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The Great Horn of Pokesleigh (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“I have anticipated great interest in the origins and history of the Great Horn of Pokesleigh,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CLXXXV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. In Chapter CLXXXIV, the village blacksmith blew the horn to disperse a dangerous peasant revolt throughout Scurveyshire.

“The Great Horn of Pokesleigh has been kept by the smiths of Scurveyshire–real smiths, I mean, not just people named Smith–since the year 818 A.D., when King Alfred the Great gave it to Mandrake, First Earl of Scurveyshire. He was also the last earl, as the result of a tragic accident with gumballs, and the Horn was left in his will to Horny Tom the Blacksmith, to make up for unpaid bills.

“Throughout history the Horn has been blown to ward off dire emergencies. It is said William the Conqueror was deathly afraid of it. Before the incident described so vividly in Chapter CLXXXIV of my epic romance, Oy, Rodney, the last time the horn was blown was in 1678, to end a plague of click beetles.

“The Horn is said to be a genuine prehistoric woolly rhinoceros horn overlaid with pure gold contributed by the Saxon Ladies’ Garden Club in 993 and engraved with mystic pictures of centaurs, unicorns, and strangely disturbing not-quite-human faces. It takes a mighty man to blow it, and he will never be the same afterward. In 1484, blacksmith Big Ned Wigwam blew it to avert a catastrophic battle in the Wars of the Roses and was hanged by Richard III, who had had big plans for that battle. Other smiths came to equally bad ends. This has discouraged them from blowing the horn just to whoop it up for New Year’s.”

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All of this is very interesting, but it does nothing to get Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s foot healed so he can marry Lady Margo Cargo.

Meanwhile, the complete re-upholstering of Lady Margo’s sprawling country house continues, despite some over-zealousness on the part of the upholsterers. An attempt to upholster the aquarium housing Oswin the Crayfish had to be vetoed at the last minute, before any real damage could be done.

We are not told what “Pokesleigh” is or was.


My, er, Sales

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I got my quarterly book sales figures, a couple of days ago. The less said about those, the better. You’d think the gaudy covers would attract more readers. But I guess people have to see them first.

Riding my bike this morning, I was stopped by an old one-eyed, one-legged man on a crutch. He had a snow-white beard and was dressed in ragged robes. But he claimed to be clairvoyant, so I paused to listen to his predictions.

“You will embark on a long sea voyage which will never get to where it’s going,” he said, “and at the end of it, you will not be elected president. Ooh, wait! You won’t be going to sea, after all. I wonder if I should have said ‘going to seed.’

“You will meet a man who will have no influence on your life. He will ignore you, and you will ignore him.

“When you turn the next corner, you will come to a hill. You will pedal up the hill and then coast back down.” I didn’t think much of that prediction. I pedal up that hill, and coast down it, several times a week.

“That will be twenty dollars, please,” he added. Before I could hit upon any kind of witty reply, he disappeared. That saved me twenty dollars.


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.”


Ms. Crepuscular’s Estonian Folk Tale (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CLXXXI of Violet Crepuscular’s interminable epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we get the pleasant little Estonian folk tale we were promised in Chapter CLXXX. It is intended to tide us over while Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s foot heals from being accidentally shot by the American adventurer, Willis Twombley.

We are not convinced that this is a genuine Estonian folk tale, but it will have to suffice.

Once upon a time, King Patrick of Estonia had three daughters but no sons. Needing a male successor, the king advertised in the newspapers for suitable princes to marry his daughters. Meanwhile, he questioned his daughters to see which of them loved him the most.

“I love you so much, O father of mine, that it makes my socks roll up and down,” said the eldest, Princess Jackie.

“That’s nothing,” said the second eldest, Princess Foozle. “If every ant in India brought me a gold doubloon, it still wouldn’t be enough to buy my love for you. And there are an awful lot of ants in India!” We are assured that “Foozle” is a genuine Estonian girl’s name of great antiquity, but we are at liberty not to believe it.

But the youngest, Princess Chimney, answered, “I guess I love you as much as I’m supposed to. I mean, you’re okay.” Outraged by this answer, the king marries Chimney off to a beggar with dandruff. Meanwhile, he marries Jackie to the Duke of Flatbush and Foozle to Prince Huitzilxochitl of Kizzuwatna.

(“It’s jist the kinda thing them dam’ Hittites always used to do,” interjects Twombley. “Asia Minor went to pot when they moved in.”)

The two eldest princesses turned against their father and divided up his kingdom, putting him on public assistance.

But Chimney’s husband turned out to be the Emperor of Peedle in disguise. His fantastically large army conquered Estonia and restored King Patrick to his throne, and sent the now-impoverished elder daughters and their husbands into a humiliating exile. They were last seen begging for food in Detroit.

“And that,” concludes Ms. Crepuscular, “was enough to make the king leer!”

 


The Return of Lord Nodule (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Lord Nodule, former Justice of the Peace for Scurveyshire, has threatened to interfere with Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s wedding to Lady Margo Cargo, and is rather miffed that the wedding keeps getting postponed. In Chapter CLXXX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, he has just returned from an inspection of the Andaman Island penal colony.

“They do things right, out there,” he says. “The place is a regular hell-hole.” To make his point more telling, he bounces up and down on a pogo stick. The owner of the local bicycle shop fears that this may start a fad and impact adversely on his business.

“Germy, we got to do somethin’ about old Nodule,” says Jeremy’s friend, Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad. “What say I plug him one?” He flourishes his trusty Colt. It goes off accidentally and shoots Lord Jeremy in the foot.

“Now see what you’ve done!” cries Lord Jeremy, hopping on his uninjured foot. “How am I supposed to get married on one foot?”

“I’m awful sorry, ol’ hoss. Well, maybe it’ll grow back. I seen that once. The king of Assyria cut off his foot while he was peelin’ onions, and eventually it growed back. ‘Tweren’t as good as the old foot, but he could hobble around on it okay. But that’s why they ain’t allowed to sell onions in Assyria.”

Lady Margo has a better idea. “You should have the bad foot amputated, my dear, and replaced with a nice new wooden one, beautifully upholstered, like my leg.” Her upholstered leg has a bad habit of falling off at inopportune moments, but Lord Jeremy is too tactful to mention that.

Lord Nodule hops all the way to the hospital on his pogo stick, just so he can threaten Lord Jeremy some more. “I can hardly wait for your wedding night!” he sneers. “Will I have a surprise for you!”

So Twombley shoots him. They explain it away as a pogo stick accident. Constable Chumley is sympathetic. “Many’s the loor in a fathin’ veeth,” he says, quoting a wise old Scurveyshire proverb.

“I promise to present the wedding as soon as Jeremy’s foot is healed,” Ms. Crepuscular reassures her readers. “Meanwhile, the next chapter will tide you over with a pleasant little folk tale from Estonia.”

We can hardly wait.

 

 


Obstacles to the Wedding (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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As we learn in Chapter CLXXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, the course of true love never did run smooth. “Everybody thinks Shakespeare said that,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “but I am sure this observation is original with me.”

Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire, has consented to marry Lord Jeremy Coldsore of Coldsore Hall. She has also consented to marry Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who think he’s Sargon of Akkad. They have convinced her that they are one and the same person. And the vicar, having emerged from his conniptions with no memory of how he came to have them, is eager to perform the rites.

But the problem is, where to have the wedding. Lady Margo’s vast country house is being thoroughly re-upholstered, so they can’t go there. Coldsore Hall, because Twombley has concealed there the bodies of so many of Lord Jeremy’s creditors, now has a rather unpleasant smell to it. And The Lying Tart is out because everyone is afraid that the ancient sorceror, Black Rodney, will turn up as an uninvited guest and put a curse on the lot of them.

“I know the ideal place!” says the vicar. “Right here in my back yard, beside the wading pool. With nice weather, it’ll be perfect–an outdoor wedding.”

But Constable Chumley says the wading pool, scene of so many inexplicable tragedies, is off limits. “Thain a bickle maunty, goin’ by shimbly more!” is his ominous warning.

A mysterious stranger arrives with a cart purporting to contain the frozen body of a Pithecanthropus. He looks much like a Pithecanthropus himself. He sets up in the common without a word to anybody.

“Betcha he’s Black Rodney,” Twombley says. “We had a few of those Pitha-whatchamacallums back in Babylonia, and they was all fake. Yer the Justice of the Peace around here, Germy. Why don’t you have him thrown in jail?”

“Because I need this wedding, and I need it now!” growls Jeremy. “More creditors are coming out of the woodwork, and if I don’t marry into Lady Margo’s money, I’ll lose my ancestral home. My grandfather never should have invested all his money in that disastrous polar expedition in which everybody died and the ship wound up in Aruba!”

The chapter concludes with a recipe for boiled grass.


Election Results! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CLXXII of her epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular discovers that she has forgotten to report the results of Scurveyshire’s special election for a Member of Parliament. “Can you do any better?” she challenges the reader.

The good news is that Lady Margo Cargo has won the election, handily defeating the town drunkard, who received no votes. Lady Margo got three. It seems the voters forgot about the election, too. The bad news is that she will not be allowed to serve.

“It goes back to a law from the time of King Charles II,” explains the crown solicitor, whose name is not given, but he looks rather like Boris Karloff in The Mummy. The law states that no one with any Manchu ancestry can hold a seat in Parliament. It was passed in deference to the king’s bosom friend, Sir Alfred Bosom, who suffered from Manchuphobia. And the record shows that Lady Margo’s family tree includes one Liu Ching-Erh, a Manchu mountebank who visited the shire in 1631 and found time for an amorous dalliance with the Countess of Shrubb, a very distant relative of Lady Margo’s great-great-great aunt’s cousin twice removed. “Sorry, M’lady,” says the solicitor. He looks so awful when he says this, that Lady Margo’s newly-upholstered wooden leg falls off.

Meanwhile, the whole shire is abuzz with the news of a great black “R” burned into the back door of everybody’s favorite tavern, The Lying Tart–taken as a sure sign that the ancient necromancer, Black Rodney, has returned.

Dusting the door for fingerprints, but not finding any, Constable Chumley sadly shakes his head and soliloquizes, philosophically, “Shork my bains, ’tis a right true findle in meggidy droom, this time!” A hue and cry is gotten up, but it goes nowhere.


Crusty’s Trombone Lessons (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CLXX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, Lord Jeremy Coldsore is back to courting Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire. They have to meet in Lady Margo’s kitchen: the upholsterers are busy re-upholstering all the furniture in the house, and there’s no room anywhere else. Lord Jeremy notices that even some of the bowls have been upholstered.

“We really must set a date for our marriage, my love,” says Lord Jeremy, who desperately needs Lady Margo’s wealth to save Coldsore Hall from his creditors. “My love for you is so intense, I can think of nothing else. Oh! Your eyes are like ripe olives in a martini mixed by Venus!”

“How romantic!” Lady Margo sighs–then pauses to re-adjust her wooden leg. It has not fit snugly since her crusty old butler, Crusty, had it reupholstered.

“My love, my pigeon, your elbows are–”

He is interrupted by what sounds like a dragon with its tail caught in a wringer.

“What the deuce is that!”

“It’s nothing, dear. Just Crusty teaching himself to play the trombone.” Blaaaap! Honk! “He wishes to play it at the wedding. He doesn’t want to spend money on hiring musicians.” Whonk! Oooop!

“It’s horrible!” Jeremy shudders.

Before he can say any more, the door slams open. It’s the vicar’s nursemaid, Mrs. Froth.

“Lady Margo! Lord Jeremy! The vicar has emerged from his conniptions! He’s wide awake, and calling for ox-tongue stew with marmalade–and we have no ox-tongues! Please come quickly, I don’t know what to do with him!”

They find him sitting up in bed with a pair of pinking shears, cutting his sheet into amusing but not altogether wholesome shapes.

“Ah, Lord Jeremy and Lady Margo!” he exclaims. “I trust your wedding ceremony was satisfactory–money back if it wasn’t.”

“We haven’t had it yet, sir,” says Jeremy. “You’ve been indisposed. Do you remember what you saw that gave you conniptions?”

The vicar thinks it over, shrugs. “Can’t say that I do. Had it something to do with an incredibly horrifying mass of staring eyes and writhing tentacles?”

At this point Ms. Crepuscular digresses, treating the reader to a list of her childhood playmates who turned out very badly when they grew up. We are unable to account for this, and here the chapter ends.


The Danger Next Door

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Imagine my trepidation when I looked out the window today and found that the people next door had set up a wading pool. One of the great works of world literature warns against this very thing.

I will do my best to remain a safe distance from it. You see, it’s not what’s in the wading pool that’s dangerous, but what may be under it. Burrowing. Crawling. Lurking. You try to walk past it, you get too close, and that’s that, you’re history. They’ll never know what became of you.

For readers who haven’t got the foggiest idea of what I’m talking about, visit the Archives and read some Oy, Rodney episodes.


Scurveyshire’s Special Election (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CLXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, Lady Margo Cargo has been persuaded by her crusty old butler, Crusty, to stand for Parliament. A special election is being held because the shire’s beloved old Member of Parliament, “Old Binky” Boggington, has been sucked under the vicar’s backyard wading pool.

“But what about our wedding, my sweet?” cries Lord Jeremy Coldsore.

“It’ll have to wait, my dear. One must do one’s duty! Although how I’m supposed to stand for Parliament, when I can hardly stand at all, what with all the upholstery Crusty has had put on to my wooden leg, is more than I know.” As if to illustrate her point, she falls over.

“Don’t worry, Germy, ol’ hoss,” says Willis Twombley, the American adventurer. He, too, is waiting to be wed to Lady Margo–who thinks he and Lord Jeremy are the same man. “All we got to do is find somebody to run against her who’ll be so popular with the voters, Lady Margo will just give up. Then we’ll get hitched right away.”

The problem is that no one seems to want to be a candidate. Finally Lord Jeremy’s search boils down to Grubby the town drunkard. There is some doubt whether Grubby was fully conscious when he agreed to run.

“I don’t want to give any speeches, though,” he says, after being dipped in ice-cold water several times. “I don’t know how to write no speeches.”

“Constable Chumley has offered to write them for you, old boy,” says Jeremy. He has had to pay the constable rather handsomely for this service.

“Aye, m’lord, ’tis mickle dowd I be.” It seems the constable already has a speech written, but as yet never delivered, entitled Yon Shire be Gimple Yair o’ Fuddle. It was originally intended for a police bar mitzvah several years ago.

“We’re in, ol’ hoss!” exults Twombley. “I got him to read the speech to me, and I do like the sound of it! Sort of reminds me of Millard Fillmore’s inaugural address, way back when. Anyone who sounds like President Fillmore can get elected any day of the week! We’ll be married before you can say ‘Hut to pee an’ smooth sailin’.”

The chapter closes with Lord Jeremy feeling rather confused.


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