by Dawn Knox
Previously: Bartrum, the Head Gnome, knows he can rely on Crispin to arrange the Christmas entertainment, but Trilby, the cat, isn’t helping… And neither is Sylvester.
Crispin and Sylvester hurried through the grey, dawn light to the Gazebo. Frost glittered like rhinestones in the grass and they shivered, despite their woolly hats, scarves and mittens.
“It could be worse,” said Crispin trying to cheer up the grumpy Sylvester, “Bartrum could have called the meeting in the Sunken Garden and then we’d all have frozen to death.”
Sylvester muttered something under his breath—and under the circumstances, Crispin didn’t challenge him.
By the time they arrived, Garden Ornaments had already started to assemble and were huddling together for warmth. Bartrum stood at the front, gavel in hand, waiting to begin.
“As it’s rather chilly this morning, I’ll keep it brief. We need to discuss the arrangements for Christmas. There are decorations and lights to be hung and a pantomime to be organised, followed by a party. Lord and Lady Arscott will be spending Christmas with Mrs Bartrum and myself and I can’t impress upon you enough the importance of making sure they have an enjoyable time.”
Crispin bent his knees slightly so he was completely hidden behind the rather stout Gnome in front. Surely Bartrum wouldn’t choose him for any of the tasks. He didn’t mind helping to hang the decorations but he didn’t want to be in charge of anything. Especially not the pantomime…
“So, I’ve decided Crispin—where are you, Crispin? Show yourself, please. Ah! There you are,” he said as the stout Gnome in front of Crispin bent over to tie up his bootlace, “you’re in charge of the pantomime. I expect everyone to pitch in and help. Is that clear?” Heads nodded and faces reflected a mixture of sympathy for Crispin and relief at not being chosen themselves.
“Jubbly, you’re in charge of the party and Klaus, you’re in charge of lights and decorations. Any questions? No? Good. Time for a nice, hot cuppa,” he said and banged his gavel, dislodging a tiny icicle from the bottom of the rock which hit the ground with a tinkle. The meeting was closed.
“It could be worse,” said Sylvester mimicking Crispin, “We could have had the meeting in the Sunken Garden and then we’d have frozen to death …”
Crispin muttered something under his breath and stomped home.
For several weeks, Trilby had been looking for an opportunity to strike back at the Elves. He was convinced they’d deliberately poisoned him. When Crispin had insisted Sylvester help with the chores, he hadn’t realised the younger Elf had no idea about food hygiene. It had all worked out well for Sylvester, whose stomach had been able to cope with ‘past-its-best’ bacon and who’d subsequently been banned from cooking duties for the rest of his life. It hadn’t worked out well for Crispin whose stomach had objected to the bacteria that had been incubating in the meat, nor for Trilby who’d come across the bacon in the bin and had also been violently ill.
And now Trilby wanted revenge.
He’d observed Crispin with a mop and bucket, washing the doorstep.
“Sylvester!” Crispin shouted, “You need to hurry up or we’ll be late.”
There was no reply and Crispin jumped over the wet step and shouted again from inside the Toadstool.
Trilby took his chance. He ran straight into the bucket, spilling sudsy water all over the hall. He wasn’t fast enough to avoid drenching himself and as he fled—dripping wet—through the freezing Garden, dark thoughts about the horrible Elves filled his mind.
Revenge had not been sweet. It had merely been soapy, cold and wet.
How did other people settle scores? He would do some research.
“Oh no!” wailed Crispin as he surveyed the flood in the hall, “And it would have to happen now! I’ve got auditions in fifteen minutes but I need to clear up this mess! Sylvester!” he yelled.
“What? What? Oh! Why did you do that?”
“I didn’t!” snapped Crispin, “This is going to take ages to clear up. You don’t think you could delay the auditions for a while, do you?”
“I could start them for you if you like,” said Sylvester.
“Oh, that would be wonderful. You’d do that for me?”
“Of course,” said Sylvester, tiptoeing through the flood, “I’ll see you in the Gazebo when you’ve finished. Don’t rush,” he added as he made his way down the path, whistling tunelessly.
Ah, bless him, he must finally be growing up, Crispin thought fondly.
It probably made sense for Sylvester to start the auditions, anyway. He’d volunteered to get a suitable script but whenever Crispin had asked to look at it, Sylvester had claimed he was still reading it.
He must know it inside out, thought Crispin, who still hadn’t set eyes on it. Well, never mind. Everyone knows the story of Aladdin. Hopefully, the panto will direct itself.
Crispin arrived at the Gazebo just as the auditions were finishing.
“Great script!” called Doggett, “and great casting.”
“Have you got a part?” Crispin asked.
“Oh yes, I’m SuperTingle. And I get to fly. Well, suspended on a wire, of course.”
“Fly?” asked Crispin weakly. Well, he’d soon remove that bit from the script—he didn’t want the responsibility of people dangling from wires. He’d told Sylvester to find a script for the simplest Aladdin production he could. Who was ‘SuperTingle’ anyway?
“Where’s Sylvester?” he asked.
“Oh, you mean Harry Hunter!” said Nina, “he’s just talking Wendy through her part.”
“Please tell me she’s not going to fly!” said Crispin, “She’ll bring the Gazebo roof down.”
“Oh no, although she might have a few stunts…”
Alarm bells started to ring in Crispin’s head.
“But everyone loves the script!” said Sylvester crossly “And you did say I could do the auditions.”
“Yes, but for Aladdin, not Harry and the Zombies.”
“Harry Hunter and the Apocalypse,” corrected Sylvester.
“Whatever!” said Crispin crossly, “It’s not a pantomime! Bartrum will be livid.”
“He’ll love it,” said Sylvester with the confidence of youth.
“But I wanted a script for Aladdin. Where did you get this?” he waved Sylvester’s script.
“I wrote it myself,” he said proudly, “Don’t you think Harry Hunter is a cool name?”
Crispin shook his head in disbelief.
Like a pantomime genie, once Harry Hunter and the Apocalypse had materialised in front of the Garden Ornaments, there was no stuffing it back in the bottle. Crispin had begged everyone to change the production to Aladdin but no one wanted to give up their part and anyway, the tickets had already sold out. As yet, Bartrum had no idea he wasn’t going to show Lord and Lady Arscott a No-it-isn’t-yes-it-is sort of pantomime. Crispin’s insistence there was no ‘flying’ on wires, no climbing and definitely, no stunts was not looked on favourably by Sylvester and the cast. In the end, rather than distress Crispin further, Sylvester held secret rehearsals. After all, Crispin would thank everyone when Bartrum and his guests pronounced Harry Hunter and the Apocalypse a success.
Crispin, meanwhile, had other problems on his mind. The Toadstool had become jinxed. It had started with the flood in the hall and now, the whole place smelled of rotting food. Crispin couldn’t understand how decaying cabbage leaves and tomatoes kept appearing in the strangest of places—Sylvester’s pants’ drawer, the airing cupboard, on top of the wardrobe, up the chimney, in the umbrella stand—it was all very odd. Even Sylvester had complained about the stench. The only clue had been tiny muddy, paw prints on the white, table cloth.
But the Elves didn’t have a pet.
“Mice?” suggested Sylvester.
It was a mystery.
The day of the pantomime arrived and it was now too late for Crispin to do anything about Harry Hunter and the Apocalypse. Klaus had done a wonderful job with the Christmas tree and decorations in the Gazebo and Bartrum had congratulated him on his efforts. Crispin knew he would just have to suffer whatever retribution Bartrum deemed necessary, in order to pay for his failure. Jubbly had assured everyone the post-pantomime celebrations would be the event of the year, so perhaps Lord and Lady Arscott would forget the pantomime once the party started.
Crispin was just one Elf and after all the misfortunes that had dogged him recently, he couldn’t be expected to singlehandedly produce a pantomime and deodorise his Toadstool and the surrounding area. He’d done his best to find and remove the decomposing vegetables that had been appearing daily, but they’d been overwhelming—both in number and smell.
Well, thought Crispin, this is it.
Somewhere in the begonias, Gusty Bob began to tune-up. Crispin had tugged on the long piece of string which was tied to his leg—the signal that he should begin to play. It was a very, very long piece of string so the Toad was well out of sniffing range.
Just as well, thought Crispin, what with the lingering, rancid stink that was following him around and Gusty Bob’s signature pong, Lord and Lady Arscott were in danger of serious olfactory overload. From his position in the wings, Crispin took the whole scene in. The curtains parted, Gusty Bob was putting heart, soul and plenty of oomph into his melody, Sylvester was poised to leap onto the stage from the other wing, while Bartrum and guests were sitting at the front of a large, spellbound audience.
Crispin was so nervous, his knees gave way.
By the end of the first act, Crispin’s knees had regained some strength. Against all odds, Harry Hunter and the Apocalypse seemed to be quite popular. The audience stamped and cheered when Sylvester, as Harry Hunter, managed to outwit the wicked step-uncle, who had stolen the Kraptonite needed to give SuperTingle back his superpowers. McTavish, the Marble Cherub, with his notorious scowl, was the wicked step-uncle. It had been perfect casting, Crispin thought.
“Oh, no it isn’t!” shouted Jubbly, as Widow Twerky.
“Oh, yes, it is!” replied the audience to the parody of a woman who teetered up and down the stage on stiletto heels, batting his enormous, false eyelashes and winking outrageously.
The only time Bartrum hid his eyes was during the battle, but as his son, Wilmslow, was chief of the zombies, he managed to overcome his dislike of all things to do with horror, long enough to peep through his fingers.
Harry Hunter seized the Kraptonite from McTavish, the wicked step-uncle, and with his Fairy Godmother, played by the Wooden Robin, and Fairy Goddaughter, played by Wendy, he defeated the zombies in a climactic finish to the first half. Crispin tugged twice on Gusty Bob’s string, to tell him to stop playing and the curtains closed to wild applause.
Scenery and costumes were changed and actors rushed to their places, ready for the second act which was announced by music from the begonias and the raising of the curtains.
“Here he is! Here’s SuperTingle!” cried Harry Hunter to the Fairy Godmother and Goddaughter, pointing upwards.
The audience gasped as Doggett, in tights, vest and cloak, with sparks crackling from his body, swung onto the stage suspended on a wire.
Doggett did indeed look as though he was flying. Crispin was so engrossed, he didn’t notice Trilby sneak up behind him with a mouldy Brussels Sprout held delicately in his mouth, intending to deposit it in Crispin’s pocket—that is, until one of the scenery hands rushed past, treading on the cat’s tail. Trilby screeched in pain and spat out the furry vegetable.
Crispin ducked to avoid it and fell over backwards, tugging with such force on Gusty Bob’s string that he dragged him out of the begonias towards the Gazebo. Trilby, realising he’d been caught in the act, shot up the Christmas tree, rattling baubles and dislodging tinsel.
And that might have been the extent of the trouble if Wendy hadn’t spotted Trilby peering out of the branches at the top of the tree.
“Twilby! Come down!” she squealed.
Harry Hunter, who’d had his back to the tree and was unaware of what had happened, was wondering why the music had suddenly grown louder but he carried on regardless.
“I’m coming Twilby!” screamed Wendy starting to climb the tree.
The Wooden Robin hopped from foot to foot, pulling up his woollen socks, unsure what to do.
“Help!” screamed Wendy, whose dress had snagged on a branch.
The Gnome operating the wire dashed forward to see what was happening and as he let go, SuperTingle plummeted to the stage, amidst screams from the audience. Luckily, Doggett landed on his feet and he darted towards the tree to the cheers of the audience. He wasn’t playing the part of SuperTingle, in his mind, he was SuperTingle—he was a real superhero—and somehow, his sparks seemed to flare more intensely than usual, crackling like tiny lightning bolts all around him.
“Nooo!” screamed Crispin, who was the only person to have correctly worked out what would be the result of Doggett coming into contact with the tree.
SuperTingle leapt into the branches, sparks crackling from his body, and it wasn’t long before the decorations and pine needles were burning fiercely. He raced to the top, centimetres ahead of the blaze, freed Wendy, tucked her under one arm and scooped up Trilby. Harry Hunter grabbed the dangling wire and hurled it at Doggett, who caught it and leapt from the flames, which were now licking at his heels. In a graceful arc, he swung across the stage and landed next to the Wooden Robin, who was completely overcome and fell into the audience.
And that might have been the end of the disaster except that the wind had changed direction and with Gusty Bob so close to the Gazebo, a cloud of green, noxious, inflammable gas drifted gently towards the inferno.
The explosion blew Crispin backwards, temporarily deafening him, so he didn’t hear the roar from the audience, the cheers, the whistling and the stamping of feet.
The fire had been so intense, it had consumed everything flammable and rapidly burnt itself out.
“This way to the party,” Widow Twerky yelled, “follow me!” and putting up his lacy parasol, he twerked towards the party area, in his high heels.
“Hooray!” cheered the audience.
To Crispin, whose senses had been battered by the blast, it seemed as if everything was happening in slow motion. Through bleary eyes, he saw Lady Arscott approaching like an enraged bear; her arms outstretched. She was shouting, but Crispin’s eardrums had been stretched to their limits and now, whatever the pitch, sounds were being transmitted to his brain as a low growl. Before the great, rumbling, bear-like figure of Lady Arscott reached him, Crispin fainted.
His hearing didn’t return until the following day but Sylvester was eager to fill him in on what had happened.
“And if you hadn’t fainted like a wimp…” Sylvester said.
“For your information, I passed out with the pain…”
“Whatever. Well, if you hadn’t fainted like a wimp, you’d have heard how much Lady Arscott loved the panto…”
“Yeah, she said it was inspired.”
“Yeah, and Lord Arscott said it was a triumph.”
“Oh, and one other thing…”
“Bartrum?” asked Crispin weakly, fearing the worst.
“Oh no. He thought it was good too. No, what I was going to say was that Wendy said we could borrow her cat until you’re well. She thought he’d cheer you up.”
Sylvester left the room and returned a few seconds later carrying a pink cushion on which sat Trilby, wearing a pink ribbon around his neck.
“Oh look,” said Sylvester tickling him under the chin, “I think he likes me. He’s smiling.”
Stupid Elves, thought Trilby, fighting back the urge to bite Sylvester’s finger. But I will be avenged tonight when you both go to bed. He’d carried out some research and found an interesting idea in a film and he was going to recreate a rather scary scene. True, he didn’t have access to any horses’ heads but he did have two particularly mature fish heads and they would do nicely.
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
Chapter 3 -The Sweet Smell of Success - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-3-sweet-smell-of.html
Chapter 4 – A Visit from Peggy the Pram - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-4-visit-from.html
Chapter 5 – Nightly Disturbances - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-5-nightly.html
Chapter 6 – Just Desserts - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-6-just-desserts.html
Chapter 7 – A Little Girl at Large - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/06/the-crispin-chronicles-7-little-girl-at.html
Chapter 8 – The Halloween Party - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/06/the-crispin-chronicles-8-halloween-party.html
Chapter 9 – A Glimmer of an Idea - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/07/the-crispin-chronicles-9-glimmer-of-idea.html
Chapter 10 – Doggett Sees the Light - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/07/the-crispin-chronicles-10-doggett-sees.html
Chapter 11 – Doggett’s Blues – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/07/the-crispin-chronicles-11-doggetts-blues.html