NOTE: This conversation runs backwards! For the benefit of regular readers the newest comments are put at the top.
Music: Marychild's Dance Band playing "You're the Cream in my Coffee"
Sister Yrsula you say that I am not a patient of yours "thank
goodness". Would I really make, do you think, so very poor a patient?.
I am really quite biddable, if perhaps a touch over emotional. But a brunette
in your profession must surely have dealings with so many blondes, am I
really, among them all, high on the list of those whose care you would
prefer to avoid? Oh, fye, you are no gentlemaid to say such things, and
in the hearing of so many. Do not think to place your hand upon
mine, O cruel sister of mercy.
As soon as I saw the beautiful drawing of the bar stool I thought, like
Ellhedrine, that sitting on it would bring something very nice out. Estelle
de Meer says that talking business she would never show her slips in any
case. I perfectly agree, of course, and about this problem I would like
to make a question to you all: how do you dress to go to the office? One
time or two, I went to work wearing a wide skirt and my frilly petticoat
under it. The bus was crowded, and it was very exciting to imagine what
could happen if anyone had seen or touched what I was wearing under. But
I did not certainly feel at my ease in the office. My clothes did not seem
to be particularly appreciated, with the exception of one colleague, who
showed her interest for my skirt (and also for my petticoat) during
Did you know Sister Yrsula got sacked? Some fol-de-rol about patient confidences or some such similar blather. After Yrsula came back down from London the other night, Sister Athleen, the Head Sister, had some rather strong words with her. And there were rumors of much, much more than words, something about "Nightingale canes" and "proper sisterly discipline". I am sure I don't know the half of it!
But the other sisters (all dashing brunettes, you know) seemed to understand exactly what was going on, and Yrsula, smiling though her tears, spoke of "proud welts". And something further, about Sister Athleen being very quick at the wrist. Whatever she might be prattling on about I cannot imagine! At all events, Yrsula is out of a position, has very little in savings and will likely not get a very glowing reference from Sister Athleen. Do any of any of you have a lead for her? She certainly knows how to give an invigorating sponge bath.
To Miss Andrea, it's been ages since we've seen you here! Last I heard, you were berating me over one of my tirades. After my visit to Chalk Newton the other day, I returned to my hospital room only to find my gorgeous silky cream slip with a deep lacy hem misplaced, the one I had left draped over a chair. You haven't chanced to have seen it, have you? And my small bottle of red nail varnish was spilt all over my copy of The Lady. You wouldn't have a clue about that, as well? As for my blonde hair, yes, well, I admit I did try to colour it a bit, but I was such a novice that the red still shows through. Perhaps you could recommend a good hair colourist to repair the damage? I do look a sight!
But never mind! I am just relieved to be back amongst you all. And to Miss Barbara, you have such an enchanting way with words, (and fine words do make me melt), all is forgiven - it is quite natural to forgive, as I cannot recall ever having been the least displeased with your attentions, nor with anything else about your person at any time - I cannot imagine what you are even apologising for. The roses were splendid, I surely did not send them away, and I am more than pleased to avail myself of your company tonight or on any other night. I missed you most awfully, too. All seems quite, quite perfect right now.
Finally, to sweet Ellhedrine: are you apologizing to me for a gaffe? Why, "gaffe" is my middle name, and the middle name of most blondes, I fear! We are forever putting our foot in it - properly stockinged, to be sure. Nothing to apologise for, Ellhedrine, just another charming attribute of our fair sex. Do not fret, all will become clear in good time.
My, it is exhilarating to be away from Nether Mynton at last! Your loving
I understand, of course, I perfectly understand that your affections lie elsewhere, and I am grateful to you indeed for joining me and rescuing me from the isolation and embarrassment in which I found myself. If I live to be a hundred I shall not forget that kindness. I see now - I should have seen all along - that you could hardly have taken a more serious interest in a gauche and gawky child sitting at the bar.
Would you be so very kind as to lend me your handkerchief for just a moment. I seem to have come without one. In fact I seem to have done just about everything wrong. Please, Miss Barbara; have I made myself seem so very foolish?
And Ariadne. Oh dear, I seem to have made yet another gaffe. I did not mean at all to imply that you were an older woman in the sense you mean. Only that you are more experienced and confident and chic than I. In truth, I wish at this moment that I could borrow one or two of your twenty-seven years and be a little more like you.
Oh, and look how I am sitting, having become so distracted. Now my slip is showing and the top of my left stocking, and something more I shouldn't wonder. I hope no one has noticed as I adjust myself and cross my legs demurely.
As to the semi-detached in Marybridge. It is not mine, of course. I shall have to wait until the brunette of my dreams comes by.
With love to you all and hoping you do not think too badly of me.
I thought I might have been directed to the wrong bed, but no the traces of Ariadne were there for all to see. A small bottle of red nail varnish and a copy of The Lady were on the bedside cabinet; lots (and I mean a Covent garden barrow's worth) of pink roses all round the room; a gorgeous silky cream slip with a deep lacy hem draped over the arm of the chair; one sheer seamed black stocking that had fallen on the floor; and the final proof, blond hairs all over the bed. Although I must say that some of the roots did look suspiciously dark.
I asked one of the nurses if she knew where Ariadne was, she said she thought she had gone to see the brasses at the church. Perhaps she was brassed off at being in hospital, although this is a delightful small cottage hospital, and the nurses do look so fetching in their gingham and black nylons.
I was so sorry to miss Ariadne on my visit, but I hope that if she keeps in touch this will bring her some cheer and that she will return to the Cocktail bar soon fully recovered and ready to engage us all with her blonde wit and sharp observations.
Nonetheless, may I apologize for my fashion lapse? I am not the black-stocking type at all; we must wear them at the clinic to suit the Head Sister. They are, after all, a tradition in our calling, though I daresay Florence Nightingale would likely not have approved of how we keep them up, neither would she have thought very much of their sheerness (and then again, I could be way off the mark concerning Miss Florence!).
But if you were looking my way, dear Rachel, I must let you know that I am strictly interested in blondes. Ariadne might excite me under other circumstances, but a liaison with her would be most unprofessional on my part and would certainly result in my instant dismissal. Instant, that is, but for an antecedent day or two of quite painful punishment that Sister is so expert at meting out to her errant subordinates.
And to Ellhedrine (not a patient of mine, thank goodness), I am not Ariadne's spy by any means - far from it: I have been visiting the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar for quite some time now. As things in Nether Mynton are normally somewhat dull, all of us sisters bring the gossip back down from London with us, and Ariadne just happened to overhear some juicy snippets when she came down to the kitchen late one night for a glass of milk. Her imagination tends to run wild at the slightest suggestion.
We did have a rather unusual outing to a chapel in Chalk Newton the other day; I told Ariadne a rather fanciful Halloween tale, I fear, concerning some 13th century brasses of a mediaeval ladies' religious order. Ariadne made some association with a place called Aristasia, but I am sure she was simply making a jest. At any event, you shall be able to ask her yourself, as she is being discharged from the clinic tomorrow.
Ariadne's Hallowe'en tale appears in the Femmeworld Common Room.
Please don't pull down your satin skirt on my account - as a blonde rather likely to sit the very same way on those provocative stools, I quite understand, and blondes, no matter how they sit, or what they wear, leave me quite indifferent, femininely speaking, that is. My counsel was merely to beware of brunettes who may cruise from one cocktail bar to the another, seeking young blondes to ravish. I don't wonder that your head is in a spin - it is quite the normal reaction.
You speak as if I were an older woman, but I am only all of 27!!! And I did my time in a shabby bed-sit in Earl's Court; never could I have afforded anything as swank as a semi-detached in Marybridge. Our aspirations are very much the same, I fancy. And, yes, it is all quite well to sit down with one another and drink together, (and a very noble sentiment in one so young) but I am still quite cross at the volatile evanescence of Miss Barbara's attentions. I am content to bide my time and see what Miss Barbara has to say for herself!
I shall be coming up to London in just a day or so; Dr. Edythe says
I have quite recovered from my nasty shock in the Inner Sanctum.
Fondly and Sincerely,
Most Tenderly, MISS BARBARA
This is not to suggest that I do not thoroughly enjoy discourse with my fellow brunettes, only that one eventually longs for the bell-like laughter of the fairer sex.
I am afraid that in recent months my work has kept me occupied too much.
I've scarcely spoken with a creature as delicate and charming as the fair
ladies who have lately been popping up on the barstools all around me.
Well, I shall gather my courage, and try my luck. (Is there a single brunette
among us who has never once felt just a little tongue-tied in the company
of blondes?) I wonder if that beauty with the black stockings would care
Until now, I must confess, my life has been a very quiet one. One does not expect high adventure and turbulent passion in a semi-detached in Marybridge, Quirinelle. Of course none of us can have lived a life wholly free from passion and adventure (an inner life, I mean) when there is a cinema in the town; and there are two in Marybridge. Yes, in my mind and heart I have always lived in the sophisticated city amid bright lights and cocktails, dashing brunettes and blondes fatales, and when I found this cocktail bar that I could enter just by pushing buttons in my own dear little gingham-curtained bedroom, I felt that here at last was my chance to enter the enchanted, exciting, dangerous world I had seen. To look wide-eyed like Bette Mavis or to be swept off my feet by raven-tressed Carina Grant. I wanted to look like a blonde about town, sophisticated, clever and fascinating.
And now I am here, and I feel deliriously happy and frightened and worried all at the same time. Dear Miss Barbara is so kind to me, yet I know I am so young and gauche that perhaps she is only humoring me (I think not, though - she has such true eyes). And then Ariadne, the blonde whom I most admired when lurking silently through the windows, hints dark things from her bed of sickness that make me feel I have caused trouble of a terribly grown-up and worrying kind. And she has spies, she says. I feel afraid to speak or move lest I am being watched and reported. When I walked in here I felt that eyes were upon me and dismissed it as a childish fancy that I should have outgrown, but now I fear that my blonde intuition did not play me false. Eyes are upon me, and the eyes of spies, no less.
To Ariadne, I say (hoping that her spies will relay the message to her): Please do not think ill of me. I mean you no wrong, and dear Miss Barbara, I am sure, means no wrong to you or to any blonde, being full of chivalry and gentle goodness. Let us all be friends, and drink together on your eagerly-awaited return. I cannot think what is the one thing that you say Miss Barbara has on her mind, but I feel sure it is a good and noble thing
To Miss Barbara I say: Oh thank you for coming to me, that I was spared the hot embarrassment of sitting here alone. I hope and pray that Ariadne's remarks will not make you move away from me. I have placed my hand on the bar, and if you were to place your hand on mine I should not pull away or turn my head disdainfully. Oh, no. I should smile at you and feel a little safer in this big, bright, thrilling, but rather nervous-making place that I have entered.
With love to All, and especially to One,
Though I remain confined at St. Yvyanne's Clinic for the next several days at least, I've managed to keep up with the growing volume of femmey chit-chat in the Common Room and the Aphrodite Cocktail bar.
Here's how: would you believe that one of the sisters here at the clinic,
a Miss Yrsula, motors up to London on weekends to keep in touch with her
Aristasian acquaintances? Naturally, the Common Room and the Cocktail Bar
are among their regular haunts, so I am quite au courant on the
latest gossip! May I contribute
First, it appears that Miss Barbara is simply everywhere
these days, and "in a tizzy" about which new blonde to conquer!
After professing interest in little old me and sending the loveliest
pink roses only yesterday, making my heart melt, the very next day finds
Barbara preying on a "REAL innocent blonde
I suppose I was not innocent enough for her! Sweet Ellhedrine, beware the Predatory Brunette! She has only one thing on her mind! You may awaken in the morning only to find yourself abandoned after one too many Fountains of Youth! And Miss Barbara has the cheek to sign off "Most Sincerely"! O, O! Too much to bear! The shame of it!
Well, Miss Barbara has certainly not reckoned yet with Blonde
Vengeance! Why, I am so distraught that I shall do something quite, quite
terrible, I am sure, but I can't think exactly what it might be. I shall
probably think of something after a while, or perhaps in a week or
Second, Miss Yrsula says there is a sort of informal contest in progress to see which pette can come up with the most evocative Femme Pleasures (begun, I believe, by my erstwhile - and very clever - admirer Miss Barbara, who, I freely admit, came up with some pretty good ones.) But Miss Yrsula told me she heard one that beats all! "The gentle intrusion of a seamed brunette stocking between a pair of blonde nylons (all inhabited, of course)".
A wonderful image (and a better reality), though I would have phrased it a trifle differently (as the blonde, you understand). To wit, "The gentle intrusion of a brunette's seamed stockinged leg between a pair of blonde ones," the word "ones" evoking all the previous modifiers except "brunette's." But, la! Blondes are not supposed to know, much less name the parts of speech; I shall stop prating on so.
Tomorrow is Sunday and we are to be taken on an outing to nearby Cobham, famed for its marvelous medieval ornamental brasses. Yrsula says that some go back to right after the Norman conquest. She promised to show me a secret chamber in one of the chapels that has some 13th century Aristasian brasses - apparently the countryside around Cobham is known for its mysterious, mist-shrouded gateways, which, going back to Druidical times, are known to be visible, even passable, for several nights on either side of Hallowmass, depending on the precession of the equinoxes. Some Aristasian ladies, Yrsula says, found themselves on the Kentish side of one of these gateways in the Tellurian year 1197.
Your ever faithful correspondent
Please accept our apologies dear Ariadne and all bar-belles, for the fact that this letter, referring to Sunday as the morrow does not appear until the said Day of Sai Raya is well on the way to becoming yesterday. For excuse I can only say that all of us here at the Embassy were busy all day making a film about the work of our office and in the evening there was a bonfire in the grounds with fireworks and mulled wine, at which a select party of blondes and brunettes were present. We attend our site-managing duties well past the witching hour and hope you will all forgive us, and some, perhaps be with us at some future festive occasion.
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