Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 34: The Chase

Previously the Convent was not all that it seemed.

It all began as a ruse, a way for Quills to escape his father. Unfortunately, he had not thought it through. His father was right. He was a impetuous fellow but he came by it rightly. His mother had been impetuous. However, jumping off the Rock of Gibraltar might have been a little too impetuous. On the Spanish beach he considered that his impetuosity might have been a little to impetuous as he stared at the end of this bandolero’s pistolla.

But the highwayman seemed to like him. After all, both of them were under the Curse of the Second Son. No inheritance for either of them. It was finding the first available heiress and living off their income. Both had said, “No, thank you.” Now this highwayman was offering Quills a way out. Although it was an illegal way out. The thing is that Quills had decided he would do anything to escape the fate his father had in store for him. Even highway robbery.

By the time they arrived at The Aragon & The Castille, Quilip “Quills” David Armistead Loopsey and Hector Umberto Alacia had enough money for both to retire. And they had become fast friends, Hector seeing Quills ability with a gun several times.

Quills and Hector sat in their corner, drinking their Andalusian sherry and telling each other of the adventures they had and the adventures they were going to have. In walked this dandy. He insulted the innkeeper’s hospitality several times. They both smiled at the man and saluted him. He did not salute back. How dare he?

Hector walked over to the dandy’s table. The dandy insulted Hector. Since the innkeeper was a good friend, he held his anger and bided his time. Hector and Quills finished their drinks and went to the stable. They saddled their horses and rode off into the darkness.

The next morning Señor Dandy tried to shortchange the innkeeper. As the dandy drove away in his carriage, the innkeeper spat in his direction. Immediately Hector and Quills rode up beside the innkeeper, saluted him and rode after the carriage. The carriage did not go south or north to one of the main highways. It went east on one of the backroads.

At first, Hector and Quills thought they would stop him and rob him. But, they decided, on second thought, to find out where fancy-dancy was going. There was plenty of time for robbery. Maybe they could give him an even greater lesson.

They followed him east on the Old Road through Mancha, Baeza, Ubeda, and Torreperogill. When the carriage came to Beas de Segura, it changed directions again. The carriage made the long journey and came to the mountains and headed east.

Hector decided that he had enough. Before they knew it, the dandy would be in Barcelona and he might have many friends there. It was late at night. The highwaymen’s horses were tired, and now was the time.

Hector kicked his horse and the horse made for the carriage. Before Hector could pass the carriage, the dandy pulled open the curtain of the window of the carriage, aimed a revolver at Hector and fired. Quills, aways behind Hector, watched his friend pass the carriage and its horses and turn his horse around in front of the carriage.

“Halt, Señor Driver,” he yelled.

The driver pulled his horses to a stop, then threw himself down on the ground, taking his rifle with him. From the carriage came three shots. Hector jumped from his horse. Quills was almost up to the carriage when he started firing. The dandy stopped firing.

“Señors, I surrender,” the dandy called out from the carriage. “I have had enough.” He threw his revolver out of the carriage.

Hector, the driver and Quills stopped firing. The dandy stepped out of the carriage. Quills jumped off his horse. Keeping his eye on the dandy, Quills walked around him and joined Hector. Hector motioned for the driver to leave his rifle on the ground and stand up.

“Take my gold,” the dandy said. “You’ve earned it. Then leave us in peace.”

“Señor,” Hector said, “you do not deserve peace. You are a man who insults freely. First you insult my friend, the innkeeper, then you insult my friend here. And if that was not enough, you insult me. No one insults Hector Umberto Alacia.”

“Hector,” Quills said surprised that Hector had told the dandy his name. “Now he knows your name.”

“I want him to know who killed him,” Hector said. “So, he can give the Devil a greeting from Hector Umberto Alacia.”

Hector walked over to the dandy. Quills pushed the driver against the carriage, turned him around and tied his hands behind him. Then he backed away and turned to see Hector standing close to the dandy, his pistolla at the man’s throat.

“Señor, you are through insulting your betters.” Hector pushed the gun further into the man’s throat. “I want to see you drop to your knees and beg.’

The man walked backwards, trying to escape the barrel of Hector’s gun. The dandy backed against the carriage. Then it happened. The dandy dropped to his knees. As he did, he grabbed Hector by the cojones. Hector screamed and dropped his pistolla. Before Quills could act, the dandy pulled a knife from his shoe, slammed it into Hector’s foot. He grabbed the gun of the ground, pointed it at Hector’s head and fired. Hector fell to the ground.

Quills fired at the dandy, and the dandy shot back. Quills fired several times but missed the dandy. The dandy ran toward Hector’s horse. As he did, he shot his driver. Quills went to fire his gun but it didn’t fire. He was out of bullets. He dropped behind the rock. The dandy sprang onto the back of Hector’s horse and rode into the night.

Quills rose from behind the rock The Englishman grabbed his canteen off his saddle and brought it over to Hector. He kneeled by his friend’s side, tears in his eyes. He gave his friend a drink from the canteen. Tears rolled down his face.

“Do not cry,” Hector said, breathing heavily. “It is my time to go. If I had a son, mi amigo, it would be you. We have had our times, and they were good times. And remember how I died bravely, doing what I love.”

“Si, mi amigo.” Quills was sobbing. His friend was dying, and he was the only real friend Quills had ever had, the only real family.

“The only thing I ask,” Hector said, breathing heavier and heavier, “The one thing you must do for me. Promise me.”

“I will,” Quills said between his sobs.

“You must kill that son of a bitch. Make him suffer. He is evil. Do you promise me this?”

“Yes, I promise,” Quills said.

His friend took another drink from the canteen, swallowed hard, and died, a smile on his face.

Quills stood up. He walked over to the driver. He had fallen against the carriage and died, a bullet smashed through his head. He then walked over to his horse. He pulled it to the carriage and tethered it to one of the wheels. He unsaddled the horse, pulled off the blanket and made himself a place to sleep on the ground.

Then he searched through the boot of the carriage and found a shovel. He saw a large tree and imagined that Hector would like to have his last resting place under that tree. He began his digging. And soon he had two holes, first one for Hector, then a second for the driver. He buried both men side by side. He stood by their graves and said a few words.

He returned to his blanket and went to sleep. It was a restless sleep, one moment he dreamed of his friend, his laughter, his good humor, his comradery. The next he was dreaming of the dandy and his insults.

Quills woke as dawn was filling the sky with its morning light. He jumped up and rolled up his blanket and threw it next to his saddle. He went to his saddle and pulled out some food. He opened a can of beans and ate them cold. Then he saddled up and pulled his body onto his black mare. He rode over to Hector’s grave and said a final farewell and began the ride east after the dandy.

Quills knew that the dandy couldn’t have gotten far ahead. Hector’s horse needed to rest. His mare was fresh after a night’s rest and would easily catch the dandy, whoever he was. He rode his horse hard over miles and miles of empty road, not another human in sight. Occasionally when he came across another person, he would stop and ask them if they had seen a dandy on a black stallion.

“Si,” came the answer. “He is only a few hours ahead of you. He is driving that horse of his hard. It is as if he had the devil on his tail.”

“He does,” Quills said, then rode on, harder and harder. But it did not seem to make any difference. Once he thought he had the dandy in sight only to find out it was another rider and not his enemy. On he rode east until he his horse could make it no further. He stopped at the inn in Molina de Segura. He sold the mare and bought himself a new ride.

Then he realized that he was in no shape to go on. So it was a meal and a bed for a short night’s rest. Before sunrise, he was on the horse and onward. When he came to Murcia, he turned north. Ever so often he would stop and ask about the dandy. Those he asked had seen him. They labeled him a cheat and a thief.  And rude, always insulting someone with his behavior.

“Yes, that is the man I am after,” Quills would say.

“Bless you, my son,” one innkeeper said to him and charged him nothing for his meal. As the innkeeper bade him farewell, he asked Quills, “Why do you seek this man?”

“He murdered my friend,” Quills said.

“I and my family will pray that you find him,” the innkeeper said.

Quills rode with the man’s good wishes at his back, the wind that he needed to push him forward. Through Valencia and Terragona he rode on. As he reached Barcelona, he glimpsed the dandy at a distance. It was sunset.

Quills slowed his pace, keeping up with the dandy and his horse. He watched the dandy enter a cobblestone street. Quills stopped and got off his horse. He tied the horse to a rail and followed on foot.

Quills was only a couple of yards behind the dandy when his enemy stopped in front of a church and got off his horse. He walked around to the other side of the church. Quills drew his pistolla and followed. The man entered the convent. Quills followed him inside. The stairs squeaked as the man climbed to the third floor. Quills took off his shoes and noiselessly followed.

At the top of the stairs, he heard the dandy say, “Where would you believe you are going, your ladyship.”

Next Week, There’s an outbreak of Revolution-itis. Can it be stopped?

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 33: The mystery gets even more mysterious.

Previously, a conspiracy is discovered.

Something woke her. The former Mary-Mary Smith, now the Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott, lay in her bed in the convent and looked out through her window. It was a dark, moonless night. She heard voices mumbling below in the courtyard between the convent and the church. Pulling herself out of bed, she stumbled over to close the curtains to the window. Maybe that would help keep out the mumbles.

She looked down and saw shadows, splotches of darkness against the lighter darkness of the courtyard. There seemed to be an argument going on.

“Shhhhh,” one of the shadows said. “You’ll wake everybody in the convent. If that’s your intention, you’re going to accomplish it.” It was Father Jerome’s voice. What was Father Jerome doing up at this hour? He usually was early to bed, early to rise. He had a seven o’clock morning mass.

Her ladyship was fully awake now. She felt like going down and telling the damned voices to shut up. Oops, she used the word “damned.” She shouldn’t-oughtn’t-a do that. She was in a convent and nuns didn’t curse.

Below Mother Sarah said, “Will you two shut your damned mouths.” Did the Abbess say “damned”? She did. How dare her? God was going to get her for that? “It’s late. Let’s go up to my office. And be quiet doing it.”

“Yes, ma’am,” both the priest and a woman agreed.

Her ladyship, our heroine, stepped back from the window. That woman’s voice was familiar. Who was she? She listened and heard the back door of the convent open and close. Then a soft padding on the steps of the old wooden stairs as they passed the second floor and went onto the third. She heard the door of the Mother Superior’s office close.

Mary-Mary lay back down on the bed and slid the covers over her body. A little while later, she realized that she could not sleep. Why were the three meeting this late? It seemed so mysterious, so unlike the abbess and the priest she had gotten to know over the past week or so. She threw the covers off her body, rose out of bed and slipped a robe over her nightdress.

She opened the door quietly. Although the doors could be noisy opening and closing, this night hers was unusually quiet. It was as if the door was cooperating with her finding out what was going on upstairs. She laid her feet down softly one in front of the other as she moved slowly down the hall. She did not want to disturb the nuns from their sleep, although there was only a slight chance of that. The clapper would wake the nuns at five in the morning for their prayers.

So, the nuns usually slept soundly. Mary-Mary could hear the loud snoring of Sister Bethany as she passed her door.

Soon she was at the stairs and she started up them. All of a sudden, she stopped. She felt faint, and sat down. Was there something wrong with her? Sitting on the stairwell for the next few minutes, she recovered her energy.

A noise came from below. It was the opening and closing of the convent door. She hurried back downstairs to the second floor. She stepped inside the hallway and put her body against one of the nun’s closed doors. Her back hugged it closely. A dark figure stopped on the stairwell. She hugged the door closer. The figure looked down the hallway, then began its climb up to the third floor. The footsteps of the figure padded down the third-floor hallway to the Mother Superior’s office at the end. The office door opened, then closed.

Mary-Mary hurried up the stairs, her curiosity overwhelming her. She came to the third floor and stepped into the hallway. Quietly, very quietly, she tiptoed toward the Mother Superior’s Office. She came to its door. She stopped and put her head to the wooden door to listen. She heard voices on the inside.

At first, she couldn’t tell what they were saying. But soon she began to make out words.

“No,” Mother Superior said.

“We … to,” Father Jerome’s voice came to her.

“Look … no choice,” a man’s voice came through the door.

“That’s right,” another voice, a woman’s, came through the door. Why did that voice and its accent sound so familiar?

“But this is what the Reverend Henry wanted,” Mother Superior said.

“It’s exactly what he wanted,” the woman’s muffled voice said. “So, tell me about this woman you have here. You say she came from ze shipwreck. How fortunate for us.”

“It’s true,” Father Jerome’s voice came through the door clearly.

“I believe,” Mother Superior said, “that it is the Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypot of Haggismarshe.”

“But ze papers say that she is all dead,” the familiar woman’s voice said. ‘And ze papers are seldom wrong.”

“At first we couldn’t believe our good fortune,” Father Jerome said. “Then we looked at her picture, and yes, it is her. She is not dead. We have her here.”

“Doesn’t she know who she is?” the familiar woman’s voice wanted to know.

“No,” the man’s voice said. “She has amnesia and I have been keeping her in that state. I’ve been given her a drug.” It was her doctor’s voice, Doctor Qwackers.

Are they talking about me? Yes, they are talking about me. But why are they drugging me? What did I do, and why are they keeping me here? Am I this Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott person? The questions moved around and around in her head. Suddenly she was feeling faint again. She had better get back to her bed to figure all this out. Then she would know what to do.

It was obvious she couldn’t continue to take the doctor’s medicine. She had to get out of the convent and soon. But how? She did not know anyone in the city. Perhaps one of the nuns would help her out. But none of the nuns would go against their Mother Superior. Oh, what was she going to do?

She tippy toed back toward the stairs, passing the office doors that occupied the third floor. She came to the stairwell. From behind her stepped a dark figure of a man.

“Where would you believe you are going, your ladyship,” the dark shadow of a man said.

Next Week: To highwayman or not to highwayman

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 32: The Conspiracy to End All Conspiracies

Previously, Lady P P can’t remember a darn thing. And she’s completely lost any interest in fashion. Is there no justice?

The Ichabod Crane figure of Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, said to the Prime Minister of England, “I have news.”

“Yes, I have heard the news,” the Prime Minister said, displeased that he was interrupted by this flunky from the Defense Staff’s Office. Hadn’t he told his Personal Secretary that he did not want to be interrupted? He had. What now? “Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott was drowned. Now the whole damned country from the queen on down to the sewage cleaners are upset about the commoner. Why everybody cares I do not know. You’d think she was Princess Di. Well, she was not. She was an American with a lot of cash who bought herself a title. That’s all. Now go away before I kick your skinny rear all the way to Whitehall. Leave me in peace.”

“But Prime Minister …,” Pip said.

“My God, man,” the Prime Minister said and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Did you not hear me?”

The Prime Minister had raised his voice. He seldom raised his voice. It was the sound of not raising his voice that had gotten him where he was. It was the tone and the words he spoke. All the diners in the Commons Dining Room turned to see the Prime Minister stand and raise his fist. He was fighting mad. When he went fighting mad, he was dangerous. He knew how to use his fist. His mother’s brother MacFeeney, the brawler, had taught him the fine art of fisticuffs and his fisticuffian bro had fought the great Sullivan himself.

The Ichabod Crane of a Pip looked like he was about to run away. He was no boxer. The Prime Minister would make mincemeat out of him. Before P. M. could slam Pip’s pip of a face, Sir Myles stepped in front of Pip.

P. M. halted his fist’s progress and dropped his hand to his side. He smiled. He was always glad to see Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants. The two had been friends for quite some time. They had something important in common. The same woman. Two Ems had been P. M.’s mistress for several years. And she was Sir Myles’ very popular wife. As the Queen of London Society, she knew how to throw a party, and she definitely knew how to party like it was 1899.

“Our friend has some news,” Sir Myles said.

P. M. returned to his chair, then offered Sir Myles a seat at his table. He did not offer Pip a seat. It just wasn’t done. Allowing someone of his lowly station to sit at the same table as the P.M. Especially not in public. That would have been taking his liberalism too far.

“What is the news, Myles?” P. M. asked his friend.

“I haven’t been told, Argyle,” Sir Myles said. He was one of the few allowed to call Prime Minister Mactavish by his Christian name Argyle.

P. M. scratched his bald head. He looked over at Pip, standing uncomfortably nearby.

“Well, young man?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir,” Pip said, then recognized his mentor, “Sir Myles, I have news.”

“Well, get on with it, man,” P. M. demanded some more.

“Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe, is not dead.”

“What!” Both P. M. and Sir Myles stared up at Pip, their mouths dropping open when they heard the news.

“Would you repeat that?” Sir Myles said.

“Lady Wimpleseed Prissypott is not dead. This is why the Chief sent me over to interrupt your meal, Prime Minister.”

“What do you mean?” P. M. wanted to know. “Of course, she is dead. The Times has reported her death. Therefore, it must be true. The Times is never wrong.”

“I assure that The Times is incorrect, sir. They will have to offer a retraction.”

“Lower your voice, man,” Sir Myles said. “And have a seat. I am tired of seeing you standing there like some Ichabod Crane of a Flip, Pip. Sit and tell us what you know. But quietly, please.”

“With your permission, Prime Minister,” Pip said, taking his place in the seat across from the P. M. He knew where his bread was buttered and he had not been about to sit without his boss’s boss’s boss’s permission. That was no way to advance a career either in government or the law. One simply did not go against one’s betters.

“By the way, young man,” P. M. said, “By the way, who in Disraeli’s name are you?”

“I am Pip Flip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. I am also a member of the Defense Staff.”

“Yes, I knew the old chip, Kip Flip, Pip,” P. M. said. “Used to be a mighty fine solicitor until he tripped over a law case. I think he defended your wife in a law suit once, did he not, Myles?”

“He must assuredly did,” Sir Myles said. “Did a damned good job of it too. Two Ems won her case and gathered more than the damages she originally asked. We had enough left over from that suit to pay for passage around the world. We’re planning on a trip next summer. A second honeymoon.”

The prime minister was ready to get down to business. He lowered his voice to a whisper and asked Flip, “So what do you know that I don’t know? What would cause The Times to retract their story? And keep your voice low please. We do not want a panic. The Times is never wrong. After all, it is The Times. You do know that?”

“Sir, I agree. The Times is never wrong,” Pip whispered. “And The Times is not wrong this time. They reported what had been reported to them on Gibraltar. So, you see it’s the second-hand smoke that always does the most harm.”

“Damn that fake news,” the P.M. spat out.

“Then she is not dead?” Sir Myles said.

“She is alive, Sir,” Pip said quietly. “One of our men saw her on the outskirts of Barcelona.”

“No?” P. M. said.

“She was in pretty bad shape when he saw her,” Pip reported. “She was dressed in a white underdress. Her hair was all caked with mud. She had no shoes on her feet.”

“Is he sure it was her?” Sir Myles intruded.

“Yes, sir. He is. The woman he saw had her ladyship’s bright red hair. And those amazing bosoms. There is no mistaking those bosoms. They are internationally famous bosoms, the best in the world today.”

“Tis true, Myles,” P. M. said. “I’ve seen those bosoms. They are some bosoms. Bosoms enough to unstiffen an Englishman’s stiff upper lip. I saw them at the wedding and I was in awe. It made me jealous of an English lord for the first and only time in my long career. There is no mistaking those bosoms. But where is she now? Does the man know?”

“He followed her,” Pip Flip continued. “She was taken in by a church. The Church of St. Teresa de Avila. She’s staying at the convent. The Sisters of St. Teresa de Avila are caring for her.”

The Prime Minister and Sir Myles breathed a sigh of relief. It was one heck of a sigh of relief that they both breathed. They were relieved.

Then they realized. Sir Myles was the first to whisper, “That means that The Times was wrong. It will have to retract. They will not retract. Because The Times is never wrong.”

“Her life is in danger?” P. M. said.

“There’s more, sir,” Pip whispered. “She has amnesia.”

The P.M. and Sir Myles leaned forward, their interest heightened by all the intrigue.

“And they are keeping her that way,” Pip said. “They have hired a quack of a doctor, a Doctor Qwackers. He has his ways to keeping her from remembering. He has done more damage to more people in the country of Spain than any other quack quack of his time. And there’s more.”

“There’s more?” Sir Myles and P. M. asked at the same time. They looked at each other. How could there be more? What more could there be?

“Of course, there’s more,” P.M. said. “There’s always more. Even when there’s no more, there’s more. Thanks to that blasted Oliver Twist.”

“Yes, sir,” Pip said to the Prime Minister. “The Church of St. Teresa de Avila in Barcelona is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“What?” both his listeners spoke at the same time again.

“It’s the headquarters of the Wah Wah League?” P. M. asked. “Could you repeat that?”

“The Church of St. Teresa de Avila is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”

“We heard you the first time,” P. M. said.

“You said to repeat it,” Pip said. “I was responding to your request, sir.”

“I know what I said,” P. M. said.

“Argyle,” Sir Myles said quietly, “you do know how to turn a phrase.”

“Thank you, Myles. You are very kind. So how do we go forward now.”

“That is why I am here,” Pip said. “Chief and I are the only ones who have this information. And the man on the ground, of course. Cdmr. Thomas Edward Button. He’s known within the department as Double Oh Seven Button-Button.”

“Hmmmmn,” P. M. hemmed. “Button-Button, you say?”

“Yes, sir. I do say,” Pip said, “and there’s one more thing.”

“That figures,” P. M. said. “There’s always another thing. What now?”

The Times has contacted us to have our man take care of her ladyship. The Times already has this information. Don’t know how they got it but they do.”

“It’s the leaks,” Sir Myles commented. “There’s always a trump full of leaks.”

“Don’t you mean ‘trunkful of leaks’?” P.M. asked.

“That too,” Sir Myles said.

“In these kinds of things,” Pip continued, “we are pretty thorough. But somebody on the Defense Staff has dropped his pants. I think it’s the Chief. But I am not sure. I think they’ve offered him a substantial retirement. Maybe even a Chairman of the Bored.”

“So why is the Chief,” P. M. asked, “passing this information on to me?”

“He isn’t, sir,” Pip said. “I am doing this on my own initiative.”

“My, my,” Sir Myles said. “This is one hell of a horns of a dilemma. Two Ems would love this. She loves a good puzzle. Always solving those ‘Where’s Waldo’ things.”

The Prime Minister’s wheels had started turning all this over in his mind.

“Has Chief done anything yet?” he asked Pip.

“He has contacted Button-Button to do as The Times asked.”

“Sounds like,” Sir Myles said, “whatever you choose to do, you had better do quickly. Are you going to let this Button-Button fellow go through with this?”

“Double Oh is to do nothing,” Pip said. “He’s to allow the Wah Wah League take care of the problem. Then The Times will be off the hook. The story that her ladyship is dead will be true. But there is plans on the part of the Defense Secretary to take out the Wah Wahs in their headquarters. They plan to send in Special Forces and bomb the place. When it’s over, everybody in that church and convent will be dead. Double Oh is to do something only if her ladyship escapes. He is to transport her to the Falklands and leave her to the sheep.”

“They do have some vicious woman-eating sheep in the Falklands too,” Sir Myles said. ‘So, Pip, what is in it for you? Why are you not going along with the program?”

Pip said. “I figured that if I kiss the Prime Minister’s bottom, and a mighty fine bottom it is, si–”

“Why thank you, young man,” the P.M. smiled.

“–I could advance.”

“I must say,” P. M. said, “that you are a damned good bottom kisser. Almost as good as I used to be before I had a bottom to kiss.” He was starting to take a liking to this Pip fellow. Kip Flip, the Flip he was the chip off of, had instructed his son well in the art of Machiavellian Machevellianness. “So, what are your plans, Pip?”

“The Chief wants me to go over to Spain and make sure that it’s all going according to plan. I am to stay at the consul in Barcelona. I will be under the direction of the British ambassador.”

“Our ambassador to Spain?” Sir Myles wanted to know.

“Yes,” Pip said.

“This gets more interesting as it goes along,” Sir Myles said.

“This means,” P. M. said, “that I can’t trust anyone in my own government.”

“I am afraid so, Sir,” Pip said. “It was that briefing with the Queen. His lordship, the Lord of the Gartery, reported to Lords what happened. Lords is now conspiring to put their own man in your place.”

The Times has wanted to see you sacked,” the Prime Minister’s good friend said, “for a very long time. Seems now they have the opportunity.” He turned to Pip and asked, “Who is the fool they are planning to replace Argyle with?”

“You are, sir,” Pip said to Sir Myles.

Next Week, Back to the Convent

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 31: Constipation

Previously, three strangers in an inn.

“Take two poops and see me in the morning,” Doctor Qwackers said, after examining Mary-Mary Smith, the Lady Marye Wimpleseed Prissypott. She lay in the bed of her convent room and pulled the sheets over her. The doctor shoved his stethoscope back into his bag.

“Doctor, how is that going to help me recover my memory?” Mary-Mary Smith wanted to know. She wanted to know badly. Real badly.

“Your memories are damned up. It’s the constipation of the sturm und drang you’ve undergone. The damn needs to break. As soon as the wall breaks, all your memories will be released. Don’t worry, my dear. The flood of your memories will come, I assure you.”

Mary-Mary Smith watched the elderly doctor leave her room. How much longer was it to be before she knew who she was? How much longer? She buried her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep. It was early evening, and her hope was about gone.

Next Week, Back in Dear Olde England

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 30: The Aragon & The Castile

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.