I was called out for using purple prose heavily. Which I do. And I enjoy it. But it turned into a thorn in my side. Which turned into me going “hold my beer.” I needed to write a new short story for a new anthology I volunteered to contribute to. So….well…I might have decided to explore the most purple of prose. Victorian prose. Enjoy this little story.
I may wake in the darkness and find joy in the mandarin glow before the sun graces the clouds with brush strokes of goldenrod and blushing carnations. Truly though, my morning does not begin until I find myself wrapped contentedly upon the rose velvet reading bench in the bay window of Madam’s parlor. Overlooking a pastel themed garden and wrought iron fence, the nook is often closed off with a deep maroon curtain, leaving my sunny spot warm to the rest of the house.
It is within these early hours I content myself in observation of my neighbor beyond the oak tree at the end of the garden. A Monsieur Ortolan, possessed of a dull mustard suiting and dark brown cape, may not be the most remarkable of the world’s blessings, until he sings. And does he sing.
He begins his serenade as he hops about his yard, flashing in and out of the blackthorn and rose hedge. I am not sure of his methodology. He ranges too and fro across the grass clippings the gardener piles up upon the slate chip path, finding a random twig to be reassigned to a different location within the boundary of his outdoor world. Persistent though he is in his motivation, and devising a wide range of chores for himself with no progression apparent to myself or any other in our tiny universe, I find him fascinating. His trills echo along the quarried rock facade of our houses and, if I knew nothing of the world, his music brought the sun to grace the interior of my garden every morning that I knew of him.
Forgoing the hopes of ever making his acquaintance, I persist in my contented watching of his motivations. I would not admit to loving him. I am not foolish in such a way as to label myself in possession of such an emotion, not as of yet. It may be the closest explanation though to my infatuation with his lyrical tendencies.
He sings more lovely than the brightly dressed minstrel, by the name of Monsieur Philip, Madam employees. A gilded residence of his own fits neatly within the larger primrose shaded room I frequent. He calls back and forth with Monsieur Ortolan from sun up to sun down. Madam tutts about his furnishings and the neatness of his wardrobe often, while I receive a glaring death sentence every time her eyes spy me within her assumed sanctuary. She only ever steps within these bounds when she decides to grace Monsieur Philip with biscuits at tea.
I do so wish that Monsieur Philip would find it within himself the grace of a cathedral mass, silence, so as to lend to the rest of creation the blessing to bask in the glory of Monsieur’s Ortolan’s talent. Often though, at tea time, Madam would throw up the window sash to hiss at Monsieur Ortolan’s hymns, sending him scurrying away to the backyard of the neighboring house. This action would silence Monsieur Philip for a time before he would cackle himself back into a putrid scheme trudging the edge of a rhythm. She enjoyed his hacking, and her joy kept the house safe for me. I am assured of this distressing fact by the maid under her breath when she sees to my meals.
As the sun surpasses the height of the neighboring chimney, my nook is cast in shadow and I find it necessary to slink from the window, beyond the potted palms, to the foyer where dappled sunlight warms a series of tessellating tiles beneath the fern. It used to be that I would lay myself upon the parlor’s Persian rug outside of my nook to bask in the luxury of the heated grates, but recently Madam has seen to its replacement with what she emphatically informs the staff is the creme of living: a gas stove. Pleased she is that she no longer need arrange the keeping of a maid solely to eliminate the black smudges that accumulate upon the wallpapers and furnishings from the old coal. Neither does she find she must arrange the accounts of the house to allow for the purchase of the noxious sulfuric rock in such quantities as to outfit more than the kitchens. Warm as the weather has been in the last three days, the latest installation has yet to be tested, leaving my normal spot cold.
Sitting in the sunlight in the foyer will last less than half an hour before I must move to the withdrawing room and the bank of windows overlooking the frontage road and the carriages. Dogs frequent this side of the house and I am not partial to it, but the sun calls to me. So persists my day: seeking warmth and evading Madam in a grand effort to avoid perpetually existing underfoot as she says. Alas, when the time approaches the midday meal, I find myself missing the hum of the local musician and heave a sigh at the constant drivel spilling from Monsieur Philip. Monsieur Orlaton quiets about this time of day often though, off to determine sustenance and a quiet area in which to nap. The maid sees to Monsieur Philip’s luncheon any other day, but today, in celebration of some event or another I have yet to be made privy to, Madam has turned on the gramophone in the parlor, yielding yet another ear splitting nuisance by which Monsieur Philip insists upon adding his own off key melody to.
I do so wish I could join Monsieur Orlaton in his quiet naps in the garden. To admire the breeze and the scent of the flowers. It is not to be. It would not be considered proper of me to take up a spot with him amongst the roses, though I allow myself my whimsical day dreams. Of falling asleep to his ballads and snippets of amused rhymes. Stretching out to watch the glistening leaves roll from light to dark, casting impressionistic swirls against a robin’s egg sky.
A set of footsteps descend the staircase, and a scream awakens me from my musings. My perch has turned to late afternoon. Somehow I have missed my teatime. I heave myself from the russet lounge and pad across the rugs and waxed floors to peer in upon Madam. She had dropped her cup, sending shrapnel across the tile where the old grate had once stood. Staring down at something on the ground, she had turned pale against the amethyst and gold wallpaper. I slip in to investigate what might have turned her mood sour while she calls for the maid and butler.
“There it is! Catch it! Catch it! That – That mongrel! It killed Monsieur Philip!” She pointed at me.
It? Well I never. She could be rude, but that was a little much. I round the furnishings to observe Monsieur Philip, in his goddy yellow, collapsed upon the tile floor. Within seconds, stomping foot fall behind me raises my hackles and hands scoop me away from the room. Madam is yelling for them to throw me from the house, to banish me from her doorstep, claiming I had always hated Monsieur Philip. True, I had wished him silent many a time, but to befell another creature was beyond my predilections.
I find myself, having missed my tea, now standing upon the polished stone step at the front of Madam’s house, confused, and shivering at the suddenness. Twisting my head, I come to grips at the difference between the parlor and the garden. The wind is not as soft as it would be drifting through the lace curtains. The smells are a musk of floral and fecal, the blending of the horse manure upon the road and the profusion of blossoms planted about the property in an effort to stem the exhaust of the effluence.
What am I to do now? Should I ask to be let in? To demand my time to explain? To reverse her judgement upon me? I think not. I have suffered under her gaze long enough. Her love was for Monsieur Philip, not for me. She never put a loving hand to me. But the familiar was hard and I sat crying at the stoop well into the late evening. When no one came to comfort me and I had run out of energy to pursue my melancholy, I paced the building’s footprint in an effort to determine what was to be done with my life now that I was free and cast out. I had heard Madam sniffling through the door throughout my afternoon on the doorstep. Now though, the house had quieted. Kerosene lights sputtered in undue time as the night deepened the garden into dark shadows. That was unusual for the maid. She had always been prompt to the church’s chime at the end of the row of mansions. Always starting with the frontage lights and ending with the kitchen and staff’s quarters. Madam should have had a light on in her upper floor window, but it had never been lit.
I settled into the cold damp, hiding within a niche of blackthorne and rose, separating Monsieur Ortolan’s and what had been my garden. Stars would have been welcome, but the coal smoke of the chimneys around me blocked off the sky. The only house to not belch the blackness was what had been my house. Laying my head down in the muck, I observed in the night the little nuisances of the witching hour. Mice going in and out of the holes in the house, some going in and never emerging. That was unusual, for we had never had mice that I knew of during the daylight hours, or during my nighttime prowling. Moths beat at windows as the lamplight sputtered out in the different rooms. An owl tested the air, taking off from the hollow in the oak tree, causing me to jump at the shadow passing over my secluded escape.
Monsieur Ortolan woke me from my chilled sleep in the morning. I stretch, brushing myself of sticks and flecks of dirt. The gardener would soon be out to locate me, I should think. I call up to Monsieur Ortolan. He flees from my sudden appearance, nervous and skittish. Soon though, he emerges to investigate. I follow his flittings through the garden gate into his side of the world. There, a young woman caught my attention, or I her, for she left her tending of a small herbaceous hedge to investigate my intrusion. Giggling with glee, she lifts me from my descent into the world of the homeless to be placed within a new warm house. I was not immediately amused with her fascination, for I had a desire to be within my own house and to visit more with Monsieur Ortolan. She had not even deigned to ask my name or introduce herself. A lack of etiquette upon her part.
With a compunction about her, she rushed up the stairs of the new house which resembled so closely my own. A banging on the door above and a quick conversation introduced me to a new Madam and a Monsieur along with a pair of maids and a butler. Names swirled around me as they tried to determine who I was, until one of the maids recalled it to her, stating that I had come from next door. The butler was sent out to knock on the door of my Madam to help return me to my proper place within society. He returned though to a confused congregation in the foyer to hurry to the phone where he requested the operator route him.
With the morning cacophony came the clang of a horse drawn fire engine, scaring Monsieur Ortolan to perch upon the window sill on the other side of where I had found a red jacquard armchair to collapse myself upon. We watched, he and I, with concern, as body upon body were removed from the house. An inquest and an officer were requested. The butler, from where I found myself a guest, was questioned heavily as to what he had seen. Through his conversation with the uniformed man in the tall blue hat, I learned of what had transpired since my unjustified eviction.
“It is a blessing she was put out last night,” one maid said to the other.
“The little thing and her poor people. I cannot imagine. To have employed a conman to install an untested invention and to have been poisoned to sleep. Who would have guessed ignoring the warning of a canary would go unheaded in this day and age? We will give Mademoiselle Chartreux an extra serving of milk to make up for her stay in the garden last night. I hope in time she finds us a pleasant family,” the other maid said as she warmed a pan of fresh milk on the coal range in the kitchen where I hid beneath the preparation table.
Nothing was right in my world. The furnishings, the cleaning wax, the schedule of the house were entirely different from my familiar. I found solace though in my visits with Monsieur Ortolan every day before I was received for tea with the butler every afternoon. A friendship transpired between us, Monsieur Ortolan and I, but the events that lead to our acquaintanceship would perpetually haunt me at my new doorstep for years to come. His suiting, drab as they were, hid his perfect voice and I was left to love him as he flew about the yard and I quietly observed his dancing about me on the grass. I thought myself without the emotion of love, but in my own way, in the changing of my world, I found my love for someone who would never be capable of reciprocating or understanding, more freeing than the time I spent with him. He did not judge me for taking my contentment at listening to his music and I did not disturb him from his ventures. Though, I did find scattering the seed from his feeder encouraged him to sing around me more often than not.