Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Pilot-Guiding Star-No Compass-Shark!

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A handsome stalwart native of the Americas and a skilled mariner, since first he fell out of his mother’s apron and onto the Eliza Battle, the estimable captain is thunderstruck! Was not the Mary Celeste his first command? Had he not survived all the dangers and privations of service aboard the Pilgrim, that privateering brig owned by Master Cabot? The captain cannot account therefore, for the grim sense of foreboding that grips him like a shroud as this glistening apparition, this shark, bears down upon his vessel. At times the monstrous, glistening beast lies hid beneath the raging waters, but it is soon upon them and as it nears port-side it swerves, and with an agile flick of it’s tail surges upwards out of the water, and arches itself sideways towards the main sail mast.

Are there any words to describe the terrible sight of those gaping jaws embedded with sharp bone-white teeth? I think not!

“Cover your eyes Kitty! Don’t look!”

Drawing his sou’wester violently over her face he turns her roughly in towards his manly shoulders. Alas dear reader that there could be no protecting of this worthy mistress of the high seas from the Shanty-man’s singing as it was most violently interrupted by his terror-filled shrieks! Thunder crackled overhead, lightning struck the ironclad ship dousing it in ethereal light and t’was plain to see the horror which had transpired then!

“And it’s ho! Ho! Aaargh! Get away! Get awa-aargh!”

To have survived several ship wrecks and kidnappings midst these treacherous waters is no mean feat. Alas, then, for man-eating loan sharks! With a final garbled cry of “Help me! Aaaaargh!” with a brief, flailing about of one pale limb, the poor shantyman was gone! Swallowed whole by that terrible beast who like that terrible terrible beast of sea lore, the leviathan, swiftly disappeared beneath the foaming waves. Captain Keeler-Breeze silently threw up a prayer to that patron saint of monks travelling the high seas, St Brendan (it couldn’t hurt now could it?).

“Now he has the taste of man-flesh in his jaws he’ll be back, t’is little doubt of it!” looking up towards the crow’s nest he espied a lithe figure nimbly sliding down the main mast and headed below deck. T’was the valiant Francis Page gone to call the rest of the crew to battle no doubt!

“Kitty! Uncover the Gatling Gun! Quickly! We won’t have long to wait!”

Apprehending in that instant that God had opened a way through which impending death might be averted, Kitty slid swiftly towards the main deck clasping a grapple hook in her gloved hand. She had barely reached the Gatling Gun when a shard of lightning hit the main mast once more sending shards of it crashing towards the deck. Tearing desperately at the oil skin which covered the gun, she heaved it slowly around to face the ship’s port-side. Lassoing  herself to the gun’s base she gripped the gun firmly by the barrel and the trigger and steeled herself for the shark’s next attack. Like a ‘tossed shuttlecock to the blast’ the ship reeled  back and forth midst the churning waters and t’was all Kitty Grid-Iron could do to cling grimly on to the gun.

“I won’t go I tell you! Noooooo! Nooo! I won’t!”

“Oh but you will!”

“Let me go back to Elspeth! I tell you I won’t do it! I won’t!”

“Ah but you will!” hissed Seamus Geraghty his fierce green eyes were fastened intently on the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose pale blue eyes were awash with tears as Seamus grimly thrust a whaling harpoon into his limp, wet palms.

” You’ll do as you’re bid, if you ever wish to see land again! On deck wid ye! Ye Gombeen fiend!”

At this point it must be said dear reader, that though there is much to distinguish the predatory human being from a lone shark, in terms of mindset their natures are one and the same. For, having achieved his nefarious aim (the devouring of human flesh) and that without punitive consequence, the shark returned once more and he came not alone. O! The follies of venturing abroad on the high seas without knowledge of the dangers that may befall thee! Oh! It has grown most bitter, cold and dark with naught but the ethereal sliver of light, which only does aid the good captain in his journey toward home.

“Shark! Shark! Men to the port-side! Steady your positions! Hold yer course! Shark!”

Whale-spade in hand Seamus Geraghty clambers swiftly aboard port-side in time to meet the fierce onslaught of the shark whose sharp teeth,gruesome close up, bear the adorning fragments of the Shanty-man’s remains.

“I’ll have at ye, ye fiend! You’ll ne’er get the better of us! Come ahead damn ye! Come ahead!”

With a ferocious yelp, such as would chill the marrow of any seaman, he sprang upon the beast spade in hand beating it savagely about the head.

“Have at ye! Ye accursed lone shark!”

Is there anything more brutal than a crew of desperate men drawn on to passionately embrace their leaders cause? For lashed by fierce winds and rains the ship’s crew clamber up and over the ships hull, leaping upon shark after shark with such ferocity that  the waters below the ship churn and foam with the shoal’s swift retreat. Such bravery dear reader? Such brutality! The likes of which will be spied many a time ere this arduous adventure is concluded!

And yet, has this particular instance of courageousness been all in vain? For as Seamus’s men clamber back on deck (offering up a swift prayer of thanks to St Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of St Bethel’s Asylum, as well as sailors), the bloodied lone shark attempts another surprise onslaught! Hurrah, then, for Kitty Grid-Iron who flinging herself urgently over the Gatling gun pulls hard on the trigger and it seems as if the very fires of hell issue forth from its revolving barrels! With a piercing shriek the devilish fish falls, plummeting back into the waters and disappearing. Peace at last descends, but there is worse to come.

“Rocks ahead!” cries Lord Grid-Iron albatross in hand, “Abandon ship!”

“Ye will not! Ye will stay and face justice!” growls Seamus Geraghty wondering how amidst all the fracas, he had managed to  return below deck, and retrieve the accursed albatross. Nevertheless as the stormy seas continue to break in very fast, all can perceive the truth of his utterances and fastening ropes about themselves and the mid and main-masts, the ship’s crew braces itself against the impending violent collision.

“Tally-Ho! cries Lord Grid-Iron wriggling like an eel beneath Geraghty’s fierce embrace “We’re doomed!”

to be continued…..

watson-and-the-shark-by-john-singleton-copley

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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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