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A Tale of Importance
Once there lived a man, John Herbert Wesley by name. He was not a big man, nor and important man, nor even an overly intelligent man. This man was quite simply a simple man and I think that is alright. This man lived in a small house with his wife and three children, away from Chausable, the nearest village, but not so far away that he was not a part of the town. He chose to interact with the good people of Chausable when he felt so inclined, and when he did not, he did not.
When I said that there was nothing special about John Wesley, I was not quite honest. Wesley did have one thing about him that was so uncommon that it left many of the people of Chausable without idea of what to think or say about it, and this incongruence was that no matter what happened Wesley always smiled. No matter what went wrong, rain or storm, Wesley always skipped joyfully around the town as if that day were singularly the greatest day of his entire existence. It was a day like this that our story begins.
A farmer by trade, Wesley had every right to be distraught on that cold day of November 22nd, 1598. It has been a scarce harvest and Wesley was facing the prospect of a miserable winter. Still, “A beautiful day it is,” said he to Fredrich Herse as he paid far too much for a new warm blanket for his children.
“’T’is not,” said little Suzie. She was a very pretty young girl with far too big a mouth for her own good, or so her mother always told her.
“But it is, young lady, have you not seen how beautiful the trees are outside? They have all changed color you know.” Suzie seemed to ponder this for a second.
“Even so, I do not think it is so good a day,” she said seriously. John just smiled and led her outside. It was cold, but two snow birds still sang their winter song together. A thin layer of snow blanketed the village and a light breeze ruffled Suzie’s hat so that she clamped her hand over it to keep it on.
“Everyday is a beautiful day, Suzie,” explained John Wesley. “All you have to do is step outside and listen to the birds or the flow of water or even the tiniest breezes. Everyday has potential. It is up to you to discover it for yourself. Happiness is not dealt to you like a set of cards, it is a choice.” At this, Suzie smiled. Though she did not understand it all, she liked the sound of that. John’s eyes twinkled as he again led little Suzie back inside. “But it is cold. Come inside before you catch a cold. How much do I owe you Mr. Herse?”
The transaction was interrupted by a banging at the door. “John Wesley?” shouted the soldier that now stood in the doorway.
“Over there!” said John Wesley, pointing towards Fredrich Herse with a playful grin. You see, with John all things were a joke in some way or another.
“You are under arrest sir, for the harboring of a spy,” said the guard in his overzealous way to the wrong person.
“A spy!” Interjected Mr. Wesley before Fredrich could even put in a word in his own defense. “I have done no such thing.” The guard looked confused.
“Even so,” he said to neither of them in particular, “I must arrest you for the time being.” John Wesley sighed, maybe ever so slightly irritated, and complied.
Of course, you must understand that the town of Chausable was not overly large, but the same could not be said for The City Master nor his ego. Why anyone would think to send spies into his humble village is beyond me, but always he was fearful of that very possibility. It was not he, however, who was the main culprit of John Wesley’s inconvenience. The malefactor largely in guilt was the tailor Fredrich Herse. This man was not kind, nor generous, but most of all he was not at all happy, and he hated anyone who was. It irked him beyond measure! He would often say to any willing ear, “Seeing John Wesley ride into town in his utterly obnoxious manner fills me with an in-absorbent amount of hatred towards him.”
“A spy, a spy!” he lied to The Master of the city. “A spy is being held at the house of John Herbert Wesley.”
“Inconceivable!” exclaimed the authority, “I shall have him arrested at once.”
And so John Wesley found himself locked away in a prison cell of no fault of his own. A month passed then a year and then another, until John Wesley lost all track of time. He knew very little of what went on outside of his cell, but if he did he would have seen that the city of Chausable fell into a serious famine. The sun- for one reason or the other- refused to shine, and the rain- for the same reason or perhaps another- refused to fall. Everyone in Chausable drearily did their work, and I dare say that entire town did not see an entire smile, save an occasional one from little Suzie who had been taught by the very best. Still, those were rare and far between, and cold hearted Fredrich Herse began to realize that others not being happy did not make him happy. Of course, this realization only made him less happy than before.
The Master of the city looked over his town in dismay. He had far more serious things to consider now than spies. His people were not happy, and that was not good business. The town would have been hard pressed to find who was the saddest among them all, but something had snapped inside John Herbert Wesley, and I believe he was at least among the top contenders. For the first time in his life he no longer woke up smiling as the sun first began to lift above the hills. All he saw was the dark damp cell, and one can only take so much of that. It was little wonder than that whenever he was offered a chance to escape, he took it.
Exactly four years and six days had passed when they first found John Wesley’s cell empty. The door was still locked and bolted, the walls solid as ever, and the tiny window near the top right corner was barred as had always been. “T’is not natural,” some people murmured when the news was made public. The jailer, of course, was beheaded or at least ordered to be beheaded but the Master of the City had other things on his mind and he forgot, much to the relief of the poor jailer. “It was no fault of my own,” he would reason to himself sometimes.
Now, all the hype and hullabaloo that came from such a strange occurrence hardly compared to the uproar that was Chausable when not two days later John Wesley strolled carelessly into the city as if nothing in the world had happened. People did their business and kept away, not wanting to be anywhere near the miraculous convict.
“A beautiful day it is,” said he to Fredrich Herse as he paid far too little for new warm blanket for himself (He hadn’t quite made it home with his last one).
“Hallo, no smile?” asked Fredrich boldly. He did not much like looking like he was afraid of anything so he put on a brave face. “Not today,” said John grimly.
You see, dear reader, something terrible happened to John Wesley while he was in the prison. It started as self-pity and then turned into despair. This despair turned into hatred until, when he finally escaped, he thought of nothing other than revenge. It was a terrible thing to behold, I must say. His wife was glad to see him back, but even she had to admit that there was a change in him. He no longer cared for others as he should, and that was his most distasteful crime.
Little by little the city of Chausable began to right itself. Crops began to grow again and the rain began to drizzle ever so subtly. Still, Wesley never smiled. He only schemed.
It was for a time like this that John Wesley was scheming. “To your parents, you and the kids for the week!” he had ordered his wife, and though she disliked it and did not understand why it was that she must leave, she obeyed.
As John had predicted, the lifting of the famine made the Master of the City much bolder. “I have saved the city,” he proclaimed to anyone who would listen, and slowly, as his mind began to clear, he began think on other things that must be accomplished until finally his mind drifted to the matter of John Herbert Wesley. For this, he called in his dear friend the tailor.
“Fredrich Herse,” he said apprehensively, “what think you of the matter of prisoner Wesley?”
“I think he is a cunning man,” said Fredrich cunningly, “who may or may not have more wit than even yourself, master.”
“Did he not out smart you before, master?” The Master of the City paused, considering the distasteful question.
“I am bidding my time. That is all.”
“Well bide it shorter, my master, or people may begin to think you have become weak.” The Master of the City bit at his nails nervously.
“Is that what they say?”
“Do not ask me! I am but one person. It is not me you should worry about.”
In truth, very little was said about The Master of the City concerning the situation with John Welsey. He was not well thought of in general, and people would rather not think of him at all if they were permitted. Still, The Master of the City thought so highly of himself that he could not fathom anyone not proclaiming him as the greatest in the land, and so he ordered: “Guards, fetch my carriage. We have a traitor to apprehend.”
The Master of the City’s carriage was fancy, with all of the bells and whistles imaginable and when he drove it- which was quite a rare occurrence- everyone stopped and gazed at it. The majestic carriage stopped in front of the house of Fredrich Herse for only a few seconds to allow him to enter and continued on, but during that short stop it unsuspectingly picked up another passenger that. For a little girl, such as Suzie, the carriage was absolutely stunning, and you will forgive her I think for crawling silently into a small box in the back. The carriage pressed on, towards the house of John Wesley surrounded by six mounted guards, a precaution- just in case Mr. Wesley resisted.
The carriage left the cobble stone streets and began its bumpy journey on the lone dirt road that led out of the city. Rain began to pour lightly on the majestic carriage, and then, with a mighty flash of lightening, all hell broke loose. The wind howled and the rain poured and soon the muddy carriage ground to a halt, trapped a pit of mud. “Maybe we should turn back,” said The Master of the City. He did not much like mud nor getting wet and all of this was a bit frightening.
“Turn back now?” Asked Fredrich Herse jeeringly, “tell me you are not afraid, my dear master?”
“Not at all! It just… my boots are getting muddy and…” He stopped himself as he thought over the absurdity of it all. How he must look in front of the men! “Oh someone lend me their horse!” Two of the soldiers dismounted and with a little help the rather large man scrambled his way onto one of the horses, much to the animal’s dismay. “Watch the carriage,” Fredrich ordered the two guards whose horses they had taken, and with a shout the small group of six prepared to race off towards the house. They were stopped by a small noise from a box in the back of the carriage. All eyes were turned quickly towards it as the lid slowly began to rise.
“T’is only me!” exclaimed Suzie as she popped out of the box. Fredrich glared at her, agitated by the sudden inconvenience.
“It will not do to let her stay, bring her along,” said the Master of the City.
The rain poured harder and the thunder crashed louder, but still the tired group trudged on. The sun had begun to set in the sky when the group finally neared the clearing where stood John Wesley’s house. A confident, booming voice greeted them from the darkness.
“Why come you, good travelers, here to my humble abode?” Fredrich stepped forward and shouted to the darkness in response.
“I think you know, criminal.” He spat out the last word as if it were distasteful. John pondered this answer for a second from his position, carelessly cross legged upon a tree stump looking over the group of travelers and then answered.
“Indeed,” said he to himself as he cut a chord nearby. The Master of the city watched in horror as a huge tree log tied on both ends by two thick ropes sped through the air directly at him. John Wesley cut another cord and the huge log fell to the ground, rolling and smashing everything in front of it before it came to a halt barely a foot from The City Master. His death would not be that easy.
“Consider that your warning. Return home and you may live.” Fredrich took the initiative and spoke.
“We are not intimidated by threats, Mr. Wesley, nor tricks gone wrong.” John Wesley smiled. It was as he had hoped.
“Very well then.” He silently rose and made his way back to his house.
The group of four guards cautiously began to move forward, shields raised and weapons drawn. The Master of the City and Fredrich Herse walked safely behind. They took one step, than two, than another, but on the forth they heard a soft swishing noise followed by a snap and the guard on the far right flew high in the air, hanging unconscious from a knotted rope around his ankle. A thin stream of blood dripped from his face where he had hit it on a rock.
“Forward men, but cautiously. We are almost there,” said Fredrich in encouragement as much to the men as to his liege who was nearly paralyzed by fear. The group began to inch its way forward even more cautiously. “Stop!” Fredrich’s quick eyes spotted another rope on the ground. They avoided it. “Is that the best you can do!” Fredrich shouted at the house.
“The best you can do,” echoed the terrified Master of the City. Trying and failing to sound confident.
“We shall see,” was all they heard in reply.
The group, now only of five again, warily inched forward again until they made it to the door. “Open it,” hissed Fredrich to one of the guards. It was the last thing he ever did. As he turned the nob and pulled open the door, a trigger was released and a metal spike shot through the doorway transfixing him through his stomach. He gasped for air for a second and hunched over, his body propped up by the gruesome weapon. The group stared in shock at the dead body, and with a cry the remaining guards panicked and ran for safety. A covered pit caved beneath one of them, swallowed him whole, and the other made it only a few steps before a noose dropped around his neck as if by devilish magic and lifted him 10 feet into the air, snapping his neck in the process. John Wesley’s voice greeted them.
“Come in, kind sirs. I insist.” The veins Master of the City’s neck bulged with fear, but they both complied. They had no other choice. The room they entered in was dark but warm. A fire was going in the fireplace and a bearskin rug adorned the floor between where John Wesley sat comfortable on a great comfy chair and the two chairs that sat across from him. He gestured towards them. “Sit.” The two men did so uneasily. They did not much like the situation they were in, but that was unimportant. John Wesley was in control now and they all three knew it. Still, Fredrich’s crafty mind sped a million miles per hour as he planned a way out of the mess. As slowly and quietly as ever, he began to inch a hidden knife from its place of concealment in his sleeve. It was a slow process, so he began to speak to John Wesley, stalling for time.
“Tell me, John Herbert Wesley, how did you escape from prison?” John chuckled to himself, then burst out into a full laugh, grasping his sides and gasping for air. Fredrich and the Master of the City uneasily exchanged glances. The man did not seem entirely sane. After a minute or two the fit of laughter ceased and John Wesley returned to his upright position, still smiling to himself.
“Well, one could say, “I made a pact with…” At this moment Fredrich Herse’s hand flew out with lightening quick speed, and the knife he held within it flew towards John’s heart. Just as he was about to yell in triumph at his victory, his hand was stopped by another hand. It was a gloved hand, coal black, and its very touch sent shutters through Fredrich’s entire body. The hand led to an arm covered by a loose black sleeve and made its way to a face that could only be described as pure evil. Skin as pale as death seemed to be thinly stretched across the man’s face, and wicked eyes stared back at him. In them he saw no pupils nor any trace of white but only yellow burning fire. His nerve failed him. John Wesley stared back up at him, an amused look in his eyes.
“One could say I made a pact with the devil.” He finished. Recognition dawned on Fredrich Herse’s face and fear began to grip his heart. He looked again at the devil man with the fiery eyes and then back at John Wesley. A look of pure disgust replaced the amused look on Wesley’s face. “A hearse for you, Mr. Herse,” he spit at him as he removed the dagger from Fredrich’s limp hand and raised it above his head.
“Stop!” Fredrich Herse felt the devil’s grip vanish from his hand as he disappeared into thin air as quickly as he had come. John Wesley’s eyes darted towards the doorway where little Suzie stood, tears brimming in her eyes. “John, no,” she pleaded.
“Suzie, do not take a step forward,” he ordered. A tripwire, he knew lay right in front of her.
“No,” she pleaded again, tears streaming down her tiny cheeks. Something inside John twitched.
“But I must!” he said. “He stole my life from me. Now I must take his.” The knife in his hand trembled as he again looked down at Fredrich Herse. He seemed so detestable as he lay on the ground, hands raised above his head in a feeble attempt to defend himself. The Master of the City slouched in his chair, dead from fear.
“What have I become,” he said, more to himself than to anyone else. He could see tears flowing from little Suzie’s eyes, and they threatened to brim over in his own eyes also.
“Kill him,” hissed a voice near his left ear.
“What have I become,” he repeated. He stumble back like a drunkard, lights exploding in his vision.
“Kill him!” Said the voice, louder.
“What have I become.”
“Kill him! And you’re revenge will be complete fool!” screamed the voice.
“No!” John turned and threw the knife at the shadows where the voice had come from. It imbedded itself in the wall. Fredrich Herse lay on the ground, unmoving. Probably unconscious.
“So be it,” said the voice. John Wesley reacted as quickly as he could. He grabbed unconscious Fredrich Herse and began to drag him out of the house. Fire and smoke began to spread through the house, choking him.
“Do not move!” He managed to shout to Suzie. Fredrich was heavy, but slowly he was able to drag him to the door. He scooped up Suzie with one arm. There wasn’t much time left. A tell tale crashing noise from inside the house told him this. With one last massive burst of strength, John Wesley heaved the two people to the safety of a hill as the house exploded into a million pieces. John Wesley did his best to shield Suzie from the flying debris with his body. Flames surrounded the three figures, and he watched in horror as the fire began to transform into the ghostly face.
“It is too late for you, John Wesley!” It said, and John knew it was true. As fast as it had come, the fire receded back to the burning house, dragging the screaming demonic face with it. Suzie sobbed and Fredrich did not move. John Wesley held Suzie in his arms and cried with her. “It’s too late for me,” he said rocking her back and forth.
Suzie awoke in her bed, a day later. She had just had the most horrible nightmare. Fredrich Herse awoke in his tailer shop, a changed man. He was burned and cut. He had just had the most horrible nightmare. Chausable never again saw John Herbert Wesley. He had disappeared. Sometimes people would visit the place where his house had once been, but it was no longer there. There was not even a bald spot of grass nor charred wood to show where it had once been. It had simply disappeared. Some people claim that Wesley crawled away eventually died from his scraped and burns and a broken heart. Others claim that he went away seeking a new start to life. Honestly, I do not know what became of John Herbert Wesley, but I hope the best and every night before I fall asleep I say a short prayer for him. You see, John Wesley was not an evil man. He simply made mistakes and don’t we all. It’s not too late, it’s never too late.