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The Inconvenience Of Proper Dress
Sir Humphrey walked wearily to his bedroom. It had been a tiring day. First the hunt, quite enjoyable, even with that fool American who kept getting into arguments with branches and the low walls between the fields. He was a good sport about it though, and after the blood was off, the damage wasn't too severe. After that, of course, the party. Interminable and quite boring were it not for that same American, who turned out to be a nice chap and a witty conversationalist.
He pushed the door to his refuge open and snorted. To top it all off, his new hunting clothes were too tight in a few places. "Damn uncomfortable", he muttered "I wonder why I ever had them made."
"'I will wear the right clothes for the right event, Maxwell, if it kills me.'" quoted the young man who had come in and stood silently beside the door. "May I help you undress, Sir?". "I am perfectly able to undress on my own, Maxwell." Sir Humphrey answered with another snort.
He shrugged and inhaled, thanking the gods that he had been able to persuade the tailor to use pushbuttons hidden under fake buttons. At first, the tailor had balked at such a breach of tradition, but after Sir Humphrey had reminded him of the rather unique circumstances, he had complied. After a bit of squirming and twisting, the pushbuttons finally complied and the pink coat hung open.
With grin determination he squirmed and shrugged until he could pull off the coat with his teeth. He did his best to ignore Maxwell's presence. As he had the coat off, though, he looked at the open tattersall beneath it and the shirt and with a nod of his head accepted his butler's help.
He had learned of the curse in the inheritance proceedings. After all the usual things were done, the solicitor drew him aside, gave him a thick folder with scraps, documents and seemingly ancient manuscripts. He was told that the solicitors agency would of course be at hand for any arrangements needed. The natural puzzlement gave way to amazement and not a small dose of indignation as he read the contents of that folder.
Apparently - for some ancient and maybe even imaginary slight - the male heir of the family would spend 3 years as a horse after his thirtieth birthday. He leafed through the documents. His father had spent the years as a racehorse, while concocting a story of international investments and three years in India.
Sir Humphrey could still remember getting the postcards, which were, as he now found out, written beforehand and mailed by an agent in Calcutta. The racehorse career went well. Sir Humphrey smiled. He had always wondered why his father was less successful as a businessman when he came back to England.
After the shirt was off, he pulled at his boots with his teeth. Boots! He snorted again. He would have to make adjustments to anatomical facts. Maxwell was at hand, and viribus unitis they got the damn things off.
He started to work the buttons of his breeches with his teeth. here at least the garment was partially accessible to him. He thanked the gods, that at least in this case, he had had the presence of mind, to put some alterations in, which allowed him to relieve himself during the day. At the party his bucket of Guinness had been kept well filled.
He had thought long and hard, but he always came to the same conclusion. He would not hide. When he talked it through with Maxwell, the butler did his level best to dissuade him, but he remained firm. After that, Maxwell was his staunchest ally in the dealings with the recalcitrant solicitors.
Maxwell had also taken care of the little things, getting that special Rolls Horse Transporter built, and hiring the watchmen who had the standing order to destroy any camera brought surreptitiously to the grounds and to do the bearer the utmost in legally allowed grievious bodily harm.
The House had to be adapted, and with the help of the finally relenting solicitors he had the legal issues sorted out. The change itself was unspectacular. It took two weeks, during which he could not refrain from eating continuously. It was inconvenient for a few days while he was neither here nor there, so to speak, but the slow change also made the documentation for legal purposes easier.
It did cause quite stir, when he - after the legal proceedings were complete - took up his seat in the House again. There were the inevitable protests, the huge photographs in the Sun and other distractions. But his debut gave some of the others the opportunity to come out of the proverbial closet. After half the season it seemed most of the elder families had some or other curse. In some sessions even he had to agree that the house of peers started to resemble a livestock exhibition.
It still took the usual amount of squirming and pulling to get the breeches off. But after he had that final piece off, he arched his neck and took a few steps to move about again, finally unrestricted by the garments. He picked up one of the bran cookies he always had at hand in his rooms. Who would have thought that Mrs. Glebord would turn out such an imaginative vegetarian cook?
"Maxwell, how did it go?" The butler recollected for a moment and stopped collecting the garments Sir Humphrey had shed, "Sir, I think quite well. Some guests are still mingling, there was, at least as much as I could perceive, only a very limited amount of rubbernecking. I'll also say sir, even after the dressing and undressing procedure, you looked quite striking as the Master of the hunt."
"Too bad that Willie couldn't make it." "Sir, he turns into a fox during the hunting season" "I know, Maxwell," the great black stallion sighed, "but he might have given us so much sport. And we would have found a way to keep the dogs from him."
The great horse looked out of the window. He suddenly reared, just for the fun of it, and turned around to his butler. "Maxwell! What a capital day! We'll definitely have to do it again. But get me that tailor. We'll have to put in some changes into these things."
"Of course Sir. I'll see to it." The butler sighed silently and withdrew from the rooms of the agitated prancing stallion.
The Inconvenience Of Proper Dress copyright 1999 by Thomas Hassan.
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