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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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Goveeen Tenet Scorned!

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How unlike the paradise of which Sweet Gove spoke is this place! Heaps of smouldering iron litter the school grounds like the litterings of that hound of hell, Cerberus. The fragrant countryside air has long since fled and in its place? Dense smoke billowing out of the Iron-Slitting furnace and wreathing the cold grey stone of the chapel in it’s choking embrace. The grounds of Molten Tussock Academy may be likened to the very bowels of hell wherein that great beast – the spirit of Mammon- is said to abide, mired in the slough of despond, that place which impoverished Iron-Slitting apprentices are said to endure.

A second beast has arisen from that selfsame pit dear reader, but he is not as the first. For this one is a half-burned facsimile of a reverend of the Goveen Brotherhood, and one whose unbridled love for the tenets of Sweet Gove have unmanned him! Goveen adulation has altered him dear reader, and now here he stands,transformed from a spritely but naive youth to a pitiful ego fixated degenerate! Hunched over and limping towards the bell tower in his soot covered cassock, the far-from-saintly Reverend Tout Puissant is the very embodiment of vindictive malice…

Indeed, one doubts not that once he has climbed the bell tower and surmounted its pinnacle, all who have forsworn Goveen Matins will rue the day they were born!

“Bar the door Obed Plum! Bar it! Quickly now! The rapscallion is almost upon us! Can ye not hear him?” they all can, for t’is the bellowing, braying, rage of a crazed fanatic intent upon first seizing and then punishing his prey! T’is a scandal dear reader,a scandal and a disgrace! But once humility has fled (dragging reason along with it) who may say what will take its place?

 Now rocked from pillar to post by one violent explosion after another and now choked savagely by the vast plumes of smoke wreathing the chapel like a shroud the Iron-Slitting apprentices are terror stricken. But amongst them there is one who is not swayed, and dropping to his knees in a newly acquired attitude of prayer he speaks these words,

 “I am not nor ever was a churchgoing man but if ever we need thy help god, t’is now! HELP!!”

 By the standards of the tenets of Sweet Gove, his, is a succinct prayer (mercifully!), and is soon joined by dozens of others “Help us God! Send swift deliverance!”

Help is not long in coming, indeed it is almost at hand for look you, here is the UNION REP! Wrapped loosely in a cloak that has been drenched in water and struggling valiantly across the school grounds he stops just short of the tower, looking up he cannot see ought through the smoke, but he can hear the dim cries of Master Parnham and the apprentices.

“If ever we’ve needed thee Jehovah it is now!” the faint strains of mournful singing float down from that dismal place and in such a place as this! Where the fires rage and burn at every crevice and corner of the chapel, except at this one where the bell tower lies. Time wasted,thinks the Union Rep, is souls lost!

“Master Knowham! Have you the grappling hooks and the ropes!”

“Aye! I have em! Dear God we have arrived just in time!”

“Then let us begin!!”

Throwing off their sodden cloaks and rolling up their shirt sleeves the men throw up their grappling hooks until the hooks are fast secured upon the wall of that great bell tower. Their climb is an arduous one, many times are they tempted to turn back as the flames leap high beneath them and grey smoke billows above. But the desolate wails issuing forth from the tower compell them to tighten their grips on the soot blackened ropes and keep climbing,

“How goes it Master Knowham!”  the Union Rep yells though his voice can scarce be heard over the raging flames,

“Climb sir! Climb!” comes the reply, “There is no time to waste, climb or the boys are for it!” roars Master Knowham as he climbs fist over fist, doing all within his power to reach the top of the bell tower and his son before the flames do.

How best to describe the infernal vista Molten Tussock had become, best not to describe it, but to give thanks to the farmers of Molten Tussock minor, that humble village on the outskirts of Molten Tussock major. For on spying the smoke some distance from their village,  the alarm bells are rung  and the fire wagons rushed out speeding towards Molten Tussock as if for all the world the devil is at their heels. Oh how the flames sought to drive them back as they rushed to and fro in a frenzy seeking well water and pump water with which to put the fires out!

And all the while the terrible sound of braying issuing forth from within the chapel, “Ere but don’t that sound like-” says one farmer as he fills his bucket at the pump for the upteenth time, “The madman whats burned down iz own school with them poor kids in it?” replied another glaring balefully at the chapel door,”best to let mad men lie if you ask me! We’ve enuf to be going on with,more water?”

“Drive that wagon closer to the chapel! Man the pump boys! Man the pump!” the more the fire crackles and rages, the faster the men move, driving the wagons up against the base of the church and streaming water up and around till the ground is sodden and the bricks give off a vaporous mist.

“Climb damn ye! Keep climbing! We’re almost there!” hauling themselves over the wall of the bell tower the two men seek those pitiful souls whose wailing cries have urged them onto the rescue. See there huddled fast against the hot bricks, two dozen tormented apprentices pleading so loudly for deliverance that they can scarce believe their eyes when it arrives. Bundling them towards the wall and over it, Master Knowham tries to rescue Master Parnham, but just as he is about to do so the bell tower door buckles inward, and the Reverend Tout-Puissant staggers out of the smoky darkness.

“Where are they? Where are my charges?” but his apprentices have been swiftly bundled up in warm blankets and the wagons carrying them gallop as far away and as fast away as the stamina of the horses will allow!

“It’s you! T’is your infernal inspections that have unravelled all my good work!”

“Not I sir! Look roundabout you!” the farmers have done all they can, the blackened ruins of a farmhouse, the dying embers of the iron furnace, these are all that remain. The fire has swept over all, devoured all, all but the Goveen chapel towering oppressively over the bleak landscape.

“What should I do? What will I do? They are gone, all gone! My darling ones!” and with that the Reverend, staggering towards the bell tower wall, hurls himself over it.

“Shocking simply shocking!” declares Master Parnham who was as he has said, deeply troubled and shocked.

“Shocking and scandalous!” opined Master Knowham as he prepares to descend the bell tower once more.

“A ruinous waste of a perfectly good school, the Bow & Bromley Board shall hear of it!” declares the Union Rep gleefully.

For the Bow and Bromley Education Board had accompanied him on the journey down from London. So that they might inquire as to the disappearance of Master Parnham, however as soon as  the coach entered Molten Tussock village they had observed the blaze. And desiring to avoid all association with yet another Goveen scandal, they had retired to the village inn for the night. How appalled they would be once they’d heard all that had transpired, and how eager they would be to redeem their reputations by funding another Hesketh-Elderberry-McTavish Ragged School!

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Academies, ACCESSIBILITY, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Of Black Holes & Endless Rapture

5690T’is more than eight years since the Silk Mill Riots of Grid-Iron Square and the overthrow of Lord Montaperti and his cronies. T’is less than five years since, at the urging of its constituents, the Union Rep was first elected Member of Parliament for Bow & Bromley. In that time he has scaled many a mountain of Tory opposition and with the help of his enraged Liberal comrades righted many a wrong. And by god if there isn’t such a wrong to be righted here in the midst of this education board, if he might but be allowed to sniff it out! Clearing his throat and getting to his feet the Union Rep examines the placid countenances of the men sat before him.

The air is redolent with the fragrant smoke of their Cuban Cigars, paid for by the blood and sweat of their workers no doubt. And yet for all that, when it comes to the proliferation of Industrial Academies for the training of their workers’ children, these education board members have plainly shown they have a conscience.

“Gentlemen, I would speak to you all on the matter of Molten Tussock Academy”

A look of puzzlement alights upon the flushed faces of the Bow & Bromley Education Board. Molten? Tussock? Would that be the name of  one of their schools? Glancing across the table on which sit several decanters of port and the remains of a prodigious luncheon,the Union Rep can make out the indolent face of Lord Elderberry who yawningly replies,”Molten Tussock Industrial Academy I think he means. Yes and what of it?”

And at this, this acknowledgement that such a school exists the Union Rep feels his heart skip a beat, so far so good. “T’is ten months since Molten Tussock Industrial Academy was inspected and nigh on twelve since Master Parnham’s inspection report was due; where is it and where is Master Parnham?”

“Master Parnham? The Mole Trouser Stretching Master? T’is hard to say, I’m told that from time to time he resides at Bethlem Asylum”

“Bethlem Asylum? He has not been seen there for some time, in fact since he undertook to inspect Molten Tussock he has not been seen at all”. Does the smile on Lord Elderberry’s gaunt face seem a little strained? Or is that just the Union Rep’s impression? He continues,”Indeed it is almost as if Master Parnham has fallen off the face of the earth and I could almost believe this to be the case, were it not for little Monty Eckard”

“Monty Eckard?” replies Master Dimmott a concerned look on his face, for the child’s parents and grandparents are some of his best Iron Slitters.

“Aye! The poor child has travelled many miles (and in fear of his life!) over Bow Creek Way and Bromley Marsh on foot and with much troubling news of Molten Tussock”.

“How so?”

“T’would be best if I allowed Master Eckard to recount his experiences to you all” he looked at all gathered there balefully,”Mayhap thou mightst decide what t’would be best to do…in the circumstances. Lydia?”.

“Yes Sir?”

“Fetch in Monty Eckard will thou lass?”

“Yes Sir” curtseying smartly the serving maid leaves the room for a moment,briskly re-entering with a little pinch faced boy trailing in her wake and loudly singing an infamous little ditty.

“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! ”

Master Dimmott’s gentle inebriation is soon dissipated by a surge of anger,of outright indignation that only the singing of such a song can provoke. Other board members are disturbed by the sight of this eight year old child swaying hypnotically from side to side, his eyes half-closed his left hand clasped to his be-jacketed breast as if he were swearing an oath to some unknown deity.

“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!”

The Union Rep fixes Lord Elderberry with a sour smile, his Lordship squirming uneasily in his seat daren’t speak. Reaching down to the child swaying gently at his feet Master Dimmott seats him carefully upon his lap encouraging him to partake of the slice of pie left untouched upon his plate.”T’is Master Dimmock! Gove be praised! Thank ee Master Dimmock!” but the poor gentleman is more dismayed and more horrified than when the child had first begun to sing! The Union Rep sitting down alongside him and in front of the child disingenuously asks,

“T’is a beautiful song that you sang for these gentleman here, pray child what is it called?”

“T’is called the litany of Sweet Gove sir”

“And who taught it thee?” he asked,

“Reverend Tout-Puissant”

“Reverend Tout-Puissant?”

“Yes Sir, t’was the litany what we sung to Master Parnham as he was running into the Slitting Iron Tower”

“Why was he running child?”

“Reverend Tout-Puissant called him an unpatwi’otik heathen and tried to shoot him!”

“The litany of Sweet Gove! Heaven forfend!” declares Master Dimmock clenching his right fist,and he is not alone for several other industrialists at the table are similarly incensed. Lord Elderberry however, seems as one struck dumb and the Union Rep favours him with a fierce look. “Molten Tussock is non-denominational is it not gentleman?” the Bow & Bromley Education Board nod vigorously,

“Then gentleman t’were time it were paid a visit and I know just the gentlemen to send!”

Mother's Last Words c1876 illustration

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