A gleeful man thought of the coming profits, as this person beamed at the crowd surrounding his wagon that was painted in blazing red and bright gold colors, with large black letters on the sides boasting that its owner was: PROFESSOR ETHAN RAYNE, LATE OF LONDON, PARIS, ISTANBUL AND PEKING!!!!!
Strutting to and fro in front of the mob that had come thronging when the medicine show had stopped at the wagon train, a man with dollar signs dancing in his mind tugged on the purple labels of his brilliantly-colored, long-tailed coat, and boomed in a cultured British accent:
“No other elixir available is as strong as mine! None as invigorating, none as strengthening, healthful.…nor as refreshing!
“This wonderful and remarkable discovery cures all the ills that afflict man or beast. If my elixir doesn’t help you….then you’re most likely dead already!
“For swellings, sprains, sore chests, contracted cords or muscles, stiff joints, wrenches, dislocations, cuts, bruises, just apply my specially prepared elixir for instantaneous relief!
“If you’re suffering from constipation, liver complains, even dyspepsia….simply take a single spoonful to begin the healing process instantly. Plus….Professor Rayne’s Miracle Elixir of Life is the only proven cure for stoutness! No family can afford to be without this, a true life renewer!
“This unrivalled elixir….is warranted to not contain a single particle of any injurious substance. A compound of roots, herbs and barks created from an ancient formula obtained at great personal risk and expense by me, Professor Rayne….just for you!
“While traveling in the deepest, darkest rain forests of Borneo….I came upon a tribe of natives that were surprised to see an outsider. These tribesmen routinely would live to 150 or 200 years of age! After I won their trust and confidence, they shared with me their secret of long life, taken from the wisdom of millennia of seekers for truth, wanderers from the four corners of the world!
“This tonic is the progeny of science and chemistry and the wisdom of centuries of tradition passed down from father to son in a family of healers from Borneo and then to me. So powerful is this protected formula that tribesmen would trade a single ounce of this miraculous mixture for a horse or a hut or even a wife!”
Winking at a gaping teenage boy at the front of the crowd, Ethan muttered in a loud aside out of the corner of his mouth, “Don’t get any ideas, my friend!”
As the crowd roared, and the boy turned brick-red as his friends around him hooted in glee, the spiel resumed as the shill planted in the crowd shouted, “I only have ten dollars….can I possibly purchase half a bottle? I might be able to get together more money if I had a little more time. I just don’t want you to run out before I get a bottle to take to my sick daughter.”
The Professor whipped off his gleaming black top hat, holding this reverently across his chest, as an actual tear gleamed in his eye (practice, practice), and he managed a few more decibels from his voice:
“My good man…. What is your health worth? What price can you place on the health of your family? Never before have I made an offer as good as you will hear in one moment! I can provide you, sir, with an entire bottle of Professor Rayne’s Miracle Elixir of Life not for twenty dollars….not for ten dollars, not even for five dollars….but for TODAY ONLY I am letting these go for one single solitary dollar per bottle! Yes! You heard me say exactly that!”
In a blur, the top hat was jammed onto Professor Rayne’s head, that man himself had materialized in front of the shill, and a hand dove into a coat pocket, to pull out and brandish above his head, that captured all eyes, a small, shiny, blue bottle with a colorful label of big black letters and a picture of someone drawn below the writing. Beaming at his pretended customer, the performer said with honeyed tones that were clearly heard by the listening crowd:
“And, sir….I would like to give you this first bottle at no cost to you for your lovely little daughter!”
Swaggering away from the other man now clutching his bottle, who managed to quickly disappear into the mob, Professor Rayne stepped in front of his wagon, and showing all of his teeth in a gleaming smile, that Englishman smacked his hand against the side of this carriage. Right after that, a board reaching all the way across the wagon’s side fell forward, to become a horizontal table just below a revealed shelf inside the wagon holding dozens of little blue bottles. With a triumphant blast of his voice, the spieler reached his conclusion:
“Now….step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Who will be the first to travel down the road to vibrant health? Who will be the first to shake their fist at infirmity and illness for only one dollar per bottle!
“Not to mention, a dash of culture for one and all, in that you may keep the bottle once you have consumed its contents, to admire the representation shown on it of the historical figure from humanity’s past! No extra cost, my friends! Step up, step up, ladies and gentlemen!”
Among the customers was a very amused Gil Favor, who considered his dollar fair payment for today’s entertainment, plus also a chance to have a drink of a concoction that if it wasn’t at least ninety percent alcohol, he’d demand his money back.
Some time later, near sunset, a smirking Ethan Rayne snapped the reins and urged his team on towards his campsite far away from the wagon train, since it wouldn’t be wise to spend tonight among his most recent customers. Chuckling to himself, the man wondered who’d be the one to consume the bottle that had earlier been handed out at random, the one that contained a really special ingredient.
A nasty smile on his face, Ethan idly glanced ahead, and noticed two riders coming towards him. A flicker of worry appeared in the Englishman’s mind, as he uneasily speculated if his surprise had already occurred, and someone had realized exactly who was responsible. Ethan was glad to dismiss this right off, as these riders were from the opposite direction of the wagon train behind him, and they were probably returning to it. The traveling peddler’s mood brightened at the possibility of making more sales of his elixir, and he peered at the riders, who were now near enough for their features to be seen.
A thrill of horror went through Ethan’s body, as he stared in disbelief at one rider wearing a bowler hat. *Impossible, there’s no way it can actually be him…. OH, BUGGER!*
Shortly after sunrise:
Lying flat on his back, Gil opened his eyes and he stared at a bright blue sky much too early in the morning. Instantly squeezing his eyes shut again, the man moaned, feeling as if his head was hosting a re-enactment of the entire ‘49 Gold Rush, with every single miner energetically working away with pick and shovel, determined to get at that precious metal hidden somewhere inside his skull.
Whimpering while still keeping his eyes closed, the guide frantically patted his prone body that was still wearing the same clothes from last night, including his duster. With a prayer on his lips (and what tasted like a dead skunk inside his mouth), Gil groped through his pockets, and the heavens smiled upon him, as the man found what he’d been hunting for.
By touch alone, since he was absolutely sure that lifting his eyelids would cause his eyeballs to melt, Gil pulled out a small bottle from his coat pocket, and shook it by his right ear. A truly thankful man both heard and felt liquid slosh around inside the bottle.
With trembling fingers, Gil managed to pull the cork out of the bottle, and promptly shoved it into his mouth, desperately sucking as a mouthful of life-giving tonic trickled down his throat. The miracle of a hair of the dog that bit him once again occurred, as Gil felt his intense headache subside from near-death levels to just overpowering pain. A few moments went by, until Gil decided that maybe now he could risk a peek at the world.
Warily opening his left eye a fraction and carefully craning his head around lest it actually fall off, Gill suspiciously regarded his surroundings. He was lying on the ground of the prairie, with the wagons of the train around himself, all of these carts still quiet as their occupants continued the sleep of the just. Damn them.
His sheer ire at the rest of the universe apparently not sharing his suffering now allowed Gil to lurch up to his feet, standing there swaying as he absently re-corked the now empty bottle and slipped it back into his duster pocket. Glaring around, the guide abruptly froze, sniffing the air.
Someone was making coffee.
Staggering towards this enthralling aroma, Gil was so intent on the prize that if he hadn’t in fact been restrained by someone, he would have walked into the campfire, seized the coffeepot with his bare hands, and poured the boiling liquid down his gullet. Instead, to the accompaniment of soothing words spoken by another who clearly recognized the symptoms, he was guided to a seat on a log by the fire, and a cup of coffee was quickly produced and placed into Gil’s shaking hands.
After producing that disgusting noise, Gil sighed happily as the coffee settled into his stomach, and that man finally allowed that life might actually be worth living. He even beamed at the man who was currently standing with his back to Gil, getting another cup for his own coffee.
Rupert Giles had obviously returned from his side trip that he’d taken with Rowdy yesterday, when that cowhand had come back from his scouting trip to tell of a hillside a dozen miles away where extremely peculiar bones were exposed to sight from their position embedded into the very rock itself. An excited Englishman had prevailed on Rowdy to take him there for the day, which was all that his disinterested guide was willing to spend just to watch a man crawl around, intently studying something’s skeleton for hours and hours.
Gil jovially spoke, “Mr. Giles, you’ve got my deepest thanks for this fine cup of coffee.”
The British native stiffened at what he was hearing, a look of pure shock passing over his face, that now winced more from actual pain rather than being in an uncomfortable situation, though that also was currently shown on his features, along with realization, disgust, and resignation. All of these emotions were also vocalized in Mr. Giles’ sighed response to Gil.
“You met Ethan Rayne, didn’t you?”
“What, you mean the perfessor?”
Whirling around, Mr. Giles snapped angrily, “He doesn’t deserve that title! He never completed his studies, nor did he pass the examination to become an university teacher of the highest academic rank! Rather, that man corrupted his intellect and talents, deciding to defraud the populace at large!”
Gil was distracted from the other man’s outburst, not paying all that much attention, to instead gape at the Englishman’s features. But then, seeing Mr. Giles with a magnificent black eye and a split lower lip would have diverted anyone’s notice.
“What in blazes happened?” blurted out the guide.
As his fists with their bruised knuckles clenched at his sides, a man said with grim satisfaction, “I finally managed to give that man the sound thrashing he’d deserved ever since his actions that caused him to be expelled from my alma mater.”
“What-- Why’d he get kicked out?”
Sighing, Mr. Giles took his own seat by the fire. A look of remembrance passed over his battered features, as an explanation was begun. “Ethan was a master at chemistry, but he never wanted renown. Only money, and lots of it. So, in his search for something to make him wealthy, he started studying the predecessors of chemistry, which was alchemy, and he managed to find something in that unscientific lore that would actually work. He found the secret of language -- basically, how to create a potion that would allow people to speak another language without ever actually learning it.”
Looking at his open-mouthed listener, Mr. Giles went on much more sourly, “If he’d just stopped there, he would’ve been world-famous. But, his ego demanded that his brilliance be recognized by a demonstration. In this case, he spiked the punch at an Oxford banquet, and caused absolute chaos when every single person there having consumed that drink started speaking in different languages they never knew before.”
Taking a deep breath, as pain flashed over his face, the Englishman continued, “It stopped being funny when an elderly don -- a teacher -- dropped dead in the middle of the commotion. Afterwards, nobody could actually prove Ethan’s concoction had anything to do with that man’s death -- he was in fragile health, anyway -- but it had certainly contributed to it. So, Mr. Rayne was confronted by the college authorities who gave him a simple choice: be expelled, leave England, and never publish or share his findings, or be arrested and charged. He chose the former option, and disappeared.”
“And that’s the same guy who ran the medicine show?” asked a bemused Gil.
“Oh, yes,” replied Mr. Giles. “I knew him right away, particularly since he was a schoolmate of mine back then.” At Gil’s astonished look, the British native just shrugged, and went on. “He also admitted it, during our affray.”
“You mean the fight? Why--”
“The man who died was a distant relative of mine. When I learned later what happened there at the banquet and who was responsible, I went looking for Ethan, but I didn’t find him before he left the country. Frankly, I never thought I’d see him again, particularly in the middle of this wilderness, but I’m rather glad, despite everything.” At that, Mr. Giles tenderly touched his black eye. “At least now I can tell myself that bloody idiot finally paid in part for his stupidity back then.”
Gil nodded with approval. Shifting in his seat, the guide asked, “So, that’s the end of it?”
“I suppose so. Ethan’s been seen off, and the effects on you should end in a few hours.”
Gil’s blood froze at those words. He managed to choke out, “What the HELL are you talking about?!”
With eyebrows raised high in astonishment, Mr. Giles stared at the anxious man across the campfire, and the Englishman said carefully, “I am indeed grateful for the practice, but in our previous conversations, you never laid claim to any knowledge of the classical languages. So, given my recent meeting with my former acquaintance, there must be no other reason why for the entire duration of our discussion you have been addressing me in perfectly fluent Latin.”
Gil could only splutter wordlessly for a few moments, before exploding, “GODDAMMIT, ARE YA FUNNIN’ ME?! I DON’T SPEAK LATIN--!”
The American abruptly cut himself off, as he finally listened to what he had just said. It had to be admitted, that few people actually bother to pay attention to what they’re saying, since they already know what’s going to come out of their mouths.
A few seconds ago, Gil Favor had just yelled, “EGO OPEROR NON NARRO LATIN--!”
There was now perfect quiet around the fire, as Mr. Giles sympathetically watched the guide sit there, eyes wide in shock. Soothingly, the former Londoner said, “From what I’ve heard, if you concentrate on each word one by one as you say them, you can speak in English.”
A flash of gratitude was sent to the other man by Gil, who now looked thoughtful, and carefully spoke, “How….long….before….over?”
“Er, back then, the consequences lasted about several hours after the mixture was consumed. When exactly did you drink the potion?” asked Mr. Giles curiously.
Gil’s face turned white, as he slapped the lump inside his duster pocket that was the empty bottle. Hastily getting to his feet, the guide looked at an alarmed wagon train captain, and husked, “Got.…to….find…. bush….wish….you…. killed….him.”
After that, Gil broke into a dash away from the wagon for the nearest patch of concealing vegetation, leaving Mr. Giles behind, sighing and shaking his head, *God, Ethan, you were a bloody pillock then, and you haven’t changed at all, you perisher.*
Right after he fought his way into a clump of brush, Gil yanked the bottle out of his coat pocket, and stared with disbelieving eyes at the label Ethan Rayne had attached to this container, with a drawn picture of a historical figure shown under the words “PROFESSOR ETHAN RAYNE’S MIRACLE ELIXIR!!!!”
An artistically-depicted image of a stern man wearing some kind of vine around the top of his head and dressed in a bedsheet glowered into the distance, above a name written under this likeness in Latin script:
The hardest throw Gil Favor could manage sent the bottle spinning through the air at least fifty feet away, right towards a handy rock, where this empty container promptly shattered into innumerable pieces of glass.
In the next instant, a truly-pissed off man stuck his index finger down his throat as far as it would go.
Author’s Note: Ethan’s spiel was adapted from the website heroandvillain.com, which has scripts for old-time Western dramas. It was given as Professor Mack’s Traveling Medicine Show Spiel, an alternate version not used in a play called “Dirty Deeds at the Depot” which seems to be an enjoyable melodrama.
Or as they refer to it, “a mellerdrammer.”
Muffled screams resound o’er the prairie from the new schoolteacher, Miss Buffy, her eyes wide over her gag as she kicks her legs, revealing a modest flash of petticoats from under her crinoline skirt. Alas, our fair maiden is totally helpless as she is lashed to the railroad tracks by Dirty Spike, the filthiest cur in the West, while he slobbers and drools in disgusting enjoyment over his treatment of our heroine. How dare he!
Approvingly watching his henchman at work, Dastardly Dick Wilkins twirls his long handlebar mustache, and declaims to the audience that sacrifices (in every sense of that word) must be made in order to Advance The Course Of Civilization Across The Land. A true villain is born with the ability to pronounce capital letters inside a sentence, you know.
Dare we hope….?
Coming nearer, and bringing comfort to the hearts of all, are the thundering hoofbeats of Lightning, the magnificent golden stallion that is the steed of none other than the splendid, awesome, stupendous, the one and only….Angel!
With his fifty-gallon hat and dressed in resplendent white buckskins, no woman can resist him, no enemy can withstand him, no….well, he’s one fine lookin’ dude, okay?
Can there now be seen a flicker of fear in the eyes of that scoundrel who just revealed himself to the world from his formerly concealed secret identity as the Mayor of Sunnydale? Does he know that the approaching hoofbeats are the harbingers of his doom? These sounds that…..seem to be getting quieter, come to think of it.
Oh, hell. Angel just found another mirror, and that’s all it took for somebody who really wants to make up for over a century of never seeing his image.
Is that a train whistle?
(If anybody wants to write that, I’ll read it.)