A Christmas Garland/Victory of Aphasia Gibberish
In the heart of insular Cosmos, remote by some scores of leagues of hodge-trod arable or pastoral—not more than a snuff-pinch to gaping tourist nostrils accustomed to inhalation of prairie-winds, but enough for perspective—from those marginal sands, trident-scraped, we are to fancy, by a helmeted Dame Abstract, familiarly profiledon discs of current bronze, price of a loaf for humbler maws disdainful of Gallic side-dishes for the titillation of choicer palates, stands Gibberish Park, a house of some pretension, mentioned at Runnymede, with the spreading exception of wings given to it in latter times by Daedalean masters not to be balked of billiards or traps for Terpsichore, and owned for unbroken generations by a healthy line of procreant Gibberishes, to the undoing of collateral branches eager for the birth of a female. Passengers in cushioned chambers flying through space, topspeed or dallying with obscure platforms not alighted at apparently, have had it pointed out to them, as beheld dimly for a privileged instant and then forgotten, for the most part, as they sink back behind crackling barrier of instructive paper, with a “Thank you, Sir,” or “Madam,” as the case may be. Guide books praise it. I conceive they shall be studied for a cock-shy of rainbow epithets slashed in at the target of Landed Gentry, premonitorily. The tintinnabulation’s enough. Periodical footings of Gibberishes in Mayfair or the Tyrol, signalled by the slide from its mast of a crested index of Aeólian caprice, blazon of their presence, gives the curious a right to spin through the halls and galleries under a cackle of housekeeper guideship, scramble for a chuck of the dainties, dog fashion. There is something to be said for the rope's twist. Wisdom skips.
It is probable that the goblins of this same Lady Wisdom were all ajostle one Christmas morning between the doors of the house and the village church, which crouches on the outskirt of the Park with something of a lodge in its look, they may have whispered, more than of cœlestial twinkles, even with Christmas hoarfrost bleaching the grey of it in sunlight, as one sees imaged on seasonable missives for amity in the trays marked “sixpence and upwards,” here and there, on the counters of barter. Be sure these goblins made obeisence to Mr. Gasbury Gibberish, as he passed by, starched beacon of squirearchy, wife on arm, son to heel. After them, members of the household, rose-chapped males and females, carrying books of worship. The pack of rogues glance up the drive with nudging elbows and whisperings of “Where is Aphasia? Where is the betrothed of Sir Rhombus?"
Off they scamper for a peep through the windows of the house. They throng the sill of the library, ears acock and eyelids twittering admiration of a prospect. Aphasia was in view of them—essence of her.
Sir Rhombus was at her side. Nothing slips the goblins.
“Nymph in the Heavy Dragoons,” was Mrs. Cryptic-Sparkler’s famous description of her. The County took it for final—an unset stone with a fleck in the heart of it. Aphasia commended the imagery.
She had breadth. Heels that sent ample curves over the grounds she stood on, and hands that could floor you with a clinch of them, were hers. Brown eyes looked down at you from swelling temples that were lost in a ruffling copse of hair. Square chin, cleft centrally, gave her throat the look of a tower with a gun protrudent at top. Her nose was virginal, with hints of the Iron Duke at most angles. Pink oyster covering pearls must serve for her mouth. She was dressed for church, seemingly, but seemed no slave to Time. Her bonnet was pushed to the back of her head, and she was handling the ribbons. One saw she was a woman. She inspired deference.
“Forefinger for Shepherd's Crook” was Mrs. Cryptic-Sparkler's phrase for St. Rhombus. Let it go at that.
“You have Prayer Book!” he queried.
She nodded. Juno catches the connubial trick.
“Ancient and Modern.”
“I may share with you?”
“I know them by heart. Parrots sing.”
“Philomel carols,” he bent to her.
“Complaints spoil a festival.” She turned aside. There was a silence as of virgin Dundee or Madeira susceptible of the knify incision.
"Time speeds,” said Sir Rhombus, with a jerk at the clock.
“We may dodge the scythe.”
“To be choked with the sands?” She flashed a smile.
“Lady! Your father has started.”
“He knows the aphorism. Copy-books instil.”
“It would not be well that my Aphasia should enter after the absolution,” he pursued.
She cast her eyes to the carpet. He caught them at the rebound.
“It snows,” she said, swimming to the window.
“A flake. Not more. The season claims it.”
“I have thin boots.”
“My maid buttons. She is at Church.”
“Twelve on each."
“Five,” he corrected.
“I beg your pardon.”
She saw opportunity. She swam to the bell-rope and grasped it for a tinkle. The action spread feminine curves to her lover’s eye. He was a man.
Obsequiousness loomed in the doorway. Its mistress flashed an order for Port—two glasses.
Sir Rhombus sprang a pair of eyebrows on her. Suspicion slid down the banister of his mind, trailing a blue ribbon. Inebriates were one of his studies. For a second, she was sunset.
“Medicinal!” she murmured.
“Forgive me, madam! … A glass. Certainly. 'Twill warm us for worshipping.”
The wine appeared, seemed to blink owlishly through the facets of the decanter, reminding one of a hoary captive brought forth into light from subterraneous dimness, something of querulousness in the sudden liberation of it. Or say that it gleamed benignant from its tray, steadyborne by the hands of reverence, as one has seen Infallibility pass with uplifting of jewelled fingers through genuflexions of the Balcony. Port has this in it, that it compels obeisance, master of us; as distinguishable from brother or sister wines, wooing us with a coy flush in the gold of them to a cursory tope or harlequin-leap shimmering up the veins with a sly wink at us through eyelets. Hussey-vintages swim to a cossat. We go to Port, mark you!
Sir Rhombus sipped, with a snap of lips over the rim. He said, “One scents the cobwebs..”
“Catches in them!” Aphasia flung at him.
“I take you. Bacchus laughs in the web.”
“Unspun, but for Pallas!”
“A lady's jealousy!”
“Brewed in the paternal pate. Grant it.”
“For a spring in accoutrements.”
Sir Rhombus inclined gravely. Port precludes prolongment of riposte. He glanced at his time-piece, whistled. “A smart step will bring us for a second lesson, special lesson. Christmas. The Magi.” The wine nudged his memory.
Aphasia motioned him to the decanter. The action switched him. He filled, meditatively; returned to chair.
“The Litany is better,” she murmured.
“We must not miss it. Three minutes and we start.”
“I am of a mood for kneeling.” He drained his glass with an affectionate twirl at the stem. Aphasia eyed him curiously.
“Laid down by my grandfather,” she said. “Cloistral.’’
He swam to the decanter, unsteadily.
“Queer,” he muttered, scrutinizing the stopper. “No date on it. Antediluvian. Sound, though.”
He filled. “Here’s to you!”
“With your permission!” he said, refilling. “Finish it under table. Genius of Port demands it. … Pretty carpet. … Revolving pattern.” G**rge M*r*d*th.