The Crayfish Food Hullabaloo (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCLXXXII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney (we are not told what happened to Chapter CCCLXXXI–must’ve been a non-starter), Violet Crepuscular reveals that the two rival Scotland Yard detectives have succeeded in framing each other for the theft of the locomotive. Both are carted off to Newgate Prison, and Lord Jeremy finally comes down from the tree where he’s been hiding. All we are told about that is, “He came down like rain.” Only raindrops don’t wind up swathed in bandages from head to toe.

Constable Chumley is interrupted in dictating his memoirs to the Wise Woman of the Gaol by a controversy centered in the Scurveyshire pet shop, where Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty butler, Crusty, has been trying to buy food for his mistress’ pet crayfish, Oswin. Distracted by the rantings and ravings of the prisoner who has been moved from the jail to the pet shop, Crusty has mistakenly bought the wrong kind of food but now can’t get his money back. Unable to break up the argument, Constable Chumley arrests them both and brings them to Lord Jeremy’s bedside. Ms. Crepuscular has had a devilish time trying to type the word “bedside.” It keeps coming out “bedides” or “bdesdie,” etc.

“Ivver yon greeth wi’ hammels, m’lord,” Chumley explains.

Crusty and the shop owner, one Samuel Heathen, yell and scream at each other. As justice of the peace, Lord Jeremy has the power to put both of them to death. He is reluctant to use it, however. Lady Margo would never forgive him for having Crusty thrown to the shire’s ferocious pug dogs, and Mr. Heathen owes him several guineas.

“Can’t we all just get along?” he groans.

“This caitiff asked for King-Size Slo-Gro Depilatory Crayfish Food, and that’s what I sold him!” roars Mr. Heathen.

“I never asked for Slo-Gro! I asked for Go-Gro!” growls Crusty.

With wisdom rivaling Solomon’s, Lord Jeremy faints.

The matter will be taken up again, Mr. Crepuscular assures us, in the next exciting chapter.

Constable Chumley’s Memoirs (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXXX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular candidly confides in her readers, “Dear Reader, I would not wish you to form the impression that life in Scurveyshire is one of unremitting stress. Normal things happen, too.” She has apparently forgotten the two Scotland Yard detectives who are trying to frame each other for the theft of a locomotive.

One of these soothingly normal things that are happening is, as the chapter’s title might suggest (although you can never be entirely sure about what Ms. Crepuscular’s titles really indicate)–ta-dah! Constable Chumley is writing his memoirs.

Having forgotten how to read and write, he is actually dictating them to the Wise Woman of the Woods, who is now the Wise Woman of Scurveyshire Gaol: she likes it there and refuses to return to the forest.

“Willaday yaither mon greezen hoy, dray boddy, ma’ doon,” he begins. After an hour of listening to this–the Wise Woman peppers the constable with questions about spelling and grammar, which he is not equipped to answer–the prisoner in the adjacent cell goes totally mad and has to be moved to the pet shop. There he encounters Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, who has been sent to buy crayfish food for his mistress’ pet crayfish, Oswin.

“Can’t anyone stop that man from raving?” he inquires testily: for the prisoner is still quite beside himself. The shop owner only shrugs. “It seems Constable Chumley’s discourse is too much for this poor chap,” he says. “Do you want regular Crayfish Chow, or menthol?”

“Menthol,” grumbles Crusty.

“King-size or Economy-size?” This goes on for longer than the chapter lasts.

The Bishop of Booh (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“Dear reader, we have come to a stressful time in Scurveyshire…” Thus Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCLII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. She then devotes several paragraphs to the feasibility of writing “a dental romance,” whatever that may be. A series of anonymous threats drags her back to the story line.

Scurveyshire’s beloved vicar having chained himself to his night-stand and refusing to leave, the Bishop of Booh arrives by oxcart to remove the vicar by force. Because he’s not a real bishop, he has to make do with an ordinary bathrobe and a birthday party hat. He wears a stern expression that would be unbearably daunting, but for the fact that he carries a stuffed monkey doll which he talks to from time to time. Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace, Constable Chumley, representing all that is inarticulate and confusing in the law of England, and Willis Twombley, the American adventurer, are on hand to welcome the alleged bishop.

“Now that you’re here,” says Twombley, “you can turn right around and go back to wherever you came from. We like our vicar jist the way he is, conniptions and all, and we aim to keep him.”

“See how the naughty man talks to Booh-Booh!” The bishop is addressing the doll. “But we know what to do with nefandous people, don’t we, Winkie?” He turns to Lord Jeremy. “I am here to repossess the vicar’s backyard wading pool for non-payment and to pack him off to Manchuria. Take me to the vicarage at once!”

Not knowing what else to do, Lord Jeremy conducts the bishop to the vicarage. The vicar seems them coming and starts screaming imprecations that really must not be repeated here. But the bishop has espied the wading pool and decides to inspect it. Constable Chumley tries to dissuade him.

“Noo, noo, yer thwither! Tis a mortal grathwy syne!”

“Out of my way, you pedipalp!” He clouts the constable with the monkey. There must be a brick in it or something: down for the count goes Chumley.

“I say!” cries Lord Jeremy. But the bishop is already on his way to the pool.

“I can barely describe the infernal horror of this scene!” writes Ms. Crepuscular. “I can’t bear it, I tell you!”

Here she interposes a chapter break to heighten the suspense. But we can probably guess what happens next.

 

Constable Chumley’s Pets (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCXXXVIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Constable Chumley is seen walking two baboons, on leashes, up and down on Scurveyshire’s High Street.

The baboons’ names are Fritzy and Bitzy and are a gift from the constable’s long-lost millionaire cousin, Sir Henry Blithering. Sir Henry has gotten rid of them because they tend to attack people, dogs, horses, and shade trees. Constable Chumley explains, “Thim’s fair throckin’ ye timbrith.”

In no time at all Lord Jeremy Coldsore, as justice of the peace, is snowed under with frantic demands to get rid of the baboons. He is sympathetic to those demands, having been severely bitten in the leg by Fritzy and pushed into a water-trough by Bitzy.

“Really, old boy, this won’t do!” he exclaims to the now-crestfallen constable. “I don’t often get the opportunity to describe anyone as ‘crestfallen,'” Ms. Crepuscular confides to the reader. “It’s quite exhilarating! And there’s another wonderful word that’s seldom published nowadays.”

Chumley has grown quite fond of the baboons, although they have bitten him innumerable times (“You should see all the bandages!”) and he has to lock them in the pantry overnight, or they will finish him off in his sleep. “Us medderin’ gree frath,” he answers Lord Jeremy. A tear trickles from his eye.

“Can’t you donate them to the circus?” Jeremy pleads. The suggestion reduces the constable to a sobbing fit, during which the baboons tear their leashes out of his hands and race off into the sunset. For the next four years they terrorize anyone foolhardy enough to try to pass through Plaguesby Wood.

“None of this is gettin’ us hitched to Lady Margo, Germy ol’ hoss,” remarks the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. Lady Margo thinks he and Lord Jeremy are the same person.

“I will end the chapter here,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “to heighten the suspense. But now it’s time for a cherry Coke with Frothee!”

That Business with the Mob of Peasants (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCXCIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular confides in her readers, “Let me confide in you, dear readers! I do wish Mr. Duigon had not said I was ‘in jail’! I was merely helping the police with their inquiries. They are trying to discover who, if anyone, poisoned Mr. Pitfall, and they now suspect everyone in the neighborhood–he is that unpopular. I hope they realize now that my toothpaste rolls couldn’t make anybody that sick!” She is a little miffed that none of the police officers was willing to try one himself.

Moving on to the chapter, she describes the grief and horror that overwhelmed all Scurvyshire when Mr. Percy Puce, F.R.S., the shire’s Resident Genius, disappeared below the vicar’s backyard wading pool as the result of a fall from a clandestine sliding board. Don’t ask me if that’s a suitable adjective for a sliding board. I just work here.

Provoked beyond measure, a mob of peasants armed with torches and pitchforks assembles at The Lying Tart. Why they should want torches in broad daylight is mystifying. Maybe it’s just a thing that mobs of peasants do.

“We’ll destroy the vicar’s wading pool if it’s the last thing we do!” vows the mob’s ringleader, button collecter Oswald Backdraft, Official Ringleader of the Peasants Benevolent Association. The mob rushes off to the vicar’s back yard and that’s the last anybody sees of them.

Hours later, word of the incident reaches Lord Jeremy Coldsore at Coldsore Hall, where they have just put the Marquess of Grone to bed.

“We’re going to run out of peasants at this rate!” ejaculates Lord Jeremy. (“It’s a perfectly permissible use of that verb!” insists Ms. Crepuscular. I just work here.) “Constable Chumley, you ought to have prevented this disaster!”

“Huish, M’lord, I deagle fair maundery this fleethin’,” parries the constable. He rushes off to The Lying Tart to see if he can find any clues at the bottom of a tankard of ale.

This still leaves five chapters, I think, to be written before catching up to Chapter CCC, which Ms. Crepuscular has written out of order. “I pledge myself to accomplish this,” she writes in a chapter-ending footnote, “provided I am left in peace!”

Yet More Unimaginable Peril (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“I write this chapter under some duress,” Violet Crepuscular confides in her readers, introducing Chapter CCLXIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “My neighbor Mr. Pitfall has forgiven me for poisoning him, but I fear he has developed some rather strange ideas about our relationship. I have written this chapter to distract him.”

Deeming it a potential public relations bonanza, Sir Henry Smedley-Foover has lent one of his life-size Iguanodon concrete pull-toys to Scurveyshire Village as a sacrifice to whatever entity lurks under the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard. Its enormous weight has required the combined efforts of every able-bodied villager to haul it into position by the wading pool.

“O, evil entity that lurks under this wading pool,” Sir Henry intones, with the whole village looking on and the vicar complaining about the damage to his lawn, “accept this sacrifice of our deluxe Iguanodon pull-toy, retail value 1,458 pounds and 13 shillings, and release your captives!”

“This is stupid,” mutters Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who believes himself to be Sargon of Akkad. Lord Jeremy Coldsore shushes him. “It’s the only way we’ve got to get Lady Margo back!”

For a full six hours, nothing happens. Just as everyone is preparing to go home before being called upon to drag the Iguanodon away, the pool gives a noisy shudder and out from under it struggles Constable Chumley–alone, without his bearers and askaris. He does look considerably the worse for wear.

“Constable!” cries Lord Jeremy. “Where the deuce is everybody else?”

Chumley replies in his quaint rural dialect which no one understands. “They be fair luftin’ all aboot yon cleefer blawn, m’lord!” he gasps. “Us fennies a reet great meshter.”

“I think he’s trying to say that unimaginable perils done ’em in,” says Twombley.

“But where is Lady Margo?” wails Jeremy. “Have you not rescued her?”

“Throck us nigh bittle ‘ee, m’lord!” The constable faints.

Meanwhile Lady Margo has finally emerged from the dreaded Scurveyshire Fens, never having been under the pool in the first place. Hopping all this way on one foot has gravely depleted her strength.

“I’m sure to be late for my own wedding!” she gasps.

At this point Ms. Crepuscular is interrupted by a peremptory pounding on her door, and most retreat to her hiding-place behind the sofa.

Lady Margo’s Error (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCXXXI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire, laments, “I always manage to make a hash of things!” That’s putting it mildly.

Confused by the incessant delays of her marriage to Lord Jeremy Coldsore and his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley–she thinks they’re the same person, and gets bewildered when they’re both in the room at the same time–and another marriage proposal from her butler, Crusty, Lady Margo has mistakenly married Constable Chumley.

It only happened because Lord Jeremy, the shire’s justice of the peace, was indisposed with a toothache, probably due to a spell cast by the medieval necromancer, Black Rodney: this time Johnno the Merry Minstrel was unable to find the applicable cuss bag, cunningly concealed in one of the pockets of the billiard table. By the time Johnno finds it, the damage is done.

With Lord Jeremy groaning in his bed, and Twombley temporarily prostrate with strong drink, the assistant justice, Master Roger Addlepate, who is also the assistant village idiot, steps in to perform the wedding. He meets the constable on his way to Lady Margo’s opulent country house and recruits him as the groom: there are plentiful gaps in his understanding of the situation.

“Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, etc.?”

“Wore the weevil in a sorthing mole,” declares the constable. He is actually thinking of a correspondence course in mole-ology, but Master Roger takes his answer as a “yes” and then pressures Lady Margo into going along with it. “Will you please hurry!” he cries. “I am late for a darts match at The Lying Tart!” Flustered, Lady Margo blurts out “Yes!” without knowing what she’s yessing.

“I now pronounce you man and wife!”

Crusty bursts into the parlor to put a stop to this nonsense, but he’s too late.

“What have you done, my lady?” he cries. Meanwhile, Chumley departs with Master Roger because he’s scheduled to play darts tonight, too.

“I think I’ve just married that man,” admits Lady Margo, in a hushed tone. “I’m not even sure which one.”

“Words fail me to describe this lamentable scene any further,” adds Ms. Crepuscular.

And the Winner Is—!

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Breaking news! Elijah has won the comment contest: he has posted Comment No. 33,000 on this blog, and has won an autographed copy of one of my books. Elijah, you’ve got to email me (or leave a comment) to tell me which book you want, and give me your address. Try not to ask for Bell Mountain, I’m just about out of those.

Here to present the award is Constable Chumley, from Scurveyshire.

“Ooh, thare freenin’ foal Elijah, mickle grandings feer ye bawntin’ yon comment contest!”

Constable Chumley Testifies in Kavanagh Hearings!

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Democrat Senators have been reduced to calling fictional characters to testify against Judge Brett Kavanagh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Already heard as witnesses against Kavanagh have been Captain Ahab, Betty and Veronica, and Tristram Shandy. But the star so far has been Constable Chumley of Scurveyshire, from Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

Asked by Senator Corey “Spartacus” Booker (D-Parallel Universe) whether Judge Kavanagh had ever harassed or molested any country maids in Scurveyshire during the reign of Queen Victoria, Constable Chumley answered vigorously–well, at least as vigorously as any fictional character can manage.

“Ooh, yeye, thar’ wee no thrickin’ bawn a-tall!” The Constable nods for emphasis. “I delly, footh, ’twas mair yon Kavanagh thoo’ briggle!” He went on in this vein for 90 minutes, no one daring to interrupt him.

The next witness, Ms. Violet Crepuscular herself, testified, “My feelings are the same as Constable Chumley’s.”

TOMORROW: Democrat Senators to call on characters from books and stories that haven’t been written yet.

The Peasants Are Revolting (‘Oy, Rodney)

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We must skip the next three chapters of Violet Crepuscular’s remarkable epic romance, Oy, Rodney, in which nothing happens. I don’t know why she wrote them. And she is fresh out of Estonian folk tales. These three chapters, she hints slyly, are the result of very bad weather in Scurveyshire.

In Chapter CLXXXIV, Lord Jeremy’s foot has healed after being accidentally shot by his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, and he is ready to proceed with their wedding to Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire. But then another problem crops up, which Lord Jeremy, as Justice of the Peace, must deal with: a full-scale peasant revolt.

“I didn’t even know we still had peasants in Scurveyshire!” he complains. “Where were they, all this time?”

“Constable Chumley says they came swarming out from under the vicar’s backyard wading pool,” his clerk informs him.

“What did he say exactly, man?”

The clerk pauses to search his memory. “As near as I can reconstruct them, sir, the constable’s exact words were ‘A farthy night, I thwill, yare greechins forthered a grambly riot up out of Arth itself, an’ wicky sump!'”

Meanwhile, the peasant mob, under the leadership of a masked man who looks like Desi Arnaz without the makeup, has overturned the ancient statue of Colonel Sanders in the village common and now surrounds The Lying Tart, demanding free beer. The landlord has been out of beer since Ms. Crepuscular ran out of folk tales, and fears for his life.

“This is Rodney’s doing,” opines Lady Margo. “If only I weren’t so busy with all the new upholstering at home, I’d flee to someplace nice.”

“Ol’ hoss,” says Twombley, “you better order the constable to disperse them peasants before somebody gits hurt. I ain’t got enough ammunition left to shoot ’em all.”

The constable having gone into hiding, a search ensues. They finally locate him at the constabulary’s station house, playing Scrabble with the prisoners. He has just gotten a triple word score for “Quixzorj.”

“Constable, I order you to disperse that mob of crazed homicidal peasants!” cries Lord Jeremy. Constable Chumley indicates by eloquent gestures that they will disperse themselves as soon as the town blacksmith blows The Great Horn of Pokesleigh.

“We shoulda thought of that,” remarks Twombley.

Even as he speaks, a horrible noise reminiscent of half a dozen giant ground sloths trapped in a tar pit comes roaring and grumbling across the landscape. As if by magic, the peasants drop what they’re doing and stampede out of the story. Scurveyshire is saved.

Adds Ms. Crepuscular, “I will not listen to carping comments to the effect that I have chosen a cheap way out of this dilemma. The Great Horn of Pokesleigh has a long history of being used in emergencies, and it’s not my fault if this fact is poorly known outside of Scurveyshire.”