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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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Pilot-Guiding Star-No Compass-Elspeth!

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“T’is most unnatural” murmured Caleb Flaherty,

“Indeed” replied Gabriel O’Hara ” Did you note how the winds bearing us to salvation did abate, once that accursed bird was loosed from its cage!”

They both glance uneasily at the albatross now perching upon its master’s chest, and now hopping blithely across the quarter deck. These courageous stalwarts who, have been unmanned by historic dangers, and now suffering a psychological perturbation, have impressed upon their minds that the way of their deliverance lies in the slaughter of that harmless bird.

Are there any seasons which may account for it? For they do say that change of seasons has a notable effect on the social habits of the predicatorial. Which is a shame, for the long, weary, dismal night has passed, day has come, and all (save the unfortunate shantyman) are alive. The Resurgam has fought her way through the raging waters of the Atlantic Ocean and survived! Helmed by a dauntless and valiant captain, a man whose steadfast tenacity at the wheel has helmed all to safety. The ship has swept through shark infested waters , weathered a tumultuous storm, and now limps on towards her final destination. The sea is becalmed so that the Resurgam may be likened to ‘a painted ship upon a painted ocean’ so little progress has it made in these waters over the last three days.

The sun sweeps down upon the drowsing crew, cossetting all in her balmy embrace. They are two days away from drowning as the ship continues to take on water and yet they care not! Is it any wonder then, that the two most desperate, most murderous sailors aboard ship, have taken it upon themselves to expedite matters, by falling upon the albatross and slitting its throat? Ah! But freedom will reign inspite of earth and hell! The albatross upon seeing the murderous glint of sharpened steel takes flight, and nestled safely amongst  the main sails, looks with a sharp eye upon its would-be slaughterers, who, howling with thwarted intent , clamber swiftly up the main-mast towards it. But the albatross is not stupid and cawing as loudly as its soft voice will allow it, wakens its master to its plight!

“What ho?” Lord Grid-Iron’s first act upon awakening is to reach for the comforting solace of the albatross, which had been nestled snugly against his breast, but she is gone! What ho! Jumping to his feet and looking up towards the crow’s nest he espies Elspeth and the murderous profligates inching their way towards her , with daggers in hand. Ne te quaesiveris extra! For how can one remain virtuous in the face of such evil? With a deliberate calm borne of mild derangement, Lord Grid-Iron seizes the sleeping Methuselah’s crossbow, takes aim and fires! The arrow sped on its way with startling accuracy, hurtles towards its intended victim. It would have hit its mark, were it not for the sudden tilt in the ships hull causing the ill-starred bird to swerve into the path of the arrow’s trajectory! A pain filled sqwark and the albatross is sent plummeting toward the ship!

“Elspeth!”

How accurately dear reader,can one convey the sheer horror contained within that hollow cry? What heart rending grief lies encapsulated in that word! What good fortune then that a hale and hearty breeze has sprung up, brawling its way through the sails of the ship and nudging her forwards! That as the ship picks up speed one and all spring to life, manning the rigging for all they are worth. None have time to glance upon the piteous sight that is Lord Grid-Iron, indeed none would think to empathise  as he grieves miserably over the jinxed albatross that brought the fog and mist.

Faster and now faster the ‘Resurgam’ moves, flying through the waters as though borne on the wings of destiny. Whipped savagely about by the winds which bluster and billow about her sails the ship glides swiftly along as though the devil himself were at her back.The crew strain to hold her in check but she moves like an unbroken stallion straining at the leash, give her liberty or death! With each pulsing blast the ‘resurgam’ is thrust forth till at length a lone cry arises from the crow’s nest.

“Land ahoy! Land ahoy!” t’is a cry echoed joyously by the crew,

“Land ahoy! Look fast! Look fast! Land ahoy!”

“Look on it! Look on it! We’re almost home!”

“New York Harbour ahead!”

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