In Which the Reverend and Company are Much Vexed by the Undead and Other Nuisances and Our Heroes Find Themselves Guests of the Crown
Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett
Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued
As the good Doctor McC twas fiddlin’ with his grenadoe, I saw that both Zizzy and Fennimen had their weapons pointed upwards. They both fired simultaneously at the witches flying over our heads.
Sure as the vinegar man in a boxing ring, they both hit home. The shots did not appear to have harmed the hags in body but their flying broomsticks were both smashed. E’en with having lost their flying floor sweeps, they drifted gently to the ground and cried out for their creatures to attack us.
Then twas a fearsome fight for our lives. The great bees were upon us and the horde of walking corpses, more than twenty or so, came lumbering after, moaning and croaking to shiver the stoutest of hearts.
Now, I have always endeavored ne’er to lie afeared whilst me mates were set upon by whappers, so up I sprang like Johnny Cock-a-Whoop and produced me cutlass out o’ me belt, thinking to stand by me friends against these horrors.
Then wouldn’t ye know it but Doc McC finally lit his bomb and tossed it into the maw of the walking tree. After a moment or so, it exploded furiously and knocked meself off me feet and stuck a handful a splinters into me corset. Though hurt, twas not anything worse than I had after trottin’ duty at a slap-bang shop.
Aside me lay young Mr. Johnstone, one of the pair of fearsome witch-hunters that had joined our endeavor. Now he may have been brave enough and strong enough in his way but from the evidence I had seen, he twas a most carping and babyish willow. He lay there blubbering a bit at the scratch he had from the splintering treeman.
“Ach,” said I, “Next ye’ll be crying for yer wet nurse, ye little chitty-face.
One of the great bees approached to our right. There was Madame Toadkisser popping away with a tiny little pistol that barely scratched the big waspy thing. It moved to skewer Fennimen but he proved that he twas a true huntsman. First, he bashed the thing with the butt of his rifle whilst pulling his tommyhawk from his belt. Then he swung the axe clean through the great bee’s neck, severing its head.
Tother bee approached to our left, and there twas Zizzy with his big cavalry cheese toaster out and taking a stance as if he twas on a Brandenburg drill field. He calmly met the great stinger with well-directed parries, calling his positions in German numbers. This proved a fortunate distraction that permitted Fenniman to fling his tommyhawk at the bee, splitting its big belly open and it collapsed onto the ground.
As I struggled to me feet, I realized that the horrid undead were upon us. There twas the Reverend L in their midst. He set fire to one of the creatures with his torch and then knocked it about with his pistol butt, flinging it back into the one behind which ignited as well. Now fire tis a terrible thing and applying a torch to someone twould ordinarily stop a miscreant short but I must say that a walking corpse is difficult to discourage and is twice as irksome when it is now afire.
As the burning things approached, I brought me cutlass up betwixt the first one’s leg and cleaved the thing from stern to stem. All the men about me let out a gasp at the sight of the undead’s crotch being so mangled. Such tis the way with men, the least thought of harm to their jingles puts them into vapors. A second chop and I dispatched tother flamer.
After this, I observed Doctor McC pulling his spring-loaded scarificator out of his pocket. He shot it into the midst of one band of the undead. The lancets flew straight as darts, putting a good half dozen of the things down.
This must have given Johnstone the stones to pitch himself into the fight, for there he twas beside me. He took aim and fired at one of the undead, driving a ball through the midst of its skull, destroying it.
He called out joyously to Smythe to observe the fine job he had done in the slaying of one of the creatures.
Afore he responded, Smythe produced a grenadoe from out his coat, lit it with a flint and flung it into another mass of the walking corpses, these led by Witch Butcher herself. It struck the witch in the chest and then fell sputtering at her feet. In a moment, the explosion tore her apart along with another half dozen of the undead corpses. The smoke and fire of the blast wafted about Smythe and we thought for sure that he had been slain by his own petard. Instead, he turned about coolly and the only effect of the blast was that the pipe that he had in his mouth had been neatly lit.
“What was that, Johnstone?” he coolly asked.
Johnstone’s only reply was a craven whimper.
Meanwhile, the Prince and Yap were struggling with the scarecrows. One of these ragamuffins had wriggled o’er the farm wall and twas attacking Major Zed until the thing became fouled with grease from the Ruritanian slush-bucket. E’en though his belly is as huge as his regard for himself, Major Zed hit upon the same thought as the Reverend. With his pistols empty, he used their locks to send a spark from his flashpan onto the grassbag and the grease-laden creature went up in a blaze.
To his left the Prince whirled his saber wildly about, cleaving two of the scarecrows into a flying cloud of chopped hay. Whilst Yap dispatched another of the haygoblins, the Prince pirouetted about, struck the last one, then leapt easily onto the back of Bucephalus. The grace of his movements belying what a complete beefwit he twas. The bladderbrain leapt his horse over the wall and charged towards us, shouting that poxy “View Hawoo” the while. Yap ran following on foot and Major Zed wheezed his way up the slope towards the graveyard where the rest of us contended with the remaining witch and her corpsy minions.
In the Prince’s wake, the sound of more pounding hooves could be heard and a sudden there twas Black Meg and a good dozen of her brigands charging up, taking pot shots at the remaining undead.
Perhaps seeing that the game twas up, the surviving Leeds sister rose herself off the ground and glided o’er the crowd until she came upon the Reverend. There she launched herself upon the man of the cloth and grasped his neck into her taloned fingers, cutting into his throat whilst strangling him. Blood coursed from the Reverend’s neck and in a short bit, his head rolled back limp.
Just as the Reverend twas about to breath his last, Madame de B plucked the tomahawk from out the dead bee and charged over, striking the witch in the back. The crone reared back without letting go her deadly hold. As her head twas thus extended, up came Zizzy with his saber and struck her knob from her shoulders. The witch’s head flew over the edge of the hill, with its last scream still echoing from her dying lips.
In an instant, the two or three remaining corpses fell to ground and lay still.
We immediately fell to tending to the Reverend who twas once more idling upon Death’s Front Porch. The Doctor gathered up one of the fired brands and breathed in some of the smoke. This he blew into the Reverend’s lungs and breath began to stir in the poor man’s chest. All the while, I worked to staunch the blood flowing down his neck and bind the wounds in his throat.
A sudden there twas Black Meg at his side, the look of panic in her eyes as they peered above her mask. “Will he survive?” she asked in a breathless hurry.
The Doctor answered with a “yes” and we all sighed our relief as the Reverend began to stir.
Unfortunately, as all our attention was directed thus, we had not observed that the brigands had come up behind and surrounded us. There was Squire Dalby along with Smythe and Johnstone pointing pistols in our direction. When we looked around, the rest of the Brigands were pointing their muskets, all freshly charged, direct at our heads. Scratch ordered us to drop all of our weapons and make no untoward move.
“What is the meaning of this, Scratch,” demanded Black Meg from her weasely lieutenant.
A nasty sneer formed on Scratch’s lips as he replied, “We got a better offer, ma’am. Far more rewarding than the pittance ye paid us, fine lady. Aint’ that so, brother?”
To which Squire Dalby replied, “All too true, brother.”
To which the Reverend, ill-used as he twas, said, “So we see who the remaining Leeds children are." With great effort, he croaked out, "But why do you destroy your sisters? Why invite me here to aid you in this”
“Ah, Reverend, still trying to solve our little puzzle," came back Dalby's reply, slimy as a snail. "I summoned you here precisely to assist in dispatching our sisters. You see they had a most parochial view of things. They were quite satisfied to have our …sibling… tied to this place so as to use it to exert their control over these rude villagers.
“But you had greater ambitions.” said the Reverend.
“Precisely. The outbreak of the current troubles offered an unimaginable opportunity. An indestructible creature from the infernal regions would be of immeasurable value in any conflict and I could be granted enormous power from the side to which I offered its services. I foresaw that the Crown would be victorious and better able to more suitably reward me. ‘Lord Dalby’ has a certain ring to it, does it not?
“Unfortunately, my narrow-minded sisters did not agree and were too powerful for me to deal with alone so I wrote to Lord Ruthven, a man of considerable influence with the Crown whose acquaintance I had made during a visit to the famous Hellfire Club when I visited London a few years ago with Governor Franklin. In time, Ruthven responded favorably and dispatched Mr. Varney to assist me. My sisters were most heartily opposed and stymied us until such time as your so-called Patriots managed to bestir themselves and arrest Franklin. Varney disappeared and I feared he and, through him, Lord Ruthven had given up upon me so I had need to seek assistance from elsewhere. Where else could I turn but to the premier witch-hunter in the colonies? Thus my letter to Doctor Franklin and it piteous cry for delivery.
“However, Lord Ruthven had not forgotten about me and sent Messers Smythe and Johnstone here to my aid. We agreed that it would be best to allow you to continue in your efforts until the matter of my sisters had been…addressed.
“Now that you’ve helped us dispatch them, we are no longer in need of your services. But I do thank for your efforts on my behalf.”
Black Meg then spake up, “You evil filth cur, you and all your kin! I hope you rot in hell for eternity!”
Dalby turned on her and I could see the sharp malice in his eyes though he still bore that wicked smirk upon his face, “As for you my dear, I am afraid, I’ve seen through your little game for some time.”
Here he grabbed her by the arm with one hand and with tother ripped her mask from her face. 'Twas his very own wife.
He shoved her down onto the ground with a violent fury.
“You fool, Margaret! You thought to seduce me, marry me, and by doing so gain my trust so that you could obtain evidence of my family’s complicity in destroying your father! Hired a gang of cutthroats who would enact your vengeance when once you had found evidence that satisfied your dainty conscience! Well, instead what you have wrought is to have provided me, through your dowry, the money to finance my plans and bring my errant, mercenary brother here into my plan.
The Reverend spoke through teeth clinched in fury, “So, will you now shoot us down like dogs?”
“Hardly, Reverend. That would never fit a future Peer of the Realm. A public chastisement for your treason fits my future role far better. And here is the Crown’s justice even now come for you, rebel spies that you be.”
By now, we could see a large party of British soldiers stumbling out of the woods. Behind them followed the detestable Colonel Maywood.
“Excellent, Squire, excellent!” the malmsey-nosed maltout soldier fairly beamed. “Not only do you report the acts of these scurrilous rebels but you apprehend them as well. If only all His Majesty’s American subject showed such industry and loyalty.”
“Not only that but I have direct proof of their treason as well,” said Dalby who then went o’er to the Reverend and roughly pulled the commission that Franklin had given from the wounded man’s pocket.
“As I wrote to you, Colonel, they are all rebels, come here to use their dark powers, powers that you yourself have seen, to bring harm to the King’s cause. I shall be more than happy to provide full testimony as to their actions.”
“Shocking,” burbled the Colonel, “simply shocking that a supposed man of the cloth would stoop to such degraded practices. Of course, it's not like he is C. of E. They shall answer to it all before a court martial. But I am a bit uncomfortable with your other suggestion, this digging up of graves. Makes me feel like some sort of Scotch medical student, what. You are sure disturbing this Leeds woman’s body is necessary?”
“I am afraid so, Colonel. The Reverend here intended to use the body for some evil purpose - that is what we prevented here. Now, she must be given proper burial.
“Could we not just, you know, have a Padre say some words over her present …a… resting place?”
“Unfortunately, she is not entirely here, only part of her.”
“Part? Good Heavens, what do you mean, ‘only part,’ Squire?”
“Why her head, of course. The rest of her body is buried in the churchyard in Crosswicks. We have to dig that up too.”
“I say,” squirmed the Colonel, “I don’t care for any of this, devilish mumbo-jumbo.
It smacks of Indies slaves with their voo-doo.”
“It must be done and I must take the remains to Princeton. I shall have the scholars there examine it to see if any further consecration needs be done before it is laid in the ground.”
“Well this is all beyond me,” sniffed the beslubbered hedgepig. “But you have proven yourself a loyal servant of the Crown and I shall be guided by you in this, queer as it may be.”
Then the spleeny skainsmate turned to an aide and said, “Lieutenant, secure the prisoners and prepare to transport them back to Trenton. And detail a party to assist Squire Dalby in his…ah…excavations.”
After this, we were all bound with iron chains. The Reverend was strapped to a stretcher. At Dalby’s insistence, both he and Madame were gagged to prevent them from doing any sort of spellificating.
Then they were about to put the clappers on Prince Leopold who shocked us all by raising a pettifoggy point about him being on his parole. He insisted he had not violated his oath and they were detaining him unjustly, breaking their side of the agreement.
Unfortunately, this brought to the Colonel’s mind the incident of the ferocious squirrels that he rightly blamed on the Prince. So Leopold twas also gagged but to this we raised no objection at all.
We were taken through Crosswicks and there saw it crawling with British troops thick as lice on a beggar. I saw where they were digging up tother part of Mother Leeds who seemed to be bound for seeing more of the world in death than in life.
They bundled us onto a couple of wagons and we had a rough drive up to Trenton. The town was mostly deserted save for a strong case of the Hessian itch.
Our English guards handed us off, none too gently, to a bunch of pointy-headed Germans. These locked us in a couple of iron-barred cells in the cellar of the big barracks on the edge of town. Of course, being cabbage-eaters, they insisted on observing all the proprieties, all the men in one cell and women in tother. Then they still insisted in clapping wall-chains on each of our wrists, even the Reverend.
Dalby oversaw all this and then placed a small stone afore each cell. These were covered with all sorts of carvings. He then spake to the Reverend, “I have placed runes of some power upon these stones, not unlike those on Hadley’s famous defenses, to prevent the working of any magics. These should prevent you from endeavoring any sort of unnatural mischief while we attend to your trial.”
He then left instructing that two guards should always keep us in view at all times and the bayonet to be used gainst any making the slightest trouble.
Then down came a couple of Hessian officers, all dripping of gold lace and fart winds. They barked a bit at Zizzy and he barked back a bit and then they made to have him released.
“What goes here, Jacko?”
“They find I served in the Prussian Army. Since I am just a servant they will let me go to being a soldier again.”
“I’m a servant too. Do ye think they would spring me as well as a laundress or cook or whatever?”
“They are looking for soldiers not … camp followers!”
“Follow this, ye…”
“There is not time for this, Molly.” Then he whispered, “I go now but I shall come to get you.”
Betimes, they came and fed us, but they brought a full file of soldiers for each of us and let us out of our chains but one at a time in each of the cells. Twas a foul thin gruel they served in any event. Major Zed wailed like virgin in sackcloth at the outrage.
After we had all eat, Dalby returned with a gloating look upon his face.
“I wished to bid you all farewell. I am off to Princeton. Along with the body of my mother.
The Reverend ignored this obvious attempt at goring us, “So when do we face British justice?”
“Why, you already have. I convinced Colonel Maywood that it would be far too dangerous and injurious to the dignity of the court to permit you to be present.
“How did ouw case go?” asked Prince Boilbum
“I’m sorry to say that you were found guilty of being spies for the rebels. You are to be hung.”
“Well, Prince, you will be happy to discover that you and Major Zagloba will not share the gallows with your friends. Even Colonel Maywood shrank at the prospect of hanging a member of royalty, no matter how obscure. You are instead to be sent to New York and there to be held in confinement upon one of His Majesty’s prison hulks until the slow wheels of diplomacy determine your fate. Unfortunately, those vessels are notorious for being unhealthy places. I do hope you do not fall ill.”
“When do we leave?” asked Major Zed, glum as a Quaker.
“Tomorrow most likely, they are making your traveling arrangements now. As for the rest of you, the carpenters are making other arrangements now. However, the Court has decided to delay the execution of the sentence until the day after tomorrow. It would not be proper to hang you on Christmas day, now would it? I hope you do not mind that it will be Colonel Rall officiating; Colonel Maywood and his troops are escorting me to Princeton. I do apologize for inconveniencing you all so.”
The Reverend then spoke up, “Dalby, answer me one last question. As I understand it, the demon may be bound to your mother’s body in some way but that does not give you or anyone dominion over the creature. How will you be able to direct it against your enemies?”
“Oh, I shall not be directing the creature. That shall be done by my mother….”
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
We had scant Christmas revelry for the guards were ever watchful and we had no opportunity to make an attempt at liberty.
It was well into dark when they finally took the Prince, Yap, and myself out to a small wagon afore the barracks. This conveyance was a small thing with open wooden caging on the sides but a solid roof over all. There was barely room for the three of us when we entered and it shook terribly when I tried to settle myself inside.
Dalby together with Colonel Maywood had departed for Princeton and Colonel Rall would spare no further troops from the garrison, he being concerned of recent attacks on his pickets. Therefore, the driver of the vehicle and a small escort of six dragoons comprised our entire guard.
As we departed, a fierce wind had blown up and the snow began to fall tumultuously. I realized our wintery peregrination presented our best opportunity for escape. I pondered for some time as to the best device from escaping our barred restraint.
Whilst I so contemplated, I was perforce necessary to ignore the pratlings of the Prince who continually raised his appetite for corncobs and raw bacon.
When we had sojourned perhaps but a mile from Trenton, I hit upon the recourse of toppling our prison mobile. I suggested to Yap that we three should force our weight suddenly towards one side of the wagon whilst we were in the midst of a turn, it could not but help to capsize our rolling dungeon, likely shattering the bars and permitting us to flee. The intemperate weather and heaviness of the surrounding forest should aid us in eluding our escort.
The road upon which we traveled proved most curvilinear and so I had great aspirations for the success of my suggested maneuver. However, I had great difficulty in imparting this to the Prince who had spent most of the time with his tongue protruding between the bars in the act of catching snowflakes upon it.
Finally, I shouted to him, “Highness, we must upset the cart!”
His countenance showed more confusion than ordinarily, if such a prospect can be comprehended and he said, “Weww, I’m not suwe what that wiww accompwish, but hewe goes – ‘You awe an ugwy, ugwy wagon and you give a bad wide!’”
The utter puerility of the Prince’s words finally pressed the limits of my temper, which had been imposed upon by the struggles and hunger that I had suffered these many days past. I flung myself at the Prince and, grasping him by his lapels, dashed him against the side of the wagon. As luck would have it, this transpired as the dray was in the midst of a turn and we all lost our footing, Yap and I both being slammed against the bars along with the Prince.
As our tumbrel began to tip over, it entered into a slow, stomach-churning slide and there was a great cracking as the wooden sides splintered. The horses of the two dragoons who followed us reared and bucked as they and their riders fell upon the ice.
I observed Yap being flung widely across the road, fortunately landing in a bank of snow. I remained inside the body of the wagon as it collapsed about my head. I could see our driver lying motionless under the wreckage.
The Prince, who was also flung from our fourgon, was somehow able to control his flight and directed himself against one of the four dragoons who were before us. He struck the rider heavily and knocked him from the saddle. The Prince then managed to gain a handhold upon the saddle and flipped himself neatly into the seat.
He pulled the two horse pistols from their saddle holsters, crossed his arms over each other, and fired. Two of the dragoons fell shot in the road.
The final dragoon drew his sword and kicked his horse into a charge against Leopold.
Suddenly, we heard a singularly, high-pitched warwhoop which accompanied a tomahawk thrown from the woods. The axe struck the charging dragoon full on in the chest and knocked him from his horse.
Immediately thereafter, a volley of musket fire flashed from the woods and the two rear dragoons were cut down. A band of ragged troops strode onto the road. Several of them helped extricate me from the wreckage of the wagon. Once freed, I turned and saw a man and boy who I immediately recognized.
“I thought you all were doomed, doomed, when I saw them take you from Crosswicks. Good thing these Pennsylvanians came along. Of course, I don’t know how we’ll get away now that we’ve made such noise. We’re all doomed now!”
“Mistew. Bozawth and Young Bozawth! How gwatified we awe that you found us!” beamed the Prince.
Before I could speak, a most amazing site presented itself. A strikingly pretty young dark-haired girl came out of the woods and moved towards the Prince. Although she was otherwise dressed in civilized clothes, she bore strange paint marking her face and eagle feathers tucked into her hair.
She spoke in perfect English, “Are you really Prince Leopold? A real Prince? Mr. Bozarth said you were but I’ve never met a Prince, the way you leapt onto that horse! I never saw anyone do something like that! Do you always ride like that? You are incredibly brave! Do you have a wife or sweetheart?
A reasonably rational man would have been put back upon his heels by such a barrage of interrogatories from this viraginous maiden. And of course, we well know the Prince’s intellectual capacities so it was no surprise that he sat astride his horse slack-jawed with his mouth struggling to form words that his mind seemed incapable of forming.
Finally, he struggled out, “Um…yes, yes, yes, and no,” counting on his fingers as he spoke.
“Lest you think anything improper, I’m here with my brother, David, he’s here with militia, the Pennsylvania militia, not the New Jersey militia, did I mention that we are from Pennsylvania, Lancaster County that is, my brother had to run away from home to join the army because father said he couldn’t join but my brother felt that it was important to do his duty to our country, especially after he read Mr. Paine’s pamphlet, you know the one about it being the time to try men’s souls, so he disobeyed father, but father had gone away and that made brother David head of household so I suppose that wasn’t really disobeying and running away, but I decided that just to make sure it wasn’t really disobedience, I would come along with him because I thought that everyone should do their duty, even girls, especially because, even though I was raised in a whiteman’s house, father had old Chief Black Turtle, he was the last of the Susquehanocks in Lancaster County, teach me the ways of our people but Chief Black Turtle was a warrior so he only taught me the skills of our warriors and I thought I could use those skills to help and I also thought it important that someone see how bravely brother David was acting, so that father could be told about how brave he was and father would not be cross with him and I thought David was the bravest boy there ever was, after our brother Jonathan, who is in the army that was in Canada but is now back at Fort Ticonderoga, that is, until I saw you and you are wonderful!”
The Prince stared at the girl while this verbal cascade washed over him, like the tidal wave it was. Finally, he gasped out, “You tawk pwetty! Huuu…”
“Why thank you, Your Highness, or Excellency or whatever, I am Rebecca Longewynde.”
“’Webecca Wongewynde.’ Wongewynde? Wongewynde? Whewe have I heawd that name?”
“That would be the Reverend Longewynde, Highness, the man with whom we have been laboring for the past few weeks. I believe these are his children,” I said. “Now, I fear I must interrupt your dialog with this young lady despite it being the equal of Moliere in wit and sophistication, but we must see to rescuing our friends, that includes, if I may be so bold to refresh that traplike memory of yours, Highness, this lady’s father.
“Oh wight, Vawerie!”
The girl giggled, “Valerie?”
“VaLERy! It’s a common name in eastern Europe and not at all feminine! We must go and rescue our friends!”
Yap interjected, “How?”
“We’ll need help or we’re doomed," interjected the ever-morose Bozarth. "Oh, even so we’ll probably be too late and they’re doomed anyway.”
Fortunately, the Younger Longewynde, an Ensign among this militia troop, suggested that he knew of a source of assistance.
Thus, we hurried towards the Delaware with snow and wind growing ever worse with each mile. Despite this, after an hour or so, I realized that we were upon the road on which we had originally traveled to Trenton.
Near to midnight we arrived at the ferry opposite McKonkey’s. The storm-lashed shore was deserted and I wondered why they had brought us here.
Young Longewynde shouted over the storm, “There is our help!”
Then out of the roiling clouds of snow numerous dark shapes began to appear. A vast flotilla of large boats appeared, each crowded with ragged but heavily armed soldiers.
The Continental Army had returned to New Jersey.