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Music Playing: Dora's Big Band with Change Partners

Dateline: Friday, November 14th, 1952

A Melting Heart

Oh girls, did you EVER read anything so Romantic? Crying? Me? A staid and strong brunette like me? Well, perhaps a little tear and sigh at the scene of mother and daughter holding each other so very tightly.

It's reminding me of a Kadorian song of parting and sorrow and joy - allow me to give you the words.

GOODNIGHT, SWEETHEART

Goodnight, sweetheart, till we meet tomorrow,
Good night, sweetheart, sleep will banish sorrow,
Tears and parting may make us forlorn,
But with the dawn a new day is born, so I'll say
Goodnight, sweetheart, tho' I'm not beside you,
Goodnight sweetheart, still my love will guide you,
Dreams enfold you, in each one I'll hold you,
Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight.

My, that's started me crying again. Barpette - I'm allowed one drink now that the leg is getting better, so would you be so kind so set me up with a glass of white wine? And something for Nicola and Pusskiss, our two new guests. Won't you please tell us something of yourselves while we wait for the next instalment?

MISS FOX


Cassiopeia Encounters an Ancient Spider

While her five snow pigeons were winging southeastward towards their New Ladyton birthplace, Cassiopeia frantically rushed about the city, de-materializing here, re-materializing there, in preparation for her journey to Unalakleet. Cassiopeia's navigational system, however, unlike that of her birds, was at this particular juncture somewhat faulty, or, shall we say rather blonde, for, in her haste, she would often end up in quite the wrong quarter of town and was obliged to return to her starting-point and repeat the process all over again, expending precious time re-setting her urban coordinates more precisely in mind before whizzing off to the correct destination.

She had already done all she could to speed the refitting of Hermia, her gyrocraft. At the gyrocraft works (the only location at which she had no difficulty arriving punctually and on the first try), the head engineer -- a sere, bespectacled brunette as thin as a whippet -- begged for three additional days, complaining that the new snow-skirt had failed in testing and required redesigning. Cassiopeia assented, of course (what else could she do?) but stipulated, in return, that the works deliver Hermia when ready -- polished, waxed and fuel cells fully replenished -- to the roof of her flat.

So Cassiopeia busied herself instead buying presents and with the tasks imposed by Nuiqsala, Kwethalyn's brunette mother, tasks which, she knew with certainty, demanded execution in minutest detail before a matrimonial proposal could be prepared and tendered, and which, as we will shortly see, turned out to be almost as daunting as the twelve labors of Herakleia, the Amazonian heroine.

First, several trips to Maidengate, the notary section of town, were required, to have her lineage of ten generations authenticated and inscribed by hand on heavy vellum, in the old manner, with her family crest engraved at the top. Cassiopeia lost yet more time by arriving at the notary's with the requisite lineal papers, but she unaccountably left behind the engraving die bearing her family crest, so had to return to the flat to retrieve it.

Nor could she lay hands on her graduation certificate from Miss Vulpecula's Normal Academy for Novarian Brunettes, so Cassiopeia was obliged to make an appointment at the registrar's office of said school (in an inconvenient suburb, earliest available appointment in two days' time), to obtain a certified lumiereocopy of the document, which would prove she had spent a then-seemingly interminable twelve years of her maidenhood under the tutelage of that august, excellent lady and her platoon of efficient and unsmiling brunette schoolmistresses.

The Ministry of Maidservants and Other Assorted Domestics (in distant Ladysbridge, close by St. Cygna's), closed at six o'clock and Cassiopeia materialized at its entrance at two minutes past that hour, so she had to make another trip, the next morning, to obtain the requisite papers officially establishing the number of servants in her household. (There were eleven, including eight maids of various station, two cooks and Lacerta, her personal secretary.)

Next, Cassiopeia discovered the Ministry of Domestic Architecture (situate in a sleepy northern borough whose older metallic structures interfered with telepathic transportation), to be closed for inspection, or inventory, or cleaning, or whatever Ministries usually do to serve the public more efficiently, so Cassiopeia was unable to obtain until the following day a certified floor plan of her flat to prove to Nuiqsala how many rooms were in her dwelling. (There were eighteen, including a self-contained five-room apartment for overnight guests, and not counting the servants' quarters.)

And three visits to the Exchequer (beyond Queen's Cross, in a congested quarter under heavy construction), were required to secure an affidavit valuing her fortune in furs and ivory, for the Trans-Provincial Equivalent Valuation Bureau would not even make an appointment to see her until she had presented the Secretary of Appointments with an official (and notarized) appraisal, in Imperial Pounds, of her personal worth in bank accounts, shares, trade-inventory, art, jewelry and real property, obtainable only at the Provincial Appraiser's Office (at the opposite end of the city and closed on alternate Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning this week).

Lacerta was utterly useless to her mistress in these proceedings, as the principal's personal presence was demanded, in each instance, to be sworn and to affix her signature on multiple copies of various documents each step of the way. In other words, Cassiopeia's money could secure her no favored treatment at the dainty but dawdling hands of the Novarian civil servants, resident, during weekdays, between the hours of ten in the morning and six in the afternoon (with two hours off for luncheon and half an hour each for morning and afternoon tea), in the dully reflective titanium office spires of New Ladyton.

For that venerable spider, Bureaucracy, spins her web even in Novaria, the ultra-modern province of the Empire. Becoming enmeshed in this web gave Cassiopeia a sensation of blonde helplessness, a novel sensation, perhaps, for the canny brunette trader (whose only intercourse with bureaucracy heretofore had been with Imperial Customs), but one which the ancient arachnid excels in evoking in almost anyone who finds herself constrained to seek her favors, whatever the reason. The spider, however, was really benign, for the Novarian bureaucracy did not, after all, exist to obstruct completely -- just to impede and delay and annoy for purposes of extracting a bit of humility and tribute from its subjects (like bureaucracies in all countries and epochs) -- so that after the passage of three hectic days, Cassiopeia, appropriately humbled, her patience all squandered in tribute, had in hand sufficient certificates, affidavits, forms, permits, statements, notarized lumierocopies, patents and licenses (all in quintuplicate) to last her ten lifetimes and to propitiate Nuiqsala.

It was late in the afternoon of the third day, after she had returned from her labors, (and had rewarded herself with a visit to her hairdresser before coming home), that Cassiopeia found Hermia tethered and patiently hovering on the rooftop of her flat, gyroscopes quietly whining in neutral and sporting a stylish new silver-blue snow skirt and a trim new cabin. To her amazement, perched on the gyrocraft's starboard gunwale, clustered above the warm fuel cell heat exchanger, were her five exhausted snow pigeons, awaiting, with equal patience, admission to the dovecote. They immediately fluttered about Cassiopeia's face upon her arrival, kissing her lashes with their wingtips, pigeon-fashion, settled on her head and shoulders and were thus conducted into the dovecote for much-needed refreshment. Cassiopeia, wondering at their simultaneous appearance, and not knowing yet whether to be delighted or apprehensive, gathered together the seal gut pouches and quickly repaired to her study below.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Dateline: Wednesday, November 12th, 1952

Kwethalyn, Partly Revived, Sends A Reply To Cassiopeia

Had the illumination at the bedside been somewhat brighter (it was barely sufficient for reading a letter, even one written in a brunette hand), Nuiqsala would have observed that Kwethalyn's waxen complexion had pinked up to no small degree. But even the room's obscurity allowed her readily to see that her daughter's azure blue eyes, formerly fixed on nothing more than indeterminate space, had purchased focus at last, and their pupils had dilated so widely that a thin rim of blue was overwhelmed by black centers. The sunken eyes, no matter blue or black, brimmed with tears, soon overflowing in glistening tracts down her cheeks, and the bedclothes exhibited excursions of plainly visible amplitude, for Kwethalyn was now alert and sobbing silently with relief.

She turned her face to her brunette mother and fixed her with an animate intensity remarkable in one for so long fugitive from this life and who had so nearly entered its ultimate corridor, whose only exit is that dread portal to the next. In a halting whisper so soft that her mother was compelled to incline her head to catch each word, almost touching her ear to her daughter's lips, Kwethalyn spoke for the first time in weeks.

"Cassiopeia loves me, Mother, she is coming here to take me away! You must welcome her as you would my lawfully betrothed, for so shall she be, I am certain of it! Please help me now to sit up, for I have decided to live. And the very first thing I shall do is write to her."

Nuiqsala's expectations were so far exceeded by this relatively long and astonishingly coherent first utterance (she had not expected the letter to have an effect quite so tonic or instant), that she pulled Kwethalyn up from her pillowed furs and clasped her tightly to her bosom. Rocking slowly back and forth and side to side in ancient maternal rhythm, her baby once again in her arms, the normally staid brunette fell on her eldest child's neck and wept freely. Kwethalyn, to the extent her feebleness permitted, reciprocated. So mother and daughter remained locked together in that tight embrace always permitted to mothers (of either sex) and their daughters, but never to others, tenderly cradling one another, for quite some time, neither could have said for how long.

This primal embrace was interrupted only by the twins' stealthy and tentative return to the house; it was the faint creak of a dry leather hinge as Inky and Viky opened the door just a handbreadth and peeped in, one's head directly above the other's, only one bright eye and half a turned-up nose of each face visible, that gave them away. Hearing the sound and directly comprehending its meaning, Nuiqsala disengaged herself from Kwethalyn and softly replaced the girl on the pillows. Arising from the bedside, she rapidly rearranged her pelisse, gave a few deft touches here and there to her coiffure (which had become slightly lopsided and displayed a few renegade strands), and, brows briefly raised and high forehead momentarily puckered, gave with a forefinger a quick, semi-circular dab to the corner of each eye.

"You may enter, girls," she said, now recomposed. "Kwethalyn, praise Dea, has rejoined us and wishes to write. Please go now to the study, fetch quill, ink, parchment and the stretched sealskin writing frame and bring them here at once."

The twins, each holding the fingernails of one hand against her front teeth, exchanged significant glances and rapidly tip-toed across the sitting room to the study in quest of the desired articles, looking over their shoulders once or twice, but they were thankfully silent.

Taking advantage of the interval before the twins' return, Nuiqsala retrieved the broth, still warm, from the mantel, induced Kwethalyn to swallow several more spoonfuls, and propped her up with a few more bolsters of furs. The bedclothes had become deranged by their embrace and Nuiqsala now began to tuck them in snugly. She had to bend over Kwethalyn to reach the far side of the bed; as she did so she felt Kwethalyn'shand weakly grip her shoulder, and again heard the faint whisper.

"How many are left, Mother, how many?"

Stayed by the hand and the question, but not understanding the reference, Nuiqsala replied, "How many of what, Kwethalyn darling?"

"Birds, Mother, birds: Cassiopeia's pigeons. How many are left?"

"Why, child, five remain of the six. Did you not know I sent your Novarian a letter last week? It was crossed in the skies; the letter I just now read you was clearly penned before Cassiopeia received mine," answered her brunette mother, still not grasping the drift of the question.

The feeble hold palpably tightened as Kwethalyn continued, "Then bring me five seal gut pouches; I desire to release all of Cassiopeia's pigeons at once." Exhausted by the effort of such an exchange, she let go her grip on her mother's shoulder and fell back on the pillows.

Released, Nuiqsala finished tucking in the bedclothes, then left the room in search of the twins. She shortly returned with Inky and Viky, (who bore the writing materials), in tow, while she herself carried the five pouches. Kwethalyn, once fully propped up again and the taut sealskin writing frame positioned on her lap, requested that a piece of parchment be divided in five. This having been done, and a quill dipped in violet ink having been placed in her fingers, with a faltering hand Kwethalyn laboriously inscribed on each piece the single word, "Yes!" Next, Nuiqsala and the twins folded the diminutive messages and carefully inserted one into each of the five pouches and did up the delicate ties. Donning a long parka over her pelisse and pulling on high fur boots, the mother collected the pouches and left the house with the twins, after assuring Kwethalyn they would be absent only a very few minutes.

Inside the dovecote, Inky and Viky, under their mother's unblinking scrutiny, removed the remaining five birds of the New Ladyton Squadron from their private willow-root enclosure and fitted each with a pouch. Mother and daughters carried the birds outside and released them all at once in a noisy flutter of wings and a small cloud of fine, superfluous feathers which had accumulated during prolonged inactivity. The birds first scattered, then regrouped, circled three times over the dovecote, ascended in widening spirals and vanished into the blank white southeastern sky. The white feathers lingered fully a minute in the cold, still air before settling silently onto the snowy ground, sketching languid see-saw motions in the air as they descended; then they, too, vanished.

Thus was dispatched Kwethalyn's reply to Cassiopeia's passionate letter.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Anyone for a drink ?

PUSSKISS


Dateline: Monday, November 10th,

Nonsense Lyrics

Oh, hello, everyone. It's so nice to have time to stop in again. I'm still wishing for the rest of that nice poem about "Order." I'll share it as soon as I get it.

What odd songs they have out here in the borderlands. I never hear them in Aristasia proper. First it was "Marsie Doats", now sometthing called "White Hat, Top Tie" or something like that.

Yes, just a quick one, please....

VIOLETTE


Dateline: Saturday, November 8th, 1952

A New Visitor

Hello!

NICOLA


The Twins Are Expelled And Nuiqsala Reads Cassiopeia's Letter to Kwethalyn

At the moment the twins had burst into the sitting room with their explosion of snowflakes, its only other occupants had been Kwethalyn, recumbent on pelts in her bed near the window, and her blonde mother, Kwethk'ala, who had been feeding her eldest daughter some of the nourishing broth earlier described, feeding her, we have said, with a spoon, as Kwethalyn was too weak even to raise her head from the pillowed furs unaided, much less lift a spoon by herself. It was clear that Kwethk'ala had been busy with her daughter's hair immediately before addressing the matter of broth, and had temporarily abandoned grooming in favor of nourishment, for half of Kwethalyn's luxuriant blond hair lay spread out like masses of pale cornsilk on the fur pillow to one side of her head, while to the other side lay a heavy blonde plait; in between, the girl's face was hardly less pale.

The snowflakes scattered by the twins' explosion into the house had barely settled onto the fur carpet and begun to melt, and Kwethk'ala had barely finished dabbing up some spilt broth with her apron when a fifth person, attracted by the commotion, briskly entered the room: Kwethalyn's brunette mother Nuiqsala. Now was the family fully assembled -- Kwethalyn, staring into emptiness, seemingly insensible; her blonde mother, alarmed, confused and trembling; one twin, Viky, clutching in her extended hand the carrier pigeon's pouch; the other twin, Inky, alternately shifting her gaze from her twin sister's hand to ... her stately brunette mother Nuiqsala, who quickly took in the whole scene at one glance.

If, dear readers, we could take in Nuiqsala at one glance, we would find her to be a brunette of medium height, pleasing figure and dignified, though not severe, bearing. We would see that she was no longer young, more likely closer to fifty than to forty, judging from the incipient crinkles radiating from her eyes (which signified that she frequently smiled with her whole face, though she was not smiling now). We would note that her long, thick golden hair, shot with grey, swept back, exposing the ears (which were small), was done up in an elegant twist at the back of the head and was held in place by several heavy ivory combs, leaving the nape of the neck bare and the high and almost perpendicular forehead fully in view. We would find the eyes to be azure, like Kwethalyn's, and the nose straight and small with delicately flared nostrils that lent an unmistakable quality of command and purposefulness to the face. As she advanced on the twins, still standing in the center of the room, we would see her to be wearing a floor-length pelisse of fine, beige tundra cotton, trimmed in dark marten, intricately embroidered in broad bands around the open sleeves and above the hem with trade-silk of harmonious colors, in what appeared to be astrological signs.

"Ingalik'aa and Okvik'aa, the wood box is nearly empty," said Nuiqsala in measured tones, serenely oblivious to the plain fact that it was really quite overfilled with firewood. "Please attend immediately to replenishing it from the woodpile, and do not return until all the bark and chips you left scattered about yesterday are completely cleaned up. That will take you at least an hour. I shall inspect the woodpile when you are done and I need not spell out the consequences of slipshod work." "Yeth, Mother," replied the twins in chorus (to have shared such a brief speech would have been an indignity), and as the two, crestfallen, turned towards the door to obey, their brunette mother curtly added, "And on the way out, Okvik'aa, I shall take that carrier pigeon pouch you have in your hand," (which hand, no longer fully extended, had, in fact, very smoothly been brought round to the small of Viky's back just as Nuiqsala had entered the room, a maneuver that had not, of course, gone undetected).

Viky deferentially handed her mother the pouch and exited the house with her twin, both, perhaps, (but only perhaps) thinking thoughts somewhat at odds with their appearance of compliant obedience, but, whatever they thought, they left the house without the slightest intention of returning before an hour, and, neither of them being in possession of a portable timepiece, it was more likely that they would err comfortably on the side of corporal safety, and stay away at least two. As for the mess of bark and wood chips, there was not the slightest doubt that the ground about the woodpile would be as clean as freshly fallen snow, for this, they knew from their mother's tone, was one chore where no dereliction would be tolerated.

The twins having gone out and the room grown suddenly less electric for want of the tension their presence usually induced (just as moving magnets will induce a current), Nuiqsala approached her blonde wife, who sat, head bent and shoulders drooping, the bowl of soup in her lap, weeping quietly at the beside of their failing daughter. Nuiqsala bent down, gently took her wife's chin in one hand, tilted up her face and impressed a soft kiss on her lips.

"Kwethk'ala, give me the broth, let me nurse our daughter for a while; you are over-worn. Repair to our chamber, lie down and sleep until supper time," urged Nuiqsala gently, taking the bowl of broth from her wife's lap.

She dried her wife's tears with same apron Kwethk'ala had just used to blot up the spilt broth. Blinking away what fresh tears immediately reappeared, and biting her lower lip, but saying nothing, Kwethk'ala quickly nodded assent, arose, and, covering her averted face in her apron, swiftly glided from the room, leaving a trail of sobs that seemed to linger in the room for a few moments.

Once alone with her daughter, Nuiqsala did directly not take her wife's place at Kwethalyn's bedside. Instead, she placed the bowl of soup on the mantel and seated herself in a comfortable chair near the hearth, where the light was better, and undid the ties round the pouch. She slowly extricated Cassiopeia's letter, and holding it up to the firelight inspected it, as if it held clues apart from those which might be found in its words, then she carefully read it.

Dropping the one hand holding the letter and slowly rubbing the exposed nape of her neck with the other, she leaned back in the chair, stared long into the fire and reflected on her own maidenhood. After a while, Nuiqsala sat forward again, raised the letter and read it several times over, still rubbing her neck; she stared more deeply into the fire and reflected more deeply on her own maidenhood. The embers settled, shifted and collapsed into the grate with a sudden cascade of delicate clinks and a compact nebula of fine orange sparks, rousing Nuiqsala from her musing. She glanced at the letter once again, shook her head slightly (then the letter, too), and smiled briefly to herself.

Nuiqsala, you see, had correctly guessed that her own letter to the Novarian trader had crossed with in the pigeon-post with the one she now held, and was by now pretty certain that in Cassiopeia she knew her brunette, whose intentions, though not explicitly stated, appeared, on the whole, to be honorable. Hence, she reasoned, any gamble in reading the letter to Kwethalyn was slight; that is to say, Nuiqsala was of one mind with Cassiopeia in judging the letter to be an effective restorative and held little doubt that a marriage proposal would shortly be forthcoming, probably no father away than Cassiopeia's impending visit of which the letter told.

Arising from her chair, she crossed the room, quietly approached her daughter's bed and sat down near its head. As if in preparation for a ritual, she purposefully smoothed her pelisse, then the bedclothes covering the girl's barely moving breast, (for her breathing was shallow), then Kwethalyn's brow.

Gently shaking her daughter's shoulder, she urgently whispered, "Kwethalyn! Daughter! You must heed me. Your Novarian has sent you a letter, you must rouse yourself enough to hear it, Kwethalyn. Hear me! Listen! I shall read it to you."

And so Nuiqsala read to her daughter Cassiopeia's letter, the contents of which, if not the words, are already know to us.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Petal Makes A Brunette Friend

My how good it is to get out of the house for a while. Yes, it's Miss Fox, complete with bandaged leg and terribly elegant walking stick. Thank you Barpette, I'd love a cool lemonade - I am totally banned from alcohol until this leg of mine gets better! But delightful as my house and garden is right now, I was starting to get just a little restless, and besides, I have the most delightful news!

I was at home the other day, waiting for Petal to come back from showing off that swimsuit pattern. She came in the front door, her eyes were glowing, and the sweetest blush in her cheeks. Have you seen the sweet smile of a young maiden in love? It stays with you forever. Then Petal told me what had happened.

She's a city brunette who was walking in the park near our place. Not that my lovely Petal would flirt with a strange brunette - not at all. But Sioban, (an Irish name for an Irish Colleen), who was looking for one of the walking tracks, asked Petal for directions, they looked in each other's eyes, and the hearts knew. Petal very politely invited her back to our place to look over the maps of the area I have on our back wall, and also because she felt very shy and wanted the security of hestia around her. I talked with Sioban while Petal made some tea, and realised I knew of her from my old job back in the big city. She very properly explained the situation, and formally asked my permission to step out with Petal. I explained that I'm really only her friend, not her guardian, but I gave my qualified permission until I could get in touch with Petal's mummies, and then said "but of course, it really depends on Petal. Would you be so kind as to ask her to come in, and then stroll around the garden for a few minutes?"

Petal, of course, gave full assent, and so she's out right now shopping for fresh fish for dinner for the three of us tonight. Her Mummies are pleased too, and trust to Petal's and my judgement. But the funniest part came out - this part of Aristasia is not very crowded - it turns out Sioban's brunette mummy and Petal's blonde mummy lived next door to each other many years ago, and although there was too great a difference in age for a real friendship, they knew each other quite well, so of course Petal's blonde mummy was very pleased to be able to make the connection.

So please, if a tall brunette with an Irish accent walks in and seems a little confused, be gentle with her. You know how being in love affects people.

Speaking of which - what news from North Amazonia?

Love

MISS FOX


Dear Friends All,

Just half a mome to say Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Hope it was a blaze of a day for each of you dear pettes.

Love,

MIRANDA


Dateline: Thursday, October 30th, 1952

A Wonderful Pattern

Miss Fox has sent me down here again, as she felt I was becoming too hestia-bound, and every girl needs her fresh air and sunshine. But I thought I'd bring in this pattern, so you could all see the swimsuit I made for her.

Girls, you would not believe how stunning this up-to-date swimsuit looks. It won a prize in a Kadorie magazine many long years ago, and its two-piece design flatters and compliments blonde AND brunette!.

I made it by enlarging the pattern onto some brown wrapping paper. If you're not exactly sure how to do these things, you can use one of those pit-bound enlarging machines, only be careful with it. Make the pattern up first in some scrap fabric, and make the seam allowances really big so you can alter it to fit your shape. You should have seen how GORGEOUS my Miss Fox looked in the dark blue model I made her - the artist drew a picture of her, but it really doesn't do her justice.

(I'll read you what the magazine says)

The swimsuit is styled with a moulded bosom and smooth bodyline. The armholes are deep enough for comfort. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. The numbers on the diagrams correspond with the numbers listed below. Materials required: 2 yards of 36 inch linen. The brassiere top and lower part of the trunks are lined.
1. Make darts in both brassiere top and lining. Attach straps to front. Seam both brassiere and lining along centre seam., and then join both pieces together. Machine on right side.
2. Seam front panel to front sides
3. Join brassiere and skirt together.
4. Seam centre back seam to within 6 inches of top. Make placket and finish with loops and buttons.
5. Join side seams together. Case top of back and sew a button on either side about 2 inches from centre for straps to button to. If all seams are again machined on right side it gives a better seam to garment. A 1 inch hem completes top of costume.
6. Attach lining pieces to front and back of trunks, then join centre and side seams, leaving the left seam on side open about 6 inches and make placket. Finish with hooks and eyes. Case top of trunks and legs.
Wait for warm weather, and wear it!

Love to you all,

PETAL


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