LEINIGEN & THE LAMBETH TREASURE
A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less.
Part Fifteen: A Journey to the Frozen North!
I passed some pleasant hours on the train north. Mostly, once past the soot-stacks and grime of the Midlands, I gazed out of the window.
At York, I purchased tea and cake from a cart. The hack Pengelly, bless him, had furnished me with a crisp fiver for ‘travelling expenses’.
No doubt it was one of those magic newspaper fivers, liable to turn from green to brown or even blue when given to the Guardian’s cashiers.
As we made Durham, that old drivel about ‘grey towers, half church of God half castle ’gainst the Scot’ leached into my lobes. Ah, prep.
Scott’s lines gave me pause. They also give me pause now, knowing what I know, now, of what then was still to come. Hope you followed that.
Scott, Sir Walter. Usual dry old vulture, bane of my schooldays, learnt by rote to avoid whacks with a collected works. Out of fashion now.
Which is just as well, but as I sped his fractured verses turned me to thinking thoughts as deep as the North Sea off Dunstanburgh point.
Scott was born in Edinburgh, in seventeen-seventy-something. Moon was now, in nineteen-twenty-thirty-forty-something, on his way there too.
He was travelling to Edinburgh, as dastardly Church of England hardliners in charge of neo-fascist goon platoons will, in a flatback truck.
On that flatback truck he carried a cage, which contained Vespa Cryptoides, my comrade in misadventure, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Somewhere about his person (or about his flatback truck, perhaps in the glove compartment with the mints), Moon toted the Lambeth Treasure.
The Taxus Brevifola. A medieval codex – or book – that had caused a Flea from William Blake’s imaginings to kill my friend Sam Phraxby.
The dratted tome had caused a few other things. An attack of The Gout. A ghostly stampede. An ugly brawl with a portrait of Cardinal Wolsey.
I remembered Moon’s words, spoken in his underground lair. He wanted to use the damn book to boost the Church of England. I didn’t see how.
But he knew best, or at least better (or worser, being a villain) than me. I also remembered mention of a megalomaniac Swiss industrialist.
Would I meet him in Scotland? It seemed more likely than meeting him (I assumed it was a him, Swiss women being retiring sorts) in Lambeth.
Train trips, you see, are ideal for consideration and cogitation, for recapping and analysing, for getting thoughts into some sort of order.
I learnt so on a scoot through the Old West, as Tolstoy palled, the heat hazed and I searched my soul for answers. Or at least a few jokes.
True, on that occasion a knife fight on the train roof with a gang of mescal-crazed Mimbreños had distracted me, but the principle stood.
It’s like the famous detective beak said: When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Or, rather, in my rather odd case, once I had experienced the impossible, nothing remained, however improbable, that could not be the truth.
This was, definitively, a two-pipe problem. Or, rather, it was a two pipe, three coffee, sixteen Benzedrine and a very long snooze problem.
What I am trying to say is that as the train rolled past manor houses and curious Scotch cattle, I was stumped as to what would come next.
I did not know. Nor did I know how, once I had arrived in Edinburgh, which now loomed as close as the Bass Rock, I would or should proceed.
Fortunately, after the train wheezed its way into Waverley Station and I prised my aching limbs upright, providence was on the lookout.
It often is. Providence, I mean. On the lookout, whether for me individually or not I don’t know. But there it is. Providence. Looking out.
It’s a tricky thought, perilous close to the pious inanities of Moon and his lot, but I have often felt some protective force attending me.
I wouldn’t say it was a religious feeling. But across my adventures and misadventures, across all eight continents, I have flourished.
In tight scrapes, I have thrived. You might put this down to bravery, strength, British spirit and a brain the size of Bournemouth. I might.
If an ice field splinters my ship, I grab a team of huskies, hunt out a polar bear, shoot and skin it and turn it into a serviceable kayak.
If, as I paddle off the Siberian coast, a giant octopus attacks, I stroke and tease it into docility. And then feast off calamari for weeks.
But sometimes, as the fire flickers low and ardent spirits seize me, I wonder if I am not aided in my quests and tests in the wildest wilds.
Like King’s Cross – at an ebb low enough to expose some decidedly unfortunate mental rock pools, who should show up but the hack Pengelly.
Thanks to him, my belly was full, my mind rested and my quest a going concern. Funny kind of Guardian angel, I thought. Or perhaps not.
He must still have been watching over me, anyway, for as I stepped on to the solid stones of old Edinburgh, a garish poster caught my eye.
‘Revivalist meeting!’ the poster shouted. I made to pass, knowing your average Scot for a dour, pious fruit. But the next line gave me pause.
‘The Church of England reborn in Scotland! Moral Rearmament! The Reverend Francis Gibbous Moon speaks!’ I checked place, time and date.
‘Teviot Row House, Bristo Square, tonight, eight.’ It was six. I had time for a dram with the last of Pengelly’s fiver. Adventure beckoned!