Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 39: A Jolly Right Good Well-Earned Happily Ever After

Previously our heroine took matters into her own hands, or should I say her fists. 

When Quills saw our heroine’s bosoms coming out of the carriage, he knew he was in love. “I say,” he said.

When our heroine, her ladyship Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott, caught a sight of Quills’ deep blue eyes, she knew she was in love. He was the One. The Mr. Right she had been looking for. “Well, well, well,” she said.

Escorted by the future Sir Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, the three of them returned to Merry Olde England by way of Paris. The Eiffel Tower and the Seine were lovely that time of year in that particular year. “Jolly good,” they said. “It’s all so whimsical.”

In the meantime, Pip’s father, the Flip of the chip off the old block, had been redeemed from the poorhouse. He was knighted for having such a good son. After he returned to England, he was made the new Chief of the Defense Staff.

James Bond 007 was thrown into the Tower of London, only to be released by the good office of Her Majesty QE2 some sixty years later. The queen was honoring the request of her very brave servant, his great grandson after the defeat of Oddjob and Goldfinger, Moonraker and Dr. No. By that time the grandfather had prostate and couldn’t piss worth a damn.

As far as the Wah Wah League was concerned, The Mighty Paddington The Iranian Cubist Assassin was killed by the Royal Marines for trying to escape. Father Jerome and Mother Superior Sarah were thrown deep under a Spanish prison. Doctor Qwackers was de-doctored for his quackery and sent off to the Australian Outback where he had a run-in with Crocodile Dundee.

Only Mata Hari somehow escaped. Guess she shook her hips and some low-ranking soldier let her slip through his hands. After all, what manly man could resist those hips. Of course, she would turn up some years later in France, spying for the Kaiser. The Times went under new management, put in its place for all the two-timing two-timingness.

Argyle Mactavish won his election with an overwhelming majority. The House of Lords came under Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants’ leadership and dumped any legislation that denied Lady P. P. her rightful title and lands. The ghosts marched back to their homes and took well-deserved rests. All the marching and gathering and convocating had tired them out.

On the day of the arrival of her ladyship and Quills in London, the Prime Minister was sitting for his Prime Minister portrait. But he got up and watched the ticker tape parade of Quills and her ladyship through London to Buckingham Palace.

“Welcome to Bucky, my humble abode,” Queen Victoria said as she happily met her two favorites at the door. “Let me show you to the Lincoln Bedroom where you will be staying while here.”

“Oh, we have a Lincoln Bedroom in the White House too,” Lady P. P. said, after she stopped her curtseying.

“Yes, I know,” the queen said. “But this isn’t that Lincoln. This is Sir Abraham Lincoln. Freed the slaves, you know.”

“Don’t contradict a queen,” Lady P. P. said under her breath. “Don’t contradict a queen.” She continued on the Grand Tour through Bucky.

It was spring and London Society was out and about and ready to begin its season. Usually the season ended with the best of the galas. This year was to be different. The Queen, Her Majesty herself, was throwing out the first ball. It was to be a gala in honor of the engagement of Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed-Prissypott of Haggismarshe and Quills Loopsey.

It was to be the evening after she awarded Quills the Barony of Duffield. The old Baron Duffield was sent packing off to India and one of the Hill Stations with the low rank of private in Her Majesty’s Services. Also she awarded Lady P. P. the Award of the Grand Poohbah, the highest honor in the land. There were moans and groans among some of the society folk. They were not happy that a commoner, Two Ems, Mrs. Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants, had been made the new Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen. “How dare her. To promote an American to such an illustrious position,” they gossiped.

The Queen’s retort, “I’m the Queen and Empress of India, right?” Everybody agreed. “Then I can promote whoever I want. Or is that whomever? Oh, whatever. Am I right or nay?”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” they said, but still they gossiped.

The public of course was ga-ga at all the gowns and black ties and that sort of thing. Society’s best was at the Her Majesty’s gala. The lords and ladies, the great and the important, the bigwigs and the littlewigs from all over arrived in their carriages and their carriagettes.

Queen Victoria, Her Imperial Majesty, Empress of India, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Egypt and Lots-of-Other-Places, was the last to arrive. The Old Lady marched in to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” with all the pomp and circumstance in her dignified personage she could muster.  She was all smiles, bowing her head to this and that person as she passed them kneeling before her majestic personage. Then she took her place on the throne at the front of the Great Ballroom on the Thames.

Quills and her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott, began the ball with the first dance, boogeying to the “Tallyho Waltz.” Of course, it was a kind of foxtrot. Over in the corner completely ashamed of themselves was Quills’ father, Sir Hackle Loopsey, and his oldest son, Chessie doing what Chessie always did. Being a perfect foppish fop with his head up his rump, and such a big rump it was. Beside them was Flimby, Sir Loopsey’s terrier dog, and he was a real pisser. He had already managed to piss on the ballroom curtains not once, not twice, but three times.

John Smith, our heroine’s Daddykins, was enjoying this magical night immensely. He had his “sweet little Mawy Contwawy” back and she had found true love. What more could a daddykins want. Margaret “Moms” Smith was complaining about this or that or the other. She was never satisfied. But everybody ignored her.

Sir Myles and Two Ems were enjoying the repartee of Sir Alec Alec of Delphelic, an archaeologist, entertaining his listeners, “Mummies and all, you know. And daddies too, tallyho.” And off he went, tallyho-ing with Sarah Bernhardt of French fame. As they tallyhoed around the room, one lady said to another, “I say, isn’t she too well-endowed?”

Another said back at the first, “And she isn’t endowed enough.”

“Oh, you’re too too peek-a-boo,” still another lady commented.

“And you’re not peek-a-boo enough,” another came back with another comment.

“You’re so Britney Spears,” one fashionista said.

“I say, you’ve done yourself so Madonnaesque,” a high-born lady said back at her.
And away they went, dancing the tallyho across the floor. The women jumped on the back of their male partners and yelled, “Tallyho.” Their menfolk galloped back and forth across the ball room.

By the end of the night, all attendees had a jolly good time. They had nipped their share of the punch, partaken in caviar and all such gourmet stuffs that happen to be served at these kinds of high class affairs.

Several days later, Quills and Marye Caterina became a Mr. and Mrs. in a simple ceremony at the queen’s own chapel. Only a few friends were in attendance. The parents of both, the queen, Sir Myles and Two Ems and, of course, Argyle Mactavish.

After the “I doeses”, the happy couple were off to Haggismarshe Manor House to greet servants and ghosts and ask for their blessing. Of course, ghosts and servants gave it to Lord Baron Quilip “Quills” David Armistead Loopsey of Duffield and Lady Baroness Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott Loopsey of Duffield and Haggismarshe.

And the happy couple lived happily ever after into their old age. They had four children, ten grandchildren and any number of great grandchildren before they were off to join the long-gone Smiths, Loopseys, Wimpleseeds and Prissypotts in that large banquet hall where the aristocracy is known to banquet.

Sometime later, the Coast Guard Cutter U.S.S. Lizzie Borden found the dead body of Lord Dunville Percival Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe floating off the coast of South Carolina. How that body arrived off the coast of South Carolina is a whole other tale left for another time.

***

The writer sat back, lit himself a cigar and grinned. He had come to the end of his tome, The Absolutely Unbelievable Endearing Adventures of Lady Marye Wimpleseed-Prissypott. Somehow, he worked through all the jokes, and all the times when he didn’t want to write the damned thing. It was done, and he was a happy man. He saved his work and closed the file.

He went to the kitchen, took a grand puff on his cigar and a drink of the pinot he poured. Soon the glass was empty. He poured a second glass and walked back to his computer with a big smile on his face. 51,717 words. He was indeed proud of himself.

Lady Whats-her-name had adventures up the wazoo and who knew? Maybe the next novel might bring more adventures. He had only one more thing to do. Upload his words to his online drive. Before he did, there was just one itsy-bitsy change he wanted to make. Change THE END to FINALE. He sat down at the computer, opened the file that contained his grand saga and looked at the page. He was stunned.

The words, all 51,717 of them, had been erased. Where was his work, his month of staying up late and typing out nonsense into the word processor? Hours of trying to think up crap for a useless extravaganza of an exercise.

He stared at the monitor. Suddenly a big mouth appeared on his screen. It said in the crudest possible way, “I’m hungry and I want more words. More words, if you please.”

FINALE

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Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott # 38: The Barcelona Tango

Previously, the Prime Minister executed a plan and it wasn’t pretty. Not pretty, at all. Quills has followed the Mighty Paddington to the Convent where Lady P. P. is being held hostage. 

Quills heard the dandy’s voice as it threatened someone at the top of the stairs of the convent. He would have liked to race up the stairs but Hector would have said, “Wait, mi hermano. Bide your time. Your patience may save your life.” So, Quills held back at the bottom of the stairs.

A woman’s voice came down to him. “Leave me alone,” she said. Quills recognized the voice as someone he had heard before. But when? Who? He couldn’t recall.

On the top of the stairs, the dandy, The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, grabbed the woman by the arm and pulled her down the hall.

“Leave me alone,” the woman, Mary-Mary Smith also known as Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott, said louder, wandering why the nuns on the second floor did not burst out of their bedrooms and come up to rescue her from this villainous man. Then it came to her. The nuns were all on a week’s retreat at their sister house in Madrid.

“What are you doing?” she said to the man who was dragging her to Mother Superior’s office.

“Never you mind,” the villain said. “The question is not what am I doing. Rather it is what were you doing?”

“I heard voices,” she said, struggling to loose her arm from the man’s grip. “They woke me up. I came up here to see. When I realized it was Mother Superior and Father Jerome, I was on my way back to bed. Let me loose so I can go back to my room and go to sleep.”

“None of us may get any sleep tonight,” he said, pulled open the door to Mother Superior’s office and pushed Lady P. P. inside. He followed. “My friends, I caught a spy. This little thing was listening at your door.”

A breeze eased through the latticework of the office as a full moon stood outside unaware of the danger inside the convent. Father Jerome, Mother Superior, the Doctor and Mata Hari were raising their glasses of wine to toast their success. They all stopped.

Mata Hari saw her ladyship; her ladyship saw Mata Hari.

“You,” Mata Hari said.

The fog of our heroine’s amnesia cleared, and the sun of her memory returned. Her ladyship remembered Mata Hari on the Orient Express, and her threat. She remembered that she was an English lady. She remembered the British ambassador refusing to believe her tale in Istanbul. She remembered Smythie Smathers’s words on the S. S. Twit. She remembered the sinking of the S. S. Twit. She remembered all that she had learned from her daddykins about self-defense.

“You,” Lady P. P. said, now free from the dandy’s grasp.

Mata Hari gave The Mighty Paddington, The Iranian Cubist Assassin, one of her come hither looks that seemed to say, “Take care of this bitch and I will give you some.” His legs almost gave in but he held his stand. He knew he could never trust a woman who carried a Wise & Heimer the way Mata Hari did.

Before Mighty could stop her, her ladyship was across the room. She formed a fist and drew back and rammed that fist right into Mata Hari’s nose, knocking the fatale out of her femme and off her feet. She turned and jumped in the air, like a martial artist, and slammed her left foot into The Mighty Paddington’s groin.

The priest, Mother Superior and Doctor Qwackers cowered in the corner. This was more than they had bargained. Her ladyship was like a lioness protecting her young. She had caught her Wah Wah League’s adversaries unawares.

Then Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott made for the door. She grabbed its knob. Quills pulled the door open and the momentum threw our heroine out of the room and down the hallway. She crashed through the latticework and off the ledge. She grabbed the ledge with one hand.

Quills rushed down the hall and over to the window. “What happened?”

“You threw me down the hall when you opened the door,” her ladyship said, hanging on for her life. Quills suddenly remembered where he had heard that voice. Gibraltar.

He went to reach for her hand. Behind him, he heard a noise. He turned and saw The Mighty Paddington coming for him. Mighty threw the first punch. It missed Quills. Quills threw the second punch. It hit Mighty squarely on the chin. Mata Hari drew her Wise & Heimer. She took aim but across the room came a knife to take out the gun in her hand. It was Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. He ran up behind Mighty and knocked the dandy out with his pistol.

As Pip forced Mother Superior, Father Jerome and the doctor into a closet and locked it, Quills returned to the ledge to rescue her ladyship. But she was gone. She had fallen. He looked below to see a man throwing her body across his shoulders and hurrying off to a carriage.

“That must be 007,” Pip said from behind Quills. “We have to stop him. He’s working for The Times and he means to either kill her ladyship or ship her off to God-knows-where.”

“Let’s go,” Quills said rushing out of the office. “I’ve been to God-knows-where and that’s no place to be sent.”

Pip was right behind him as he took the stairs three at a time. They ran out of the building.

“I have horses waiting,” Pip said. “They’re around the corner.”

They made for the horses and rode down the cobblestone street where James Bond’s carriage had gone. The carriage raced toward the piers of the port of Barcelona. He was heading to a ship owned by The Times.

The horses came closer and closer to the carriage. From the carriage came gunshots. Bullets whizzed by Pip and Quills, barely missing.

“I thought this Bond was supposed to be a good shot,” Pip said to Quills as the two raced their horses nearer the carriage. One of the bullets breezed past an inch from his ear.

“He’s getting better and better,” Pip yelled back at Quills.

Quills and Pip closed in on the carriage. More bullets, and they realized that it was the driver that was firing. Seemed that James Bond 007 had his hands full, fighting her ladyship in the carriage. Pip aimed his revolver. He dropped the driver.

Now the carriage was a runaway. Quills pulled up beside the carriage and past it until he reached the horses. He was about to jump onto the carriage horses when they swerved in the opposite direction and turned up another street. As they did, the carriage came crashing down on its side and slid half a block further.

“Oh no,” Quills halted his horse and wheeled it around. “Oh no.”

Pip was already thinking what Quills was thinking. Her ladyship was dead in the carriage, or at the very least badly injured. Pip jumped down from his horse.

“Get off me, you turd,” Pip heard from inside the carriage. “I mean, you cad. Oh shit. I meant what I said the first time. Turd. You’re an incredibly bad turd too.”

Whack, whack came the sounds from inside the carriage. Quills and Pip were at the carriage door at the same time. Popping out of the carriage door was her ladyship.

“Would you kind gentlemen help a lady out of this carriage please?”

Next week, true love.

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 # 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.