Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

The Entire Assemblaged and Compilated Kingdom of Life

Penned upon the 31st of December, 2011

Parts one through five of six of the Reports from the Kingdom of Life first appeared on Po’Boy around the turn of 2011. Po’Boy’s editor has since flit and quit this hemisphere, leaving part six unpublished. With the hope of plucking readers from the lurch and carrying you safely to a sense of completion, FrillyShirt presents the seriesette here, in whole and unparted.


FOR THE URGENT ATTENTION OF SIR MAYNARD KETTERING, FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
From Mr Dudley-Pikestaff, British Embassy (Temporary), Avant.

Sir Maynard, I write as we agreed to report my assessment of the so-called “Kingdom of Life” and the threat it may present to stability on the Continent. Its bid at independence has encountered surprisingly little resistance – because, I suppose, the nominal sovereignty of a strategically obsolete fort town perched on a remote mountain poses little actual challenge to Swiss rule. The inhabitants of the town – solid country folk all – have gone on living much as they always have, it seems. Who sits in the Majestic Throne-room (formerly a grain store) makes little difference to their herds and workshops.

I was actually introduced to the “Monarch” on Tuesday morning (she is always called the Monarch, never the Queen, for some reason.) She is actually a fascinating young lady, with a possessing air and captivating gaze despite her brief rule and common origins. Contrary to reports of Avant and its surrounds as an Anarchistic rabble, there is a Constabulary and a penal code, of sorts. Many laws exist as deliberate challenges to propriety – I am told that Respecting The Person of The Monarch is a capital offence, and one young officer had the nerve to accuse myself of being Sober And Orderly. His superior was no better, threatening to have the Embassy searched for such controlled substances as cucumber sandwiches, tonic water, and jelly. Remembering my promise to you, I accompanied him to the High Court as a fact-finding expedition, and was able to quietly remind the fellow of diplomatic privilege and British artillery. During my visit, I was also witness to a coronial inquest following the death of a poet, which, after rather theatrical viewing of evidence, brought the finding of “murder by parson or parsons unknown” – a political trial, I fear.

I shall write again when I learn anything more of this strange and disreputable place. Until then, I remain your humble and obedient servant,
Terrence Dudley-Pikestaff, D.Litt.


Sir Maynard,

I know by your acquaintance with my late father that you are aware of my sensitive nervous system. I must therefore complain in the strongest possible terms of the conditions to which I am subjected on this Continental jaunt. I have been exposed to the most intolerable persecution by my hosts – always, you understand, apparently unpremeditated, but with such frequency as to suggest an organised campaign by anti-British elements present in Avant society. The past three mornings have seen me woken by monstrous apparitions at my windows – children in masks, balanced on the drain outside and banging on the shutters. I am almost ready to request different rooms – I like to think I am a tolerant fellow, but being greeted on rising by Mephistopheles, Spring-Heeled Jack and a lewd and leering Elizabeth I is simply too much to bear.

I must add that this conspiracy has spread to the very protectors of society, or otherwise the Constable with whom I previously clashed has enlisted his comrades against me. I received word that a part of my delayed luggage had arrived, but on arriving to collect it, found it being torn apart by an unshaven Customs & Excise Officer, who seized my music collection and served me with a warning for “Handeling stolen property.” Strangest still is the treatment I received at the public house. I had hoped to visit incognito and observe the citizens of the Kingdom at leisure, but one young rough dressed in stained velvet and lace overheard a criticism I made in regard to the dancing girls’ false moustaches, and dragged me out in front of the crowd.

Naturally, at this point, I feared that my identity had been discovered, or that the mob intended to rob me, but I was subject to a far queerer villainy. The rough led them in chanting “fill a stein for the fill-a-stein” (or something of that nature? Your guess is as good as mine, Your Excellency.) Once this dreadful row had reached its pitch, they placed a large mug of sour beer before me, and quite refused to let me speak or leave my seat before I had drained it dry. Having achieved this unpleasant feat, the grip holding me in place lessened and I thought I could escape, but no sooner had I made some parting remark about one of my persecutors’ unfashionably garish stockings than the chanting had begun again and a fresh mug was ordered.

My memory is hazy about the night following this point, but some sympathetic soul must have come to my aid, for I awoke in my own chambers with my belongings reasonably intact, though for some reason I had been given a lady’s tiara instead of my own hat, and a vulgar watercolour had been painted on my handkerchief before it was returned to me. You may imagine the effect this inhospitable treatment had on my delicate nerves, and so I write to beg you that this fact-finding delegation not be extended overlong and to suggest that my skills might be better placed in another posting – in Wales, for instance.

One final note before I sign off: I have begun to suspect that the local lad employed by the embassy is tampering with my outbound mail. Please regard any post-scriptural alterations with all due suspicion.

I remain your humble and obedient servant,
Terrence is a DudleyhisPikestaff, De.Littes.


TELEPHONE TRANSCRIPTION – FOR OFFICIAL EYES ONLY

SECRETARY: Sir Maynard, call from Avant for you.

KETTERING: Avant? Pikestaff will be complaining again… caught two newlyweds (indecipherable) in his private pantry or something. (noises)lright, operator, put him through, please. Mr Dudley-Pikestaff! What’s news?

DUDLEY-PIKESTAFF: Sir Mayn- Sir- the most unexpected discovery, I mean, the balance of powers, the theological implications alone! The Monarch, and the pirates; the w-w-worst excesses of the Civil War did not..!

K: Steady there, my boy. Discovered something, have you? Tell me all about it, beginning at the beginning.

DP: Yes, yes, beginning at the beginning, b-jin at the b… yes, yes I will. (breathing noises) Two days ago, I was longing for some refined entertainment – you will recall that my music collection was stolen from my luggage – and so I decided to attend the opera. I’m very interested in Wagner, you know.

K: Yes, you explained him to me in some detail at Christmas dinner last year.

DP: I… did I, my lord? Well… I arranged to attend the Avant Palace of the Arts, which was difficult enough in itself; I told the boy who mans the door to call me a cab, as I was interested in seeing the Ring Cycle, and the idiotic youth led me to the squalid little yard out the back to show me one he’d invented.

K: Invented? A… ring-cycle?

DP: It looked like a hobby horse balanced in a toy hoop… apparently his father is developing a model involving a live manatee for the government. Useless child.

K: Hm… we had wondered who was selling whimcycles to Hungary’s border-guards… but I’m interrupting you, Terrence. Do go on.

DP: W-well, I found a cab on my own, and arrived at the Palace of the Arts – a more opulent building than the Royal Palace, you’ll be surprised to learn (KETTERING: Not really(?muffled?)) – and secured my seat. Unhappily, I discovered that I was not to see Götterdämmerung, but only a pirate performance of The Gondoliers – we must let D’Oyly Carte’s solicitors know about that, too.

K: That’s fine, Terrence, we can do that.

DP: My eye was drawn to the Royal Box, which I had learned was usually kept closed. There were a number of guardsmen – the Kingdom keeps a special regiment for protecting the Palace of the Arts; the Corps de Ballet. Their presence suggested that the Monarch was attending this performance, so I turned about in my seat, like this, (noises) to see if I could catch a glimpse of her.

K: Oh, dear, Pikestaff – you’re not pining after a Queen, are you?

DP: Well, it would not matter, Sir Maynard, it would not, would not matter – the Monarch had changed! That is to say, it was a different person! A dour young man, but in the crown, the robes – the Monarch I had met was no-where to be seen!

K: What?! Now, you’re sure this was definitely supposed to be the Monarch? Not someone else using the Box?

DP: Certainly as certainly can be! He had the Royal Guard, he was being addressed by the courtiers… I asked an usher, and he said it could not have been anyone else… now, I sought to find out more immediately, but there was an interruption just then, my lord… it seems the opera pirates were, well, actual pirates, and staged an attack from the stage… singing as they sliced the front rows to ribbons… a most alarming business, I had to flee through the deus ex machina, but I shall spare you the horrid, horrid details of my escape.

K: Did you learn the facts of this abrupt coup?

DP: This is the most shocking of all, my lord. I made enquiries through a trusted intermediary… the position of Monarch, the supreme head of state, is not hereditary, but is held by appointment! For a maximum duration of one month!

K: I say, that is strange.

DP: It is the gravest mockery of respectability I have yet encountered in this pandaemonic ruin! I have absolutely made it my quest to find the previous Monarch – the girl I had met, if they have not… done away with her – and to learn from her the precise whys and wherefores of this absurd system, and to save her from it, if I can!

K: Yes, yes, Pikestaff, but I’m sure it will be alright – you look after those poor nerves of yours, yes? (DUDLEY-PIKESTAFF: (kitten noises?)) I had hoped you could learn something for me about trade agreements in the Baltic, but if you want to find this lady as well, you can.

DP: I shall yet you know as soon as I discover anything; the very moment..!

K: Yes, that’s alright. You go and lie down now. Have you been sleeping much, old boy? Have a nice lie down. That’s right. Thank you, operator; I’ll end the call now. Yes, and to you too.

TRANSCRIPT ENDS


FOR THE IMMEDIATE, UNDIVIDED AND UNADULTERATED ATTENTION OF SIR MAYNARD KETTERING, FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
From Mr Dudley-Pikestaff, British Embassy (Temporary), Avant.

Sir Maynard,
I write with the most thrilling news. I have located – as it happens, by purest good fortune – the young lady who was until recently the Supreme Monarch of this so-called Kingdom of Life. I have further succeeded in securing an interview with this individual; a transcript of which I attach below. I say it was fortune which brought me to her, for, despite my best efforts at playing a Sherlock, I had failed to “pick up the trail” until, standing on the steps of the Embassy, I saw her walk by with a shopping basket.

I was fair flummoxed, you understand, and she rounded the corner before I recovered myself enough to seek to attract her attention. I immediately sought means to pursue her – my doctor forbids me to sprint, on account of my asthma, and there were few cabs, as the new Monarch feels they serve as impediments to the “vitality of street life” (though I suspect he is unduly influenced by the representatives of the city’s urchins and pickpockets.) In any case, though it pains me to admit it, I was forced to ask the young idiot on the door to loan me his ring-cycle.

I consider myself an able cyclist, Your Excellency, but riding this machine was more akin to being shaken up in a cocktail. I kept my balance until Market Street, but the effort of avoiding fruit-stalls and squabbling children proved too distracting, and I began to roll heels over head in the most upsetting manner. Though I feared of entirely losing my bearings, my quarry and quite possibly my life, I managed to gain the young lady’s attention by crashing into a display of hats.

I have already deviated from my point more than I intended to, so I shall press on to the lady’s – as it turned out – very charming and receptive response to my interview.

DP: But putting such frivolousness aside, Miss S—, I must ask: you did not inherit the throne of this Kingdom, but rather, were appointed to it?

LS: I, as all the Monarchs before me, gained the crown in accordance with the Will of the People. The Council of All selected me to lead the Kingdom for the month of Sop-

DP: I say, one moment – are you suggesting that this is a… republican monarchy? Surely they realise this is nonsensical; impossible; untenable!

LS: Is it so shocking? Your own queen serves as a representative of the English spirit – an exemplar of the nation. In the Kingdom of Life, no one person can represent the nation – what individual, what family, could claim to emblem the Pre-Structuralists, the Ahistorical Materialists, the Transcendental Urologists, all at once? The very idea is absurd.

DP: Transcendental what?

LS: It is obvious that the power, the very sanctity of the Monarchy, necessitates that the throne be occupied by as wide a – sample? Selection? As wide a selection of citizens as can be. Ultimately, everyone in the Kingdom should have been Monarch. After that, we may begin again…we may try something new. Who can say?

Who indeed. We concluded the interview at this point, she needing to complete her shopping and I needing to have a tonic and a lie down. I have obtained the lady’s address, and shall press her for further answers as soon as I am able.

I remain your humble and obedient servant,
Terrence Dudley-Pikestaff, D.Litt.


Transcriptionist’s note: this brief arrived posted in a wrapped restaurant bill, sealed with burgundy-coloured candlewax, and addressed with a calligraphy pen utilising very cheap ink.

Sir Maynard,
Enclosed with this short note is the conclusion of my interview with the former Monarch.
-DP

Notes from a discussion in the front room of the Marmoset House Caf̩, Avant, on Рthe Рof -, -.

The Monarch – whose name, I had discovered, is Lucy Saint-Étienne – is the most charming young lady I have ever encountered. She has the most fascinating blue eyes, wears her hair in a tightly-pinned cluster of dark curls, and – alarmingly, at first – carries a number of bruises about her hands and wrists from practising Eastern boxing and fencing systems! She speaks with a very slight French accent, being one of the first migrants to the Kingdom from that nation’s capital, and was again happy to answer my (assuredly quite foolish) questions.

DP: Miss Saint-Étienne; as I recall, you were telling me about what you imagined might be the future of the Kingdom here.

LS: You must understand, M. Pikestaff, that the Kingdom of Life was never intended for permanency, for providing for the material needs of its subjects merely. It was created to be a truly heterogeneous political entity – to represent the possibility of nations which rule without reducing their people to stéréotypes, to John Bulls, and forbidding the contribution of learned gentlemen like – like yourself!

DP: Do you mean that you intend to dissolve the Kingdom sometime soon?

LS: Well, certainly the farms, the workshops, the town may remain. But the spirit of Avant, it was intended to be a brief, joyful celebration, un orgasme of cultural expression! We wished to demonstrate, for however long we could, something which no other kingdom has done since the fall of Sardanapalus – to do what could not be achieved in 1871*.

DP: It’s a fine ideal, I suppose, but what of the economy? Of the social fabric? Of maintaining order among interfering young policemen?

LS: My poor Terrence, you did provoke them so. The way you carried on, you certainly sounded as if you were invading!

DP: (the sound of a moustache quivering with embarrassment)

LS: You can see that we work hard, and do not overindulge in luxuries. We are accustomed to achieving a certain grandeur on a very little budget. Old clothes; cheap paint; passing poor spirits through a common filter… the usual methods. About your treatment, my dear sir – I will admit not everyone sees things my way. How could they? That is exactly what we want to achieve – a plurality! Many who go into the position d’autorité believe their role is to satirise outsiders, to become and demonstrate all that is bad about them.

DP: Good heavens!

LS: (laughs) When you say that, you remind me of one of our diplomats, a weasel trainer, who does the most amusing impression of you, with his weasel as the moustac-

DP: Yes, yes, leaving weasels alone for the moment. What do you mean, “all that is bad?” What rot. Have they ever even met a policeman? British law protects the individual! There is none finer, none freer, none more conducive to education and good sense, don’tyer know.

LS: Do you know, M. Pikestaff?

DP: (the sound of a burst of instrospection) Yes, well… you’ve given me a lot to think about, Mademoiselle. Good day to you.

* Transcriptionist’s note: The communist uprising, following the Franco-Prussian War.


The long a-weighted conclusion to the misapprehensions of Terrence Dudley-Pikestaff, D.Litt., in the fantastical, derivative, and frankly rather unconvincing Kingdom of Life.

JURY’S VERDICT AND RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE CASE OF REG VS DUDLEY-PIKESTAFF

M’ludd, we have heard the charges laid against Comrade Pikestaff; charges which would shock any Avantean in their character, being contrary to the honest ideals of our nation and its crown. We have heard the prosecution allege that he did wilfully and unlawfully Conspire to Prevent a Breach of the Peace, that he did Interfere in the performance of a Legitimate Affray, that he was found Sober and Orderly in a thoroughfare. We have heard a constable swear that he did witness Comrade Pikestaff displaying his Propriety in a Public Place. We have heard Reg state that his elbows ache in the cold weather.

We have further heard it suggested that Comrade Pikestaff has been connected to more serious offences; to the Smuggling of Respectable Literature, the Procurement of Scones with Cream for Illicit Luncheons, and, most heinous of all, the Advocacy of Counter-Revolutionary Ideals in the Presence of a Befuddled Parson. You have informed us, m’ludd, and we have understood, that a conviction of these crimes may carry a penalty of up to forty years of being dead, followed by penal servitude.

We have heard the evidence of a number of respected citizen-comrades, including that of Comrade Ernest Wormley, who stated that the prisoner did repeatedly and without remorse disparage Comrade Wormley’s artistic integrity and the expressiveness of his ring-cycle. We have further heard the touching speech given by the proprietor of the Satanic Arms, describing an encounter with the prisoner’s “philistinist missionarism”, and the subsequent impact on trade. We have taken these into consideration, particularly as m’ludd has very gracefully sanctioned a number of fact-finding expeditions into that same establishment’s saloon bar.

Reviewing this evidence, we have reached a verdict. M’ludd, we unanimously find the defendant, Comrade Pikestaff, guilty of all charges. We recommend that the prisoner be taken from this place to the registrar’s office next door, there to be married to the charming Comrade Saint-Étienne, who looks very smart in her vermilion frock. We recommend that he then be sentenced to exile from the Kingdom of Life, and all of its constituent territories, for the period of one honeymoon, and that he then be served with one literal slap on the wrist, and submit to weekly reminders not to be such a silly goose.

M’ludd, the jury have voted on our recommendation, and it has secured a two-thirds majority, so we now recommend you enact it so we can get on with the bloody wedding. Quick-smart, or we’ll have you execute yourself. I want to get so plastered, I can drink wine and fart brandy. You, stenographer, you look like you need a draught, come with me and (nothing further recorded)

Terrence and Lucy were last heard of in Vienna, feeding each other pastries in a hotel garden. The Kingdom has had two further Monarchs since the beginning of their exile – a Protectionist and a Railway Enthusiast. The British Embassy has remained unstaffed; imperial interests instead being served by a couple of junior spies with binoculars on a tall pole, just across the border. Relations were briefly tense when a lone fanatic on an Avantean whimcycle succeeded in exploding the Lord Mountbatten’s preconceptions, but the machine in question was determined to have been bought second-hand from the back of a newspaper.


If you so desire, you may follow any commentary upon this missive with the aid of our “RSS-O-Matic” apparatus.

Neither remarks nor trackings-back are currently permitted, so as to focus your attention better upon the wisdom herein.


Further remarks are not permitted.