Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Devil in Jersey: Chapter XI

In Which the Devil Comes to Trenton and Major Zagloba Sheds His Blood for Liberty

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

As Christmas Day wore on, we noted that there were fewer guards about and them what were to keep watch did so singly and most perfunctorily. Ultimately, as the night passed, we were often left by ourselves for longer periods. After midnight, twas clear that the guard had not been to see us for o’er an hour time and we could hear snoring coming from the guardroom without.

We set to trying to free ourselves. Madame produced a lockpick from out a well-concealed pouch inside her gown. Now how she had done this twas beyond me for we had been well searched upon placement in our cells. I had to resort to a corset stay that I kept loosened for such a purpose, a trick I learned when I was a guest at His Majesty’s Newgate Hostelry.

E’en with these tools, it took us some time to obtain their opening, for they were stout clappers of iron. So to pass the time whilst we worked, I inquired of Meg Dalby how she came to marry such a hedge-pig as the Squire.

Now by her response, I could see she had been borne and bred a good woman for she must have been pining away to confess her falsehoods and conspirings. This she proceeded to do. At length.

After her father’s death, she, still an infant, had been taken by her mother’s brother, a wealthy shipping merchant, and raised in Philadelphia. On his deathbed, when she was sixteen, he related to her the full history of her father. Her aunt, fearing she would try some recklessness, took her to England. There Meg married the rector of a rich parish and bore him two children, a boy, and a girl. Her husband perished about six years ago and both her children were grown, her daughter having been married two years hence.

She had always dwelt upon resolving the murder of her parents and now finding herself free of attachment, resolved upon this action. From her uncle’s inheritance and that of her late husband, she had great wherewithal to pursue this justice. It twas, as Dalby suggested, having discovered the identity of the Leeds children through agents, she endeavored to entrap Dalby, ensuring his invitation to a function given by friends in Philadelphia and there, she thought, entranced him into marrying her, in hopes of discovering proof of the Leeds family iniquities.

Soon after the wedding, twas apparent that Dalby never had any affection for her but married for her money. This suited her well since she could persevere in her investigations. These, however, proved fruitless, Dalby being careful and the villagers reticent to speak of matters dealing with either Dalby or his mother. Only Old Bozarth showed any assistance and that mostly to warn her of impending doom.

Twas clear now that she had been played the fool by Dalby and his siblings, including the robber Scratch, whom she had hired as toughs, and this led to her undoing.

“One thing I must know,” asked I, “now, ye did not actually… attach yourself to Zagloba, a fine woman like yerself, did ye?”

“Certainly not! I used the same coquetry I applied Dalby to attempt to discern whether you were his allies or were otherwise sincere. I tried to warn you when once I saw you to be honest but likely to be outwitted. I fear my warnings were not clear enough.”

The Reverend now joined in, “You came to aid us in this last encounter. For this we are heartily grateful.”

“I’m afraid Reverend, with our fate so likely to meet Mr. Bozarth’s prophecy, I do wish I had not come to aid you yesterday.”

Just as the first light of dawn peeked through our narrow windows, we were finally able to open our chains. Then, from out another secret pocket, Madame produced a fine skeleton key that opened our cell door in a moment.

“Glory be!” I exclaimed, “Ye must tell me who yer seamstress tis!”

“I am sorry, Madame Daggett, but I fear the fashions of France are most unlikely to be available here in this wilderness. Yet.”

Once we twere free, she used her key to release the men from their cell. We stood congratulated ourselves when the door from the guard room opened and in popped the head of soldier in that high bishops hat with his greatcoat wrapped about him. Fennimen fell upon the intruder, pummeling him something fierce while the doctor kicked his legs out from under him. Then we all fell upon the Hessian and were thumping him pretty good when we heard a familiar voice exclaim, “It is me, Zizzendorf. Stop attacking upon me! I am here rescuing you.”

With this, we desisted, after I put a couple of good last kicks in, that is.

A bit worse for the wear, he told us what had befallen him. For a day and a half he had been back in the army. He knew how to act the dutiful soldier, impressing his sergeants and officers, all the while expressing gratitude at escaping the gallows. As new man to the regiment, he had been placed upon guard duty in the town for Christmas Day. His post twas upon the door of Colonel Rall’s headquarters, which as luck would have, twas Doctor McC’s house. The Colonel and his officers were in a fine state of revelry for the holiday so Zizzy convinced tother guards that they could snatch some sleep whilst he stood the watch.

For one thing that Zizzy had discovered was that the troops in Trenton were worn down by many an alarum and Rall being a worrisome cove much prone to calling an all-night stand-to for the least provocation. So, when the storm came up and the officers all off to enjoy Christmas revels, the soldiers took the opportunity to enjoy some much deprived rest.

Whilst upon his solitary post, a rider approached Zizzy. The man twas a Loyalist come to report that an attack was to be launched at dawn. Zizzy thanked the man and took the message from him, saying he twould inform the Colonel at once. As soon as the rider was out of sight, Zizzy tore the message to shreds and, using his familiarity with the Doctor’s house, placed blocks upon the doors at each entrance. He then came to rescue us. And his reward for his labors was naught but a good cuffing.

We then went into the guardroom and there knocked about the single sleeping guard and obtained muskets and cartouches for all of us from the weapons racks. Then the Reverend placed all the remaining powder and cartridges in a pile in the corner and set a powder trail. Upon leaving the barracks, we likewise blocked the doors but not afore the powder train had been set alight.

As we were about to depart, I wondered aloud at the supposed dawn attack for twas well after that hour.

My curiosity was answered when the first cannon balls began to fall into the town.

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

As the soldiery began to disembark upon the New Jersey side, I informed them that General Radziwill had important intelligence for General Washington. Within the hour, General Washington himself had crossed and we were taken to him, where he was in consultation with several of his generals.

As before, Washington showed much deference and solicitude to the Prince but upon hearing that we were just from Trenton, questioned us in detail about the conditions in the town. In this Yap was able to render every detail as if his mind were a chamois clothe and the intelligence lint that had adhered thereto. The general was most pleased when told that no fortification had been raised and that the town was not prepared for the sudden attack.

Washington set out the final details of the assault. Two columns would surround the town. General de Fermoy’s brigade would lead the attack on the left while Sullivan advanced along the river road upon the right. The center would drive directly into the town, lead by General Mercer’s brigade. If all went well, the converging forces would bag the entire garrison in short order.

The Prince was most eager to join in the attack, believing, surprisingly, with some justification that he was free from his parole due to the ill handling he had from Colonel Mayhood. General Washington was gratified by his enthusiasm and acceded to the request, assigning him to accompany de Fermoy.

The Prince fairly raced to the small farmhouse that served de Fermoy as a headquarters. It was clear that whatever haste affected General Washington had not infected de Fermoy. The officer was a French soldier of fortune of Irish descent who proved most convivial in his manner. He sat by the fire taking his ease. Once introduced, he proved his sagacity and offered us a share of his very fine wine. Having endured such travails and the end not in sight, I heartily acceded. The Prince, showing himself the clotheaded imbecile he was, disdained the offer, saying that we should be seeing to the troops and be on the march.

This view was shared by Colonel Hand of the Pennsylvania Rifles who reported that his men were most anxious to come to grips with the Hessians, especially that they had now learned that Fennimen, who was apparently most popular among the riflemen, had been condemned to hang.

De Fermoy said somewhat condescendingly, ”My boy, if you had any experience in war, you would know that haste does not improve the outcome of an endeavor.”

“Genewaw, I wiww have you know that I have know waw since I was a chiwd. Why, I am the vewy modew of a modewn Majow Genewal!”

After much high words, the doltly Prince and rude frontiersman left us in a high dudgeon and took it upon themselves to ready the troops for the march. Several times word was sent for us to order the men on the march. De Fermoy again showing an appreciation for the finer aspects of campaigning, declined such precipitous behavior. Then Yap was sent and proved most persuasive in rousing us to the march.

As I went out into the cold once more, I observed the Brigade formed upon the road. It consisted of the Pennsylvania Militia to which our rescuers belonged along with the riflemen and a battalion of marines who due to the blockade had nothing better to attend and so were bound for the slaughter.

Then, I was treated to the harangue that the Prince decided to bestow on the troops ere we marched.

He sat upon a borrowed horse and shouted, “As Mistew Paine has wwitten, ‘These awe the times that twy men's souws. The summew sowdiew and the sunshine patwiot wiww, in this cwisis, shwink from the sewvice of theiw countwy; but he that stands by it now, desewves the wove and thanks of man and woman…’”

I drew my palm across my face and turned to Miss Longewynde, “You gave him a copy of that pamphlet didn’t you?

“Yes,” she replied with a pleasant smile, “I think what Mr. Paine wrote is wonderful, and dear Leopold recites it just as wonderfully.”

“We few, we happy few, we band of bwothews…”

“Well…Wait, did you call him ‘dear Leopold’? You’ve only known him an hour or so and most of that was in a raging blizzard.”

“Surely the warmth of his heart can temper the worst tempest.”

“You are talking about Prince Leopold, the idiot up there, yes?”

“It’s his simplicity that I admire most, for one born so highly.”

“Well he has certainly has an over-abundance of simpleness, I will grant you that.”

The one bright thought was the amusement that was promised when the Reverend Longewynde found his adopted daughter enamored with the Fool.

“We wiww fight them in the forest, we wiww fight them in swamps, we wiww fight them in the stweets. We wiww nevew surrendew. We wiww never thwow up!”

“That’s ‘give up,’ you quince-headed buffoon.”

Amazingly, this absurd speech caused a glow of enthusiasm among the men who cheered themselves violently. The Prince called out, “On to Twenton!” and the men of brigade moved off with a great spring in their steps

As we marched along, I found that Miss Longewynde had attached herself to me, asking an endless torrent of questions about the Prince and prating on about how wonderful he was. Then I noticed that a couple of the militiamen who marched near us, nodding in agreement that he twas far better than the drunken incompetent de Fermoy. This last gave me considerable pause but before I could inquire further, Bozarth, sensing my troubled thoughts, said starkly, “De Fermoy’s a fool and coward. We’re doomed.”

I was greatly troubled by the thought of going in battle led by an incompetent until I had the far worse thought that my fate in the coming encounter now depended upon the Prince’s leadership.

Daylight was full upon us when we approached the first outpost of the garrison. This was a small farmstead on the outskirts of town. A brigade’s advance could be hardly be hidden and I saw that the company of green-jacketed jagers were rushing to defend the place.

To the left, Yap and Hand’s riflemen were approaching in open order across the frozen fields. They came to a stone wall and lined up upon it, intending to direct their fire upon the Hessian light troops.

Then, the Prince suddenly galloped forward a few strides towards the Hessian line, drew his saber shouting, “Victowy ow Death!”

“Oh it will be death, no doubt about it.” said Bozarth.

“Stop saying that!” I cried

The Prince charged into the mass of the jagers. Shots plucked at his coat and hat but none seemed to touch him. Then he leapt off his horse and fairly floated over their line. I could see his saber point rise and fall in the midst of the crowd.

The rifleman fired a great fusillade into the cabin and the rear of the Hessian line. The militia then let out a ferocious roar and pitched into the brawl, taking me along with them.

All was tumult for the next few moments. Suddenly, a huge jager, well over four feet in height, ran towards me, swinging viciously at me with a hanger sword.

I have never considered myself a duelist, being more inclined to the sins of the gourmand and voluptuary rather than the fire-eater, but I was able to parry the blow. The force of that blow however was directed towards my boot and I felt the steel slicing my smallest toe from my foot. I collapsed from this profound loss.

Soon I recovered enough to realize that the fight at the house was over. Numerous Hessians lie dead about us and all the others were taken.

Comforting hands were wrapping my wounds. I noticed that the Prince hovered over me. He stared down at the blood flowing from my foot and, most disturbingly, a wolfish hungry look had come over his face.

Hoping to distract him from a dark reverie, I said, “I fear my Prince that the battle is over for me.”

This seemed to revive him, “You onwy wost youw pinkie toe! Get up, my deaw owd wazy-bones! You must shawe in the gwowy we shaww have this day! Mawines, beaw this hewo with you to the attack!”

“You’re a bloody loonie,” I grumbled. But it was to no avail, a large party of Marines grasped me and lifted me up upon their shoulders, crying that they would follow the Prince to the very gates of hell.

“Merciful Lord, spare me from fools, princes, and Marines!” I cried.

Thus, the Prince led his forces, myself included, over the fields to surround the town.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

As the first cannons balls began to ricochet across the streets, we ran northward, hoping to gain the safety of Washington’s army.

Molly Dagget led the way, plucking a sword from a fallen Hessian, shouting that she would “Split those fine cabbabge-eatin’ gentlemen who twould have hung us!”

Around us, the Hessians tumbled from their billets and seemed to take no notice of us as they tried to form against the attacking Americans. The powder we had set in the barracks guardroom exploded, firing the building, and adding to the confusion.

We had gone but a short way, when I heard the ominous sound of a heavy weight crashing upon the roof just across the street.

It was the Devil of the Pine Barrens, lured no doubt by the track of his mother’s corpse, and this only a casual stop as it journeyed upon the pursuit.

Then, it leapt down into the street, perhaps retaining some memory of our earlier encounter or perhaps recognizing me as a true enemy.

Just as it lit upon the snow-covered road, a light artillery limber caromed around a corner. The gun crew were drawn up short before the monster and they immediately fled, leaving the gun and limber in the midst of the street.

The demon leapt over this easily and advanced towards us. Knowing the creature’s invulnerability, we endeavored to escape, hoping to find some refuge. Mrs. Dagget attempted to enter a large stone house but the creature spit a blast of its flaming breath toward the building which then was put alight. This scattered our party and I did not see Mrs. Dagget again for some time.

What saved us at that moment was the advance of a full regiment of Hessian grenadiers that, having formed up, came up the street in tight formation.

Seeing the abomination, they halted and prepared to fire. Many gaining a clear sight of the beast, broke ranks and slipped away. A ragged volley did nothing but attract the devil to them. It flew over and pitched into the soldiers, breathing fire and hacking with its claws. A good dozen soldiers were cut down in an instant.

This gave us the opportunity to reach the abandoned gun. We quickly turned it about to face the demon. Fenniman, having some knowledge of artillery, directed our preparation of the shot. He fired the gun and the ball struck the creature full in the back. The force knocked it from its feet but otherwise did no damage.

In the meantime, the Doctor noticed that Madame de Bauffremont’s wagon was near the freshly built gallows outside the barracks. He had seen the British place our entire armament in it when we had been arrested. Using his spring-heels, he leapt upon the wagon, shearing through the cloth top-covering. In a moment, he appeared again and, with each bounce, tossed us various items of our equipage to us.

I called for him to send me my bag that contained the cold iron and holy water. This he did so upon his next bounce.

As the beast arose and turned, we struggled to reload the piece with another round, Fenniman directing us. I placed six of my cold iron shot atop the cannonball. We fired the piece just as it seemed to be drawing breathe for more fire. The load of cold iron grapeshot and iron ball struck the chest of the demon directly. I could see that the cold iron balls had sliced into the creature’s chest. The force of the ball knocked the thing over yet again. As it was on the banks of the Assunpink, the blast knocked it directly into the Creek, smashing through the ice.

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

After the Devil fired the house in which I sought refuge, I lost sight of the rest of our party due to the smoke. I heard cheering up the street that seemed to be approaching. Thinking I might find aid for my friends, I ran up the street toward the sound of the tumult.

I approached a house that I recognized as Doctor McC’s. Just as I neared it, the door was forced open from the inside and out ran several officers, dripping in gold lace. They headed to the east side of town, following a flood of the more common soldiery. One of them, a squat ugly old dodderer halted in the middle of the street when he saw me approaching with a sword. He drew himself up with a sneer and called out something in that damn Dutch. The manner in which he did it so reminded of Zizzy at his worst that I could not control myself, I fell upon him with me blade. He turned and swiped at me with his sword. Now, I twas use to close work in boarding parties and he seemed sluggish and slow, as if still befuddled by drink. I ducked under his cutter and drove my sword well and truly into his gullet. He croaked a bit and fell into the arms of a couple of other officers who had come up behind him. They drew him off and I let them go, knowing the old cove, being gut-splayed, was a dead man sooner or later.

A sudden, there was a great crowd of American soldiers coming between the houses on the west side of the street, blasting away at the running Hessians. A couple pointed their boomers at me so I shouted, “Piss on the British!”

I suppose seeing me in the midst of the shambles convinced them of me bona fides and they cheered as I called on them to continue their charge, “Come ye, milk-livered rantallions, what wait ye for? The cabbage-eaters be on the run!”

The next street over, a fearsome fight was going on, a Hessian Regiment twas formed up on the broadway with a small gun supporting. Fire from the American guns plowed into the street and knocked many of them down. Then down the tother end of the street came a regiment of Continentals in round hats. They seemed to dragging a great weight with them and I soon recognized it for Major Zed. He was borne along, calling out either a battle cry or a scream of panic.

The Hessians were shot down by the volleys and those that weren’t broke and ran, heading ever eastward to a small orchard on the edge of the town.

We ran after them and I could see more of the Americans emerging from every part of town joining us in the pursuit.

The surviving Hessians were forming up in the midst of the orchard, hard soldiers ready to make a hard final stand. Then, of a sudden, shots began striking them in the rear.

For the first time in weeks, I twas glad to hear the tidings of “View Hawwoo!” For there was a great troop of militia and riflemen in hunting shirts with the Prince at their head, cutting into the rear of the Hessians like piss through a drunkard.

There was the old man I had skewered being held up by an aide, he appeared to have been shot as well.

The Prince twas there calling out for them to surrender or be killed,

They chose to surrender.

Trenton had fallen.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

I knew the creature had been wounded but not grievously. Still the ice and water, so contrary an element to its own infernal nature, would surely hinder his actions.

Zizzendorf was at my side, having discarded his Hessian coat. He handed me several vials of holy water

I went to the side of the creek at the spot into which the creature had fallen. I poured all of the holy water into the stream, intoning prayers to make the water of the creek into a vehicle for sanctification.

In the midst of my efforts, I heard a great cracking sound and the ice nearby burst open, the devil flying upward.

The force of this knocked me from my feet. As I lay prostrate on the ground, I saw the devil flying over the town, away to the northeast. Towards Princeton and its mother…

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Devil In Jersey: Chapter X

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?”

The Brothers Leeds

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.”

A Bad Penny Returns

“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.

Guests of His Majesty

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.”

“Oh, cwap!”

“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.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Devil In Jersey: Chapter IX

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…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Devil In Jersey: Chapter VIII

In Which Major Zagloba Suffers a Grevious Loss and the Prince for Once Plays Not the Fool

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

“I am Mister Smythe, and this is Mister Johnstone. We desire to have a word with you, Reverend, on a matter of the utmost importance.”

Now these two flash coves I trusted not. They had too much of the look of Bow Street Runners about them and their request to speak with him confidentially had too much of the order about it.

But the good Reverend seemed to be not so troubled, no doubt him not having e’er seen the plain nastiness of lawmen when one is on the wrong side of them. Reverend L announced that he would be pleased to discuss whate’er business they would have of him and so twould closet with them by riding in their calash for a space.

Afore he could be aboard for discourse with these gentlemen of midnight, Mr. Bullfinch took him aside and offered that there were two grown Bulfinch sons, one a man upon his own farm and the other 19 years old. The three of them would take up the forest watch against the Devil until the Reverend could gain the services of reinforcement or until the Reverend could cipher how to free them from this curse perpetual. Bullfinch said he would prepare stores and victuals, those that he was able to hide from Major Zed, that is, this evening and upon the morrow would attend to the blockhouses.

Twas when the Reverend alighted the calash I observed that Zizzendorf was mounted postillion as a watch upon the Reverend’s safety.

Now I am sure twas fatigue and having been long deprived of carnal exercise that made me so moony and randified but I gave him me finest come-hither glance and said, “Have a care for yerself, Mr. Ziz.”

I saw my words and look had their effect for he fair sputtered, “Ur…a…yer… Dumplings…Danke, danke!. Thank you for your good wishes, Mrs. Dagget.”

“Sure we’ve known each other for a long enough, call me ‘Molly.’”

“Thank you again, Molly. You may call me ‘Joachim.’”

“Why certainly, Yockin…Yuckum… I think I shall call you ‘Jack.’”

At this the cure sputtered in fustian dudgeon, “But, but, my name is ‘Joachim!’ Better you call me Zizzendorf than such a ridiculous name as 'Yack' like one of your pimps!”

“Better I call ye a pribblin’ onion-eyed, rump-fed apple-johnny then ! I hope the devil shrivels ye, if there be any carrot ye possess to shrivel!” I said with much heat, more ashamed of me softness for allowing meself to get dewy-eyed o’er that priggish cabbage-eater.

And so off they went with these dark men into the gloom of the woods.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

I directed that the carriage take us but a brief span into the woods, to the sight of the Reverend Hadley’s grave, thinking that place remote and private enough for any clandestine discourse but close enough to the village so that aid might readily be at hand. I also believed that Messers Smythe and Johnstone would be unfamiliar with the place and so at a disadvantage if they meant me harm. Finally, having blessed the spot a few days afore, I believed that it would be free from the more unnatural dangers that marked the woods.

I need not have been concerned for the two gentlemen proved to be solicitous for the success of my endeavor.

Smythe was the elder and more loquacious of the two, “We are servants to a certain group of interested gentlemen in London who have a strong desire to remain anonymous but have joined to study and impede the growth of evil in our world.”

I inquired, “Before we proceed, I must know if these gentleman are of the King’s Party.”

“We were given to understand that you were neutral in regard to the current terrestrial conflict, Reverend? Nevertheless, rest assured that these gentlemen are concerned over matters beyond work-a-day politics, as such they answer neither to Lord North nor Whitehall.

“They have discovered that a conspiracy of certain individuals who are members of the Hellfire Club, supposedly a place for simple rakish debauchery but truly a mask for far darker purposes. This Club is chaired by a certain Lord Ruthven, a gentleman of great wealth but even greater ambition. It is said that he seeks to increase his power and influence by any means including the infernal. Of late, it has been discovered that he is endeavoring to obtain mastery over a very powerful creature of diabolical origin found in the woods of this province. We had been following his agent, a Mr. Varney, but had lost his trail. Fortunately, we had called upon Lord Cornwallis’ headquarters and from him learned of your work here.”

Feeling that these two men were in earnest, I related to them the course of our investigations, including the fact that the demon had been stirring for some time, had committed numerous murders, and seemed upon the verge of complete liberty.

This last intelligence genuinely troubled them and they offered any assistance
I required, they having some “small talent” in matters occult. I told them of my plan to reestablish the system of watches against the devil. So, with a vast sense of relief, we returned to the village.

Upon return, the gentlemen dismissed themselves. I offered as a test for them to stay in Reverend Hadley’s house, but they declined, perhaps having some report of the strange occurrences there. They reported they had taken a room at Bulfinches but that the Squire Dalby offered them to stay in his large home. Not wishing to rub shoulders with the Hessian soldiery, they had accepted.

Zizzendorf and I returned to the church where I intended our party to remain for the night, not wishing to add to our troubles by remaining in Hadley’s house. I discovered that most of the party had retired to the vestry and were enjoying a large pot of stew. All, that is, save Major Zagloba who was trussed up and tied to the rear door and the Prince and Yap, who the others informed me, were off in search of corn cobs.

A Questionable Repast

Just as we had finished, the sound of a large explosion shattered the night…

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

As the Reverend and the Prussian bombast went off, I decided that we should we set about obtaining victuals for we had not eat in near two days.

I reckoned that, with Bullfinch’s short of provender due to the plague of Zagloba, we would have to go abegging from the villagers. The Prince ‘twould have been naught but a sore trial in this endeavor so I sent him off in search of the village privies telling him we twould be needing corn for our rations. So off he went and Yap followed after just to make sure he fell not into any of the jakes.

Asking Fenniman to assist me, I then had Major Zed perk up his nose to determine where we might search for food. Sure twas better than having a pack of scent hounds. For he ran like a shot, sniffing the air and crying out “Delicious!”

He ran to the smith’s shop were we found Madame Froggy-bottom who had ensconced herself with numerous glass vials a brewing. Major Zed inquired most eagerly if she might be distilling a concoction of brandy. When she replied that it twas not brandy but some alchemical vitriol, one founded in the element of water intended to work against the infernal creature, Major Zed’s disappointment knew no bounds.
With her was Doctor McC who was working upon a pumping apparatus, using springs to force a plunger into a piston. He intended that the piston, being fed with water, preferable blessed for the occasion of fighting the devil, would shoot said water a fair distance so as to avoid the hurt that Reverend L had got for coming too close to sprinkle upon the demon.

The smith was casually looking on, his concern for his shop no doubt assuaged by the Louis d’Ors that Madame Frogpond dropped in his lap.

Stifling his disappointment, Major Zed left off but soon caught wind of a smell, coming from a small stone house at the northeast edge of the village. Off he ran, yapping like a Talbot Hound.

As we approached the house, we all noted the oddity of the structure, for each window was blocked by a blackened shade and that tacked around the interior of the window so that no light could be admitted and no view ascertained.

While Fenniman and I were troubled with this, Major Zed determined to feed his never-ending hunger and ever-growing girth. As he was about to give o’er and knock upon the door, not listening to reason, Fenniman clouted him upon the pate with his rifle butt. There was a slight tremor of the earth as the fat mound of Zed collapsed into the road.

“What shall we do, now?” I asked.

Fenniman replied, “Let’s drag this here carcass back to the meeting house and leave him there. Then, we can come back and take a more slinking look at this here house.”

Now truly was the thing more easily said than done. We heaved and hawed and with greatest difficulty, despite the well-slicked bulk, we got him only a few yards from the door to this house.

Whilst we were so engaged, the door to the house opened and an old woman, kindly looking enough, poked her head out. I recognized her as Mrs. Shrouds, one o’ the ladies who we had encountered in the Hadley house when we had first arrived.

She squeaked a bit when she saw us and then said, “I thought I had heard a noise. Good heavens, that is the Prince’s aide is it not! Do not tell me the Prince and his party came to abuse me again?”

“Nay, nay,” I assured her. “The Major here is just in his cups and we are taking him to sober up.”

Well I could not have given her a better score to pluck her harp upon for now she treated us to fine oration of the theme of “Oh how dread is the sin of drunkenness.”
Now I had been sermonized to by some of the best bible-whackers, Reverend L included. So I was not about to put up with a mere amateur.

I interrupted, “No, the poor Major had just a wee bit of a dram but since we had not eat in two days, sure it went right to his knob.”

The old hag clucked a bit but she went into the house and brought out a largish cauldron brimming with as fine smelling a stew as e’er I had sniffed.

As I took up the pot and offered my thanks, I asked, “Why is it that you keep your windows draped so?”

She looked about and said in a whisper, “To prevent the devil from being able to peer in, of course.”

I thought with all the power of Satan within him the Pine Devil was not likely to use it to play the Peeper Tom to such a shriveled old pod as Mrs. Shrouds, but I kept me tongue.

Fenniman and I ran with the stew pot to the church, leaving the prostrate Major Zed behind, intending to return for him after we had eat.

Lo, when we arrived, there was Major Zed waiting at the door and his hands outstretched to grasp the stewpot. Afore I could say a word, Fenniman applied his rifle butt again and Major Zed tottered a bit and said, “Stop doing that!” and then keeled over into the snow. We tied him to the post at the rear of the church and retired to the vestry to eat.

Now all this while, Yap allowed the Prince to traipse all about the village, gathering up corn cobs from a variety of privies. They finally arrived at the outbuilding behind the Bullfinch tavern. In the luxury of a four-seated privy, the Prince settled in to enjoy, what he called, “some contemwative time in my thwone woom.”

Yap, in much dudgeon, waited outside.

Then he noticed that the Hessians were drinking in the common room of the tavern. He went in to seek a bit of comfort but mostly to be free of the Prince’s chattering for a moment.

The Hessians greeted him with jeers for being a Musselman, asking how many wives he had.

When Yap replied that he had none, they jibed him as one of those who does not prefer women.

Thus they jested o’er much until Yap produced one of his sharply folded letter and flung it at the head of the loudest of his tormentors. It clipped the cockade neatly from his hat.

Then, to their surprise, Yap quaffed a huge flagon of ale, slamming it on the table saying “Allah be praised. I never said I was a particularly good Muslim. If you spend any time with the Prince, you’d understand even the most temperate man would be driven to drink.”

Of course, this led to more drinks with the Hessians being most agreeable by now.

In the midst of this, Yap noticed through the corner of his eye a figure in a long cloak that first furtively descended the steps from the upper floor and then crept out the front door. Now suspicion is something of a hazard of being a Ruritanian postman and secret policeman. So Yap got up and went after the mysterious stranger. Sure Allah or Fortune must have favored him for as soon as he set foot upon the green, a great explosion rocked the whole village, and the upper floor of the inn was consumed into a great flaming ball of fire.

The End of the Bullfinch

He glanced up and saw the cloaked figure begin to run across the green. Then it produced a large broom from 'neath its cloak, straddled it, and took flight over the nearby roofs.

“How?” he inquired to himself.

We who were just finishing our supper were knocked near arsy-varsy by the blast. We all jumped to and ran out, Fenniman remembering to cut Major Zed loose. Of course, this was not a mercy for the fat man who, as soon as he saw that twas the whole tavern had gone up in flames, he left out a cry worse than a banshee and burst into slobbering tears.

Yap, who had been knocked down, jumped up and ran back into the inn. A moment later, he came out dragging the Hessian Lieutenant and saying this was the only survivor, the Bullfinches and the rest of the Hessians were dead.

At this, a look of dread came upon the face of the Reverend.

The Doctor came up and seeing the sorry state that Yap and Major Zed were in, inquired about the Prince.

From the yard behind the tavern, where most of the debris from the upper storey had crashed, came a figure, with smoke blackened face and his hair blasted back from his head in weird array and his fine clothes besmirched with having been forcibly dropped into the privy . It was the Prince.

“Don’t twy wighting a pipe in the thwone woom, especiawwy aftew you bweak wind!”

The great ditherin’ pigeon egg was of course not harmed in any other way.

The Reverend got another odd look on his viz and shouted to Ziz and Fenniman to get horses. He said that they would ride to the house of Bullfinch’s eldest son for he feared another killing there. In a moment, Ziz produced them, although only the lead horses from the carriage and they unsaddled.

They rode off fearing the worse.

Except of Letter to Lieutenant Jonathan Longwynde from the Reverend Samuel Longewynde

Just after we had left the village green, we encountered a distraught young woman was running down the road, crying and weeping piteously. I knew immediately the cause of her distress.

I said, “Mrs. Bullfinch, what has happened to your husband?”

The surprise of my question seemed to calm her somewhat.

“My John was struck down, killed. A knock came upon our door and he answered. Without a word, the person, who was heavily cloaked struck him to the heart with a blade.

I had Zizzendorf take her to Mrs. Dalby to look after her. I then proceeded to their house that lay but a quarter of a mile from the green.

The door stood ajar and I could see a body lying therein.

He had been a big man in the prime of young manhood and handsome. Here he was now, struck down because he had the accident of being born the son of a good man, also now dead along with his wife and other son.

When I examined the killing wound, I easily saw that he had been cut by no ordinary blade. I recognized the jagged mark of Hecate’s Wand, a branch hardened with numerous spells so that it struck true and would kill in a moment.

The assassins were not simple killers.

Excerpt from A Hussy’s Progress, the Autobiography of Moll Daggett

Chapter the Fourth
How I Become an Honest Woman, Continued

The whole of the village was there, attempting to douse the fire but ‘twas clear this would be but a gesture to the late Bullfinch for the tavern was doomed.

Then there was Madame Toadstool at me arm, peering, and a sniffling like one of them mushroom-hunting French pigs.

She mumbled then, half to herself, “There is a certain tinge of the electric in the smoke and a scent not natural, no? This was not gunpowder nor was it alchemie moderne but some artifice of magic. Whoever did this was a student of ancient lore.”

“A witches brew, I have seen the like used in Scotland,” offered Mr. Smythe.

Of course, twas not wise to have this discourse within the hearing of the Prince. For that tickle-brained worthy piped up, “Witches? I have hunted witches in my time as well as wampyws. I have even twained my hounds to fowwow the scent of withces as weww!”

The knobby-brained giglet then leapt onto the back of Bucephalus and shouted, “Come Wiwkes! Come Bawwe. The game is a shoe!”

“’Foot’, Highness, ‘the game is a afoot,” you great slobbering pillock!” said Zed as we all charged off after the young scut.

As we ran, Major Zed explained that in the royal family, the eldest was heir to the throne, next was given to the Church and the Grand Bobo of Stelzov was in fact Leopold’s elder brother. After that, it became a chore to determine how to occupy the spare sons. Most went into the army. Some who were particularly irksome were giving the job of Royal Exterminator, trained to eliminate the most bothersome of pests, such as silver fish, earwigs, and werewolves. Thus Leopold had some skill in the tracking of vampires and witches which were somewhat common in the rural parts of Ruritania, especially in a region called Leutonia, of which our clod-brained bum-bailey was titled Duke.

The loggerheaded lumpkin ran up the street and didn’t the dogs halt at Old Mrs. Shrouds’ house, she of the delicious stew.

Afore any of us could say tother, Leopold has his steed give a stout knock and down dropped the door. The fen-sucked dewberry then charged into the house.

The Witch Hunter General of Leutonia

He saw at the fire, an old crone in a long dark cloak, throwing an oddly shaped branch into the fire. She glanced over at a broom that sat in the corner.

“Mrs. Cwackneww?” asked the lumpkin-brained Leopold, somehow remembering the old crone he had terrified when first we arrived at Hadley’s.

Twas then it struck me that the Prince had called her a witch even then. Dear God! Could the ninnyhammer actually be perceptive in things occult?

There was no time to contemplate this further, we heard tumult a plenty coming from the house.

The prince had brought his horse into the hall and put himself betwixt the hag and her broom.

She shook her head and with a puff of smoke transformed into a tiny mouse. Despite the noble Bucephalus trying to stomp it, the witch-mouse managed to squeeze through a tiny hole to the outside. It scurried from the house.

The Prince began to sing and several dozen squirrels descended from the trees in pursuit of the thing. The hounds too broke and ran after, baying something fearful.
Never expecting such a gang to be after her, the mouse fled into the trees with the other animals in hot pursuit and the Prince shouting, “View hawwooo!”

By this time, the Reverend and Zizz had returned and joined us as we charged into the woods behind the Shrouds’ house.

We came upon the Prince and his hounds, all three baying, at the foot of a tall oak tree. The mouse had run up the tree and was fending off a horde of squirrels. The witch then turned herself from mouse into a great black crow, and squawked at the first squirrel to come towards her, slashing with a wicked claw. This gave her the chance to fly off and out of the tree she went.

Just as she did so, she was struck by a blast of cold water, fired from Dr. McC. water cannon. The water drenched her wings which quickly turned to ice in the cold weather and the crow plummeted heavily to the ground. In a moment, the dogs were on her, pawing and rooting. Perhaps realizing that her mortal form was doomed, she turned insubstantial and left her body, a living ghost.

Reverend L produced his bible, and said, “Ghost shall you now be excised!” He thus began shouting a prayer of exorcism. Even with all the tumult and confusion we had suffered that night, I must give the Reverend L his due, for that exorcism prayer twas as fine a spirit-pipin as I e’er heard. The witch-ghost seemed to shrink back from him as he spoke.

But then, just as sudden, the ghostly apparition grew in size and took on an aspect as fearsome as the taxman on collection day. The thing’s face formed a hideous, worm-eaten skull that thrust right towards us. I felt near to dying with the fear of it and I twas not alone. Most of us retreated a bit away from the terrible visage. Worst afeard was young Mr. Johnstone who I later learned was new to this game. The dogs and the squirrels ran off, whining and chattering as they went. Only the Reverend, Mr. Smythe, and Zizzy stood steadfast against the foul spirit, the latter no doubt from shear stupidity and dullness rather than any true courage.

Our withdrawing gave the ghost-witch some respite and it wended its ghostly path away from us through the woods. However, the Reverend was not to be denied his labors. He kicked his mount into motion, crying the prayer of banishment all the while. As he rode, we could here a screeching unearthly cry echoing through the trees. We all gathered up our pluck and followed after. Finally, the caterwauling ended and
I saw the ghost’s vapory form shredded like a morning mist and the thing was gone, sent to a rightly deserved place in Hell.

The Reverend collapsed from his horse in exhaustion. When we approached, he said all was well, the banishing of such creatures always took a toll, and that he would be well in a few moments. But I could see a distress in his eyes and he shook visibly as he walked with us out the woods.

We returned to Old Hag Shrouds’ house. There was Madame Snail-eater coming out the place. She reported that she found all manner of foul things within, the walls lined with all the stuff of witchery. Of especial note was the discovery of several things the high folks called “Devil’s Stones” for to be used in the tormenting of innocents. These were to be buried beneath or totherwise secreted within a house to cause night terrors and other disturbances of the soul, attract evil spirits and the like, and to cause the rot of any perishables therein.

We recollected that the three crones, that is Shrouds, Butcher, and the presumed-late Cracknell, had been in Hadley’s house, claiming they had been cleaning the place. Twas then that they, no doubt, had placed such stones therein, causing all our torments. Of course, I still found it troubling that the only one of us that had suspicion of them was the doodle-brained clotpole Leopold.

Reverend L also surmised that an earlier placement of such stones was as like to be the cause that led Reverend Hadley to his self-murder.

Squire Dalby who had joined us after twas clear there was to be no saving of Bullfinch’s Tavern, confirmed that the three hags had lived in the village for as long as he could recall and that they had lived together in Shrouds’ house for many a year, they all being spinsters or widowed.

We were on our way to Hadley’s house to confirm our suspicions of the stones when I felt a great agitation in my guts. The world went to spinning and I felt worse than the morning after I had drunk the better part of a gallon of back-alley-distilled Strip Me Naked Gin. As we passed o’er the village green, first Fenniman, then Madame Toad-muncher, and then Doctor McC, all fell to their knees and set to heaving their guts upon the sward.

The Reverend L who had been leading us, turned with a look of near panic upon his face and then he too fell in swoon upon the cold ground.

I then reckoned that we had all eat the stew provided us by the foul crone Shrouds. But that was the last thought I had ere the lights about me failed and I fell into total blackness…