The Cocktail Bar

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Music Playing: The Quirrie Quintet with Auld Lang Syne

Dateline: Wednesday, December 31st, 1952

From The Management

A Very Happy New Year to all the pettes in the Bar!

THE MISTRESS


Dateline: Tuesday, December 30th, 1952

From the Hospital

(Inscribed on a few pieces of hospital notepaper, delivered to the bar by Sister Vernon on her way past).

Dear All,

Thank you for your kind thoughts, and your wishes. I have promised to take better care of myself, at least until Petal comes home.

And you will all be pleased to hear that the wild storm that we had last Friday, although causing chaos in the streets and ruining at least one Blonde's best hat, also dropped enough rain in the mountains that all the fires are now out and the volunteers being sent home for a belated Christmas.

Sioban was spotted by one of the pit-fighters also helping at the fires, and has now volunteered to go and join the fight at the front. Her boat leaves just after New Year, so she and Petal are spending her last few days of liberty together at our cottage from tomorrow, when Sister O'Kelly says I may go home.

My love to you all and we'll see you when Mother Time brings a new year around.

Best Wishes

MISS FOX


Dateline: Sunday, December 28th, 1952

Festive Fun

Dear pettes, I hope that you all have had a very happy Christmas season. I have been having a wonderful time, eating mincepies and drinking port in front of an open fire, with the tree in the corner sparkling with glass ornaments, glinting gently in the light of the flames. It was warm on Christmas Day, but that made no difference to the enjoyment of the fire. Happy New Year to all of you!

CANDIDA


Dateline: Wednesday, December 24th, 1952

From The Management

(The sound of a very large dish of mince pies being placed onto the central table.)Dear friends, a very happy Nativity to each one of you, and may all the blessings of the Season be yours. The Bar will be closed until the 27th December due to the Nativity holiday for the staff.

THE BARPETTE


An Amazonian Carol

At this loveliest of seasons, the ancient tribes and households of Near and Far Amazonia gather about the hearth fire to sing carols. Here are the words of one of them. I am only sorry that I cannot record its haunting melody for your appreciation.

The Morrow Song

Deep in the darksome days of winter
Climbeth the crescent to the crest;
Shineth the stars in sovereign stillness
Reft are the red rays of the West
Reft are the red rays of the West.

Over the sea-spray's silvern splendour
Falleth a foot unfailing fast
Fearing none fall nor seeking substance
Faltering naught from first to last
Faltering naught, from first to last.

Moveth a Maiden in the moonlight
Draped in darkness deep and drear
Over the waters white and wellowing
In the gaunt ageing of the year
In the gaunt ageing of the year.

Over the shores of silent silver
Unto the fearful forest deep
Seeking the Cavern's secret centre
Setteth She still, as She would sleep
Setteth She still, as She would sleep.

Out of the depths of drear and darkness
And the cruel cold of winter's night
Cometh a Child all cloth'd in candour
Bearing *God's Love, and Life and Light.

* Note:The names: God, Dia and Dea are all used by Amazons of Her.

Transcribed by

PHOEBE


Relief

I am so glad that you called to give us the welcome news about our friends, Sister O' Kelly. Please convey to Miss Fox and Petal our best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a speedy recovery for Miss Fox. And a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year to all the pettes in this old place!

CANDIDA


Brunette Applause

(The sound of high heels drumming on the floor under tables is heard, and a few glasses heavily set down.)

Well, right enough, well said...

Hooray for Sister...

Look here, can we get down there and help?

(Shuffle of arising.)


Confusion of the Gossiping Blondes

Ahem! Well, Sister O'Kelly, I am sure that no-one at this table ever thoughtthat Petal would misbehave, especially with such a decent brunette chaperone, and we are terribly pleased that her reputation is still spotless and intact. Glowing, in fact, from the report you have given us. Ahem!

EMMELINE


Dateline: Monday, December 22nd

Welcome News About Our Southern Friends

(Enter a tall, slim Blonde in a blue uniform and crisply-starched white veil, watch pinned neatly to her collar and sensible shoes shined to a brilliant shine. It's Maggie O'Kelly, Sister-in-charge at the local clinic)

Girls, I'm pleased to bring you news from the community Hospital about poor Miss Fox.

Well, after she collapsed here and the ambulance took her off to our little hospital, we found that she was suffering from lack of food. You think us Blondes are giddy enough? Well! The mess a business-minded Brunette can get herself into when she hasn't a hestia-minded Blonde to look after her is unbelievable. Miss Fox had just been forgetting to eat, what with worrying about Petal and Sioban, and with Petal not there to cook for her. One of my nurse friends went around to their cottage to fetch some clothes, and found a cupboard full of food and not a dish soiled - only four apple cores in the dust bin.

So Miss Fox has been kept in the hospital to build her up a little and get the blush back in those wonderfully shaped cheeks of hers. She's also going to have the District Nurse drop by every second day to make SURE she's eating properly, and though Sister Vernon may be blonde, it would take a stouter will than Miss Fox to oppose HER!

And besides - I have a little unfinished business to deal with here.

(She draws herself up to her fullest height, fixes her eyes on a particular table, and looks them full in the face)

My Brunette cousin Sioban and Miss Fox's friend Petal have been staying down the mountain in the most SUITABLE and PROPER circumstances... oh you giddy girls, you. You've obviously never been caught in one of our bush fires. The hotel where they were staying was taken over for ALL the pettes in the area who had to leave their houses. All the single blondes were in one large room, sharing beds and stretchers and whatever space they could, and all the single brunettes shared another two on the opposite side of the hotel, in much the same circumstances. Mrs Beckett, who runs the hotel, keeps a firm eye on all her guests and would not DREAM of allowing any such behaviour. And I have it on good authority that as soon as they'd sent the telegram, Sioban was off helping fight the fires and Petal worked endless hours in the kitchens, helping make the huge amount of food needed to feed the refugees. In fact, the first train only came through an hour ago, and brought some pictures of the fire that the local newspaper photopette took. I suggest you pass these around and speculate MORE on those who give of themselves at this season and LESS on telling tales.

Thank you, Barpette - a refreshing cup of tea would be very welcome. I'm sorry to have disturbed the bar but NOT sorry about saying what I did.

SISTER MAGGIE O'KELLY


Dateline: Saturday, December 20th, 1952

Brunette Defence

Well, now, look here, we have to remember that Petal lives in the wild and wooly regions, not in the heart of the Empire. That sort of thing happens quite often around Avonlea, doesn't it? People getting snowed in at vacant houses and such.

Just because it is wildfire instead of snow -- well, the Empire does cover both palm and pine, you know.

Look here, let's go and ask all those twittery blondes to dance, and get their minds off scandal.

ROBERTA


Telegram-Urgent

To: BARPETTE - COCKTAIL BAR - ARISTASIA

From: PETAL - C/- SPRINGWOOD POST OFFICE - KADORIA SOUTH

TELL MISS FOX ALL WELL AND SAFE STOP SIOBAN AND I STAYING RAILWAY HOTEL SPRINGWOOD UNTIL ROAD CLEAR OR TRAINS RESTORED END


Blonde Gossip

Oh dear! Dont' tell me that Petal has disappeared with a brunette! I daresay that it is all very innocent, but it looks rather unwise, wouldn't you say? At this table we are all blonde showgirls together, and I am sure that we would never say an unkind thing about another blonde, but those brunettes over there might think that Petal has behaved rather indiscreetly. Her reputation is a trifle in danger, wouldn't you say?

EMMELINE


Dateline: Wednesday, December 17th, 1952

Nativity Greetings From Kadorian Hollywood

Hello Pettes, all you blondes and brunettes, it's me, Ariadne, in Kadorie Hollywood! I am sending you timely Nativity Greetings from the worlds capitol of understated good taste. Dont worry, its not really too early, not here, anyway, to send Nativity Greetings. Why in Hollywood the Nativity season begins practically the day after Hallowe'en! In El Lay (thats where Hollywood is you know) it never snows of course but that does not prevent little reindeer and artificial snowpettes from suddenly appearing right there on green lawns among the palm trees where there have been jack-o-lanterns and goblins just a day before.

But, La! Here I am prattling away about things of no consequents, when actually I have a Big Surprise about which to tell you! You see, not only am I still leading off all the acts at the Hollywood Palladium with my airudite banter, but I have been chosen to be the Palladium Girl, a sort-of-an-official mascot for the Palladium, that is I will be appearing in magazine adverts and on billboards all over town to promote the popularity of the Palladium so that big crowds of pettes will continue to go there. But appearing only in El Lay as this sort of publicity stunt is striktly a local affair, because whats sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the turkey (which in Culveria is always cranberry sauce) as every girl knows. So if you do not I am telling you now. Forty-foot tall blondes on billboards do not always attract the proper sort of respectful attention outside of El Lay I am afraid.

The mascot idea is the brainbaby of one of the proprietresses of the Palladium, her name is Adria Suttle and she is an acknolledged expert in public relations which in El Lay seem to be ever so much more important than private ones. Miss Suttle is a brunette of unpeckable taste and refinement so she asked Adrienne (thats the famous cinema costume designer, who designs my Palladium gowns as you probably know since I told you before) to design a Santa Nicola suit for Yours Truely, but of course because of the heat in El Lay (which of course is why there are palm trees and it never snows here) Santa Nicola suits on the Coast are as a rule more, um, abbreviated than where winter actually happens and cold weather occurs. A girl need not get herself all bundled up in El Lay if she wants to play Santa, eau contrare, she dresses for hot weather and can anyone blame her?

So Miss Suttle you see has a rather swank penthouse flat on La Cienega overlooking the city so she decided to hold the first photo session right there in her intimmate sitting room which is on the same sort of scale as the Palladium only somewhat smaller and which has a stunningview of El Lay's biggest billboard which I do not think you pettes will have any trouble finding in the background of the photo I am sending in the hope that the darling Cocktail Bar editrix will show it to you even though you pettes who live in colder climes may consider it a trifle riskay. I hope not, in fact in Hollywood girls wearing such costumes when they are doing serious public relations on certain occasions which need not be mentioned (such as jumping out of a cake) might even be considered a bit overdressed. Do you like the rabbit fur trim? It is ever so soft and there is really not enough of it to make a girl feel too warm. Anyway this is the perfect outfit for figuring out just who is naughty and who is nice.

So Happy Nativity to All and to All a Good Night (Ho, Ho, Ho!) and please tell Miss Barbara that out here on the Coast we do indeed hang "those" kind of stockings by the chimney to which she was referring as possibly not being the proper sort of stockings for a girl to hang up unless she expects a gift no larger than a medium size egg or a small size tangerine. A girl can get a lot more nice things in "those" kind of stockings and here in El Lay even two pair are barely sufficient if she has any brunette ackquaintances at all and besides even a small size diamond clip in its case will hardly fit without an unsightly bulge into Miss Barbaras kind of stockings which out here are really nothing but a tennis sock, so as no girl would ever want to find a diamond clip in a tennis sock even a small size one I am quite certain when it talks about stockings the poem is actually referring to nylons. Which I suppose is what Miss Barbara meant by "those" kind in inverted commas as if there was somewthing the matter with them!

ARIADNE (WITH BELLS ON)


P.S. You should see me in my elf suit!

Concerned Friends

Heavens above! First Petal disappears and now Miss Fox has fainted! Dear Miss Fox, do you feel a little better now? Can you hear us? Barpette, is there anything that you would like anypette to do? Is there a doctorette in the Bar, or a nurse? Oh, yes, she looks a better colour now. But where is Petal, and why has Miss Fox not heard from her? Perhaps another brunette should telephone the Constabelles with her description.

CANDIDA


Dateline: Tuesday, December 16th, 1952

Alarm in the Bar

Girls - I'm absolutely beside myself now. There's been a bushfire down the mountain, and the train lines, the phone lines and the telegraph wires are down because of it - my little corner of Kadoria is cut off totally from the City, and I haven't heard from Petal in three days!

If this were three months ago, I would pack up immediately and go looking for her. I am less worried now, because since she's been looking after me she has shown a great deal of common sense and caring, so I have no doubt that she's gone to stay in the YWCA or some nice decent hotel until the crisis is over. But I'm still worried.

Barpette - if she sends a telegram here, would you hold it for me, and send someone to get me? I shall go talk with the Postmistress about possibly getting a line down to some friends in the City.

No - you're right - I need to stop and think for a minute. yes I will have a brandy, thank you - I am feeling rather faint with worry. I think I ought to sit down - oh - the room's spinning.......


Girls, stand back and give her some air. Only one brunette is needed to carry Miss Fox and place her upon that sofa. Now, has any blonde here some sal volatile?

THE BARPETTE


Dateline: Wednesday, December 10th, 1952

Hello!

Oh, allo. My goodness. I'm sure no one will recognize me, for I have never been to this bar before. But I do just feel so at home. It is nice to get into the Real World.

But I will just whisper a little secret, which was told me by a wonderful Yogette, Dollie Lama. Inside our own bodies, it is always the Real World, and always Up to Date. So just by closing my eyes, I can be here any time. Tho of course it is nicer to come here via the Ordinator, so you can all see me too. (Hope my slip doesn't show or anything!)

Yes, I'd love a hot rum toddy, please, with lots of whipped cream. Oooohh, that marascino cherry and creme-de-menthe thingy look so festive. And I think the stockings by the chimney are quite charming. I'm sure Saint Nicoletta will not actually put anything in them, except maybe some powder puffs (without handles) or silk scarves, so they don't get runners, or ladders, I think some pettes call them, the stockings I mean, not the puffs or the scarves, tho of course the scarves could too, if the puffs had handles, or anything like that.

Oh, that tastes good! Just lifts me right up and makes me want to dance. Now where's a nice brunette--?

AMANDA


Dateline: Saturday, December 6th, 1952

Nativity Shopping

Dear Pettes,

Do you all remember last December when we saw that lovely picture of a real little girl from Quirinelle? Well, for this Advent season, here is a picture for us all to enjoy of a New Quirinelle girl, getting ready to go Nativity shopping with her blonde mommy, who has yet to inform her that Rover hasn't been invited on the outing. I hope that sweet little face doesn't turn tear-stained when she finds out she must leave her puppy at home. But I'm sure blonde mommy and daughter alike will have a lovely time finding just the right gifts for brunette mommy, grandmas, and all of those aunts on 'Nettie's side of the family tree.

Love,

JUNE


A Little Worried

Girls, hello - no, thank you. I won't have a drink at all. I was just wondering - have any of you seen Petal?

She went to town to meet Sioban this morning, and was due to catch the "Fish" back up - yes, it is a silly name for the evening train, but that's because the first engine driver on this line was Miss Fish, and the train was named after her. Anyway, I was at the station in plenty of time, and there's been no sign of the train. It's an hour late, and I'm getting rather worried.

Goodness - it's getting cool in here. Girls, I'm going to pop back tothe station to wait, but if you see Petal, could you tell her where I am?

No, thank you for the offer of the magazine, but I have been copying that beautiful story, all the way from the first letters, and I carry it with me as a little book to read when I need a touch of Aristasia to keep me from the pit. Thirty pages, with illustrations! And I always cry at the happy parts!

Heavens - was that a whistle I heard? I had better go. Please keep an eye out for Petal - it's getting so late.

MISS FOX


Wise Blondes

The other day a newly married blonde friend and I were chatting over a picket fence about how much we each adored our brunette wives. I began by saying that I thought my brunette was the best brunette in the world because she takes such good care of me, protects me from the Pit, and works very hard so I can make a lovely, racinated home for us and our children. My friend insisted that her brunette was the best in the world because she brought her fresh flowers each evening, and showered her with lovely diamonds. When I told another blonde of our friendly dispute, she said the most delightful thing, and I wanted to share it with you pettes. If you are lucky enough to have a blonde or a brunette to call your own, you'll understand right away what our wise friend means:

"Of course the truth really is that the Best Brunette in the world is like the Best Mother in the World - one's own brunette. And that is metaphysically correct. Just as Dia looks after you every minute of the day and also looks after me every minute of the day. If a brunette (or a blonde, or a mother, or a mistress or a slave-girl) manifests the true Archetype, then she is the brunette (or blonde, etc). Just as every sacred mountain is the Centre of the World."

Love to all,

MARTHA


Dateline: Thursday, December 5th, 1952

Exciting Times

Bar Maid, A hot rum toddy please. It's so nice to see all of the Nativity decorations going up, giving the old place that festive air. But, I think I must speak with the management. When the poem mentioned "stockings hung by the chimney with care," I don't think it meant those kind of stockings. Ahem.

But isn't this the most exciting time of the year? Somehow this December seems even more special than all of the others, with Amy's bundle of joy on the way, the story of the cross cultural romance coming to a joyous end (or perhaps a joyous middle if we all pray hard enough for the return of the muse), and the anticipation of our loved ones coming home to us after far too long away.

In our little corner of Culveria, we like to decorate our home a bit each day in preparation for Nativity. Each morning we open our magic box, filled with lovely Quirrie decorations we've found at fleems over the years. One day, a red and green music box finds its way onto a shelf; another day, special Quirrie stencils are used to snow paint decorations on our windows. This way, our hestia slowly transforms into the cozy Nativity bungalow it will be during the twelve holy days.

I hope you pettes all enjoy this time of year as much as we do in New Quirinelle. I stopped by to see Amy the other day. She was busy wrapping all of the fleeming treasures she found for her friends, so that she could mail them to those dear ones who live far away in time for Nativity. She has become positively Arcadian as she waits for the last few weeks to pass by. Not wanting to leave the house, even to say hello to you pettes, she handed me a letter to pass along to you. Here, Miss Fox, would you mind reading it aloud to the other pettes in the room?

MISS BARBARA

Dear Friends All,

It's me, Amy, writing from my cozy little home in New Quirinelle. Just as the baby is all wrapped up in her warm home, I want to spend all of the last days before my confinement in my own safe and insulated hestia. Any of you other married blondes out there find the same to be true at the end of your time? That even short excursions out left you exhausted and utterly pining for the safety and warmth of the hestia? When I must go out, I take a lot of the Bacchie Walnut for protection against the Pit, for, in my special and delicate condition, I feel more sensitive and vulnerable to the onslaught of ugliness than ever before. I wanted to visit you pettes in person, but I must send this letter with dear Miss Barbara instead. I am sure you all understand.

Miss Fox, what a charming swimming suit! I found myself longing to be able to make it and fit into it. Perhaps I shall put my limited sewing talents to work this spring and make one for myself, so that, come summer, I might be able to enjoy having a slimmer figure in a completely up-to-date swimming costume.

Dear Narrator, thank you so much for telling us the story of the exciting romance. It reminds me of a romance a friend of mine is enjoying currently, filled with longings and the counting of days until the parted lovers may be together again. My own courtship with my brunette wife wasn't nearly so chic, but you wouldn't have once seen me complaining, for it was such an exciting and delicious time in my life, even without all the style and glamour.

Darlings, as my time grows near, would you each pray that Dea bless the special event, and that She will be with us through it all? Thank you ever so much.

With Great Love,

AMY


A New Face

Hello,

It is certainly a new world you have created here, I have been immersing myself in it, groping about in the dark until finally a small glimmer of light - moonlight by now, I would imagine - has illuminated some small parts. Yet I stumble about still.

I thank you for sharing your creation, and will hope to visit again very soon!

Sincerely,

AJA


Dateline: Wednesday, December 3rd, 1952

A Useful Idea

Hello pettes! How do you like my new clock? I have brought it in especially to show you. It is very pretty, isn't it, with its Trentish style wooden case, not a big one like the chiming ones, but with its wonderful face, six inches at least in diameter, and its beautiful wood surround, it looks so delightful in my sitting room. And it keeps perfect time too. Never loses a minute. A reliable clock is such an essential. What is that you say? How has it come through the Iron Curtain so well, keeping such perfect time?

Well, pettes, there is a little secret about it, which I will tell you as it so close to Nativity that it may be of interest as an idea for a present. Turn the clock around. That's right, look at the back. Yes, it has another movement, a nasty out of date one. It is quite easy and fairly cheap to have them fitted, and the result is a clock that looks charming and attractive and also keeps perfect time. So many of the clocks that one sees for sale are very beautiful but rather unreliable, or even not working at all. This method solves the problem. Of course, it would be much nicer to have the original, real movement in it, but it seems quite rare to come across clocks that have come through the Iron Curtain that well. Have any other pettes had good ideas of this kind?

CANDIDA


A Story Lover

I just wrote in to say that that was a wonderful story, and I really liked it. I am working my way through the archives, and I'm very glad that I have found this place. Hello to everyone.

ESTELLA


Dateline: Saturday, November 29th, 1952

Epilogue And Authoress's Afterword

And did Cassiopeia arrive in Unalakleet without mishap? Were the banns read in the village's tiny chapel? Did Cassiopeia court Kwethalyn, the blonde Amazonian maiden, in traditional fashion? Did they wed at the next summer's solstice festival? And did the newlywed couple take their honeymoon on the semi-tropical island province of Infraquirinelle, where the blue sea does indeed break over pink coral rocks?

Well, Kwethelyn's five little lemon-grass parchment messages would easily answer these five little questions, because all romances end happily, so, of course, the answers are all yes (with only a few reservations), yes, yes, yes and yes.

I hope, Dearest Readers, that you will forgive my not delighting you further, just now, with all the adventures Cassiopeia met on her journey to Unalakleet; the courtship; the wedding; the honeymoon ... not to mention the couple's new Hestia in New Ladyton and the bouncing brunette baby who arrived with almost alarming punctuality, causing the New Ladyton gossips repeatedly to count to nine on their fingers, just in case. Nor how Lacerta, the private secretary, (mortally afraid of blondes), fared with her new mistress, the sweet little Kwethalyn. Nor how Kwethalyn's mothers and her antic twins sisters, Inky and Viky, fared on their frequent visits to Novaria.

You must forgive me because, you see, my little muse (who is only an apprentice muse and a blonde muse besides, so that she in quite inconstant in her attentions), has unaccountably vanished, leaving me bereft of the power to continue the story. But my little muse will return one day, seize me by the back of the neck, bend my face towards the paper again and force me to reveal all of these things to you. For, Dearest Readers, it is she, not I, who writes. I simply obey

If you are eager to hear the rest of the story, you can help by praying for my little muse to return rather sooner than later. Good-bye and do not neglect to pray!

THE NARRATOR


Dateline: Tuesday, November 25th, 1952

Kwethalyn Also Has An Encounter With A Looking-Glass

For the moment, let us leave Cassiopeia to her tropical dreams and to Hermia's good graces, or, rather, to the surrogate good graces of the competent brunette engineers of the gyrocraft works in New Ladyton, and turn our Olympian gaze once again in the direction of Unalakleet.

There, in the humble, low-ceilinged dwelling near the village well, a dwelling with only one glass window, happiness has displaced the previous scene of listless and solemn despair, which had prevailed for several months while the lovelorn blonde Northern Amazonian maiden, Kwethalyn, seemed to lose her grip on life. But youth is resilient, and, more to the point, Kwethalyn had changed her mind (or her heart) about dying, directly she heard the letter read to her, the letter proclaiming Cassiopeia's passionate love and intention to visit Unalakleet soon.

Happiness, however, did not attain immediate ascendancy over despair upon taking the field, but was first constrained to suffer a minor reversal, inflicted by an ivory-handled looking-glass.

During her protracted illness, all looking-glasses had been removed from Kwethalyn's reach. (In her debilitation she could hardly have lifted one anyway, but, at all events, she had never asked for one while she still had the power of speech.) For her mothers had felt that the girl's beholding her own reflection -- the sunken eyes with purplish circles around them, the protruding cheekbones that made her delicate skin seem as if it were stretched on her skull as on a tanning-frame, the cracked and colorless lips -- could only hasten her decline. But now Kwethalyn begged that a looking glass be brought. After a whispered parley between the two mothers at the other end of the sitting room, it was quickly agreed that, given the auspicious turn of events and Kwethalyn's declared intention of not departing this life anytime soon, a view of her own face might now have an opposite effect and act as a stimulant to a quicker recovery. So a looking-glass was brought, a small one with a fossil ivory handle carved in the shape of a delicate, braceleted feminine forearm, the hand of which supported the glass.

Kwethalyn's family had, of course, beheld her face daily, so that the change, though marked when compared to what she had been, was perceived only incrementally, thus sparing them the shock of witnessing the whole transformation at once. But poor Kwethalyn had no such reprieve: she had last seen her face some three months earlier, in the full bloom of youth and good health, so, upon taking up the glasss, she stared blankly into it, with no comprehension whatever of whose face she beheld looking back at her from the glass.

She at first thought some gaunt stranger had crept up behind the head of her bed and was impertinently peering over her shoulder, so she turned the glass slightly to catch her own reflection, supposing the surface to be misdirected. When she could not rid the glass of the stranger's reflection, she twisted round with great effort and looked sharply behind her. Seeing no one, of course, she spun back, and seizing the glass with both hands, brought it close to her face, uttered a piteous shriek, and fell back upon her bolster of furs, letting the glass slip to the floor, where it cracked without shattering.

"Oh, Mothers!" she wailed, "what has happened to me? I'm an old woman already!" And she began to shed bitter tears, for the young ever assume all states of existence to be permanent, and Kwethalyn did not question but that she would forever remain a repulsive hag at twenty-four and never be young and beautiful again.

"You have been dangerously ill, Kwethalyn, dear," soothed her blonde mother, picking up the glass and confirming the frame was intact, "near to death, so it is hardly surprising that your looks have altered; you have grown a bit thin, nothing more. Dea willing, you will now make a speedy recovery and your healthy looks will soon return. Your mother and I have already offered prayers at the chapel...."

With an anguished sob, Kwethalyn interrupted her blonde mother, "She," (meaning Cassiopeia, of course) "is coming any day now! She must not see me like this, for she will never love such an ugly, old thing as I have become! Never, never, never!" and she almost wrested the cracked glass from her blonde mother's hand to confirm her despairing prediction by having another look at herself, this time rapidly angling her face in several directions to change the perspective (by ingrained habit common to both sexes throughout the Empire), appraising her features in attentive blonde fashion and even hazarding a wisp of a smile. Somewhat reassured by this second inspection, Kwethalyn's sobs diminished, though her tears continued to flow.

Despite her mortification at her appearance, to which she gave voice without cease for most of the day, from that moment Kwethalyn grew visibly stronger by the hour and began to take a more lively interest in all things about her; by bedtime she even began to chatter a bit, almost gaily, as blondes will do at the least provocation (or, more commonly, at no provocation whatever). By the next morning, her normal appetite had returned, and by the next afternoon, she began to eat voraciously, taxing her blonde's mother's ability to keep tasty dishes flowing from the kitchen to the bedside.

Within two days, Kwethalyn was able to sit in her brunette mother's easy chair by the fireside, to which new station she asked that her knitting be brought. The purple rings around her eyes were gone, her cheeks had begun to fill out, color had returned to her lips, and as she took up at her knitting for the first time in months (dropping no stitches), she began to hum an old Amazonian knitting song. After a while, her ivory needles clicked more slowly, then ceased clicking altogether; her knitting dropped to the floor and Kwethalyn slept.

She dreamt it was summer again, that she and Cassiopeia had just sat down to a connubial breakfast of gaily-colored foodstuffs she had never before seen, set out on a glass-topped table with white, filigreed legs. The sky was brighter and bluer than she could ever remember, the sun unusually high in the sky and its rays unaccustomedly warm. Birds of rare plumage perched in flowering trees, whose blossoms were wonderfully fragrant, and the birds warbled sweetly. Nearby, the sea (also a strange, bright blue), crashed on pink rocks with a rhythmic boom, casting spray high into the air....

TO BE CONTINUED...


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