time-historical The Tale of the Muscular Manservant

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Chapter One:

As the sun rose over the glorious city of London, the capital of the United Kingdom ruled over by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Defender of the Faith and Empress of India, it revealed a city with the first mists of autumn mingled with the smoke of the industrial heartland of the East End. Alongside the Thames that flowed through the city, the Westminster Clock Tower, standing tall over the mother of Parliaments, announced to the world via “Big Ben” the bell in the heart of the tower, that eight o’clock had arrived on October 2nd 1872. A fact that Police Constable Thompson, who had been up since six o’clock that morning, was aware of. He oversaw turning off the gas lamps in the district of the City of London and as he turned off the gaslamp outside number seven Saville Row, he looked up and smiled. Even since he had found out that Sheridan, the famous poet of the eighteenth century, had lived in the house until his death in 1814, he felt a sense of pride that he was looking after the street where he once lived and having done his duty carried on down the street.

Inside number seven, the owner slowly opened his eyes, yawned and stretched. Taking a clock from his bedside table he listened to the chimes of “Big Ben” and nodded his approval that his bedside clock was keeping perfect time. Placing the clock back, he picked a small bell and rang it expecting his manservant, Forster, to come dashing in and help his master get dressed. However, no sooner had he rang the bell, than he said, “Oh, yes, I fired him, yesterday didn’t I?” and with that replaced the bell. As the owner got out of bed and made his bed, he remembered the unhappy event that had led to him sacking Forster. It happened when the unlucky manservant handed the owner his shaving water and as the owner took out the thermometer to measure the temperature his eyes opened wide and he bellowed “EIGHTY-FOUR DEGREES? ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME CATCH A COLD?”. Forster only had a second to stammer “But, master, it was eighty-six when I left the kitchen” before a “YOU’RE FIRED!” resounded through the house.

As the owner examined the clocks on the mantelpiece in his bedroom, chiding one for being a full minute out, he proceeded to perform his morning constitutionals. First he marched up and down the bedroom, raising his hands and feet in alternate steps, waggled his hips from side to side, touched his toes several times and then taking out two kettlebells from the cupboard placed them on the bedside table. As he did he took off the blue dressing gown he was wearing and then the pyjamas and stood there completely naked in the cool morning air. Grabbing the kettlebells in both hands, he took a deep breath, held it and then raised the weights into the air and then stared at his reflection in the mirror opposite. People said that he resembled Byron, the great English poet of the last century, at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old and his body reflected this. It was well conditioned, thanks in part to the course that the owner subscribed to written, which seeing as he obtained the copies direct from the author he could attest to, Donald Dinnie, a man that many people had compared to the heroes of Ancient Greece and while the owner was nothing like as strong as he puffed out his chest and sucked in his stomach he looked as much of a Greek hero as any of them.

As he stood there, he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He liked the sensation and closed his eyes as he continued to hold his breath. He imagined himself standing on a stage next to Mr. Dinnie, the two men showing off their strength and as they did, the owner’s physique had one more surprise as just below his waist, an organ of the body that most people ignored started to stir. Slowly at first, it lengthened and as it did it thickened at the same time and in his imagination, the owner was soon thrusting it into Donald’s body with the strongman unable to resist. As the sensation grew, the owner opened his eyes and nodded at the sight of the organ bobbing in time with his heart. He knew what was going to happen and dropped the weights and started to rub it, still holding his breath. It wasn’t long before the owner’s face had turned bright red and his organ the deepest purple possible but the owner was determined to push himself to his limits and lay back on the bed, his face scrunched up in a combination of agony and ecstasy. Eventually the torture became too much and with a mighty “RULE BRITANNIA!” the owner roared and was soon covered with the essence of man on his naked body which he rubbed into it with moans of pleasure as his chest heaved, filling his lungs with oxygen. As he started to relax, he chuckled and said “Well done Phileas, next time, ten minutes!”

So, who was this Phileas, who has just pushed his physical body to the limits of human endurance? He was an Englishman, certainly, but was he a Londoner? That was a question for the ages however. He was never seen on the floor of the Stock Exchange, nor at the Bank of England or the other smaller banks in the capital, nor in the counting-rooms in the square mile, the financial heart of England nor did any ships ever came into London docks of which he was the owner; he had no public employment; he had never been entered at any of the Inns of Court, either at the Temple, or Lincoln’s Inn, or Gray’s Inn; nor had his voice ever resounded in the Court of Chancery, or in the Exchequer, or the Queen’s Bench, or the Ecclesiastical Courts. He certainly was not a manufacturer; nor was he a merchant or a gentleman farmer. His name was strange to the scientific and learned societies, and he never was known to take part in the sage deliberations of the Royal Institution or the London Institution, the Artisan’s Association, or the Institution of Arts and Sciences. He belonged, in fact, to none of the numerous societies which swarm in the English capital, from the Harmonic to that of the Entomologists, founded mainly for abolishing pernicious insects bar one. He was a member of the Reform Club, the Club that was home to every great Liberal that England had produced and that was all.

Was Phileas rich? Undoubtedly. But those who knew him best could not imagine how he had made his fortune, and Mr. Fogg, as he was more commonly referred to, was the last person to whom to apply for the information. He was not lavish, nor, on the contrary, avaricious; for, whenever he knew that money was needed for a noble, useful, or benevolent purpose, he supplied it quietly and sometimes anonymously. He was, in short, the least communicative of men. He talked very little, and seemed more mysterious for his taciturn manner. His daily habits were quite open to observation; but whatever he did was so the same thing that he had always done before, that the wits of the curious were puzzled.

Had he travelled? It was likely, for no one seemed to know the world more familiarly; there was no spot so secluded that he did not appear to have an intimate acquaintance with it. He often corrected, with a few clear words, the thousand conjectures advanced by members of the club as to lost and unheard-of travelers, pointing out the true probabilities, and seeming as if gifted with a sort of second sight, so often did events justify his predictions. He must have travelled everywhere, at least in the spirit and yet, from the little that people knew of him, it was evident that he had not left the capital for at least fifteen years maybe longer. Those who were honoured by a better acquaintance with him than the rest, declared that nobody could pretend to have ever seen him anywhere else. His sole pastimes were reading the papers and playing whist. He often won at this game, which, as a silent one, harmonized with his nature; but his winnings never went into his purse, being reserved as a fund for his charities. Mr. Fogg played, not to win, but for the sake of playing. The game was in his eyes a contest, a struggle with a difficulty, yet a motionless, unwearyingly struggle, congenial to his tastes.

He was unmarried and didn’t have any children, and whilst you dear reader may have an idea why this was the case, to the residents of London this was something that could happen to the most honest of people and so nothing was thought of it, however as he didn’t have any relatives or indeed dear friends, that was certainly rather strange but living alone in his house with only a manservant suited him to the ground. However on this day, that element was lacking, and so after pouring himself a fresh pot of coffee, to which he added precisely one fifth of a pint of milk to, he downed it in less than a minute and dressed himself so that by eleven o’clock that morning he was sitting in the hallway of his home, his feet now covered by a pair of shoes so bright and shiny that he could see his reflection in them, a pair of brown trousers, a white shirt, with a thick red cravat and a jacket the same colour as his trousers waiting for the new manservant to present himself. However, as the clock in the hallway chimed the hour synchronized to the bell in the Westminster tower, the smile that had been on his face since he woke up disappeared and was replaced first with a frown and then a scowl.

“This will never do!” he declared in a huff, “I can’t hire a manservant who isn’t on time!”

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I can't wait to meet the new manservant (don't  y'know)………….!

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Whoops!  I've just realised the clue is in the story title!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Chapter Two:

So, why was the man destined to be Mr. Fogg’s manservant late? Let us turn the clock back three hours and as Mr. Fogg was waking up, precisely two miles due west in the district of London known as Kensington, said manservant was fast asleep dreaming of his past exploits and the day that he pushed himself beyond the limits of human endurance and all because of a promise he had made to a friend.

“But Jean, you can’t!”

“My dear Hercule, I have to!”

The year was 1860 and backstage at the famed Cirque de Paris, the legendary strongman Hercule Poisson was lying in agony on a makeshift bed with his dear friend Jean Passepartout holding his hand begging him to accept his idea. It had all started the day before when Jean, practicing for the command performance, now underway, for none other than His Imperial Majesty himself, had slipped when performing a catch high above the grand ring. If Hercule hadn’t heard his screams of terror as he fell and caught him, he would have certainly died, but what a price the strongman paid for as he caught him he pulled his back and had spent all the time since in agony, his back spasming at random intervals.

“Jean, please, mon amis, I beg you!” groaned Hercule

“Mon amis” replied Jean, holding the strongman’s hand, “I have to. His Majesty is expecting a demonstration of the power of France. Someone must go out there and perform your feat of strength. As it was me that caused you to be in this state, it is me who has to put it right” and with that he stood up and went behind a curtain. Hercule continued to protest but as Jean re-emerged wearing Hercules’ trademark tiger skin and loincloth the apprentice strongman said “If you want to do anything, pray for me, mon amis” and with that he turned and walked towards the grand ring.

“Madames, Monsieurs, Le Emperor” announced the ringmaster, doffing his hat to the royal box, “Le Cirque de Paris is proud to present the strongest man in France, Hercule Poisson” and with that he stepped back from the curtain and out stepped Jean and walked past the ringmaster who suddenly realised that the man stepping out was not the man he was expecting and with that rushed backstage. As Jean walked towards the centre of the ring, five men struggled with two large barrels and placed them in front of him. There was a bar attached between them and on the back of the barrels was a prepared script that Jean read in his loudest voice.

“Madames, Monsieurs, Le Emperor” and acting on the script bowed deeply before standing up and continuing “These are two kilderkin barrels usually full of wine for export proving the prowess of the French nation in the art of winemaking. Today, however, they are filled with water from the river Seine. I will lift these barrels over my head in a demonstration of the power of France!” and following the script bowed again but as he did, a fearsome thought entered his head. A kilderkin barrel when full of wine weighed a hundred and fifty pounds, just a little less than his weight. Two of them filled with water was the same as lifting two of himself, three hundred and twenty-five pounds. If he was afraid, he didn’t show it as he grabbed the bar and announced, reading the script “This feat of strength requires complete concentration, I must therefore ask for silence as I dedicate myself to it!” and with that closed his eyes. As soon as he pulled on the bar, he felt his back roar in agony.

Gritting his teeth, he grunted “I must do this, for Hercule” and with a mighty scream he picked up the bar and pulled it up to his waist. He could feel his heart hammering inside him, his breathing getting deeper and knew he was pushing his body to the limits, but he kept on repeating to himself in his mind “For Hercule” and so digging deeper than he had ever done before he roared as he pushed the barrels up into the air and stood tall leading to the audience cheering so loud that as Jean dropped the barrels from their height his roar of success could only barely be heard.

As the barrels smashed into the ring and broke into a thousand pieces, the ringmaster dashed out and held up one of Jean’s hands announcing “Madames, Monsieurs, Le Emperor. This man is not Hercule, this is the man who Hercule saved from almost death yesterday.  This man is Jean Passepartout, an acrobat and gymnast who should have been up there. He did this as a thank you to the man now lying in agony backstage having put his back out saving this man’s life. I call upon you all now to accolade this brave man and the strength that makes him the equal strongest man in France”

“Passepartout, Passepartout, Passepartout” roared the crowd and as Jean bowed, the famed strongman supported by two clowns came out and as both men hugged each other, both in tears of friendship, the chanting grew louder and louder.

“Passepartout, PASSEPARTOUT!”

As the man muttered his name under his sleep, anyone looking at the scene would have noticed that because he slept naked, his organ was already long and hard as the sensations of that day flooded through him. As the mutterings turned into deep and rapid breathing, the still sleeping Frenchman started to brush his nipples causing the organ to start to rise. As it did the breathing became more rapid still, the brushing was now a full-on assault and as the man’s eyes started to open it was clear that the man was thinking about one thing alone which he announced with a mighty “NIQUER” and covered himself with the essence of man. As he recovered and rubbed the sticky liquid over his muscular torso with one hand, he reached for the pocket watch sitting on the table next to the bed he was sleeping in and looked at it before suddenly sitting upright and gasping “My appointment”.

For the next ten minutes, the man who had been dreaming of his days in the circus pushing his body to the limit, ran around like a maniac and just fifteen minutes later was running the two miles from Kensington to Westminster, desperate not to miss his appointment. As he raced around a corner, he screeched to a halt and found himself in the middle of the road where a hansom cab was bearing down on him. If it had not been for his cat like reactions that saw him backward somersault three times, he would certainly have been killed but in the act of his escape, the references that would see him gain employment slipped from his grasp and started to float down the road, borne by the gentle October breeze. As he ran down the street, following them gasping for breath from his run, the wind dropped the paper to the ground and with a grunt of annoyance, he took his hat and threw it over the paper which secured it. Taking a moment to recover from his exertions, he looked around him for the first time and then referring to another sheet of paper he realised that he was outside the place that would offer him employment as a manservant to an English gentleman.

“Sacre bleu” he breathed as he took in the residence, “What a place. Oh, la, la. I am going to live in a mansion and be butler to an English gentleman and…” and with that he closed his eyes and imagined what it would be like. Anyone passing by would wonder what he was doing but after a few moments he opened his eyes, took a deep breath, picked up his references from the ground, put his hat back on his head and walked up to the door and knocked firmly.

Inside the building, the now thoroughly disgruntled Mr. Fogg stood up and grumped “Finally!” and with that made his way to the door. He opened it to find a man humming the French national anthem and aided by being on the top step of the steps that led to the front door, towered over the man by a good two feet and announced “You’re four minutes late, sir!”

The Frenchman dropped the bag he was carrying in shock. He couldn’t be late; he had checked his watch just seconds previously and it was showing just a few seconds before eleven. As the potential employer stood over him, he panicked but quickly recovered, took off his hat and bowed saying “Apologies, monsieur, I did not mean to offend” and as he tried to remember what to say he started to lose all his confidence.

“And you are…?” asked Phileas still standing over the man.

“I have come about the position of employment, monsieur, as your manservant” came the slightly halting reply.

“Well, you had better come in” replied Phileas and with that led the man into the house. As he sat down on the chair in the hallway where he had been waiting, the Frenchman presented him with the references and as Phileas studied them intently, the Frenchman stood opposite him, almost like a shamed schoolboy with his hat in front of his chest.

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Chapter Three

“Now” said Phileas, “your name is John, correct?”

“Jean” came the reply, “Jean Passepartout, monsieur. a surname which has clung to me because I have a natural aptness for going out of one business into another”

“I see that from your references” replied Phileas.

Jean smiled for the first time since meeting his potential employer. “I’ve been an itinerant singer, a circus-rider, when I used to vault like Leotard, and dance on a rope like Blondin. Then I got to be a professor of gymnastics, to make better use of my talents; and then I was a sergeant fireman at Paris, and assisted at many a big fire” and then he had an idea and asking “With your permission, monsieur?”

Permission was granted and as he placed his bag and hat on the ground, he walked to the table next to where his potential master was sitting and announced “Attention, s’il vous plait!”. Taking the decanter from the table, he poured some water into a glass, then took the tray that the decanter had been on and his potential master’s cane and whilst twirling it on the end of the cane balanced the glass, now full of water on his head, then slowly moved the tray underneath his feet keeping the glass on his head completely still. He then threw the tray into the air and ducked down at the same time allowing the glass to land on the tray without spilling a drop.

As Phileas watched in absolute disbelief, he began to wonder if this man wanted to be a manservant at all, but then he did something that made Phileas very uncomfortable. Placing the cane on the floor, Jean started to heave himself up so that all his weight was balanced on the cane with just one hand. Phileas instantly knew how much strength such a move entailed and as Jean brought himself horizontal, the tray with the glass in the other hand, he started to feel himself become hard again.

Gritting his teeth, Jean slowly moved his body from horizontal to vertical and as he did, he could feel his heart pounding. He hadn’t done this move for over a year and whilst he knew he had the strength to perform it, it was more taxing than he had remembered, but the adage from his circus days took over and as he repeated in his mind “The show must go on” he forced himself into a straight pose and stretched out his legs and arms. As he did, he could feel his body screaming in agony and his libido go through the roof. As he held that pose he could start to feel himself become hard but looking at his potential master didn’t react to the surge flowing through him.

As Jean held the pose for a good fifteen seconds, Phileas squeezed his legs together. This man was demonstrating strength that put him in the shade. His heart must have been pounding like a drum, his muscles screaming in agony. For Phileas, this was like torture for him. No one bar himself knew that he was inverted, how his dreams each night were of men, showing off their strength and power for Phileas and then, at his consent, getting into bed with him and enjoying nights of passion usually reserved for married couples. He wanted this man to be his manservant, to feel those arms that were being pushed to their limits, to rub his hand on that muscular chest now heaving in agony. He needed this man.

Unable to hold the pose for any longer, Jean jumped into the air, landed on the ground the right side up, caught the water in the glass still on the tray and bowing announced “Fin” and with that he closed his eyes expecting his potential master to give him a standing ovation which never came.

“You are very good indeed” replied Phileas, trying desperately to cover up his now raging erection, his mind filled with images of him and Jean making passionate love, “but you do realise I am after a manservant, not an entertainer!”

Jean immediately stood to attention and declared “Oui, monsieur, I understand” and as he replaced the tray, he sighed. He’d blown it once again. This was the sixth time in as many weeks that he had tried to gain employment and every time he had let his circus skills get the better of him. Begrudgingly, he picked up his bag, sighed again and made for the door.

As Phileas watched him make for the door, his heart sank. Where was Jean going? Had he said something to upset him? He couldn’t let a man whose strength had given him such an erection just walk out of his life and so asked “Do forgive me for asking but why do you want this job? I assume that you know I am a stickler for detail!”

Jean paused and turning around, looking like a shamed schoolboy again, replied “I left my homeland of France five years ago and, wishing to taste the sweets of domestic life, took service as a valet here in England. Finding myself out of place, and hearing that Monsieur Phileas Fogg was the most exact and settled gentleman in the United Kingdom, I have come to monsieur in the hope of living with him a tranquil life, and forgetting even the name of Passepartout” and with that bowed to Phileas, replaced his hat and carried on towards the door but was stopped by “You are well recommended to me and I hear a good report of you. You know my conditions?”

Jean turned around slowly, nodding as he did so.

“Now from this moment, twenty-nine minutes after eleven in the morning on this Wednesday, 2nd October, you are in my service” replied Phileas.

Jean’s eyes opened wide in amazement and as he bowed, he replied meekly “Merci, monsieur” but then had a thought and took his watch out of his pocket and said “Forgive me, monsieur, but my watch says it is twenty-five minutes past eleven!”

As Phileas stood up and picked up his cane he said “I recognise that watch. Swiss made, isn’t it?” and Jean replied “Oui, it is the most accurate watch ever produced by that nation!”

As Phileas walked to the front door, picking up his top hat on the way, the clocks in the hall way all started to chime the half hour and as Phileas opened the front door, the chimes of “Big Ben” could be heard echoing the chimes of Phileas’s own clocks. He turned around and said with a defecating smile “I believe that your watch is four minutes slow, sir, may I recommend that you set it to Big Ben in future?”

As Jean nodded, knowing that he was in the wrong, Phileas placed his hat on his head, twirled his cane a couple of times and set off on his daily walk to the Reform Club. As he stepped onto Savile Row, he started to hum and gently sang under his breath “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons, never, never, never, shall be slaves” and with that turned the corner nodding his head to his new manservant.

This is a story I wrote quite some time ago which is a total of 114,624 words and comes to just under 200 pages in total. I have thought for a long time about actually publishing it via an online publisher aiming it squarely at the (and I apologise for use of the term) "pink economy" but at the same time feel that 200 pages of words would get rather boring. Therefore would like to know two things a) May I serialise it here on a regular basis and b) if there is anyone who would like to illustrate it choosing suitable moments, then I would be only too happy to include your illustrations when it is published.

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As there do not appear to be any objections to the serialisation, then I shall continue

Chapter Four

As Phileas walked through the centre of London to his club, plodding the same route, at the same time of day, never getting there a moment later or earlier, he found himself pondering the feat of strength he had just witnessed and found himself asking the same question repeatedly, “How can a man of such reduced stature be so strong?”

Phileas was an avid reader of the classics and ever since he had been introduced to the Greek legends as a child, he reveled in the feats of strength portrayed. Samson bringing the temple down on whose who had enslaved him, Hercules completing his famed labours and when a few years previously, the French author Alexandre Dumas has published a series of stories based on the old French guard of the King known as Musketeers and included in their number a man who could bend iron bars with his bare hands, Phileas was one of the first people to pick up a copy but all those men were tall, the same height as himself or even taller. Jean was a shadow of man compared to him, at least a foot smaller and yet that feat of strength was…

“Oh, my hat!”

The sudden shriek of a young girl walking through Regent’s Park broke Phileas’s train of thought and as he came to he saw the hat in question being blown by the wind and the poor girl chasing after it. Phileas stopped and lifting his cane like a javelin, focused on the hat and threw the cane with all his might. The cane impacted with the hat and sailed into the distance, prompting the gentleman to break into a sprint so that as the cane fell to earth, he caught it with one hand and taking the hat off the top of it presented it to the girl with a kindly “Your hat, miss!” and with that he gently doffed his hat.

“Oh, thank you kindly sir!” the girl replied in a broad East End accent and returned Phileas’s politeness with a curtsey and then ran off out of the park. As Phileas watched, he wondered what sort of a father he might be, but knew that would never happen and so with that replaced his hat and carried on with his walk, increasing his pace to ensure that he arrived at the Reform Club on the stroke of midday.

As he turned the corner into Pall Mall, the bells of “Big Ben” struck midday and on the last chime of those bells, Phileas was at the steps of the Reform Club where he bowed to the doorman who opened the great doors. It was an imposing building which per the reports banded around in the newspapers cost at least three million pounds to build. Phileas didn’t let things such as money bother him, but he smiled as he climbed the staircase to the dining room passing the portraits of those members who had given towards the cost of the building in ascending order of donation with his portrait at the very top.

The dining-room, with nine windows which opened upon a tasteful garden, where the trees were already gilded with an autumn colouring; was dressed ready for lunch and so Phileas took his place at the habitual table, the cover of which had already been laid for him. His breakfast consisted of a side-dish, a broiled fish with Reading sauce, a scarlet slice of roast beef garnished with mushrooms, a rhubarb and gooseberry tart, and a morsel of Cheshire cheese, the whole being washed down with several cups of tea, for which the Reform is famous. Now, dear reader, you might be wondering what sort of a man has breakfast when most people have their lunch? Well, the Reform Club was a club where gentlemen came to spend their day and as such operated on that scheme, so the first meal of the day was called breakfast. Therefore, when he rose at thirteen minutes to one, he directed his steps towards the large hall, a sumptuous apartment adorned with lavishly-framed paintings where he was handed an uncut Times, which he proceeded to cut with a skill which betrayed familiarity with this delicate operation.

The perusal of this paper absorbed Phileas Fogg until a quarter before four, whilst the Standard, his next task, occupied him till the dinner hour. Dinner passed as breakfast had done, and Mr. Fogg re-appeared in the reading-room and sat down to the Pall Mall at twenty minutes before six. Half an hour later several members of the Reform came in and drew up to the fireplace, where a coal fire was steadily burning. They were Mr. Fogg’s usual partners at whist: Andrew Stuart, an engineer; John Ralph and Samuel Fallentin, bankers and Thomas Flanagan, a brewer all of whom were rich and highly respectable personages, even in a club which comprises the princes of English trade and finance and the conversation soon turned to the major news event of the day.

“Well” said Thomas Flanagan, “what about that robbery?”

“Oh,” replied Stuart, “the Bank will lose the money.”

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Thanks for publishing this here!  I am enjoying this reworking of Verne and feel your reworking of Verne is very professional it reminds me of the Death by Silver novel which was a queer and fantasy reworking Sherlock Homes. Of course being on this site I'm eagerly awaiting the two men ulrimately coming together.  The long build up and plot though is fascinating.  Thanks again!

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14 minutes ago, fillups said:

Thanks for publishing this here!  I am enjoying this reworking of Verne and feel your reworking of Verne is very professional it reminds me of the Death by Silver novel which was a queer and fantasy reworking Sherlock Homes. Of course being on this site I'm eagerly awaiting the two men ulrimately coming together.  The long build up and plot though is fascinating.  Thanks again!

Thank you very much indeed for the comments. I shall be honest and admit I have never heard of "Death by Silver" prior to you mentioning, but had come to the conclusion that in one of the translations I have the translator suggests that Fogg and Passepartout are indeed gay, however as I know the story back to front (and as well as sideways) I am keeping to the core story as best I can.

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Chapter Five

But, of course dear reader, you have no idea what this robbery was like do you? Then let me explain and to do that, we leave the Reform Club and head to Scotland Yard, home of the Metropolitan Police, that fine institution whose members were always on call and ready to do their duty. Because of the seriousness of this case, their Commissioner Rowan was leading the investigation and was even now talking to one of the witnesses, a poor man by the name of Jenkins who was nursing a large bump on his head and as he explained why to the Commissioner, the Commissioner paced the room formulating his theories.

“So” he said, “a gentleman snuck up on you from behind and hit you on the head with his cane?” and as if to demonstrate the cowardly action, hit himself on the head which caused him to howl in pain.

“Yes” replied Jenkins, concerned that the Commissioner might have hurt himself, “just as you say!”

Taking this information on board, the Commissioner resumed his pacing and said “So, let me see if I understand you correctly. At five minutes to five o’clock in the afternoon, three days ago, you placed a pile of notes to the value of fifty-five thousand pounds on the principal cashier’s table with the intent of placing them in the vault when a gentleman came up to you, hit you over the head with his cane and caused you to black out?”

As Jenkins held his head to protect it from the roars of the Commissioner, he nodded in agreement.

“Right then” said the Commissioner, rubbing his chin, “I understand the situation perfectly!”

“The idea that a gentleman could be a robber” said Jenkins, “in this day and age. It beggars belief, sir!”

Taking pity on the poor clerk, the Commissioner smiled and said “You can’t judge a book by its…” and then paused as he tried to think of how the proverb ended, “…lining, no, that’s not right. Cover, unlikely” and then he snapped his fingers and declared “You can’t judge a book by its index, Jenkins!”

“Please, sir” said Jenkins, “you have got to catch this man. I dare not show my face in the bank again. You know what a temper Mr. Sullivan has. He is convinced that it is all my fault. He might even…” and he gulped as he said “…sack me!”

Just then, the door to the Commissioner’s office burst open and in ran a police constable in plain clothes saying “Sir, Sir!” but he was pulled back by his colleague. The first man to enter was Constable Drummond, a man described by his fellow constables as "Bully" not because, as you might guess he was an expert at getting bullseyes in any game of darts that he played down the pub, although he was, but because of all the constables on the force, he was by far the strongest, indeed he was so strong that he was feared by the criminal underclass of London as "The Bull and the Inspector", sadly however whilst he was endowed with strength, the same could not be said of his mind and many people wondered how the inspector, a gentleman of distinguished tastes, ever came to be partnered with him.

As the inspector took the pipe out of his mouth and announced “We have the artist’s impression of the robber!” and he placed a collection of pictures on the table and was congratulated by the Commissioner who handed them to Jenkins and asked him if any of the pictures looked familiar. As Jenkins thumbed through them he picked one out and said “I recognise this gentleman” and handed it to the Commissioner who, without looking at it, showed it to the two men who had entered.

"Gentlemen" he announced, "I want you to find this man instantly and bring him in for questioning!”

“Sir!” replied the constable scratching his head, “do you really mean that?"

“What do you mean?” bellowed the Commissioner, “Are you not members of Scotland Yard?”

“We are, sir!” replied the inspector, “but we can hardly question you, can we?”

As the Commissioner turned the picture around he gasped. There in his hand was a picture of him and as he demanded to know where it came from Jenkins noted, “It’s a good likeness!” which prompted the Commissioner to tear the picture up into shreds. As he did Jenkins suddenly declared “That’s him. That’s the man who knocked me over the head!” and picked up another picture and handed it to the Inspector.

“That is Mr. Phileas Fogg” replied the Inspector demonstrating why he and Drummond were complete opposites, “He lives at number seven Saville Row, is a member of the Reform Club and if my sources are correct has recently employed a new manservant”

“Then find him!” bellowed the Commissioner and added as the two men left, “If you bungle this case up, then you’re both be demoted to the ranks” but as the constable raised a hand, the Commissioner shouted “and that means mucking out the horses of the mounted division for you, Drummond!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” they both saluted and with that left the Commissioner’s office.

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Chapter Six

“Good evening Phileas, enjoying the papers I see?”

Phileas placed his newspaper on the table and stood up with a broad grin on his face.

“Lord Albemarle, how are you this fine evening?” and with that walked over to the erstwhile chairman of the Reform Club and bowed deeply which caused the chairman to chuckle. He then asked if Phileas would be so kind as to help him take part in the discussion about the bank robbery that was the talk of the town. Phileas smiled and placed his hands on the back of the chairman’s wheelchair and gently wheeled him to the others still deep in conversation. Lord Albemarle had been chairman for the best part of forty years, the last ten of which had seen him confined to a wheelchair after falling from his horse during the annual Reform Club hunt held in the grounds of Windsor Great Park at the Queen’s invitation and whilst his body may have succumbed to the rigours of time, his mind was as sharp as anything, indeed he was the only member who knew about Phileas’s inversion having discovered it by accident after putting two and two together and coming up with four but unlike most people he quietly took Phileas aside and said "Sir, I know that you are inverted, but fear not, I am a true Englishman and will never breathe a word to anyone" for which Phileas took as what it was, a commitment by a noble man and he was grateful for it

As the chairman got stuck into the discussions, Phileas excused himself and joined a game of billiards that was in progress. Naturally these games were the subject of wagers and he was challenged to hit three of the six rails on the table without hitting any of the other balls and then potting the black and the cue ball into the pocket directly opposite the final rail. He accepted the challenge and kneeling examined the table closely. He then stood up, chalked the cue, aimed it at the ball and hit it. As the ball travelled across the table, following the path exactly as challenged he said “Three rails, gentlemen” and as the cue ball entered the pocket, one of the people who had challenged him lost his temper slightly, but congratulated Phileas on his skill as any true Englishman would. As they did, in walked Mr. Gauthier Sullivan, one of the directors of the Bank of England and although he appeared cheery on the outside, when one of the members offered his sympathy about the robbery, Mr. Sullivan replied “I would consider it a great favour if you would drop the subject, gentlemen, after all we have come here to relax!” and with that he picked up a cue and challenged Phileas to a game of snooker which he accepted. As Phileas rearranged the table for the game, Mr. Sullivan added “I have no doubt that the culprit is still in London” and as he lined his shot to break the pack continued, “hiding out somewhere, waiting for the attention to die down” and with that he broke the pack.

Or would have done if there had not been a very loud “POPPYCOCK, MR. SULLIVAN” which caused Mr. Sullivan to mishit the ball so wildly that it leapt into the air and landed in the lap of His Lordship, the person who had made the outburst. As Mr. Sullivan recovered from the shock, he glared at the chairman and growled “And what may I ask is so amusing?”

“You are, sir” came the reply from His Lordship as he wheeled himself up to the table, “I agree that the scoundrel who robbed your bank is in hiding, but to assume that he is still in London, three days later, is ridiculous!”

“Then, may I be so bold as to ask where he is?” asked Mr. Sullivan

“Italy, Spain, Germany, Prussia” replied His Lordship, “take your pick!”

“Explain yourself” replied Mr. Sullivan with a great deal of anger in his voice.

“Phileas” asked His Lordship, “would you be so kind as to wheel me to the globe please?”

Phileas nodded with a smile and as he wheeled the chairman to the globe, willed to the Club by its founder fifty years previously, the rest of the members gathered around.

“In the last century, the world has shrunk considerably” started the chairman, “Transportation has improved so much in that time, that you can travel up to ten times faster than you could at the turn of the century. Steamships are replacing sailboats, trains are replacing stagecoaches, I dare say that eventually even those methods will be replaced by something faster and better!”

Phileas was hanging on the chairman’s every word and gestured for him to continue his explanation.

“It really is amazing how fast people can travel now!” he continued, “When I was a young lad it took you ages to get anywhere and now, well, I dare say that you could travel around the whole world in, oh, six months!”

As Phileas examined the globe, his knowledge of travel came to the fore and he agreed with His Lordship’s assessment.

“You know!” the chairman announced, “I would be confident in saying that with a good wind and a bit of luck, I think it should be possible to travel around the world in three months!” and with that banged his fist on the arms of his wheelchair. However, the statement drew derision from Mr. Sullivan who said “That’s nothing more than an absurd fantasy” and pausing he said “If you are so confident, do it then. Travel around the world in twelve weeks!”

“That’s not fair” replied His Lordship, a hint of sadness in his voice, “you know that I can’t!”

“Because you know it’s impossible!” replied Mr. Sullivan and with that started to laugh. As Phileas watched His Lordship’s face turn down at the corners, something snapped inside of him. He was a gentleman and what sort of gentleman would allow an elderly person be laughed at by those younger than him. But instead of lashing out and punching them all to the ground, Phileas lashed out in another way.

“What His Lordship has told you is not a fantasy” he said, “but cold hard fact!”

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