Episode 3 - London
Oliver had walked for several days without food and with only ditchwater to drink when he came to a great city where the busy streets rang with the noise of horse drawn vehicles, the din of factories competed with the lusty cries of Costermongers, the air smelled of pies, sausages, bread, mature cheeses, mature clothing, the perfume of fashionable ladies who walked around saying "give you a good time for tuppence - farthing duckie", rotting fruit and stale urine. Weak with hunger and intoxicated by the smells Oliver collapsed in the middle of the crowd. Minutes later a large wart with a nose on the end of it materialised above the boy as consciousness returned.
"Allow me to hintroduce myself young sir, my name is Ordurebeezer Sloppyplopp of Sloppyplopp and Squitter (deceased), Suppliers of Garden Products to the gentry. Indeed sir, I am purveyor of poo, merchant of muck, jobber of jobbies, huckster of horseplopp, in short a fertilizer factor. May I present also my dear lady wife Mrs Sloppyplopp. You may believe me or believe me not young sir, but this fair and delicate creature is the finest extricator of horsedoo between Romford and Uxbridge."
"Pleaseded t' make y'r 'quaintance I'm sure." growled an indescribably ugly, red faced woman who carried a bucket of fresh steaming dung in each coarse hand.
Oliver smiled wanly and greeted the woman who said "Begging yer pardon sir, can't stay. There comes a brewers dray pulled by a pair of the best fed shires as you'd ivver wish to clap eyes hon." And with that she scurried away to scare the horses shitless.
"That is my beloved for you, young sir," Sloppyplopp beamed. "A beauty as would turn many a noble 'ead in 'igh society and yet totally dedicated to her 'umble profession. and such a high skill 'as she developed that the mere sight of her fair face can henchant any beast of the equine nature so that it evacuates hitself at her bidding. They say 'tis a skill learned from the Gypsies, oh yes, and many a 'orse trainer would pay 'ansomely to learn it I daresay."
A few yards away the mighty horses were rearing and rolling their eyes as Mrs Sloppyplopp contorted her features at them.
Oliver had only time to introduce himself when his benefactor noticed the beasts had evacuated fully and the man hurried towards his wife with two empty pails. "Mr Sloppyplopp sir," the boy called out, you have no shovel."
"A shovel my fine fellow, A hiron shovel?" the shitschlepper turned, shocked. "We durst not touch such a precious horganic lode with a hiron shovel sir. Oh; the smelting of hiron is a foul business, foul sir, and it produces multitudinousinous toxical substances the likes of which cannot be found in nature young sir, nor hindeed even be purchased on a downtown streetcorner . No sir, our good 'ands is all we needs, our 'ands and stout pails made with wood took from finest sherry - wine casks. A horganic business we are Holiver my fine fellow. The gentlefolk of 'ighgate and Sint John's Wood pays 'andsome for horganic." Now I must assist my beloved and then you shall come to our 'umble 'ome and have some 'earty soup with 'ome made bread and p'raps a sup of gin if some is to be 'ad.
Oliver's empty stomach retched as the dray horses shat copiously and his new friends stooped to fill their buckets.
"Gone! Gone you say? The boy has gone Noynce? Did I not tell you the boy was good for nothing, nothing sir, and now what's to be done hm, hmm? What if he should survive as a vagabond and later come to claim his inh-er, an interest in my business. The ingrate, the whelp of a dilettante who ruined, ruined the profitable egg - pickling business our dear father left him. I shall hold you responsible sir, responsible I say, and have you rogered with the blunt end of the school bell if you do not bring him back here and fulfil your part of our bargain."
Master Pervisal Noynce; M.A. Cantab, cringed before the fury of Grasper Pickweasel. Noynce was a small, stooped man, his clothes were dusty as was his sparse hair and a thick coating of grey - green lichen covered his few unevenly spaced teeth.
"Are you suggesting murder Mr Pickweasel?" Noynce's voice was reedy and weak, a voice that was made to snivel. "Murder Mr Pickewaesel is not on our curriculum and as an extra mural activity commands a substantial additional fee."
"Are you trying to blackmail me Noynce. I never mentioned murder. Plenty of boys from your academy run away and turn up drowned in these marshes." The two men were arguing in the study of a bleak house that looked out across the blighted landscape of the Essex marshes and now the teacher backed away as Pickweasel raised his cane to point at the featureless mud flats and reed beds criss crossed by small creeks. "Did I mention murder Noynce? But if an inconvenient child were to run away and get stranded on one of those mud banks by the rising tide who would question it, whether he was the bastard of some incautious nobleman or the greedy little runt of a dandified pickled egg merchant who wants to cheat me out of the estate I should rightfully inherit from his mother.
Noynce tried to argue that all the boy wanted was a start in life and anyway the inheritance was rightly his but to argue with Grasper Pickweasel was futile. The man's greed knew no bounds and when confronted with reason would simply point out that the course of action Noynce suggested would merely deprive some future chronicler of the chance to earn an honest penny by telling the terrible story. Sadly Noynce rang the large bell on his desk and summoned Ralph the school porter, a huge, fearsome former seaman whose tongue had been cut out by Moors when he insulted Allah and whose hairless scalp was tattooed with a miniature portrait of Ismbard Kingdom Brunel. Ralph would be sent to London to find and bring back the boy.
On returning with the Sloppyplopps to their home Oliver had fallen into a deep sleep from which he did not awake until the evening of the following day. As he sat on the pile of the sacks in which his host delivered garden fertilization products, the family were gathered for their daily meal. "Oliver my dear fellow, we thought you under a witches spell so long have you slept," the head of the house greeted him. "Indeed," said the wife, her voice like a rusty hinge, "I never knowed no-one what slept so long. Come up to the table and eat, you must be as hungry as a rat in a - well somewheres there ain't nothink even a rat would eat."
"Thank you, but I must go. for you have been so kind I cannot burden you with my misfortunes."
"Does does our young friend not speak like a gent?" Three little Sloppyplopps nodded in response to their father's question. "Then learn well my offsping, for it is not often that 'umble stevedores of shit like us has the opportunity to listen to such euphonious grammar. And pray Holiver tell us of your troubles for even the most dire tale of adverse circumstance cannot bring discord to the 'armony of your syntax."
Between mouthfuls of soup and bread Oliver told of his mother's mysterious death and of how his uncle had mislaid the will. In the event of his sister's intesatacy Grapser Pickweed became the boy's guardian and his sister's sole beneficiary. Oliver had overheard his step - uncle talking of his disposability to the schoolmaster and suspected a plot to misplace his earthly remains after first turning his very much alive body into earthly remains. He told of the foul conditions endured by inmates of Noynces Academy for the embarrassingly illegitimate offspring of gentlemen and of the punishments meted out by the fearsome Ralph while Pervisal Noynce casually looked on, a hand always in his pocket, counting his small change. "And so," he concluded "I cannot impose upon you any longer for my uncle and Mr Noynce will surely send Ralph to find me and bring me back. No I must find my Aunt, Trotsy Smallprice who is a formidable woman."
"No, no my dear Holiver, you must stay 'ere." Ordurebeezer declared, "they shan't never take you back while I have a breath left. No, you shall be safe here, among the filth of these insanitary streets, harboured by the common people what looks after their own and sticks together through thick and thin while I, Ordurebeezer Sloppyplopp will find Miss Smallprice and bring her to you."
"Oh Holiver, such a terrible tale, and you a young genkleman, but you are safe here if I has to fight the divil himself" Mrs Sloppyplopp declared, large tears streaming down her pitted cheeks and dangling precariously from her chin before dripping onto her dress.
"I believe you would too." said Oliver thinking that not even Ralph could look into that face without flinching. "and by the way I must thank you, that was quite the best brown bread I have ever tasted.
"Brown bread? Oh Oliver dearest, how little you know of our poor lives. Brown Bread ain't for the likes of us, oh no. That was common white bread but what with it being the Lord Mayor's parade today and our busiest day of the year I quite forgot to go to the pump and wash." Embarrassed the woman hid her stained hands under the grey apron. Oliver was about to assure Mrs Sloppyplopp that the bread was excellent anyway when there was a loud banging on the door.
"Rrrrrralph" exclaimed the boy in panic.
Ordurebeezer put a kindly hand on his protege's shoulder. "I 'spect its the smell old chap, you gets used to it in a few days but try to hold on to your lunch. The likes of us don't see so much solid food we can afford to spray it around.
Oliver sets out in search of the elusive Trotsy Smallprice and the Sloppyplopps confront Ralph.
In the next episode:
What the Dickens
(a fragment of a previously unknown part-work by Charles Dickens)
In the first episode of What the Dickens, Oliver Nicklefield, heir to a substantial fortune and his father's egg pickling business is orphaned when his flaky mother dies suddenly following a visit by the family physician Dr. Mordaunt. Oliver is taken in by his greedy step - uncle Grasper Pickweasel and sent as a boarder to Noynces Academy, run by the nightmarish Pervisal Noynce. After six weeks working on a treadmill to help him learn the multiplication tables Oliver runs away.....