Chapter 9 b
Pilgrim Tract Society was founded by Julius Stone of the local Pilgrim Holiness church, now under a different name. True to its original intents, it sent out tracts all over there world. It was once housed in a two story wood building, but that building was destroyed by a bad fire and was replaced by a pale blue metal building. There were some bushes by the front door. The friends knocked, and a woman answered.
“Excuse us, ma’am,” said Hapgood. “We are looking for information about Mother Shipton. We were told Hellen might be able to help us. With two l’s.”
“Two l’s would be me,” she said cheerily. “My nickname was “El,” and my father was always making jokes about it. Shouting ‘Give ‘em El’ when I played field hockey was the least of it.”
“What can you tell us about Mother Shipton?”
“Come in and make yourselves comfortable.”
Inside the business of
printing up their material was going on.
“An old linotype setter,”
The young man had one leg in a plaster cast. He responded cheerfully. “The only one to escape the fire. And even then we had to take parts from a few others. We are getting everything onto computer, but this still works.”
There were several columns containing brass molds. As the young man hit keys, the brass molds would drop into a line. When there was a line of print completed, the machine automatically cast a lead slug from the set. It added the slug to a galley, and the brass letters went back up to cool and be recycled. When the galley was complete, it would go off to be proofread.
The machine was in less than perfect condition. One leg had been broken, and that corner was propped up with a block of wood. Lest someone accidentally kick the block out and tip the machine and its reservoir of molten lead onto straying feet, the block was braced by a one by four board between the two back corners. So the block could not be kicked under the machine. The concrete floor amplified the racket of the old linotype.
“What’s with the leg?” asked James.
injury. It should be all right in a couple more
Hellen led them to an office to get out of traffic and began in the tone of someone who has been over it many times but has never lost their enthusiasm, “Mother Shipton was what you would call a wise woman in Yorkshire, who lived from 1488 to 1561, which is a nice long life if you remember they were still burning wise women at the stake in those days.”
Jon said, “
“There was a pamphlet
published about her in 1645, and if he read a lot, he might have run across
it. There was another book published
“There was a rhyme,” said Jon.
“Indeed there was,” said Hellen. “Here is a copy of the information we send out.” She produced a sheet of paper.
Out of habit he began to look for patterns or grammatical oddities that might indicate that the text had been forced to accommodate some hidden message. He did not read it in sequence. There was a line foretelling that women would, “Ride astride with brazen brow,/ as witches do on broomsticks now.” The sophistication of the internal rhyme and alliteration seemed to rule out a hidden code. It was odd that what she described sounded so much like a motorcycle.
“Brave woman,” he said. “At her time and place and with her
reputation to say so casually that witches really do ride broomsticks.” He went on looking for hints of code, noticing
things like the horseless carriage, instant communication worldwide, men living beneath the sea, a gold rush in the
“Not too bad for almost five
hundred years ago,” said Jon. “No wonder
“Yes. He left a message that we should come here.”
“Are you Ivan?”
“Then I have something for you.” She went to a filing cabinet, pulled out an envelope and gave it to Ivan. He opened it and laid it on a table:
ntteee admrtbftosDaolv cecrvWr,
/ shfttfaDoairigfbaseadu iocritsunvootdo oul rrmghixn l aeoe iltot
/ aiWa ioeho ttenAec poa eetogntal trti ?ortBl helhoteam h utum
/ weea aocceW Hlp rale ibplhlsel eudy fr asWeulisci idiciiee
/ gM vhoat ten sn biw o sie xptneevhiesrssni lwoisiy os pnpo
/ ioeeauahrglsttote syenreana vieodotc. u ,leniionmildmio se eynr
/ oe?izsoingez t ;ro sedsfr nsmymhi inhsoh sf dbegHiv ke ho mwp
/ i glf eazliumoc dsr sdcdl meecls adrm eoe sr tgdee tntkva
/ e r s emiornoleD.ltem aa tnt l mete nsulia.hydeioue a aad altoeatpltc
/ othir d ic ghnes o ahbrunusawl;o ph pAsst hehy yudi ggtm vl owocnnccDlt
/ l gnii enor hofphylew tsot?eo igftroetcgt a o hehast h e aokoc noe.
/ siw uh tgfttosholpedkotsy dsnme?ebiaebh uo wpze hiwcih? oClgcmIi
/ ankewe htuiuhagrt bmilaEless ii eryot enr cuiibr rttiyitn gnoenIes
/ ol tfhoehsnacry rh ba l . eaziyvdro anomrf ?p c sohsoczcit
/ ciy g nhtbWr p?ec tfmeo h ansed ,hd w os osanlg mpyiT tezsi
/ ecaneneeewj utoc?papnte niWad?shtge eheeo aeBoai uWetrg caP
/ uwbhm t t ne e ioonhai a db.ini merhu loli iveti?gelhu ith? t aafl
/ llrcmnath ht skyhgrauoapo /
Hellen said, “
The others looked at the object
As they hurried out,
At the next corner, they laid
the little object on the curb and
Now they were pelting back to the society building.
“One of those goons was
smarter than I thought,” said
As they got inside
People looked up at the
unceremonious return. “Is there a back
way out?” asked
Hapgood decided that turning the other cheek could wait and threw a jab at the first one, who caught Hap’s fist in his hand and wrapped his other arm around Hap. Hapgood did his best to use a heel, but to little avail.
There was a major brawl going
The people of the Society mostly stood stunned. The young football player got up, leaning on the linotype machine, and moved around behind it. Surreptitiously he prized the one by four board loose with his cast.
The swirling fight had come well in from the door, and the five defenders stood with their backs together giving each other flank cover and keeping the mercenaries back, but they were tiring fast and had no direction to retreat.
Suddenly there was a kick from behind the linotype machine and the supporting block of wood went flying. Six hundred pounds of steel machinery tipped over onto the concrete, sending parts scattering and hurling the reservoir of melted lead forward.
As has been proven from many
an embattled wall, molten lead is a real attention getter. Men screamed as the hot silver drops spattered
them. That would only cause minor if
spectacular burns, but one man slipped in the liquid metal and went down
screaming onto the concrete. That opened
a hole in the ring of mercenaries, which the five were not slow to
jumped onto the wooden block and then past the lead, kicking the block away
As they ran past the football
player, he slapped keys into
While they sprinted out,
In back, they found the black
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