Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Lady Adventurer

'That was a bit quick, wasn't it?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Mrs Slocombe popping off like that.'
'Yes,' I say, 'it was. Although I had my suspicions she wasn't long for this world yesterday morning when she started mooching about looking miserable as sin.'
'It's jolly inconvenient of her,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'How so?' says I.
'She's left all her smalls drip-drying over the roll-top claw leg bath in the Louis XIV suite,' says Mrs P. 'Which means I'll have to go and wring them out before my guest arrives.'
'You have a guest coming?' I say.
'You almost typed 'gusset' then, didn't you?' says Mrs P.
'I did,' I say. 'It's all the talk about smalls that did it.'

Mrs Pumphrey gives me a look that says, 'you are very easily distracted, aren't you?'

'Anyway, back to my guest,' she says.
'Indeed,' says I. 'Who's visiting that is too important to tangle with Mrs Slocombe's freshly washed knick-knacks?'
'Ah,' says Mrs Pumphrey, and the air around her becomes clouded with mystery. It makes us both cough abit, but luckily we have an industrial fan to hand so it isn't long before the mystery is dispersed.
Mrs Pumphrey continues. 'My visitor is none other than Lady Clementine Flatulette Digby-Dogby-Dugby, the great-great-grand-daughter of that famous Lady Adventurer Lady Jane Digby.'
'You mean, her who has been called one of the most remarkable women of the nineteenth century?' I say.
'You're reading that from your biography of her, aren't you?' says Mrs P.
'The Lady Jane Digby who married a Lord, then left him for an Austrian Prince before becoming mistress of King Ludwig of Bavaria, and then eloping with a young Greek Count?' I say.
'Still reading?' says Mrs P.
'And then left her Greek husband to travel in the Orient where she became mistress of an Albanian general and lived in a cave before meeting the love of her life in Syria, who was twenty years younger than her?' I say, although I am running out of breath now and really out to shut up.
'I'd be more impressed if you were spouting that stuff from the top of your head,' sighs Mrs Pumphrey, 'but yes, that is the Lady Jane Digby to whom my guest is related.'
'Wait a minute,' I say. 'You're telling me that Lady Jane Digby was a chicken?'
'Hardly,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'By all accounts she was very brave, doing all that she did in the time she did it.'
'That's not what I mean,' I say. 'If you are telling me that Lady Jane Digby was a hen, then I think that's a fairly big fact to have been missed out of her biography, don't you?'
Mrs Pumphrey shrugs. 'It happens. Not a lot of people know, for example, that Jane Austen was a guinea fowl.'
'Hmmmm...' I say.

'Anyway, Lady Clementine Flatulette Digby-Dogby-Dugby is arriving this evening in time for sherry, Twiglets and backgammon,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'So I'd better get on and do some tidying.'
'May I ask why she is visiting?' I say.
'You may,' says Mrs Pumphrey, 'and because I am feeling benevolent I shall tell you. Because I have been rendered a chicken on my own by the sudden demise of Mrs Slocombe, I have decided to use my new-found status as a reason to go travel-adventuring. Lady Clementine is going to give me some tips and advice before I set off. A possibly lend me a camel. We haven't negotiated terms yet.'
'Oh,' I say. 'Well, that's an idea, I suppose.'
'Not for long, you understand,' says Mrs P. 'I'll be back. But I want to write a book about my adventures. I need to earn a living now, being a lady of limited means.'
'Like Jane Austen the Guinea Fowl?' I say.
'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Exactly like her. Only more raunchy.'
'That's a good idea,' I say. 'Everyone should write a book. It's a most fulfilling occupation.'
'Better than teaching?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I'll say,' I say.
'I've come up with a title already,' says Mrs P.
'Which is?'
'Well, two titles actually,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I want to call it 'Travel In My Pants.'
'Very wise,' I say. 'Always travel in pants. Saves a lot of embarrassment, especially if you should fall over on a railway station in the rush hour.'
'But now I'm thinking that I should call it 'Travel WITH My Pants. Or more precisely, with Mrs Slocombe's pants. I could take some of her smalls with me, recognition of her friendship and company these last four years.'
'A lovely gesture,' I say. 'But I think 'Travel In My Pants' sounds better, because the context of the ownership of the pants is important and after all it is going to be YOUR adventure.'
Mrs Pumphrey sighs. 'Yes,' she says. 'I suppose Mrs Slocombe's adventure is over, isn't it?'

I nod, and we pause for a moment to remember that mad old chicken with a funny glint in her eye, a wobbly comb and a penchant for human kneecap flesh.

'Dedicate your book to her,' I say. 'She'd like that.'
'She would, wouldn't she?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Well, I'm off to prepare for the arrival of Lady Clementine. See you tomorrow.'
'Take care,' I say. 'Take the salad spinner, too. It'll dry Mrs S's smalls a treat.'

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Mrs Betty Slocombe with the promise that, just for her, the madness will continue.

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