How now! What caller rings to my alert ere the dawn has broken? With the desiccations of mine own eyes yet collected in their corners, I arise to solve these twin mysteries of who and why.
’Tis my fellow Pop, frequenter of the informal circle that meets at the barber’s, crying with some intensity of a secret plot to harm mine own person.
“Slow down, friend!” I tell him. “Be calm. State it plain.”
“Remember those young turks from the hill in Brownsville,” he explains, “with whom you rolled dice and shared hashish?”
“Indeed!” I say. “The inimitable Fame and company, from Prospect Street. Nay, those are friends. Nay!, never would they offend.”
“Be at ease; I do not indict them. They whispered of some fellows that you knew yester-when, in your time of more dire straits. Now these fellows have heard of your successes, and they wish to open your throat. Thank Fame for warning me, for now I am warning you. You have my blade, friend. Tell me what you wish to do!”
I am astounded by this news, and truth be, saddened. “Gods wounds,” I say, “ever are fiends sharpening their knives for my wealth.”
“For sooth and shame,” agrees Pop. “They know of your timepieces and your fleeces with the distinctive weave from far Greece. They know of the sterling pounds you hold away in Georgetown, and that you privately finance half of Queen Virginia’s crown. They’ve even word of the manor you built for your dearest mother in the high quarter, the Fifth Corridor.”
“Prepare the coroners!” I cry, incensed. “There will be lamentations and inhumations if the knaves dare trespass upon my estate. What reason have I this steel, these muskets? War is my bedfellow. Wolfhounds stand ready at my gates, beasts I feed black powder to make them fit for the devouring of any set upon flattening my purses. Gods wounds! I wish this were but a dream, yet life is not for whimsy, and what the eye perceives is not always of true dimension. It is the man who shares your laughter and smoke, a friend, by false appearance, who then hears of your success and thinks first of the plunging dagger. But I will not misstep. I have Damascus steel honed to the parting of sinew, bane of villainous ligament, to put the interlopers in fatal predicament--Perdition! Destination of all foul souls.
"Reach you for my gold, feel you my cold steel. With the slash of my arm, you scoundrels would do well to duck! Pain is my art. And upon the shredded canvas of the remains of your jackets will be palettes of blood. You bear a sword? You ought have brought two! There are surplus knives in my boot that I may pierce you without pausing. And if my fury overwhelms me, I will fix incendiaries to your very home, and thus will end our strife forever.
"The more I sip this morning draught, the more I taste of my pipe, the more dangerous my mood. What will you do, villains, when such a man comes for your mortality? I will not flee. I will fight. And lo!, what is this sound? Footsteps upon my grounds, beyond my gates in the night . . . .”