THE KENSINGTON SET
The refined and perfectly attired frame of Mr. Thrimsoe Mapplejack stood near a side cabinet thumbing a book of sonnets, the soft petals of his buttercups and daisies fluttering gently in the cool air upon his lapel. He turned, and his red lips seemed to gape in prayer before bursting an imaginary bubble and closing again, like a goldfish. Next to Thrimsoe stood the charming and equally well-dressed young friend, Dungphump Squabcheck, of Polish extraction, who delighted in nothing better than existing for the benefit of others!‘Thrimmy dearest, are you going to hog that book all night? I can’t believe I find myself resentful of a book!’ Dungphump said.
‘I find solace in beautiful things!’ exclaimed Thrimsoe.
‘Then for God’s sake find some solace in me won’t you, after all we have a reputation to live down to!’ and here Dungphump extracted the book of sonnets from Thrimsoe’s hand and laid it upon the cabinet.
‘Intellect without emotion, my dear friend,’ whispered Thrimsoe, ‘is such a vulgar thing and man without the capacity to show compassion to others is decidedly ugly – you are an exceedingly ugly man Dungy dear!’
Just then the two friends who stood by the window like the well-worn and crumbling edifices of Comedy and Tragedy were interrupted by the arrival of another guest.
Slowly entering the room as if behind an imaginary coffin came the brooding yet sensitive poet, Stratford Baggins, his thumbs interlocked behind his back and his brow furrowed as if in deep contemplation of higher things; the poet swept in, dressed in sombre black.
‘Had a bereavement Baggins?’ enquired Thrimsoe.
‘Yes’ interrupted Dungphump, before the dark vision of the newcomer could speak, ‘his last book of poems, sunk without trace and all hands lost!’
‘You may laugh’ the poet growled, ‘but Lytton says they are most exquisite!’
‘Ah, dear Lytton! High praise indeed’ continued Dungphump, ‘from a man who wears the same suit for every season and every occasion!’ The poet ignored the remark, turning to the other guests and saying ‘I have come straight from the Police Station!’
‘Good Lord!’ said an astonished Sir Mummery, ‘what heaven’s for?’
‘Exposing himself!’ the poet chimed.
‘I exposed myself once’ said the charming and most elegant Thrimsoe, ‘to that fiend George Bernard Shaw! The influence has done irrevocable damage!’
‘I’m sure it hasn’t Thrimmy dear!’ said the beautiful Lasinta, ‘at least not enough to make you disagreeable in polite society!’
‘You only see him at his best my dear! You get the proud shopkeeper displaying his best goods in the window! I get the ruthless and apathetic store assistant in the dingy back room with the damaged goods!’ And here, as if in some sort of grand theatrical gesture, Dungphump ripped the clover and dandelions from his buttonhole and trampled them into the carpet! Just then, and not a moment too soon, entered the Reverend Aloysius Splotkin, his aura of artificial holiness seeming to break up the little dispute before escalating into broken crockery!
‘Ah Reverend dear, do have a cup of tea!’ said the lovely Lasinta.
‘Have you heard the one about the poet and the preacher?’ said Dungphump.
‘Not now Dungy!’ Thrimsoe said, touching his arm lightly. ‘You know’ Thrimsoe continued, ‘I would take tea myself, but my Doctor has strictly forbidden on all accounts to my eternal chagrin for me to lift anything heavier than a sugar cube!’
‘You are an old sausage!’ said Augers Mandible, the young and vibrant man about town who was hosting the social gathering.
‘Yes, isn’t he a perfect swine!’ glared Dungphump! The good Reverend sensing something not quite right in the air retired from the jesting with his tea and sat with Lady Matilda Poodlepomp, who hated these sorts of things but just had to come for appearances sake.
In another corner of the room two men seemed to be in scintillating conversation and not wishing to seem a poor host Augers went and joined Sir Mummery Teasbottom who was in discussion with Feniwith Suppringhurst, an heir to a fortune and betrothed to Thelmara Sprungewunckle who hovered from one chair to another like a flitting butterfly in search of something delightful to boast about.
‘The Domaine de Chavalier nineteen-twenty has an excellent nose!’ argued Feniwith.
‘I concede your point on that one but there is nothing that can touch the Chateau Margaux eighteen-seventy for body!’ said Sir Mummery.
‘No no, surely the Haut-Brion eighteen-seventy-four far exceeds the de Chavalier and the Margaux!’ chimed Augers.
‘Slops sir!’ said Feniwith haughtily, ‘if we are getting to the nitty-gritty and serious for a moment then there is nothing to compare with a Lafite eighteen-sixty-five or even the Martell nineteen-six!’ and Sir Mummery and Augers both looked at Feniwith and sighed in agreement, ‘arhhh!’
At that moment Thelmara glided towards them and overhearing most of the conversation said aloud for everyone to hear ‘there is nothing so exceedingly common and pretentious than a wine bore!’
‘I beg to differ madam’, said Thrimsoe, ‘for the one thing greater than a wine bore is a cricket bore; please excuse me Reverend as I know you are an enthusiast of the game!’
‘Surely’, returned the spotless Reverend, ‘golf is a greater bore, it has ruined many a good marriage I am told!’
‘You are all wrong!’ shouted
‘All politicians are amateurs Stratford old boy, high on the accumulation of sensual and financial satisfaction and low on morals; that is why they are so easily corruptible!’ Thrimsoe added with intense satisfaction.
‘I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure, madam!’ said the Reverend to Thelmara.‘Ah Reverend’ interjected Feniwith, ‘may I introduce my fiancé, Thelmara Sprungewunckle!’
‘Charmed!’ the Reverend said before adding, ‘I don’t believe I know the name Sprungewunckle; are your people of new or old money?’
‘My father is big in the textile industry!’ Thelmara said snootily.
‘Ah, it is good to see that cotton is still king!’ and the good Reverend nodded as if in some holy agreement with the Lord.
‘Oh no’, Thelmara said hastily, ‘they are developing new fabrics now!’
‘Yes that’s right!’ chipped in Feniwith, ‘it’s all about the synthetic now Reverend – artificial silk I believe!’
‘Imagine liquid stronger than steel!’ Thelmara trotted out.
‘Oh dear me!’ the Reverend uttered under his breath.
‘Cotton is dead!’ shouted Stratford Baggins, ‘long live the synthetic!’ and he concluded with glee
‘man has now superseded God! Not only can we duplicate nature we can improve upon it too! Bow down to your new God Reverend – Science!’Reverend Splotkin pretended not to hear the loud bohemian and shook his head in despair.
Meanwhile, Lady Thrillpenny Teasbottom, Sir Mummery’s wife, was having a little tete a tete upon the delicate art of conversation and good table-talk in general with Dungphump.
‘All etiquette is a façade Lady Thrillpenny’ said Dungphump, ‘it is merely the gloss upon conventionality. Conversation must flow freely and naturally and not feel forced; keep small talk light and airy and avoid gossip. Now I have been observing you your Ladyship and I have noticed that you lack a certain quality, namely anecdotes!’
‘I had them removed as a child Mr. Mapplejack!’ said Lady Teasbottom without the slightest hint of humour or irony.
‘Now that is funny! Oh my word, may I call you Thrillpenny and you simply must call me Dungy! They all do you know! That is funny indeed!’ expressed Dungphump, laughing extraordinarily heartily.
‘Is it really? I don’t see why, it was quite unintentional!’ answered Lady Teasbottom.
‘A play on words madam, a “malapropism” – confusing “anecdotes” with “adenoids”, Oh most amusing!’ and Dungphump clasped his hands together and rubbed them with glee.
‘And that is funny is it? Asked her Ladyship.
‘Oh certainly, now you take my Aunt Lavinia, she had a lovely old Chippendale table and one day the vicar came by and commented upon that table and she told him that she had been copulated countless times upon that table!’ And Dungphump looked at her Ladyship’s stony face as she stood there like a statue. ‘I don’t get it!’ she said finally.
‘She had mixed up’ Dungphump explained, ‘the words “congratulated” with “copulated” don’t you see?’ and so exhausted and bemused Dungphump took himself away towards the vicar and Lady Poodlepomp.
‘A man who neglects his marital duties’ the good man of the cloth was saying to Lady Poodlepomp, ‘for the lure of the flesh and the grape, has left not only the Lord’s work unfinished but himself undone and exposed himself to wagging tongues in the process!’
‘Oh very good vicar, I quite agree!’ said the slightly tipsy Dungphump, adding that ‘the average man strives towards mediocrity while the genius insists on perfection!’
‘That’s why he’s a perfect fool!’ Thrimsoe quipped behind Dungphump’s back.
‘I must remember that Mr. Squabcheck! It will add some spice to the Women’s Guild! A dull lot of cackling hens they are!’ said Lady Poodlepomp.
‘Aphorisms madam, must never be repeated as they are never quite as funny the second time around! Like sex with the lights on, if you will pardon the vernacular vicar, when the mystery has been revealed, there is always an anti-climax to the climax!’ Squabcheck said, peering at the vicar for a response.
‘A man who neglects his moral integrity for one of superficial sensations is at the mercy of Satan’s hand and sure to relinquish his soul to the Lord of Darkness!’ The vicar delighted in saying, while finishing his tea.
‘I quite agree vicar!’ spluttered Lady Poodlepomp, after her third gin and tonic, ‘for a man who does not delight in the erotic sensuality of chocolate is a man unsatisfied, unfulfilled, without appetite and without ambition!’
‘I don’t see where chocolate comes into the good Lord’s plan for mankind but it is an interesting concept nonetheless!’ the vicar continued. Just then the charming conviviality was broken:
‘I hath dwelt amongst ungodly things!’ shouted
‘Of course you have
‘Poor boy! On the threshold of becoming an absolute bore so he is!’ said Sir Mummery to Augers Mandible.
‘Have you ever read any of his work? They tell me he is very good!’ Mummery asked.
‘I wouldn’t rate it myself! All flowery flannel with a little decadent swill thrown in!’ beamed Augers. The enraged poet, overhearing, glanced at Augers with the utmost contempt and staggering towards the door bumped into the vicar, saying to his reverence before he left, ‘of course you know vicar, there is not the slightest evidence to prove the existence of Christ – you may as well believe in the fairies for all the good that vicarin’ stuff does you!’ and so he breezed out of the apartment, just as easily as he had drifted in!
‘Take no notice of Mr. Baggins vicar’, said Lasinta, ‘he is at a crises in his literary career and a slave to the powder of the Gods!’
‘He’s quite wrong you know!’ the somewhat astonished Reverend said, ‘in fact there’s no evidence to the contrary either – that is why we have faith! Oh dear, I do wish I’d said that a minute ago!’
‘Never mind Reverend’ gasped Thrimsoe, ‘the Church is always behind the times when it comes to current affairs!’
Thelmara and Feniwith took themselves to the balcony and spooned while Sir Mummery flirted with Lasinta Joachim whom it was widely known was romantically entangled with Augers, much to the annoyance of Lady Teasbottom. ‘In my experience my dear’ said Sir Mummery, taking Lasinta’s arm, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and the way to a woman’s is through her purse!’‘How very perceptive of you Sir Mummery! It seems we are much of the same opinion!’
‘My dear Lasinta, how divine you are; your beauty is beyond all the riches in the world!’ Sir Mummery said caressing Lasinta’s hands.
‘You are kind Mummers!’ and Lasinta noticed Sir Mummery admiring her earrings, ‘do you like them? A present from Augers but I’m not sure if they suit me!’
‘I assure you madam, with or without earrings; the result would be just as perfectly fatal!’
As the honourable Sir Mummery and Lasinta were exchanging pleasantries, Sir Mummery’s wife, Lady Teasbottom sauntered over having overheard the conversation and said with an air of confidence – ‘How like a man to denigrate love down to pounds, shillings and pence!’ The air remained icy for some time!
The Reverend, having done his bit for the church and not wishing to outstay his welcome suddenly excused himself and left.
‘May I be the first to congratulate you Mister Suppringhurst on your approaching nuptuals!’ said Thrimsoe Mapplejack extending the soft hand of friendship towards him, having completely ignored the young man all afternoon.
‘Thank you sir!’ returned the young gentleman.
‘Love is a delicate blossom’ Thrimsoe continued, ‘easily blown asunder… Like that difficult first kiss… Take my advice and go straight for the main course and the pudding and leave the starters well and truly in the kitchen!’
‘In my experience’, added Dungphump who had crept up behind the two gentlemen, ‘the quickest way to pleasure a woman is to open a joint bank account!’
‘Ah getting to know Mappi and Squabi are we Feniwith? Good man!’ Augers said.
‘Ah Augers, dear’, squealed Dungphump, ‘splendid party! Won’t you take a turn at the piano and give us something jolly?’ he said slapping Augers on the back.
‘I’m afraid I’m not in the mood and quite unable to conjure “jolly” at the drop of a hat!’ answered Augers.
‘Something wrong old boy?’ asked Thrimsoe.
‘Great Aunt Maud died recently leaving an absolute obscene fortune!’
‘How delightful!’ Thrimsoe muttered.
‘Yes, but she kept all her shares and jewellery in a safety-deposit box, the combination of which was engraved upon her dentures for safe-keeping, only now they can’t be found!’
‘How perfectly ugly eccentricity is!’ said Thrimsoe, grimacing.
‘Too bad old boy, all that money just sitting there and the old dame still clinging to it by the skin of her teeth, if you pardon the pun?’ said Dungphump.
‘I have it!’ said Thrimsoe, ‘we’ll have a séance!’
‘Yes, let’s raise the spirit of Great Aunt Maud’s teeth and find out where they are hiding straight from the horses mouth!’ Dungphump sang with glee.
‘Sounds absolutely beastly! I wouldn’t know what to do and besides we shouldn’t meddle in the occult!’ Augers sniffed.
‘It’s not meddling if you know what you’re doing! Lady poodlepomp has the gift!’ Thrimsoe spluttered, sweeping his hand towards the good Lady who was enjoying yet another gin and tonic.
‘What gift?’ bemused Augers.
‘Second sight!’ Dungphump whispered.
‘She’s a medium!’ announced Thrimsoe.
I say everybody; gather round, we’re going to have a séance!’ Dungphump shouted.
‘Oh what fun!’ cried Lasinta.
‘I say do you think that’s wise?’ said a cautious Sir Mummery.
‘Will there be a manifestation?’ enquired Thelmara.
‘Very probably!’ Thrimsoe said with absolute confidence.
‘Of course not it’s all nonsense!’ said the voice of sanity in the form of Feniwith.
‘I say Dungy, be a decent fellow and draw the curtains old boy and I shall fetch some candles!’ and Augers went out of the room to find the candles.
‘But it’s the middle of the afternoon!’ bemused Thelmara.
‘I’m sure the ghosts won’t mind, after all, they haven’t a lot of use for time being as they don’t have to get up in the morning or go to work or to bed at night!’ Thrimsoe chuckled.
‘How do you know?’ asked Feniwith.
‘C’mon, let’s all sit round the table.’ Augers said when he returned with the candles.
‘Who are we conjuring?’ Asked Lady Poodlepomp after she had been persuaded to desist from the gin and tonic and pass through the veil into the next world.
‘Great Aunt Maud’s teeth!’ said Augers, adding ‘purely for sentimental reasons of course’ not wishing everyone to know the real reason, and everybody laughed, except of course Lady Teasbottom who found the whole affair somewhat un-amusing.
Lady Poodlepomp sat at the table and next to her on her right sat Augers and Lasinta, Dungphump and Thrimsoe, Lady Thrillpenny and Sir Mummery, Thelmara and Feniwith, and they all held hands as the medium sat perfectly silent.‘The vibrations are strong!’ groaned Lady Poodlepomp, ‘an image is appearing in my third eye! Yes, I can see it now – Great Aunt Maud’s teeth!’
‘Where? Where?’ shouted Augers.
‘It’s very dark! It’s very cold!’ Poodlepomp continued, ‘yes, I see it now – they were placed in the coffin under Great Aunt Maud!’
‘What!’ exploded Augers.
After the séance had ended and the party began to fall as flat as the‘Well that settles it then!’ Augers said, not wanting to be overheard.
before dwindling away, Augers took
Dungphump aside: Champaign
‘Settles what old boy?’ said Dungphump. And Augers leaned in closer to Dungphump, his face distorted by the sinister shadows thrown by the candle and he said in menacing tones – ‘tonight, we resurrect Great Aunt Maud!’
The next morning Sir Mummery was sitting down to his breakfast, reading the Times over a hard-boiled egg which he simply must have each morning or he is no good to man, woman or beast. ‘Good lord!’ he said, almost choking on a slice of toast, ‘have a listen to this old girl!’ he said to his wife and then began to read a small column in the Times – ‘Undignified behaviour. Last night three gentlemen were arrested at a Kensington churchyard on a charge of disturbing the remains with the intention of disinterring the body of Lady Maud Trottworthy who was laid to rest two weeks ago. The three men apprehended were: Mr. Augers Mandible, twenty-seven of Kensington, Mr. Dungphump Squabcheck, thirty-one also of Kensington and Mr. Stratford Baggins, thirty-six of
They will be held in custody until sentencing next Thursday. ‘Well I never!’ gasped
Sir Mummery, and Lady Teasbottom laughed and laughed and laughed! Victoria