Written as a sequel to – The Mandrake of Harfinsain by Jane Basil
The worst offender was the diminutive village gossip, Edie Penrhyn. 102 years old, four feet ten inches tall, she thrived on gossip. Eccentric, with her grey side-ponytail bobbing and prancing, she loved spreading rumours. Her eccentricity was only upstaged by her unique style of dress. Like the day she cornered an unsuspecting stranger in the Post Office. That day she was wearing an old brown cardigan, a nineteen twenties faded and sequined emerald chiffon flapper dress and pink, purple and orange striped over-the-knee-socks. On her feet she had one green and one black wellington boot.
As you may well imagine, the stranger, accosted by the splendid vision that was Edie Penrhyn, was struck dumb. Having been dragged to the Old Man of Drake Lane and regaled by the horror tales of the ‘tree that turned into a man and ate female children’ he left Harfinsain convinced that the people who lived there were half insane!
Edie’s fervour and passion for luring unsuspecting strangers to view the tree ensured that rumours of her madness spread far and wide. People flocked in droves to Harfinsain to see the half insane eccentric old woman for themselves. Edie loved the attention. Such was her glee that she went to great lengths to enhance her wardrobe. She added outrageously colourful selections of feathered boas, floppy hats, woollen socks, elbow length gloves, elegant cigarette holders, long strings of pearls and dangly ear rings. She was ingenious at sourcing these wonders of fashion. Testament to her new found magpie abilities for collecting bling was the wondrous array of fashion she paraded around in.
However, it was her footwear that was the most unique. She had truly exceeded herself in that respect. Gone were the strict day of the week and time of the month restrictions of yore. Edie strutted the streets in stilettos, flip flops, skate shoes, Doc Martin boots just to mention a few of the more conservative selection she seemed to have accumulated.
The most eye catching and mind boggling outfit was a traffic stopper. On one of the busiest summer tourist days, Edie emerged from her cottage wearing black patent leather thigh high boots with killer heels and a purple leather mini skirt. This on its own was quite a sight as she teeter- tottered her way down the street. However, Edie had outdone herself by adding a fluoro green tassle crop top and red feather fascinator perkily perched just above her side-ponytail. Her arms, covered in bracelets all the way up, jangled as she struggled to keep her balance. AND she had had her nose pierced! Even the seasoned Edie groupies gasped and watched in fascinated horror as the spectacle that was Edie precariously navigated the street as if she were walking a tight rope, arms flapping up and down looking for all the world like she was about to take flight.
Mobile phones and cameras snapped photos. Videos were recorded. Someone had even phoned the local TV station which was always on the alert for news of Edie. By the time Edie had navigated her way to the village Post Office one faltering step at a time, they arrived, van screeching to a halt beside her just as she was about to mount the steps. The crowd watched Edie stumble. Arms waving frantically, she tried to regain her balance. Time seemed to slow down as the crowd collectively held their breath. The anchor woman leapt out of the van, ran to Edie, and caught her just before she hit the pavement. All of the action was captured by the cameraman of course. That night Edie was lead story in the Local Happenings section of the nightly newscast.
Harfinsainians groaned in despair. It was not a good look, seeing Edie on full screen tumbling, legs encased in black patent leather boots sticking up in the air, mini skirt barely hiding what looked suspiciously like a bright pink pair of teeny tiny bikini undies. Worse still, Edie was inundated with requests for interviews. All of which she graciously accepted of course. Her fame spread even further. Tour group buses started including Harfinsain on their scheduled sightseeing trips. Edie was unstoppable, riding the fame like a runaway roller coaster.
Her fame brought with it a cult following. Women flocked to Harfinsain with bags of clothing and shoes to add to Edie’s ever growing wardrobe. Offers of extreme fashion make overs flooded in. Hairstylists begged for the privilege of reworking her grey side-ponytail to one that suited her extravagant fashion penchant. All of these Edie resisted with a mere shake of her 102 year old head. Except for the clothing and shoes. Those she accepted with a grace and poise that was surprisingly genteel and gracious.
As her fame and fortune spread, and the steady stream of tourists increased, the village was forced to adapt. Along with the tourists came a demand for accommodation and food. Which in turn led to the establishment of new businesses. The flood of curious people and tour buses visiting the Old Man of Drake Lane demanded a co-ordinator to schedule, organise and co-ordinate timetables for viewings and listening to the obligatory horror stories regaled by Edie. It was not long before Harfinsain had a thriving tourist industry.
The toughest and most essential of all the jobs was managing the runaway Edie. That was relegated to the Vicar. Reluctantly, he had to accept the fact that the half insane Edie was one of his flock of sheep. And the good Lord had given him the responsibility of tending to them in Harfinstain. Edie, on the other hand, did not want to be managed. But respect for the man of the cloth was instilled deep in her heart. She was obliged to at least listen to what he had to say. Obeying had never been her strong point.
The problem Harfinsain had was all it’s new found wealth was based on diminutive and definitely eccentric Edie Penrhyn. Who was 102 years old. Fame had gone to her head. She became more demanding and outrageous by the day. So worried were some of the locals, that they met behind closed doors to discuss ‘the problem’ as some delicately chose to call it.
And that is how The HISS was formed. HISS was an acronym for Half Insane Secret Society. A group of concerned villagers met irregularly regularly to discuss ways of managing the half insane Edie and everything she stood for.Up until the Local Happenings TV broadcast, its main purpose had been to support the distraught Vicar. Try as they might, none of them could come up with any reasonable measures to rein her in. Not without upsetting the apple cart that was the now burgeoning Harfinsain tourist trade. No one wanted to give that up. They also knew it could not last. After all, how much longer than 102 years does someone like Edie Penrhyn live? No one knew. It was not unreasonable to assume that it could not be terribly much longer. Although at the moment there were no visible signs of Edie slowing down at all. She was having way too much fun. One option would be to just wait for her to die. And in the meantime establish a post-mortem succession plan ensuring continuity of the Half Insane Edie Legend.
Rumours, assumptions and innuendos spread like wildfire whenever anything suspicious or slightly untoward happened in the village and its near surrounds. There were stories of werewolves coming out on the full moon. Of vampires feeding on passing strangers draining them of life blood. Of ghosts and ghouls and zombies. Not to mention the occasional appearance of the resident ghostly giraffe and odd armadillo pair. Edie thrived on all of it. Embellished and encouraged it.
To be continued ….
© Raili Tanska