Sunday, May 12, 2013


It was a well proportioned room in an old building on St James Street, where 'rich' was an assumed adjective on every piece of furniture and every fixture. That or 'sumptuous'. It was normally well lit with establishment types guffawing at borderline witticisms and wagering obscene amounts on absurd events, but some nights a more subdued environment was preferred. Or as one of the gentlemen present had put it "something with a bit of bloody class about it would be a good start." Flames oozed from a glowering pile of coals, providing enough light to outline the edges of the deep-backed seats and nothing more.
"It's quite astonishing when you give it some thought," said a voice from the shadows of one chair. There was a hint of whiskers about the voice, waxed of course, and strong overtones of a beaky nose.
"Huh?" The wobble in the voice from the other chair as it roused from fireplace reverie suggested jowls.
"I said that it is astonishing."
"Did you happen to say what is astonishing?"
"Not yet."
"I don't suppose," said as a sigh, "that you will do so soon?"
"I never miss your conversation, no matter how long we are apart. Anyway," he paused, and his next words were clearly after taking a drink of whatever was in the decanter on the table between them. "It is astonishing how few of them get to fifty. The most careful and cared for life one could possibly ask for, and yet this is only the fourth to get to fifty years."
"Fifth I think."
"Really? There's this one, Victoria obviously, that Edward, was it the second?"
"Third," came the rumbled reply.
"Third then, and the little Henry. Who did I miss?"
"George the third."
"He was around for fifty years?"
"Sixty in the end."
"I don't remember much of him if I'm being truthful. Besides the whole Napoleon unpleasantness of course."
"As I recall, you spent most of the time quite dissolute in the southern parts of Italy."
"Hah, yes! No worse than your stay with the Spaniards in the late fifteenth, to be fair. Now that was a bacchanal of the highest order."
"Indeed it was. Most enjoyable. I don't believe I was truly sober for nearly a quarter of a century." A few moments of nostalgia passed accompanied by nothing more than a few pops and hisses from the fireplace.
"Do you think this one will get to her diamond? Seventy five years, that would be something." He made an interrogative grunt at the sigh that rolled from his companion. "What now?"
"Diamond is sixty years. Victoria had one."
"Ah yes, now I recall." Their conversation was put on hiatus as a member of the serving staff entered, announced the arrival of a particularly obscure blend of tobacco, and left. The gentleman with the jowls performed the ritual packing and lighting of his pipe with the solemn dignity it deserved, and adjusted his posture to allow for ideal smoking conditions. He pushed the first plume of smoke towards the ceiling and cleared his throat.
"Do you ever wonder what we're supposed to be doing?"
"In what sense?"
"As far as we know it's just you, me and," a suggestive cough, "him. Nobody else seems to be around long enough to get get familiar with before they're put back in the ground, and there's this bloody," he reached for a word, "pull to the royal family. Do you suppose," he sounded like a student who knows he has homework but can't remember what it is, "that we should be doing something?"
"Most likely," was the reply. "But without master or mission, who is going ensure that we do?"
"I guess you're right."

Next week's word is just.

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