The Hare and the Hound
Unjust. A tale of unjust moral standards and social norms. Not told by the Tottenham Moors Travellers nor their easterly counter-parts, but the story of the eldest brother of them, the Lees, Jimmy Lee, told by me, his distant relation. All who knew of the scandalous affair spoke nothing of it, or refused to believe in its witchcraft. The Lees were a wild bunch of brothers. There were six of them – arrogant, bloodthirsty, illogical – all gamblers and brawlers with solid backbones. Yet, despite their image, what Jimmy did on the eve of 1921, is far from just and nobody believes in the affair except my late Mother who told me the tale.
You see, Jimmy was a man with a quick temper and quick fists. He wore a black bowler hat, leather gloves and bore a well-pronounced scar that bisected the jawline of his beard from a knife fight. He was short for his age: with a clubbed foot, snout for a nose, muscly arms and sharp ugly little eyes. Each afternoon, he and his brothers would march from their easterly camp through the tired dirty streets of East London to their battle cruiser, The Hare and the Hound on the corner of Prince Street. They would fight and smoke their way through bucket loads of booze and then return to their campsite. That New Year’s Eve however, they wouldn’t leave until they were all Oliver Twist, for the youngest brother Georgie was soon to be wed, and bind the family in kin to the Tottenham Moors Travellers, the eldest brother’s rivals. Slurring his words Jimmy threatened to take ultimate revenge against the North Londoners once and for all before they became family. And so the five younger brothers carried the stammering heap outside and beat, and kicked and bludgeoned the drunk, arms folded over its face, with their canes into the curb, leaving a great deal of claret on his coat. They returned to the pub and continued to drink the night away.
But the bruised, beaten and buffeted Jimmy had other ideas.
He wanted to see them all before the beak. They had chosen the bastards over real family, and they were all to be punished. But he was no grass so instead he fetched his hat and wrapped the bloody coat around him and limped with his clubbed foot back to their campsite where the bride-to-be and her mother were staying.
Jimmy slid into his sister-in-law’s caravan and took his fill. Unaware of her heritage, she was the youngest and most beautiful daughter of a gypsy sorceress. Once he had conducted his sordid revenge he gathered his things and readied himself to tell his brother of the unchaste bride to be and there, leaning before him in the doorway, was the sorceress shedding a single tear at the look of conceit in his black ugly eyes. She cursed the eldest Lee and changed him from the predator he was into a tame, wounded hare, seizing the Leoprid by the ears and tossing it clear across the barren dirt. It howled, loud and terrified for all to hear, but nobody came for the wounded hare until dawn.
Jimmy however, the sorceress herself took care of, fetching his cane, bowler hat and bloodied jacket, she wandered down to the train-line just west of the campsite and dropped his soiled things next to a single perfect lily.
On the morning of the wedding, the hare was ensnared by the brothers of Jimmy Lee. Georgie himself proposed to have a stew with it, but the young bride had an idea. Why shouldn’t the men make a bet? Who will outrun who in a spot of hare coursing? The hare or Jimmy Lee’s twin hounds? And as a gesture of goodwill the men fixed a wager between themselves, the two families soon to be bound in kin, and set the hare coursing across the fields by the ruined railway line. It was Georgie that noticed the bundle of rags as the wounded hare struggled over to the knoll. He thought nothing of it until after the wedding and decided to take a look. He mourned his brother’s loss and his part in the death but went on to lead a happy life; little did he know that in that snippet of time, as his eyes glazed over the bloody bundle and the hare, that it was Jimmy running for his life. But he turned, leant down on one knee and paused.
Then set the dogs on him.
Jimmy’s two greyhounds, Acti and Dinnah, were fast and loose on wet green and soon caught up with the wounded animal. Dinnah tearing at its throat with her long teeth, Acti chewing its main, it cried out in agony as the terror of the night before came back with a vengeance. The creature was stretched, its bleeding feet folded over its face, the abominable noise made the onlookers wince except the bride. Struggling forward, the hare fought the grip of their teeth and for a moment, broke free before falling down the steep knoll of the railway line. At once the hounds surged after it, bit, shoved and wrestled it with their claws before tearing the hare limb from limb, leaving a hot and bloody mess on the grassy plain below, a single droplet of blood was consumed wholly by the residing tulip.
And with that, my mother shed a tear of relief as my evil father couldn’t hurt anyone no more.
George Lee Jnr. Writing in 1982.