The Cocktail Bar

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Music Playing: Dora's Big Band with Chek To Cheek

Dateline: Saturday, October 25th, 1952

A Great Relief

Oh, WHAT a relief it is to get back to reality for a few minutes! Let me just put down my purse and take off this big hat and these spike heels under the table. Please, Barpette dear, do bring me something fizzy and hot and creamy and strong, even if that makes four of them!

Hugs to Elizabeth Ruth, I do know what that pittish atmosphere does to ones complexion! You do look just a little wind-blown. But always the model of a gallant brunette. How glad I will be when the War is over and we are all back Over Here!

Ariadne dear, thank you so much for those nice long glimpses into the world of glamour and music, real music....

I am just going to sit here and droop elegantly over my drinks, inhaling....

MARY MARGARETE


The Great Romance

Oh, Girls, isn't this cross-cultural romance just so THRILLING!

Oh, I'm just all a-twitter. Now, every time a dove flies overhead (as they are starting to do as they build their spring nests), I look to see if there's a lemon-grass parcel tied to it's leg. Next installment, please!

Besides, which, I'm a busy little Petal at the moment. My very dear Miss Fox has gone and landed herself into a predicament. We had some cold spring nights a while back and decided to start the log fire up again. Well, she went out to the woodshed in the dark, to get a sack full of wood to last the night. And no matter how often I tell her to wear sturdy shoes and to be careful - well. She usually just retorts with "Oh Fiddle Dee Dee - you sound just like your mother" (Miss Fox and my brunette mummy were bosom buddies, which is one of the reasons why I now live with her - Brunette Mummy trusts her to guard me and keep me like her own - but back to the story).

So she went out to the woodshed with only a warm dressing gown over her night attire, and the fluffy slippers on her feet. And while she was juggling the torch and the hessian sack and the wood, she felt what seemed to be a splinter in her shapely calf.

Now, two weeks later, that shapely calf is still swollen, the nasty horrible ulcer on the back is not healing properly (even with the special Quirrie medicines our local community nurse obtained), and Miss Fox must rest with her feet up and try and get better from the spider bite - for that is what it was! One of our Antipodean spiders, one of the very little ones, does more damage and has longer lasting affects than a lot of the great big hairy ones that our Brunette Mummies warn us about. And it is very likely that Miss Fox is going to be off her feet for a few weeks more, and feeling very sorry about it, too.

Mind you, it has given her a chance to rest, to think and to just watch out on the garden yesterday and see the birds coming to the new bird-feeder I made. She has lost a lot of that pit-blemish that was starting to overtake her in her last job (the job she left in the city to come and live up here), and she no longer talks of "competition" and "hurry" and "deadlines". Now it's more likely to be "create" and "breathe" and "joy". My Blonde Mummy came past last week to see how we were and said that the combination of care and fresh air is changing both of us into the beautiful, fulfilled women we were born to be. (She also whispered to me later that she thinks looking after Miss Fox has given me a sweet sense of responsibility that only adds to my beauty - don't Mummies say the sweetest things!)

So Miss Fox sent me off to the Cocktail Bar for a few hours, saying she is very happy to be left in the garden with a good book and a cool drink for a while. I think she'll probably sleep and end up covered in the last blossoms from the plum tree. In the mean time - oh PLEEEEASE tell me what happens next between Cassiopeia and Kwethalyn! PETAL

P.S. and next time I'll tell you about the strange events around our house last week!


It is with the greatest of pleasures that the management is able to fulfill your request for the next installment...

Cassiopeia Resolves To Marry Kwethalyn And Dreams Of Wedding Gowns

The paneled study certainly ceased to revolve by the time Cassiopeia had thrice perused this most unanticipated letter -- her head had cleared fully -- but directly her breast surged with contrary emotions. She was deeply mortified -- and frightened -- that Kwethalyn apparently lay dying two thousand miles to the north. Her protective brunette instincts were profoundly stirred, but she was at the same time ecstatic in now possessing that most-hoped-for answer to the letter she had so recently dispatched from the rooftop: her love was returned!

To be sure, the course of events had precipitated matters in a completely unexpected direction (as the Course of Events is so very fond of doing), and rather more quickly than Cassiopeia might have preferred, but as she reviewed in her mind the contents of the crossed and lately-sent letter, she saw clearly that they would serve to restore Kwethalyn's health and spirits as efficaciously as the fully-caparisoned marriage proposal virtually demanded by her brunette mother, though the mother would certainly bite her lip at it and expect the proposal to be forthcoming just the same, to be sure.

Thus so small a blot on the matter as the timing of events evaporated from Cassiopeia's further consideration as quickly as breath from a mirror: on the pans of the exquisite feminine balances within her breast, ecstasy outweighed mortification and fear. Marrying Kwethalyn seemed a most pleasing prospect indeed and Cassiopeia's turmoil soon receded, replaced by a soothing and lambent certainty that suffused her whole being, but not so utterly that she was not impelled to pray, first, for Kwethalyn's complete and rapid recovery, and second, that Dea might show her ignorant servant Cassiopeia the right path.

Inasmuch an effective restorative for Kwethalyn had just minutes earlier been co-incidentally launched by reciprocal carrier pigeon, and now that she had said her heartfelt prayers, there was really nothing further poor Cassiopeia could do at this very moment besides draw a long bath and a rather large snifter of Arcadian brandy and then go to bed, which she proceeded to do, contented, or at least partly contented, for the first time in many weeks. Just before she slid into deep slumber, she decided to pay a visit next morning to the Gyrocraft works to see whether those engineers could work triple shifts and deliver Hermia in two days instead of seven.

Cassiopeia knew that they could -- after all, was she not a wealthy woman now, endowed with money, property and servants to help her enjoy her good fortune? Money could sometimes work wonders, else what was it good for? In her fast fading wakefulness she reflected on what clothes she would pack for the journey, what scents and what giftlets ... But Cassiopeia's last and dimmest thoughts before consciousness was extinguished and she dreamt of matters that even a Narrator cannot coherently relate, were of wedding gowns -- traditional satin or tulle? Or would she be a Thoroughly Modern Twenty-First Century Brunette, thumb her nose at Tradition and have one made, perhaps, in gossamer-platinum? As for the bridesmaids ....

TO BE CONTINUED...


Dateline:Thursday, October 23rd, 1952

How Ariadne Came To Be An Announcerette And How She Does It

[Editor's Note: Due to Elektraspace difficies, this piece is coming to you out of order. But knowing Ariadne and her narrative style, that should not make the slightest difference in your comprension.]

La! Darlings, its me Ariadne again broadcasting (yes, broadcasting!) to you from the swank and swinging Hollywood Palladium with the worlds largest dance floor. I have finally been discovered and my career is now plunging skywards! Yes after just a week as a Hat Check Blonde one evening I checked the hat of very important brunette who it turned out is part owner of the Palladium so she decided to give me a try as an announcerette right there on the stage with the bands and the singers! She said I was "tray sharmante" and she said she liked my fresh wholesome looks (from all the milk I drink no doubt) and bet I "would add some class to the joint" and pack in the crowds on account of my English accent which always goes over big in El Lay where everyone speaks American as you probably know.

My scanty little grey and pink velveteen uniform with the bellhop hat with no place to put any tips is consined to the dustbin of history so instead I now wear an elegant evening gown and glittering costume jewellery that looks quite real -- a different outfit for every night of the week designed and made-to-measure for me by Adrienne the famous costume designerette (but I can't take them home). I receive a salary of seventy-five dollars a week so I am suddenly rather well-off and have moved out of the "Y" and into a small little flat of my own over on Melrose. My job is to introduce the acts and the numbers and make a little bit of urban chit-chat with the artists but for some unsinkable reason I quite frequently make people laugh when I am being The Most Serious. Here is a snapshot of me taken just last week, thats me in the slinky sequinned gown.

Tonight Miss Harriet Janes and her orchestra were performing. So at the start of the show I came up to the big microphone on a stand in the middle of the empty stage and when all the applause had died down I said something like, for instants, "Coming to you live from the world-famous Hollywood Palladium ballroom tonight making Dance History is Miss Harriet Janes and her orchestra featuring the devine Kadorie nightingale Miss Kitty Kallen. So lets give them all a big Palladium welcome!" (And then I hold up my arms like in the snapshot and hope the dress stays where it is supposed to which it quite frequently does.)

Then six thousand seven hundred and fifty pettes clapped like mad and the curtain went up and all the orchestra members filed on and took their places on the bandstand and when the applause had subsided and Miss Janes had come onto the stage with her trumpet and was standing next to me at the microphone, she said, in a sort-of-an-intimmate conversational tone but all thirteen thousand five hundred ears heard it anyway because of the big microphone, something like, "Well, Ariadne, it seems you got a good rest last night, you certainly look as fresh as a daisy." So I giggled and said, "O, thank you Miss Janes and I feel fresh as a daisy too! But, La! Its no secret why, Mummie always said drink a quart of warm milk and take a long bath before bed so I always sleep well. You eau contrare look a bit under the weather, so may I thereby defer that you didnt sleep well?" And Miss Janes replied, "To tell you the truth Ariadne, I had the craziest dream and it kept me awake all night!" Then I said, "Well, Miss Janes, lets not stand around chatting on ceremony just we two together (as if no one else was listening) when we can let everyone out there on the dance floor and out in Radioland hear about your dream as well. So here, folks, is Miss Harriet Janes and her Orchestra with Miss Kitty Kallen doing their all-new, original arrangement of I Had The Craziest Dream." (Then I hold out my arms again just like in the snapshot and everyone claps like mad.) So thats how we do it, we announcerettes just have to keep our head about us and say all the right things.

So Miss Janes and Miss Kallen and the Orchestra did the song and there was a lot more applause and Miss Janes and I engaged in a little more sheek conversation to introduce the next number and as I am always supposed to remind the audience that Dance History is constantly being made every single minute I quite frequently did and so we eventually got through the whole performance making a lot of Dance History and afterwards Miss Janes took me up to the bar (which is in that flying-saucer-looking balcony you can see in the photo I sent yesterday) and ordered several rounds of champagne cocktails which was a lot better than a tip because a girl doesnt have to worry about where to put champagne cocktails no matter what kind of dress she has on. A girl can drink champagne cocktails in a neglijay if she fancies. I have even seen a desparate brunette once drink one in a shoe. A shoe that belonged to a blonde who wasnt paying the brunette any attention but made the mistake of removing her pumps under the table because her feet had got swollen from dinner and dancing so she eventually had to go home with her wet foot in a cab.

Well, pettes, I do have a song for you tonight, Its Been A Long Long Time. I could try to make another urban quip but I am not working now but writing to you pettes in the Aphrodite Cocktail Bar so I wont because Im off-duty and I have to save myself for the job. This song is one of my favourites, sung by the lovely Miss Kallen who is the sweet kind of a blonde that is partial to Angora sweaters such as she is wearing in this photo.

It's Been A Long, Long Time

[Introductory instrumental with trumpet obligato, muted brass and strings]

Never thought that you would be
Standing there so close to me
There's so much I feel I should say
But words can wait until some other day

Kiss me once and kiss me twice and kiss me once again
It's been a long, long time
Haven't felt like this, my dear, since can't remember when
It's been a long, long time

You'll never know how many dreams I dream about you
Or just how empty they all seem without you
So kiss me once and kiss me twice and kiss me once again
It's been a long, long time.

[Long instrumental closing with trumpet, brass, strings]

So until tomorrow, happy kisses from your pette-finally-making-good in Kadorian Hollywood,

ARIADNE


Dateline: Wednesday, October 22nd, 1952

What News The Pigeon Carried

The bird on the parapet quickly recognized Cassiopeia as its mistress, who had raised it and thirty-five sister-pigeons from hatchlings, but it hesitated, strutting in fretful circlets, then stopping abruptly and quizzically inclining its head side-to-side, then fretfully strutting again: its sharp eye had detected that Cassiopeia was not yet aware of its presence.

The moment the tall brunette had dabbed away her tears and the bird finally saw the first spark of recognition in its mistress's eyes, it flew up from the parapet, fluttered a few moments before Cassiopeia's face, grazing her eyelashes, in greeting, with the very apices of its fanned wingtips, and alighted on her shoulder, from which more maternal perch it nuzzled her ear with its soft, feathered head. To this shoulder Cassiopeia slowly raised the fingers of her opposite hand, onto which the spent bird promptly hopped and permitted itself to be carried, like a prodigal avian princess returned, into the dovecote, now all astir, with rustling feathers and interrogatory cooings, from the unusual events of the evening.

In a warm part of the dovecote Cassiopeia set the bird on a low perch and placed dishes of food and water before it, which it assaulted with unabashed gusto. While the bird was busily assisting a respectable mound of birdseed to diminish rapidly, Cassiopeia gently unfastened the waterproof seal-gut pouch from its back, quietly let herself out of the dovecote and, tightly clutching the pouch, hurried down the stairs from the roof to her panelled study, there to read the contents.

Impatient and over-eager, Cassiopeia did not take the time to sit, but stood before her desk and with trembling fingers scrabbled at the pouch's delicate ties. She tore them open, hastily extracted and unfolded the lemon-grass parchment within, which she spread flat on the polished rosewood surface in one rapid, firm sweep of her hand. It was with uncomprehending shock that she saw the writing was not Kwethalyn's, but rather a bold brunette script, not too unlike her own, tightly covering the page in violet ligonberry ink.

The light in her study suddenly seemed to constrict itself to a dim yellow glow emanating from the parchment, then that, too, rapidly faded; Cassiopeia felt chill darkness grip her and her knees begin to buckle, but she managed to sink down into her chair and to lay her forehead on her folded arms on the desktop, else she would have collapsed on the floor. When the room had stopped spinning a bit, Cassiopeia slowly sat up, shook her head briskly a couple of times, and read:

"In the Province of Northern Amazonia, the Village of Unalakleet
"In the month of Tuntukala, the Eighth Day
"In Queen Sa'atavale's Reign, the Seventh Year
"To Cassiopeia, the Novarian Trader, Greeting!

"From this writing know I am the Blonde Kwethalyn's Brunette mother, Nuiqsala. You and I had the pleasure of meeting during the last two days of your visit to our village at the end of the summer.

"As it is not my manner to come at my goal askew and work up to my mark, I shall strike it directly. Kwethalyn has confessed all, including your exchange of carrier pigeons, one of which is bearing this message. I regret to tell you that our daughter at this moment lies desperately ill, but with no physical ailment: a child can see that the girl is love-sick and likely to die. Young woman, if you are an honorable Aristasian, communicate with my daughter immediately, stating your intentions!

"If your intentions, Dea forfend, are not honorable, then we will not likely have any writing from you, nor see your face, either, and we will probably have to carry our eldest out onto Sea Ice before solstice for the Long Journey across the vast unfreezing ocean that swirls beyond day and night and from which no one returns. [Editor's Note: Northern Amazonians do not bury their dead -- indeed, for most of the year it would be an impossibility.] But I have taken care, young woman, to make pointed inquiries of you up and down the coastline from Sleetmute to Shishmaref, and, without exception, all reports are that Cassiopeia the tall Novarian is an honest and upstanding trader whose word has ever been her bond.

"As time is of the essence and I cannot but trust to Dea that your intentions are honorable, I beseech you to state them immediately in no uncertain terms, namely, as an unequivocal proposal of impending matrimony, so that our precious daughter can be pulled back from the brink of the Great Abyss and her health, honor and happiness restored.

"Please acquaint me with your lineage of ten generations, your education, how many chambers has your dwelling and how many servants, what accommodations distant visitors may expect and tell me forthrightly your wealth in ivory and furs. Tell me as well how many months of the year you are normally gone from the hestia on your trading affairs, and whether such absences are apt to continue in future, for I am compelled to say that a trader's nomadic existence is hardly the most suitable for a married brunette, especially if there are to be children.

"Assuming that your particulars and your proposal shall be satisfactory and that Kwethalyn's blonde lady mother shall interpose no objection, I have appended to this letter (again, in the interest of time) Kwethalyn's lineage of ten generations as well as a catalogue of her education and domestic training. Upon my acceptance of any offer from you, I shall settle upon my daughter a dowry of furs and ivory suitable for a girl of her station, as Dea is my Witness that, for generations uncountable, no blonde of our clan has ever been delivered into matrimony with merely the clothes on her back nor has any brunette of our clan ever accepted a blonde so delivered.

"Having no doubt that your reply shall be swift and favorable and that your proposal shall in all likelihood be accepted, I remain,

"Your obedient, &c, &c,

"Nuiqsala, of the De'naina clan, who lives near the Steam Lodge"

[Editor's Note:The letter's appendix we need not reproduce here, as its substance will become plain by-and-by.]

TO BE CONTINUED...


Dateline:Tuesday, October 21st,1952

The Romance Continues: Pigeons Fly

After one of her aforementioned barely understated soirees, Cassiopeia had bid her guests an early good night, as was her custom, on the pretext of having an engagement with her bankers first thing next morning, leaving her company amid opulent trappings (and a Western Kadorie jazz sextet imported for the evening), and with food, drink and matter enough for speculative gossip to last at least until dawn. For by now it was clear to all in New Ladyton who might bother to take any interest in the affairs of the city's most eligible brunette that Cassiopeia was smitten by love; the word was that the object of her affections was a pale and diminutive blonde, with an exotic name, who inhabited a remote part of far-off Northern Amazonia.

One faction held that the blonde with the unpronouceable name was an Arctic princess, fabulously wealthy in sables and ivory, who lived in a palace of carved crystalline ice, which shimmered in refracted spectral colors under winter's eternal starlight. The ice, it was said, had been quarried five thousand years ago from a glacier then ten thousand years old. Another faction held the girl to be an unusually refined and beautiful orphan slavey who wore herself to the bone carrying water and fuel for an avaricious family of seal trappers who paid her wages in table-scraps and a monthly fresh stuffing of dry river grass for her pallet which she was permitted to spread no closer than ten feet from the fire. Cassiopeia (so said this faction) had come away with one of this Cinderella's glass slippers and would never be content until she had the pair, with the blonde to fill them.

At any event, Cassiopeia's departure allowed such brunette speculation, which had been more-or-less discreetly carried out up until then in such rare sheltered nooks and corners as Art Neo furniture and statuary affords, to become general, assuming at moments the nature of a dozen simultaneous spirited little debates. These almost all concluded with a round of tsk-tsking, the opposing sides resting their cases, however intricate their arguments might have been, with the observation that matches across Aristasian provinces almost never work out, and that Cassiopeia would do far better to confine herself to Novarian blondes; the names of certain blonde younger sisters (none of them present but all unquestionably superior to the unknown Amazonian) were tendered. Then the debates would start up again with only slight variation.

The blondes, meanwhile, taking no part at all in these debates, universally pouted upon the accurate perception that whatever the truth concerning the distant Amazonian girl, a supremely eligible local brunette was almost certainly being struck from the lists. They pouted, caught one another's eyes, hunched their bared ivory shoulders almost imperceptibly (and somewhat impatiently) together and absently inspected the ceilings and walls, while one blonde's pointed pump tripped like a metronome, all plainly saying, in that blonde language that is so much more eloquent than any spoken words, "Let's have another drink, girls, and get on with the remainder."

* * * * *

This night Cassiopeia did not repair directly to her dovecote on the roof to cuddle her six messenger birds as was her custom, but to a private study adjoining her bedroom. She sat down at her antique rosewood Arcadian writing table (for in her private rooms the furnishings were far from the Art Neo style of the downstairs part of the flat seen by guests), efficiently smoothed the satin skirt of her hostess's gown, extracted a sheet of lemon-grass parchment from the drawer and began to write in a strong hand made consciously softer.

What words Cassiopeia actually inscribed we can perhaps better imagine than read (for she was not an eloquent writer); whatever ones she chose, however, we may accurately surmise that they proclaimed her deep affection for Kwethalyn and expressed the hope that such affection was reciprocated with as much passion as it was offered -- that is to say, a very great deal, for Cassiopeia, too, was being consumed by love and was running low on fuel with which to feed her fire.

What we cannot guess, however, and what my task as Narrator is to tell you, is that Cassiopeia also acquainted Kwethalyn with some additional facts beyond the state of her affections: to wit, that she had shipped her gyrocraft to the gyrocraft works, where it was being fitted with an experimental snow-skirt and heated cabin to allow winter travel; that the engineers at the works were confident that Hermia (for so the gyrocraft was named) would be suited for comfortable travel over frozen terrain, even at ninety degrees of frost, the lowest extreme ever recorded in Northern Amazonia; that the alteration would be done in a week; and that she, Cassiopeia, had every intention of making a winter trip to Unalakleet as soon as Hermia was returned to her and certificated by the Provincial Transport Ministry as safe and fit for travel.

As she was a well-brought up brunette, Cassiopeia, in her penultimate sentence, begged Kwethalyn to write, by return pigeon post, whether her (Kwethalyn's) affections had altered since their parting, and to give her (Cassiopeia) a frank "No, do not come," if they had: Cassiopeia did not wish to force affections where not wanted even at the cost of her own annihilation. In her last sentence, she prayed that Kwethalyn's answer would be, "I am as you left me. Please come." At the closing she hesitated, then wrote, "With undying love, your own, Cassiopeia," and added an unpremeditated post-script in her natural, un-softened hand, "Let it be Yes!" She folded and rolled up the parchment tightly and slipped it into one of the seal-gut pouches from the same drawer. She then covered herself in a rain-cape, ascended to the roof and to the dovecote.

It was a raw autumn night over New Ladyton; dirty grey clouds, barely higher than the roof-tops, scudded in sodden masses from the Eastern Marshes, bearing a faintly rank odor mingled with the freshness of sea-salt and spitting sparse, fat raindrops. The wind was brisk enough so that an occasional bare patch was ripped in the low cover, revealing a slivered moon riding fast on a tableau of stars.

This night, for the first time, Cassiopeia switched on the light in the dovecote, alarming the birds, but she needed the light to fasten the pouch onto the sturdiest of the six Unalakleet snow pigeons. Carrying the harnessed bird, she left the dovecote, carefully latching the door behind her, and walked to the parapet at the edge of the rooftop, where the twinkling lights of the city and the hum of traffic lay beyond and below her. Kissing the bird and murmuring a prayer for its safe journey, she released it over her head. Caught in a gust, the bird wheeled sharply downwards, uttered a shrill un-pigeonlike cry of joy at its freedom, and was instantly gone.

Cassiopeia, drained by the unwonted effort of writing and dispatching such a letter, stood lost in reflection high above New Ladyton, one hand hanging limp at her side and the other distractedly playing with a detached breast feather that had stuck to her forefinger when the bird had taken flight. The lights of the city blurred as tears filled her eyes -- she was weeping girlish tears of hope or foreboding or relief, she knew not what -- so it was fully five minutes before she noticed the bird had returned and was perched before her on the parapet, impudently tilting its head sharply to one side, then to the other, dancing in little circles and appearing unusually ruffled after such a short (and disappointing!) flight. Cassiopeia's heart sank as she apprehended that her only means of communication with Kwethalyn, so carefully planned and nurtured, had failed at the outset! But as she ruefully wiped the tears from her eyes, her heart leapt within her as she saw that it was not the same bird, (it had a black beak, the other's had been red), though it bore a seal gut pouch strapped to its back.

TO BE CONTINUED...


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