Sunday, June 30, 2013

fenwick - 6. the castle

by minette de montfort

illustrated by roy dismas

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

click here for previous episode of fenwick

click here to begin fenwick

click here to begin the 14th princess

admiral morwyn stood looking out the north facing window of the "conservatory" on the top floor of castle morwyn, as had been his wont, at that particular time of day, for as long as any living morwyn, or any of the servants, could remember.

behind, him "aunt" morwyn, so called because she was the oldest of the numerous aunts - all the others of whom had to make do with proper names - "aunt sophie". "aunt jane", etc - asked him,

"what are you looking at, out that window?"

"i am looking out the window."

"i know you are looking out the window. but what do you see, looking out the window?"

"what would there be to see?"

"whatever is out there."

"it has not been my experience that there is a great deal to see out there."

"you are testy this morning, admiral. have you not had your breakfast?"

"it is not morning. it is afternoon. the sun has reached its zenith, as is it is inclined to do, and is now beginning its pitiless descent into oblivion. an oblivion all too short lived, as it will be back to do its mischief again tomorrow, all too predictably."

"i asked you if had had your breakfast. i did not invite your tiresome philosophical musings."

"observations of the sun's path hardly qualify as philosophy."

"they did in babylon and chaldea. and perhaps in assyria and the minoan empire as well."

"perhaps," agreed the admiral. "but not in today's world."

"today's world! what an expression! what other world would it be, but today's world?"

the admiral did not deign to answer.

he stood silent, continuing to look out the window.

behind him aunt morwyn remained silent also.

the subject of the admiral's breakfast was forgotten, or at least no longer alluded to, which is not the same thing. is anything ever totally forgotten? a question which has perplexed, or at least engaged philosophers in times ancient and modern.

"modern!" what an absurd concept. reader, we take a stand with aunt morwyn, in regarding the word as totally ridiculous.

human language is a dark overgrown jungle in desperate need of judicious pruning. at least ninety percent of the words which clutter it should be eliminated. what better place to start, than with the word "modern" ?

reader, if you exist and wheresoever you be, we promise that that word will no longer deface this narrative.

to continue.

aunt morwyn and the admiral continued their silent observations, the admiral of the world outside the castle, and aunt morwyn of the admiral's back.

they were old hands at both of these occupations - silence and observation.

the sun continued its pitiless descent into short lived oblivion.

after an eternity - eternity! another word to be consigned to the dustbin!

reader, consider it consigned.

… aunt morwyn ventured to observe, "soon it will be time for tea."

the admiral nodded, without averting his gaze from the spectacle outside the window.

"the servant who brought the tea yesterday… or was it the day before….", aunt morwyn began.

the admiral interrupted her. "a servant did indeed bring tea yesterday. and the day before. and the day before that."

"i was referring to a particular servant. the one that brought tea yesterday. or perhaps it was the day before."

"so you can tell the servants apart?"

"sometimes. especially if one is male and wearing trousers and one is female and wearing a dress."


more time elapsed, or passed, or evaporated.

"and what was there, about this particular servant, that so excited your interest," the admiral ventured at last.

"i am afraid i have quite forgotten. you caused me to lose my train of thought."

if aunt morwyn was expecting an apology from the admiral for causing her to lose her train of thought, she did not get one.

"if you have a problem with the servants, you should take it up with beckwith."

at the admiral's intonation of the word "beckwith" a chill fell over the room and down the spines of aunt merwyn and the admiral himself, even though it had been he who uttered the name.

beckwith was the chief butler at the castle, and ruled both the servants and the morwyns with an iron hand.

"yes," aunt morwyn replied after a pause, "beckwith will know what to do. if i recall the problem i had with the servant - if it indeed was a problem, and if i can recall which servant it was, and whether it was a man or a woman, and whether it was yesterday or the day before or last year, then, yes, perhaps i shall consult beckwith. but, then, beckwith is a busy man and does not always take kindly to being addressed regarding what he considers trifles."

"indeed he does not," agreed the admiral.

more time elapsed, or passed, or evaporated.

the sun, softening its assault just a bit, continued on its path.

"i see something," said the admiral.

"i should hope you do. for what indeed, would be the purpose of looking out a window if one did not see anything?"

"i see a man."

visitors were not common at the castle. both the admiral and aunt morwyn would have been hard pressed to remember the last one.

"oh? is he coming up the path?"

"no, he is crossing the lawn. he seems to have burst through the hedge."

"not some sort of tramp or beggar, i hope."

"it is difficult to tell, as he is covered from head to foot with leaves and brambles from the hedge. he is coming closer now, and picking the leaves and twigs off his person with one hand and waving a stout stick distractedly in the air with the other."

"i ask you again - i put it to you directly, my dear admiral - does he look a vagrant or beggar?"

"i should say - as a tentative observation - that he attempts to present himself as a gentleman, but not quite successfully."

"not quite successfully?"

"now that he has continued his progress, and i have a better view, and can make a better judgment, i shall revise my estimate and say not at all successfully."

"then he is not quite out of the top drawer?"

"he does not seem to be out of any drawer at all, " the admiral replied emphatically.

7. a man not to be trifled with

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