Academies, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire

Two Kindred Spirits Harassed By Fate

Punch_-_Shaw

‘Iti domum impasti, domino iam non vacat,agni (go home unfed, lambs, your shepherd has no time for you now)’

– Epitathium Damonis (Milton)

The former Headmaster of Raven Industrial Academy having newly returned from the countryside, now skips merrily along Hayes Wharf. A crown of wilted flowers sits snugly upon his head and though his nightshirt and dressing gown are sodden and bedraggled he has never been more at peace. Not so Bernard Montaperti, whose pale and slender fingers tremble and shake as if he had the ague or the palsy. His investments in the Imperial Bank of Kamchatka have failed. The British government has withdrawn its reserves of gold from his counting house and transferred them abroad. And as if that were not disaster enough his munitions factories have been shut down. Montaperti teeters on the brink of madness and ruin, all it will take to push him over the edge is the striking of a Bryant & May match upon a tinder box.

“T’is not far my love! We are almost there!” Abilene Montaperti is euphoric, her cheeks are flush with love or the warmth of the swirling conflagration that is the Tooley Street fire, it is hard to tell. Her thin blonde tresses flutter wildly in the wind which only serves to urge the growing flames around them to ever greater heights. The ragged besmirched hem of her ivory coloured gown has seen better days but, in the arms of her beloved, she is as radiant a flower as ever graced the fields of England. Turning into a damp alley which, though swirling in smoke is free of flame, Hector and Abilene find themselves standing in front of the Scovell warehouse.”We travelled far my dearest, but mayhap here, mongst the soft cotton bales we may find some rest”. Her smile is tremulous and her eyes heavy with shadow but she is jubilant. Hector has spent many weeks opening her eyes to the beauty of this sceptred isle. Together they have travelled as far as Tintern Abbey on the Wye where she wove him a crown of daffodils, the very same he now wears upon his silvered brow.

Hand in hand like two innocent babes entering a sinister forest the lovers tiptoe into the Scovell Warehouse. It is a vast store of petre and salt, silk bales and cotton. T’is a damp and murky place to some  but to the two former inmates of Bethlehem Asylum it is a veritable cathedral of love. Never before have two hearts been so completely joined in mutual passion. There’s is an avid, all consuming desire and short of murder there is little that Abilene’s Hector would not valiantly accomplish on her behalf. Alas! That they should ever have happened upon the devilish Montaperti! Who, with one abrupt stroke of that fatal match against that hapless tinderbox, proceeds to seal his fate.

“Uncle Montaperti!”

“Abilene!”

 Lord Montaperti seems as one astonished, for the apparition that stands before him is such as would appal a lesser scoundrel. Though wasted and thin Abilene his niece newly escaped from Bethelehem Asylum is very much alive. But it can’t be, he had left express instructions with that fool Ethelbert-Smythe! “I am come home Uncle! I am come back to see thy loving face! I am come home Uncle for refuge!”. Hector clutches his head and tugs at his hair with both hands, he knows that face, has heard of that name. And then at last as with a thunderbolt of lightening, enlightenment strikes.”It is you! You villain! You leech upon the face of good fortune! I know you! You are the one who stripped my precious love of her inheritance! You are the one who had Lady Hesketh-Elderberry declared insane!”. In one bound Hector thinks he has him but Bernard Montaperti is slippery as an eel and fleet of foot. For as Hector lurches forward he slides easily out of his grip and smiles,”No doubt I deserve to be shot but that should be the least of your worries, look around you”.

Fire! Everywhere! Tongues of crimson coloured flame leap upon the bales of cotton eagerly consuming them, tearing at them like the eager fingers of a courtesan. For the first time Hector recognises the pungent smell of phosphorus mingled with flax. And for the first time in a very long time Hector feels a slender ray of hope suffuse his emaciated being.

“Aaargh!” Abilene moans clutching at her ball gown and gathering it to herself in vain reassurance.”Uncle Montaperti!” But he is gone, having fled his crimes at the very first opportunity, leaving them to the fate he had hoped they would discretely encounter at the asylum. “Uncle Montaperti!” all are deaf to her sorrowful cries, all except Hector. Wrapping her in his damp dressing gown and taking her fragile hand he leads her gently through the gathering flames. With a joyous skip and, a lightness in his heart such as he had not felt since  being appointed the Headmaster of Raven’s Industrial Academy, Hector attempted to lead his beloved towards safety. But alas the doors towards the back of the warehouse have been nailed shut and as the flames rushed towards them Hector thinks he sees the glint of a jet-black hobnailed boot and the swish of a brilliant white nightshirt. No! It could not possibly be, after all these years?

“It is coming Abilene!” clasping his beloved’s waist with one arm and covering her eyes with the other, the longsuffering Headmaster strives to brave the fiery onslaught of death. And as he prepares to meet his maker, a wondrous surge of happiness sweeps over him…

Your hapless master now to you is lost! 
To whom my bosom shall I now 
confide .
At whose soft voice will now my cares subside ? 

Who now will cheat the night 
with harmless mirth. 
As the nut crackles on the 
glowing hearth. 
Or the pear hisses, — ^while 
without the storm 
Roars through the wood and 
ruffles nature's form ? 

Return unfed, my lambs; by 
fortune crost 

Your hapless master now to you is lost! 

Thomas_Arnold_by_Thomas_Phillips 

 

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Academies, Hypocritical Cant

Wendy Woodbine And The Little Match Factory

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There once was a child, and he was young, and tender, and wondered a great deal about many things, this child had a sister, and she was also young and tender, though made of sterner moral stuff than her sibling, who could sit for hours, and hours, gazing at fires, as they crackled and sizzled in the fireplace, in fact, gazing at all kinds of fires, and eventually (to the great misfortune of many), setting them.

Once, the two siblings skipped merrily along broken cobblestones, wondering at the fragile off-white daisies that stubbornly grew in their muddy back yard. But, alas, though both were initiated into the Govean way, only one elected to cling to the path, and so they had parted, the one to pursue her sainted calling, the other his incendiary lusts. From time to time Boodo would think about his sister and he did so now, imagining her bathed in the moonlight flooding through the factory skylight, dancing hither and thither, her dull, grey, eyes fixed reverentially on the testament of St. Gove held aloft in her small hands.

“Now gentlemen, let’s be clear about this, what we’re involved in ‘ere is the art of primitive accumulation”

“D’you what?”

“Primitive accumulation, the discovery of silver and gold (if there is any), and the extirpation of anything what might bring us a little bit of profit”

“Extir-what?”

“The surgical removal of valuable stuff you dunce!….Thieving!”

“Oh yeah!”

“This ‘ere warren, what we intends to plunder, has one extremely, lucrative, piece of merchandise, what we needs to find specifically and extirpate, but there’s also this primitive accumulation what we needs to extirpate also, so that we may profit them pawnbrokers and also….eat!”

“Oh and what’s that then?”

“Ask ‘im” they all looked expectantly at Boodoo, Francis stifled a groan,

“Phosphorus, large quantities of it, enough to blow London sky high if we wanted to” muttered Boodo, If it was possible for human eyes to glow, Boodoo LeFevre’s eyes were doing so now as he contemplated the multifarious, and incendiary uses to which the said phosphorus might be put. He was in seventh heaven though he didn’t look it, and the fact that he didn’t look it made Frances uneasy, for Boodoo’s penchant for wandering off midway through a job, and then setting fires, burning factories down whilst his accomplices were still in them, was well known. Francis expressed his concerns about Boodoo to his mistress repeatedly, but all she did was chuckle as Bert his vagabond-in-arms was doing now.

“Oh Boodoo!” said he, the rotted stumps of his teeth in full view, “You are a card! Blow up London? There ain’t no money in it!”

Frances muttered a quick prayer under his breath, “Gentlemen our time is somewhat limited, the longer we spend here the more likely it is that we shall be detected. Feel free to steal anything you wish, in fact you may dismantle the entire factory” Francis eyes glittered with malevolence, “Just make sure you fulfill my client’s wishes to the last degree”

Boodoo and Bert glanced at each other and then at the little black page boy, ” Complained about our services ‘as she? Lady Grid-Iron we means. We’d like to see her hitch up her petticoats and climb up them ladders that’s hard work that is, then clambering back down them with them boxes full of phosphorus….”

“BISMILLAHIIIII!!!!!!” Frances hissed in frustration, he struggled to calm himself,” Gentlemen if I threw doubt on your abilities I humbly apologise”

Bert snickered, “That’s more like it. Boodooo where’s the phosphorus?”

“Storeroom at the back. You know Ella Ward what has the crumbly jaw?” a warning glance from Bert shut him up and they all quickly set to work, it took less than an forty minutes for them to remove sufficient quantities of phosphorus for indeed an hour was all they had. They were almost done when a sudden commotion alerted them to the fact that somebody else was moving about on the factory floor, hastening quickly into its darkest corners they unsheathed their bludgers and lay in wait.

“Beer, beer, duty-free beer!
Fill yourselves right up to here!
Drink a good deal of it-make a good meal of it,
Stick to your old-fashioned beer!
Don’t be afraid of it-drink till you’re made of it-
Now altogether a cheer!
Up with the sale of it-down with the pail of it-
Glorious, duty-free beer!”

The cheery little voice warbled and tottered its way through the verse, only occasionally faltering, as the grimy faced, teenage girl singing it, swung her hips first this way, then that, twirling her tattered and torn skirt with her grubby hands and throwing a flirtacious glance here and a shoulder there. For an instant Boodoo’s hands twitched and shook with the urge to simply knock her on the head, and get on with the business of removing the final load of phosphorus. But it was what she did next that altered his inclination. Her smile faltered, then crumpled altogether, and with her eyes gazing heavenward and a worn copy of the ‘King James Bible’ clasped to her chest, she uttered the following prayer,

“St. Gove, father to all of God’s desolate children, comfort my Dominic, St. Gove, as he flys to thy side, wrap thy loving arms about him”

“This is blasphemy!” muttered Francis yet even he was moved by the sobbing, supplications of the pale and grimy little match-stick girl whose rags gave off a phosphorescent glow. Boodoo stepped slowly out of the shadows so as not to frighten her, “It’s Wendy Woodbine, isn’t it? Wot you doing ere girl?” at the sight of Boodoo, Wendy, drew back, everybody knew creepy Boodooo,

“What you doing here?” she challenged him, her eyes casting about anxiously.

“Now now my girl” said Bert stepping out of the shadows, “There’s no need for that, he means you no harm”

“Uncle Bert!” Wendy Woodbine exclaimed,”Dominic’s dead Uncle Bert! Master Turple-Sleath made him go up a burning chimney and now he’s dead! He’s dead!” Francis,keeping to the shadows (for his mistress sake), murmured a speedy rakat for the poor, abused, and now apparently dead, chimney sweep’s soul. And when he was done, he said this, “You’ll need to take the girl to Madam Guacamoley’s music-hall and you need to do so now. Master LeFevre! Stay where you are! There’ll be no factory burning today! We will visit Master Turple-Sleath first, and then, well, we shall see”

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