Night of a Belle with Mark

One day Steve called Dan, Betty, Fitzhugh and Barry to a meeting.

"It's Mark," said Steve, "He wants us to hold his and Valerie's wedding in a giant cake store, while it's closed in the middle of the night, so that he can give her an official wedding cake."

"But I thought you didn't want him to do that," said Fitzhugh.

"I know. The time comes when we all have to pull his way. Next time he pulls ours."

"I don't see why we should all engage in this strenuous task without the proper marital inducement," said Fitzhugh.

"Well let me put it this way!" said Betty, sounding more agitated than the others could ever remember, "Without Mark, we can't repair the space ship. So mush!"

All seven Spindrift members made it into the giant shop and climbed up onto the display table There was a suitable wedding cake on top. The group climbed onto it, and prepared to perform the ceremony.

"Do you, Mark Wilson take this woman Valerie Scott, to have and to hold, to run away from giants together in perpetuity if necessary, for as long as you both shall live?" asked Steve, serving as celebrant.

"I do," said Mark, as Fitzhugh prepared to give Valerie away.

Betty was serving as bridesmaid, with Dan as best man and Barry as Groomsman.

"And do you, Valerie Scott, take this man, Mark Wilson, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?" asked Steve.

"I do," said Valerie.

"Can anyone think of any reason why these two should not lawfully be wedded?"

"I object," said Kobick, banging on the shopfront window from outside. He and his sergeant were even more clearly lit by the street lamps than they were. Someone must have seen them and reported them. If Kobick busted in, he'd catch them for sure.

"Then by the temporary power voted into me as Captain of the ship that stranded us here, I now pronounce you husband and wife and advise you to run for it," said Steve.

They all jumped off the cake and went sliding down the ropes quickly, ran out the back door of the shop and into the drain that had brought them there. They had chosen it for its ease of escape if need be, as Mark had noted its proximity to the store.

"I guess the consummation will have to wait," said Mark.

"Yeah, well, we'll find you a bed someday," said Steve.

"I don't believe the audacity of the little nuisances!" thundered Kobick, "To hit a cake shop and conduct a wedding right here in my town. Once they start breeding, we'll never catch them all."

"It could slow them down, with kids to take care of Sir," said the Sergeant.

The earthlings got back to the Spaceship and set up the lean-to for Mark and Valerie to make the most of.

Several weeks had passed since the Wilson Wedding.

"Betty, your cooking has left a lot to be desired lately!" said Fitzhugh.

"Well you seem to have eaten enough of it not to lose any weight!" snapped Betty, uncharacteristically.

"Speak for yourself," said Fitzhugh, "Have you noticed how much weight you've put on, young lady."

"Oh!" said Betty and stormed off.

"Mr Fitzhugh, sometimes you don't know the best things to say," said Barry.

"Now don't lecture me, boy," said Fitzhugh, "I was only…"

"You're usually lecturing him," said Dan.

"Let's put the arguments to rest," said Steve.

"Something has been bothering Betty lately," said Valerie.

"She seems edgy and reactive all the time," said Mark.

"I'll see if I can find out what it is," said Steve, and went to find Betty sobbing on a rock.

"Come on, you know Fitzhugh's low on the tact department. You used to shrug it off like the rest of us," said Steve.

"I'm not overweight," said Betty, "Do you remember Joe?"

"The giant who pretended to be an earthling?" said Steve, "You were closer to him than the rest of us, before he died, weren't you?"

"Closer than you think," said Betty, "At one point, we snuck off on our own. We couldn't approach a marriage celebrant in this giant world. So we made our own marriage vows in the forest. We couldn't get to a pharmacy either, so we just took a chance, when one thing led to another, and then he took me back to his friends and I found out he was one of them. I'm pregnant with his child, Steve."

"Let's see. That was nearly nine months ago. So you must be due any time now."

"It feels like it could be today," said Betty, "We don't know anything about delivering a baby. What am I going to do?"

"We'll get all our medical gear and sneak into the vents of the SID prison. In a vent of Dr Bruhl's jail cell, we can ask him to supervise the delivery," said Steve.

"Steve, I'm sorry for getting us into this."

"It's alright. It explains why you've been standing behind bushes a lot lately."

Steve returned to the Spindrift with Betty.

"Everyone, I think we have some very special news. Betty's going to have a baby," said Steve.

"We didn't even know you were seeing each other," said Valerie.

"It's not me. It was Joe," said Steve, "They got married on their way into the city. It was a do-it-yourself ceremony."

"I guess I won't be the youngest any more," said Barry.

Steve, Dan and Fitzhugh collected all of the medical supplies, as well as the medical book which Fitzhugh had once promised to translate for Dr Bruhl. He took a pen with him, so that he could write the translations in between the lines, as it was a large print hardcover edition.

They were soon under way, with Betty, and then Valerie came running towards them.

"You might need a midwife, Skipper," said Valerie.

"My dear, I'm sorry for what I said about your cooking," said Fitzhugh, "The truth is I have a lot of money at my disposal, and I'd be glad to help you make a proper home one day."

"I'll take that under advisement, Fitz," said Betty.

Six (ours) to give

They reached the SID prison and hid in the vent for two days. Steve and Dan kept an eye out for warden Barmak, while Fitzhugh wrote and spoke the translations at the same time for the doctor. Valerie tended to Betty, using the small bedroll they'd brought with them. The others would take turns sleeping on the soft ground just outside the prison, under concealment of plants.

Finally Betty started to give birth. Steve and Valerie performed the delivery under Dr Bruhl's guidance, and Betty was soon the mother of a baby girl.

"I wonder if she'll outgrow me and take after her father's natural size," she laughed.

"You can hide the book in the cell vent and read my English version at your leisure," said Fitzhugh, whose knowledge of German had been their best asset in past negotiations with the Doctor.

"My parole is coming up soon," said Dr Bruhl, "I've been a model prisoner."

"I'm sorry you were ever jailed for aiding us," said Dan.

They stayed in the vent until Betty was well enough to travel with the baby, and then went back to the Spindrift.

In the days ahead, they had the baby's christening, and named her Josephine. Barry enjoyed holding the child, as he had always felt like the baby of the group himself up until that point.

As the weeks went on, it seemed that their visit to the SID prison had not attracted any attention. It would not help them if Inspector Kobick found out that they now had a baby to take care of. All of the giant pharmacies would be staked out by SID men, if the knowledge ever came to light.

One day Mark and Barry had carried the flame thrower out into the forest, to toast the marshmallows from a half empty bag of them, which some giant had dropped. The bag of marshmallows was too heavy to drag back to the Spindrift. So they had brought the flame thrower to the marshmallows instead.

Suddenly an 17 year old boy came running towards them.

"Giant!" he screamed.

Into view stepped a girl.

"So that's where I dropped my marshmallows," said the girl, "And it looks like I'll catch three little people too."

She reached for Barry.

"Get behind me, both of you!" yelled Mark, and blasted at the girl's sleeve with the flame thrower.

The dress had long loose sleeves, and he hadn't burned her wrists, but she had to put the fire out fast. She ran off to a nearby creek, to douse her hand.

"Forget the marshmallows and get back to the ship!" said Mark, running beside them with the flamethrower.

"Steve won't like it," said Barry, "We're supposed to check with him before we bring someone new to camp."

"Perhaps Steve would like it if we let Miss Candy Girl there come back and grab this boy and then we all have to rescue him," said Mark, "Besides, if we all burst into camp on the run from a giant, I think he'll be glad we lost her."

They reached the Spindrift camp, and detailed their adventure for the others.

"I still can't get over you being my size," said the boy, "I'm Jack Taylor."

"What ship did you come in?" asked Mark.

"I didn't come in a ship. Is this craft what got you here?" asked Taylor.

"Yes. We went through an anomaly in space and crashed here," said Steve, "If you didn't come by space ship, how did you get here?"

"I passed through an anomaly too," said Jack, but it's at ground level, although a long way from this place."

Dan was excited.

"See, Steve! Remember when we met Ackman and his granddaughter at that model village. I theorized that we'd gone through a force field or warp to get back to earth. It turned out I was wrong, but the theory isn't. There really is one at ground level."

"There sure is," said Taylor.

"And you're going to take us to it?" asked Betty.

"Of course. That's such a cute kid you've got there," said Taylor.

"It's a long journey with a small dog and a baby to consider," said Steve, "We'll have to abandon the ship, and take all our provisions with us. We'll have to stop and sleep on route, I guess."

"Who cares about the ship?" said Fitzhugh, "We can't even get it off the ground. Let's just go and find this warp and get back to earth. I've got a case full of money to carry too."

So for several days, all eight earthlings and Chipper made their way out of the forest, through giant fields and gardens, until they came to a large property. They had avoided being seen by any giants, and were now almost at the point where Taylor had said they would find the warp.

"We'll have to do a bit of climbing," said Taylor, "The garden's on a bit of a slope. Let me help rig up a way of securely strapping Josephine to Betty."

"Quite the gentleman," said Betty.

Soon an elaborate sling, with several straps (torn from clothing and tied together) made up a suitable sling for Betty to carry Josephine. They started down the hill toward the location of the warp.

To their surprise, a tall woman stepped out from a thick part of the garden and into view. It was the wife of the giant entomologist. She had captured Steve and taped him to a table top to study him, during their first adventure.

She loomed towards them.

"Get the baby out of here!" yelled Steve, "The rest of you scatter to divert her!"

The woman could not chase all of them at once. Betty and Valerie took Josephine into a flowerbed and hid the baby well. Chipper followed and stood guard, in case the giantess came there way.

The woman quickly rounded up Steve, Mark, Dan, Barry, Taylor and Fitzhugh, putting them into her pockets, one by one. She took them all inside.

"I thought her house was way back near the forest," said Dan.

"This is her old house," said Taylor, "I met her when she was married to her first husband and lived here."

"The giant who brought in the cage Valerie and I had stumbled into must be her second husband," said Steve, "Guess she's using this place for a weekender."

The giant woman took them all inside and put them into a cage.

"Fee fie foe feeple!

I smell the blood of some little people.

Be ye brave or giantess-phobic,

I shall turn you in, to Kobick!" said the woman.

The Secret Pity of Widow

"We used to be friends," said Taylor.

"That was before you knocked off my first husband," said the woman, "It took me three years to remarry. My benevolence with little people died with my second husband, after he developed a blood clot in the veins of his leg. The infection spread and killed him. It was because one of you shot tiny bullets into him from the drain that night we'd caught two of you. It was back before the reward money was announced. So we studied you, as he was a devoted scientist. Now I'm going to get rich and replace some of the treasures that Jack looted."

"Madam, I'm very good at picking giant race horses and rigging races too," said Fitzhugh, "With your help, I'm sure I could make a proper home for you."

"You! You're the one who had the gun. He told me it was the oldest of the little people. You'll make me rich alright, but I won't have to go to a horse race to do it. I'm sick of little people whacking my husbands!" she said, "I'm off to have some lunch before my walk into the city to hand you over to Inspector Kobick."

She walked out of the room, leaving them trapped in the cage on the floor.

"Well you can't blame an old bachelor for trying," said Fitzhugh.

"Will you shut up?" said Mark.

Valerie came into the room, lugging a giant twig.

"I saw her bring you in. Betty's minding Josephine in the garden," she said, "I'll use this to pry the lever open on the cage."

Soon they were all on their way down through the garden again.

Jack Taylor led them to the warp, and they marvelled at the fact that a huge beanstalk appeared to be growing out the top of it.

"It's growing from way below the other side of the warp," said Jack, "We'll have a long climb down it to my mother's farm. It might be difficult for you with a baby to carry, Betty. I've had lots of experience in shinning up and down the thing with golden harps and eggs and so on. That was when I was years younger, before the new beanstalk grew from the remains of the old. I had to chop it down, when her hubby was coming down after me to get his loot back."

"You're quite the Brave Little Taylor, aren't you?" said Betty, and gently handed the baby to Valerie, while Jack detached the sling from her shoulders, and put it onto his own, while Barry rigged up a similar attachment for Chipper.

"Yes. I'm saving seven in one go," said Jack.

"A grand thief after my own heart," said Fitzhugh.

"Let's hope we don't have to chop this one down too," said Steve, "This warp's not in airless space, and it's big enough for that giant woman to follow us down, if she thought of it."

"She wouldn't dare to climb it after what happened to her husband," said Jack.

He led them through the warp and they saw that they were at the top of an enormous stalk, which had reached into the clouds.

"It's quite a climb," said Valerie.

"But it'll be easier with all the giant leaves, than it ever was, when we had to use giant string as ropes to reach their tables," said Mark, "We'd better get started, before she comes back to the cage room and sees us missing."

They made it to the bottom of the beanstalk.

"You irresponsible good for nothing!" said Jack's mother, "Where have you been?"

Jack explained to his mother, that he'd been exploring the other parts of the Land of the Giants.

"You're supposed to be the man around here, and yet you're off on a whim! When I think of all the years I raised you …." Jack's mother continued.

"How do you put up with that?" asked Valerie, when the woman had finally gone inside, as she noticed Fitzhugh following her into the house, still carrying his case of stolen money, which he had carefully strapped to his back on the way down.

"I know. I was better off with the giant woman's complaints," said Jack.

"Let me take you away from all this," said Betty, "You've been so thoughtful and good for Josephine. She didn't cry once on the way down with you."

Inside the house, Fitzhugh approached Mrs Taylor.

"Madam, I have a million dollars in this briefcase. I'm sure I could make a good home for you…"

A few months later, the Spindrift team attended a double wedding on earth.

"And do you, Jack Taylor, take this woman Betty Hamilton, to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?" asked the parson.

"I do," said Jack.

Betty had used her maiden name, as Joe never had a known surname in the time that he was masquerading as an earth man and feigning partial amnesia.

"And do you, Betty Hamilton, take this man Jack Taylor, to be your lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," said Betty.

"Then if anyone here knows any reason, why these two cannot lawfully be wedded, let him speak now or forever hold his peace."

Jack had never told any of the Spindrift team why he had gone back to the giant world in the first place. His first encounter with the giantess had been in his pre-adolescent days. By the time the new beanstalk had grown, and Jack Taylor had reached the age of 17, he had started recalling the giantess with rather fond feelings. To explore his fantasies, he had climbed up the new beanstalk, but been unable to locate her, until he'd gone into her house and found a sheet of paper with her other address. It had not been until she had captured the lot of them, that he had learned that the other address was that of a second deceased husband. He had set off to find it, been chased by the giant girl, and then rescued by Mark and Barry.

Now Jack half expected the giantess to lift off the church roof and say, "I object."

Still Betty was a younger widower, although five years older than him, and he had decided he loved her more. After all, the prospect of being handed to a giant inspector for money was rather hard on a potential courtship. Having bumped off the woman's first husband in self defence tended to complicate things too.

As Barry looked at Betty in her bridal gown, he was finding it hard not to hold his piece. Still, there was another woman who had caught his attention recently, and he did his best to be happy for Jack and Betty.

"Then I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride," said the parson.

Jack kissed Betty.

Valerie was there as bridesmaid. Betty's father had given her away. Betty's mother was minding her granddaughter from Betty's first brief marriage, as she sat in church seat. Now, with Betty's marriage completed, Valerie went and sat in the seats, with her husband Mark Wilson, who was already present in a seat close to the back of the church.

"Now, as the second marriage involves the mother of the previous groom, I will proceed directly on to that ceremony," said the parson, "Do you, Alexander Fitzhugh take this woman Crotchette Taylor, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," said Fitzhugh.

A curious groaning was suddenly heard. Nobody could place where it was coming from.

The parson continued:

"And do you, Crotchette Taylor, take this man Alexander Fitzhugh, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"

A curious giggling was suddenly heard. Nobody could place where it was coming from.

"I do," said Jack's mother.

"If anyone knows any reason why these two cannot lawfully be wedded, let him speak now or forever hold his peace," said the parson.

The groaning and giggling, which had continued for some time, began to get louder and louder.

Suddenly everyone looked around, and saw what Mark Wilson had observed from the moment the noise had started.

Valeried Wilson was in hysterics.

She got up and ran out of the church.

"It's a bit of a stomach upset, I think," said Mark feebly, "I'll take care of her."

Mark Wilson got up and followed Valerie out of the church.

"I take it that wasn't actually an objection," said the parson, "So by the power invested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride."

Fitzhugh kissed Jack's mother, and the service continued.

Outside in the church garden, Valerie couldn't contain herself.

"What is it, Val?" asked Mark.

"It has to be Fitzhugh's finest command performance," she laughed, "All along we though he only cared about money, and from what you've told me, he used virtually the same instant chat up line on Betty, then the giant entomologist's wife, and then on Jack's mother. I could see she was a very demanding woman, by the way she laid into Jack as soon as we got down the beanstalk. If she only knew he'd won her over with money that he stole from a bank over a year ago, and what that money had been through. Don't you remember he once promised it to Barry, when he had appendicitis? Then he actually overcame his usual cowardice and broke into SID headquarters all by himself, and used his talents as a safecracker, to get it out of Kobick's safe, after Kobick confiscated it, during Fitzhugh's brief stint as a giant."

"Let him enjoy his happiness. I know we've found ours," said Mark.

"But we can't go back in there after all my groaning and giggling," said Valerie.

"What do you suggest we do?"

"The service still has another half an hour of formalities for both wedded couples," said Valerie, "There's the signing of the register, the inside photographs and so on."

She kissed him passionately on the front lawn of the church.