Friday, March 18, 2016


I don't believe there ever was a person named Jesus. There was, however, a man named Yeshua. A thousand years after Yeshua died, the first hand-written English translations of the New Testament used the letter “J” to represent the Hebrew sound for “Yod” . Then, in the 400 years after Gutenberg printed his first bible, the entire English language went through “The Great Vowel Shift”, and the vowel “Y” lost its Hebrew roots and sound wise became the consonant “J”. A few more linguistic adjustments and “Yod-shu-ru” became “Gee-zuhs” Back in the first century one in every ten males in Yehudah (Judea) was named Yeshua. But there wasn't anybody named Jesus. However, for convenience we'll keep calling him that.
There is only one reliable reference to Jesus outside of the New Testament. At the end of the first century a Roman book appeared, “Antiquities of the Jews”, written by Joseph ben Matityahu, known in the Roman world as Titus Flavius Josephus (above). He was the son of a priest at the Jerusalem temple and his mother claimed to have the royal blood of King David in her veins. Every vain resident of Judea claimed that  In other words Josephus was a snotty entitled rich kid.
In 67 A.D, during the Jewish rebellion, Josephus became the prisoner of the Roman General Vespasian. Hearing that Vespasian was looking for prophets willing to predict his future success, Josephus had an epiphany, and predicted Vespasian would be named Emperor. When that actually happened, Josephus was rewarded with his freedom, moved to Rome and became an historian and a soothsayer. In other words, he got 'em coming and going, building a successful second career telling powerful rich people what they wanted to hear. Never a shortage of job oportunities in that field So everything he writes has to be read with a jaundiced eye, including what he wrote about Jesus.
In his book “Antiquities”, Josephus says that in the spring of 62, Ananus was named the new high priest of the Jerusilam Temple. Josephus describes him as “rash”, but then Josephus knew it was better to blame the Jewish priests for destruction of their temple, rather than the Romans, who had actually knocked it down. But what he says Ananus did, was logical.  Seeking to quickly silence those calling for a suicidal Jewish uprising,  Ananus ordered the arrest of James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ...”  Josephus says James was tried, found guilty of heresy and stoned to death.
Most historians suspect that Jame's execution was quickly followed by the elimination of all of Jesus' apostles still in Jerusalem, which is why the only apostle we definitively hear from after the year 62 was Peter. Earlier he had been sent north to deal with the troublesome new convert, Paul. And this also explains why Paul was able to have such an influence over early Christianity . He was wealthy and connected, while Peter was poor, and connected to nobody but Jesus, who was now dead.  The mass execution of first generation Christian leaders also explains why Ananus was high priest for less than four months. The violence he unleashed consumed him, the same way things went during the French and Russian Revolutions. All of this supports the accuracy of Josephus' brief mention of Jesus as a real person. Just not named Jesus..
There seems no reason to think Jesus was not crucified. Lots of people were crucified by the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, even Judea had been nailing people onto wood long before the Romans took up the practice. When the Persian king Darius I captured Babylon in 519 B.C., he claimed to have crucified 3,000 people. But the Romans got it really organized. After the slave army of Spartacus was defeated in 71 B.C., Crassus crucified 6,000 captives along the 120 miles of the Appian Way between Rome and Capua. So the Romans crucifying Jesus would have been as common-place as Texas executing a random African-American. What made the execution of Jesus special, according to Christians, was that three days later Jesus rose from the dead. Of course that was not unheard of either.
The most Christ-like of all the born again gods was Mithra (above). He was the son of the virgin Anahita, born in a cave on 25 December. He became a traveling celibate Zoroastrian priest, and carried his ministry of peace and forgiveness out of India into the Persian empire. Sacred texts say that having angered Persian authorities in 600 B.C., and after a last meal with his 12 followers, Mithra was crucified on a cross. After he was taken down,  Mithra's dead body lay in his tomb for three days, until the spring equinox, when “...the light burst forth from all parts, the priest cried, Rejoice, O sacred initiated, your God is risen. His death, his pains, and sufferings, have worked your salvation." So the idea of resurrection was not new, either. It was a neat literary invention - turning a god into a living man, rather than the usual device of turning a man into a living god.
Robust Mithraism was adopted by enlisted and NCO's of the Roman army, who spread it across Europe and North Africa.  Mithra was even worshiped at midnight services on Vatican Hill and at military outposts along the Rhine border and Hadrian's Wall. The omniscient Mithra was the Good Shepherd, the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah, the god who became a man so he could die to atone for your sins. Standard Catholic theology is that Mithria was a false god sent by Satan to confuse Christians. That seems to me a convoluted logic, on Satan's part, and it assumes that God's motives can be quantified and comprehended by humans. And requiring such proof seems to prove a lack of faith. But that's just my opinion.
Doubters often suggest that Jesus survived crucifixion by trickery or drugs, and that is certainly possible. But considering the standard crucifixion protocols, it is unlikely. Crucifixion was not just a form of execution. It was also a form of theatre. First, in public, the convicted was stripped, tied to a post and scourged, jaggedly opening his back down to the muscle and bone. It was a bloody mess. This would have left Jesus, in the words of one medical expert, in the initial stages of shock, and in “at least serious and possibly critical” condition. The intent was not to kill him, but to so weaken him so as to make the next day's execution certain and smooth.
After recovering overnight the condemned would have been striped naked again, had a 100 lb cross beam tired across his shoulders, which he then carried to his execution site. There he would have been thrown to the ground onto his back – reopening his wounds - and either had nails driven through his wrists or more likely had his hands tied to the cross beam. The cross beam, with the prisoner attached, was then lifted up and set atop a post, creating either the Roman cross or more likely a “T”. It need only been tall enough to get the victim's feet off the ground.
The Roman guards would remain on watch until the man died. If the weather was unpleasant or dinner awaited them, the guards might break the victim's legs or even stab him in the side, to hurry the process along. Other wise death would eventually occur because of cardiac failure, shock, acidosis, asphyxia, arrhythmia, dehydration, sepsis, suffocation , or even being torn apart by vultures or wolves. You do not survive crucifixion because friends slip you a mickey after you're on the cross. In fact a sedative would more likely suppress breathing and hurry death along.
During the siege of Jerusalem , our old friend Josephus saw three of his frat brothers hanging off their own crosses. He begged the Romans for their lives, and the officer in charge “immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to ensure to their recovery, Two of them died under the physician's care, while the third recovered.” So even with the best and prompt medical care available, the survival rate, once you were up on the wood, was only 33%. And the best was certainly not available to what's-his-name..eh, Jesus.
So, to put it all together, there very well might have been a man we call Jesus, and he might very well have been a significant religious leader, who might very well have died on a cross. And people were willing to believe such a man, if he existed, had died for their sins. There is no proof that any of that happened, and no proof it did not. And the more ancient people talked about it, the more times it was invented, the more it seems likely  that somewhere, at sometime it probably did happen. It depends on what you believe.
And every Easter, that all depends upon.you.
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I shall now relate, as best I can, the true story of the legendary Nicolas Flamel. He may not be the man you expect him to be, the man from the pages of “Harry Potter” or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. But then I’m willing to bet that you, dear reader, are probably not the person he expected you to be, either.
Nicolas was born about 1335 in village of Pontoise ("bridge on the Oise"), just 17 miles north-northwest of Paris, along the old Roman Road. The village still retained the flavor of a border town, balanced as it was between the "Ile-de-France", where the King of France ruled, and "The Vexin", where feudal lords ruled. They were nominally vassals to the King. But sometimes the King in question was French and sometimes he was English.
It was a very bad time to be growing up French. In the first place the Hundred’s Year War had just begun and was proving so popular among the nobility that it seemed certain to be held over for a long run. Its very name implied optimism. The French ruler, Phillip VI, was a competent King, as far as inbred nobility goes. Unfortunately he was surrounded by a lot of inbred noble idiots. At the battle of Crecy in August of 1346, 35,000 disorganized yet haughty French noblemen charged uphill at 12,000 Englishmen, killing maybe 300 of the sausage eaters, while losing 13,000 of their own blue-bloods. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in 1349 the Black Death descended upon Paris. That year they were burying 800 people a day, peasants and nobility and even clergy. By the time the little bug Yersinia pestis had moved on, half of France had been buried.
In this world of doom and death it would have been no surprise that young Nicolas studied for the priesthood. There were only two ways to get close to God in the Middle Ages, and only one that did not require dying first. I suspect that Nicolas was trained by priests because we know for a fact he could read and write. Those skills in the 14th Century were still restricted by law to members of the church or to the nobility. And most of the French nobility were, quite frankly, not that bright. (See Battle of Crecy, above)
It is also rumored that young Nicolas received a small inheritance. I admit that is a possibility. It is also possible that he stole the money. What we know is that about 1350 he arrived in Paris. There, Nicolas used his precious funds to buy paper and ink and set himself up in business on the street near the Cathedral of Saint-Jacques la Boucherue, (the butcher), as a scribe.
The church was at the center of the Paris market, Les Halles, the “stomach of Paris”. It was the financial core of the metropolis. And Nicolas, surrounded by butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and buyers of everything from rare silks to local farmers’ produce, wrote and copied letters for a fee. And that made him a Middle Ages high tech worker, a web site designer 700 years before there was a web.
Any merchant wishing to communicate with his clients or suppliers or debtors outside of Paris would pause at the cathedral the same way later generations would visit a telegraph office or an internet cafe. And in time Nicolas moved from being a simple scribe into the greatest and most dangerous profession an ambitious young Christian in 14th century Europe could aspire to; banker.
“Nicolas Flamel”, she whispered dramatically, “is the only known maker of the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
This didn’t have quite the effect she’d expected.
“The what?” said Harry and Ron.
“Oh, honestly, don’t you read? Look – read that, there.”
"The ancient study of Alchemy is concerned with making the Sorcerer’s Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.”
There have also been many reports of the Sorcerer’s Stone over the centuries, but the only stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicolas Flamel, who celebrated his six hundredth and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred and fifty-eight).”
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. pp 219-220. J.K. Rowling. Scholastic, Inc. 1997)
Nicolas’ entry into banking would have been a natural evolution. When writing a dunning letter for a merchant, or to establish a business agreement, Nicolas would offer to forgo his usual fee in exchange for a percentage of the payment or the profit. In business today this is called a “finders fee”. If the debt was not repaid or the deal not made Nicolas was out just his paper and ink. But by insisting in the letter that any payment be sent to him rather than directly to the illiterate merchant, Nicolas insured that his percentage – often upwards of 50% - was paid before the merchant received so much as a sou.
But anything that smacked of interest charges was illegal. It was illegal because making it so solved a major dilemma for the Christian Church. On the one hand Jesus Christ was on the record as saying some nasty things about rich people. (“Again I say to you that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” Gospel of St. Mark, 12:25.) On the other hand the Christian Church was incredibly wealthy while the peasants were incredibly poor. The Popes in particular liked to wear nice things. In order to avoid the awkwardness of priests extolling selflessness while eating off gold and silver plate, it was decreed that by a “rich man” Jesus was not in fact referring to powerful landowners like Bishops and Dukes. Profit from sweat was godly. Thus being a serf was God like. Even the indirect profit of rent was, thank God, godly. Profit from non-sweat, like, say, interest, was un-godly. It was a fine line but the church happily walked it for seventeen hundred years.
As recently as 1311 Pope Clement V had declared that charging interest on a loan was heresy for a Christian, and punishable by death at the stake. And they really did it. Not as often as the movies might want you to believe, but often enough to serve as a warning to anybody who got on the bad side of the Pope, like say the Knights Temple, or the Huguenots, or the Jews.
It was the function of a Jew in medieval Europe to be the Christian equivalent of a Hindu untouchable. In fact the followers of the Hebrew God were restricted from doing any other business with gentiles except money lending. This left the ambitious Red Sea Pedestrian with little choice as to a career. And this had the added appeal that every time the French nobility found their debts piling up they simply burned a few Jews, forced a few to convert, expelled the rest from the country and seized their property, including their accounting books, as did the misnamed “Phillip the Fair” in 1306. Charles VI did again in 1394.
In between these persecutions the crown quietly re-admitted the Jews because even medieval economies could not function without bankers. But the persecutions could break out again at anytime, with the slaughter of innocents, whose only crime was that they were easy scapegoats and were profiting doing something the Christian church profited from but disapproved of, at least publicly.
So it was easy for Flamel to keep his business arraignments secret since the merchants involved were Nicolas’ co-conspirators and equally as guilty as Nicolas, in the eyes of the church. As the profits began to roll in Nicolas was able to rent space for a stall that rested against the very columns of the front of la Boucherue.
Now that he had a roof over his head and some privacy when he did business, Nicolas’s profits increased. And Nicolas now had the capital to offer direct loans to tide customers over while they were waiting for their debts to be repaid; more profit for Nicolas, and more risk. He needed a cover story to explain where his growing wealth was coming from.
“I, Nicholas Flamel, a scrivener of Paris, in the year 1414, in the reign of our gracious Prince Charles the VIth, whom God preserve; and after the death of my faithful partner Perenelle, am seized with a desire and a delight, in remembrance of her, and in your behalf, dear nephew, to write out the whole majesty of the secret of the Powder of Projection, or the Philosophical Tincture,…”.
The Testament of Nicolas Flamel
The testament of Nicolas Flamel continues for some 3,000 words, and not one word of it was actually written by Nicolas Flamel, or anybody who knew him. He had no brother or sister that we know of, so he had no nephew. And modern researchers have noticed in the testament the use of words and phrases that were not in use in 14th or even 15th century France.
Nobody even heard of the testament until the 18th century, which is when it was probably written and sold several hundred times over for a tidy profit to those who wanted to believe they were buying the secret of unlimited wealth and life. There are always such people about, ask any Wall Street guru or the merchants of Amsterdam in the 15th century who invested their fortunes in Tulip bulbs. But there is an underlying truth to the so called Flamel testament - with emphases on the lying part.
Nicolas chose as a cover story, alchemy, from the Arabic, meaning “Art of Transformation”. The modern English translation is “con man”, from the criminal code meaning the art of stealing. Alchemy was a shell game, a bunk, a fraud, a card trick where the colored liquids and the incantations and the clouds of smoky incense performed the same function which the modern day scantly clad magician’s assistant performs. What would you rather look at, an egg turning into a dove, or a half dressed woman with a really great pair of legs? Let me rephrase that question; which will you look at? One defies the laws of natures, but the other is natural law. Millions of magicians have built their careers on this equation. You can take that to the bank; they did.
There is no shortage of examples of Alchemist proven to be frauds. Edward Kelly lost his ears in Lancaster, England, for forging title deeds. Only then did he delve into alchemy. He claimed to have learned how to transmute common metals into gold. And yet, somehow, he never got rich from it. He wrote his most famous book, “The Stone of the Philosophers” during one of his jail terms. Biographer Ralph Sargent said Kelly’s career only “…differs from that of an ordinary mountebank by the audacity of his claims and the magnitude of his success.” Kelly’s success ended in 1596 during a prison escape when the bed sheet rope he had knotted together failed to support his rather substantial weight.
Peter; (to Rafe)
“Alchemy is a secret science. None almost can understand the language of it and it has as many terms impossible to be uttered…If thou have any gold to work on, (my master’s) art is then made for you. For with one pound of gold, he will go near to transmuting it into ten acres of ground….But here comes my Master.
(Enter the Alchemist)
Rafe: (disbelieving)
This is a begger.
No. Such cunning men must disguise themselves as though there were nothing in them. For otherwise they shall be compelled to work for Princes, and so be constrained to betray their secrets
“Gallathea” 1592 - John Lyly.

One more thing: the modern myths about alchemy being a predecessor for chemistry are “merde”, which is modern French for “I don’t think so”, spoken in a bratty voice, slowly, and with thick sarcasm. In fact alchemy is to chemistry what UFO’s are to rocket science. Most rational people in the middle ages, who actually knew real alchemists, knew they were frauds and said so. So why would anybody want to be associated with alchemy?
“Who in his dusty workshop bending, with proved adepts in company, made, from his recipes unending, opposing substances agree…There was a lion red…a wooer daring, within the Lilly’s tepid bath espoused. And both, tormented then by flame unsparing, by terms in either bridal chamber housed, if then appeared, with colors splendid, the young queen in her crystal shell, This was the medicine – the patient’s woes soon ended, and none demanded – who got well.”
“The Cannon’s Yoeman’s Tale. Canturbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer. 1400
About 1370 Nicolas married the widow Perenelle. She offered Nicolas emotional comfort and I certainly hope some physical comfort as well – for the both of them. She also probably provided the funds to build the new home they constructed on the Rue des Escrivains. (Hey, if George Washington could marry into Mount Vernon, then Nicolas Flamel could marry into the street of 'fakes'.) They lived frugally in order not to attract attention to Nicolas' business, and because they were both set in their ways and that is the way they had always lived - call it the Silas Marner syndrome. In 1407 Nicolas built a shop at 51 rue de Montmorency (now a restaurant) where he employed other scribes and artists to create illuminated manuscripts. The mafia would call this kind of business a front, or a money laundering scheme. And the most prominently displayed and the best selling books Nicolas sold were, no doubt, the copies of ancient texts on alchemy. Call it the 14th century self help market.
Remember; it was far safer in medieval France to be rumored a magician than to be known as a banker. But is it more logical to believe that Nicolas Flamel turned lead into gold and discovered something which still eludes science, or to believe that Nicolas Flamel knew how to add and subtract the vig and figure the percentages of interest rates? Well, we know which option is the more romantic to read about.

“It is certain that he had been seen often walking along the Rue des Lombards, and furtively entering a small house at the corner of the Rue des Ecrivains and the Rue de Marivault. It was the house built by Nicolas Flamel, in which he died about 1407, and which, unoccupied ever since, was beginning to fall into ruins, so greatly had the hermetics and alchemists of all countries worn away its walls merely by scratching their names upon them…It was supposed that Flamel had buried the philosophers stone in these cellars, and for two centuries alchemists from Magistri to Father Pacificque, never ceased to worry the soil, until the house, so mercilessly ransacked and turned inside out ended up crumbling into dust under their feet.”
The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Page 134. Victor Hugo. Carey, Lea and Blanchard. 1834.
On the second and the third floors of Flamel’s bookshop, now the oldest house in Paris, Nicolas sheltered the poor, as he did in several other houses he owned or rented in Paris. But if Nicolas were not a money lender and a secret banker, what fueled all his generosity? If it came from turning lead into gold, why did it ever stop? Have we humans gotten greedier in the last 700 years? I don’t believe we have. If lead can be transmuted into gold, and if Citibank’s International group could lose $20 billion in 2008 and then in 2009 the VP in charge could still expect a $5 million bonus for a job well done, why is gold not as common as lead? The answer screams for your attention.
The visits by Jews and the nobility to Flamel’s humble shop, usually made after dark, were all cloacked in the legends of alchemy. Even a trip Nicolas made to southern France (then under English control) to collect debts fit into the cover story. It was claimed Nicolas had traveled to Spain to learn more about magic from Muslim mystics. But the truth was the faith of Mohammad executed its alchemists just as often as the Catholic Church, and for the same reason; most of the practitioners were frauds and con men.
True, Sir. The two favorite studies of my youth were botany and mineralogy. I have regretted I were not a man, that I might have been a Flamel, a Fontana or Cabanas” Page 523. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas. Oxford World Classics. 1846
During his lifetime Nicolas donated large sums to la Boucherue cathedral, and he endowed seven churches, fourteen hospitals and three chapels. The church was no more likely to ask questions about the source of Nicolas’ generosity than a modern politician is prone to inquire about the source of a campaign donation. But sooner or later all donations, like all lives, must be spent. Perenelle died sometime around 1410. Nicolas himself died in 1418. They were both buried in the cemetery “…of the innocents” in Paris.
Nicolas left his substantial fortune to the Catholic Church, which put his name and image on the hospitals and the churches they built with his money. And that is how his name and the mystery of his wealth has survived for 500 years; proof positive that bankers, too, have hearts; at least as long as they are afraid of being burnt at the stake. Remove that threat and they are just as selfish as the rest of us.  And a lot more powerful.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Eight

I can name the year the British Empire was truly achieved. It was 1825, while England was still paying off the debts incurred from the America War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars. In the face of such a dramatic loss of income, the British government invested in their own future, creating the public/private corporations that built and operated the London Docks – in the shadow of the Tower of London, in Wapping, St. Katherine's Docks, and further east, across Nightingale Lane, the London Docks, and on the Isle of Dogs, the Albert and the East India Docks. The initial cost of the smaller St. Katherine's Docks alone was over £1,000,000. But the return was an economic engine that supercharged the industrial revolution, and insured a British empire, and private British fortunes for the next one hundred years.
In 1827- 28, 1,250 houses and tenements covering 24 acres in Wapping were bought and torn down. In their place was built an artificial harbor with 4 miles of quays which could load or unload 26 ships at once, directly into or from 6 story warehouses. The unloading time was cut from 3 days to just 12 hours. And by the late 1880's the Blackwell railroad sped the dispersal of cargoes to and from every town in England, Wales and Scotland. The St. Katherine's docks specialized in the import and export of 19th Century luxury items - wine, wool, ivory, rubber, china, sugar, marble, spices, perfume, hops, indigo, coal and tea. And the Albert and East India docks were even bigger, covering 800 acres.
But as is usual in capitalism, profits proved addictive. By 1887, even while the warehouse space leased by private companies bulged with cargoes and their profits soared, the St. Katherine Dock corporation itself was almost bankrupt, maintenance and staff levels were cut, and salaries for the 1,700 day laborers remained stagnant. What happened next was predictable. Shortly before 9:00 p.m. on the chilly rainy Thursday, 30 August, 1888, a fire broke out in the huge South Quay warehouse of the East India docks - 6 floors high, 150 yards long by 75 yards wide - with cotton stored on the upper floors, kegs of gin and brandy below.
The rainstorm did nothing to slow the flames because they were inside the building. Alarms called in 12 steam powered water pumps and over 70 firemen, but they could only contain the flames to that single structure. A verbose reporter described the conflagration as, “lurid flames of gigantic volume, rising high against a canopy of fantastic clouds and throwing the tapering masts into clear relief until they and their rigging looked like fairy cobwebs, illuminated by a strange, unearthly light. The effect was grand...” Not until midnight did the flames begin to die down.
And just as the South Quay fire finally seemed to be dying, another fire broke out at the Ratcliff Dry dock, where the 843 ton, 191 foot long Steam Ship Cornavia was under construction. The ship was saved, but the flames quickly spread to the 2 story Gowland warehouse filled with 800 tons of coal. By 2:00 a.m. this conflagration was being fought by 14 pumps, two firefighting boats and over 100 firemen. In classic British understatement, the “Chemical Trade Journal” predicted, “The loss will be enormous.”
It seems strange that on such a rainy night, two such serious fires should break out in the London docks, one right after the other but so separated in space. Perhaps they were ignited by lightning strikes. Or sparked by fires lit to keep workers warm. Or perhaps they were an act of sabotage, by competitors, or by owners seeking insurance settlements to save their fortunes. Or perhaps they were desperate angry acts by workers, paid little better than starvation wages. But whatever the cause, a large crowd had gathered at the gates to the docks to enjoy the free show. And those masses attracted street hawkers selling food and gin and beer, and prostitutes selling their wares, and pickpockets making their fortunes.
Among the crowd enjoying the light show was Emily “Nelly” Holland, described as “an elderly woman with a naturally pale face.” She was, in fact, only about 50 years old. After 2:00  that morning of Friday, 31 August, 1888,  40 year old Emily – aka Jane Oram - was returning to the room she shared with four other women in a private doss, the Wilmont Lodging House, at 18 Thrall Street (above) . It was a street so crowded with rundown slum rooming houses it was sometimes called “doss street”. There, said a contemporary writer, “...robberies and scenes of violence are of common occurrence... Thieves, loose women, and bad characters abound... (a place even) a constable will avoid...unless accompanied by a brother officer.” But it was refuge of reasonable safety to Emily Holland - a roof, a shared kitchen and a shared bed.
As Emily came up Whitechapel Road, passing the "White Chapel" of St. Mary's, and crossing Osborn Street (above), she saw a woman she had first met in the Lambeth Workhouse. 
Of the perhaps 6,000 prostitutes – young and old, full and part time – in all of London, there were only 150 infirmary beds set aside for women in poverty suffering from venereal diseases. Lambeth was the borough located just across the Thames from the City of London, and the pious Christian Victorian citizens of The City did not want to encourage sin by treating the disease ravaged bodies of these “fallen women”. The majority of women in Lambert were not there to be treated for VD. But it was one of the few sources of treatment for the common infection. And it was in the Lambeth Workhouse where Emily Holland first met the woman she knew as Polly Nichols, and Polly Nichols had been transferred to Lambert three separate times.
The two alcoholics were friendly, and for three weeks Polly even shared a bed with Emily at the Wilmont Lodging House. Emily liked Polly, and considered her "a very clean woman who always seemed to keep to herself",  the perfect friend for another alcoholic.  But a week ago Polly had abruptly left, moving to the White House doss at 56 Flower and Dean Street (above), where men and women were permitted to share beds for the night - meaning a woman without the full 4 pence for a bed could exchange the use of her body for a few moments, for a place to sleep for the entire night. Emily never explained Polly's sudden decent another step down the social ladder. But seeing the diminutive Polly this damp chilly morning, “very much the worse for drink, falling against a wall” Emily clearly felt sympathy.
Polly was leaning against the wall of a grocery store just down from the corner,  on Osborne street,
and she greeted Emily cheerfully. She explained she had just been tossed out of the White House doss because she did have the half price - 2 pence - required to share a man's bed. Emily urged Polly to come spend the night with her at Thrall Street, but Polly refused, insisting she had already earned her doss three times that evening. But she had either spent it on gin, or the gangs which infested Whitechapel had stolen the money from her.  She would earn it again, she insisted, easily. And Emily could have had no doubt that she could. Then their conversation came to an abrupt halt while the bell of St. Mary's Matfellon Church on the south side of Whitechapel Road tolled the 2 o'clock half hour.
There was something about Polly Nichols (above) which inspired many people to want to to protect her. She was small - just 5 foot tall - and pretty in life, even after delivering 5 children, and a decades long addiction to alcohol which had reduced her to sleeping on the pavement of Trafalgar Square for months at a time. A childhood fall had left her with a scar across her forehead, but through it all she retained a cheerful and positive personality, sneering at the obstacles she thew up for herself. But like all alcoholics, Polly seemed to be harboring a secret, that she could share with no one, that she daily sacrificed to keep and protect. In truth there was no secret. Alcoholism is an addiction, not a romantic moral failing, not something tragedy inspired. It is a physical condition like diabetes, or asthma. And offering to protect Polly, merely drove her to run away faster.
Once St. Mary's bell stopped, Polly was anxious to be on her way, despite their having talked with Emily for only six or seven minutes. In a line she used to smooth her exits, she assured Emily that her new bonnet would attract a customer. And as she staggered off up Whitechapel Road, she told Emily, "It won't be long before I'm back."
Polly Nichols was wrong. She would be dead on her back in Buck's Row within an hour, her throat cut twice and then disemboweled and left abandoned like a bit of trash, to be discovered first by two self absorbed lorry drivers, and then by a 33 year old Metropolitan Police Constable from County Cork, assigned to the Bethel Green “J” Division – PC 97J, John Neil, who would luckily be spared the worst of the horrors of his discovery.
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