See, see, if you will, the king’s custard-crown, burnished and gleaming, made from metal so soft you could mould it like marzipan, though woe betide you if you put your hand anywhere near it when it’s atop the kingly head – he’ll hack two fingers off and shove them one each into your ears, muffling all sound, as happened alas to my spry confrère Nitty, poor Nitty, languishing deaf now in the king’s donjon, and all for his thoughtless prodding, from mere curiosity, that custard-crown.
There’s a sprig of larkspur on the donjon’s outer wall and on All Souls I’ll pluck a bud and wave it as a nosegay for all the good that will do poor Nitty. I plead his case with the hoity toity chamberlains and their scrivening beadles, booted callow murgatroyds with pig eyes not one of them a true prince, cushioned against fate, smacking their lips, oh all at sixes and sevens aboard the boat of state. I tried my own clambering aboard it, once, in spring, jaunty, feather-capp’d, in gorgeous hues, but was repelled with sticks and fists and cudgelry, bloodied and battered and half-drowned I was, afterward sprawled ashore in my pumps like a water-devil. Snip, snip, the ties loosed and away it went, billowing on green, out of my sight, me sloshed in bilge, and all for Nitty.
Now step one, two and cut brisk capers and you will see the custard-crown oh bright gleaming but now no longer embonced upon the kingly head, no, whippoorwills and shelmerdines came sweeping in and snatched it away and carried it to a darkling cave anent the lumpy bumpy banksome landing of the lake. Nitty has his army-in-exile here, custard-coloured like the crown, prinked, swift, but so disputatious they jabber phrenzies all the livelong day and terrible night and scarce can boil an egg for their supper so caught up are they in their rebarbative hoodoo. They might be ants.
The king, though, like a felled ox, still in his palace keep, dabbed at with ointments by his chatelaine, has Russian plimsolls hardily shod on his great titanic enormous feet, dangling over the end of the pallet. Up! Up! King! Birds chatter on the windowsill. There is lively sparring yet, in this kingdom. Jack Maglew and all his train cannot lift the king, hoist though they try with pulleys and contraptions of fabled strength. Custard-crownless, his life ebbs, while below in the donjon Nitty waggles the severed fingers plugging his ears and jumps through spirit hoops in dank darkness.
And now his army is on the march, beside the railings, with their banners, and their pipes tooting cacophonous, and swallows in formation flying o’er their horrible shrunken withered heads, that zombie army of Nitty’s conjuration, in rags and tatters, foul with sweat, swords rusted, as implacable in their progress as a swordfish spearing through the deep, marching clank and jangle on the palace, the collapsing palace, perched on its promontory and crumbling bit by bit into the sea.
I plucked another bud of larkspur and waved it as a nosegay and tested the wind. The wind is coming in. There is yet an empire to be flattened.
I noted on David Thompson’s blog that he will often append to a postage a request for donations. I think I will follow suit. If you enjoy reading Hooting Yard, and particularly if you have not previously felt impelled to donate, please consider bashing that button over to the right, and warming your cockles in the knowledge that you have done a generous deed.