Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Never the Twain; Or, The Tragic End of Mr. Bonteen

[On the Anthony Trollope Facebook Group, the question has arisen as to how Trollope would have written the Whoinverse. We will never know, but as a brewer of the finest ersatz Trollope, I have some ideas. . . This all makes more sense if you compare the cast of The Palliserswith that of The Five Doctors]

A dull, wheezing, groaning sound on a damp, foggy, London evening can betoken much or little. Little, if it is merely Jake's old cob, as he pulls the cart past the Universe Club. However, when the strange sound is accompanied by the arrival of an additional pillar to the Club's portico--that may betoken more than an asthmatic horse wearily treading its familiar paths. Still more, though, if a dark, saturnine, man, draped in a black cloak, somehow steps out from the pillar, and walks away from the Club, we know not yet where.

As the man in the cloak proceeded through the labyrinth of London, Mr. Phineas Finn was leaving the House of Commons. As he strode through the streets along the river, turning over his problems yet once more, he failed to mark the strange sound--a wheezing, groaning sound, just like that which had accompanied the additional pillar's arrival. So caught up was Mr. Finn in the difficulty presented by his egregious colleague, the odious Mr. Bonteen, who had successfully blocked him from office in the newly formed government, that Mr. Finn nearly walked into the tall blue box impeding his way.

"The divil--" Phineas was quite sure that he had not seen the box earlier that day. No sooner had Phineas begun to read the strange sentence on the door--"Free to members of the public"? Phineas wondered. What was free to members of the public?--than a young, sandy-haired man in cricket whites and a hat with a red ribbon stepped smartly out, followed by a youth in what appeared to be his pajamas.

"Hello," the cricketer greeted him, hand outstretched, "I'm the Doctor."

The habit formed of custom impelled Phineas to shake this Doctor's hand, and reply, "Phineas Finn. Er--how exactly did the two of you fit into that box?"

"Not two," the Doctor began to answer, when a lady with extraordinary short hair, bold features, and a marked Antipodean accent pushed her way through. "Four of us," she said, offering Phineas her hand, adding: "Tegan Jovanka"

"God bless you," the Member of Parliament replied.

"No, her name is Tegan Jovanka," the youth in pajamas said. "And I'm Adric," he added for good measure.

The promised fourth, a younger woman still, came through the door to the odd box. She, at least was dressed with propriety, thought Phineas with relief--although the tiara nestled in her hair struck him as odd.

"Nssa," she introduced herself.

"We were wondering," the Doctor interjected, seizing a brief opportunity, "if you might be so good as to help us find the Universe Club."

"I'm on my way there myself," Phineas answered, and the four followed him.

"Er, you know. . .Doctor, you're not exactly . . . dressed for the Club..."

***

The saturnine man in the cloak, his close-cropped dark beard and piercing blue eyes distinguishing an angular face, proceeded down the street, until a tall spare figure crossed his path.

"Lord President!" He gasped in surprise.

Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of Omnium, and President of the Board of Trade, looked askance at the figure standing in his path.

"Do I know you, sir?" he intoned haughtily.

"Know me?" The dark figure answered with a mellifluous voice, "It is I, the Master, Lord President."

"Master?" the Duke asked, "What foolery is this--" And then, recognition dawned.

"You are that mountebank, Emilius, that so many of the women have been making fools of themselves over, hmm? I had not recognized you with the beard--hardly suitable for a clergyman, even one such as you, sir." And the Duke swept away, leaving the Master equally confused and insulted.

"Emilius? Who is Emilius?" The Master asked nobody in particular, and reversed his direction, following the Duke.

***

Phineas Finn was unable to secure entrance for his new friends at the Universe Club. After he reported his failure, and they thanked him for his efforts, he went back inside.

"What now, Doctor?" Tegan asked.

"The Master must be here somewhere--the Lord President himself informed me he would be," the Time Lord replied. They crossed the street, to better keep an eye on the Club.

"We should spread out," Adric suggested, "to keep a better watch."

So, each taking a compass point around the club, the travelers waited.

Night fell.

***

The Reverend Joseph Emilius was also watching the Universe Club, with but one thought--the murder of the wretch Bonteen, who sought to undo his marriage to his beloved (and quite wealthy) Lizzie. The busybody was becoming appallingly close to hindering Emilius--why, his liberty was positively at stake! So he waited.

"Master!" The voice was unknown to him, the appellation peculiar; even in Emilus's heterodox congregation, he was not so addressed. He wheeled, facing the Duke of Omnium--albeit oddly dressed.

"Milord Duke?" He asked.

"Duke?" The baffled Borusa asked, and peered more closely at his interlocutor.

***

Adric, bored, fell asleep.

***

As all this happened, Phineas Finn and Mr. Bonteen each burst out of the Universe Club, scowling at the other. They headed off in opposite directions. Finn, as history has recorded, went home to bed. But history has erred in its depiction of Bonteen's movements.

That worthy man stamped off in the opposite direction from Phineas Finn, only to realize some streets later that he was walking away from his own home. As he turned around, he was face to face with the quarry he had hunted these past weeks.

"Emilius!" He declared, glad of an open enemy, especially a clergyman who was debarred from physical confrontation by his orders.

"Again this strange name," the Master mused. "Who is this Emilius?" He asked.

"You hide behind a false beard, you apostate?" Bonteen spat.

"A false beard?" the Master repeated, his patience running thin.

"A rubbish beard!" Bonteen's voice carried only more venom with it.

"I am the Master," the renegade Time Lord intoned, "and you will obey me.."

Bonteen assumed a fighting stance; the Master removed from under his cloak his TCE.

Bonteen lunged at him, leading the Master to strike the Member of Parliament across the temple. Mr. Bonteen dropped like a stone. The man was dying, the Master's enhanced Trakenite and Time Lord senses told him. The Master saw no reason to refrain from speeding him on his way, and kicked Bonteen hard in the midriff.

***

As the Doctor tried to explain his inability to find the Master to a baffled Plantagenet Palliser, and Tegan fended off the advances of Dolly Longestaffe, the wheezing groaning sound, and the disappearance of the extra pillar, revealed to the travelers that the Master had escaped once more.

At home, Mr. Emilius slept the sleep of the just. Perhaps, he thought, as he drifted off to sleep, he could resolve his conflict with Bonteen short of violence.

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