Saturday, January 13, 2018

the road to the wicked city - 9. across the blasted heath


by jeremy witherington

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here





haltingly, snively began to tell the widow about the serpent as best he could…

“and there you have it, mum,” he concluded. “the follows thought it a good idea that i come out and … and test the serpent’s mettle, as it were.”

“i see,” the widow drawled after a long pause. “yes. i think i heard something about a great serpent when i moved in . why don’t you come in?” and she opened the door wider and snidely ducked under her shapely arm and into a short, dark corridor.

snidely bumped into a small table but the widow took no notice and led him down the corridor to a dimly lit little parlor.

lord salisbury and chancellor von bismarck were seated at a small table sipping tea.

the widow had snively repeat his tale to them.

neither spoke for a few moments after he concluded.

“sounds a lot of damned nonsense to me,” growled chancellor von bismarck. “what say you, salisbury?”

“repent, or else i will come to you quickly . revelations 2:16.”

“hmm. what say you to that, madam?” bismarck addressed the widow.

“i gave her time to repent…and she did not repent. revelations 2:21.”

“how about you, young fellow? do you have any pithy quotes from revelations, or from any scripture?”

“no, sir,” snively replied. “but i can quote some verses from vergil, the prince of poets.”

“spare us.” the chancellor proceeded to finish the remains of a jelly tart on the plate in front of him.

lord salisbury stroked his tremendous beard and addressed snively. “so, young fellow, what is your understanding of the direction this monster, or serpent, is heading? and what would be the best route to avoid it?”

“my understanding is that it will approach from the north, sir, across the moor.”

“from the north, eh?” lord salisbury continued stroking his beard. “hmmm. hmmm. well in that case we might be best advised to head south, i believe, yes, south. do you agree, chancellor?”

bismarck shrugged. “it seems as good a route as any. whether this monster exists, or is trying to trick us… or… or… i believe i will have another jelly tart. by the way, exactly what lies in the other direction from the so-called moors? more moors?”

“a blasted heath,” said the widow. “a very blasted heath. we would go past the school this young man is from, and then enter upon a blasted heath.”

lord salisbury turned to snively. “in any case, we have a dilemna. the chauffeur who brought us here has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. he seems to have turned into a bird and flown away, or a mouse and hidden in the walls, but in any case he is gone. can you operate a motorcar, young man?

“i can try, sir,” snively replied bravely.

“he doesn’t have to try,” said the widow. “i can drive the damned motorcar. i suggest both of you eminent personages finish your tea and tarts and we will be on our way.”

“please, mum” said snively, “if we pass bickenden and chitworth on their way back to the school, might we stop and pick them up - or at least pick bickenden up?”

“that seems an odd request,” said bismarck. “they seem to have treated you rather cavalierly.”

“please, sir,” snively repied, “though he has treated me a bit rudely at times, i often dream of bickenden being my best chum, and of us perhaps joining the french foreign legion , or becoming gauchos on the pampas.”

“stay away from the damned french,” bismarck began, but before he could continue the ground beneath the cottage began to shake.

“i suggest we get out to the motor car right now,” said the widow.

“may i take my jelly tart with me?” lord salisbury asked her.

“yes, but not the tea, we don’t want you spilling it all over - “

the ground began to shake more violently, and a hissing sound filled the air…….


10. the mountebank's dream



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