Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Monsieur Hulperte

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“Singularly pleasing! Most, singularly pleasing!” commented Monsieur Hulperte as he inspected the kitchens of the Grid-Iron establishment and then the servants standing to attention in the middle of them. “You will please observe Mademoiselle LeFevre, that I operate a system in these kitchens, a system that is both singular and pleasing. It is most eagerly embraced by all who wish to continue to work here”. Monsieur Hulperte is Chef par excellence to Lord and Lady Grid-Iron. Being most notably the former cook to Lord and Lady Font-Le-Noy, he is considered the supreme font of all Haute Cuisine wisdom.

“Without this system, the world, our world, would fall apart, would cease to exist. And since we do not wish our world to fall apart we must adhere strictly to the system” Monsieur Hulperte smiles grimly and narrowing his eyes until they are almost slits he calls out,

“Madame Fluttock!”

“Yes, Monsieur!”

“What is that you are cooking?”

Sautéed Kedgeree if you please sir!” replies the good lady who had once herself been head cook at the Grid-Iron establishment.

“Kedgeree?! And what pray tell is that you are ‘sautéing it with?”

“Lard, sir” replies the cook nonchalantly taking a large dollop of the worker’s condiment and stirring it vigorously into the contents of the copper pan.

“Lard?”

Turkey Twizzler Lard, Sir” the servants glance at the former head cook and then at Monsieur Hulperte’s outraged expression, they try hard to stifle the grins which must needs keep popping up first on one face and then another, before being extinguished (on pain of losing one’s employ) altogether. “Where pray tell did you find it?”

“What?”

“The lard!”

“In the pantry sir, right alongside the butter!”

Monsieur Huppert lets out a horrified groan, a pale cream coloured palm flutters to his breast, he staggers against a marble work surface, “Kedgeree smothered in Turkey Twizzler Lard? For Brunch?”

“Tiz wot iz lor’ship asked for and what he asks for he gets!”

Madame Fluttock continues to briskly whisk the eggs, Kippers and lard, emptying the contents of the pan onto a tastefully ornamented plate, which she then covers with another plate and then a beautifully embroidered linen napkin. She hands the dish to Maggie Sitwell,

“Up to his lor’ship quick gel! Quick! Quick!”

“Ave you not heard of the system Mrs Fluttock?”

“Iz lor’ship asked for Kedgeree!”

“I ‘ad prepared a Poisson and Pea Amuse Bouche followed by a Chien Fettiere!”

“His lor’ship wanted Kedgeree!”

Madame Fluttock, the former cook to Lord Grid-Iron wipes her plump hands on a greasy apron. She folds them resolutely over her equally plump and formidable bosom. Her face is as calm and expressionless as Monsieur Hupperte’s is enraged and florid.

“This is unbearable, you are inconceivable! That you should countermand my wishes! Defy my system! And serve up Turkey Twizzler basted-“

Sautéed-”

“Basted! KEDGEREE!!!”

Snatching up first one plate and then another he hurls them with all his might at Madame Fluttock who ducks instinctively. Mademoiselle LeFevre, watching with mounting horror, wonders whose kitchen she has wandered into. Madame Fluttock meanwhile is too busy ducking out of the way of flying plates, to notice the kitchen door opening, and Mr James silently observing the unfurled mayhem.

“Foux! Gourmande! S-“

“Mr Huperte! You will compose yerself sir! Or you can find yerself a berth at the Spitalfields Workhouse! Mrs Fluttock! His lordship sends his compliments on yer Kedgeree; it’s the best he’s tasted yet! Back to bizness all of ye! Wots ye paid for?!”

I cannot stand this! I will leave!”

“You will not!! We’ll ave no scandal in this house Monsieur Hupperte! Back to work!”

Monsieur Hupperte contemplates sweeping out of the kitchens and up to his rooms, but then he surreptitiously eyes the bludger fastened to Mr Jame’s belt and thinks better of it.

“Mademoiselle LeFevre to me!” he shrieks tremulously and thus her first working day at the Grid-Iron establishment is begun. First the boiling and peeling of eggs, then the slow pouring over of Bechamel Sauce (after the egg yolks had been most tastefully arranged upon a bed of shredded egg white), then the delicate arranging of puff pastry leaves atop the sauce and finally, a systematic fine sprinkling of Parsley.

“Alors! Eggs a La Tripe finis! Her ladyship is fond of simple fare! Mademoiselle Sitwell! Take this upstairs please! Quickly! Now, let us prepare the Almond Soup! You are conversant with this dish are you not Mademoiselle LeFevre?” asks Monsieur Hulperte smiling contemptuously at Madame Fluttock, for it is obvious to him if not to everyone present, that she knows nothing about such cultured dishes.

“T’was a favourite at my previous establishment Monsieur Hulperte” replies Emily nervously, “Mace, Almonds and milk I think”

“Cloves, Almonds, Mace and cream! This is an upmarket establishment my dear! Now, we shall commence to prepare the dish like so…” He commences to add the ingredients to the beef stock with a degree of speed and adeptness that leaves the kitchen staff enthralled and gobsmacked. Dear reader with what elegance and eloquence, with what skill the Almond Soup is briskly prepared and surreptitiously set to one side. With what speed and attention to detail the Omelette L’herbe, Veal Cake and Asparagus Sauce are prepared. It is almost a mercy for Emily to be left alone to cook a simple cream custard to accompany the Almond Tarte. My! Such an abundance of food and an abundance of ways to cook it! The rich are ever with us! T’is the crowning miracle to crown all miracles, that the rich may reside (and even dine) cheek by jowl with the poor in the realm of haute cuisine. For half the kitchens in dear old London are populated by ‘French’ chefs born in the impoverished ‘rookeries’ of St Giles.

I require some more butter for the Feuilletage! Mademoiselle LeFevre, if you would be so kind?”

“We’ve plum run out of butter Monsieur Hulperte” Monsieur Hulperte rolled his eyes, imbecile la!

“Did they teach you nothing at your last establishment? The cold pantry mademoiselle, it is where milk, eggs and butter are stocked! Mademoiselle Maggie! Show er!”

“Yes Monsieur!”

To be freed from the torment of precise and systematic French Cuisine; to be able to walk though somewhat briskly, down a cool and draughty corridor what bliss! Or at least it should have been had Maggie not fainted on the way there.

”I can’t gawn like this I can’t! Up at the crack of dawn, cleaning out them fire places, scrubbing down them kitchen floors and scrubbing out them copper pans! I ain’t ‘ad a bite to eat since last night dinner time!”

She sobbed hysterically into her handkerchief as if her world was at an end, “There, there” murmured Emily sympathetically, ”Don’t go on so, you sit there for a bit, I’ll be back shortly” and having found and sliced off an adequate amount of butter, Emily LeFevre made her way back to the kitchen and to Monsieur Hulperte. Maggie sat there for some time, sobbing freely into her handkerchief and contemplating the great misfortune of sitting in a well-stocked pantry, whilst her family were starving to death at home. In fact the more she pondered this fact in her highly fraught state, the more unjust this seemed. Till, at length she found herself taking up a game pie and stuffing into her petticoats. In fact it is safe to say dear reader, that if Emily had not happened upon her desperately trying to rearrange her skirts around the pie things might have taken a distinctly nasty turn.

“Put the pie back my gel! If you get dismissed from your place who will feed your family?”

“Who’s feedin ‘em now? T’aint no use, they’re better orff without me!”

Maggie’ large eyes dwelt on the sobbing maid for some time, her face grew pale and then stern, putting a hand into her apron pocket she pulled out her well-thumbed Goveen testimonies, First my gel” she said,” you will have something to eat, and then you shall tell me what is wrong”.

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

An Enchantress Of Indelicate Blood

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‘Ah! Light lovely lady with delicate lips aglow

With breast more white than a heavy-laden branch of snow,

When my hand was uplifted at Mass to salute the Host,

I looked at you at once and half of my soul was lost’

-Anon

One can no more describe the effect the sun’s rays have on the fragile petals of an Anthurium. Than one can the effect of two handsome women, at leisure and walking arm in arm through Kew Gardens in the early morn. The Arboretums are lush and fragrant at this time of year and the alluring scent of the Magnolia trees, causes them to wander wistfully through its drooping blooms. Garbed in wine coloured velvet and lace, Lady Grid-Iron is a vision to behold, small wonder then that she has caught the eye of many a perambulating gentleman. Mrs Cassiopeia-Thickett, with her demure manner and graceful carriage, is a regular feature of the gardens at Kew. Famed for her riveting performances as Orphelia in Hamlet and Calpurnia in Julius Caesar; Rose Cassiopeia-Thickett is that improbable event, an adventuress of impeccable reputation.

“I am followed, flattered and caressed. I am most certainly the taste of the other sex in London. I have flowers, cards and compliments in profusion and yet, alas, only one devoted lover”

“Only one?” replies Kitty Grid-Iron hanging on her every word,

“A Mr Reuben Gantry, a most singular and devoted beau. I am presented with his calling card at eight in the evening, he dines with me till nine and by ten he is gone”

“Two hours stay each time?”

“Precisely two hours on most days”

“Most days?”

“Yes, Thursday past being the exception to that rule”

“Did you find out where he’d gone?”

“By degrees,on that day he went to Turkles, wherein he spent the better part of the morning, before paying a visit to Mr Geraghty”

“Seamus Geraghty’s uncle? He’s the Manager of the Theatre Royal, so I’m told”

Rose Cassiopeia-Thickett, American spy and Pinkerton detective, files her weekly report on the comings and goings of Reuben Gantry to and from the Kane-Thickett household. But it would not do to phrase her report in such clear terms, after all one never knows who may be listening.

“We perform Monsieur Boucicault’s work at the Theatre Royal on Friday week”

“A theatrical production of The Octoroon? Here? In London?”

“It will be a most grand affair my dear, so au courant! T’is rumoured that Queen Victoria will be in attendance and that she in turn will be accompanied by the American Ambassador and one other, an Illinois gentleman, a lawyer, of sorts, an Abe Lincoln?”

Lady Grid-Iron looks singularly pleased, Jedidiah Kane-Thickett’s sudden flight to England had been greeted with much suspicion by Mr Pinkerton. For no more could a secessionist leopard change it’s spots than a Molly Maguire his political convictions! It had come as no surprise to him to learn that this barbarous slaver of men, this errant plantation owning southern rabble rouser, should conspire to blow up the Theatre Royal. What intrigued Mr Pinkerton was why and now Kitty Grid-Iron knew, an execution was a-foot! The attempted murder of a fervent abolitionist, an Illinois gentleman of sorts. That the Empress of India’s life might be in danger was regrettable; but that would be as nothing to the hell on earth that would be unleashed if Kane-Thickett worked his evil will.

“So, the conspiracy thickens! What of Mr Cochrane?”

“He and Mr Breeze watch over Gantry with more care, more solicitude than a mother weaning her child. Why, had I a newborn child I could not wish them in better hands! No matter the schemes my brother has embroiled himself in, we shall surely learn of them a’fore the game is afoot!”

Rose Thickett’s brown eyes glitter fiercely and her heart shaped face, beautiful in repose, takes on a harsh aspect. Her olive coloured complexion makes all who know her, mistake her for a European of Mediterranean descent. But she is American, a daughter of the revolution, a skilled agent provocateur, a native of the wild, uncharted slave-free frontiers of Kansas. Her mother, Lucia Furste, borne a slave, had fallen passionately in love with James William Thickett, plantation owner and beloved elder son of Caleb Thickett. But alas! There’s was an ill-fated match! Once Caleb Thickett found out who his son had married, he drew upon his revolver, flying into a rage so murderous James was lucky to have survived it. Under cover of darkness and via the underground railway, the girl was sent north to Kansas where she would in time give birth to Rose.

“And how does married life find you?” Rose was curious for though she had spied on men for political advantage she had yet to marry a man in order to abduct him.

Lady Grid-Iron rolled her eyes, “I find I manage it tolerable well” she said, “we are together at brunch and if I am lucky dinner. The rest of the time he is the solicitous obsession of Mr Page who would abduct him tomorrow if he believed it would bring an end to his self-enforced servitude”

“Are you certain Lord Grid-Iron had a hand in arming those secessionists?” chuckling mirthlessly, Lady Grid-Iron makes her reply,

Are you certain that Jedidiah Kane-Thickett aims to blow the Theatre Royal to smithereens, in order to murder one Illinois lawyer?”

Rose Cassiopeia-Thickett smiled but the smile was without humour, “A man who sponsored the massacre of Marais de Cygne because its people were opposed to the barbarous inclinations of the south? Such a man, held in thrall to the depravities of such a barbarous institution as slavery is capable of anything!”

As they glide on towards the Victoriana hot house, Rose thinks she espies a stocky figure ducking behind the trunk of a Magnolia tree. It could be her imagination except that she senses that she has twice espied that same silhouette, once on her way into the gardens and again as they had passed down Victoria Way and into the Arboretum.

“We’re being followed”

“Yes, he’s been with us for some time”

“Have you a pistol?”

“Don’t think there’s a need, for one, it would draw needless attention to us and for another the aimless fool appears to be Mr Fitchett, my butler”

“What? Following us? Is he mad?”

“No, he’s a fool, I think he means to save Tobias from undisclosed scandal by keeping an eye on where I roam”

“But who is running the household while he’s away?”

Kitty Grid-Iron laughed loudly, indeed her laughter was so thunderous that she startled many a perambulating personage and drew many disapproving stares.

“Who do you think? The workers run themselves my dear, they always have!”

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ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Forgotten Child Found (Part 1)

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T’was a mild autumnal day when Inspector Depta first happened upon the scandal brewing at Spitalfield’s Workhouse. Now the rain falls heavily upon the filthy cobbled streets, washing the mud and grime into the broken gutters. A brisk wind whistles through the trees sloughing the leaves off the gnarled branches. T’is a day conversant with all the murderous, predicatorial intent, a woman such as Birthe-Rugge could muster. What of her moral duty eh? What of that? He couldn’t prove it, but it had been whispered abroad frequently that an apprenticing with the woman, was akin to a month spent with the worst St Bacchanalia’s Asylum had to offer.

Her reputation for midwifery was impeccable, but when it came to apprenticing, why he had seen some of the worst bludgers in Spitalfields spit in the road, at the mention of her name. A woman that has successfully done away with so many, must be as cunning as she is devious. But Inspector Depta, undaunted by the challenge, instructs the Bow Street Officers to enter the workhouse from the rear. Master Deacon has agreed to accompany them and lead them to where he believes the girl lies. The Inspector has entered through the wrought-iron gates at the front, and had a quiet word with Billy Porter, who with a curt nod and a contemptuous sneer leads him to the offices of the Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe.

Inspector Depta of Bow Street yer Lordship! By your leave! Dapper and congenial keeper of the gates to the corridors of power. Treasurer of unpleasant truths and certain non-negotiable facts. Bearer of the scales of justice, shifting them this way and that, as an arbiter of laws, just and unjust. A reciter of statutes (when it suits him), and font of all matters pertaining to the unwritten principles of policing. Primum principium, never ever arrest a politician, unless you know  why you come and who it’ll inconvenience. Inspector Depta has nabbed many a starving gonoph, and hauled off any number of worn out blowens in his time. And the rules is always the same, t’is the politicians what az made the laws of the land, and t’is the job of all and sundry (saving the politicians), to be importuned by em.

The Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe sits calmly behind his mahogany desk, with his hands clasped loosely in front of him. His stony gaze sweeps haughtily over the Inspector, who notes with much satisfaction how very exhausted he looks. Behold those tiny bead-like eyes set in their hollowed out sockets! The heavy shadows beneath each eye! Oh that haggard face is haughty enough, but from time to time a lost look passes over it like a scudding cloud. He had heard from the butler that his Lordship was avin difficulty sleeping, that he seemed unduly troubled by the death of an orphan he’d leased out to Master Turple-Sleath (now deceased). A Whig politician labouring under a guilty conscience, fancy that! Removing his crisp kid gloves with some care the Inspector benignly proffers his card,

“Inspector Depta of Bow Street at yer service my Lord’

“Oh?” replies the Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe fingering the calling card gloomily,

“I am here with regards to the disappearance of an apprentice bound over to Mistress Birthe-Rugge your Lordship, one Bethilda Coram”

“Bethilda Coram?” the workhouse guardian affects an air of indifference, but the Inspector is quicker off the mark than he, and leaning forward so that his shoulders bunch impressively in his tailored coat he continues,

“Such matters as these (and there are so many such matters!) are normally left in your capable hands I know, but this matter is a little different”

“Different?” now the workhouse politician wavers between haughty indifference and alarm. He may not know Inspector Depta personally, but he knows of him, the man only materialises when there is scandal present.

“The girl is an orphan ward of the Foundling hospital Mi’Lord and has lately been apprenticed to a midwife here, a Mistress Birthe-Rugge”

“Indeed? Mistress Birthe-Rugge is principal midwife here, ministering to the peculiar wants and need of some sixty five pauper-women and doing so with admirable skill I might add. What is it you require of her?”

“The whereabouts of Bethilda Coram your Lordship, for it seems that t’is here she was seen last”

“Here?” asks the startled, workhouse politician, clutching nervously at his cravat, Inspector Depta smiles benignly once more and gets to his feet,

“Mayhap, the girl has ditched her apprenticeship and fallen into bad company, but since she is a ward of the Foundling Hospital, I must needs make my enquiries my Lord.”

His Lordship is dismayed, he feels distinctly importuned, nevertheless this is Inspector Depta of the Bow Street Police. “I will have somebody escort you to the infirmary” says he rising to his feet and pulling on a dusty bell rope. The Inspector notes that his eyes are red and bleary and also notes the smell of gin and Laudanum about his person, a man on a downward slope and no mistake!

Master Fluttock enters and they are soon on their way, past sparsely furnished pauper wards filled only with the smell of mildew and damp. Past one poorly lit fireplace after another, where the dense smoke smothers the warmth of the two or three pieces of coal meted out for each fire. Past the nursery (the only warm place in the building), where the elderly nurses totter to and fro, babes in their arms. Silence is what Inspector Depta notes here, the slumbering silence that only Laudanum can induce. Casting his mind back to the Foundling Hospital, he can think of no instance when the children there seemed drugged.

“You’re looking for Bethilda you say?” Looking quickly around him Master Fluttock mutters these ominous words but the Inspector ain’t impressed,

“You ever been to the Foundling Hospital?” he asks, for the hospital lies not far from the dung heaps of Spitalfields. Master Fluttock shakes his head, spent most of his life growing up in the rookery.

“T’is an orphanage and a school for babies what’s been thrown on dung heaps”

“There’s women as would throw their nippers on dung heaps?!”

Inspector Depta looks at him sharply,”There’s women as would murder their apprentices without so much as a by yer leave, and with the whole world looking on, you have such a one living here if I’m not mistaken!”

With shoulders bowed the raddled old man recounts his tale of midnight screamings and scratchings, of beatings and sobbings so audible they plum gave him nightmares. And still the Inspector ain’t impressed,instead halfway to the infirmary he stops, lights a cigar and lounging against a poor ward door he smokes and he waits, until,

“Oi! Oi! Here they comes!”  t’is two of the Bow Street Constabulary, handsome and smart of dress, and all of them grey of face,

“Well my lads how goes it?” the Inspector thinks he knows and calculates how much cleaning up this little scandal will cost his ‘Lordship’.

“We think she’s dead Inspector!”

 

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