Sunday, September 30, 2007


“Miss Surfeis Perkineiss was the trial of my youth,” Black Ethel continued, pouring herself another measure of rum and settling back into her captain’s chair once more. “While she had a certain charm for people she enjoyed, she could be unutterably cruel to those she did not.”

“Perfectly loathsome!” Alice pronounced before cramming another orange slice into her gaping mouth.

“Indeed,” the pirate queen assented while raising an eyebrow at Alice’s unusually robust consumption. “Any number of faradiddles by Miss Surfeis succeeded in putting me in a very awkward state. She was never quite caught out, but I was always being punished on some whim of hers to blame me for one farrago or another.”

“Did not her parents chastise her for her lack of truthfulness,” Lizzie asked, knowing all too well the blindness of parents to their beloved children’s naughtiness. “I am shocked, shocked to hear such things!”

Black Ethel gave a wry grin. “You are perhaps less surprised than you say, eh mademoiselle? You are correct to guess that her parents indulged to no end her relaxed attitude toward the truth of matters. Lord Surfeit Perkineiss himself was known on many an occasion to sweeten the account of events to his own advantage, so I am little surprised to see such things encouraged.

“One of the most reprehensible of these childhood traumas came when we were both about eight years old. It was a small thing but seemed much larger at the time, as such occurrences do to young children of an impressionable age.

“We were with a small group of children at our favorite gathering place, an old linden tree with many well-loved low branches from which we would swing and have great adventures.”

“We have an old oak like that in our garden,” Alice broke in eagerly, but at a gesture from lizzie, subsided with a reluctant sigh. “Do go on, ma’am.”

Black Ethel sipped her rum and then, with a meaningful look at Alice -- who found herself suddenly feeling very meek indeed -- continued with her tale. “This day we had been playing revolution as we so often did. I was taking the role of Robespierre as I often did, and Surfeis was as usual Marie Antoinette. I enjoyed being on the opposite side from her. Our games were the only place where I could occasionally get my own back, as you English say, on my tormentor.”

Alice and Lizzie made murmuring sounds of sympathy and approval as the situation no doubt required.

“That day, I had captured Marie and confined her to the Bastille -- our favorite tree, naturalment! I was just in the midst of giving a stirring speech to the peasantry, rallying them to the cause, when Marie decided to make a break for it.

“Unfortunately, she made her escape by clouting another unfortunate child on the tête and shoving her to the ground. Poor Madeleine! She came away with a large bump of purple, which the naughty Mademoiselle Perkineiss blamed on me.

“Lord Perkineiss corrected me with a sound thrashing that made me forever his enemy. But worse than that was the sniggering face of Surfeis who watched my beating with laughter and glee. I swore from that moment I would have my revenge!”

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