head, sent him off with the unction “May Gove go with you!”

“Sweet Gove” replied the poor, deluded, acolyte, for acolyte he had become and to one whose fiendish crimes once sparked riots through half the slums of London!

Spencer Perceval(1762 - 1812) British politician; prime minister (1809-12). He is remembered mainly for his assassination in the House of Commons by a mad and bankrupt broker, John Bellingham. Copyright

 

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