Come dear reader, let us avert our eyes for a time from the bewildering hideousness of St Bacchanalia’s Asylum. Let us purge our souls and lustrate our hearts of its base and pernicious influence. Let us wander instead over croit and dale, over tulach and hillock, until at last, to the north of the village of Molten Tussock Minor, we come upon the town of Molten Tussock Major.
The northernmost fount of all fortifying commerce concerned with the mastery of iron; it is here the Goveen initiates abide, mastering the art of iron-puddling. T’is here the Goveen initiates abide, mastering the art of Iron-Puddling. T’is here they study and train for much of the day, within the sanctum of a newly opened Hesketh Ragged School. Once they were apprenticed Iron-Slitters, manacled and bound over in heart and mind by the sinister Reverend Tout-Puissant but no more! No more the terrors of an Industrial Academy long since burned to the ground! They are Iron Puddlers now and soon to be apprenticed if the Machiavellian hindrances of Master Eccles may be overcome.
“Master Eccles says as he’ll take none recommended by such as thou, thou rabble-raising loon! T’was thee as brought mayhem to the streets of London an he says he’ll have none of thee!”
“T’is the lads that need apprenticing not me, I wonder that he’d stand against such fine lads as these
apprenticing themselves to a living as would put bread in their families mouths!”
The Union Rep stands bemused and indignant,
“I’ll not regret those actions that have raised the wages of thousands and improved their working conditions to boot!”
Were it not for the melancholic results of Molten Tussock Major’s council elections all would be well. The Iron Reformer’s Party would hold the majority of council seats; Master Eccles hold over all iron commerce in the town would be broken, and the boys might apprentice with whom they wished. But, if ever democracy held sway in Molten Tussock Major, it has long since fled, chased out by the impious machinations of Master Eccles and his Tory Coalition.
A town council election was held, the first in which a viable (and popular) opposition has stood in in nigh on two centuries, but what of the outcome? The mayor is still a Tory, the bulk of councillors (bar Master Benjamin) are still Tories, yet all and sundry swear that they had cast their votes for the Reformer’s Party!
T’is often said that England’s peaceful governance lies in the English genius for compromise, in the stolid ability of all its politicians to agree a middle way. Alas then, that this impeccably flawless talent has long since been discarded in Molten Tussock where a vote may be cast only with the unction of Master Eccles!
“Will Master Rynders say nothing? Will he not intervene?”
Master Parnham and Master Knowham look to Master Benjamin of Polder Brum, who must give his report,
“Master Rynders has suggested we approach Gabriel Sydenham, im as runs the Elysium Iron Foundry. T’is well known that he cares not a brass farthing for Eccles. This I gladly did and was told to inquire of Lord Douglas at MacGregor House.”
“MacGregor House? T’is strangely named!” replied the Union Rep
“It has been renamed” replied Master Benjamin
“T’was known as Brume Polder Folly in the days of his ancestors, but his Lordship has proclaimed to all and sundry that he would sooner cut his own throat, than have his country seat hold a name that has been sullied by the taint of the brotherhood!”
At this news the Union Rep is elated,”Anti-Goveen?”
“Anti-Tory as well! He’ll have none of them! Why he took a bullwhip to the last Tory councillor to set foot on his land!”
“Terrible behaviour! When shall you approach him?”
“Tomorrow, the settling of farmers wages takes place then, I shall make inquiries of the estate steward, t’is certain he’ll agree to speak to the master on our behalf, his brother-in-law is a member of the Iron Reformers Party”
The matter settled, to his mind, Master Benjamin cheerfully took his leave of the company, heading off for the school stables whence his horse was being most wondrously shod, by an Iron-Puddling apprentice who had also seen some degree of training as a blacksmith, ere he had been palmed off onto the Iron-Slitting Academy.
Master’s Knowham and Parnham wonder that an entire town’s democratic liberties should be kidnapped and held captive by a solitary Iron Merchant such as Master Eccles.
“T’will not do!” declares Master Knowham
“T’is a less than farrantly state of affairs” agrees Master Parnham
“T’will cost a pretty penny or two to correct” exclaims the Union Rep with a steely glint in his eye,
“How much of a pretty penny?” asks Master Parnham, who in truth ought to know better than to encourage one who as the newly minted MP of Bow & Bromley has only recently embraced a genteel respectability.
“The kind of penny that only Lord Douglas might care to spend!”