Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 18: Whoop-de-doo

Previously there was trouble on board the S. S. Twit.

Poor Quills. Had he bit off more than he could chew, leaving his father on Gibraltar and heading off to God-knows-where? Cause Quills sure didn’t know.

“Quills” Loopsey found himself face down on a deserted Spanish beach, his mouth buried in the sand. It was a Spanish sand with a kind of paella taste: Valencian paella with white rice, green vegetables, meat, beans and seasoning. Since Quills was hungry after three days of Mediterranean Sea, it tasted pretty good. For sand, that is.

He rolled over and sat upright. Gazing at the sunrise in the distance, he contemplated his next move. And it was not England. Anyplace but England and its English society for the middle child of Sir Hackle Loopsey, the Governor-Commissioner of Gibraltar. His father was important in society. All you had to do was mention Sir Hackle and his lessers would swoon. He wanted his children to be important too. To rise high in English society, that had always been a Loopsey’s raison d’être.  It had been decreed since the beginning of King John’s reign, and it was still decreed.

“When you believe in your own import,” his father often said, “anything is possible. You too can rise high, even to a governor-commissionership of Gibraltar.” When his father said that, all Quills could think of was what a dead piece of rock Gibraltar was, guarding the entrance to the Meds.

Unlike his older brother, the fop’s fop Cheslewick, Quills did not want import. He wanted was his freedom. Now, that he had it, his stomach growled with hunger. Quills stood up and began the trek north off the beach. His bare feet hurt on the cobblestone road. But he was determined.

A mile or so up the road, a man on a white stallion mare rode out of the brush behind the Englishman. He halted his horse and pulled a pistol.

“Halt, Señor,” the man pointed his pistol straight at Quills.

Quills whipped around to see a man, dressed in black, holding a gun aimed straight at his heart.

“What is it you want?” Quills asked matter-of-factly.

“You are not afraid of me?” the man asked. “I am a highwayman. You have to be afraid of me.”

“Do not.” Quills placed his hands on his hips.

“This is a pistol. It is loaded.”

“So you’re a big bad bandido. Whoop-de-doo. Big whoop.”

“I am not a bandito,” the man, sitting astride his horse, said. “I am a highwayman.”

“There’s a difference?” Quills said.

“Si, Señor,” the highwayman said.

“And what is that?” Quills said, then sat down in the dirt. He’d decided that if he were about to be robbed, he might as well be robbed sitting down. Not that he had anything to rob but it was the principle of the thing.

“A highwayman has honor. He does not harm women and children and he gives generously. My generosity is known all over Spain.”

“It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.”

“That is true,” the highwayman smiled.

“If you are a highwayman, how come there is no highway along here. There’s barely a dirt road.”

“I come here because this is where I find all the Englishmen.”

“Englishmen come to this desolate-looking place?”

“I know it is strange but you Englishmen seem to like the place. And where there is an Englishmen there is other people’s money.”

“Not with this Englishman,” Quills said.

“What do you mean, Señor?”

“I mean that you can ransom me all you want. But my father will never pay. Now, if you had kidnapped his firstborn, that would be a different story.”

“Ah, Señor, I think you are very wrong. Your father will pay well for you.”

“My father loves money and position more than he loves his children. Especially the second son. Haven’t you heard of the Curse of the Second Son?”

The highwayman was finding this Englishman interesting. He jumped down from his horse and walked over and sat down beside Quills. He looked down the dusty road and out to the sea. He loved the sea, especially where the land met the water.

“What is the Curse of the Second Son?” the highwayman asked.

“The first son inherits everything. The second son inherits the shaft. The only way out of this position is to marry well. But, since I am titleless, I am not likely to marry a rich American woman. My father has talked about a parish out in the country. But I’m not cut out for church life. I can’t be quiet as church mouse, keeping my mouth shut when I see the wrong in things.”

“This Curse of the Second Son,” the highwayman said, “I know this curse. I am a product of this curse. I am a second son.”

“Then you understand that I am not worth a hoot.”

“I’m afraid ‘tis true,” the highwayman said, pointing his pistol at Quills. “Unfortunately so. I like you.”

“I like you too,” Quills said. “For a bandit … I mean, for a highwayman you seem like a right sort of fellow.”

“Even though I like you, I still have to shoot you. I am sorry. I hate shooting people I like but it’s the nature of the business I am in.”

Quills looked stunned. “Now hold off, old chap. Just because you can’t ransom me off doesn’t me you have to shoot me.”

“Those are my choices, Señor. What other choice do I have?”

“You and I are sitting here. Like we are friends, and you about to put a bullet into me.”

“I am afraid so. I will aim for the heart. You will not suffer.”

“That’s not the point. You can’t shoot me.”

“Why can’t I? I’ve shot others. Not many. But I have shot others.”

“Why would you want to shoot me? I haven’t done anything.”

The highwayman’s white stallion walked over and nudged its nose against Quills’ forehead.

“Even your horse likes me.” Quills stroked the horse’s nose. The horse whinnied, then strolled over to stand under a tree and graze.

“If I let you go, you will tell the policia. They will come here and look for me. And I have to tell you, Señor, I am not hard to find.”

“Suppose you ransomed me? Wouldn’t I talk to the policia when I was released?”

“No, Señor,” the highwayman said. “After the ransom was paid, I would ship you off to England and never hear from you again.”

“I promise that, if you don’t shoot me, you will never hear from me again. Besides I can’t go to the policia.”

“You can’t go to the policia?”

“That is right. If I go to the policia, they will contact my father. And he will come and get me. Then I will be enslaved to some sort of boring life forever. I had one chance, and I took it. So, you see. No policia for me-a.”

“Hmmm,” the highwayman said. “Let me say that again. Hmmmm.”

“It must be a two-hmmmm day,” Quills said, rubbing his chin, trying to come up with a solution to the situation the two found themselves situated in. “What we in England call a real hmmm-dunger. Just what are we going to do, you and I?

“I don’t really want to kill you, Señor. I like you.”

“And I like you,” Quills said.

“I think we’ve said that a couple of times,” said the highwayman. “Pretty soon the reader is going to get bored.”

“I see your point. You are not going to ransom me. There’s no money in that. You are not going to shoot me. I would be on your conscience. You do have a conscience?”

“Si, I do have a conscience.”

“Because you are a highwayman. If you were a bandito, I would be a dead man.”

“That is true. Very true, Señor. So the only solution is that I let you live and you go on your way as if you never saw a highwayman.”

“That’s right,” Quills said. “On second thought.”

“There is a second thought?”

“Why don’t I join you?”

“What do you mean? I don’t have a gang. I don’t share with anyone. Now I am going to have to shoot you.”

“Just hold onto your pistolla there,” Quills said. “What if we joined up together. Like they say, two is better than one any day.”

“What makes you so sure we can trust each other?” the highwayman wanted to know.

“Did I say that we can trust each other?” Quills waved the thought away. “Of course, we can’t. But think. It may be that it is you and me against the world. Two Second Sons getting what’s rightfully ours.”

“So where should we start our new life together?”

“I’ve always wanted to see Barcelona.”

“Barcelona, it is. My name is Hector Umberto Alacia.”

“You can call me Quills.”

The two men stood up, dusted the dirt off their pants and shook hands.

“Partners,” Quills said.

“Partners, Señor?” the highwayman said. “By the way, do you know how to use a weapon, Señor Quills?”

“Do I know how to use a weapon, Hector? You name the weapon and I can use it. Swords, fists, pistols, I’ve learned them all.”

“But have you ever killed another man, or injured him?”

“No, can’t say that I have,” Quills said.

“Señor Quills, it is different when you have killed a man. It turns you inside out and outside in. You may not be ready for that when trouble comes, and trouble always comes.”

“You might be right. But I’ll never know until it happens. Right now, I am ready for anything.”

“Even highway robbery?”

“Even highway robbery.”

Hector Unberto Alacia smiled. “Well, Quills, we shall see.”

“Yes, we shall see.”

“First we must acquire you new clothes, clothes that will befitting of your new profession. Then we will need to get you a pistolla and a horse. What kind of horse would you like?”

“A black one will do,” Quills said.

The two walked over to Hector’s horse. Hector stopped. “I think I hear your first employment arriving. Let us hide and watch.”

Hector led the horse behind a large tree. Quills followed. The two waited. Soon there was the carriage of a well-off nobleman passing their tree. Hector jumped into the saddle and raced past the carriage and its horses. Then he turned and faced the oncoming vehicle. He pulled his pistolla. He fired into the air. The carriage stopped.

“Señors, Señoras, Señoritas, if you will step from the carriage I would most appreciate it. And you, driver, throw down the luggage please.”

“Señor,” the driver protested. “This is the carriage of the Capitan of the King’s Guards. You do not—.”

Hector fired into the air. “The luggage please.”

“Si, Señor.” The driver nervously reached over and tossed the luggage to the ground. Only one man stepped out of the carriage. He was dressed in very fine clothes. He wore several expensive rings around his fingers.

The man had a snarl on his face. “Who would dare—”

“Me, Señor,” Hector said as his horse reared. “Now face the carriage and do not move or you will be a dead Capitan.”

Fancy turned and faced the carriage.

“Now, driver, you step down to the ground please,” Hector said. He called to Quills, “Mi amigo, come and tie these two up and blindfold them. Then we shall see what we have.”

The haul was very lucrative. Hector took the gold coins in the bag that the man was carrying. There was enough there for a horse, a pistolla and clothes for his new companion. In the meantime, Quills took the man’s rings and opened his luggage. His clothes would fit Quills quite nicely until he could acquire new duds for his new career.

This was his first robbery. It was not his last.

Next Week: The Ghosts with the Mostest are back.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 10: A spy by any other name is still a spy

Previously our heroine met three ghosts at Haggismarshe. They convinced her that she should do some travelling. After all, she could afford it.

To prepare for her journey, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott needed a wardrobe. She was off to London and shopping. She outfitted herself in the best that Bond Street had to offer for the well-dressed lady who wants to gadabout. And, as we all know, no gadabout would be a gadabout without gadabout hats. So she filled seven hat carriers. Each carrier held six hats.

Lady P. P., as she was now affectionately referred to by the servants of Haggismarshe, and by the press, donned her best pink pantaloons, corset and hooped skirt, her bright white dress and her pithy pith helmet and her dainty black boots. She bid her household fare-thee-well. Then she had Leavers leave her at the docks. Her ship passed the White Cliffs of Dover and landed in France. On to Paris she went, arriving in time to catch the Orient Express.

The train made its way through France and toward Istanbul. Lady P. P. noticed a mysterious woman dressed to the tens and more across from her. The woman was exquisitely embroidered into an outlandishly revealing dress. She had accoutrements of jewelry decorating her body in various and sundry places.

And, yes, dear reader, she was the woman in black, standing outside the Abbey during the wedding in Chapter Four. The very same woman arrived too late to marry Lord Dunnie which was her Plan A. Her Plan B to have an affair with the Old Cootster fell through as well. He went and died. In the meantime, she had come up with a Plan C. Hook up with Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott, get in her good graces, and use her to do dastardly deeds. As they used to say, “All’s fair in love and war and getting your own way.”

“May I, how you say, introduce myself?” the young woman asked in a deep Franco-German accent with a tinge of Polish-Italian to it. “My name eez Mata Hari.”

“Oh, just call me Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe,” our heroine returned. She was not happy with the familiarity of the other woman.

“That eez such a looonnnng name to call someone of your obvious common background, don’t you think?”

“That’s what I am called. I’ve read that you are a spy. Is that true?”

“I spy, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe. But eet eez not as eef I could help myself. I do eet for love.”

“I’ve always wanted to ‘do it’ for love,” Marye said. “But I seldom find the opportunity. Most of the men I know are regular prissypotts. There was one but that’s been a long time gone. Now I am on my own and gadaboutting ‘round the world. Mostly I find myself dilly-dallying about like some dolly on the Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

“The Chattahooga Shoe Shoe? I love ze shoes. Where can I find a pair of those? Hope zhey are more comfortable than the ones on my feets. My feets eez killing me.”

“You will find them in Chattanooga.”

“Where this Chattahooga?”

Before Marye could respond, Mata Hari suddenly appeared distracted by a noise from outside the compartment. “Pardon. Excusez moi.” She was on her feet lickety-split and out the cabin door and heading down the hall.

“That was so strange,” Lady P. P. said to herself. “Such a delightful woman. I mean, for a spy. Just as I was getting ready to let her call me Marye, she up and ups out of here.”

Two gendarmes appeared at the door.

“Madam?” the one with the mustache said.

“Yes?” Marye pulled out her compact and began to powder her nose.

“Have you, by some way, zeen a woman dressed elegantly with jewelry perched all hover her body? She eez Mata Hari, the notorious spy. Have you zeen her?”

“Can’t say that I have. Only us Americans here.” She smeared lipstick onto her lips.

The gendarme closed her door. Within minutes, Mata Hari, disguised as a mustachioed man in a tuxedo, appeared at the door and came inside. She had a dagger in her hand. “I will get you for telling ze gendarmes that I was here.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Then I will get you for lying.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Then I will get you for being such a bad liar.”

Then the dagger was gone, and so was Mata Hari. Mata Hari’s Plan C had fallen through. Now onto Plan D and a certain Eager Beaver.

PARLIAMENT PARLIAMENTS

In the House of Lords called “Lords” for shortsky, Baron Duffield said, “We can do anything we want. After all, we are the lords of Lords. We can take her title if we want. As far as her lands are concerned, we will repossess them and remit them to the Queen’s Estate.”

“If we do that,” Sir Myles said, “none of us will ever get another American heiress to marry us.”

“We could get the marriage annulled,” Tucksmeyer said. “Who knows if Lord P. P. ever consummated the union. I doubt he did.”

“Then there can be no objection to an annulment,” Baron Duffield said, “can there, Myles?”

QUILLS

It was a dark and moonless night on the Rock of Gibraltar. Quills, whom we met in a previous chapter, Chapter Six, stood on the beach at Catalan Bay, reflecting on his life. Twenty-five years old and he, Quilip Thomas St. James Loopsey, had no prospects for the future. Possibly his father, the Governor of Gibraltar, would buy him a parish to provide him a comfortable living. Then a wife of his father’s choosing. After that, children and soon old age and death. What a bore that would be.

Seeing Lord Dunnville Percival Wimpleseed-Prissypott’s face plop into his soup and die brought to Quills’ mind how mortal he was. At that moment, he knew he wanted more than his life of British privilegedom promised. He wanted passion, adventure, true love. He wanted his freedom.

He looked out into the darkness, a darkness that reminded him of his bleak future. He sat down on the beach and pulled off his shoes. He rose and walked into the water. When the water reached his waist, he began to swim, one arm in front of the other taking him farther and farther out to sea. And farther and farther into his future. He swam deep into the night. Joy and exhilaration cruised through his body. He was free.

Next Week: Istanbul, Constantinople.

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 6: Gibraltar Or Bust

In which our heroine repairs to her honeymoon

Previously Mary-Mary became Marye. All London turned out for her wedding to Lord Dunnie. And they took the Grand Tour of London but missed the Queen. It was Thursday.

It was a cheeky day in Londontown when his lordship the Lord Mayor met Lord and Lady P. P. on the bridge of the ship of the Britannia Line, the Queen Victoria, Empress of India. He presented the newlyweds with the Keys to the Tower. “Just in case,” his Lord Mayorship mumbled, giving the old wink and nod to Lord Wimpleseed-Prissypottt. He wished the two a happy bon voyage. Then they were off to honeymoon on Gibraltar where the Great Dane Prissypott had a relative or three.

The voyage was uneventful. No stormy seas. No rotten weather. A rather pleasant sea trip it was. One evening her ladyship left her betrothed snoring away in their state room, happy in the knowledge that he and his estates were cared for. Marye found herself on the deck, looking out at the sunset colors traipsing across the sky, dreaming of a life that might have been but would never be. Standing there looking out to sea, she overheard the conversation of a nearby couple.

“May I have an advance,” the quite elderly man said, “on my allowance?”

“You’ve had three advances already.” There was frustration in the woman’s voice. She was in her mid-thirties.

“But you do love me, do you not?” His voice sounded almost like a prayer in his pleading.

“Not particularly. I do love your title, dear. But the unfortunate thing is that you had to come with it. That’s an earl of a different estate, you know.”

Marye thought how sad, and under such a lovely sky on show for the world to see. And that sky was completely free. Right then and there, she made a determination. She would not become “that woman.” She had made her bed; now she would lie in it happily. No more Dilly, no more dallying. She made up her pretty little thing of a mind to be the best ladyship to her lord she could be. She walked quickly back to the state room.

“Dear Dunnie, awake,” she said, shaking Lord P. P. out of his slumber.

“What? What?” his eyes opened, his monocle popped out.

“Dear, get up and get dressed. Your new bride wants to go dancing. There’s a lovely orchestra, and I love to dance. Time’s a-wasting.”

Sad to say, her ladyship was still a virgin when the ship docked at Gibraltar. No matter the effort P. P. put in, he just couldn’t get it up. His get-up had got up and gone quite some time ago.

When they landed, his lordship and his virginal young bride were greeted by the Governor-Commissioner of the Island, Sir Hackle Loopsey. He watched Lord Wimpleseed-Prissypott waddle off the ship with his new bride, then turned to his youngest son, Quilip, and said, “I say, Ducks, there’s a bride for you. I must pack you off to America.”

“But, Father, dear Father,” the twenty-five-year-old Quills, as Quilip was called, disagreed, “I am simply not interested.”

“Oh, Quills,” his father said, “don’t be such a fop.”

“Don’t you mean rake, old man?”

“I most assuredly do not. You’re a fop. Your brother is a fop. And your sister is a fop’s sister.”

Straightening his tie, the youngest son said, “Then that means you’re a fop’s pops, doesn’t it?”

The Gov ignored his son and escorted Dunnie and Marye back to the Government House with a British propriety that would have made Wellington proud. At the ceremonies welcoming the Distinguished Gentleman from Haggismarshe and his new wife, an immense and very big banquet was served, befitting a visit by such a Class A Dignitary. Toasts were toasted by all the bigs of the island. Soups were souped and served by a dozen or so retainers who had been retained for the occasion. Chicken soup, turtle soup, kidney pie soup, and best of all, soup soup.

As the speakers persisted with their speechifying, P. P. listened with one ear turned toward the speeches and the other, his right one to be exact, toward the slurping sucking sound of the Governor-Commissioner scooping his soup from his bowl. Colonel Chowder of Her Majesty’s Hussars was giving a chatty little talk about how he had spent so much time in the East, and how he longed for dear old England, and how Britannia ruled the waves.

“Here, here,” several of the others spoke up agreeing that Britannia did indeed rule the waves. Dunnie poured a bit of kidney pie soup into his saucer. He raised the saucer to his schnauzer of a nozzle and whispered to himself, “Rather delightful odor.” He lowered the saucer to the table. Then he slurped and he sucked and he snorted and he slurped some more as he scooped a sip of his soup with his soup spoon from his saucer. Quite suddenly, the happy marriage …

Ended.

Lord Dunnville Percival Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe dropped his face into his saucer of soup. His schnauze buried itself in the soup in the saucer. He was deceased. That is another way of saying that his lordship was cold, stone dead.

Doctor Mannville Mannvile from the island’s Surgery commented later that the good lord had not been able to withstand the anticipation of a night of sexual delight with Lady Marye.

“He’s gone and made himself into a corpus delicti!” his lady wailed. “The dear man.” Then she did what was expected. She feinted a faint, sliding under the table and onto the floor. In those days, that was what respectable wives did no matter how they felt about their husbands. It was the thing to do to keep themselves in the good graces of Society.

The Gibraltarians hovered around her ladyship. Doctor Mannvile gave her smelling salts to smell. As she awoke, she muttered to herself, “Now I will never know the passionate embrace of a man. I will have to remain a virgin to the end of my days.” She began to sob.

“My lady,” the governor said, “you have our deepest sympathies. Remember even though you are a widow, you don’t have to take it lying down. You’ll make it through this. You’re sired from a hardy stock, as hardy as this soup. You’re an American. Besides that, you’re British. So keep your upper lip stiff. Remember the sun never sets on the Empire, even though it most assuredly did set on dear old Dunnie, poor chap.”

Such is life, and a run of good luck for her ladyship, I’d say. Wouldn’t you, dear reader? However she did not take it that way. None of us ever do, though fortune drops onto our head like a ton of bricks. All we want to do is worry about the broken neck. We don’t look at the good thing that comes out of this. That we’re getting six weeks off from our employment. No, she blamed herself for his demise. Her only consolation: he died happy, with a smile and a bowl of soup on his face.

Chas. Cheslewick, the foppish fop of an elder son of Loopsey, flopped down adjacent to her ladyship  and said, rather cavalierly, “He was a real pip, your husband.”

“Chassie,” Sir Loopsey said to his ill-timed son, “don’t be such a quimby.” Then he turned to Marye and explained, “Quimby’s our dog and he’s a real pisser. I have the pants to show for it.”

“Such a horrible waste of soup,” the very Mrs. Chowder interjected. A thrifty Scot of a woman if there ever was one. Otherwise all in the room were stunned as silence waded its way through the Government House like an icy wind coming off the sea.

After a duly noted amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth, Colonel Chowder offered his services to the widow. Still a virgin, she shined with a virginal glow as she thanked him copiously. She refused any assistance from him, the governor or his foppish fops of wastrel sons who kept fopping about foppingly. Instead she removed her dead husband’s dried-up prune of a lordly baronial body and loaded it onto the next ship back to England.

Next week: You just never know who you’ll meet in a Gentlemen’s Club