Your page, from the middle of Ariadne's last report, goes to italics AND STAYS THERE!
And I quote...
"Well, I must be somebody's sweetie - "
That's where it goes away.
Unless, of course, there was one too many White Lady consumed? The thrill of watching Kiki would be enough to send anyone over the top! >swoons quietly at the back of the room<
P.S. I shall send soon about the delightful conclusion to the little mystery in my life.
Why I was doing better selling butterfly make-up to all the Bentley drivers in London with Brydgytte and Theda not to mention all the free samples they gave me and the all the great fame I was getting from my picture on every wrapper. Then these acres and acres of crispy crinoline I now have to contend with! And cheeky patronettes making passes, to young to be to far from their nursery nannies. Not to mention all those determined brunettes with their quick wily hands that are darting -- snapping turtles, rather like -- the other night two tried to pinch me at once so my fanciest quicksteps canceled themselves out and did nothing but deliver my whereabouts straight to their fingers in rapid succession. Those girls are not very nice girls at all, not like the really swav pettes that used to come to the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar in the Old Days. And on top of those pinches that little sesh I had with Miss Heatherington and her chumette the Number Two Bar Strap only last Tuesday has forced me to eat standing up. (But that is supposed to be all tickety-boo because it was done in the contex of nurturing love.) Well, I must be somebody's sweetie then for all my bruises and welts, why, if this bar was a Technicolor film I'd get my own special effects Academy Award for being a prize-winning study in russet and purple. Such treatment would make any girl rather treeste don't you think? Much less a delicate blonde like I.
(But the very last straw was having to work when that perfeckly bewitching Kiki lia Caerelinde had her daybu here over the weekend. I so wanted to be out there on the floor screaming and fainting and swooning and, um, perspiring with the best of those blondes (and no small number of brunettes, either, though brunettes are a trifle more suttle about it, generally letting themself sighingly down into a chair at a table and contemplatively resting their chin on their hand as if absorbing the music, like it was Showpan or Motesart or something but the real reason is their knees have gone all to jelly just like mine and the rest of those blondes so they cant remain standing), but there I was slaving away pouring drinks, getting pinched propositioned and winked at by toddlers, unable to sit if had I wanted to, gussied up in ribbons, laced bodice and crinolines like an Arcadian milkmaid, all for the magnannamus sum of four pounds six shillings a week, meagre lodgings, institutional food and one bathtub for every twelve girls! I think its time to reizine, move on to better things, perhaps go back to Symones in Mayfair, but who ever shall I ask for advice?
(I know! I shall ask that witty and elegant Miss fi'Amala, she seems tray simpateek and ever so sheik and she's nursing her fifth Blushing Maiden so perhaps nows a good time to ask her. But, La! Bite my tongue, here she comes now approaching the bar!)
Oh, Vanessa, could you do me a quickettifave and cover for me? But first do pour out another Blushing Maiden, would you be a good sweetie? And please, please make it quick! Ta ever so.
Oh, Miss fi'Amala? Do you happen to have a very small little moment? You do? I need to ask you for some sisterly counsel, could you possibly? You seem to be so eau kooron. Here, I've another Blushing Maiden for you. Thanks, Vanessa. Miss fi'Amala and me are having a little tettatette at Table 16 near the Wurlitzer, I'll be back in five.
Oh, Miss, you are so kind to listen to me! Ive had no one to talk to for months-and-months! [Half an hour passes, Miss fi'Amala orders several more drinks, is seen to dab away the blonde Barkeep's tears more than a few times with a frilly mauve handkerchief, a tear or two is seen to glint in Miss fi'Amala's eye as well but she does not dab those tears away.] ...... There Miss, now you know it all, the whole story of how I came to be working here in the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar. So what shall I do? Can you tell me, at all?
Did you see that dashing blonde with the bob in that very short lavender dress? And look, that picture of a blonde behind the bar who seems to be doing a quickstep every once in while, cor, what a smashing outfit. And oh, no, it can't be, it's Manuela over there, she's sipping champagne with a very elegant woman in green. But she can't be making moves at another brunette, can she? Manuela's always been a bit, well, odd, you know, what with mummie and that queer school she went to. But you don't think there is something really wrong with her, do you? Well, they are both talking so seriously, she must be one of her brainy friends then (although she seems to have a better sense of dress than most of Manuela's friends and she is rather lovely). They never take any notice of me, so they certainly won't tonight. Even if Manuela would, I'm staying put. I don't care how many lines she'll give me if she finds out: I've just got to see Kiki. When word got around at school that she was going to perform at the Cocktail Bar none of us could concentrate any longer. Concentration makes me sleepy and stupid anyway. And even during Eloquence, when we're always quiet as mice because nobody wants to get the strap from Miss Bughead, we couldn't help twittering on and on about it. Well, that is to say, I couldn't and was indeed severely punished by Miss B. after lessons (it still hurts if I move in a particular way). Bughead isn't her real name of course, but because she ... Dorothea!. Stop it, you dunce, you're not supposed to pinch your best friend! You must sort of stand around and wait for one of those brash things over there to come up and do it. Anyway, the next day we found out from Julietta, whose sister goes to the brunettes' school a bit further down the road, that Natalya (that's her sister's name) and her cronettes were going to see Kiki for themselves. Needless to say this enterprising idea would never have entered our heads, but we simply couldn't bear the thought of all those savage brunettes bluffing their way into the Cocktail Bar, all dressed to the nines of course, without us!
Dory, don't you even dare to look at that pack of brunettes over
there! Yes, I know, but I'm telling you, they'll only get us in a whole
lot of trouble. Look at what happened to that most exemplary blonde keeping
the bar. I mean, how much of a rolemodel can you be? Dragged away from
behind the bar by some Mrs. Hyde, just because of that hoity-toity Toffee.
All I'm saying is not tonight, we can always meet them after school, silly.
what did I tell you? I think we severely need to pop into the Blondes'
right now. You girls will keep this between us, won't you? Pleeeeeeease?
Oh, and one more thing, what do girls carry an extra lipstick for
if not to touch up their lips a bit?
MARIE-LOUISE VON MEINHARD
My untiring and adorable Ariadne, darling...where are you? I do wish that you would bring me a straight up martini, no olive.
Well,...the crowd is certainly growing, isn't it? There is so much laughter and shouting! Even I am getting quite excited about our performer. Oooo...someone just pinched ME!! I must say...it is so nice to have your charms appreciated, isn't it? Well, I only have one more thing to say... A somewhat chastened Sweetipops here again, my effervescent pettes!
Well,...the crowd is certainly growing, isn't it? There is so much laughter and shouting! Even I am getting quite excited about our performer.
Oooo...someone just pinched ME!! I must say...it is so nice to have your charms appreciated, isn't it? Well, I only have one more thing to say...
Where's KIKI? Expectantly and eagerly I remain,
If I'd been the swearing kind, I'd have sworn that you couldn't swing a cat in the place. Even a small martinette would have presented diffies. But I am telling the plain unvarnished when I say that when the resident singing trio, The Quirinelles, started singing, those little hep-cats started to cut a rug. Goodness knows how. I couldn't see more than two inches of rug uncovered enough for even the most cautious operation in the laceration line. But they did.
And what is more they didn't do it gingerly. Pint-sized blondes were being thrown about the room like so many lip-rouged clay pigeons.
The Quirinelles are a delightful pony-tailed trio who sing everything from smart Trentish numbers to Rock and Roll things like "At the Hop" in the most delightfully camp manner. Their three-part harmony is absolutely charming, and if you make a request they can usually improvise it with a finesse that makes you thnk they have rehearsed it for weeks. To give them their due, the Junior Section seemed to appreciate them, but they weren't what they'd come for.
Well, about eleven o'clock, when three quarters of the crowd should have been tucked up in their pink-and-white cots, the lights went down and there was silence for a full minute. Every one knew the time had come.
The gloom was pierced by a single rose-coloured spotlight and on came Kiki. The first thing that strikes you is that she isn't nearly as big as you might expect. I mean, somehow one anticipates a towering figure to be the cause of these storms of passion we have all read about and seen on the weekly newsreels. But she is quite little. Not much over five feet tall, and smaller than most blondes. But she is all brunette, all right.
As soon as she takes the stage, well, you feel that the stage knows it has been taken. And so does the audience. Those rather badly behaved teensies look on her in awe.
Well, I suppose you have read a bit about her. The lia Caerelinde is not a stage name. She comes of an aristocratic Novarian family who were among the first settlers of the province from far east in Amazonia. The Kiki is sort of a stage name. She is really Quiqui lia Caerelinde (short for Quilenquithia) but Kiki is supposed to have more "snap". Not that Miss Caerelinde needs any extra snap. This most unlikely croonerette takes the microphone as if it was a blonde and sings "To know, know, know you/Is to love, love, love you/and I do." She sings it in a purring, husky voice that is the bottom of her remarkable vocal range.
And they do it. The blondes, I mean. They scream. The audience is in near darkness, but the Caerelinde eyes sweep them like searchlights; and when they rest on a blonde, she screams. If she wasn't screaming before she screams then, and if she was she screams louder, or she faints. Three of then go down in the first five minutes.
Well, I thought I should like seeing blondes scream and faint. In the event, do I? Yes I do. It is extremely diverting.
Actually, it is more than that. It is rather exciting. The air is filled with these high-pitched, adolescent cries of pure passion. If it were not for Kiki's powerful amplification her voice might be drowned, though I am not sure, an awful lot of her diminutive internals seems to be lung. But it is that soaring, feral-but-oh-so-vulnerable impromptu blonde backing that thrills my spine. I wonder if that is what all the brunettes go for. I guess not, because one or two of them are screaming too (any one would think this was Ladyton). The rest, I fancy, feel as I do.
"And what," you ask - oh, yes, dear reader, I know what you are asking. I know what you will pelt me in the streets for if I fail to tell you - "What of the pettes at the bar; the age-of-majority crowd; the regular and rather sophisticated patronettes of translucent Aphrodite?"
Well, their composure certainly does not break in the first song. They are almost all enraptured; brunettes coolly appraising (or trying to look so), blondes a shade more fervent judging by the eyes, and the white teeth on lower lips - a precaution, perhaps against that scream that is in them all somewhere.
Kiki sweeps her searchlight among them. None give way, but there are a few gasps and little whimpers; and she hasn't even started on them yet.
She turns back to her adorers and speaks a few words in her delightful Eastern accent. They are commonplace words enough, but somehow we all feel they are more than they say, that they carry some current of warmth and magic. Then she looks the microphone in the eye, turns back to her admirers (who are never quite silent, even when she speaks) and sings "What Lola wants, Lola Gets." Perhaps what Lola wants is a scream or two from the grown-ups gallery. She certainly gets it this time.
No, I am not going to name names. This is The Morning Letter, not the other paper. That is why I got in. But I'll tell you this. The withstanders, in the end, numbered rather less than half the whole, and Ariadne, the suspended barmaid - well, her eyes were very wide for some time and . . . But no, this is The Morning Letter.
And now at last it is over. I feel, believe it or not, emotionally exhausted. Every one does. It has been a fascinating experience. Miss Caerelinde is not simply a brunette who attracts blondes. She seems, when singing, the Universal embodiment of all brunettishness, and the blondes seem united into one blonde. But also, every brunette in the room seems part of Kiki, and she part of them. Every brunette feels the blondes are screaming for her, and she is not wrong, for what moves them is the brunette spirit itself.
It is hard to explain, but I know I am right about this. The magic of Kiki lia Caerelinde is not a separating, atomising magic; it is a unifying magic that binds her whole audience together in a thrilling but pure frisson.
That, I feel sure, is the real reason for her success, and the
reason that an establishment like the Aphrodite Cocktail bar booked her.
I don't think they were wrong. But then I am not the District Governess.
Ariadne is not everypette's favourite barkeep, if the truth must be known. Over the past several months there have been several complaints, most having to do with incorrectly mixed drinks (usually far too much alcohol) or change not properly made. But, far from being totally uneducable, Ariadne has done fairly well, learning to remember more than six drink orders at one time and what goes in which and how to make change from two shillings if a drink costs 1s 6d. Such errors were purely inadvertent, and showed that a bit of additional training was needed.
But the latest complaint was quite another story. It seems that Ariadne had acquired a small flask of cod liver oil (disguised as Grenadine), which she sometimes used to spike the drinks of young brunettes who were, shall we say, forward in their dealings with her at the bar. Earlier this evening, for example, Ariadne spiked the drinks a certain Miss "Toffee" Merinsie had purchased for herself and five of her friends: Miss Merinsie had apparently made a mild verbal advance towards Ariadne. This notwithstanding, the Management feel that patronettes, of whatever age, sex or disposition, are entitled to value for money once they have been admitted to the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar and so long as they remain in fit state to be served. The disciplining of patronettes is beyond the scope of Ariadne's employment.
Consequently, as Miss Merinsie made complaint that her drinks had been spoilt by cod liver oil, and as Ariadne made no denial, the Management have been constrained officially to chastise the Barkeep and suspend her from duties for one day. It might be added that Ariadne's newly learnt "dance step" availed her nothing, as her crinolines were raised, according to standard protocol, and her "whereabouts" were then rather easily located for the application of the Number Two Bar Strap. Whether Ariadne's effulgently frothy, non-regulation knickers afforded her some measure of protection is somewhat doubtful, as the knickers themselves merited six additional strokes.
The Management regret that adulterated drinks were served at the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar and give patronettes every assurance that this shall not be repeated.
The bus was parked on a quiet, tree-lined suburban street, a street lined with stately elms, oaks and maples. It appeared to be mid-morning on a cloudless summer day, ten or eleven, perhaps (hard to say, I rarely arise quite so early). The houses, mostly the white Cape Cod style one sees in photo-features in Life or in Look, were all of one story. Some had white, picket fences, with neatly trimmed rose bushes and other flowering shrubs. All had well-kept lawns. A slender, white steeple poked up through the canopy of trees a block or so away. Flowers were blooming, birds were singing -- thrushes and warblers. (Well, I wouldn't know a thrush or a warbler from magpie, being a good Gotham girl, but those sorts of birds are always singing in places like this, so it just had to be them!) The soft clickety-clickety of a lawn mower could be heard in the distance, and the faint, but clear distant bark of a dog. In the back yard of the house across from where the bus was parked, a very young blonde but already a mummie, was hanging out laundry on a clothesline (judging from the number of diapers already hung out, brilliantly transilluminated by sunshine, she must have had twins). She was holding clothespins in her mouth; when she finished hanging out a bed sheet and her hands were free for a moment, she waved gaily, then returned to her chore. Two little girls rode tricycles down the sidewalk while an even littler one tried to keep up with them while pushing a dolly carriage, but she was having a difficult time with the cracks in the sidewalk and was about to give up and start crying, one could easily see, as her dolly had just been thrown out by a jounce over a crack. She wailed for the older girls to wait up for her, and they did, one of them picking up her poor dolly, brushing it off and tucking it back in the carriage while the other pulled a frilly white hankie from her sleeve just in time to dab away the first tears, which, despite the prompt restoration of the dolly to safety, had already been dispatched to her very large eyes and could not be recalled.
There were a few cars parked on the street, but they were not like cars any of us had ever seen before, they were sleeker and lower and longer and in odd pastel shades, but subdued and elegant. I glanced at the license plate of the car opposite the bus. Underneath the tag number it read, "New Quirinelle -- 1954" Above the number was an unusual slogan: "Beauty, Dignity, Family". Just then, Betty, our driver, who had evidently been awake for some time and had been out walking, got back on the bus. She had a Coke in her hand and was softly humming a jinky tune to herself, not suspecting anyone else was awake.
"Psst, Betty, c'mere! What's the scoop? Where the dickens are we, anyway?" a blonde up front asked in a whisper. By now, the whole bus was awake. Girls were yawning and stretching, hair was being patted back in shape with rapid dexterity, compacts were flashing like sabers, faces were being minutely inspected in mirrors, hands were fumbling for lipsticks, a few girls cast discreet (but slightly anxious) glances outside the bus, weighing the slim likelihood of an available bathroom in a neighborhood so obviously residential.
Without replying, Betty started the bus and put it in motion. Then, over her shoulder, between turns on the big steering wheel, she explained, (I thought a bit sheepishly). "Look, girls, this isn't New Kadoria. It's New Quirinelle. Sorry. That fog-on-the-mountaintop trick doesn't work right every time, though the brunette drivers claim they never have any trouble (I can't understand why). A few months ago, I ended up in New Amazonia, couldn't have even bought any gas to get back if I had run out. Tall pettes with shields and lances all over the place. Odd make-up, sold in little clay pots, no lipstick, have to paint it on with a brush, that sort of thing. But A-1 pettes just the same.
"This time I'm only a decade or so off the mark, not too bad for a blonde on a Monday. But don't worry, New Quirinelle's really a peach of a town, it's not all that different from New Kadoria (it's essentially the same, you know), except a girl can buy nylons just about anywhere, they have records that turn at an absurdly slow speed, the music is quite a bit different, cars a bit faster and more up-to-date, hair styles rather strange. A girl needs a lot more closet space in New Quirinelle, just for her petticoats. I'm driving you over to the high school right now so you can all freshen up. I've already been in touch with the immigration authorities -- they don't mind a bit. They'll notify anyone over in New Kadoria who was expecting you, and you can go there tomorrow on the train, if you want. Culverian Tours will be good for the cost of the tickets."
By this time, Betty was driving us right down Main Street: a grocery, a drug store, an ice cream parlor, a beauty shop, a bakery, the New Quirinelle post office, the First National Bank of Culveria, a florist, a shoe store, a milliner's, a jeweler's, various small restaurants (some with screen doors), a fire station (but I couldn't see a brass pole), a candy store, a stationer's, a drygoods store, a bookshop, a newsdealer's, a dressmaker's -- but no barber shop. The sidewalks were not crowded, but sufficiently bustling with Monday morning activity, with enough well-dressed women, (mostly pretty blonde housewives, but several brunettes and some grannies as well) going about their errands and business, to convey the unmistakable impression of modest prosperity and solid respectability. The summer frocks on the younger women were a bit shorter than what we were used to in Gotham, most standing out sharply, clearly supported by a number of stiff petticoats. Colors were noticeably brighter too, and hats less ubiquitous. Many planters, filled with summer blooms, stood on the sidewalks. Awnings on the sunny side of the street were already extended, crisp, clean awnings in bright red-and-white or green-and-white stripes, a few solid blues and greens and one in rich purple. A few pedestrians glanced up at the bus, clear-eyed glances, un-selfconsciously curious, politely curious, followed by friendly waves and dazzling smiles.
All the people in sight were female.
Where were the guys and the boys? One or two of the girls realized the complete absence of men at about the same time and the bus suddenly filled with a rippling murmur of dawning wonder as the realization became general and began to sink in, but no one uttered a word. We looked everywhere, turned our heads, tried to peep into shops as we slowly drove by, seeking any evidence of male existence. None was apparent, nor did anything seem a bit out of place. Nothing seemed lacking -- we were in a whole community, one could feel it in every detail that presented itself to our eyes.
Betty, seeing the moment had come to enlighten us further, said, "This is Culveria, girls, a New World all-feminine nation. The only sexes you'll find here are blondes and brunettes. Chaps don't exist -- never have. Don't even bother to mention men to the locals: except for the very few who have traveled Outside (like me, for example), they wouldn't have the vaguest idea what you are talking about. They'd just shake their heads, smile, and fancy that Outsiders have the strangest sense of humor."
By this time, we had arrived at New Quirinelle High School. We were expected, it seems. The entire faculty and student body (not more than maybe two hundred girls and their teachers) surrounded the bus in the parking lot, waving and smiling, though a couple of freshmaids pointed (and one had her hand smartly slapped by a teacher). A whole sea of ponytails and freshly-scrubbed faces, a smell of clean hair and pure feminine bodies, a collective rustling of petticoats quite overwhelmed us. We were mobbed, but with exquisite delicacy and decorum. We were bombarded with questions. Where were we from? How long were we staying? Were we hungry or tired? Did we need anything? (A few of us detached ourselves from the crowd and made a beeline for the bathroom, conducted by a couple of very serious brunette seniors who clearly thought we'd get lost or not know how to work modern plumbing.) Did we need places to stay? Could we come to the hop on Saturday? Could we teach them any new dances? Did we have any new "bendies"? (A bendie, I learned, is a new kind of record, rather small, with a very large spindle-hole in the center.) A few of the girls, more reflective, perhaps, quietly studied our clothes and our hats and our hairstyles. One or two very discreetly undid their ponytails and shook out their hair when they thought no one was watching.
The school principal, a Miss Parmalee, declared school dismissed for the day (making official virtue of an obvious necessity -- school was clearly out, one way or another); word of our arrival had spread, cars full of blonde and brunette mummies began to arrive, us Gotham blondes were snapped up like rare shells on a beach, and, after being reunited with our luggage, were driven off in various directions, singly or in pairs, here and there an occasional threesome. Rosie and me declined any number of kind offers to be put up for the night, for the week, for a month .... as we politely declined our tenth offer, up drove a futuristic car that bore the familiar name, "Buick", and who should emerge but Miranda, or, should I say Miss Barbara, tall and elegant as ever, but somehow softer, more vulnerable than I had remembered from that magic day we all spent together in Gotham last April, but it seemed like years ago. How she had gotten from New Kadoria to New Quirinelle so quickly never occurred to us: she was here
Miranda-Barbara kissed Rosie and I on the cheek, took one hand of each of us, stood back a step and beamed. "I thought you'd never arrive! Welcome to New Quirinelle. Please meet my parents ..." and she turned towards her mummies and made introductions. We felt we were home.
Elektraspace Correspondent from Kadorian Gotham (Blonde)
Some one has described Aristasia as "one long conversation". Well, Aphrodite is rather like that. If you want to catch up on the conversation so far, the Archive is the place to do it.
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