Saturday, June 8, 2024

In the Shadow of Her Majesty, Chapter Twenty Two

Chapter Twenty Two:  I Finally Collapse

Following my utterly satisfying repast, I found suddenly that a heavy but not unwelcome fatigue once again filled me, and I took my leave from Raj and the genial company in the refectory.  

The weight of that fatigue proved rather greater than I anticipated, for at the moment I stepped out of the threshold of the refectory, I was suddenly overcome by weariness in the entirety of my person, body and soul, such that it felt that I might at any moment crumple in upon myself like an incompetently prepared souffle or a sandcastle finally yielding to the relentless depredations of Poseidon.  It required a herculean effort to put foot in front of foot, and my eyes fluttered as I struggled to cling to the waking world.

This was not, let me say again as a matter of certainty, the selfsame mental and moral debility that had at points recent overcome me, for whilst the weight of events most harrowing had made their indelible imprint upon me, in this particular instance my rising lassitude was a function of insuperable physical exhaustion and the satisfaction of my corporeal hunger.  Truth be told, there are points even to this day when I will find grief at Father’s loss weighs so heavily on my soul that I must take sabbath from the day’s affairs; to deny this would be prideful and foolish.  

Yet even so, in this moment it was simply the accumulating effects of days of unusually trying effort, coupled with a night of sleep fitful and ill-formed by my intrusively ravenous appetancy.  With that hunger sated, my corporeal form cried out for the rest that is the need of all humankind.

I tottered, my head for a moment lolling on forward, and had the doughty Ernest not been at my side, I am certain that I might have simply collapsed into the welcome softness of the muddy ground between the refectory and my lodgings, where I might have slept in a contented heap upon the wet soil.

“Milady, you are severely wearied,” he said, appearing at my arm.  “Let me assist you to your quarters.”

I nodded in reply, for speech itself seemed to have become an effort beyond my capacity, and with the greatest gratitude took his kindly offer of support.  I took the arm that he proffered, and felt the indefatigable vigour of his well wrought mechanisms as a sure support to my wavering capacities.  We made our way together along the short journey to my humble accommodation, as I attempted without success to acknowledge those who greeted us in a most friendly manner along the path.  Many did so, which was yet another sign of the change in the attitude of all to my presence among them; no longer was I viewed as a danger to their wellbeing, but as a newfound ally and dear friend.

I know my duty, particularly when I am the beneficiary of the hospitality of others, but I will confess that, being barely lucid, I was hardly as gracious as I might have been.  Querying Ernest afterwards, he assured me that all could clearly see the state I was in, and that he could just as clearly hear their sympathetic whispers about how much I had been of service to their cause.  Nonetheless, I do wish I had been more receptive to their well-wishes.

With Ernest’s help, I found my way to my room, where I fell upon my bed without even the slightest attention to my customary ablutions.  There, as I had the night before, I found the ministrations of Somnus upon me at the very moment my cheek found the rough fabric of my pillow; in but a breath I entered the dreamless, timeless oblivion that was the irresistible desire of my mortal flesh.


“Milady.  Milady?”

Ernest’s voice, kindly and urgent, was the very next thing that impinged upon my consciousness.  I sat upright, blinking at the room as if I had never before seen it.  I was evidently most severely befuddled, insomuch as I straddled Lethe, one foot in the real, the other in that shadowed land; in my clouded state I felt for a moment quite cross, for why should he wake me, how dare he wake me, when I had just finally fallen asleep?  Even in such a condition, I am shaped by years of discipline in matters of protocol and propriety towards one’s servants, and I would like to assert that this is the reason I did not give full voice to my irritation.

In actuality, however, it was that my efforts to form words of stern rebuke were utterly unsuccessful, as I was yet not in a state that could be meaningfully described as coherent.

“Ern-urn!  Wha…umbaseeba!  Sa sa!  But…sleepuh…sluffa…huh?”

Ernest, unflappable as he invariably is, received my garbled admonition for what it was, and continued in his duties.

“Milady, Acting Chair Cruz Campo is at the door. He would like to speak with you urgently.”

“Akko Cha Campo wha? Deeyayg? Oh.  No.  I.  Uh.”

“Shall I inform him that you are indisposed at this time?”

I nodded, my eyes closing.

With that, I let out a long sigh, and fell back upon my bed as one bereft of life; there I remained, insensate, for hours.

Such ladylike eloquence!  Such a peerless Peer!  I am glad that the full recollection of that moment rests only within the memory of Ernest himself, who has confirmed for me…to the point of replaying this whole episode in its entirety, both physically and verbally…that these were the precise sounds that emanated from my person, and the exact actions I took.  I do recall it somewhat, of course, but that recollection is of the manner of most similarly impaired organic memory; it is more a matter of sense impressions, all of which are fragmented and blurred.

I share it with you, dear reader, because I now find it rather amusing, in the way that one must when encountering any moment that punctures one’s overinflated sense of pride.  This is a vital corrective to any illusions you might have of my capacity, for many of the events that I have recently recounted may have given you the erroneous impression that I am a woman of unsurpassable competence.  This is not so, for I am, as you are, but a mortal creature, and thus prone to all of the imperfections that are our lot in this world; it behoves all to receive such moments of uninvited perspicuity into our nature with amusement and good humour.

Let us now proceed.


When I finally awoke, I found Ernest still standing diligent by the doorway.  He informed me, utterly without judgement, that I had slept until the early evening, and that he recommended that I might consider making my way to visit with Diego at my earliest convenience, once I had adequately refreshed both my person and my appearance.

This I accomplished with no little effort, for I was utterly dishevelled and still quite discombobulated, but with my efforts supplemented by Ernest’s careful attentions, I was able to restore a modicum of propriety to my person.  I found myself again mourning the particular and familiar touch of Amanda’s aid in tending to my person; while this in no way meant to diminish  Ernest’s efforts, Amanda had become over the years as fully a part of my waking ritual as my own hands, and it was with some effort that I refrained from shedding tears at her absence.  This would have confounded the application of my various facial powders and necessities, and I was not about to cause further delay.

My restoration complete, Ernest and I took our leave of my humble quarters, and made our way to the headquarters building, the selfsame building that I described for you in the fourteenth chapter, where we knew Diego would be once again awaiting us.

The day was waning, and it had evidently been a pleasant one, with a clear sky and sun-kissed clouds marking a welcome improvement in the weather.

Once again, the anarchists around us were singularly well disposed to our persons, and our progress towards the Central Committee Building was impeded by numerous conversations and expressions of heartfelt gratitude and welcome from individuals I had not yet had the pleasure to meet; as I was now of a condition to express my deep reciprocal feeling, I did so.  As had previously proven the case amongst these earnest but crude folk, my elocution proved a source of amusement and delight, and I must confess I found myself equally entertained by their profane but warm expressions of welcome.

When we finally reached the point of my rendezvous with Diego, some considerable time had passed, and late afternoon was yielding to the soft blanket of dusk.  I was…from the beauty of the early evening, my now-rested state, and the kind welcome and well-met salutations of all those around me…of a most pleasant temper when I reached the meeting room at the top of the wood-hewn stairs.

If only the same could have been said for Diego.

Chapter Twenty Three: My Second Argument with Diego (forthcoming)