And so the beast-demon that was once Little Sigmundt took up residence in the druggist's shop by the little stream that ran through town, and kept himself occupied by eating all the cheese he could find; so much so, in fact, that there was soon a desperate shortage of available cheese throughout the village.
"What shall we do," moaned the mayor. "If the beast-demon runs out of cheese, I am sure he shall next devour our chickens and perhaps the elderly."
"More cheese," snarled Little Sigmundt as he crouched atop the druggist's chandelier.
A counsel was held, and it was decided that a master cheese maker should be hired from the next town over; and so a wizened Scotsman named Goggles arrived soon after to begin production of Muenster, Gorgonzola, and Dutch Moose Cheddar in quantity. The wise and hearty Mr. Goggles had but one arm and eight toes to his person, having lost the rest, as he said, "to fortune and cheese." And yet he said that the fumes and odors produced in his workshop had a preservative effect on his body, and that he no longer required the use of his lungs and could therefore hold his breath underwater for at least a fortnight, although this last claim was difficult to substantiate.
But we digress--Meanwhile, Count Otto was busy escorting young Eleanor to his estate above the mill-stream with promises of luncheon, and entertainments, and a walk through his extensive herbarium of twigs, nuts, and mosses from around the globe.
"Ah, my dear," mused the Count as they made their way by donkey up the winding path that lead to his mansion. "I have not heard a single word escape from your coral lips! I suppose you are in awe of my person. That need not be--for while as a captain of industry I am rightly known to be a hideous engine of peril, in the private sphere I am frequently tender and even introspective, especially in the company of clean-limbed youths such as yourself."
The mansion proved to be a 3rd millennium ziggurat imported brick-by-brick from Mesopotamia. "I am passionately devoted to the ziggurat form," said the Count. "I believe that the pyramidal form summons the energies of the Ancients, and points the way on the spirit path to the Celestial Realm. It is also convenient for displaying my unrivaled collection of triangular paintings."
After leaving the donkey by the side of a small sewage flume, Eleanor and the Count passed through massive bronze gates fashioned to resemble the gaping maw of a laughing ape into a crumbling courtyard where they were attended by a staff of small, limping foreign boys. Count Otto briefly detached his peg leg and used this cunningly-fashioned extremity to ring a great Chinese gong, for the purpose, he said, of summoning his children.
"I have three; all, I regret to confess, touched by tragedy," said the Count with a sigh. "The eldest, Igor, is a hopeless wastrel, and common parasite; his twin, Argyle, is hideously deformed in mind and body, a result of a failed biological experiment; and my youngest child and only daughter, Diana, is, privately speaking, evil, and corrupt to her very soul!"
At this, a cruel peal of girlish laughter wafted down from high above; and, looking up, Eleanor and the Count observed none other than Miss Royce-Slaughter herself, with streaming hair and wild eyes, and dressed as a Prussian hussar, clinging precariously from the snout of a massive Slavic gargoyle jutting from the mansion's eastern tower.
"Ha ha," said the girl, her monocle flashing passionately. "You ring the gong, but I am here, with my only friend, the gargoyle. I call him Noodles! He speaks to me! Ha ha ha ha!"
"She is touched," cried the Count, flinging his arms about. "Bring ladders! My daughter is mad! She shall fall, and crush the topiary."
"A fever is upon me," wailed Diana Royce-Slaughter. "Oh! Papa! I swoon!" And with that, the wicked girl loosened her grip from the snout of Noodles, swayed sickeningly above the rooftops for an instant, and then plunged to the cold Earth, some eighty feet below.
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