Chronicles Of The Honourable Arthur Carey-Dickers
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Y’know, me fondest memories of life at Smithersthwaites Boarding School for the Sons of Gentlemen were of the winter-times. I’ll always remember the mystery of the missing hand – prepare yourself, dear reader, for a tale of grisly goings on.
One November night, I’d invited James ‘Porkers’ Keat-Willow and Rafe ‘Trenters’ Trent-Fillet to my rooms for Kentish Ale and toasted, buttered orphan. That might sound disgraceful to you but as sixth-formers we were allowed to drink alcohol in moderation. We had just finished our meal; I recall and sat replete before a roaring log-fire, still licking the butter from our fingers when it happened. The head-boy, Charles ‘Barkers’ Barking-ffoamers burst into the room and cried,
“It’s gone, some bounder’s swiped It.”
“I say Barkers old chap.” I exclaimed, “Remember you’re British, stiff-upper lip and all that.”
Barkers drew a breath, composing himself, ran a hand through his blond hair and clapped me on the shoulder,
“Thanks Jackers old bean. Cool head in a crisis, what? Good show old chap.”
He sat in an armchair and said,
“But that does not detract from the seriousness of the situation. It has been taken.”
“Good Gad.” ejaculated Trenters, Porkers said nothing, he just farted nervously.
I gave a horrified whisper of,
“By Jove, Barkers, you don’t mean It – do you?”
‘It’ was the mummified hand of Colonel Tarantula ‘Spiders’ Greystone-ffforbes, one of our most revered Old Boys. Barkers nodded grimly,
“Indeed I do, Jackers. I mean It.” There was a horrified gasp and another fart from the others. Shakily I reached into my study desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of ‘Sheep’s Bladder’ brandy. I poured shots into four schooners and handed them around. After a toast to the King, we knew our duty even in those dark hours; we sat down and sipped at our drinks. Barkers was first to offer a theory,
“You don’t think it could be one of the lower orders do you?”
Naturally Barkers was referring to residents of Buggring-on-the-Marsh, a small village on the border of our playing fields. It seemed a ridiculous idea but Porkers remarked thoughtfully,
“Y’know, several Buggring men were in the Colonel’s regiment.”
“Were any of them in the Kamajunka show?”
A brief explanation is in order at this point, I feel. Y’see, Colonel Greystone-ffforbes had led the ill-fated Kamajunka Expedition. Kamajunka was an island in the South Pacific. Of over a hundred men, the remains of only ten were found in the ruins of a brothel. They had evidently fought a fierce and valiant last stand. So ferocious was the battle that all ten men’s clothes had been ripped from their bodies and arranged neatly in a pile in the corner.
The Colonel’s hand had been severed from his arm, two fingers still raised in a defiant gesture. Even at the moment of his death the courageous Colonel demonstrated true British bravery. Lady Greystone-ffforbes donated the hand to the school and it had stood inside a glass dome in the chambers of head-boys for the last eighty years. Many a head boy, including Barkers, had, in times of despair, gazed at the hand. Many a head boy had drawn inspiration from the proof of an Old Smithersthwaitian's last gallant act of defiance.
“That’s a good point, by the Lord Harry.” declared Porkers, “There were at least three Buggring privates on that expedition. Good men to have on a sticky wicket mind you.”
We all nodded our appreciation at Porkers’ generosity. Working class they might have been, but demned sturdy chaps in a tight corner. However, one of their descendants had besmirched the family’s honour – such as it was. Or had they? A voice from the depths of one of my armchairs was about to repudiate that accusation.
(Chronicler’s note: At this point, The Honourable Arthur ‘Jackers’ Carey-Dickers fell asleep. I will continue his story tomorrow.)
end of part one
In five hundred years time, most of us will be forgotten dust. But Hitler will still be remembered, God loves irony.