Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A True Love's Lament (Part VII)

Dear Father,

On the seventh day of Christmas, my "true love" gave to me: seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, FIVE GOLD RINGS, four "calling" birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I have spent this last night and day thinking, as I promised you I would, on what the last week of festive disappointment - and ultimately, horror - portended for my future happiness with the perilous dunderhead I was once only too glad to marry upon your recommendation.

So much can change in a week, dear Father.  I daresay on the second Sunday of July 1815, Napoleon was busy congratulating himself on how well everything was going, and looking forward to visiting the Waterloo tea-shops once all that tedious fighting was out of the way. Indeed, my own position feels not entirely dissimilar; for such a small house an invasion by six dozen birds bears no little resemblance to an incoming Seventh Coalition column, especially were the formation to be comprised of Dutchmen.

The birds that already plagued the estate have now become utterly unbearable.  What was once first a thriving seed garden and then a distinctly threadbare one is now nothing more than a potter's field for my horticultural treasures and the dreams I planted alongside them.  Several of my more nervous staff have quit my employ, citing repeated attacks by angered blackbirds, or vicious stabbings at the hands (wings) of the French hens.  The garden shed - briefly the roost of near a dozen particularly corpulent doves - has now collapsed beneath the accumulated weight of these birds and their... emanations, breaking the leg of my gardener who was unfortunate enough to be searching for the secateurs at the time. Two of the men who came at my request to offer aid reported wounds of their own following an ambush initiated by a half-dozen bloodthirsty geese.

From the smell crawling under the cellar door, where I have ordered my true love keep his ever-growing collection of pear trees, I am quite convinced that at least one of the partridges is dead. I thank God the fresh-faced policeman who arrived in the wake of my gardener's crippling failed to detect the lingering stench, lest he conclude the shed incident was simply the last in a long line of murder attempts upon domestic staff, with the cellar the final resting place of those already claimed by Death's embrace.

In short, Father, the barometer of my emotions was very much falling into the range marked "Absolutely not".    Even if it brings down a family as historic as our own, there are some things a woman cannot be expected to suffer, especially by way of mitigating the disastrous idiocy of her careless brother.

But if previous events had left me tottering on the precipice of an uncertain future, it was this morning's calumnies that caused me to fling myself into empty air with a glad heart.

Father, the perilous dunderhead did it again.  Six more outraged geese, bound and stoppered through mechanisms horrible and methods blissfully unknown, each forced to ovulate simultaneously for my "enjoyment".  The only concession my once true love made to the unbearable fracas from yesterday morning was his employment of a half dozen cushions - each one removed from the furnishings they had remained on since they were first gifted to me by my dearly departed grandmother - to catch the goose eggs (and sundry filth) as they passed clear.  That the geese seemed less willing to wage war on their surroundings now that their eggs survived this torturous ordeal was of scant consolation, I assure you.

That is when the screaming started.

For a moment I almost assumed it was the sound of my own voice, that in the face of a full week of ever-escalating madness I had simply gone insane myself.  But then sense reasserted itself, and it became obvious I was mistaken.  The screams were coming from behind the house, and were quite obviously those of a man.

The memory of my poor gardener fresh in my mind, I ran as quickly as dress and decorum allowed outside, followed quickly by the perilous dunderhead, who clearly saw no problem in leaving a small gaggle of aggrieved geese unsupervised in my hallway.  It was hardly difficult to follow the sounds of agonised distress, and soon enough I found by my koi pond a young man - a boy, really - clutching his left arm with his right; the latter gradually becoming soaked in blood from the former, which hung from the shoulder at an angle entirely anatomically impossible under healthy circumstances.

I had no need to ask the boy what had happened, for my koi pond was now filled with hissing swans, jostling for position across a water-feature too small for them, and each one as angry about this fact as those crowding it from either side.  Clearly the admonishments of Mother (which I am ashamed to say I never thought plausible until now) were all too true, and one of the ill-tempered water-birds had shattered the boy's arm.

As the perilous dunderhead and I did our best to help the boy out of danger, the whole sorry story swam to the surface: the boy had been delivering seven swans to the pond, on the instructions of my former true love. "A navy," as the perilous dunderhead said "To go along with the army I've already secured you".  The disgust with which I received this facetious reply was characteristically completely lost on him, as was the outrage with which I pointed out that my festive haul now consisted of sixty-nine birds, seven trees, four smashed Ming vases and two broken limbs, along with a shed and tapestry both in dire need of repair, and a likely life-long aversion to omelettes.

(I'm also not entirely sure how my koi carp will be fairing.)

In all frankness, the fact that my no-longer true love attempted recompense for these disgraces with more gold rings than any four women of breeding would be comfortable wearing seemed less gifts so wonderful as to excuse inconveniences elsewhere, and more the trinkets one might press into the clammy hands of a backstreet strumpet in order to gain their silence regarding one's disgracefully ungentlemanly behaviour.

Needless to say, I had no interest in playing the part offered.  I quietly and coolly informed the perilous dunderhead that his services as fiance were no longer required, and left him to help the boy he hired reach the hospital.  Upon entering the house, I informed the staff not to allow the man I once thought of as my true love entrance under any circumstances, and retired to my room to compose myself, and then to write this letter.

I am under no illusions, Father; this letter will enrage you.  Whilst your attempt to pin our family's hopes upon the fortunes of so great a fool as the perilous dunderhead remains your mistake, I am keenly aware that it is I who has thrown a wrench into the plan.  For this, I fear, you will simply have to forgive me; there is certainly nothing else you can do in the matter.  If you wish to call upon me to discuss further, please try to choose a time when the trilling, honking, hissing, cooing, clucking and death-rattles of my aviary are not too loud for me to hear you ring the bell.

I remain your doting daughter,


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