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The Misadventures of Shylock Hapless
The Misadventures of Shylock Hapless
The Misadventures of Shylock Hapless
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The Misadventures of Shylock Hapless

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from Shylock Hapless and the Case of the Missing Piglets

My dear Hapless,

I am obliged to write to you by an unfortunate, indeed I may say painful, occurrence.

The piglets are disappearing.

As you will recall, my piglets are free to roam during the day, under the supervision of my trusty swineherd who is alerted by their grunting should a wrongdoer hove into view. Towards sunset my 100 piglets go to their sty to sleep. For ventilation in the sty there are small windows which are at some considerable height. The only door is closed by a strong, heavy lock. The following morning the piglets come out one by one and are counted. Unfortunately, every last week in the month, or the first week in the following month, there is always one missing. I have put guards on the door at night and I assure you that not even the skinniest piglet could possibly be taken out by the window without first being made into sausages.

Archibald Oliver Everybottom.
Data di uscita9 giu 2016
The Misadventures of Shylock Hapless
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    Anteprima del libro

    The Misadventures of Shylock Hapless - John Gerard Sapodilla


    The Revenge of Patricia Hardy

    Doctor Cowson, a visitor for Mr Hapless.

    Mrs Teapot, surprised and a bit unsettled at not seeing Shylock Hapless in his study, speaks sharply and shoots a reproachful glance at Cowson as if Hapless’s absence were his doing.

    Now Mrs Teapot ushers in a woman in her forties, full of fascination and undeniable allure. Cowson is eager to offer her his services:

    Mr Hapless will meet you in a moment. While we wait, you perhaps might tell me the motive that has led you here?

    My name is Patricia Hardy. Mr Hapless and I have a friend in common, Lady Astoria Windermare. She told me about him. The motive of my visit resides in Mr Hardy, my husband.

    I am very sorry, really, but I do not believe that we will be able to help you, Mrs Hardy. Mr Hapless has decided to confine his business to that which suits his deductive abilities. Certain other pursuits, shall we say, were a bit too messy. They diminished him and in the end were, frankly, too material.

    My dear Cowson, I have no intention of eliminating Mr Hardy, if that is the type of messy business to which you refer. On the contrary, I would like to have him all for me. But what's this horrible creaking? As of a little bird, an innocent creature, who is being tortured by an infamous individual.

    It's Mr Hapless practicing the violin. I will inform him at once a visitor is waiting for him.

    But before Cowson can get up from his chair, the screeching stops and Shylock Hapless enters the room silently.

    I should deduce, Mrs Hardy he says that the new young secretary has cut herself a share of your Mr Hardy. Our housekeeper has just informed me that we had a visitor. I am Shylock Hapless.

    Mrs Hardy's smile is a blend of maliciousness and delight.

    What makes you presume that the thief is Elisabeth, my husband's secretary? Has any gossip reached you perhaps?

    My darling, you have a delightful aspect and an enchanting voice. You are a blossomed flower, a ripe peach. Any gentleman would be happy to conquer you, to be envied at his Club. Mr Hardy must have a passing infatuation for a submissive girl, fond of her wonderful boss. The little Elisabeth must be one of those pestiferous creatures, whom a man can miss sometimes. Now would you wish that I play a romantic tune on my violin?

    Please, Hapless, no moonlight serenade Cowson says, fearful of having his eardrums tortured. Ms Hardy needs our help. Perhaps we should call Elisabeth and explain to her where the consequences of her behaviour could lead.

    Hapless nods enthusiastically, nearly spilling the tobacco from his pipe.

    Now, now, Mr Hapless, don’t be spilling your tobacco on the carpet says Mrs Teapot, bustling into the room quite uninvited, after hearing mention of young Elisabeth, while she lurked by the doorway. Hmm, she thinks, as she ponders Elisabeth no doubt a young Delilah, who would implore Hapless with such pleadings as ‘Oh, Mr Hapless what would I do, should I quit as Mr Hardy’s secretary? I would find myself in the streets’ she would cry, bursting into tears.

    ‘But no, little girl, you might come here to give a hand in the kitchen’, a dummy Hapless would reassure her.

    To make it short, the Teapot envisions a little bitch, who burns her herbs and cheese omelette, she puts down the tray with the tea cups, the saucers, the sugar, the milk, the lemon and the cookies, then she takes her apron off and throws it down on the tiles.

    Perhaps Mr Hapless would like me to retire to the countryside? Perhaps Mr Hapless would like me to break that varnished contraption made from an ancient wood on his head? Perhaps the time has come for someone to explain to Mr Strummer how things are. He could screech the whole Christmas night before Buckingham Palace. In the morning there would not be a penny in his funny cap.

    Cowson, fearful that Mrs Teapot’s pique could spill over to her cooking and perhaps even sour the cream with which she fills her sweets, says, Mrs Hardy, please meet our Mrs Teapot, our chef. And I would ask you to taste one of her wonderful exclusive sweets.

    The study goes silent. Mrs Teapot puts on her apron and returns to the kitchen while those in the study munch their sweets and sip their tea in the awkward silence. Finally, Mrs Hardy, breaking the silence, says:

    I’m afraid your deductions are a bit askew, Mr Hapless. However, the fact remains that for some time Mr Hardy has remained glued to the skirt of that strumpet instead of to mine.

    Hapless, although apparently pondering the case of Mrs Hardy, finds himself, instead, thinking of his violin and wondering whether it was a mistake to buy ‘The Player of Violin,’ a handbook written in German.

    Cowson, trying to salvage a deteriorating situation, says:

    Hapless, do you remember the unusual objects that I brought back from the Transvaal? I believe that perhaps Mrs Hardy would find them interesting and have some use for them.

    Without waiting for a reply, Cowson opens the buffet, draws out a few objects and puts them on the small tea table.

    Here, Mrs Hardy, have a look at these.

    Why, yes, they certainly look interesting.

    Come closer. Examine them, if you like.

    Thank you, Doctor, but I think not. I’ll just examine them from a distance if you don’t mind. But I must inquire. Where did you acquire these. . . Mrs Hardy paused ..these, if I may say, these disgusting objects? Perhaps a cunning African wizard, in search of ill-informed explorers, sold them to you?

    Cowson smiles, amiable and sympathetic.

    Madame, may I say that these objects are indispensable to solving your situation.

    Really? Perhaps these objects are about black magic? You touch them, say the magic word or words, and Elisabeth is suddenly transformed into a pigmy girl? Mrs Hardy laughed.

    Shylock Hapless fixed her with a glance:

    My dear woman, please admit that while you are, shall we say, a bit frightened by these objects, you are at the same time rather fascinated by them. But, here, you are quite safe with us. I assure you that the Teapot’s frying pan is ready to break the head of any black devil who appears at our door. If these objects move you, imagine their effect on little Elizabeth when you show them to her face to face in your home, when you tell the tale of the origin of these objects.

    A legend, Mr Hapless. You think that will be enough to keep Elisabeth far from my Henry?

    "Not a legend, but a real story, completely appropriate terror in a guilty young woman. She will be your prey. You will be the lioness and she will be the gazelle. You will trap her in your home. And now, my dear Cowtson, pray tell Mrs Hardy the tradition that the objects represent.

    Lioness and gazelle.

    The two rivals are face to face on the steps in front of Patricia's front door.

    The lioness asks:

    You would be Elisabeth, wouldn’t you? And she adds Can we be on a first name basis and become friends?

    Yes, I am Elisabeth. How did you know? the gazelle answers, doing her best to hide surprise and bewilderment.

    I recognized you from the photograph.

    The photograph? The tone of the gazelle is suspicious. Which photograph?

    "The group photograph taken in the office of my husband. That one with the managers of maximum level and their assistants posing together. You are the one with the high hairdo, which is quite the rage among all the fashion-conscious young girls."

    Would it be better if I returned home to wait for your husband to contact me? Elisabeth asks.

    Patricia smiles nicely.

    Nonsense, darling, you must absolutely admire my little collection of African objects and try a glass of a really unique wine.

    Patricia takes Elizabeth politely by the arm, trapping her in her house, her net.

    You may call me just Patricia, I will call you Elisabeth. After all, I have a feeling that I knew you before. And we have much in common, my husband for example. He always tells me about you, you know. That you are a resourceful girl, that you are always ready to cooperate, that you are always ready to remain up late in the office to finish all the work. Beyond the call of duty, you might say.

    With a laugh, she invites her guest to sit on an elegant armchair, and pours from a jug of decorated glass two flutes of red wine. It was the first time that Elisabeth entered Oscar's house. They used to meet in a little flat in the ancient part of the town.

    What a beautiful house you have, Patriciasays Elisabeth, observing the room walls adorned with expensive and tasteful landscapes and seascapes. But the young secretary is not at ease and has a great wish to run away. She is sitting on the edge of the armchair. Her eyes go from the host to all the things scattered in the room. She feels disturbed and fascinated by some particularly unusual objects. An ivory statuette, which represents a man and a woman joined passionately together; a small painting representing vultures contending for the remains of a body; a wooden tall figure with a rusty metal tip, from which threads, that look like human hairs, come down; and, last, the sepulchral mask of a man who expresses a fixed forever terrorized cry. Elisabeth tries to reconcile these horrible objects with the gentle and sweet man that she loves. She cannot believe that Oscar has chosen these grotesque objects to decorate his house.

    It is my hobby Patricia says, noticing the frightened curiosity of her guest.

    I am fascinated by anthropology, the study of man as an animal, the study of the basic instincts in the primitive man, the origin of good and evil.

    With perfectly manicured hands, Patricia gathers all those unusual objects scattered throughout the room.

    Each one of these objects constitutes an act of a tragedy continues Patricia" each one of them is like the ring of same chain.

    Patricia holds the ivory statuette that represents two thin bodies joined in a ferocious hug and caresses them sensually with a finger.

    It makes you feel the pleasure that united the two bodies wetted by their sweat. Two lovers take to one another with all their strength. You can see their bodies moving and touching each other.

    Patricia gives her guest the statuette:

    Hold it, Elisabeth, feel it, enjoy it.

    Patricia waits for her frightened guest to take the statuette. But the other woman limits herself to glaring at it and refuses to touch it. Reluctantly Patricia returns the object to its place and raises with delicacy the wooden figure from a hook in the wall.

    I am sure that you will find this little thing very enchanting. Like the statuette, which you didn’t want to touch, this object also comes from a tribe of Central Africa, where traditions were founded on a strong belief in monogamy and a primitive punishment method.

    Patricia takes a breath and sips more wine. You are in my hands, springchick, she thinks.

    They believed that a man and a woman must be faithful forever, their entire lives. Should one of them commit what we call adultery, then the guilty one, he or she, must be deprived of life with the illegal partner. Wasn’t that a very simple solution for a problem as ancient as man?

    Elisabeth tries not to remain involved in this unpleasant conversation. Her fear is expressed by the tone of her voice.

    I was thinking that Mr Hardy certainly would have come to the office this morning, even if it is a Saturday. We had important work. Is he perhaps ill? Has anything happened to him? He didn’t call me, which is rather unusual.

    And were you worried so much that you came here directly to his house? Really admirable. Such a devotion to your boss is really commendable.

    Elisabeth is confused.

    He insisted that I should not forget the date. We had an important job to finish, the merger of two companies.

    Ah, a merger. Interesting.

    Patricia now stoops, patting Elisabeth sympathetically on her hand, but on the same time the wooden figure, that she holds in the other hand, stops only a few millimeters near Elisabeth’s eyes, enough to let her discover a dark spot on the metal tip. Patricia notices the anxious look in the eyes of her guest and explains calmly:

    It is blood. At least so Oscar told me. It is thought to be the blood of some unlucky victims, caught in the act of adultery. At least this is what they said to Oscar when he bought this thing from a strange woman during his journey to Africa years ago. Probably it is all only invention; but you, of course, know how much Oscar could be a simpleton. He believes everything a woman tells him, when he is in the right state of mind.

    As soon as Patricia raises her head again, a little rivulet of red liquid slips from a corner of her mouth down to her chin, before stopping on her white blouse, where it widens, forming like a wound on her chest. Elisabeth appears hypnotized. The circle of red wine that widens seems to her like the dark spot on the tip of that disgusting wooden figure, a horrible image that shakes her with a quiver of terror.

    Do you like this wine, Elisabeth? Some find it too heavy, almost like molasses. I prefer to call it full bodied. A full bodied wine with penetrating smell and sweetish taste.

    While Patricia laughs gracefully, Elisabeth notices that her splendid teeth are as covered by a transparent purple veil.

    The only problem with this wine is that it seems to stain forever whatever it touches. Like the mixture that, in this African tribe, they were using to decorate their bodies. They believed that, if they had it painted with a mixture made of clay and blood of their enemies, they would become free forever from the malicious spirits of their victims. As a result, a couple caught in adultery was sentenced to death and killed by the ritual knife. Then the wife’s, or the betrayed husband’s, body was painted with the blood of the victims, who had offended.

    Elisabeth shakes as she hears this. The involuntary movement makes her spill some of her wine on her dress and the reddish liquid spreads slowly on the cloth, like a dark lava that opens a road towards her body.

    Do you mean that they would really kill them, only for having made love?

    For making love with the wrong person.

    Dreadful. Tribal habits like the cannibals.

    I would not call them cannibals. It was not that they themselves devoured the victims. Patricia talks

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