Academies, Hypocritical Cant

A Momentary Respite

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There are no words to describe the traumatic shock which overcame  Emily Lefevre upon her  espying Boodooo peering fervidly at her through Lord Grid-Iron’s leaden casements. Lord Grid-Iron’s lascivious admissions, coupled with Boodoo’s aberrant manifestation, were sufficient to catapault her into a state of catatonia, from which it was at first believed she would never recover.

Indeed, had it not been for the compassion of Lady Grid-Iron, the love of Maggie Sitwell (Lady Grid-Iron’s maid), and the selfless devotion of Francis the pageboy, Emily might well have borne out her remaining days in a lunatic’s asylum, such as the Northern Star wrote about and campaigned against.  She had lain prone in Lady Grid-Iron’s bed for nigh on a month, pale and silent, her large blue eyes brimming frequently with tears. Francis had asked for and been granted permission by Kitty Grid-Iron to sit with her during the day, “La!” said she,

“I can hardly see as how you’re presence by her bedside will help any!”

“I miss her pastries and she is the only woman ever to cook Lamb Berrebeis and Couscous just the way I like it ” he replied gravely, “If there is anything I can do to help bring her back to herself, I will gladly do it” Kitty Grid-Iron sighed, and as she smoothed out her gown she said “You won’t desert me will you? Not in the agency’s hour of need…..in my hour of need?” she shook out her little leather riding gloves before looking up into his startled face, “Ma’am?” said Francis, one eyebrow raised,”I am a Muslim, t’is a declaration of loyalty I’m making by attending the bedside of one whose gentle, sweet and refreshing nature is wholly deserving of it. T’is hardly a profession of love. Besides I was contracted by Mr Pinkerton to appropriate Jedidiah Kane Thickett and he is still at large!” he looked reproachfully at Kitty who breathed an audible sigh of relief,”Thank you Francis, for your sense of loyalty and duty”  Francis bowed and quietly left the room. Kitty was partly heartbroken; for there could be no doubt about it, he was in love, she was also elated, the idea of Francis dying alone on some secret mission for the Pinkerton Agency had never really appealed to her.

The night watches were the worst, what with Emily burning feverishly whilst in the grip of some terrible nightmare and from time to time crying out “Boodoo! Noooo!” as she rose from her bed and tried to hurl herself out of the bedroom window . Maggie fortunately was on hand at those times, and ever watchful had nursed her patiently. Whilst Francis watched over the sickly Emily from afar, Maggie had dilligently watched over her charge night after night, proffering much prayerful thanks to St Gove as she did so.

T’was on one such fraught and torpid night, that Maggie espied a familiar figure from Emily’s bedroom window, a short,stocky form huddled close against an Oak which lay just beneath the leaden casement, clutching her Goveen Rosary beads to her chest, Maggie quickly rose and went in search of Francis the pageboy. She did not have far to travel, for he had been quietly taking up his station outside Emily’s bedroom door for quite a while, certain as he was that Boodoo’s obsession with his sister had yet to run its course. “Oh lor Mr Francis!” she cried, “He’s come for er! Boodoo ‘as come for ‘er!”

“Indeed” remarked Francis who murmuring a quick prayer under his breath arose from his lounge chair, revolver in hand and marched downstairs with Maggie in tow. At a little past one in the morning a tranquil silence pervaded the house, the servants were all a-bed and Lady Grid-Iron was away on business in London. In a way Francis was relieved by this for it meant there would be fewer witnesses to anything he might find himself impelled to do.

Walking slowly and oh so carefully through the trademen’s entrance, Frances sidled around the back of the house towards that part of the wall which lay beneath Emily’s window. “Ho there! Miscreant!” he shouted, “Step forward and make thyself known! Or by the righteous indignation of Allah’s most sacred prophet! I will surely shoot you!” there was no discernible movement at first, but when Francis audibly pulled back the trigger and aimed his gun the shadow suddenly parted company with the silhouette of the tree and slid forth into the mooonlight.

“Sweet Gove have mercy!” cried Maggie crossing herself thrice and thrumming the Goveen Rosary through her fingers with such speed that Francis had to restrain himself from shooting them out of her hands. For there Boodoo stood in all his terrifying beauty, his large brown eyes were limpid pools of expressionless, pent-up violence. In the several intrigues they had executed together Frances had never known what made Boodoo tick. And now as he scrutinised the deranged features of this arsonistic madman, he wondered why it was that he couldn’t bring himself to shoot him. He was an aberration of nature, this he felt to be true, but he was also sweet Emily’s brother, a most unfortunate state of affairs.

“Is Emily ere?” Boodoo whispered hoarsely, Francis and Maggie glanced at each other “No she isnt!” they replied in unison, Boodoo took another step forward, his muscular hands clenched “God ‘elp them as tries to keep me separated from my Em! D’yeah ere me! If anyone seeks to keep me separated from my dear sweet sister God elp em!” Boodoo took another step forward and then another. Raising his revolver Francis narrowed his eyes, cocked back the trigger and fired off a warning shot, roaring with pain Boodoo leapt upon him and a struggled ensued, which would have ended with Boodoo’s hands wrapped tightly around Francis throat, were it not for the three Indian Fakirs who slid miraculously from the shadows and leapt upon Boodoo wrestling him to the ground.

“Bismillahi! What infamy is this?!” Francis exclaimed as he clambered to his feet, revolver in tow, the eldest and most sprightly of the men leapt to his feet, delivering a swift kick to Boodoo as he did so, “Navendrah Patel at your service my lord! If I may explain” he glanced towards the two other men both of whom were seated upon the prone Boodoo. “We are in England to right a wrong and recover two assets” Francis raised an eyebrow “Two assets?” he trained his revolver on the sprightly elderly man. Three Indian Fakirs who had travelled all the way from the Indian continent on an errand of retribution (for what other errand could it be?) and lain all this while undetected in the grounds of the Grid-Iron country estate? The elderly Indian bowed once more, his hard, black, eyes were unwavering in their determination”Two assets, the Sapphire of Agar Khan” he grimaced as he said this, but his hard little eyes glittered as he uttered the next words “and Lord Tobias Grid-Iron”

Francis shrugged, glancing at the prone Boodoo he said “Get rid of him first and I will tell you all you wish to know” Francis turned to Maggie who stood at once rapt and amazed at the sight of these three turban-clad strangers “Mademoiselle Maggie” he murmured, “She must never know her brother was here” Maggie’s eyes flashed angrily at Boodoo, “And you may trust that she’ll never ere it neither! Not from me!” sweeping her skirts up in her hands she marched towards Boodoo, delivering a swift kick with her little booted foot and marching just as swiftly back to the house. “Now” said Francis lowering his revolver, “Let me tell you precisely where you may locate your quarry”

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Of Wild Roses & Narrow Vestibules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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T’is late at night and the rowdy, brisk, hustle and bustle of London street life has dimmed to a barely audible hum. The streets are pitch dark and mostly empty; save for Inspector Girdy, pristine in his midnight blue uniform, fashioned from garbardine and replete with several well polished brass buttons. He is patroling Berkeley Square in as leisurely a manner as possible taking in every polished and gleaming cul-de-sac and lamp post. He would be about as likely to meet a thief, here on these streets, as he would be to meet an Irish nun, drunk and dancing a jig. And so, humming a cheery tune and waving a lantern before him, he waddles gently on his way. T’is late at night and the streets gleam and are damp with gently downpouring rain as two slender figures slip out of the tradesmen’s entrance to Lord Grid-Iron’s estate, and hurry off into the night.

“I know t’is better to give than to receive Emily, but I can’t help thinking that this game pie would be better off placed back in the pantry”

“Now Maggie, think of them little ones with their bellies all nice and full, and their cheeks all flushed with joy as they wash that pie down with some beer. Won’t that warm thy heart Maggie?”

They hurried on through Clothilde Avenue where sparkling white lace curtains parted, to reveal candles glimmering on the window sills and Oleander Square where gleaming cobble stones lay bathed in the glow of rows of street lamps. Faster they walked as the downpour grew heavier, glossing the slimy cobblestones which lay half disintegrated beneath their boot-clad feet, and causing the soot encrusted bricks to gleam darkly in the amber half-light radiated by lanterns hung from doss-house doors. Faster and faster, past the darkened doorways in which little children huddled over their tiny slates, on which were inscribed the tenets of St. Gove. Past the sallow faced, haggard looking door men perusing copies of Milton’s Paradise Lost, in-between ejecting surly customers soused on tax-free beer.

Down Young Gilly’s pass they travelled, pulling their bonnets still lower over their brows and averting their faces from lascivious sights, which might other wise have accosted them, as they travelled past one dimly lit side street after another. “Homer’s Odyssey” whispered Maggie as they walked into St Giles Square “What?” replied Emily her mind intent upon what lay ahead, “The last alley we passed where the prosser were beating up a customer, it were Homer’s Odyssey she had in her hand” Emily frowned,”Maggie Settleworth, you would do better to focus thine eyes on the words of St. Gove inscribed upon thy heart, to err is human, but to achieve is divine! We’re almost home child, hitch up thy skirts”

Carefully they picked their way amongst the various heaps of wet clothing piled up at the front door, making their way down the steps that led into the basement that had once been Maggie’s home. As quietly as possible Maggie pulled the makeshift door to, signalling to Emily not to say a word, behind the ragged door lay the family hearth wreathed in smoke from the guttering fire, which had barely heated the room. Quickly Maggie turned to the window restuffing the fragmented glass with the damp rag that had fallen onto the floor. Reaching into her pocket, she removed the lump of coal she had stolen from Lord Grid-Iron’s coal shed. Quietly uttering a pray of penitence to St. Gove she tossed the lump of coal onto the fire, stirring it back to life.

“Your ma’s not here” Emily commented as she unwrapped the vast woolen shawl she’d packed into the bottom of her basket and covered the little boy asleep on the hearth with it, he stirred briefly, opening one sticky glue-rimed eye, “Maggie” said he, “Is that you?”

“It’s me” she murmured gently tousling his hair “sleep” she said “sleep” and for a little while she lay down beside him, wrapping her cape tightly around her whilst she stirred the fire back to life. Gradually the room warmed and as Maggie fell asleep Emily laid a clean napkin on the ricketty wooden table in a corner of the room, on it she placed the game pie wrapped in a linen hanky, and the two bottles of beer which she had also purloined from the larder. Emily stepped delicately over the damp & grimy floor boards towards the huddled form tossing restlessly on the dank floor in the far corner of the room. Digging deep into the pockets of her gown she pulled out a bottle of Dr Purkleberry’s Laudunum, much as she loathed it she could little doubt it’s medicinal properties, having administered it so frequently at St Bachanalia’s asylum. She administered it now and at once observed its quietening effect on the restless form of Maggie’s mother. Nudging Maggie awake she got to her feet, her last act before leaving the room was to move the baby’s cot a little further away from the fire, one family member with tuberculosis was more than sufficient she reasoned. ” Maggie” she asked as they made their way back to the Grid-Iron residence, “Who is thy family’s landlord?” Maggie bit her lip, “Lord Tobias Grid-Iron” she murmured.
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Academies, Academy status, Hypocritical Cant

The Musical Scuttle

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