Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Monsieur Hulperte

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“Singularly pleasing! Most, singularly pleasing!” commented Monsieur Hulperte as he inspected the kitchens of the Grid-Iron establishment and then the servants standing to attention in the middle of them. “You will please observe Mademoiselle LeFevre, that I operate a system in these kitchens, a system that is both singular and pleasing. It is most eagerly embraced by all who wish to continue to work here”. Monsieur Hulperte is Chef par excellence to Lord and Lady Grid-Iron. Being most notably the former cook to Lord and Lady Font-Le-Noy, he is considered the supreme font of all Haute Cuisine wisdom.

“Without this system, the world, our world, would fall apart, would cease to exist. And since we do not wish our world to fall apart we must adhere strictly to the system” Monsieur Hulperte smiles grimly and narrowing his eyes until they are almost slits he calls out,

“Madame Fluttock!”

“Yes, Monsieur!”

“What is that you are cooking?”

Sautéed Kedgeree if you please sir!” replies the good lady who had once herself been head cook at the Grid-Iron establishment.

“Kedgeree?! And what pray tell is that you are ‘sautéing it with?”

“Lard, sir” replies the cook nonchalantly taking a large dollop of the worker’s condiment and stirring it vigorously into the contents of the copper pan.

“Lard?”

Turkey Twizzler Lard, Sir” the servants glance at the former head cook and then at Monsieur Hulperte’s outraged expression, they try hard to stifle the grins which must needs keep popping up first on one face and then another, before being extinguished (on pain of losing one’s employ) altogether. “Where pray tell did you find it?”

“What?”

“The lard!”

“In the pantry sir, right alongside the butter!”

Monsieur Huppert lets out a horrified groan, a pale cream coloured palm flutters to his breast, he staggers against a marble work surface, “Kedgeree smothered in Turkey Twizzler Lard? For Brunch?”

“Tiz wot iz lor’ship asked for and what he asks for he gets!”

Madame Fluttock continues to briskly whisk the eggs, Kippers and lard, emptying the contents of the pan onto a tastefully ornamented plate, which she then covers with another plate and then a beautifully embroidered linen napkin. She hands the dish to Maggie Sitwell,

“Up to his lor’ship quick gel! Quick! Quick!”

“Ave you not heard of the system Mrs Fluttock?”

“Iz lor’ship asked for Kedgeree!”

“I ‘ad prepared a Poisson and Pea Amuse Bouche followed by a Chien Fettiere!”

“His lor’ship wanted Kedgeree!”

Madame Fluttock, the former cook to Lord Grid-Iron wipes her plump hands on a greasy apron. She folds them resolutely over her equally plump and formidable bosom. Her face is as calm and expressionless as Monsieur Hupperte’s is enraged and florid.

“This is unbearable, you are inconceivable! That you should countermand my wishes! Defy my system! And serve up Turkey Twizzler basted-“

Sautéed-”

“Basted! KEDGEREE!!!”

Snatching up first one plate and then another he hurls them with all his might at Madame Fluttock who ducks instinctively. Mademoiselle LeFevre, watching with mounting horror, wonders whose kitchen she has wandered into. Madame Fluttock meanwhile is too busy ducking out of the way of flying plates, to notice the kitchen door opening, and Mr James silently observing the unfurled mayhem.

“Foux! Gourmande! S-“

“Mr Huperte! You will compose yerself sir! Or you can find yerself a berth at the Spitalfields Workhouse! Mrs Fluttock! His lordship sends his compliments on yer Kedgeree; it’s the best he’s tasted yet! Back to bizness all of ye! Wots ye paid for?!”

I cannot stand this! I will leave!”

“You will not!! We’ll ave no scandal in this house Monsieur Hupperte! Back to work!”

Monsieur Hupperte contemplates sweeping out of the kitchens and up to his rooms, but then he surreptitiously eyes the bludger fastened to Mr Jame’s belt and thinks better of it.

“Mademoiselle LeFevre to me!” he shrieks tremulously and thus her first working day at the Grid-Iron establishment is begun. First the boiling and peeling of eggs, then the slow pouring over of Bechamel Sauce (after the egg yolks had been most tastefully arranged upon a bed of shredded egg white), then the delicate arranging of puff pastry leaves atop the sauce and finally, a systematic fine sprinkling of Parsley.

“Alors! Eggs a La Tripe finis! Her ladyship is fond of simple fare! Mademoiselle Sitwell! Take this upstairs please! Quickly! Now, let us prepare the Almond Soup! You are conversant with this dish are you not Mademoiselle LeFevre?” asks Monsieur Hulperte smiling contemptuously at Madame Fluttock, for it is obvious to him if not to everyone present, that she knows nothing about such cultured dishes.

“T’was a favourite at my previous establishment Monsieur Hulperte” replies Emily nervously, “Mace, Almonds and milk I think”

“Cloves, Almonds, Mace and cream! This is an upmarket establishment my dear! Now, we shall commence to prepare the dish like so…” He commences to add the ingredients to the beef stock with a degree of speed and adeptness that leaves the kitchen staff enthralled and gobsmacked. Dear reader with what elegance and eloquence, with what skill the Almond Soup is briskly prepared and surreptitiously set to one side. With what speed and attention to detail the Omelette L’herbe, Veal Cake and Asparagus Sauce are prepared. It is almost a mercy for Emily to be left alone to cook a simple cream custard to accompany the Almond Tarte. My! Such an abundance of food and an abundance of ways to cook it! The rich are ever with us! T’is the crowning miracle to crown all miracles, that the rich may reside (and even dine) cheek by jowl with the poor in the realm of haute cuisine. For half the kitchens in dear old London are populated by ‘French’ chefs born in the impoverished ‘rookeries’ of St Giles.

I require some more butter for the Feuilletage! Mademoiselle LeFevre, if you would be so kind?”

“We’ve plum run out of butter Monsieur Hulperte” Monsieur Hulperte rolled his eyes, imbecile la!

“Did they teach you nothing at your last establishment? The cold pantry mademoiselle, it is where milk, eggs and butter are stocked! Mademoiselle Maggie! Show er!”

“Yes Monsieur!”

To be freed from the torment of precise and systematic French Cuisine; to be able to walk though somewhat briskly, down a cool and draughty corridor what bliss! Or at least it should have been had Maggie not fainted on the way there.

”I can’t gawn like this I can’t! Up at the crack of dawn, cleaning out them fire places, scrubbing down them kitchen floors and scrubbing out them copper pans! I ain’t ‘ad a bite to eat since last night dinner time!”

She sobbed hysterically into her handkerchief as if her world was at an end, “There, there” murmured Emily sympathetically, ”Don’t go on so, you sit there for a bit, I’ll be back shortly” and having found and sliced off an adequate amount of butter, Emily LeFevre made her way back to the kitchen and to Monsieur Hulperte. Maggie sat there for some time, sobbing freely into her handkerchief and contemplating the great misfortune of sitting in a well-stocked pantry, whilst her family were starving to death at home. In fact the more she pondered this fact in her highly fraught state, the more unjust this seemed. Till, at length she found herself taking up a game pie and stuffing into her petticoats. In fact it is safe to say dear reader, that if Emily had not happened upon her desperately trying to rearrange her skirts around the pie things might have taken a distinctly nasty turn.

“Put the pie back my gel! If you get dismissed from your place who will feed your family?”

“Who’s feedin ‘em now? T’aint no use, they’re better orff without me!”

Maggie’ large eyes dwelt on the sobbing maid for some time, her face grew pale and then stern, putting a hand into her apron pocket she pulled out her well-thumbed Goveen testimonies, First my gel” she said,” you will have something to eat, and then you shall tell me what is wrong”.

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Hackgate, Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Provehito In Altum or A Hanging At Newgate

BarnabyRudge“Hurrah for murder! Hurrah and I’ll say it again hurrah!”

“T’is a sign of the times of day when one may cry hurrah for ten shillings and a Newgate hanging Mr Marwood!”

“Oh! But did you examine her neck? Have you examined it Constable Qwinty?”

“Examined it?” asks Constable Qwinty,  for he is in the profession of collaring necks not examining them, and is hard pressed to recall exactly what Mistress Birtherugge’s neck looked like ere he arrested her for Bethilda Coram’s murder. “Examined it? Can’t say as I did or have since, is it prodigious long?”

Mr Marwood’s eyes roll back in his head, he clasps his hands to his chest and a brilliant smile lights up his face, as if he were caught in the throes of most joyous ecstasy. “Prodigious long? Prodigious long? Why sir it has the slender length and elegance of a swan’s neck! T’is a graceful neck, a neck ripe for stretching!”. There is a strong length of rope in his hands which he has carefully knotted, and which will be fitted to the gallows in due course. “See these hands sir? See their strength? That come from tying bunches of Broccoli at Spitalsfield’s market sir! If ever there was a neck I was born to stretch this is it sir! This is it! Oh hurrah for murder! Hurrah! Hurrah!”.

Constable Qwinty is shocked for whilst he can well see why ten shillings in these straitened times would give rise to such joy, he cannot comprehend how execution for execution’s sake might hold one in such a thrall, t’is nigh on degenerate!

A’las, then, for the festive atmosphere attending this sombre event,

“Well, this is a grim pleasure! A festive day out complete with a hanging! Turkey Twizzler Fricasee Master Fluttock?” asks Billy Porter looking cheerfully about him at the festivities on view but Master Fluttock shakes his head. He casts a mournful look upon the gallows from which, in the next hour, Mistress Birthe-Rugge was sure to hang. T’was a grim state of affairs to be sure, a Foundling  Hospital orphan who had managed to survive being thrown on a garbage heap at birth, yet had fallen foul of the depravities of a lunatic midwife. T’was a terrible, terrible, state of affairs to have taken place in the sanctuary of the Spitalfield’s Workhouse.

“Oh Sweet Birthe-Rugge don’t you cry for me! I’ll prance in the sun once yer neck is hung & so go in to tea!” chants one ruffian swinging a giggling, rosy cheeked damsel round by her waist.”Ooooh Milty you are a card!” cries another clapping her hands with delight at the humour of it all. A sweet natured damsel no doubt on any other day than this, but now the crude humour vaunted at her by various grimy predicatorial types and her bawdy ripostes, seem indelicate. The sun is up on this cold winter’s day as if in celebration at the impending demise of one who had ushered in new life with much cold hearted precision. Would that she had applied the same sentiments (or lack thereof) to the nurturing and nourishing of her apprentices!

“Flayed to bits and whipped to ribbons! I eard er Billy! Bethilda Coram! I eard er cryin out, weepin and blubberin and I did nothing! T’will stay with me till the day I die! That poor soul! That poor, poor soul!” Master Fluttock is grief stricken, tears stream down his cheeks in spite of the sun glinting on with gleeful relish, in spite of the festivities that surround him. Billy Porter raises an eyebrow, checks his pocket watch, nibbles on his cured Turkey Twizzler Stick, says nothing. For what is there to say?

“She died as she had lived, a villain, a lie was in her mouth, piece be to her ashes, we war not with the dead” So says a reporter from the Triune Observer, a most fastidiously moral paper. Inspector Depta off duty on this one instance, observes the celebrations proceeding apace around him and wonders who it was that said, ‘Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes emollit mores nec sinit esse feros’. For they’d find no adherers to that tenet here! Gradually the numbers surrounding the gallows increase as does the hubbub of jocular conversation. Barbecue Twizzler sellers move amongst the people packing their pockets with profits and the mobs mouths with food. Blowens half-drunk on prodigious quantities of gin stagger hither and thither kicking up a riot with their gin-fuelled raucous cries of ‘Oi Mistress Birthe-Rugge save a seat for me in hell!”. One has slipped sideways in the crowd and now lies with her skirts over her head and her colourful bloomers on display. Whoops of delight soar through the air at the sight, the Inspector finds himself reaching for his bludger and coshing a distasteful todger (who has attempted to dive beneath her skirts) on the head,

“Oi! You!” he bellows, “We’re ‘avin none of that in ere! You want to do that find a bawd’s rookery! This, mate, is a public hangin, orf with ye! Go on! Hook it!”

The would-be amoureuse staggers off, a look of mingled hatred and fear on his face and a rising bump on his head. Inspector Depta is pleased, he ain’t expecting to be loved, not as a member of the detective police. He does expect though that the general public, his general public should abide by the etiquette of public hangings! “Make way! Make way! Coming through!”. Mr Marwood nimbly clambers a-top the scaffolding platform, sturdy rope in muscular hand. Once there he struts to and fro before the crowd, he smiles, he bows. Slender and wiry and most elegantly dressed in crow-black, his morning jacket gleams most expensively. Inspector Depta perceives there is a great deal of money to made out of a hanging…for some. Bethilda Coram’s Grandmother has received her butchered corpse, the commiserations of the judge and little else. Indeed were it not for the generosity of  Master Deacon, the child would have lain in a pauper’s plywood coffin, tossed carelessly in a pauper’s grave.

“Good eve Inspectah Deptah! T’is a terrible morning” moans Master Fluttock, twisting and untwisting his hands most mournfully,”Indeed” replies the inspector unmoved.

“Oh how I wish, how I wish I could ave done something!”

“Indeed” replies the inspector again before adding coldly, “The Right Honourable Ethelbert-Smythe ain’t ere is e?” Master Fluttock shakes his head. “T’is a dreadful pity being as we found five more corpses buried deep, in that pig yard, where we found Bethilda’s body. she’s ad wot, one apprentice every three years? Two this year? That’s seven apprentices disappeared over the entire fifteen years Ethelbert-Smythe has been in charge”. A light goes on in the old man’s head and he starts to look a tiny bit more cheerful, “You saying he knew something orf it?”

The inspector proffers a wide shark like grin,”He must have known, even if he didn’t there is still the matter of them disappearing Cholera patients to consider. Fancy a tipple of Gin and a flambéed Turkey Twizzler? She ain’t coming out to be hung for some time yet!”. The old man jerks his head in reply, and arm in arm with the Inspector wanders off through the crowds and down to the ‘Sapphire of Jhansi’ Tavern.

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Delectatio Morosa

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“Is his Mibs doing the rounds tonite?”

“Just turned down Cobblers Row get a move on girl! You’ll catch him yet!”

Skittles plucks up her already too short skirts till her crisp white bloomers show almost to the knee and streaks down Bell End Rd turning into Cobblers Row. Hobbling along on his walking stick his Lordship has paused midway on his journey, to have congress with a drunken street walker and two little girls. Another eye rolling situation so far as Skittles is concerned, for his Lordship has an unnerving habit of taking up causes that he would do better not to trifle with, and this is such a one.

A drunken whore wending her way down an infamous street in the dead of night? And with two young silk mill workers? There can be little guessing what she has in mind for them! And has iz Mibs checked the darkened alleyways for lurking pimps? Az e eck! Blowing shrilly through her fingers so that his Lordship twitches and his back stiffens she shrieks “Oi! Oi! Lord Gladstone! Iz Lordship oi!”

There are many back roads to be found from the gates of the Houses of Parliament to Soho and this is his favourite. The Turkey Twizzlers are a delight to smell and taste, and the countless conversations he has had with bloater sellers, market stall holders, cabmen and road sweepers have proved highly informative. Particularly when formulating policy in the Palace of Westminster. The only poison tainting his unbridled joy at the highways and by-roads of London is that overflow of unbridled misery, prostitution. And tonight is no exception,”You would sell these children? And for what purpose?” he poses this question (with his hands softly clasped upon his cane) as gently as if he were talking to a fellow member of the house.

“Would you buy them? I can’t feed them no more, they’ve been laid off orf the mill, I needs must eat”. A cunning look passes over her raddled features as she says this for it is clear that she has not eaten in some time, gin being her staple diet. “Why you could live like a prince off their earnings…once they’ve been fed,will you take em?” asks the child-seller, her words afloat on a vaporous sea of cheap gin, “Thruppence for each of em!There’s plenty of work in em you won’t be disappointed!”. The Right Honourable William Gladstone, Member of Parliament for Newark shudders inwardly and, rummaging in his trouser pocket soon comes up with the ‘two sets of thruppence’ requested. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, the two children are his. Sold to him with less warmth than an African slave upon an auction block.

“A distressing occurence!” he mutters to himself, “And what to do about it? They are too young to be taken to the House of St Barnabas and I don’t see how I can welcome them into my home with out inviting scandal, what to do, what to do, what to do…”

Skittles observing his dilemma thanks god for a cove as soft in the head as this one, she espies a large meal and a warm bed in the offin, if she’s congenial enough.

“How old is they? They looks to be about ten to me” asks she, staring intently at the drugged countenances of the newly purchased children. “Is the age of relevance?” inquires the naif-like politician as much out of irritation as ignorance. “Younger than ten and they’ll arrest you” she states matter of factly, “you may do as you wish if they’s older”.

“How old?”

“Twelve”

“Dear God!Thrust by the tidal wave of degeneracy, into the ocean of depravity, at so young an age? We must save them! Quick! Take them down Bottle Alley and up Bell End Road, I have a hansom cab waiting”.

“For ow much?” she replies, “Creepin roun them back roads with them two they’ll be wonderin’ what I’m a doin thin! There’s risk in it” and she that has spent many a night down in the police cells as punishment for iniquitous wanderings should know.

“Two shillings, a good meal and a lengthy talk against the dangers of prostitution once we arrive home”

“Done!”

It had been a warm summer’s night when first he had strolled out of the Palace of Westminster and headed in the direction of Soho. And yet it feels to him, as if all possible joy and warmth had leeched out of that part of the world that is Soho. “To be reduced to selling one’s children, how terrible!”

Skittles shakes her head angrily,”Hark at you! Sellin one’s children! What makes you think them kids is ‘ers? What makes you think this life is so terrible? I’ve known more Gonophs transported fore they was twelve, than I have Blowens imprisoned for plying their trade. T’is not nearly so bad as you’d make out!”.

“But why must the choice always be thieving or whoring? There are positions a-plenty in London why must the choice always be so morally bleak!”

“I goes to confession every Sunday morn at St-Tobias-in-the-North! I ain’t so morally bleak as you think!”

They walk on in silence tugging the two young girls along behind them down squalid streets awash with sewage; past half dressed women tugging drunken men in through half-open doors. The dark streets are lit up by open pub doorways in which affable customers lounge, they sparkle with the strewn shards of smashed beer glasses. Skittles and Mr Gladstone hurry on, stepping carefully around stinking puddles of gin and the various cross-eyed brutes immersed in beating rogue ‘customers’.

They walk quickly through the dark averting their eyes whenever it is expedient to do so, for there are only so many sin steeped souls a man can redeem on any given night. Striding quickly down Bell End Road they are soon safely esconsed within the Hackney Carriage that will ferry them to a neighbourhood of clean, well-lit streets and respectable homes full of vast well-stocked pantries. Mr Gladstone is elated, that is till he catches himself gazing a little too long at the laced up bows on Skittles begrimed ankle boots, there will he thinks guiltily, be more than one confession to make in his diary tonight.

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