Previously, Portugal loses a Crown Prince
So far we have heard a tale of sex and violence, and no love. We have heard of the Second Son Curse. We have heard of ships sinking and amnesia. We have heard ghosts run amuck but for a darned good reason. And the House of Lords amucking too for no damned good reason.
We have had a marriage and lots of deaths. We have been taken for rides on the Orient Express and the steamer, S. S. Twit. We have been to Brooklyn Heights, to London and to an English country estate, seen Istanbul and Gibraltar, and our story has taken us to the jungles of Africa. We have met Queen Victoria, ambassadors, a prime minister and war councils. We have found ourselves facing down rhinos and guns. We have found diamonds hidden and watched as a Crown Prince met a mud pie.
And it has all been for a good reason. It has been for the story. But where is true love as you promised, Writer?
That too will come. In due time our heroine, Mary-Mary Smith, the Lady Marye Caterina Wimplesee-Prissypott, now an amnesiac, will find true love. But, as we all know, true love is not always easy to find. Sometimes it takes lots of adventures, lots of false starts, kissing a lot of frogs before a prince is found under his green, froggy mask. Sometimes it takes a lot of words before the right word is struck, and it is love.
The Mighty Paddington, the Iranian Cubist Assassin, delivered his package of a mud pie in the face of the Crown Prince of Portugal right on schedule. It was the last of several mud pies, mud pies made with those special diamonds dug out of the mines in Boertown in Southern Africa. Thanks to Mata Hari more were on their way to be delivered to the Wah Wah League headquarters in Barcelona for their dastardly Mud Pie of a Plan. Soon, if things went as the Wah Wah League meant for them to go, there would be a war. A really really, very big war.
The Wah Wahs knew of the British ambassador and his intrusion in the Portuguese War Council’s deliberations. They had a spy, a fifth column if you will, a guy on that Portuguese War Council. He was there to encourage the King of Portugal to go to war with Spain or Somebody Else and the Somebody Else did not matter to the Wah Wahs. What mattered to the Wah Wahs was war, a really really big very big war. What mattered to the King of Portugal was that the war be with Spain. So Spain was his Somebody Else.
It was only a matter of time before the King of Portugal would take out all those centuries of Portuguese frustration with Spain. The frustration that the Spanish had half stolen the Portuguese language and not given Portugal the credit it felt it was due. The frustration that Portugal had given the world the first explorer to sail into dark seas for parts unknown. That was Prince Henry, not Columbus of the Christopher kind. And how the world had forgotten the around-the-world voyages of the Portuguese Magellan and his gang of sailors.
The frustration that Spain had almost stolen Brazil. The rest of South America was not enough. The Spanish wanted it all. The frustration that Portugal had become a backwater country on the world stage and not recognized for the once greatness that it had long ago lost. It was simply an also-ran to Spain’s becoming. The King of Portugal had a chip on his shoulder and he would do anything to get it off. Even go to war.
Some might be on the Road to Temporary but The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, that night was on the Road to Barcelona. And he was no Dorothy in the company of a Toto, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion following the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. Oh yes, he was on the Road to the Emerald City of Barcelona. But it was old Roman roads, dirt roads and cobblestone streets his carriage travelled, not that fabled yellow brick road.
With the Portuguese gendarmes on his tail, The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Assassin, sped across Portugal for the Spanish border. He crossed the border into Spain, dumping the army behind him for he went where the Portuguese gendarmes dared not go. He rode into Spain in the dark of midnight on a moonless, starless night, the kind of night assassins, murderers, conspirators and thieves find particularly attractive. Onward into the darkness he moved. His route went south through Sevilla, stopping only for some flamenco dancing and a glass of the Agua de Sevilla, “a mild and tasty drink” that Sevillanos are so understandably proud of.
The carriage made its way east, its music singing, “To the Wah Wah League we go, we go to the Wah Wah League in Old Barcelona.” He hurried through Jaen and came to a small roadside inn. He decided that he could afford to stop for some of the hospitality Spanish roadside inns were famous for. And a good rest to boot.
He stepped out of his carriage, his long dark hair falling easily around his shoulders, his dastardly costumes hidden away in his luggage awaiting their next assignment of villainy. He no longer wore his dark mask but wore only the face he was born with. He wore a silk shirt and black pants, white gloves and black boots completing his ensemble. He was relaxed, taking a few minutes to exchange a joke with his driver. Then he stepped through the dark oak doors of The Aragon & The Castile named after the Isabella and the Ferdinand who had united the Kingdom of Spain into the Kingdom of Spain. His dark eyes studied the candlelit room.
“Hola,” the innkeeper approached his well-dressed guest, his mind raising the price of his goods by fifty percent for a good night’s profit. “Welcome to my establishment, Señor. Let me give you my best table right here.”
“No,” the stranger said. “I will take a table over by those two men sitting in the corner. And I will have a bottle of your best cava.”
“You would prefer that Catalan piss water over our fine Andalusian sherries. Señor, you will give my establishment a bad name if I serve you that…that stuff.” The innkeeper could not bear to bring himself to call the cava a wine.
Mighty pushed back. “Then I will leave and let all of Andalusia and Catalonia know how you insult your guests. That, in all of Spain, your establishment has no hospitality for the stranger and the traveler. How would that be, eh?”
The innkeeper’s face paled as pale as a face can pale. His face was white as the snows of the Sierra Nevada. “No, Señor, please. You are my guest. Your wish is my desire. My establishment’s hospitality will rival any you will find in Andalusia, in all of Spain. Cava you request, cava you shall have.” Leading Mighty over to the table he requested. “And you will find my paella unbelievably tasty.”
“Paella then it is,” Mighty said as he sat down in the chair at the table. His back to the wall, he faced the front door of the inn.
“And when you are ready,” the innkeeper said, “I will have the best of my girls show you upstairs. You will find that for an inn of this size there is a spacious room for a man of your honor’s stature.”
“No girl for me. Just a meal and a good night’s sleep. Then I am on my way.”
“Si, Señor,” the innkeeper said, disappointed. It was an opportunity to show off what a fine establishment he had and here the traveler was refusing his hospitality. What was the world coming to when an honest innkeeper couldn’t make an honest living showing off his best wares to someone who could afford them? How dare the stranger. Oh, well, and now the paella. He rushed away for the cava and the food.
Two men several tables down sat quietly drinking their sherry. They had not spoken since The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, out of costume and all dandied up, had walked through the entrance. Both pistoleers wore black boots, black pants and black shirts, their black pistolas in black belts. Their black hats and black gloves in a third chair at the table.
They glanced over at the stranger and smiled. The stranger did not smile back. They lifted their glasses of Andalusian sherry and saluted the stranger. The stranger ignored their friendliness. One of the two men did not take kindly to this arrogance. They were making an effort and they were being insulted. How dare he.
The shorter of the two rose and sauntered over to the table of The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin. He leaned down and placed both his hands on the table. “Señor, why do you go out of your way to insult my friend over there?”
“Go ‘way, Señor,” Mighty said, his voice threatening.
“I asked you kindly. Now I am demanding that you rise up and go over there and apologize to my good friend. He is English and alone in the world, and here you insult him. We Andalusians do not take kindly to your arrogance. First you insult the good innkeeper here by ordering that stinking Catalan piss. Then you go out of your way to slap my friend in the face with your impudent manners. Now do as I say, and I will be magnanimous and forgive you. All will be well when we part, and we will part friends.”
“What part of ‘Go ‘way Señor’ did you not understand?” Mighty stared viciously into the highwayman’s eyes. The highwayman stared back.
The innkeeper rushed over with the cava. “Señors, please. Let us be civil.”
The pistoleer blinked first. He stood up taller than his shortness normally would allow.
“You are right, Señor Innkeeper,” he said. “We are civilized men. We should be civil.” He looked back at the stranger. “Am I not right, Señor?”
The innkeeper held his breath. The pistoleer turned back to the innkeeper. “Of course, I am right. This is our beloved España and Alfonso is our king. What other country could be so beloved? Not Portugal, not England, not Italy. Not even France, and there is much good to say for France. Of course, I am right, and,” he once again gave the stranger the evil eye, “and You Are Insulting. But, for the sake of hospitality, I forgive you. I sure hope my good English friend forgives you.”
He returned to his friend’s table. The two drank the last of their wine, donned their hats and their gloves and saluted the stranger. The taller of the two took out a bag of coins and dropped several on the table. On their way out, the Englishman, Quills, dropped a few coins into each of the waitresses’ hands. Then they said their goodbyes and went outside.
The stranger, The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, drank his cava and ate his paella alone, and in peace. Undisturbed. He paid his bill and went upstairs for a well-earned rest. He was no longer in a hurry. He had time to get to Barcelona. Perhaps he would have a girl after all. He rang for the innkeeper. Within minutes, the innkeeper was at his door. Soon the innkeeper had supplied the stranger’s request. But the waitress was not happy about it. She hated spendthrifts. This man was a spendthrift. That she knew.
Next Week, Constipation.