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Inferno - Turn 2- 1867

Election-related matters

An announcement by Mr Fielding

"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to make it known that I intend to abstain from voting in the current elections. While I retain the office of Inquisitor, I believe I am obliged to remain manifestly impartial; to this end I will refrain from exercising my voting privileges."

A speech by Mr Derothshire

Mr James Derothshire paused at the lectern, head bowed, before raising his head, stretching out his arms and proclaiming "HALLELUJAH... I have seen the light!" He calmed and gestured towards the Archbishop of Canterbury. "His Grace's speech last year has shown me the way. To serve the Inferno Club with the neutrality that is required for somebody in House Libra, I cannot really justify standing for any position within the Club's hierarchy - except perhaps those positions in House Libra - to do so could jeopardize my neutrality.

"Already I have seen the powermongering and deceptions, manipulations and accusations that result from the vying for power and positions within the Club - I cannot, as a member of House Libra, serve with complete impartiality, if I hold a post outside of my House. I therefore withdraw from the running for any non-Libran posts... thank you."

A note from Miss DuQuesne-Black

"After discussion with House Pisces, Miss Elizabeth DuQuesne-Black has agreed to put her name forward as a candidate for the post of Inner Saluter. It is felt by her friends that her extensive travels, her social abilities and the skills unique to her House make her especially suitable to this international role. She offers her thanks in advance for any who are gracious enough to favour her with their support."

A warning from His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury

"It is important that those of us in such positions of power resist the spread of pernicious egalitarianism propagated by the likes of Dr Bang. Whatever next? Votes for the peasantry? Women? Animals? Unthinkable." In regard to Mr Southville's candidature, His Grace added "Anyone who wishes to be Counter deserves to win, and good luck to them." He announced that he was abstaining from all the other votes. 'My friends, spiritual contemplation has priority of place in my thoughts over such base ideals of office."

An announcement from Dr Bang

Dr William S Bang wished it to be known that he abstained from voting for any positions other than Vizier and Earth Elemental.

Election results

The results were as follows:

Mr Charles Southville, who was assisted in the counting by a member of House Libra named Mr Midwife (a very tall, gaunt gentleman, dressed in black, with hollow eyes) announced the results, and added "Voting turnout was very very poor. As a member of House Libra I would like to comment that I am rather disgusted by the lack of enthusiasm demonstrated by most members of this Club. I would expect members of the Inferno Club to have a little passion and drive, not the kind of spineless people to be undecided and uncommitted to matters of their own governance."

Mr Southville also announced the appointment of a Voice for each House: these are indicated on the Register by the ascription (V).

A note from Mr Harcourt

On receiving news of his election, Mr Jasper Harcourt said merely "Wise choice. I will be making security arrangements over the coming years with which I will expect you all to comply. Should anyone have any specific concerns then please feel free to raise them with me."

A message from Mr Giffard

"I thank those who voted for me, even though I 'missed the boat' by not giving a speech at last year's meeting. Congratulations, also, to all those newly elected to positions within the Inferno Club. Humbly, Henri Giffard."

A speech by Mr de Bonvoisin

"My good friends. I thank you all for your support and trust. As I can see you're all sick and tired of yet another boring speech, I invite you all - again - for my exquisite celebration party right after this meeting. I'm sure, as will confirm those who attended the party last year, that food, drinks and music will even force my opponents to have a pleasant time... Thank you again."

A message from Mr von Seyffert

"Fellow Illuminati, the fact that I have been elected Vizier only means I am the humblest servant of the club, and thus, the servant of each and every one of you. If I can do anything to further your aims, please contact me. Best regards, Georg von Seyffert."

Other general messages

Mr d'Aventine deplored the string of horrible murders in London, and announced a reward of a thousand pounds for the arrest and conviction of the culprit.

Mr Kline, who was noted as being unusually charming and sociable, especially with the eligible ladies of the gathering, made the following speech: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be a part of this illustrious gathering. Tonight I would like to bring a couple of facts to your attention. Firstly, as a member of House Aquarius, I wish to assure the members of the Inferno Club of our noble intentions. The not entirely subtle accusations that have been levelled against us and certain other Houses by persons whom we are all aware of are groundless, meaningless ploys, fuelled by panic and designed to enable one man to gain power by damaging an innocent party. I should be most disappointed if these allegations succeed in influencing the election. House Aquarius are not out to control, attack or destroy anything or anybody - or if we are, then nobody has taken the time to inform me of this. Secondly, if any of our esteemed brethren is planning an expedition or similar endeavour, please do not hesitate to contact me. I may well be willing to finance such a worthy cause, within reason. I can be reached in Hannover every other Sunday, or at any time for Aquarians."

Some descriptions

It was noticeable that General Perisson, Mr Petrovich and Mr Harcourt were all wearing gloves, and smoked-glass spectacles.

It was also noticeable that Messrs Derothshire and Clouseau, Dr Bang, and Don Rodrigo, were all wearing badges with their House's astrological symbol on a backing of orange, rather than the red all other Members sport.

Further proceedings

Mr Laing, in his new capacity as Lower Saluter, announced that the Club had received a representation from a delegation of Russian peasants, who wished to address the members.

The three peasants were shown in, gazing wide-eyed about them at the splendour of the furnishings. Their spokesman said, in broken English which your correspondent will not attempt to reproduce, "Ladies and gentlemen! We believe that you are people of power - well, we ask you to use that power, to help our suffering people. For too long now we labour, no better than slaves. We have a saying in my country - when the snows fall, the wise man gets his beasts into the barn. So it is with us now. We have had enough of the Tsar and his cruel ways. That man -" he pointed at Karageorge "- has cured him of his illness, but now he just oppresses us the more effectively. We have waited too long, and now we have had enough." He pulled a small red book from his pocket and brandished it vigorously. 'This book - written by your Mr Marx - contains much wisdom. What right have the ruling classes to exploit our labour? None. The profits should go to the workers. Out eyes have been opened by the circulation of these writings. So we come to tell you - rise we will, for rise we must. You cannot stop us. But if you want to avoid bloodshed, you can use your influence to make our rising peaceful, by negating all opposition. This is your choice."

After the conclusion of this speech the delegation were shown into a side room so that the private business of the Club could continue.

A message from 0001

Much as last year, just before midnight, the Infernal Mail slot popped out a white envelope. Those of you who have used the Infernal Mail service will be aware that messages are borne up and down from this slot by currents of air. Benson read it out to all present:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I note that some of you have already started to turn your powers against each other. 
This is good, and as it should be. Only the fittest will survive! If you can use power 
more effectively than a fellow-Member, take it from him! - and fear not the wrath of the 
Happy New Year,

Practicalities of next turn

I didn't think I'd have to say this again, but... please do make sure you're sending your orders to us, not to the mailing list. We have no way of catching things sent to the list before they are forwarded to all its members.

You can ask questions of the Russian delegation if you wish, as they are waiting in a side room. Also, the newly-elected Council may wish to take a position on the peasants' request, by which they may or may not wish to bind other Members.

Another reminder that each of your actions should be expressible as a phrase. It's a great help while GMing if you put this phrase at the beginning of the action, eg. "DO SUCH-AND-SUCH TO SO-AND-SO - I attempt to blah-di-blah-di-blah."

Note also that if you want to do something complicated in the meeting - more complicated than just talking to people and schmoozing - you should allocate an action to it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, this probably doesn't apply to you!

Note that the deadline below is ABSOLUTE, and any turns which arrive after it will be COMPLETELY IGNORED. This includes turns which are posted on Monday to arrive 'first thing on Tuesday', because the first post doesn't usually arrive here until late morning and by then the turn is well under way. This is pretty harsh, I know, but it's the only practical way of running a game of this type and size. It's hard enough work meshing and coordinating everyone's actions without some turning up halfway through the process.

Your turn should be with us by: Midnight Monday 9th November 1998

Inferno News 1867

(with thanks to the London Times and various other worthy publications)

'HAM AND HIGH' HAS NEW PROPRIETOR The Hampstead and Highgate Express has been transformed since being bought by Professor Moriarty early this year. What was once an unambitious local paper, with nothing more shocking than the results of the Women's Institute Baking Contest, has become the working Londoner's tabloid of choice, with a succession of titillating and gossipy stories focusing on sport, crime and the Royal Family's doings. The Times of course has nothing to fear from such an upstart rival, but nonetheless we condemn the public taste for depravity which Professor Moriarty seems happy to service.

'IMPERIAL SOCIETY' LAUNCHED A new magazine, backed by the Archimedes Press, aims at 'those who wish to view modern social problems with a scientific eye'. The first issue carried articles on eugenics, Malthusian population predictions, and the psychological study of criminality. It is sure to find a readership among the educated who are concerned about our society's ills, and is applauded by The Times.

'JOHN THE SLASHER' IS TWO MEN Surprise findings released from the forensic analysis of Baron Klaus Wolfgang von Poelzig, who has been working closely with the police in analysing the murders so far. It seems that eight of the victims, were killed by a careful, delicate killer, while seven were killed by a much more violent man who seems to have had some medical knowledge. Miss Elizabeth Siddal's case is slightly unusual in that she seems to have been killed by a careful man with medical knowledge: possibly a collaboration between the two.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Dear Sir, We the undersigned, members of Her Majesty's Government, believe that it is now time to grant suffrage to women. We have had to make our feelings public, owing to the failure by Cabinet Ministers to honour assurances that this topic would be debated at this year's party conference. We have had intimations from as many as 45 Members of Parliament, both Government and Opposition, that the matter is ripe for debate, if not a referendum. And it must be said that our country's democratic credentials are in serious doubt where Governments are returned having been endorsed by less than 25% of the adult population. Yours faithfully, the Hon Mark McLeish, Minister for Housing; Mr James Green, Deputy Under-Secretary to the Treasury; Mr Michael Arbuthnot, Assistant to the Solicitor-General.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR Sir, The recent headlines in your publication, to wit 'Year of the Lamb? Ewe'd Better Believe It' and 'Year of the Lamb - Archbishop Rams It Home' have caused great offence to decent Christians and Englishmen across our land. Such disrespect to the religion of the land of your birth can only lead one to suspect the presence on your staff of one or more Agnosticians, who hopefully will be hunted out and dismissed, to ensure your newspaper maintains its position as an organ of truth, trusted by the Christian Masses. In anticipation of swift action, Fortescue Smyth-Carruthers, Archbishop of Canterbury. (The Times responds: You need not fear further such indignities, Your Grace. The sub-editor responsible is for the chop.)

SUE AND BE DAMNED Sentimentalists will be pleased to hear that the late Eugene Sue's beloved cousin, Monique, has succeeded in gaining control of his business empire, using a succession of masterly legal manoeuvres to wrest it from the hands of Venetian opportunist Giuliano d'Aventine (who is believed to have suffered personal financial reverses this year).

AIR CONTRACT STAYS WITH ARMSTRONG Despite the debacle over the loss of the aeronavy prototype, the Government has decided to leave the contract with Armstrong's - presumably because, with war seeming imminent, it would take too long to put it out to tender again. Lord Armstrong assured Ministers that his plants' security measures had been greatly improved since the theft.

BIG TOP ON TOUR The renowned circus of Mr Ferdinand Lancelot Gaboon has been touring Europe this year, astounding audiences there as it did here last year, and also recruiting a series of new acts. One performer silently relates the life of Emperor Charles V Hapsburg in allegory by juggling coloured balls, knives, fish, embers, and other objects, an act which is believed to have gone down particularly well when the circus played in Vienna to the Emperor of Austria and his family. Young Crown Prince Rudolf was said to have been particularly impressed with the spectacle.

BLAKELY NOT FAZED Unabashed by the fate of last year's Stanley expedition into Darkest Africa, Captain Sir Percy Blakely this year led another foray, backed once more by the Africaanse Companie of MrAlbert de Bonvoisin, and accompanied by up-and-coming natural historian Mr Charles Darwin. All returned safely, thank goodness.

BRITISH RED CROSS HAS NEW CHIEF Miss Elizabeth DuQuesne-Black, daughter of the well-respected Colonel, has been appointed head of the military charity run by Mr Carl Coltrane. In a touching gesture, she handed over to the organization's funds a quantity of jewellery, heirlooms left by a beloved grandmother. 'Miss DuQuesne-Black's combination of near-saintliness and military background made her ideal for the post,' said the clearly smitten Mr Coltrane.

THE FUTURE OF WARFARE? Engineer Mr Henri Giffard, who despite his name is (fortunately) a Briton, has patented the Mobile All-Terrain Attack Vehicle, or MATAV - a steam-powered chassis on which are mounted acid and rocket cannons, with sufficient armour to protect the operators. This reporter was privileged to witness a demonstration of the MATAV's capabilities, and can only say that he was frankly terrified. 'This machine marks a new era in warfare,' announced Mr Giffard. 'Giffard Enterprises is a new up-and-coming company, and with the support of my backers the company will continue to grow. The MATAV marks the first in a series of innovative designs for Giffard Enterprises.' Mr Giffard has advertised for potential buyers for the vehicle: it is thought that all the nations of Europe (or at least those who can afford it) will be keen to take advantage of this leap in battlefield technology.

ATTEMPT ON D'AVENTINE FOILED There was an attempt on Venetian statesman Giuiano d'Aventine's life, by a crazed billhook-wielding Slovenian peasant, but it was foiled by the minister's 'companion' Miss Charity Wells, who kicked off her skirt, produced two immense knives, and swiftly rendered the assailant hors de combat - all before the official bodyguards provided to d'Aventine by the provincial administration had had time to react. Miss Wells has been rewarded with the gift of a townhouse in Venice and a villa and vineyard above it, rather generous considering the financial reverses d'Aventine has experienced this year.

CHARLIES TIGHTEN NET Efforts to catch the notorious East End slayer have been redoubled this year, with a number of private citizens lending their aid to the police effort. The tabloid newspapers are calling the killer 'John the Slasher', but we at The Times deplore this trend: to give the fellow a nickname will merely make him think more of himself, and encourage copycat behaviour. After last year's killings in Whitechapel and on the Old Kent Road, this year the Charlies are paying particular attention to the area around Fenchurch Street Station, under the able leadership of Detective Inspector 'Doughnut' Pascoe, who will apparently collect two hundred pounds if he sends the killer to jail. 'Anyone's help will be appreciated,' the Inspector said. 'The police force don't have a monopoly on solving crime.' [let's try that again, as no-one seemed to get it last year... - ed.]

COLONIAL SECRETARY SLAIN In a horrific terrorist atrocity, Sir Michael Swift, the Colonial Secretary, has been killed, his Chatham home levelled by an explosion. Sir Michael was still bedridden, recovering from the assassination attempt on his last year by an Irish malcontent. There is no evidence as to who was responsible for the attack, although the French as usual are the obvious suspects. Sir Michael's deputy, Sir Derek Ross, has been appointed formally into the post he has been filling in Sir Michael's absence, and must surely be nervous of similar attempts against himself - although this is not the sort of high-profile governmental position that generally attracts the attentions of assassins. Sir Derek is a noted hawk and his promotion will strengthen the hand of Home Secretary Lord Shaftesbury against the Prime Minister's peace-loving advisors.

CYCLOPS CENSUS PUBLISHED The first survey from the mighty Cyclops machine was published this year, revealing many interesting facts about our great Empire. Among the recommendations of the engineers was the allocation of a special 'citizenship number' to each individual subject, so that they could be readily identified, crime reduced, society improved and so forth. 'It would ensure that from any nation on Earth a simple telegraph message would be able to confirm that you are indeed a subject of the British Empire, the most respected nation on Earth,' said an enthusiastic spokesman. All the same, there is much resistance to the idea in Government circles, with the opinion that 'mechanically-administered citizenship' would erode individual identities being expressed by Foreign Secretary Lord Chelmsford.

ARMSTRONG'S FAVOURITES Lord Armstrong has announced a special programme of discounts for his foreign customers from 'most favoured nations. In practice the list of nations seems to include everyone except France.

DARWIN PUBLISHES Mr Charles Darwin published a series of papers, and also presented at the Royal Society in London, on the findings of his expedition to Africa this year. He has been studying the relatedness of various Kenyan tribes.

DOCTORS IN DEMAND There has never been such a demand for ambitious but cheap young doctors in London a has been seen this year, with three new projects competing for their services. Reclusive Scottish gentlewoman Miss Autumn Kincaid has founded a hospital in the East End, specializing in the treatment of burns; the Carter Foundation, which held more charity balls this year, is also building a hospital, directly across the road from Miss Kincaid's, for treating diseases of the poor; and Miss DuQuesne-Black, the new President of the British Red Cross, is also recruiting heavily for those seeking battlefield experience. Mr Laing must be glad that he launched his women's clinic last year, as at the moment doctors are not to be had for love or money.

DOMESTIC REFORMS IN PRUSSIA The Prussian Congress of Deputies has passed a series of progressive laws this year, leading to incentives for efficient agricultural production, public housing projects at nominal rent for industrial workers, and 'industry parks' where a variety of factories work alongside each other. More worryingly, there are tax rebates for firms producing instruments of war, such as the mighty Krupp, Mauser and Kline combines. At this rate Prussia's army will soon be rebuilt and equipped to better than von Moltke levels. Her Majesty's government has issued a protest over this tax measure, which can only be seen as destabilizing.

DUKE OF GALLOWAY DIES The eighth Duke, whose generosity will be remembered by many, passed away in his sleep after a long illness. His title, and the bulk of his estate, pass to his elder son, with the exception of small bequests to his younger son Lord Andrew Laing, who is also gravely ill, and to Mr James Derothshire, who had become a friend of the Duke in his declining years. The new Duke, at the funeral, made a moving speech, although it contained a derogatory reference to 'darkies' that was not fit for publication in a publication such as The Times.

ABBEY DESTROYED BY FIRE, BISHOP SLAIN In the most horrifying act of destruction seen in our country since the dissolution of the monasteries, Westminster Abbey has been burnt down to the ground, with the unfortunate death of three clergy who were within at the time, including the noted liberal Bishop of London. His successor, hardliner 'Brimstone' McPhail, immediately called for a crusade against the Agnosticians who carried out the act - various of their pamphlets were found scattered around the scene. The Archbishop of Canterbury meanwhile announced a nationwide design competition to build the most magnificent structure to replace Edward the Confessor's masterpiece - 'it must outshine the Houses of Parliament across the square,' he said.

FAITH NO MORE Miss Faith Poundwell, daughter of the respected sugar merchant, has died, together with her Italian fiancé Mr Emilio Valencio. Their small boat was found drifting face-down off the coast near Pisa. Her grieving family are said to bear an unrelenting hatred for Valencio, who stole the young lady's affections without her father's permission and then led he to her death.

FAITHFUL ON A ROLL The Archbishop of Canterbury's Voice of the Lamb newspaper has been promoting the Roll of the Faithful, a declaration of faith involving the signing of a pledge to 'bring England, its Empire and Dominions back to the true path of Christian Righteousness'. Prospective Members of Parliament have been encouraged to sign it, and most have been happy to do so - perhaps for fear of the 'God Squads', small elite teams of Militia of the Lamb who lurk menacingly near the signing-points. A series of nationally-coordinated sermons have backed up the campaign.

FLORENTINE TAKES THE BISCUIT In an extraordinarily daring raid, the notorious Masked Man has stolen several thousand pounds' worth of valuables from the de'Medici treasuries. To get to the chamber where the goods were kept, the intruder had to sneak past a squad of armed guards and lift the keys from around their custodian's waist. The missing keys were discovered during the course of the break-in, but the Masked Man managed to fight his way through the guards and make his getaway with the sack of jewels slung over his back, swinging from a chandelier to burst through a large stained-glass window and escape via the River Arno. 'His blade was like lightning!' exclaimed one dazed guard.

FRANCO-BRITISH RELATIONS WORSEN With the continued failure of the French to admit responsibility for stealing our Aeronavy prototype, the hawkish party in the Cabinet, led by Home Secretary Lord Shaftesbury, have gained ground this year. The question is not whether we will be at war with France, but when. The French, of course, are using every diplomatic move possible to stall Britain's righteous vengeance.

GIFFARD PRIZE LAUNCHED Noted engineer Mr Henri Giffard, creator of the MATAV, has offered funding to the best design coming out of Britain's universities. 'I spent several years at university and struggled to find support for my ideas,' said Mr Giffard. 'What the Giffard Prize will attempt to achieve will be to support up-and-coming innovative engineers, to take away some of the financial burden, and to provide them with a platform for free-flowing design. The prize will be open to all universities and all students, no matter what level or discipline. It will be awarded every year, and the winning design will be built, in cooperation with the prizewinner, at Giffard Enterprises, London.'

GREEK FIRE Rebel movements are rising all across Greece, young hotheads seizing up pitchforks and butchering Turkish officers. These activities have been decried by the Phanariotes, the ruling classes of the nation, who enjoy a cosy relationship with their Ottoman masters, and are bound to lead to fierce reprisals from the Sultan, not a man renowned for his tolerance.

HAMILTON FOUNDS NEW ORPHANAGES 'I was shocked and saddened by the number of orphans brought to light by the Cyclops survey,' said the noted Lord, a leading light in the so-called Nouveau Wealthy Order. His prompt response was to organize charity balls, solicit donations from the wealthy and secure government funding towards the establishment of orphanages across the country. The institutions are remarkably progressive, emphasizing education, physical fitness and self-respect - almost like a real school. Whether it is worth spending so much trouble on the sweepings of the streets remains to be seen, in The Times's opinion.

ITALIAN JOB Tensions on the Franco-Milanese border, which had been mounting for the past year, finally snapped with a report heard all over Europe. Milanese forces, led by the hot-blooded Colonel Albertini, seized two poorly-guarded French artillery emplacements overlooking Nice. What happened next is not quite clear, but it appears that the Italians accidentally (and simultaneously) detonated the powder magazines of both emplacements, with some loss of life. French reprisals were swift and capable: led by General Louis Perisson, newly posted to this front, they recaptured their cannon and have set up winter positions over the border, in Milanese territory. It will take some swift talking to prevent war, as it seems French patience with Italian provocations has run out.

JOSHUA'S HORN RECOVERED The dig in the Holy Land, sponsored by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has managed to recover from the site of Jericho the very horn which was blown to destroy the city's walls, as told in the Book of Joshua. This holy relic has now been transported back to England.

LETTER WAS A FORGERY, SAYS GOVERNMENT The hue and cry following the astonishing letter apparently written to this paper by three junior Ministers has still to abate. All three claim vehemently that it was a forgery, although handwriting experts testify that the signatures are indisputably theirs. The Government has restated its implacable opposition to female suffrage. Advocates of women's interests, though, claim that the three have been sat on by their superiors, and have lost the courage of their convictions. And Chartist groups have seized upon the letter's implicit support for extending the franchise to the large proportion of adult males who do not own enough property to have the vote. The Times will (reluctantly) be publishing an article on the subject by renowned expert on women's matters Mr Sunil Laing.

MONA LISA FOUND, MAN ARRESTED Police, acting in response to information provided by a member of the public, moved swiftly to recover the lost masterpiece from where it was concealed on the estate of the Duke of Galloway. A Mr James Derothshire, 23, of London, is being held by Scotland Yard for questioning over the matter, and the French government have applied for an extradition warrant so that he can stand trial in Paris.

NEW COPPER MINES TO OPEN Two new deposits of copper ore have been found in areas of Dartmoor that was thought to be played-out, mining surveys revealed this year. Mr Jasper Harcourt, the owner of both parcels of land, promptly sold them for exploitation.

NEW GIRLS' SCHOOL FOUNDED Laing College, another philanthropic venture from Mr Sunil Laing, has been established near Great Malvern. Unusually, it aims for academic excellence, and applies a stiff entrance exam. The Times says: what's the point of that? We have too many blue-stockings as it is. Far better to teach these girls how to cook and sew, and how to find a good husband and mother children.

NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION IN NETHERLANDS In a skilfully-coordinated series of moves, Dutch rebel forces struck simultaneously at a range of targets across Prussian-occupied Holland, on the night of exiled Queen Wilhelmina's birthday. The occupying forces' administrative headquarters was taken out, together with such of their fleet as was in harbour in Amsterdam, and a number of smaller targets. The attackers were mostly using Prussian-made arms, captured last year. Written on the wall of the HQ, inside and out, was the following message: 'Prussians, go home if you wish to see your own land again. Niels Graaf.'

OTTO GAINS ADVICE Crown Prince Otto of Bavaria has a new military adviser, Mr Morgan Leman, a Briton of unknown antecedents. With some improvement in Prince Otto's mental condition this year, perhaps he can now be seen as a realistic heir to the kingdom of Bavaria. All the same, King Ludwig announced this year that he is seeking a wife, who must be of noble and preferably royal birth: so he clearly does not wish to have all his succession eggs in one raspberry-shaped basket.

PACT CONFUSION The network of alliances binding Europe together took several turns for the complex this year. It is certain that Venice and Milan are allied, and Bavaria claims to be fully allied to both of them. However, they both have a defensive alliance with Prussia as well, which Bavaria sees as a threat. On the other hand, the Prussians are claiming that they have a defensive alliance with Bavaria as well, although the Bavarians say this is no more than a non-aggression pact. Meanwhile the unfortunate Austrians are looking nervously over their shoulders.

'THE GENTLEMAN'S CLUB' GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH Professor Moriarty's 'The Gentleman's Club' is increasingly becoming the place to be seen in London, with social lights such as Mr Edward Carter in regular attendance. The Home Secretary, Lord Shaftesbury, seems to have abandoned his membership, though, and the infamous Mona Lisa thief (allegedly) James Derothshire is also a member, so perhaps the tide is starting to turn against this new institution.

PEACE OF THE ACTION Many people must have breathed a sigh of relief this year with the announcement of the formation of the Peace Corps, an international force dedicated to intervening in conflicts on the side of the morally correct party. The Corps was founded by a coalition of dissatisfied retired generals from various countries, and will be equipped with the latest arms from the best Prussian factories, financed by a variety of global corporations. Where the Corps is to be based has yet to be announced, but it seems to The Times that no nation is going to be keen to have an unaccountable private army within its borders.

PRIME MINISTER SLAIN, NATION MOURNS A stunned Britain wept to learn that our beloved Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was dead, felled by a barbarous and unprovoked act of international aggression. Mr Disraeli was en route to Portugal on a governmental mission when his ship was fired on and sunk by French warships in the Bay of Biscay. The French government at once disclaimed responsibility for the act, but The Times says: plucky Britain has had enough! We demand satisfaction!

PRUSSIAN CLAMPDOWN ON UNIONS The Prussian government, under 'Velvet Chancellor' Baron Brodenbach, have issued a strict ban on all trade union activity, making membership of a union punishable by prison sentence. This draconian measure is thought to be in response to the recent upsurge in Communist sentiment in Eastern Europe - it is well known that the trade unions, innocent thought hey may seem, are merely fronts for Marxist subversion. How long before France and Britain introduce similar policies?

NEW PM IS LORD SHAFTESBURY The Home Secretary has now been sworn in as Prime Minister, in the wake of Mr Disraeli's death. Despite his hawkish reputation, he resisted urgent calls to declare war on France, instead announcing that next February's general election should be seen as a referendum on the war issue. If the Conservatives were returned to government, he would take that as carte blanche to attack France. If his party were defeated, that would show that the British people had no stomach for war.

REBEL ULTIMATUM TO KAISER The Dutch guerrilla commander Niels Graaf, whose name has been on everyone's lips after his dazzling attack on the Prussian occupying HQ, has sent an ultimatum to the Kaiser demanding withdrawal from the Netherlands. Apparently this is Prussia's 'last chance to avoid big bloodshed'. The Kaiser has responded by massively reinforcing the Wilhelmsland garrison with soldiers brought back from Bulgaria and Rumania, announcing the death penalty for membership of any rebel organization, and offering a reward of a thousand marks for Graaf's head or information leading to his capture.

SAMARKAND SEASON Countess Koncharova has become the leading social light of the Silk Route city, our correspondent for unimaginable remote parts of the globe tells us.

ELECTION FEVER HOTS UP Next year's general election is the source of even more excitement than usual, with the promise of war with France if the Conservatives are returned to power. Before Lord Shaftesbury made his announcement, it seemed likely that they would win easily, but it may be that the peace-loving British people will usher in Mr Gladstone's Liberals rather than suffer the privations of a painful war with our neighbour. Already, lobby groups for both camps are working hard on the voters, particularly in those constituencies where there are only one or two qualified electors - the so-called 'rotten boroughs'.

STABILITY FOR SLOVENIA? In a bold and statesmanlike move, the Venetian republic has granted its unhappy subject province Slovenia the right to an regional assembly to be elected next year, to be followed in four years' time by a plebiscite at which independence will be one of the options. The agreement was hammered out between Giuliano d'Aventine and leaders of the rebellion, and is thought to have broad support across Slovenia, although a few hard-line extremist groups still resist the Venetian presence and demand an immediate withdrawal. The Times can only commend these moves, which will surely help secure European peace, although we cannot but think that to conduct the elections under universal suffrage, with no gender or property qualification, is thoroughly wrong-headed and can only lead to trouble.

STEAM TRACTOR ALARMS FARM WORKERS Dr William Stone has patented a novel vehicle for speeding up the tasks of ploughing, reaping, threshing and such like. It is a sturdy steam tractor onto the rear of which various attachments can be fitted and dragged along the ground. 'Buy one of these, and you can sack twelve labourers!' exclaimed one delighted landowner. Farm workers were reported to be not so enthusiastic, and Dr Stone was burned in effigy at one gathering in Herefordshire.

CHARTISTS DECRY WAR POLL Mr Barnaby Rudge, a spokesman for the Chartist movement, which supports universal suffrage, has poured scorn on the notion of next year's General Election serving as a referendum on war. 'It will be the British working-man who has to fight and die if there is war, and he has no vote!'

STRUAN'S DIGS DEEP Several important colonial mining concessions were granted to Scottish firm Struan's this year, including diamond and gold mines in South Africa and a sapphire mine in Ceylon. Less fortunate applicants for the concessions are wondering what strings Struan's was able to pull to gain these lucrative rights.

THE END IS NIGH - BOOK PLACES NOW The world of the credulous has been alive this year with a new scientific interpretation of the prophet Nostradamus, which seems to suggest that the world is due to end in the year 1900. What with the other scare stories running rife in the tabloid media at the moment, tales of little green men from outer space coming to master the human race, and governmental plots to keep it all hushed up, popular fears are growing. The Times sternly cautions its readers not to believe in any such twaddle, although we are sure that you need no such exhortation.

TSAR 'AS GOOD AS NEW' Thanks to the attentions of Karageorge Petrovich, the Tsar has made a full return to health, and is as sharp and decisive as he was before his illness, if not more so. Experienced Russia-watchers are at a loss to explain why he now wears gloves and smoked-glass spectacles at all times, though, or why the Tsarina now appears so pale, haggard and fearful.

TURKISH OUTRAGES Ottoman troops in Greece carried out a number of atrocities this year, massacring civilians, burning villages, and torturing women and children. The claim was that these acts were in response to Greek acts of terror, which have certainly been on the up this year. But the Turkish authorities have dissociated themselves from these crimes against humanity, blaming over-zealous local commanders.

TWO AEROSHIPS LAUNCHED Amid much panoply and ceremony, the first two Aerocruisers, the HMS Queen and the HMS Albert, were launched from Armstrong's yards on the Wear this year, with the Royal couple themselves in attendance. The two boats did indeed make a fine spectacle as they powered smoothly out to sea before lifting up into the air, with no apparent strings attached. Quake in your boots, enemies of Britain!

VENETIANS ON THE MARCH The armed forces of Venice expanded by twenty per cent this year, with new armaments to match, presumably in response to the clashes between France and Venice's ally Milan. Florence, the Papal States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies have all protested strongly to the Venetian Council about extensive recruitment from among their peoples.

RED MENACE GROWS Communist agitation is so prevalent in Russia now that one can hardly walk to the corner shop without having a succession of selections from Marx's writings pressed into one's hands, correspondents report. The Tsar's desuetude has certainly been the trigger for this activity - will his regaining health restore the serfs to their previous tractability? The Times thinks probably not.

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