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?

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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.

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