Hobgoblin, Nor Foul Fiend!
‘Pastor Brown’ stared, nervously, at the Watchmen as they drew closer to the carriage. He was acutely aware that Gwladys had secreted a length of wood amidst her skirts and that she was not averse to using it, if needs must. He also knew that the full-scale brawl, that would inevitably ensue, would not be a pretty sight and would end badly for all of them.
Something had to be done. He jumped up and leapt onto the carriage roof.
“B…b…brethren!” He yelled, at the top of his voice, “harken to me!” The Watchmen stopped in their tracks and stared at him. “Your Sergeant has given ye an instruction, and he is your authority and ye must obey him”
The Sergeant nodded, approvingly. Gwladys got a firmer hold on her piece of wood.
“B…b…but I…I answer to a higher authority,” The ‘Parson swallowed hard and hoped for inspiration, “as, indeed…as indeed must ye when the awful day of judgement comes” He pointed to the increasingly menacing skies above.
Watchmen Birch and Cane glanced upward at the gathering dark clouds and looked at each other with a sense of unease.
“Some of ye saw me yesterday, when I was giving the final sacraments to a poor wretch. Ye may recall that person was stricken with the ague?” ‘Parson Brown’ looked around at his temporary congregation. A number of the Watchmen nodded.
“It were the ague what took ‘im off were it?” Watchman Birch asked, timidly.
“It did indeed!” ‘Pastor Brown nodded, vigorously, “D…d…do ye recall the m…m…moaning and wailing?”
More nodding from the Watchmen. There was an ominous rumble of thunder in the distance.
“That, m…m…my children, was the s…s…sound of a soul in t…t…torment! A s…s…soul that knows it is going to meet its M…m…maker, and that it will have to answer for its s…s…sins”
The Watchmen looked about them, nervously.
“N…n…now ye have a choice” The ‘Parson’ looked about him, glowering, “a decision to m…m…make. Shall ye obey the orders of your temporal authority, here below?” They looked at him, blankly. “Your Sergeant?” He thought he had better explain, “Or shall ye answer to your Creator, up above? For I tell ye this, if ye shall remove the veil from any of these women herein today, then ye shall have SINNED in the eyes of the Lord” There was another crack of thunder, happily coinciding with his declamation of the word ‘SINNED’, and a fork of rather dramatic lightning arced down to the sea, on the horizon.
“ARE YE READY TO ANSWER FOR YOUR SINS BEFORE THE LORD?” ‘Pastor Brown’ yelled above the gathering storm.
The answer appeared to be in the negative, as the Watchmen, as one man, turned and ran back toward the port.
“Very impressive, Reverend” The Sergeant nodded, grinning, “yer parlour tricks might scare orf yer average bloke, like what my lads are, but they don’t scare me” He drew his sword, “now, let’s get them veils orf and let’s see what we’re a-dealing with”
He approached, menacingly. Gwladys took careful hold of her timber. She fancied her chances rather more, with the Watchmen gone.
“ON YOUR OWN HEAD BE IT, SERGEANT!” The ‘Parson’ shrieked, his hand outstretched, wild of eye, clerical garments flapping dramatically in the gathering wind.
There was a huge clap of thunder, almost overhead, which shook the ground beneath them. The horses whinnied and reared in terror. A bright arc of lightning plunged into a copse on the other side of the road, hitting a tree and setting it on fire.
The Sergeant looked at the burning tree, then at the Pastor. From within the carriage came the plaintive cry of a baby whose sleep has been rudely disturbed.
“Nah then, Padre,” The Sergeant replaced his sword and began to back away, “no need for all that. Just my little joke, as yer might say” He looked about, wildly, as if expecting the Almighty to creep up behind him at any moment.
The ‘Pastor’ was looking from his own hand to the burning tree, and then back again, with mounting astonishment.
“Yer can be on yer way” The Sergeant waved them on with a forced smile, nodded politely and began to walk, very deliberately, toward the port.
The ‘Pastor’ jumped down, took the reins, and urged the fretting horses on.
“I thought that went rather well!” The ‘Pastor’ mused, eventually, the heavy rain dripping from his clerical hat.
“Not bad” Gwladys agreed.
“I thought he showed considerable restraint. Is he still walking?”
Gwladys turned and looked over her shoulder.
“Well, ‘e was” She said, “until ‘e thought we were out of sight, now ‘e’s runnin’ down the road for all ‘e’s worth!” She chuckled.
The carriage trotted on for a few miles, with the occupants turning over recent events in their minds.
“I reckon as ‘ow yer should tek this up for a livin’” Gwladys observed.
“You mean, take the cloth?”
“Yeah, yer’ve got all the lingo ‘ain’t yer? An’ if that performance back there were anythin’ to go by, yer’d fill every pew!”
“I think not” The ‘Parson’ smiled, “I don’t think the world is quite ready for a rector with a hook for a hand”
“Good job yer kept that out the way while that lightning were playin’ abaht! Yer could’ve been turned to ashes!”
“That did occur to me, afterwards. I’m grateful that it didn’t cross my mind at the time!” The ‘Parson’ grinned, “What would you have done, Gwladys, if we had not been able to dissuade the Sergeant and his men?”
“Werl, what can yer do?” Gwladys shook her head, “I’d ‘ave laid abaht me with me stick of wood. With a bit of luck, I might ‘ave put paid to one or two of ‘em, but they’d ‘ave ‘ad me, sooner or later”
“Yes, that was my fear” The ‘Parson’ nodded.
“What abaht you and yer missus, and the babby? What would you ‘ave done?”
“I must admit that I had not given that a great deal of thought in advance of our apprehension.” The ‘Pastor frowned, “I rather assumed that we would be granted free passage from the port. When we were stopped, I had to make things up as we went along, somewhat” The ‘Parson’ looked a little embarrassed, “I suppose, had the worst come to the worst, that I would have hoped that a holy man, his wife and new-born baby, might have been spared any proceedings”
“Fair point” Gwladys nodded. “Wouldn’t ‘ave done me an’ Ethel much good, but fair point”
“However, that rather assumes that my other identity, as Captain D’Arbanville, would not be discovered. I rather think that this hook might have given the game away, on that score.” The ‘Parson’ examined his hook, ruefully. “I imagine that the good folk of our last port might well have looked for redress for their lost investments”
“Ah, yeah. That could ‘ave been awkward”
“Not to mention the owner of this carriage and horses, who kindly let me take it for a test drive”
“Best we get as far away as we can then?” Gwladys observed.
“I think that might be the best policy” The ‘Parson’ agreed, with a grin, and urged the horses on.
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