The Baron Relates a Key Tale of the Home’s Formative Years [Part Two]
First came the aforementioned Chimp Boy, little more than a beast of the jungle, covered in matted fur and affecting a simian gait; a terrible, pungent aroma arose from him, causing me to reel back as if punched squarely in the bread basket.
Next came a woman, if I dare append such a sobriquet, who was at least as wide as she was tall, and heavily bearded; from behind her slunk a man, Gypsyish in dress and physical appearance, slender and stooped as if cowed- he carried a violin in his swollen and misshapen hands, although I am sure his wrecked appendages could no longer tease any pleasing tunes from its sagging strings.
Another woman emerged, beguiling of appearance and swathed in robes and kaftans, a veil about her face and crescent moons, stars and signs of the zodiac adorning her clothing: she was a Tarot Reader, I guessed, also of the Gypsy persuasion, and, as I was later to learn, the wife of that poor, broken Violinist.
We gasped and retreated an involuntary step at what emerged next- it was another man, not tall but almost inestimably dense in both demeanour and physique, shod only in lurid animal skins and leathers and covered in a dusting of fur almost as thick as the many scars he wore from whatever battles and campaigns he had waged within or without the ring- surely this could only be the Carnivale’s Strong Man?
Next came a woman, exotic in appearance, possibly even Ceylonian in origin (I have had many dealings with said people and I can reassure you I will never let be caught flat footed amongst one of their number again following a tragic case of mistaken identity and subsequent incarceration during an extensive tour of that Colony’s Opium Dens in 1927)- she wore poisonous adders draped about her person, and glittering daggers shone at her hips- mystical intrigue and menace clung to her like an exotic, spicy perfume. She reeked of Eastern Blood Cult to my well trained adventuring olfactory nerve!
Finally, their Ring Master emerged.
He was a man of average build, with a swagger that betrayed his sense that he was somehow elevated above his throng; his dress suggested the finery of snake oil sales, mismatched but somehow beguiling- jackboots teamed with a jungle adventurer’s safari attire; vivid, curling red hair cascading over the epaulets of some foreign army but cropped close at the crown, facial hair immaculately tended.
This was Titus Samson Saxon III: carnie barker, ring master and advanced student of vocal impersonation, hypnotism and other such unnatural acts as to chill the very blood.
Once composed, (and having returned The Skip to quarters to convalesce) The Dame, The Lord and Myself sat down to brandied liqueuers and spiced pheasant with this weird collection of misfits.
We ascertained, over that long, strange eve, that these poor, unfortunate creatures had been persecuted across Europe, chased from town to village to hamlet and accused of crimes for which they steadfastly claimed they were not culpable.
This tale, foolish though it may now seem in hindsight, melted even we Alumni’s steely hearts: were we not also products of persecution and fear, discharged without merit as we were from our various stations in life for following our hearts, desires and occasionally unusual peccadilloes down whatever dank alleyways they might have dictated?
We struck a deal, that eve, almost Faustian in nature: 45% of all gate takings and full use of The Carnivale’s collection of livestock for The Skip in exchange for safe haven until public hysteria died down.
The Carnival Bizarre had alit upon the Estate, and nothing would ever be the same again.
(NB- This is not to say that there were not agreeable times to be savored amidst the otherwise unrelenting miseries wrought on The Estate by these strange visitors; admittedly, it all began well enough, with representatives of our two organisations enjoying badminton on the lawns, strip croquet, cucumber sandwiches and jaunty pony rides at dusk. We also enjoyed many fine shows as performed by the Ring Master’s menagerie of gentle freaks, from the Ping Pong ball flinging feats of The Kewpie Doll Girl, to the darker wonders of The Flying Fellatrixes and their coterie of limber, gag reflex unencumbered gymnastic cohorts. As further examples, she whom I had at first taken to be some Eastern Blood Cult’s High Priestess eventually transpired to be little more than an illusionist of some skill with a disposition as tender and pleasant as one could ever hope to encounter, while the Carnivale’s Siamese Twins (actually Korean, I would later be discern), hosted several fine evenings of spirited gustatory and conversational excess in the Conservatory (South Wing)!)
“The Lollipop Guild”, who we at first thought had disturbing cannibalistic designs on our dear old Skip, but soon found to be most pleasant of disposition! ‘Judge not lest ye be judged!’
I will, however, leave the telling of broader tales of this ‘occupation’ for another time- suffice to say the next eighteen months at The Estate developed into a dark and hellish time, culminating in betrayals, recriminations and the descent of outright madness which would near tear The Home and its Alumni asunder.
But, and I will remind you that I am reticent in the utilisation of bullet points (I find the full, unexpurgated accounting for of events to be the most expedient, legally speaking: I fear, however, that this tale grows almost as long in the telling as the night during which it has been written, and that the morning’s first rays do indeed encroach upon my study window!), I must at least briefly detail some key incidents as wrought by our perverse charges so as to best illustrate The Home’s barely controlled and seemingly inexorable fall, however brief:
* Several dozen maimings and not less than three deaths (spread amongst the Carnivale’s and our own staff members) owing to the Strong Man’s complete incompetence in all matters not pertaining to overt displays of strength and/ or physical violence, eventually resulting in the lobotomisation of the brute as performed by The Doctor, whom we will introduce to you in good time.
* The Dame being driven further to drink by the blusterings and detailed dissertations on the most irrelevant of arcana as related by the the Ring Master, who had taken to our dear Dame as a proxy family member and sympathetic ear, having somehow heard of her deep affections for an ailing family member. I was to later find The Dame guzzling openly from a barrel of fine HWC Pinot in the Cellars (South East Wing) whilst taking pot shots at a crudely hewn effigy of the man in question with her sterling silver cut throat (a gift from Paddy ‘Pigsticker’ Garretty, which was usually reserved for the application of ‘chelsea smiles’ to road agents and other such ruffians) and wailing inconsolably at the abject horror of the philistine’s self enforced and undeniably longwinded companionship.
* A most unfortunate incident between The Skip and the Bearded Woman, whispered of to this day by staff who bore witness to the sorry event, which is rumoured to have involved a steep incline, the consumption of grotesque amounts of barbecued swine with apple sauce, and a particularly weak sphincter muscle.
* The tragic and brutal rape of Dennis, The Dame’s favourite hunting pooch, by The Chimp Boy.
* Penultimately, it is to my continuing shame and regret that I took the Tarot Reader to my bed for some period of time, exposing me to heretofore unexperienced levels of scorn and ridicule from my fellow Alumni; thankfully, I quickly regained control of my faculties as I grew more and more cognisant of the Gypsy’s penchant for mystical mumbo jumbo, delusions of divinity, her speaking in tongues and generally untoward rantings. It was with these realisations that I quickly took action and cast the witch out of my Wing.
Too late, though, as it would soon tragically become clear.
(Aside- I know of several ribald renderings that have since circulated around The Home, but cannot, in all conscience, reproduce them here for fear of rebuke or worse!)
* Finally, this entire, shameful spectacle was brought to a crescendo with the revelation of The Gypsy Violinist’s wife’s infidelities to that broken fellow, by parties unknown (although I’m sure we all have our suspicions as to who the guilty party was), which led to the poor chap’s suicide by hanging from the rafters of the HWC Gymnasium (South West Wing), just scant moments before The Lord was to have defended his County Fencing Title, thus robbing one man of his life and the other of a well deserved seventh consecutive championship.
Originally published at eldepositodelplatino.wordpress.com on March 9, 2007.