As Lord High Admiral of Her Majesty’s Navy, it was GarGar’s duty to present worthy seamen with meddles, ribbons and sashes to display on their uniforms. These ornaments were visible testimony to the sailor’s meritorious conduct. A hardened cynic might arch a brow and scoff at such self-serving display, but to the recipient of such an award, it represented the culmination of years of struggle, untold days and nights of keeping watch, pulling rope, dragging fellow sailors from a briny death. That little medal pinned on one’s chest encapsulated a lifetime of back-breaking effort.
“Captain Grincheux! In recognition of your bravery in the field of battle, your commitment to the well-being of the men who served you and your devotion to your Queen and Country, I present you with the Gold Star of Meritorious Conduct,” intoned GarGar. With a purposeful step and a salute, the Captain presented himself to GarGar, his gaze focused on a point somewhere beyond his left shoulder.
GarGar pinned the medal on Captain Grincheux chest. After the obligatory kiss on each cheek, the solemn salute, the Captain clicked his heels and walked off of the podium. The band struck up a tune, and scattered applause rippled across the witnesses.
Once the ceremony was completed, Captain Grincheux was conducted to the Queen’s sitting room. The first thing that caught his attention upon entering the room was the color pink. Little pink roses adorned the wallpaper. Fresh pink tulips were crowded into vases that sat on tables, cupboards and windowsills. The same rosettes danced on the upholstery of every chair, sofa and divan. The Queen herself sat at the end of a little table, dressed in white with little pink rose vines crawling over the fabric. Around her sleeves and collar, white lace undulated with her slightest gesture.
My Lord! Thought the Captain. Is this a woman, or a goddess?
With a deep bow from the waist, Captain Grincheux lost his footing for a moment. Pirouette jumped from her seat and grabbed one of his elbows. “My Lord Captain!” She exclaimed. “Are you not well?” Guiding him into a chair, she stood straight up, took a kerchief from her reticule and mopped the old sailor’s brow.
“Forgive me, Your August Majesty,” he began. “I daresay that I’ve never seen a vision of such pure beauty as I do now in you.”
“Nonsense,” laughed Pirouette. “You, who have circumnavigated the entire globe several times over, you have seen sights that would make me look very pale and inconsequential indeed.”
“Not so, Your Majesty,” replied the Captain. “Why, I’ve seen sights that would make your blood freeze with terror. In the icy mist, lost in the fog, I’ve seen oorie phantoms whose provenance could only be hell. And on the other hand, I’ve sailed into harbors crowded with beautiful people, baskets of every imaginable fruit, fragrant blossoms shifting in a gentle breeze. Of all these sights, you are the very ultimate. God bless you, my Queen! Long may you reign!”
Le comte des Deux Chats, GarGar extended his arm and snapped his fingers. His long suffering valet, Philippe rolled his eyes. “How may I serve you, my lord?” He asked.
“Hand me my damned lute!” Snapped GarGar. “This instance, Jacques!”
“Forgive me for contradicting you, my lord, but my name is Philippe.”
“Are you intentionally trying to drive me mad?” Said GarGar with exasperation. “The lute! Hurry! I feel a song!”
Philippe opened the chest that sat at the foot of GarGar’s bed and retrieved the lute. He placed it delicately into GarGar’s open arms. “Here, my lord.” He bowed and began to exit the room.
“Wait, Jacques! Er- I mean, Philippe! Don’t you want to hear me play?”
“Forgive me, my lord, but I don’t think my nerves could bear the heady pleasures of hearing you make music.” He paused, “In any case, there’s silver that needs polishing.”
“But how?” Asked Queen Pirouette to Tata Sous-sus. “How did you know that Lady Greenmeadow was still alive? And who was that whose body was found? Will we ever know the answer to this mystery?”
Tata was gazing out the window in the antechamber to the Queen’s boudoir. A gentle rain was falling. Tata pushed the window open and took an expansive, deep breath. The smell of the air both energized and soothed her- an interesting mixture of feelings that she’d never experienced before. “All in good time,” replied Tata. “All in good time. For now, my dear, let me kiss you.” She moved over to Pirouette and kissed her forehead. “You were always such a sweet child.”
GarGar, luxuriating on a divan and sipping champagne, smiled at the touching reunion of the two kinswomen. “I’ve sent Lady Greenmeadow to my country estate,” he said and then belched into his gloved hand. “Excuse me.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” said Pirouette. “I never want to see that woman at court again. Don’t forget, Lady Abigail is my new chief lady of the bedchamber.”
“That’s right,” said the Queen. “And my dear Abby is a much better servant, if I must say so.”
Tata smiled as she poured herself a glass of the bubbly. “A new broom sweeps clean.”
“I could never have killed Lady Greenmeadow,” said Tata Sous-sus calmly. She was standing before the tribunal that was trying her for the murder of said lady.
The judge, in his black rob and long, curly wig, frowned. “Why is that, madam?” He asked. “Are you trying to insinuate that someone else did it?”
“No, sir,” Tata smiled. “What I am saying is this.” She paused, and then in a loud, almost booming voice, she turned and pointed at the courtroom doors. “Lady Greenmeadow is alive!”
Just then, the doors swung open and standing there, in her customary green dress stood Lady Greenmeadow in the flesh. The courtroom erupted in gasps. The spectators began to shout at one another. The judge beat his gavel. It was into a madhouse that Lady Greenmeadow entered with a purposeful stride.