Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Each According To Their Means Each According To Their Ability

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Not since the children of Israel rose up to frolic and to play, indeed not since the Dionysian revels of that rebellious tribe have so many cast off all restraint with the blessing of a triumphant and hence charitable few. The unfettered success of an electoral fraud has spurred Master Eccles to declare an extra day of rest and unbridled festivities, and lo! The people discarded their tools, took up their Sunday best and bedecked themselves most joyously in Tory favours!

A triumphal arch of Laurel Leaves and Hawthorn Berries festooned with the Royal Insignia of the Essence of Gove has been erected before the town hall, and a Maypole now stands erect in the town square.

“Eh up our Alice, goest thou to the May Dance? There’s pleasure to be had there by such as bonny as thou!” Green eyed Alice, with her raven black hair and fresh complexion, Alice of the Dimsdales would stand speechless had she the will,”Wouldst thou dance this day?” she protests,”And on whose grave? Knowst thou not that the Potters and Stampers of Grodden Parnock Refinery are to be laid off? And what of the men of Brume Polder whose furnaces are to be shut down? Are they to dance and prance too? Nay mother, I’ll not dance whilst men are deprived of employ and their families left to starve!” there can be no more comely a lass than Alice, and yet so grave a lass is she that nought will court her! For though it may be said of many a lass that they harbour a populous solitude, whilst at work in the factory or the field, Alice’s mind nourishes one idea above all else ‘De chacun selos ses faculties, a chacun selon ses besoin’ which is to say, from each according to his means to each according to his ability. According to the tenets of Gove t’is a most heathen saying, t’is one devoid of that shrewd wisdom so typifying Tory thought. Yet tis all Alice chooses to ponder and reflect upon, small wonder then, that none intent upon their own social improvement will court her!

“Nay lass, don’t take on so! T’is only a May Dance and a bit of a celebration!” to this Alice makes no reply stood out as she is on the doorstep, surveying all the revelry going on around her and wondering how the townsfolk will rue it in the cold light of day. There goes Charlotte Dymond clad in a crisp white frock with a blue ribboned bonnet, hark at her laughing! Why who would think that her grand-da lay on his death bed without a pension to bequeath to his widow? Now look at Methuselah Gray! Dancing a caper along the cobbled streets with a quart of brandy in his grip, his shoulder length grey hair flutters in the wind as he celebrates the fact that today he may eat and drink to his heart’s content! T’will make up for all the months of short work he and his kith and kin have been forced to endure he is certain!

The town is a-riot dear reader! But not with the overthrow of its betters, much to the discouragement of Master Benjamin and his fellow Iron-Reformers who now sit, disconsolate in the Quaker Meeting Hall. “Comrades! Will you tamely submit to being deprived by a gross fraud of the whole value of a franchise conferred by the people of Molten Tussock Major upon thee?” the Union Rep asks, “Brothers! The undisturbed success of one fraud may act as a stimulus to renewed exertions of the same character! Would you have this most audacious of swindlers, this ruthless perpetrator of a most heinous act of fraud go unchallenged? Nay my friends! You must fight this result tooth and claw!” Those present at the meeting listen raptly to all he has to say but at the end of the day they are stolid northern men not easily moved by sophistry. They do however stand in awe of the Union Rep’s deeds and these alone have seeded in them a glimmer of hope as to their chances of restoring democracy to the town.

“Oh we have fought!” cries the Reverend Parnham mournfully,”We have fought till our eyes were red from lack of sleep and our voices hoarse! Why Master Turnham campaigned so hard he caught influenza and near died from it!”

“Yes” murmured the congregation in sympathy “Say on brother! Would that there were a God to smite Master Eccles and purge him from our midst!” a dire wish but what strength of feeling dear readers!

“Ah but there is!” declares the Union Rep “Have you not heard the story of David and Goliath? Yet comrades what was the outcome? This Goliath laid low in the dust! Think on that my friends! Think on it and rise up and fight!”

“But with what pray tell? Our resources are exhausted, all as could have, have paid their membership dues, the elections have took all we had!”

“Yes! Say on Brother and what of the end result? Nowt has changed?” cries Master Wendell his face flushed with anger, it reminds the Union Rep of the ferocious rage of the London chimney sweeps and of how it swept all before it! “Nowt has changed? All has changed! Democracy has been overthrown! It has been abducted by as villainous a rapscallion as ever graced this town with his accursed presence! My brothers we must wrest democracy out of his claws and restore her maiden honour! We have little by way of means though we all share the belief that what has gone on here cannot be allowed to go on for much longer!”

“Here here!” cries Lord Douglas “Bravo!” much to the surprise and terror of all present he has forced entrance to this meeting, determined to weigh in and do his bit. Until now the Earl of Grodden Parnock and Brume Polder has been unusually quiet and reflective, but now he feels he must speak up and speak up he does. “How many years has Master Eccles dwelt within our bodies?”

“Nigh on twenty year too many” is someone’s sour reply,

“In that time how much good has been done to our town?”

“Himself grows fatter and fatter whilst manpower is reduced and short hours increased!” is another’s equally sour reply.

“What words are there to describe the slough of despond into which the town has fallen?” exclaims the Reverend and as one the listening men sigh, only to have their audible discouragement cut off by a peremptory snort from Lord Douglas.

“Slough of despond be damned! cries he, the muscles of an iron-puddling practitioner rippling beneath his jacket,”We will have rid of this iron master you have my word on it! Now I am told that Master Francis serves up grand fair after these meetings, is that true?”

“Aye my lord!”

“Then” says his lordship to all and sundry,”May we eat?”

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Hypocritical Cant, Satire, Social Justice

The Union Rep Takes Up A Righteous Cause!

The Union Rep MP

The Union Rep MP

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!”

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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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