Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

You Can’t Fight Tammany Hall!

Pinkerton Agents

So screwen cold was it that Thomas Warne wondered what compelled him to marshall his men, and head down to the docks in the company of Allan Pinkerton. So cold was the air that the merest breeze seemed to rake his flesh and seep into his bones, yet he also felt mildly feverish and this discomfiting state of affairs left him feeling humiliated. That and the way his heart beat seventeen to the dozen as they neared the docks (skipping a beat as he espied the Resurgam, moored within the harbour). He felt shamed for here he was, about to ride in to the rescue of a woman who clearly didn’t need no rescuing! For a battle encounter with Kitty Grid-Iron was the equivalent of being tied to a ships hull and keel-hauled. If you were a border ruffian you hoped to survive the collision with life if not limb intact. But if you were a secessionist, unless might hisself – accompanied by a Gatling gun and several pistols -was on your side, survival was a tenuous option. The woman was thought by some to be the very devil when it came to meting out northern justice! For all that he loved her and would gladly have laid his life down for her, if she had ever asked!

“Tread carefully gentleman” warned Pinkerton, “Have your pistols at the ready, but we aren’t aiming for discord, there’s only watchmen and constables around this early in the day, and mayhap we will get our business done without so much as a shot being fired”

“Mayhap” murmured one Cletis Halliday under his breath,

“Then again maybe not” replied another. t’is all one to the men riding alongside him, who are so at ease that one could be forgiven for thinking that they meant no harm. Not so, for unlike Allan Pinkerton they harbour no slumbering moral sense, at the first sign of trouble they will draw and fire and the devil take the one who gets in their way! T’is the way of New York Harbour, where the constables and watchmen are allowed to steal all they can from those who won’t pay the Tammany Hall ‘tax’, and where those businessmen who try to take their ship’s cargo entire, are liable to wind up floating in the bay with a bullet in their backs, courtesy of the Tammany ‘taxmen’. As a consequence, Thomas Warne rode with his men when conducting business at the docks, and in that way he avoided the harsh bribes and most of the violence. As they continued to make their progress slowly along the harbour they perceived a wagon waiting to one side of the Resurgam and two burly men staggering under the weight of a carpet bag. This weighty encumbrance seemed to have taken on a life of it’s own, for it writhed and buckled as if for all the world there were a human being contained therein. At one point the men saw fit to drop the carpet bag heavily upon the dock, before picking it up once more and loading it into the back of the wagon. Thomas Warne and Allan Pinkerton looked at each other and then towards the two men who, muttering many salty curses, clambered into the back of the wagon.

“Is that the good English Lord they have bundled into that carpet bag?” asked Thomas Warne smiling grimly Pinkerton nodded,

“None other, though he may parade himself like an Englishman, and dress like an Englishman, he is most emphatically Irish, and it is as an Irishman remiss in his duties to his fellow Irishmen, that he shall be summarily tried (by his own people naturally), and either set free or executed!”

Soon two other figures appeared, one dark and slender, and the other dressed as becomes a New York gentlewoman, except that Thomas knew her skirts were artfully split to the waist so that she could run at a tilt, kneel, and fire several volleys off a rifle. Climbing aboard the front of the wagon and grabbing the reins they sought to leave the docks, but as if from nowhere men emerged one of whom took hold of the reins staying the horses progress.

“Remember what I said! No shooting less’n there’s a need!”

In no time at all they reached the Tammany thugs who, perceiving that there was nought but a woman and a ‘nigrah’ in the wagon, mistook Kitty for a blowen and were even now in the progress of trying to elicit a ‘tax’ from her ill-gotten gains.

“Gentlemen, I’ve no wish to interfere with your commerce, but this lady is under my charge, if you would be so kind?” the two ‘gentlemen’ cock their heads, narrow their eyes and reach for their pistols. In turn Thomas Warne’s men sliding nimbly off their stallions, cock their pistol hammers back and get ready to fire. The Tammany ‘taxmen’ look confused, nay offended, to shoot a businessman who won’t pay his taxes is permissible, but to be shot at? T’is the height of bad manners!

“Ain’t a man uses these docks don’t pay for the use!” they wail piteously,the vicious glare they cast at Kitty says more than words will tell,

“Till now” hissed Alan Pinkerton aiming his peacemaker at the thugs,”Step away from the wagon if you please sirs, farther thank you!”

Snatching the reins back Kitty jerks hard on them, driving her wagon out of there with all speed. With mounting rage the thwarted thugs aim to wound at least one of the malefactors and cause them to fall beneath the hooves of their horses. But as they cock their pistols at the ready, aim, and get ready to fire, they hear another click, and this one sounds altogether different from their own. T’is Methuselah O’Houlihan displaying his usual lack of grace toward Boss Tweed’s men.

“Make one more motion and I’ll put a hole in you so big they’ll have to pack your corpse with dirt before they bury it, now git!” one look in those rattle snake eyes is the end of all argument, they swiftly make their exit!

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Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Web To Weave Corn To Grind

(c) Simon Baines (great-grandson); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Oh the grandeur and the picturesque charm of stormy waters, till one is caught in them! Having rustled through the cloven seas, having flirted with near oblivion, the Resurgam now lies safely harboured. The ship’s captain has resolved to have her seaworthy by the end of the week if he possibly can. He dare not stay there longer, for his orders are to surrender his illicit cargo and then to re-join Commander Fox and the SS Baltic which is bound for South Carolina.

How we gonna get that lunatic off this ship without the whole damn yard knowing? I purpose that we off load him tonight, once the coast is clear too much sleep has fled Kitty’s eyes this past week, the whole mission seems cursed and she cannot wait to be rid of the man she used to call husband.

Men full of more brawl than you have been press ganged on these docks, wait till the morrow. You’ll find a way then, for sure Nathaniel Keeler-Breeze watches her march back and forth restlessly and wonders why she doesn’t simply shoot the English gentleman, after all there are far more pressing matters.

A civil war is looming, as it undoubtedly had been since Lincoln the ‘nigger-lover’ had been elected president. The woman was a crack shot with any rifle you cared to hand her and had been an excellent spy, in his opinion abducting the puerile Englishman had been a waste of her time, she should have been left down south, putting the devil to them secessionists!

“Did you see the way they eyed us as we anchored?” Nathaniel shrugged, for it was known that the ‘Tammany Tiger’ ruled these docks. Still, even the Tammany beast could be made to roll over on its back and purr, if one knew how!

“I saw it, now get some sleep”

The ship lies silent as the grave (or a harpooned whale) and the crew are as the dead, the result of generous amounts of rum, mingled with physical exhaustion, that and a desperate desire to escape the sporadic sobs of Tobias Grid-Iron. Why, even a trans-atlantic mouse has paused momentarily in its hunt for food, to observe the wonder of an aristocrat weeping, over an inconsequential part of God’s creation!

Down in the hold, midst the remaining crates of sea biscuits and Rum, Francis stands guard, keeping an eye out for any river rats or dock thieves who might come upon the ship unawares. He is not alone, the Hindu Fakirs stand guard with him, so fond have they become of their Sudanese friend, who like the hunter he has been from his youth, walks alert and unblinking in the dark.

You were a hunter yes?” Navendra has wondered about this since it seems clear to him that Francis is a gentle and proper man, a most fastidious gentleman in matters of retribution but hardly bloodthirsty.

“Yes, I was a hunter

“But why hunt?

“ My master (Sultan Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim) was a devout Muslim and also a hunter of great repute, at ten years of age I attended him. On one of his most esteemed hunts I was one of ten runners dotted across the forests of Nederhiwi

“Why would a hunter require runners?” Francis smiled gravely,

“To lure out his prey…jaguars…sleek and able to move with such fluid grace and speed that to hesitate but for a moment was to assure one’s own entrance to Janna! I was careful and I was fast, so I survived, many others didn’t. When I was twelve I made my first kill.”

“What did you kill?”

“A beautiful gazelle, slender of carriage and fleet of foot, her name was Nuur Hamdi

“She sought freedom, the Sultan would not give it and so she fled. I was ranked high amongst the hunters so he sent me after her, through the jungles of the Nederhiwi. She was the first person I killed, but not the last.

“Oh” the Fakirs are horrified by his casual admission, to have slaughtered another enslaved human being? The consequences for his karma must have been disastrous!

“ I thought if I served Mehemet Ibrahim loyally, Allah might be kind to me. But one day an important man invited his Royal Highness to Alabama to give lectures, and I as his most reputed hunter was asked to go with him

The Sultan was asked to give a talk? On what?”

“The efficacy of the slave trade, several years before he had been petitioned by a Sufi sect, to end the abominable practice of enslaving Christians. He was reluctant to do so, and since he was both a philosopher and an intellectual he was able to expound convincingly as to why he should not. His arguments were so impressive that Jedidiah Kane Thickett invited him to Alabama to share his beliefs. The Sultan was so flattered to have been presented with such an invitation, that he presented him with one of his most prized possessions”

“Really? And what was it?”

“Me”

The three Indian gentlemen are horrified, a culture that barters human flesh as if it were a lump of gold or of ivory? And to such a one as Jedidiah Kane Thickett? The thought itself makes them shudder, for had they not observed the violent disposition of the man for themselves?

“How did you escape?”

I was stolen from him by Allan Pinkerton and given a choice, liberty or death! I chose liberty!”

A most worthy choice!

“I didn’t think so at the time, in fact I shudder to think of those days of my darkness. Allah has indeed been most kind.

The gentle lapping of the harbour waters, the intermittent hoot of owls and the hollow cries of harbour watchmen, who for a couple of dollars will turn a blind eye to river rats regardless of what they are supposed to do. These sounds garner the attention of Francis and the Fakirs as they stand guard in companionable silence.

“Liberty or death that is an honourable saying” replies Navendra

“An honourable choice also” remarks Amjal

“Oh villainy of villainies that ever the sultan should have betrayed me thus! To have surrendered me to the most brutal calumnies of one whose depravity knew no bounds! To have left me to drown beneath that vast wave of moral pollution they called slavery! But Allah has been merciful to me, I shall endeavour as best I can to reward the life who redeemed mine and when the time comes I shall take the revenge I have purposed upon!

“Yours is a terrible, terrible tale, I wonder that in the midst of your trials you did not succumb to lunacy, but as you say the gods are most kind”

“And what of you? How did you survive the massacre of Jhansi?”

In the darkness they tilt their heads one to another as if communing without words, they are silent and the silence is as dense and as comforting as velvet.

“One day my friend, when the thoughts are less painful, perhaps we shall tell”

“Yes” agrees Francis, thinking of the aristocratic dolt below deck, whose cruelty caused their suffering “Perhaps, one day”.

Francis Page

Francis Page

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Of Wild Roses & Narrow Vestibules

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Lady Grid-Iron was tired, she was tired of reading the bible day in, and day out (and of trying to look demure whilst doing it).Tobias had developed an abiding fascination with the book of Exodus, particularly where it pertained to the sacking of Egypt, indeed he had memorised the entire chapter and never tired of reciting it to both her and the servants. She was tired of crocheting purses and sewing ribbons on bonnets, the common pass time of women born high and low throughout the realm, supposedly,(when in tarnation would she get the time to clean her Winchester rifle?), most of all she was tired of London (give me the prairies any goddamn day of the week!). But she dared not let the irritation show, for one thing, she was married to the honourable Lord Grid-Iron, and that required a degree of ladylike finesse, a degree of turning out, she had hitherto not much required.

And then, of course, there was Francis, her negro page boy, why his eyes became liquid, unfathomable pools, if he stood in Lord Grid-Iron’s presence for longer than thirty minutes, and what was worst she knew what he was thinking. He loved a good hunt, in fact he had a gift for it having been born, raised and enslaved in the Sudan (by Arab Militia men). He had been sold to a plantation owner in the Americas and subsequently freed by the underground railway. The potential consequences of his patent and potent distaste for Lord Grid-Iron might have terrified her, had he not been recruited by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and then assigned to her by Allan Pinkerton himself. “Mah-dear” she cooed, smiling sweetly at the big, old, galoot she had married, “Ah-m tired”

“Tired m’dear? Damn it! I’ve invited Lord Montaperti to brunch! Who’ll entertain him?”

“Montaperti? Why? Such a strange little man. If I but once turn my back on him I catch him rubbing the silk of my gown between his fingers, like a common dressmaker!”

Lord Grid-Iron chortled, ” He is a common dressmaker my dear! He’s in textiles, yes! Quite common and very rich, and since we both have an uncommon fascination with the great unwashed he will lunch with us this morning!”

“And what of the mill worker’s strikes my love? Countess De Lacey tells me all sorts of terrible things about them. Is it true they’ve threatened to burn down the mills unless their working conditions improve and their wages are raised?”

“Not entirely my dear, they’ve threatened to dynamite them. You know, I sometimes wonder why we ever bothered improving the cost of living. Since Lord Aberdeen became Prime Minister we’ve cut the beer duty tax, introduced ‘the right to buy your own berth in the workhouse’ policy and introduced two further alms-giving days. We had much rather they kept their little ones in the industrial schools we’ve reformed, is it our fault they choose to put them to work? The proles are their own worst enemies”

“Ah-shall have cook send up a pot of Earl Grey and some of those pastries Mademoiselle Lefevre bakes, she really is the most delightful find”

“Most delightful” the great galoot replied with a lascivious twinkle in his eye, Kitty Grid-Iron feigned a yawn and fluttered her lashes watching his face grow flush beneath their influence, delicately discarding her embroidery, she lifted her satin skirts and minced over to him, pecking him most delicately on the cheek she sighed,

“Toby mah-dear I do so tire of these interminable brunches with interminably boring elevated tradesmen, promise me my love that this will be the last one…for a while” her large, brown, doe’s eyes met his watery blue ones and as ever he blushed and became a little flustered, “My dear” another delicate peck on his hirsute cheek and she was gone.

He gave no thought to regularly attending Parliament, though he had fought tooth and nail for his seat in the lower chamber, and certainly none as to how he should persuade the mill workers not to make good on their promise to blow up every Silk Mill in London. Kitty supposed the British government would have the infantry open fire as per usual (all the really big guns were stranded some place in the Crimea). And then of course there were the little boat trips to New South Wales, the judiciary had that down to a fine art; caught stealing a loaf of bread? New South Wales. Arrested for rioting against poor pay and conditions? New South Wales. Kitty supposed that sooner or later they’d run out of penal colonies and then where would they send them? The America’s were now independent.

“You sent for me m’aam” Maggie made a small curtsy, little Maggie, so neat and pristine in her prim little mob cap and prissy blue gown complete with frilly white apron, it made Lady Grid-Iron want to scream,”Did you sleep well Maggie? You look awful peaky this morning”

“Yes M’aam” said she, her eyes downcast, “I slept as well as might be expected, thank you m’aam”

“Lay out the primrose coloured water-silk and the satin slippers will you? And then you may run my bath”

Maggie curtsied,” Will you need me to fix your hair m’aam?” Kitty shook her head, “My hair’s fine, would that my contemplations were so”

“Contemplations m’aam?” Kitty smiled wryly, four years had been the most time she had ever spent on any operation in the United States of America. She’d been married seven years, widowed three, out on the hunt for secessonists in Alabama for four, and all of that had been a walk in the park next to being married to Lord Grid-Iron (two years and three and a half days,forty minutes and thirty seconds).”M’aam I couldn’t help but to notice the brooch you always wear, excuse me for asking but m’aam that lettering, what does it mean?”

Kitty’s eyes narrowed, she smiled brilliantly and in that moment she seemed most unlike her feminine, demure self, “Numquam Somni? It’s Latin child, it means, ‘I never sleep’, I’m a lot like you in that respect mah-dear” she said, hugging the child who was her maid very gently.

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