Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Very Modern Substitute For Whipping

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There are odd corners in the brains of many of us, corners which are suffused with queer fancies, and thus should be kept well out of sight. But should these slight, queer, fancies -which some might choose to call ‘an attack of consciense’-be deemed madness? Nay dear reader, for if some of us were used according to our desserts in that way, who then should ‘scape the modern substitutes for whipping?

Consider the most estimable Ethelbert-Smythe MP, who upon having seen Lady Clarence to her carriage and the Reverend Farthengrodden to his, now stumbles fearfully towards his study. The vast empty corridors of the workhouse echo beneath his feet, its interiors are as dark and dank and forbidding as any empty house would be, for the wards of this supposed sanctuary are half full. Many have whispered that it is his intention to do away with the workhouse and keep only the casual wards, this despite the poor who daily clamour at his doors for want of hearth and home.

His richly furnished study is the only part of the  workhouse supplied with a vast well lit fireplace, and comfortably upholstered furniture, yet the guardian enters his domain with a most unexpected timidity, with a degree of apprehension and agitation one would not expect of he who had so dramatically shrunk the population of a workhouse, from nigh on seven hundred to a hundred and fifty. 

Indeed, as guardian of the workhouse his first act was to ensure the creation of a well stocked study and office, a warm and comforting place, where prodigious amounts of Claret might be consumed, cigars smoked and business conducted. His second was to extend the horse barns considerably, transforming them into the casual wards of the workhouse. Consider dear reader, a practice which when first suggested, horrified Miss Peepy the elder,

“What?!” cried she indignantly, “Are we to debase the poor still further, since they have no employ, by likening them to horses and what pray tell, shall we be feeding them? Hay?”

“If they’re berthed for the night, and sent out to look for work during the day is there any need to feed them?” the right honourable Ethelbert-Smythe observed coolly. On hearing his reply Miss Peepy felt an impending sense of looming disaster, was it possible that the poor would allow themselves to be lodged as horses and starved without there being consequences? And of the direst sort? She suggested this to the indefatigable workhouse guardian whose reply was this,

“Consider the Scottish fir-”

“The Scottish fir?!” cried Miss Peepy disbelievingly, ” Now we are to liken human lives to lumps of wood? Take Care Ethelbert! That you summon not up the hordes of vengeance! Remember the Grid-Iron Riots!”

Remember them? Why it had taken him six hours to reach his his home! The selfishness of the poor! The sheer wanton, violent, selfishness, it was positively Malthusian! Indeed it has proven most Malthusian once the fatalities (his lordship included) were counted.

“Rioting within the rookery? My dear, the environment has been favourable for so long, that the populace of this slum, have begun to mistake Spitalfield’s Workhouse for a tavern, in which an abundance of provisions may be devoured, and nought paid for them. They are far too comfortable to consider rioting! T’is time we discomfited them!”

And so his suggestions were considered by all the workhouse trustees, voted upon and passed. This included the apprenticing of all children past the age of four to apprentice masters of the direst sort. Why, Master Turple-Sleath had apprenticed and near killed a dozen chimney sweeps, before he lit upon Dommy Woodbine, the child whose cindery death had provoked the Grid-Iron Riots! Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe braved out the death and since he had taken charge workhouse commerce had flourished, and the costs of keeping the workhouse poor had diminished to a most inconsequential amount. On the whole his reforms had been feted, though not by Miss Peepy. Miss Peepy being unmarried and therefore prone to frequent misdirected tendernesses of heart.

Yet in the early hours of each morning he felt himself plagued by nameless and terrible fears, and he suffered increasingly from nightmares, such terrible nightmares! T’was as if he were being mercilessly, sharply, prodded by the stern finger of god, and yet he knew himself to have committed no sin, no obvious act of wrong. Perhaps he had been a little tardy in his prayers, a little lethargic in his recitations of The Goveen Creed, perhaps that was it.

Fatigued and a little overwrought from long working hours (and ever shortening nights of sleep) he slumped into his favourite study chair, but oh horror of horrors! A clammy hand firmly grips his own, holding it fixed beneath its hairy grip. Shrieking fearfully his gaze alights on that place where the phantasm that touched him should be, but there is no one, nought but him, pale and trembling before a roaring fire.

Sitting down once more, he pours himself some brandy in an effort to calm his nerves and after several quick gulps it appears to do the trick, but then he espies something wrong with the fireplace. Indeed he fancies that something or someone is moving amongst the flames, and frighted well past all his previous allayed terror, he leaps out of the armchair, only to be held fast by a grimy hand that has slithered out of the flames and snaked itself around one of his ankles.

“Have you forgot me?” croaks the face that accompanys the hand, it glares up at him out of the flames with a degree of malice that does not bode him well at all, “T’is I! Master Hemp-Hill Skinner!” the soot covered visage staring up at him seemed goatish and crafty and its eyes! It’s eyes!

“Aaargh! Aaargh! Cthulu fd’aarghen!!!!” Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe screams as though a nameless terror has clutched him by the throat and is now in the process of tearing him limb from limb. He screams as if the very hounds of hell are gnawing and gnashing at his ankle, he screams until he is hoarse with screaming and then he faints. Outside, on the streets the sun is shining ,and those poor who have been allowed into the workhouse, go about their daily labours with pure hearts and a clear consciense.

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Persons of Immediate Interest & the Others

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The honourable Robert Farthengrodden, defended in an appalling admirable manner by the Kinsella QC (and so, acquitted of the murder of sweet, Mary Parnham, upon the defence of sonambulistic wanderings). Estranged from Lady Bedelia Farthengrodden, mother of his six children, who, as a consequence of the scandal entered holy orders as a novitiate of the Goveen Sisterhood. Having gained his freedom he took up a position as a work house guardian that he might atone all the better for his past sins. And once he had won the favour of Miss Peepy, he took over the onerous duties of auditing the Workhouse accounts. Well, she said, he said iz duties was ‘onerous’ and indeed they must have been, for six months into the job, he disappears and a hundred pound of charitable contributions disappears with ‘im!

T’was a tragedy dear reader! T’was a horror that such as once graced the corridors of power should have stooped to such immoral depths. That a gentleman of such good breeding should willingly have plunged into such swirling, suppurating deeps as these! Why sirs! I know not what to comment! Except, that in the words of St. Gove that translucent effervescence, sic transit gloria mundi, so passes away earthly glory. And furthermore,non teneas aurum totum quod splendet ut aurum (self explanatory).

And so, from Monday to Sunday (and back again) I lay in wait for Robert Farthengrodden, whom, I heard told, had taken lodgings at the East India Club. As a rule, once a man has succoured himself extensively (and in public), upon the bosom of iniquity, the upper echelons keep their distance. Not so with Farthengrodden and, once I had ascertained that he would be in residence for some time,I was able to avail myself of a lunch invite in the company of Alf (the fence)De Quincey.

“Well” says I, “This is a pretty pass, twenty minutes sat here drinking turtle soup and still no sign of him”

“Oh he’ll be in to dine right enough, he’s taken to one of them gels what lives in the cupboard.”

“What cupboard?” says I,

That cupboard.” says he, lifting one delicately manicured thumb and jabbing it towards a large ebony wood grandfather clock wot lay behind him. Well as I turns me head I see’s the most peculiar sight. There’s a door at the base of the clock and as it opens slowly I see first a pale hand and then a foot wriggle itself out of the compartment, followed by a reed like neck and two blinking peepers! “Well, well,” I says, “This is a most peculiar practice, a most peculiar practice, stashing one’s servants in a grandfather clock! What will the ruling classes think of next?”

“Tis the necessities of the Crimean” says Alf with an air of mystery.

“The necessities of what?” says I flummoxed by the pale, reedy looking gent quickly clearing away our soup dishes. “The Crimean, they’re refugees and since they ain’t got regular papers” (the reedy gent proffers a soiled gloved hand for a tip which Alf won’t give, on principle), “They works ‘ere for board and lodgings” well, my eyes narrows  at that and I asks,”Whose idea was that?”.

“Ask ‘im” he replies jabbing his thumb once more behind him where I espies none other than the once honourable Farthengrodden squeezing hisself into the Grandfather clock lodgings. He has half disappeared into the cupboard already, but with all speed I leap towards him and grabbing ‘im by the scruff of the neck I declares,”Not so fast my lad! You’ve charges to answer!”

“Charges?” says he all innocent and such,

“Of Larceny!” Says I, not put off in the slightest by his gentlemanly appearance, for t’was upon my breast that the elderly Miss Peepy cried her poor Christian heart out! “Larceny!” I exclaims once more, tugging on the collar of his dinner jacket. “Look lively my lad! Come to it! For my name is Sergeant Qwinty sir, and you are to attend the the Magistrate’s pleasure!”

“Magistrates pleasure?” says he looking suitably puzzled for our conversation has drawn the attention of other gentleman, and are they bemused by the sight of refugees wriggling out of their hiding places? Not at all! They look prodigious perplexed that such a gentleman as this should have fallen once more into scandal in the midst of their club. “Magistrates pleasure!” I repeat the words casting my eyes around the gentlemanly gathering in a meaningful sort of way, whereupon they draws themselves up indignantly and pointedly resumes their dining. “Come along peaceably won’t you?” and eventually he does for there’s no evading justice once it has you in its grip. And so, dear reader, I carried the depredatory gent off to Bow Streets Magistrates. And once there, in due course, the rascal charmed the Magistrate into letting him off.

T’was nigh on a week later when I spotted the ‘Spitalfield’s Workhouse Robber” strolling back to the East India Club, he was arm in arm with a pallid, wan looking creature, a Crimean lass no doubt. I had little time to reflect upon this as I was headed toward Bow Streets Magistrates, this time with a pickpocket in tow. But later in the day, over a glass of Sherry at the Nags Head Tavern, the following words sprang to mind,

It’s the same the whole world over,
It’s the poor what gets the blame,
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,
Isn’t it a blooming shame?

-Billy Bennett

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Transported

Of Transportation & Genetic Algorithms

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Statistically speaking,there are degrees in murder and therefore life must be held sacred; not merely from the insidious invasion of choleric disease, nor only from the heinous onslaught of stubborn, homicidal intent, but from that most sinister and dare I say it, most nefarious of transports, the London Omnibus. In this vast metropolis, with it’s streets mired in mud throughout the greater part of Winter, travelling abroad on foot, bag in hand, with one’s skirts held aloft, all the way from Hay Market to the Spitalfield’s Workhouse, is unthinkable.

For one, there are the little ragged children, masquerading as street sweepers, who importune one so aggressively for a farthing here and a shilling there, that one is rather apt to call the fire of jove down upon their little heads. Then there are the penny steamers, a much safer, and one might say picturesque mode of transport via the River Thames. That is, until one recalls the maiden voyage of the SS Princess Alice, sunk in collision with a collier (650 lives lost), or the explosion of the boiler aboard the Superbiam (400 lives and an entire livelihood lost).

Indeed, it might be said that the safest way to travel is upon one’s feet; though many centuries have past since man felt inclined to demonstrate his affinity with mother earth by treading barefoot upon her. Hence Cabriolets, Hacks and Drays and the nefarious evolution of the Omnibus. Generations of gentlefolk have clambered delicately aboard these vehicles; just as generations of working folk have driven ’em and made ’em profitable.

Observe the honourable Miss Peepy the elder, as she daintily ascends the ‘Halfway Dilligent’ and is expertly manhandled into a comfy seat by Mr Herbert, the cad. Observe Mr Herbert tip his hat, and proffer a courtly bow, as a precussor to his assuring Miss Peepy the elder, that the journey from Paddington to Spitalfields will cost no more today, than it did yesterday.

“A good day to you Miss Peepy! I ‘opes this day finds you in pwistine ‘ealth Miss Peepy! That’ll be six pence Miss Peepy!” Miss Peepy responds in kind, gently inclining her head and offering up a contrained smile (it doesn’t do to be too familiar!), “A good day to you Mr Herbert! Spitalfields if you please!” and Spitalfields it is, though Mr Herbert and the driver have calculated that if they turn up Tenter Street, instead of turning left at White’s Row, they should be able to make a further thruppence out of Miss Peepy and so increase their profit margins.

The Omnibus driver canters on picking up one gentle-person after another till the bus is suffuse with the the scent of Rose Water mingled with Eau de Cologne. And now the Omnibus is packed nearly to the rafters with a dozen over dressed, esteemed persons seated cheek by jowl. Ah but there is always room for more! And so the driver pauses first at London Bridge, and then at Liverpool Street, and then again at Phoenix Street, picking up several gentlemen along the way for the princely sum of 2 shillings a piece. Nice and gently the Omnibus canters along, that is until Mr Herbert, leaning out of the door and surveying the whole breadth of Commercial Steet says he espies Squivers in the distance and a-picking up speed.

“Oi Oi! It’s Squivers! Comin up off-side! Look sharp Mr Gubbins!” and with a ferocious twirl of the whip on the horses’ back sides they’re off! The gentle canter becomes a trot, the trot becomes a gallop, and the gallop becomes a  headlong rush down Commercial Street, a mad cap dash up Hen Cage Row. Now the Omnibuses are neck and neck and Squiver’s twirling his whip like a man gone insane turns briefly to observe Gubbins and his Omnibus falling behind. “Ha!” he screeches, “Ha Ha Ha!” a look of exultant triumph lighting up his face, he is oblivous to the screams and wails of fear issuing forth from the mouths of his passengers.

And indeed, just as he is about to turn into Fashion Street one of his gentleman passengers is thrown out of the bus and left clinging onto the doors leathern strap for dear life. On the corner of Church Street the gallop slows to a trot and the trot to a most subtle canter, until at length they’ve arrived at Montague Street, whereupon all the passengers hastily disembark, straightening their clothes, re-adjusting their hats and tossing many a baleful glance behind them. They are horrified by the behaviour of Squires! They are outraged! But then they contemplate the prospect of having to walk all the way from Paddington to Church Street (as the poor do) and become resigned.

As for Mr Squivers, he climbs down from his perch and is soon joined by the bus boy who congratulates him on his triumph over Herbert and Gubbins. Cantering gently down White Street they pull up outside the Brass Bell pub, there they will count up the surplus profit they have made off the passengers and Squivers will recount his racing triumph, to any that care to give him their ear.

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