Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice, Uncategorized

The Lady & Planchette

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Darkness has fallen and now stars dangle in the sky like a row of pearls around an Ethiope’s neck. The Bald Faced Stag will do a roaring trade straight into the early hours of the morning, but our concern is not with the beer that will be drunk, nor with the imbibing of sherry as stolen silverware changes hands. Nor do we concern ourselves with the destiny of the hapless monk who now lies trussed up in the Tavern’s cellar. To have kidnapped one of the few to display an abiding and benevolent interest in the affairs of London’s working poor, to have trussed her up like a turkey, to have made off with her mercilessly! No we shall not reflect long on the fate of this mad monk, any more than we should. Instead let us turn to that which lies beyond the Bald Faced Stag Inn.

 Darkness has fallen dear reader, though the deer still gallop across the lush green grounds of Richmond Park, t’is a darkness that is rich with the sounds of wild geese and swans and lush with royal deer. Indeed such is the abundance of fowl to be found within these grounds that many a poacher has made the mistake of assuming such meat was to be had for free, alas then that the grounds should have been seeded with mantraps! For the lady to whom the house and the grounds have been gifted is as possessive of her property as she is of the royal bloodline and she will brook no interference with it. This lady rarely leaves the grounds of her house, rarely walks through its gardens and goes abroad only to attend weddings, christenings, births or deaths. She has no interest as such in affairs of state but as to affairs of the royal bloodline that is another matter.

“Has that man arrived?”

“The minister of domestic affairs? Yes, your grace, where shall I place him?”

“The Grey Room”

“Not the Green Study?”

The merest tilt of her handsome head, the slightest gesture of her elegant fingers, is sufficient to halt Planchett in his tracks. Observe as she paces to and fro with her elegant be-ringed fingers clasped in front of her. Such soft, strong hands! 

“The Grey Room Planchett”

“Yes your Grace”

As immoveable as a Caryatid pillar, as immutable in her determinations as Medea, observe the lady as she moves soundlessly towards the leather bound documents which take up all of her attention. Page after page of significant family trees which she has had a hand in significantly altering. There are two such volumes of these documents the official record of lineage and the Book of Occitan. Tonight, on this most dark and most heinous of nights, she seals the clasps of both books, reverentially returning them to their place. 

It is with a sense of overpowering duty and with increasing ire that the lady proceeds to the Grey Room where Lord Rucklesmoot awaits her. 

 “Your Grace”

“Lord Rucklesmoot” his Lordship bows gravely

 “T’is late in the day for a visit such as this and most inconvenient”

His Lordship smiles weakly,

“When it comes to affairs of state there is no such thing as inconvenience your grace”

“Is there not? T’is a little cold in here Ruckle-Smoot, do you know why that is?”

“No, your grace” he replies warily,

“I have the windows opened and the rooms aired several times a day, every day. I can scarce abide tainted air sir!” 

“No your grace” 

“Several of my most treasured servants have fallen ill as a consequence, three have even had the temerity to die, but I will suffer no pollution in the atmosphere of this house!”

The Grey Room is palatial in its proportions with it’s vast heavily curtained windows, ornate carpeting and richly upholstered furniture. A delightful room then, in the exquisite residence of the coveted keeper of the royal bloodlines. So why, does Lord Ruckle-Smoot feel as if he has fallen through the portals of hell? For since he has taken up this post feelings of deep unease have gripped him. Memorising his descendants from the nursery onwards, he had thought the royal lineage unimpeachable, he’d no notion of its needing protecting.

“It seems that we have been remiss Lord Ruckle-Smoot”

“Your Grace?”

“We have lost a vessel, Lord Ruckle-Smoot, a vessel bearing a most important piece of the royal bloodline”

“Your Grace?” 

“It was last espied weeping beside the tombstone of the most recently deceased eminent politician”

 “Your Grace?”

“Planchette! It’s far too cold in here, stoke the fire!”

“Yes your grace” the butler (having never left the room) finds this an easy task to accomplish, stoking the fire can be done in no time at all, but on this occasion Planchette takes care to demonstrate the breadth of his skill with the ornate fireplace poker, this causes Lord Ruckle-Smoot to consider how fireplace pokers, when handled in such a dexterous manner, can have potentially lethal consequences. 

“Your family has served mine honourably for centuries, it was the reason you were appointed, indeed, it was the only reason you were appointed”

My Lord Ruckle-Smoot finds himself caught between the ravening panther that is Planchette and his mistress the she-wolf, hungry, remorseless, and clad from head to toe in Chantilly Lace!

“The vessel you speak of was seen last in the company of a pick-a-ninny child and has not been seen by any since”

“Certainly not by any in your employ, Planchette?”

“Your Grace, I have it on good authority that Ethelbert Hardy-Smythe has er”

“Which brings me to my next problem Lord Ruckle-Smoot, what should one do with a politician who suddenly develops a conscience?”

“My lady, The Right Honourable Hardy-Smythe has honoured his duty to Queen & country most indubitably

“Planchette?”

“I ave it on good authority from Fitchett iz butler, that he is az of late been suffering nightmares of a most audible kind, nightmares about a Master Hemphill-Skinner

Caught betwixt a panther and a she-wolf with royal patronage, what is a man to do?

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

Master LeFevre Takes Matters In Hand!

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Oh the privileges of a safe criminality! Of places where one may safely rob someone of a purse or cut a gentleman’s throat! Such places are as rare as the proprietors that manage them, once The Bald Faced Stag was such a place, but no more. Though on an occasion such as this, the mistress of this reputed establishment is more than willing to make an exception. As fond as she is for the beer Boodoo and Bert cultivate and deliver she has little fondness for the men themselves, scarce redeemed arsonists as they are. But the Hesketh-Elderberry School is another thing entirely,

“Abducting Lady Hesketh is they? An thought to stop by my pub wot as served her ladyship and er kin all the days of me gran-fader’s life and me fader’s life? Half my kin attend her schools, little Charlie is to graduate from thence to Worth Chilliministers Esquire! Kidnap Ma Hesketh? Wot woz they thinkin orf?”

“Them? They’re Goveen spawn! Wots thinkin got to do with it? Can I do it?”

Mistress Dormers glanced over at the Goveen Monk who was now so merry in his cups that his plump face was flushed, Lucinda, her most comely serving wench leant forward as if to replenish his beer and that was when it happened, the gas lights dimmed momentarily and flickered, once, twice, on the thrice turn they resumed their normal brilliance. But when they had, the plump faced monk had disappeared and another had taken both his seat and his beer.

“She’s a one with that club our Lucinda, never hired a wench like that afore! Only fourteen that one but my what a wrist!”

Insensible to the world, the unfortunate monk is quickly dragged into the snuggery, which just as speedily empties of customers once they realise that some skullduggery is afoot. A robbery is a rarity at the Bald Faced Stag the mistress of the tavern rarely permits it, thus upon sighting her husband laying about the Goveen Monk the customers took it that this particular robbing was very well deserved.

“On with that cassock Anansi! Quick now!” Boodoo looped the rope-belt around Anansi’s waist and tied it three times with three Lark’s Head knots, just as he had seen the Goveen Monks do when he had been an initiate at St Bacchanalia’s Asylum. “Pull the hood further down over your face, remember ow Bert walks when e’s ad a few? Show me” Anansi tottered and swayed drunkenly, t’was a most convincing performance and Boodoo didn’t doubt that he’d acquit himself most admirably on the ride to Grodden Parnock.

“The ride down will be swift my child and the journey into that hell hole terrifying! Make sure you keep yer wits about ye! Find owt where they place her, report back to me!”

“Pa, wot if I can’t get owt?”  Boodoo hated to see Anansi’s face pinched up so with worry,

“Think on Barley Plimsoll my cove! What’s she to do without her mama? Think on her my lad!”

Anansi’s little face seemed to glow with a most unnatural light, his eyes were awash with an affection that made Boodoo almost envious,

“Barley!” oh with what yearning that sweet child’s name was uttered! Truly a lover’s confession!

“Sweet Barley! I must save Barley’s mama! I will save Barley’s mama!” now Anansi’s eyes lit up with much fervour and determination as he strode forth like St George going to slay the dragon.

“Are you certain about what it is that you do ere Boodoo?” Michael Dormer wasn’t known for his softness of heart, but he had seen much that was good enter Boodoo’s life as a consequence of his having a son. He dreaded the notion that any harm should come to the child that might unman his friend.

“I az no choice, do you fancy your Daniel attending an Industrial Academy?” Michael Dormer swore a whole slew of curses,

“Let me burn in hell first and my son with me!”

“Exactly, now where’s Barley Plimsoll?”

“Upstairs having a bit of dinner, fair tuckered owt the child was, t’is a terrible state of affairs!”

“For them at St Bacchanalia’s it is! He should never have took her!” Boodoo’s deep brown eyes seemed alight with the very fires of hell, “I’ll make him regret he took her!”

“Now Boodoo…” cautioned Michael watching the colour drain from his friend’s face,

“They stole my Emily from me, but they’ll not take Lady Hesketh!! Now where’s Barley?”

See first the abundance of corn blonde hair, pinned this way and that so poorly that stray bits of it drift upon her face, see then those eyes, little black buttons that twinkle from time to time with mirth and are now filled with copious tears. How the child trembles, how she clutches Master Boodoo LeFevre’s burly fist with both of her tiny palms. “Must Anansi travel up to that place Master LeFevre? Can we not spirit ma away here?”

“Er nephew will be looking for er my love, nah there’s nuffin for it, but we shall soon ave er back me love” Boodoo was silent for a spell for now he must propose something to this child that was most unusual,

“T’is alms-giving day tomorrow at St Tobias-in-the North”

“Alms-giving? How can I think of that on such a day as this?”

Master LeFevre looked at the child most intently, more hair and boundless petticoats than anything, and those eyes, twinkling and glistening with such feeling!

“At an alms-giving any petition may be asked of the queen, any at all”

“Any?” said the child thinking on it,

“Any, even the freeing of your mama!”

“But how?” Boodoo shrugged,

“I feel certain you’ll think of something”

The evening has turned cold and blustery, and as Boodoo seats himself once more upon his beer wagon his expressionless gaze alights upon the Brougham now swiftly exiting the yard of the Bald Faced Stag Inn. Darkness, all is darkness, with only two gas lamps hung either side of the wagon to light Boodoo LeFevre on his way back to St Giles and the Sapphire of Jhansi Pub. An autumnal moon hangs low in the sky and Anansi hid in the shadow of the carriage travels up with Lady Hesketh. He has wiped the tears from her eyes with his most treasured ragged school hanky and now he reassuringly strokes her wizened hands,

“Don’t you worry Ma Hesketh, don’t you worry”

Darkness, all is darkness dear reader, though they do say t’is when it is darkest that you may see the stars.

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

A Northern Crisis At The Bald Faced Stag Inn

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The Bald Faced Stag Inn is as reputable in certain circles as the House Of Lords is in certain others. The favoured haunt of Jerry Abershawe the highwayman, t’was there he would sate his thirst, conferring at great length with roguish fellows who like himself roamed far and wide twixt Portsmouth and London, robbing the rich for the thrill of it. T’was there he met his match when Jacob Du Plessis and his constables stormed the taprooms of the inn, muskets in hand, wounding Abershawe twice in the shoulder and so laying him low. Not for long, for the ebullient highwayman ascended the gallows of Tyburn as cheerfully as he had robbed his victims, cracking many a joke as they laid the hangman’s noose around his neck.

Aaron Dormer had been the landlord of the inn then, a fiercer looking cove there had never been and such meanness of temperament, a man feared by many but a true friend of Abershawe’s, and the only man to shed a tear at his hanging (t’is said). Bess Dormer his grand-daughter now palms the taps of the inn, with a delightful delicacy of grasp and tug such as only a master publican could muster. They do say she is tiny of foot, though from the manner in which she has booted many a drunk through the tap room door, none would guess it!

“Wah? To handle my bar maids incommodiously, to importune them as though they were nought but bawds and blowens! Even as they shave the foam off your beer? I’ll not have it! Out wid ye! Out! Out!”

With what vigorous flash of elegant boot did she thrust and propel the inebriated miscreants into the streets (and their gutters) beyond! With what a flash of green eyed rage did she cause the offender to flinch and quail! T’were few who could match her propriety skills and even fewer who dared to, for commerce must have its sway, though the Bald Faced Stag did a roaring trade with all those who frequented her. Small of stature, some would say most petite but fierce of disposition unlike her husband who was as tall as he was broad and as mean spirited as her grand papa had been. If Michael Dormer had a passion, t’was his wife whose buxom tiny waisted figure made him blush fiercely if he fixed his sights on it too long. He had a yen for her that was like an addiction with him and he’d broken many an amorous bludgers head because of it.

T’was a puzzle to Boodoo, having never been embroiled in the throes of passion, though the care of his son evoked emotions in him, which many would have recognised as love. The solicitous manner with which Boodoo LeFevre undertook the education of his adopted child, weedling him out of dancing and singing worthless miscreants into their death throes, then enrolling him in the Hesketh-Elderberry Ragged School in Spitalsfields. The boundless patience with which he educated him in the mechanics of setting and laying fires, when to set a charge, when to lay the fuse, and how best to improvise when your tools went missing. Disturbing skills these to pass on to any son and heir, yet passed on with such loving attention to care and detail that one doubted not that Boodoo did love his child and had only his best interests at heart.

With what anxiety then did he contemplate that which he was about to do! Since the day he had drifted out in Bert’s boat along the Thames, hooking and then drawing in the wooden crate in which he found Anansi, they had not been parted! No, not even for a day! Oh how his heart had gone out to the emaciated child cast adrift upon the River Thames, levering open the water logged box and spying its contents it never once had crossed his mind to throw it back into the river. Anansi took one look at the stocky shaven headed man with the brooding gaze and oversized sea jacket and decided he wanted to be like him, Boodoo took one look at him, turned to Bert and declared, “God az not forgot me, now at last I ave a son!”. But now he must part with the child who had become more dear to him than his own life, for the sake of another who was in naked danger!

“Iz you sure it is ‘er Anansi?”

“T’is, papa, t’is Missis Hesketh-Elderberry bound up and gagged papa! Dat man in the tap room got her tied up and gagged and he drinkin his self silly! I gon fix him papa! I gon fix him good!” Anansi’s eyes blazed with anger, his little face became positively pinched with evil intent, he started clicking his fingers and twitching his little booted feet.

“Do that and I’ll spank you to hell and back my child! Calm down and think! Think! What’s the best way to go about this? If you kill him where everyone can see it, the driver will flee the scene and drive away post-haste with her as his captive! Think!”

Calming himself down with an effort Anansi thought and thought, poor Missus! Trapped in a carriage with that plump, rosy cheeked, devil of a monkish man! Poor missus! Why he had bin to church with her and all the other ragged children only yesterday, and he had eaten Sunday lunch at her house too! Poor, poor Missuss Hesketh! Poor Barley Plimsoll! For Barley had been the one he had spotted as he went to water the horses in the stables, Barley clinging desperately to the undercarriage of the Brougham in which Lady Hesketh-Elderberry was being kept prisoner!

Of all the children she alone had espied the burly monk tossing her mama into the carriage and making away with her, she alone! And who oh who to call to? From whom to get help? The children and their tutors were all at school! Bunching her skirts and tucking them into her bloomers she had slid under the carriage and clung on for dear life. The carriage sped on from pillar to post at the most ferocious speed and still she had clung on. She sobbed till the feeling had left her fingers and her cheeks throbbed with cold, yet still she clung on and then, finally, they had reached the Bald Faced Stag Inn and the carriage had drawn to a halt. What good fortune bade Anansi to travel out to the now empty wagon and catch Barley sliding out from under the carriage and scuttling into the shadows! What good fortune he alone should catch her! Her whose every wish was his desire!” comforting his dear sweet Barley as best he could, Anansi swore with his hand on his valiant heart that he would save Missis Hesketh.

“But first I gon fix that nasty man! See if I don’t! Barley say he takin her to St Bacchanalia!” Boodoo face darkened,

“Taking er where?”

“St Bacchanalia Asylum!” St Bacchanalia’s?! But adn’t he, Boodoo the master fireman, burn’t that place down?!

“Right then” said he fixed in his resolve,”Ain’t nothing for it! We’re kidnapping the monk! You’ll take his place, lawd knows iz robes is big enuf, you’re to accompany Lady Hesketh to Grodden Parnock, straight into St Bacchanalia’s, find owt which ward they put her on and git yerself back to London post haste! An Anansi?”

The child’s face positively glowed with attentiveness, “Yes’m papa?”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

“Yes’m papa!”

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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, 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!

 

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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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Academies, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Uncategorized

Descendit Ad Inferos

 

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“Oh my dear Sirs! In what raptures I was, when first I came to Molten Tussock!” cried Monty Eckard, clutching the Testimonies of St Gove to his worsted frocked chest. “T’was as though the very ether of Sweet Gove had fallen upon my senses! The first time I heard Sweet Gove’s voice I was in the Iron Slitting pond, wading through the muddy waters sorting mud from Iron slit. T’was on a day when all seemed heavy and burdensome, t’was before the days of the Reverend Tout-Puissant”.

The Bow & Bromley Education Board, listening with ever increasing ire, to the wan faced child’s ‘religious’ experiences, remains silent. T’is more out of practicality than inclination, since they are moving at break neck speed along bumpy country roads and, must therefore concentrate their efforts on remaining upright. But one there is who, seated outside the carriage, alongside the carriage driver, leans forward into the oncoming wind like a Greyhound sniffing out his prey. His greying hair flies loose in the wind, his blue eyes are narrowed to mere slits and his lips, bluish with the cold, are pursed thin with foreboding.T’is none other than the Union Rep, or should I say the Member of Parliament for Bow & Bromley,”Dare’st we go no faster comrade? The greatest evil ever to befall man has befallen the Iron Slitting Apprentices at Molten Tussock! I know not what disaster we shall find ere we reach there!”

“My little Obed Plum is apprenticed at Molten Tussock Sir, as well you know! Any faster and the wheels may fall off the carriage! Were the fiends of hell at my horses’ heels I darest not gallop any faster than I do now Sir!” And so the coach and its glossy coated stallions gallop on, over hill and dale and tussock. Light fails and yet ever onwards they speed,through mire and mud, and the nefarious mists oozing forth from the marshlands that surround them. “Where is this?” asks the Union Rep, a fierce and sullen look clouding his brow, “T’is the swamplands of Brume Polder” replies Master Knowham with an equally fierce look. “Thats not the place where?” Master Knowham nods his head,”The same, nigh on twenty apprentices drowned tanning moleskin leather  trousers in the bogs, and the rest, struck down by the Scarlet Fever, t’was a terrible scandal Sir!”

“And who, pray tell, was held responsible?” asks the Member of Bow & Bromley but he thinks he already knows the answer,”T’was the most Reverend Tout-Puissant! He as had the boys worshipping and meditating on the testimonies of Gove for so many hours that, their constitutions being quite run down, t’is a wonder any of them survived the onlaught of the Scarlet Fever. And now you may answer me Sir! How such a one as he came to be made Headmaster of Molten Tussock!”

“I know not! And t’is to my shame to say that! Can ye not go faster comrade?” and suddenly having recalled the tragedy of Brume Polder, Master Knowham finds he can. Faster than the speed of light, faster even than the frigid breeze caressing their faces, so fast that the horses’ hooves seem scarcely to be touching the ground they pass over. And so as the miles pass the spectre of Molten Tussock looms ever nearer.

So, dear reader, let us turn our attentions back to Master Parnham. He whom we left venturing forth from the Slitting Iron Tower, hand-in-hand with little Obed Plum. Into the twilight evening they slip, limbs a-tremble and hearts beating so fiercely within their narrow chests, that t’would seem as if the fierce palpitations warned against their imminent entry of that fearful heathen sanctuary known to all apprentices as ‘The Chapel’. T’is twilight but the skies above are alight with colours seldom glimpsed in this world or the next. For t’is twelve hours since the slitting works was last attended to. “All is not right Master Parnham” wails Obed, his eyes widening with fear at the sight of the scarlet tinged blue flames belching forth from the cavernous mouth of the overheated slitting furnace.

“Worry not child, I am with thee” murmured Master Parnham patting little Obed’s tiny, calloused palm with his wizened hand. Master Parnham is serene, indeed murderously so, and as a thunderous rage courses through his blood he rediscovers a burst of youthful energy he believed had long since fled his weary bones. With one swift, wiry, kick the oak doors are flung open and the incense wreathed scandal within is piteously revealed.Pew after pew of weary starved looking apprentices turn to look at him, their faces etched with exhaustion their trembling fingers nervously clutching at their leathern testimonies. And all the while as he draws ever nearer to the altar that terrible unearthly singing,

“Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Up on the mountain Sweet Gove spoke,

Out of his mouth came fire and smoke!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray!

Everytime I feel the plumb-line moving on my heart I pray! “

The Most Reverend Tout-Puissant is deep in meditation, so deep that he does not see the outraged Inspector wrenching at his cassock until it is too late. To be one minute caught up in the ecstasies of Sweet Gove, and the next fending off an enraged School’s Inspector, well dear reader, is it possible to convey the degree of ignominious shame and humiliation which stole none too sweetly over the Reverend? I think not. But more was to follow for all of a sudden the ground beneath their wrestling bodies shook and trembled and a thunderous roaring noise ensued. “Look fast Master Parnham! Look fast! The furnace has blown!” bellowed little Obed his pale face a grim mask of horror. But looking up from the aisle floor Master Parnham smiled, leaping to his feet nimbly he grasped hold of Obed Plum shouting “Nay lad! But I have been here before! Apprentices of Molten Tussock to me!”. And so it t’was that the aged Mole-Trouser-Stretching Master rescued the apprentices of Molten Tussock.

To be continued…..

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