Empire Of Steam: Chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen: Hardy

 

It did not take long for Hardy to hear a rumour that land ironclads were rolling through the city. As soon as he heard that he knew that Monk had to be behind it. They must be some of the land ironclads which his factory had built. Monk. Monk had to be behind this chaos.

John Hardy felt that he had been played for a fool by the man who he had always looked up to. Hardy had always admired the fact that Sir Edward Monk was a self-made man.

Hardy had worked for Sir Edward Monk for almost twenty years. He had started out as only a junior manager on the floor of the factory, having come to be employed by Monk from one of Monk’s competitors, after that competitor had been bought out by Sir Edward Monk. But he had not remained a junior manager for very long. After a couple of years he had risen up to manage the factory, which had originally produced parts for steam engines.

When Monk had decided to manufacture his own steam automobiles Hardy had made sure that all of the workers were trained in making these vehicles. He had been willing even to argue with Monk, to make sure that nobody was forced to leave the employment of Monk, simply because the factory had changed what it produced.

Hardy, though, was not a man who favoured workers over their employers. He considered himself to be a fair man; or, at least, he endeavoured to be, in all things which he did. He would brook no man shirking his duties. But if a man was willing to work hard then he should be rewarded for it. You did not need any nonsense about anarchy or whatever it was which was going on. And it was anarchy. If Hardy had actually seen the chaos which was unfolding in London then he might have wept.

As soon as Hardy heard that first rumour about the land ironclads he left the factory, leaving his second in command in charge. Hardy knew that the rumours were true – or at least some of them.

Hardy walked up to the nearest police station. And then he paused.

 

Hardy stood outside of the police station. He breathed deeply. He felt as though he was betraying Sir Edward Monk, despite the fact that Monk had gone mad. The death of Eliza had done something to the mind of the great man. He could not be blamed for what he was doing. He should be in some asylum, rather than in a prison. Hardy feared what the authorities might do to Monk.

For a second or so Hardy considered not going into the police station. Going inside felt almost like treachery. Yet he had to say something. He walked inside the police station.

The police station, inside, was in a state of some chaos, with police officers shouting at each other. They had already received a few messages concerning the land ironclads, even before Hardy. Yet those reports had been garbled. They had no idea of how many land ironclads, of just where they were, or what the intentions were of the men driving them.

“Excuse me?” Hardy asked a harried-looking desk sergeant.

“What?” the sergeant asked. He was sweating, and mopping his brow with a white handkerchief, despite the fact that it was a cold day. “Can you wait a minute, sir, we have a lot to deal with this morning. It seems that all of London has gone crazy. We have some people saying that they have seen land ironclads demolishing buildings in the East End of London, while other people are asking if we have been invaded.”

“It is concerning those land ironclads that I have come to see you.” Hardy said. He had to tear those words out of his soul. With each one he felt that he was committing an act of treachery.

“Another report of war machines!” the desk sergeant shouted towards somebody in the back of the police station, before turning back to face Hardy. “So where do you claim to have seen these things?”

“You misconstrue.” Hardy said. “I have not been a witness to them. I know who is behind the appearance of them on London’s streets. The land ironclads are all the design of Sir Edward Monk. I believe that he is responsible for what is going on; and I fear that he has gone mad after the death of his wife.”

The desk sergeant scribbled down a few notes.

“So where would we find this Monk?” the desk sergeant asked. It was clear that the policeman had never even heard of Sir Edward Monk, despite the industrialist being one of the most famous men in the country.

“He has a mansion to the north of London.” Hardy said. Hardy gave details of how to get to the mansion, hoping that he was doing the right thing.

The desk sergeant scribbled the address down.

“Anything more?” the desk sergeant asked. But Hardy had nothing more to say.

 

Hardy left the police station, not sure if he had done any good at all. He paused outside of the place.

He should go back to the factory, and stop the production of land ironclads. There was no point in making any more of them. In fact, it might be even considered to be a crime to continue making them in the current circumstances. They should switch back to making steam automobiles once more. That was what his men had been good at.

That was, if they were allowed to continue by the police. For all that Hardy knew the factory might be closed, at least temporarily, now that he had informed the police that Sir Edward Monk was behind the land ironclads being seen on the streets of London. Perhaps the company would now end, as Hardy was sure that they would put Monk in prison if he was responsible for war machines causing chaos. Such things would not be tolerated. It did not matter that he was the wealthiest man in the country. His wealth would not protect Monk.

Monk might be able to buy the best lawyers in the country, and perhaps stretch out any trial for a long time. But Monk was guilty of fomenting treason, by the sound of it. That would never be tolerated.

Would George, his son, be allowed to take over running the business? That was what Monk wondered. He did not know. He knew that the British Army would still require bullets and guns. But Monk was not the only producer of armaments in the world. There were also companies like Krag-Jorgensen. There was no reason, once this thing was all over, that the British Army could not switch to somebody else. Perhaps the name of Monk would be deemed to be forever tainted.

That meant that a certain man by the name of Hardy might be out of a job. Hardy had never considered doing anything other than working for Monk, once he had got the job as manager. Hardy would have been happy to carry on working for the Monk family for the rest of his life. Now, though, he felt that he had to consider his position.

He wondered if he could go to some company like Stanley. Monk was not the only person who made steam-powered cars, after all. There were a few competitors who had not yet been closed out of the market. Perhaps if something happened to Monk those competitors would now prosper. The only problem was that Hardy did not particularly wish to work for somebody other than Sir Edward Monk.

He supposed that if he wanted a career he might not have a choice. But, until such time as Sir Edward Monk was actually convicted, Hardy would carry on working for him.

He should go back to the factory for now, though. Go back and stop the production of any more war machines. Bring some sanity back to the production line. He was the manager, after all.

But Hardy was not ready to go back, not just yet. There were still questions to which he wanted answers.

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