Monday, June 17, 2024

In the Shadow of Her Majesty, Chapter Twenty Four

Chapter Twenty Four:   A Walk in the Moonlight

Often, when one has taken one’s rest during the daylight hours, one finds that one has expended one’s capacity to return to the bliss of dreams; typically, such things occur during an illness of body or mind, and one finds that though the shadow of night has fallen over the world, sleep remains a distant and foreign country.

This is not the same as having wakeness forced upon you, either by discomfort or a disturbance in one’s psyche.  In point of fact, once one has accepted that wakefulness is the lot one has been assigned, it can be a rather pleasant thing.

Such was my condition when I awoke after but four hours abed; though it was yet quarter to four and the depths of the night, I felt as fresh and ready for the day as had the sunlight been blushing the sky with the generous glories of dawn.

Ernest confirmed for me that it was once again an hour most irregular, and I found myself yearning to take my leave of the serviceable but confining quarters with which I was provided.  I could see, through the small and yellowed window in my little monastic cell, that the moon was bright, fat, and gibbous in the sky, and felt myself suddenly desirous of a reflective perambulation under her soft and mystic light.  I am, when deprived for a time of my exertions at the pianoforte, rather prone to bouts of dreamy melancholy, this of an entirely pleasant sort; these are hardly the dark night of the soul, but rather a delight in beauty that verges on sorrow.  It having been days since I last wrestled with Franz and his cruelly entrancing Etudes, the rise of this familiar sentiment was hardly surprising.


“Yes, Milady?” 

“As I am utterly awake, I find myself intending a meditative walk.  If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to do so unaccompanied.”

“As you wish, Milady.  Might I suggest that you bring your firearm, in the event of any untoward occurrences?”

“I appreciate your concern, Ernest, but I don’t feel the necessity of it.  These people are peculiar, but they are not our adversaries, and should there be an ‘untoward occurrence,’ I have confidence in the protection of their friendship.”

“Very well.  Please take all due cautions, Milady.  In your absence, might I suggest that I engage Level One Messaging Protocols?  It would seem appropriate.”

“I shall, Ernest.  Thank you.  And yes, please do.”

With that, I prepared my appearance appropriately, which was rather less of a concern given the blessings of the cover of night.  Even so, the ritual of powder, brush, and pen adds savour to any outing, conveying to it the honour that rises from careful intention and respect.

Once completed, I left my quarters, venturing forth onto the quieted, moon-brushed thoroughfares of the anarchist compound.  The night air was cool and crisp, and above me the vault of starry heaven was blessed with the passing of small clouds kissed soft silver by Luna’s lips; it was an entrancing night, and I was much pleased with my choice to go out from the very moment my Tavistocks crossed the threshold.  

My heart was set not upon the narrow passages and tight alleyways all about me, but rather called to the open fields beyond the gate of the inner compound, where star and sky could be observed unimpeded, and so it was towards the guarded entrance that I walked with catlike tread.  None but I was awake, it seemed, the only sound being the plaintive hoot of a distant barn owl and the soft rustling of the hem of my skirts across the dusty path.

I soon reached the gate, where I could see a single figure standing watch in the shadows, sitting upon a stool to one side of the entrance.  It was a sturdily built person in loose fitting clothing, with close cropped hair and the indeterminate gender that was in evidence among some in this community.  That they were “standing watch” is a generous way to describe their diligence to their duty, for as I grew nearer, I could see that not only were they seated, but their rifle lay at their feet, and their chin upon their bosom.  For a moment, I was tempted to simply pass them by, for to do so would have been a trifling effort.  

This seemed both rude and unwise, for should they be startled upon my return, and a hue and cry be raised, it would disturb the rest and peace of all; I was not inclined to so afflict my hosts.

“Excuse me?”

They startled awake, and took to their feet.  “What?  Who?”  To their credit, they were quickly alert, and came to their senses quite rapidly.  Who would I be to cast aspersions on such a matter, after all?  Let she who is without sin cast the first stone, and whatnot.

“Forgive my disturbance.  I am the Lady Rebecca Wexton-Hughes, a guest amongst your people.  I was hoping to take a walk in the fields, for I am awake and it is a beautiful night.  Would that be acceptable?”

To my surprise, they…or she, as it appeared…simply smiled.  “Yeah, I know who you are.  I’m Libby.  Short for Liberty, yanno?  And sure.  You sure as xxxx can take an, um, walk.  Kinda not a surprise.  Seeing you right now.”  She gave me a peculiar wink.  “Have fun.”

“Thank you most kindly, Libby,” I said, and continued on through the gate.  She watched me pass, a most curious cheshire-cat grin upon her face, as if my walking into the fields was a source of some great and obvious amusement.  “What an odd person,” I thought.

So walk I did, and once I had moved beyond the enclosed spaces and occluded sightlines of the central compound, I found myself filled with gratitude that the urgings of Providence should have stirred me to this outing.  The wide and roughly circular clearing into which the compound was set was aglow with the lustrous pearlescence of the moon’s clear light, and as a soft breeze teased through the plantings, I was struck by the sheer loveliness of it all; it was as if I had stepped through the frame of a Caravaggio.

Framed all about by dense forest of several hundred years' growth, the compound was as a shallow bowl set beneath the firmament to reflect Tsukuyomi’s handsome visage, as he diligently and forever pursues his beloved Amatserasu through the heavens.  

I would hope, dear reader, that you availed yourself of the excellent mythological essay in last week’s Post on this very subject, writ as it was by the estimable N. Yoshimura, whose excellent treatises on the gods and goddesses of her native land are utterly worthy of your attention.

It is one of the many fascinating peculiarities, I reflected, my eyes upon the waxing lunar orb, of the Nipponese.  It is so easy to become accustomed to thinking of our glorious and singular satellite in terms distinctly feminine, and the star around which our little world orbits as masculine.  Yet within the storied and ancient Oriental traditions of Nipponese culture, that presumption is inverted, and it is the glorious Amatserasu that fills our diurnal hours with her lifegiving light, whereas her husband Tsukuyomi is forever from her estranged, consigned to his own mournful pursuit of his love through the darkness.

Suzanna is much fond of recounting such tales herself, harbouring as she does such a deep affection for that elegant, distinctive people and their customs, both martial and otherwise.  This in particular, I think, should place a deep foreboding in the heart of any who seek her hand after she becomes debutante, as she in her fierce impetuosity will brook no less a role than that of the sun in their heavens.  May the Good Lord have Mercy on that Soul, I whispered, a smile fleeting across my lips at the thought.

Further, I mused on how that myth of the sun’s lifegiving and womanly strength harmonised so beautifully with our own experience of Her Majesty and Her Kindly Beneficence.  Were not all of our lives but a reflection of Her Grace and Guidance?  Yet we Peers were not abandoned or estranged, but encountered Her shadow as one might take comfort in the sweet shadows of twilight, or the cool adumbral canopy of a sheltering chestnut in the sultry summer heat of August.

Such were my meditations as I walked, and they were most pleasant indeed.  There are few things more restorative of body and soul than a good long constitutional with no particular destination in mind, which is most efficacious in both the clearing of one’s mind and the refinement of one's thoughts.  Such a walk on such an evening was the very ne plus ultra of the type; it was, in truth, a Promenade Sentimentale, as the sublime Debussy himself originally named his interlude in the Suite Bergamasque.  

The night’s breath played cool across my face, and as I strode through the anarchist’s gardens, I found their haphazard array far more pleasing than I had on prior encounters; I experienced them not as entropy or laziness in design, but as simply satisfying as meeting a grove or grotto unformed by human hands, whose warp and woof are the joyous interplay of terroir and probability, the unfallen and sinless blossom of Nature’s pure joy in creation.

I was lost in the admiring meditation of a tall and new-bolting stand of kale, my hand playing across the first kiss of midnight dew upon their manifold flowers, when my eye caught a glint of argent light from far up the gradual sloping rise of the clearing.

It was the sterling glow of the moon resting gentle upon polished, darkened alloy, alloy that graced the shoulder of a shadowy figure standing alone beneath the sky.

There, in the clearing, his face turned to the heavens, still as yet oblivious to my presence, was Diego.