by Dawn Knox
Previously: Crispin ensures the Garden and everyone who lives there pass a crucial garden inspection and he is now looking forward to a quiet life…
“Crispin? Are you awake?”
“No! Go away. I’m having a duvet day. I don’t intend to wake up until the day’s nearly over.”
“Okay, but you’ll want to get up for this! The Garden Syndicate’s won the Lottery! We’re rich!”
Crispin weighed up the chances that Sylvester had been misinformed.
“Really?” he finally managed.
“Yes, I saw Bartrum at the Post Office getting the winnings and it was a big pile of notes. We’re rich, I tell you!”
Crispin got up. There’d be no peace until he let his nephew into the bedroom and anyway, now, he was curious. Sylvester was a good chap–although sadly, sometimes a few toadstools short of a fairy ring, but if he’d actually seen Bartrum with the winnings…
“Get dressed!” Sylvester shouted over his shoulder when Crispin finally opened the bedroom door.
Sylvester was flinging open cupboards and drawers, searching through the contents in a frenzy.
“What on earth...?” Crispin surveyed the chaos.
“I can’t find my wallet,” said Sylvester “you haven’t seen it, have you?”
“You know I have! You told me to hide it the last time you got into financial difficulties. Remember? You signed up for that exclusive gym. You know, the one that was due to be built in the Sunken Garden, and surprisingly, still isn’t there. Remember the debt collection people made our lives hell until I paid your backdated fees?”
“Oh yes, I’d nearly forgotten.”
“Well, I haven’t. I’ve only just managed to grow my eyebrows back. And until you learn your lesson, your credit cards are confiscated.”
Sylvester scowled, thrust his hands in his pockets and stomped off.
Crispin groaned. Sharing a Toadstool with Sylvester was like being a permanent babysitter. But at least the wallet was safely tucked away in Crispin’s pants drawer–a place Sylvester would avoid at all cost.
As Crispin dressed, he noticed Gusty Bob outside in the Garden. The Toad waved and shouted, “Bartrum’s called an extraordinary meeting. You need to be in the Sunken Garden in five minutes.”
Crispin waved cheerily and closed the window as Gusty Bob hopped off to summon the rest of the Garden Ornaments. He wanted to ask why the meeting wasn’t going to be held in the normal place and he let his imagination run riot as he pulled his socks on. The meeting must surely have been called to announce the syndicate’s win and hopefully to hand out the winnings.
When Crispin arrived at the Sunken Garden, most of the Ornaments had already gathered. A smiling Bartrum was standing next to a large object draped in a blue cloth. He banged his gavel on a rock, calling the meeting to order. This had been an act of showmanship rather than to actually call for silence. Tongues had not been wagging, although a few were poking out of mouths to assist their owners do a hard sum. The equation in question appeared to be X, ‘The total winnings’ divided by Y, or ‘The number of Garden Ornaments’ which would give M, ‘My share of the winnings’. But no amount of tongue protrusion could come up with the answer until Bartrum announced the value of X, how much the syndicate had won.
“I have the greatest pleasure in announcing…” began Bartrum.
Everyone stopped the mental arithmetic.
“If that’s the pile of money under that cloth, we’re rich beyond our wildest dreams,” squeaked the Wooden Robin.
“…that our syndicate has won the Lottery…” Bartrum paused for dramatic effect.
Garden ornaments cheered, whistled and waved. Gusty Bob scuttled off into the begonias and emerged a few seconds later.
“Has Gusty Bob taken up the trumpet?” the Robin asked Crispin. But there was no time to reply because Bartrum had banged his gavel again and everyone fell silent waiting for the all-important X to be announced.
“…knowing how much we all love the Garden, I’ve taken it on myself to spend the money on your behalf on a beautiful water feature, to be installed here in the Sunken Garden.” He grabbed the cloth and with a flick of his wrist, he unveiled it.
There was a collective gasp.
“No!” wailed Sylvester, “This is dreadful!”
“It’s not that bad,” remarked the Robin, peering at the enormous stone shell, in which stood a statue of a scantily clad woman with a large urn on her shoulder, from which water would presumably pour.
Growls of dissatisfaction erupted and banging the gavel again, Bartrum carried on “There’s just one more item on the agenda. The cesspit needs cleaning and over the next few days, I’ll be looking for volunteers.”
Suddenly, Bartrum was alone in the Sunken Garden with Venus in her shell. Somewhere in the begonias, there was a long drawn out fanfare, and a green cloud rose skyward.
“You’ll be on cesspit duty for the rest of your life if you damage that fountain,” said Crispin wagging his finger.
“If I don’t get some money I’m going to be dead for the rest of my life,” Sylvester wailed, “It’s all the fault of that stupid fountain.”
“Just sit down and tell me what’s happened,” said Crispin trying to sound calm. “It can’t be that bad...” and knowing Sylvester, it couldn’t be that bad–it would be worse.
“Well, when I thought I’d won some money, I bought a widescreen telly. Seven whole inches of High Definition, 3D, poke-you-in-the-eye-with-jazzy-colours, viewing. And now I can’t afford to pay for it.”
“But you can’t have bought anything,” said Crispin, glancing at the pants drawer. “I’ve hidden your credit cards.”
“I know, I got it on hire purchase. If Bartrum had handed over the cash, I’d have paid it off today.”
“This is probably a good time to point out there’s no electricity supply in the Garden at the moment while the workmen are doing something in the Old Priory,” said Crispin.
“Yes, a telly won’t work.”
“Well, in that case, neither will that stupid fountain,” said Sylvester triumphantly.
“The fountain doesn’t run on electricity, it’s gravity-fed. And before you ask, we have an endless supply of gravity in the Garden. Now, go and cancel the television.”
“That might not be an option.”
“Because?” Crispin asked with a sinking feeling.
“Because I bought it from Peggy the Pram.”
For a moment, Crispin was speechless. He ran a finger along each eyebrow, remembering the last time Peggy the Pram’s rent collection boys had paid Sylvester a visit. Foolishly, Crispin had tried to be the Voice of Reason but it turns out Dragons and Gargoyles can’t differentiate between reconciliation and obstruction. A jet of flame had shown Crispin what the Dragon thought of his Voice of Reason and the two Gargoyles had pulled some extremely scary expressions in case Crispin hadn’t got the message.
“Cancel it!” said Crispin through gritted teeth, “Grovel if necessary. And don’t touch that fountain!”
“Well? How did you get on?” demanded Crispin several hours later.
Sylvester was grinning. He had a small paper bag tucked under his arm.
“Did you cancel it?” Crispin touched his eyebrows and peeped through the curtains to see if Sylvester had been followed.
“Well, not exactly...” Sylvester smiled sloppily.
“No one goes to bed until you tell me what happened,” said Crispin sternly.
“I decided to go and graffiti the fountain or cut its gravity supply but Venus smacked me with her urn. Anyway, when I came round, I was lying on the grass on my back and as I looked up, I suddenly realised what a beautiful woman she was. And do you know what?”
“Well, I fell in love. Right there and then. I tried to apologise but she socked me again, so I thought I’d go and get some flowers and try to make a good impression. It just so happened Peggy the Pram was outside the garden gate and when I told her about the lottery money, the fountain, and falling in love, she said she could help.”
“And you believed her?” Crispin squeaked.
“Yes, look! She let me have these half price,” he took three, small bottles out of the paper bag, “They’ve got a money-back guarantee. And she’ll give me a week to pay for the television. Apparently, she can’t give refunds, it’s against company policy.”
Crispin was beyond rage. His knees were also knocking.
When a pedlar had appeared at the garden gate some months before, with a pram full of wares, Crispin had jumped to several conclusions. The green outfit had led him to believe the pedlar was a leprechaun and since leprechauns always seemed to be male and Irish, he thought them reasonable assumptions to make. He’d been right about the leprechaun part. But completely wrong about the gender and nationality. If he’d thought about it, he’d have known there have to be lady leprechauns somewhere and apparently, Peggy was one of them. And surprisingly, she wasn’t Irish at all. She came from London. Peggy the Pram turned out to be a streetwise Cockney Leprechaun with a group of friends she referred to as ‘The Boys’.
One encounter had been enough for Crispin and now, he was about to become entangled with her and her henchmen again, thanks to Sylvester.
He picked up the tiny, ornate bottles one by one and read the labels, “Essence of Dreams, Wish Tonic, Love Elixir,” and removing the top of the Wish Tonic, he took a sniff. There was no scent at all and in all likelihood, it contained water.
“You realise you stand no more chance of paying her in a week’s time than you do today, don’t you?” Crispin asked. It would undoubtedly mean a visit from Peggy’s Boys. He took his rucksack out of the cupboard. It was time he went to stay with his cousin for a few weeks–Sylvester was beyond hope.
Without permission from Bartrum, Crispin knew he’d be in trouble if he left the Garden. And with the cesspit beginning to reek, he knew what his punishment would be. But at first light, he’d beg for permission to leave and he’d advise Sylvester to do the same. It was quite likely they wouldn’t have a Toadstool to come back to, once ‘The Boys’ had visited but at least they’d both still be alive.
However, Sylvester stayed out all night and the only clue to his whereabouts was the empty bottle of Wish Tonic on the table. He’d been talking non-stop about Venus, and Crispin could imagine exactly what he was wishing.
That night, the chair Crispin had propped under the door handle was no match for Peggy and her Boys. They carried out a systematic search of the Toadstool but Sylvester hadn’t returned and they could find nothing of value. The pants drawer had proved a step too far, even for The Boys and it remained undisturbed.
Having learned to keep the Voice of Reason to himself, in desperation, Crispin tried the Voice of Dishonesty.
“Sylvester’s in the Shed,” he screamed, as a shaft of flame streaked across the top of his head.
“What happened?” Sylvester asked, peering at the singed furrow in Crispin’s usually neat hairdo.
“It was done by a Dragon looking for you!” snapped Crispin.
“Has he gone?”
Sylvester slid into a chair with a groan, “I wish I’d never got up this morning.”
“Technically you didn’t get up. You never went to bed,” said Crispin.
“Don’t remind me.”
“I’m still alive, thank you for asking, and by the way, Peggy and The Boys won’t be back.” Crispin slammed a drawer shut.
“Sorry,” said Sylvester, “I can see you’ve been through it but I’ve had such a bad night. Where are they, by the way?”
“I told them you were in the Shed.”
“Not the Shed of No Return?”
Crispin nodded and allowed himself a smile.
“But no one who goes in the Shed, ever comes out,” said Sylvester.
“Ah! I see! Very clever!” said Sylvester.
“So,” said Crispin, “what happened to you?”
“Well, I tipped the Love Elixir into Venus’ water and the Essence of Dreams for good measure and guess what?”
“She thumped you again?”
“No, she fell in love with me.”
“Well, from where I’m standing, your life looks pretty rosy. Peggy’s gone and Venus loves you. What’s the problem?”
“We broke up. I couldn’t turn the gravity off and she just gushes water the whole time. It was playing havoc with my bladder and I had to keep going off to the gents. And after standing in that water a while, I went all wrinkly. She’s a lovely girl but it’d never have worked.”
About the author
Dawn’s two previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ both published by Chapeltown Publishing.
The Crispin Chronicles
Links to the previous chapters:
Chapter 1 – Her Ladyship’s Garden - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/04/the-crispin-chronicles-1-her-ladyships.html
Chapter 2 – The Letter from OFSGAR - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/The%20Crispin%20Chronicles%20-%20The%20Letter%20from%20OFSGAR