The Evil Dr. Quackenbush
This morning I zipped around Short Hill through Hillsboro to Mechanicsville on the opposite side to get a rubbing of John Mobberly's gravestone.
I'd scouted it out one day last week on my way home from work; it's in the graveyard that belonged to a church that's been converted into a private residence -- a beautiful stone thing from the 1700's, wish I'd seen it first. On Thursday I'd stopped the truck (newly repaired, thanks for asking, only $50!) and gingerly tiptoed into the graveyard, not sure of the ownership relationship between house and yard. I'd found Mobberly's grave, found I could easily read the obverse, but a swooningly fawning poem on the reverse (reputedly contributed by the heartbroken young women of Hillsboro) was deteriorating and becoming illegible. All I had was a notebook and a pen, but I tried a quick, experimental rubbing with that and found it helped readability quite a bit.
So today, armed with charcoal and better paper, I pulled up beside the church. Unlike last week, today there was a car in the driveway, so I ankled up to the house and knocked. A nice lady answered.
"Good morning, ma'am, my name's Neddie Jingo, I'm doing a research project on John Mobberly. Would it be OK with you if I took a rubbing from his gravestone?"
That was indeed OK with her. Then a slight frown. "Somebody was here just the other day doing that..." As if to wonder, Why all the sudden interest in Mobberly?
It was the work of a nanosecond to decide not to tell her that had been me. I hadn't asked permission, you see.
Of course, only an hour later as I was picking up my materials and packing the new rubbings into the truck did the correct response come rushing to the Jingo consciousness:
"Great Caesar's ghost, there was somebody else doing a rubbing? By all that is holy, tell me quickly, woman, leaving out no detail, was he a tall man? Wearing a pith helmet and an eyepatch? Thin lips and an aquiline profile that bespoke an easy patrician cruelty? Walked with a pronounced limp, and spoke with the soft burr of Strathclyde? Accompanied by a mastiff yclept Bannister and a Andaman Islander of hideously scarified visage who brandished a blow-gun and spoke in guttural grunts? Then I have not a minute to lose -- for the evil Dr. Quackenbush has the jump on me, and woe betide all of us if he reaches the Lost Scepter of King Henry before me!"
That's what I should have said. Dammit.
Step right this way for another installment of the Mobberly Story: Girls love a winner