In Which Our Heroes are Much Inconvenienced by Bad Stew and Impertinent Vegetation
Excerpt from The Truest Son of Liberty, Being an Account of My Life Spent in Defense of the Rights of Man in the American, French, Polish, and Ruritanian Revolutions by Valeri Zagloba
I was most profoundly startled at the aburptness with which our companions fell so malodorously afflicted upon the village verdure. Mostly shocking of all was state of the Reverend Longewynde and Mrs. Dagget for they both were completely insensate in the deepest of coma.
Whilst I was digesting these event, in a figurative sense only, the Prince interjected, “I say Zagwoba, ouw fwiends awe ill.”
“Ah yes, Highness, your powers of observation leave us all in awe,” I responded.
“Could they have eaten something bad?”
“Your Highness, the level of perspicacity that you possess is equaled only by rabbit droppings.”
“Why, thank you, Zagwoba, I wove bunnies, but we weawwy shouwd do something fow them. I mean we can’t weave them hewe to upchuck aww ovew the pwace. We must get them inside!”
“Yes, Highness, we wouldn’t want all this vomit to go to waste when it could be used as a floor covering. Rest assured, I’ll see to it, you royal thick-headed polyp.”
I had Yap and some of the village men gather our prostrate friends up and bring them into the church, believing that consecrated ground might in some slight way provide a safeguard from further recondite misadventure. Squire Dalby ordered that beds and pallets be brought from his home as well as buckets and cleaning items.
Soon, all of them lay abed writhing in discomfiture save the Reverend and Mrs. Dagget who both lay as still as Death.
While it was perhaps not the most Christian thing to do, I could not help but remonstrated with those who were conscious that they were suffering their just deserts for their greed in keeping me from a share in their meal. The sin of which now had led to this sad, if colorful, downfall. Having served as the Prince’s official Taster for the better part of the past year, I am sure I would have recognized that the stew had been poisoned and, with my iron constitution, would have cautioned them from partaking of the flatigious pasticcio.
Recognizing the justice of my words, they groaned so piteously that my heart was filled with pity. I therefore directed Yap to ensure that their linens were cleaned regularly and that he should empty the contents of their buckets immediately. When he heard these instruction, Zizzendorf attempted to rise from his pallet, seeking to perform his duties. However, after regurgitating upon each step he took, even his fixedly Teutonic mind comprehended that he was incapable of further service.
Having thus settled my friends, I took my recreation at Squire Dalby’s house.
Unfortunately, Dalby’s wife was not in residence, having apparently taken the new widow of the younger Bulfinch to relatives in a nearby village. The Squire himself was not at home, apparently addressing matters that were resultant from the attacks of the previous night with Messers Smythe and Johnstone. Nonetheless, he had graciously instructed his servants to attend to the needs of the Prince and myself.
We thus sat down to a well-deserved meal. The Prince chose to eat a large cut of beef that, at his direction was left rare to the point of ensanguination, a trend in his diet that was most disturbing given his early encounter with the vampire Varney. I had a simple repast of stewed oysters and mussels, several joints of roasted pig, some venison, a duck, some potatoes, baked rye bread, Indian cornbread and a pumpkin casserole. This was completed by a light dessert of Indian pudding studded with dried plums and served with a sauce made from molasses, butter, and vinegar along with a tray of nutmeats and maple sugar candies. There was also a fair punch bowl filled with hard cider combined with West Indies sugar, lemons, and limes. My breakfast the next morning was even more frugal.
For the next three days, we attended to our friends as best we could. All of them tread the fine line between existence and mortality, their eructations continual. With Doctor McCleane suffering as badly as the others, I endeavored to provide what assistance I could summons from my vast intellect, having previously made a study of natural philosophy, especially in the field of phrenology. None of the accepted treatments, neither bleeding nor cupping, not even purgatives and diuretics offered a surcease in their suffering.
The Prince recommended a diet of raw vegetables, particularly Indian corn, and very rare cooked meat, solely on the theory that it tasted “Yum-yum” to him and so must be good for everyone and every occasion. Unfortunately, this was the origin of what became at the end of the century something of an aristocratic fashion, the famed Leopoldian Diet, which consisted of consuming large amounts of raw foodstuffs whilst perched upon a seat of ease. While I do not believe it actually aided any patient, it did contribute to the increase reliance upon indoor plumbing and the methodologies of freshening the air.
Yap believed that exercise was the best cure for any ailment from ablepsy to zoonosis. Messers Smythe and Johnstone proved equally useless in the matter, asserting that they were not learned in the saving of lives, merely the taking of those that were evil. I therefore despaired from ever finding a cure, or of being free of the Prince for that matter.
Fortunately, at the end of the first full day of their confinement, Fenniman enjoyed a period of lucidity and told us of a cure he had learned from the savage Indians that was efficacious for maladies of the stomach. He said it was a decoction made from the bloodroot. Upon his description, I recognized it as what is referred to in Europe as the Greater Celandine or tetterwort. While finding the root proved difficult in the wild, I had occasion to search the contents of the witchs’ house and found it in abundance. This being not surprising since it could prove to be deadly when given in large dose.
Yap and I made some attempts at decocting a tincture of the remedy but I was too cautious knowing its dangers and our efforts seemed to provide little easing. On the second morning, Madame de Bauffremont also enjoyed a brief period of lucidity and was able to comprehend the suggested cure and by her instructions, I was able to improve upon the mixture. By the end of the third day of the confinement, Fenniman, Zizzendorf, and the Madame had passed their crises. The Doctor proved stubbornly immune to the curative properties and recovered only the following day. Although all were much weakened by the ordeal, they were anxious to render aid to the grievously afflicted Reverend and Widow Daggett.
The pair had not moved nor spoke for four days by then. I had been able to keep them alive only by having Yap force water down their throats with a bellows.
Fortunately, that evening the Doctor prepared a much stronger tincture which was assisted by an alchemical solution prepared by Madame de Bauffremont.
By the next morning, the Reverend appeared to be regaining his senses. While Mrs. Dagget began to stir, she did not seem capable of regaining consciousness unaided. This aid I endeavored to provide.
During my stay in London, I had made the acquaintance of Doctor Hawes and learned from him a technique that was used by his Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned.
It was called the Kiss of Life.
Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett
Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued
Whilst I was unconscious from the witch’s brew, I had many an odd dream. But sure the queerest thing was what I dreamt just afore I regained meself for I dreamt of naught but Jonah being swallowed by the big fish. Now in my dream I felt the fat, blubberly smacking lips of the beastie close upon me and this forced me to struggle to regain me wits.
When I finally came to, the first thing I saw was gor-bellied Major Zed’s face suspended over me. As first I thought I dreamed still but then I felt a strange constriction of me bodice and asked to see the vagrant’s hands. He held them up afore my eyes, the sequel of which was having that great load of pig swill fall onto me as he twas no longer supporting himself by the liberty of me diddleys.
I cried out, “Get off me ye great galloping wildebeest! I’ll have no man have the advantage o’ me lest he pays or at least buys me drinks afore.”
Of a sudden, Major Zed twas ripped off me and there was Zizzy tossing the big fat slobberer against the wall like a turdbag.
“You must not molest the members of the Reverend’s household, it is forbidden!” he shouted and then turned to me, “And Madam, you should not be encouraging the lasciviousness of these men.
“You fault me! I was unconscious and near to dying, how can that be justice, ye blockheaded dibble.
“Why, you were lying there all akimbo in a state most dishabille, the morning sunlight glinting off you’re hair, making it shine like freshly polished brassworks, your breathing in short pants causing much undulation of your bodice…ah, of what was it that we were speaking?"
“We were all akimbo.”
“Ja, ja, you should not be so …distracting to me - us- to us, to these men, I am meaning. Well, we have spoken of this enough. Good day, Mrs. Dumplings - Dagget - Mrs. Dagget.
Zizzy then walked off in a high muddle.
I laughed and said aloud, “That is a man in fearsome need of a good...”
“Mrs. Dagget, I have a need to speak with you!”
It was the Reverend Himself, come back to his senses.
Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde
Upon regaining my consciousness and learning I had been so for nearly five days, my rage knew no bounds. Although I was furious at Widow Dagget for serving us the food without telling me of its origin, I was angrier still with myself for allowing to be caught so unawares. I must admit that my anger was somewhat assuaged by the experience of Major Zagloba being for once uncomplaining about missing a meal.
Feeling the need to make up for time lost, I had Yap fetch Smythe and Johnstone along with Squire Dalby. They arrived timely and we fell to discoursing of the events that had occurred during my illness.
I asked, “I take it that none have come forward to man the defenses against the demon?”
“Worse than that,” was Dalby’s reply, “most of the villagers have fled, risking the mercy of the Hessians at Trenton, rather than tempt fortune and the devil by remaining here. Further, each night, we can hear the creature’s cries nearby, a thing not heard of these thirty-five years. The sound appears to be coming closer to town each evening.”
Shrouds and Butcher, the two surviving witches for such I now believed them, had not been seen since the night of the Bulfinch murders. I suspected that the two had been working to free the demon since all of the outposts had been abandoned and we ourselves had been inactive for so long and were having success.
Time for dealing with the matter had grown dangerously short. Also, with end of any hope of reestablishing Hadley’s defenses, we were forced to confront the evil directly and with as much force as we could muster. I believed our only hope was to go to the site in the woods that had been the focus of Hadley’s construction and, presuming it to be the burial site of the essence of Mother Leeds, there destroy her and her offspring.
Smythe offered that they did not have much experience in the hunting of demons but witches they knew well. If Leeds had indeed been a witch, they had the knowledge and means to destroy her essence and banish her soul finally to hell. He produced a well-thumbed volume of what appeared to be the Malleus Malificarum.
Dalby also agreed to aid us. Looking at the map I had produced, he said he believe that the place where Mother Leeds was buried appeared to be where the Dutch had placed a settlement over a century ago. There had been some type of great misfortune there and the settlement had been abandoned. The Dutch had called it “Draak Kil” or “Drake Kill” which was said to mean “Dragon’s Creek.” To this Fenniman added that he knew the Delawares had called the Pine Barrens "Popuessing" which means "place of the flying serpent.”
Certainly, evil had been flourishing in this place for a very long time. Time enough I believed. Thus, I told them that I intended us to go to this place on the morrow. Despite protestations that we were still too weak from our recent ailment, I resolved that we should end the matter now.
Before we retired for the night, I made a search with Fenniman of the Hadley house. We found two dozen of the devil stones hidden throughout, thus confirming that that the witches had been at the heart of our troubles.
Fenniman also found within the great pile of documents in Hadley’s study, pages of the church registry that had been overlooked in our initial search. One page in particular reported where the Leeds children were housed after their mother’s arrest. Of the twelve children, seven had died before the afore-mentioned arrest. Three daughters were listed as having been given to the three families, Cracknell, Butcher, and Shrouds. Here the page ended and we could find no other page listing the fate of the two remaining Leeds children.
Thus Reverend Hadley’s fate and all the events that followed to this day were the work of Mother Leeds’ vengeful children.
Dawn found us setting off for the Dragon’s Creek. Along the way, I placed a letter for Black Meg upon the grave of Reverend Hadley saying that I had discerned that she was in fact the infant child of the late Reverend Hadley and it was clear that her father had in fact been murdered by nefarious works. As this was how the matter stood, he was deserved of a Christian burial. I said I would attend to this after we had gone to the burial spot of Mother Leeds, there to destroy her once and for all
Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett
Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued
The next morning was cold and e’en though a deep grey overcast the sky, it was dry and the ground firm. We were all well-armed with weapons cleaned and in good order, the Reverend himself having loaded his pistols with blessed cold steel shot. We were well provided with holy water and the Reverend kept his Bible close in hand. I dug out o’ me baggage an old scapular and hung it about me neck. Yap washed himself and bent in prayer to Mecca several times afore we left.
Then there twas the Prince. Now Major Zed had told me that wrestling was some part of the religion in Ruritania, suffering for the Faith or some such, and apparently the bigger the opponent, greater the grace imparted. So, just as we were about to set off, we found the Prince in a nearby field with his arms around the neck of a large and not particularly well-disposed bull. ‘Course he was there only a moment or so afore the beast sent the doodle-wit flying over the fence.
“Pwaise God, I’m weady!” said the lackwit Prince as he brushed himself off.
Zizzy brought up the Reverend’s carriage and Reverend L Himself, Meself, Fenniman, and Doctor McC piled in. Smythe, and Johnstone brought out their calash with their man, Gooden, at the reins. Squire Dalby and Major Zed also climbed aboard, with the small carriage groaning and squeeking profoundly when the latter settled his arse into the seat. As afore, the Prince and Yap set out on horseback to the fore along with the Prince’s hounds.
This Dragon’s Creek lay directly east of Crosswicks about five miles into the Barrens. We traveled along a small path that once must have served as a road to the Dutch settlement. The trip took the better part of three hours and during that time, we neither saw nor heard a living thing moving in all that great expanse of woods.
Finally, we came upon the creek itself, frozen solid, with an ancient and rotted covered bridge upon it. Upon crossing o’er the bridge, I saw the road was lined by old wooden fencing and on top of several of the posts were large fresh pumpkins. Just across the creek was a glade bounded to the east by some low hills. The ruins of several buildings were scattered hereabouts and old walls and fences marked what must have been the bounds of several farms.
To our right was a large open field surrounded by a low stone wall, strangely well kept for a place so long abandoned. Within the field stood eight large scarecrows.
To our left, at the foot of one of the hills was a larger ruin and it must have been the village church atimes for a small ruined tower stood hardby. Just beyond it, perched upon the side of the hill was a small graveyard, bound by three large posts.
Yap and the Prince proceeded towards the field whilst the rest of us disembarked from our carriages with the Reverend veritably running towards the graveyard. Zizzy and Gooden remained to tend to the carriages although both held their pistols in their hands.
The Reverend and tother worthies fussed about the large posts. These proved to be the mates of all the pilings we had encountered near the blockhouses for upon them were the old carvings intended to hold down the devil.
They then noticed that one of the graves in the center of the yard seemed to have been fussed over in more recent time. Smythe offered that this should be the one belonging to Mother Leeds and they must dig her up to destroy the remains.
Whilst this was transpiring, Yap had dismounted and entered the field, endeavoring to determine if the profusion of scarecrows represented a hazard to us. Afore he could make this determination, the beef-witted fobble expressed his intention to practice his saber art by splitting the pumpkin heads of the scarecrows. The burly-boned jolt-head then kicked Bucephalus into a trot and jumped over the wall, waving his fly-slicer about his head and “View Hallooing” to wake the dead.
Yap, who saw the folly in so rash an attack, grasped the noble horse’s halter and gave a strong tug, causing the horse to abruptly come to a kneel. The lack-brained Prince was fairly launched and flew o’er the stallion’s head directly towards one of the scarecrows.
This thing came to life and engulfed the wantwit in arms that were surprisingly strong for being made of straw. With that all tother scarecrows came to life and moved towards the two men. Barrelguts Major Zed was puffing and weezing as he tried to clamber over the wall to aid them but, finally giving up the effort, produced two horse-pistols. He missed with both shots, no doubt blinded by the sweat that poured in profusion from his belabored fleshy brow.
Afore this had transpired, I had taken it into me head to examine the pumpkins that twere lining the rails at the side of the road. Why they were there and how they could be so fresh in the depth of the winter I could not fathom.
About the time, the Prince began carving up the pumpkinry, I tried to remove one from its post and a sudden out came a great cloud of noxious gas pouring forth. I quickly dropped the reeking thing and ran up the hill to the rest of our party, shouting a warning to Zizzy and Gooden as I did.
Now one thing I will admit about Zizzy, for a plume-plucked basket-cockle he was a man of quick reaction and energy when he was not trying to introduce a Maypole up his own backside. So it twas that he sprang quickly from the carriage seat and so avoid the roiling pumpkin cloud.
Gooden and the horses to both carriage shared not the same fortune. The stinking cloud rolled over them and all fell dead in the road at the first instant.
All of this naturally interrupted the study that the Reverend and tothers were making of the graveyard. More than that, they faced trouble of their own. For the yard was surround by great old dead trees with gnarled limbs that snaked and intertwined like souls in Purgatory. When the Reverend approached what was thought to be Mother Leeds’ grave, one of these things came a sudden to life and plucking its roots from the ground advanced towards them, the branches flailing like cat-o-nine-tails.
Then from one great old tree a sound of great trumming was heard and out sprang two giant wasps, each larger than a man and with stingers that twere larger than claymores.
Above it all there came the sound of harsh cackling. Looking up we saw the two old crones astride flying brooms sweeping out of the clouds towards us.
As the witches flew towards up, a queer light shown down to the earth from the bristles of their brooms. As they passed o’er the graveyard, their path was marked by the opening of the earth and I could see numerous boney hands reaching to pull themselves up from their graves.
At the same moment the befoddered scarecrows fell upon Yap and the Prince and all I could discern was the desperate flashing of their blades amidst the flailing arms of the strawmen.
When I looked back, the Reverend and Zizzendorf had produced their pistols and were pointing them skyward, popping away. The poor doctor stood dead still in front of the maneuvering tree trunk and I feared he twas doomed.
Then I noticed that he had clutched in his hands a large grenadoe and twas lighting it with the lock from his pistol.
I flung meself behind a large stone, not knowing which presented a greater danger to me, the Minions of Hell or me own friends…