Philip evans


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By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Humor

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Town Cryer Barry Short took his usual place in the Square of the little South Walian Hamlet of Merthyr Tydfil and ascended a wooden crate. Short by name and short by nature, at 5 foot 4 it was a strange choice of job given his diminutive stature but needs must when the devil calleth and with most of the men having been killed in the Napoleonic Wars there was not that many men to go around -Short or tall.But at least he was more difficult to hit with a musket ball. As he unrolled his parchment written by a quill on velum, Barry summoned up all his vocal strength to announce the week’s entertainment to the paupers and the very common people ofthe South Wales Valley area.“In the Year of Our Lord 1844, on the forthcoming Sabbath of 14th March, there shall be a duel to be held on the Morlais Castle Common at 11.30pm at Night between local publican,Morris Dancer of Ye Crown Inn, Merthyr Tydfil and his opponent Bartemius Pugh to settle a point of honour!” shrilled Barry.The great unwashed that gathered around now had something else to look forward to -to ease their plight which was filled with malnutrition, rickets and cholera- their own version of Match of the Day.“A duelling scheme up at the Heads of the Valleys is long overdue” muttered Old Hag, Bubo Popp in her native Welsh tongue clad in her Welsh shawl and Stove-pipe hat.

As usual, the tiny hamlet had become turned ‘Rumourville’ with idle tongues wagging as to the cause of such dispute.The real reason was that Morris Dancer, the Innkeeper of the Crown – a local hostelry and stage coach departure point - had accused Bartemius Pugh, a Venetian traveller o fgentlemanly standing, of groping his barmaid, Melony Toby, in front of several witnesses,who would swear blind that was what Mr Pugh had deliberately done, when she had bentover to pick up the Landlord’s latest culinary invention.A bar snack of potato origin mixed with fish into a pie – the ancestor of latter-day scampifries. A ‘Me-too’ list was chalked up on the Inn blackboard but one or two of them had to be ignored as they were actual requests. Bartemius also swore blind (as he was in fact truly blind after taking a pistol shot to the face in a previous duel in Paris).The Italian was well versed in duelling by pistol- it was in fact his tenth such duel, as he had been raised by fellow Venetian Casanova and was on the Grand Tour of Europe and just like his mentor- he was in fact a crack-shot.Somewhat ironic really, as he was now in another potentially deadly contest over a different crack that he was alleged to have fondled. Barmaid Melony Toby,- (or Toby Jugs as she was known to the local sheep farmers and swineherds that frequented the establishment with its solid stone slab flooring covered in sawdust & straw and spilt Rhymney Brewery Ales) was a lady of loose morals but only with gentlemen that took her eye.As Bartemius didn’t have any of his own, she wasn’t prepared to give him any.The Venetian tried to defend his actions by claiming that hadn’t realised that he was in fact in an Inn but thought that given the smell of the ‘plaice’ that he was in Olde Morgan’s the Fishmonger’s Shoppe.Toby Jugs, like most Merthyr residents past and present was not known for her love o fbathing – in fact B.O. was another invention that had been credited to the Hamlet. But then again Merthyr had little access to clean water- a Well at Tydfil’s and of course the River Taff often polluted with dead bodies floating down from the rough area known as China being the only options.“Why are they holding a Duel at night under the light of the Brecon Beacons?” asked another wizened old hag, Gwennie Turnip, a great grandmother at 40 years of age- though her solitary remaining tooth in the front – used for central eating her diet of thin porridge.It was a very ‘gruel’ existence.

“It is to even out the contest- replied the local Beadle- Jeremy-it was at the insistence of Morris Dancer’s friend and brave Second Mr Thomas Cooper!” continued the lawman.“Why is HE a brave man?” asked Gwennie looking puzzled.“Mr Pugh is blind but is known to have killed several men by accident in such events most of whom were Seconds!”“With a pistol?” asked local crazy cat woman Nut Meg.“It would hardly be with an epee now would it .....otherwise it would have been over in a split Second? “ Chortled the Beadle at his unintentional quip.The Beadle was not a big fan of the Landlord who had refused to pay him protection money or the manner in which he kept the Tavern going.“But I heard that the Blind Venetian only agreed to the terms put forward by Mr Cooper if Mr Morris Dancer would wear his traditional May Day costume to the duel!” whispered theBeadle as if imparting knowledge not readily available to the public- which had in fact been his own condition.“Pull the other one it’s got bells on!” replied the disbelieving Bubo.“Exactly!” replied the Beadle.“ Be careful who you tell that to mind .... you don’t want that Scold’s Bridle on again now do you?”Gwennie Turnip shivered at the memory of that metal cage around her mouth as punishment to stop her gossiping – she was still left with a drooling problem and mouth fatigue- but at least for the month that she was compelled to wear it,- she didn’t have to perform the usual matrimonial blow jobs.“Are you going on the Black Sabbath Night?” asked Gwennie to her fellow gossips.“Count me in!” – said an eavesdropping local pest controller from high up on a thatched cottage roof- Ozbert Osborne, as he bit into a fruit bat- in doing so risking COVID.“Why are you eating a fruit bat?” asked Bubo Popp confused.“Got to get my five a day in haven’t I ....-Herbie- the man who makes the potions told me that I should have a balanced diet ......”So I will bring the magic mushrooms! to sell at the Event””

Fast forward to the weekend and poor old Morris Dancer was cacking himself.

He was too young to die.He had never fired a flintlock pistol before let alone had a duel with a European Marksman.Thomas Cooper formerly of Caerphilly, took off his fez that he had once acquired from a tradesman when he had ordered by mistake some salad in.“Look ....said the second....I booked the last duelling slot available just before Midnight as there is an Act which went through Parliament making duelling illegal- it comes into force you only have to delay the event for 30 minutes and then it’s over!” “To shoot you after that would be illegal and he would hang for murder!” Thomas continued. “Just like that?” “THIRTY minutes are getting ahead of yourself can I a simple Publican know when it is closing time? the future there may be devices to measure the time like hour glasses or a device that can read the movement of the sun and moon .....but at present Iam governed by crows of the cock....!” moaned Morris .“That’s what got you into this mess in the first argument over a woman!” said Tommy.“Just like twat!” he said mumbling but trying to create a family catchphrase.“Crows?” replied a confused Morris .“Sorry... I thought you said Grows!” replied the Second.“There’s me in less than two hours about to die and you are telling funnies....who do you think you are some kind of comedian?” said the nervous Innkeeper.“How the Hell am I going to delay the duel anyway!” asked Morris still sitting on the po on the floor of the food preparation area of his pub.“I’ll think of something!” replied his friend.

It is near Midnight and a crowd of villagers gathered around the light of a brazier.“How the Hell am I going to know when the time is up?” whispered Morris nervously to his second.Tommy Cooper said “Don’t worry I have arranged a few distractions to take us passed thewitching hour and save your bacon!”

“Besides I have asked Evans the Coal to pour some tar on the pitch to signify the end of legal hostilities....he has agreed to burn the ‘midnight oil’ as he is a hard worker in exchange for a few groats!” he continued.The independent Magistrate, Judge Jeffries Junior called for silence from the gathered throng- as he was of the opinion that people that were involved in duels deserved be hung-but then again he thought that way about every person that came before him – they all deserved to be hung- sheep stealers, thieves, highwaymen who ruined the safe passage of coaches around the Country- especially the highwaymen as the bastards took your road tax but didn’t fill in the potholes on the turnpikes.He had got himself stuck in a rut many a time and even hung hungry children as young as eight for stealing apples from overflowing gentry orchards.They wouldn’t do it again!The combatants were called together- and after they had turned Bartemius round in the correct direction first were read the rules of the day as to the duelling scheme.“Do both of you gentlemen wish to continue this dispute over honour or will either of you apologise and admit they were wrong?” questioned Jeffries.“He groped my barmaid....the foreign bastard!....he should be sent to Rwanda once it opens for business!” declared the future Brexit-loving Morris with false bravado not wishing to lose face in front of the majority of his xenophobic clientele.“I didn’t was an accident....there was something fishy about the ‘hole’ place...I can’t see how was I know it wasn’t the fish shop.....besides ask him why all the cats in the area follow her around otherwise?” grumbled the Venetian Blind marksman.“In that case, do both of you Seconds have the pistols?”“Yes!” declared Thomas Cooper and Casanova simultaneously.They both held mahogany boxes with green velvet inside and of course a single shot flintlock pistol.Toby Jugs stared at Casanova, cleavage poking out over the top of her Nell Gwynne style dress.Casanova fumbled with the pistol before using the ramrod to force the bullet down into the chamber.“Ooh I do love Sloppy Seconds!” she declared licking her lips and adjusting her ample bosom for the benefit of Casanova.“Are the pistols loaded?” asked the Judge.“Both barrels!” said Casanova staring back at Toby’s Jugs- not concerned with the single barrel flintlock pistol.

“Yes!” replied both seconds.“Now Gentleman you will both take ten paces back each and then turn and fire a single shot!”ordered the Judge.Morris replete in his May Day outfit started to ring out, as he went with the bells giving his opponent a big clue as to his direction.The time was now 11.40pm with twenty minutes left to kill without being killed.With that came the first of Tommy Cooper’s distractions. He had paid local harlot Erica Roe a few groats to invade the pitch topless.Obviously, this didn’t affect Bartemius as he couldn’t see the titties.But it did have some effect on the timing. Bartemius on 5 steps just stopped hearing the commotion and feeling the milk from the cowpox suffering merry milkmaid splattering on his face, wondering what the Hell was going on.Judge Jeffries ordered a reset and that as punishment Erica was to be sent to his room in the local law courts whilst he administered the cat of nine tails.He wasn’t just the local Magistrate but the Chief Whip too.“What you got there then Megan – a handwarmer?” asked Bubo Popp to her friend.“’s my black cat!” said Megan.“Looks Familiar!” said local refuse collector ‘Dennis’ Norden.“He is missing half his ear only one eye and three legs left and has the mange!” continuedMegan.“He has been run over twice by Dennis’s ‘bring out of your dead’ recycling cart.“I thought I recognised him!” said Dennis.“What’s he called?” asked Bubo looking at the poor wretched creature and then at the cat.“Lucky!” replied Megan without any sense of irony.“What’s that around his neck?“ interjected Gwennie.“It is a home-made collar- he is a terror to kill local song birds -so I attached some metaltubular chimes around his neck to warn them he is around!” said Megan.“I found it by the Old Field!”

The duel continued with both Bartie and Morris standing back- to- back, pistols pointing upward to the full moon as they came together. It was now 11.45 and still plenty of time for the duel to continue legally. Morris was sweating under his horsehair wig and tricorn hat. All around him the common was busy filling up.The local brotherhood of monks had appeared in their ‘Dry Robe’ outfits so prevalent for the Merthyr area.They began a ‘Modern Talking’ chant about one of their order - Brother Louie, Louie, Louiewho apparently was a big fan of duels and being ‘undercover’. This had been arranged by Thomas to distract one of the few senses that had been enhanced by Bartie’s loss of vision.Bartie’s objection was lost in the chant. Magistrate Jeffries ordered the recount.“Ten paces each... then turn and more delays!” he declared with some authority.Both combatants began to pace out with Morris so nervous, he could feel the urine running down his campanologist trouser leg.Like a newly expectant Father filling his babies bottles with breast milk from a lactating milkmaid , he had lost count of the strides he took away from the Venetian crack-shot.Was it seven or eight?It was now five to midnight.Did he risk the wrath of the Magistrate and local reputation if he ducked?That decision was taken away from him by the appearance of Gwennie’s black cat Lucky which had crossed his path. Frozen in terror, Morris looked on helplessly as the Blind Venetian turned in one fell movement and fired his single shot in the direction of the hapless moggie that had been making a bee-line for Toby Jugs .“Talk about a black cat crossing your path lucky was that?” said the open-mouthed Magistrate.“Did I get the Welsh bastard?” asked Bartie.“You killed my beloved cat!” wailed Gwennie.

The blood drained to the feet of the blind killer. He had not heard his opponent fire his shot and in terror and the heart of darkness stood there awaiting the impact of a bullet from Morris.Morris was in a quandary. He had never shot another human being before - especially one without sight. But on the other hand, he had called him a Welsh bastard and groped his barmaid. He owed it to all the women in the World to take out this sexual predator. Morris took aim at 10 seconds to Midnight.He pulled the trigger and out of the front of the flintlock pistol came a home- made flag withthe words B A N G written on it.“Watch out ....Beadle’s about!” said the local Magistrate before blowing his whistle to signal the end of legal duelling in Britain.