(Please use your most haughty highbrow British accent in your head as you read….my word is selected from “The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill.” A wink in his honour may be apropos, as well.)
An ivory envelope, oversized and addressed in large spidery hand arrives at the Yorkshire Club, central London. A haven of old school, elderly statesmen and peerage. Only the rustle of the old school newspaper mar the quiet, and the soft pat of footfalls on the thick carpet, until the Butler, Mr. Salvers, entered the doorway of the library, coughed a quiet cough, disrupting the silence of nearly 400 years.
“Sirs,” he said, newspapers dropped to laps in unison, readers aghast at the inappropriate interruption, “Sirs,we have a letter of some import.” He looks at the letter lying on the silver tray in his hands.
“I’ve been advised upon delivery to read it to the membership assembled.”
Bowed head, certain his fate would lead him out the door and to the gutter, for what respectable gentleman would hire him now after so despicable a miscalculation, he waited.
Just a few too many moments passed, then the youngest of the elderly whitehairs nodded his way.
“Get on with it, then, Salvers, for pity’s sake,” dismissively waving a bony hand. “Get on with it.”
Salver’s own hands, covered in handsome white gloves, shook as he retrieved an aged silver letter opener from the nearest desk, then stepped back to his spot in the middle of the double entry doors to the library. For future reference, he noted the difficulty of opening a letter while it lay on a tray needing balancing with both hands….in front of a hostile audience eager to have his head on the same platter.
The deed, ultimately, was done and he slipped the heavy ivory pages from out of their cover, again, waiting.
“Get on with it!”
“Yes, Sir Elmingbird, yes.”
So in a clear voice, louder than history had ever witnessed within these sanctimonious walls, and knowing these may indeed be his last words, he began:
My Dearest and Most Respectable of Colleagues,
(And you others may listen, as well)
The days of my life, nee the moments of my days, are resplendent with nattering and chattering, gathering words and phrases and tossing them about like seeds in a field. I nurture them, water them, even fertilize them with less than appropriate matter and watch them sprout into new and tantalizing words and phrases of a newer more evolutionary ilk.
That old chestnut, “Action speaks louder than word,”…. which reminds me of “Monkey see, Monkey do,”…. but I digress….
That old chestnut, “Action speaks louder than word,” is the foolish bollderall of the incompetent and incoherent. The world, as I see it and as should you, is held together not with string or baling wire or sealing wax, nor with loyalties built of battle or breeding, but the word, written, spoken, suggested, or reflected upon during contemplative introspection. To speak is to inspire and perspire. To communicate is to convince and connive. To express is to declare and decide.
The most fortunate of you there, listening with pretentious piety, should consider yourselves honored and yes, fortunate, to be gathered at just this moment, you quasi-pseodo gentlemen scattered here and there, noses lifted and mouths tight with indignation. Let not the unsavory fact of my ownership and solitary leadership of this most monumental of brotherhoods and the building in which you now rest your prestigious rear regions mar my message.”
Here, Salvers went silent, eyes bugging fairly from his head, searching for respite or salvation or even dismissal in the faces of the gentlemen seated heavily, and sinking deeper it seemed, in the deep leather chairs. Pleadingly, he found Sir Elmingbird, “Sir, shall I…..?”
Sternly, this time, “Get on with it, Salvers. There must be a point.”
Moistening his lips, Salvers searched for his spot, then with a solemn intake of breath, he went on.
“That the men assembled here, as for the last 400 years, have pretended and precluded their importance to the furtherance of prosperity in our world and to the farther reaches of our influence is nothing if not admirable…and abomidible. To that end, I should like to communicate and express my most sincerest of reflections in the company of like-minded men.
I regret I am unable to attend and pontificate my concerns personally but health and a heavy dose of pomposity preclude my darkening the door. Suffice it to say, lucky man Salvers shall do my bidding, as I have requested. Do with him as you will….”
Salvers’ voice quavered here, losing some of its robustness, but knowing he must push on, push on he did.
“…Do with him as you will, for while not colluding with me in confidence, nor having any prior knowledge of my actions, he is a solid man, sound and sure and loyal, and shall retain a place of priority in my employee should you see fit to turn him out.”
Salvers swallowed. All eyes on him now narrowed. At once. He must push on.
“Whilst my concerns and considerations affect the bulk of the bulkage in the room, I shall limit my comments to barely a few, and not even the most infamous. The remains and unmentioned should not, however, make the grave assumption they are free of my comment. I shall, as they say, save it for another day. In anticipation is born trepidation, great trepidation!
Therefore, my advice? Step lightly, Sirs. Step lightly. I have much to say.”
Salvers gently put the first page aside, hoping against hope the silent tension in the stuffy room would be cut by the old men turning into an angry, white-headed mob, caning him over the head and depositing him outside on the grand front stairs.
This was not to be, but he could no longer lift his eyes. He’d push on, read on, then flee to the outer world and never once look back.
A sound plan.
And on he pushed.
“To the Grand and Exposed General Francis Waldencoop Horsinghouse:
My dearest and nearly oldest of friends. A grand leader of men during war and endeavor. Standing resolute, ever pushing onward, you’ve spent your life sacrificing the lives and service of others, standing proudly on their accomplishments, shouting your praises near and far to all who would listen.
You, my friend, are NOT and Honourable Man.”
The General stirred, “Here now, what’s this?” Stomping his walking stick on the floor next to his leathered chair, he harrumphed, “Blasphemy! Cease and desist this instant!”
But Elmingbird, the newly self-proclaimed spokesman, feeling free of attack or accusation, urged completion, “General, the writer is clearly attempting to circumvent some needful issue in his own circumstance. Let’s us hear Salvers out, for amusement’s sake, if nothing else. I for one, had nothing more pressing planned for the next bit.”
The General, not pleased, and so obviously dissatisfied, mumbled, grumbled, and sank deeper in his seats, holding tight to his stick, should he its need arise.
“To my never so faithful and most unpleasant of acquaintances, Reverend Horace Billingchuck Upton,
Arrogance and pride have never a part of your constitution. Friends, parishioners all, worshipped at your feet, loving you for your humility. Fraught with open arms and grasping hands, your beneficent countenance hid your most ultimate of desires. To that end, those poorest of the poor in our spiritual care, they gave and gave. Of their bounty and their lack thereof. You so graciously and kindly accepted their gifts, selling them blessings in Everlasting Heavenly Bliss, without a solitary thought to their lot in the life, nor whether there was food on their tables to feed the empty tummies of their tiny children. Your loving, kindly demeanor implored them only to give more, pushing them to the sharp cliff of poverty and the painful beyond. You, Sir, live the life of a King, gilded with gold and fed with the finest of fare.
You, Sir, are NOT an Honourable Man.”
Somewhere near the fireplace, hidden from view, someone blew heavily into a handkerchief.
“To my Grandest most High of Fellows, Baron Fiedler Foosterfund of Sussick,
Tracing your line near back to the Darkest of Ages, you have steadfastly and with courage purported the exploration and intrusion of the Realm to the farest reaches of polite society. You’ve maintained an iron fist while serving your country in policy-making at the highest of levels of government, whilst ignoring or abusing those in your own household. Your haughtiness in the presence of those of less clear lineage borders on laughability, if only one less noble were allowed such levity. That you’ve insulted and embarrassed men and women of kindness and goodwill, those who serve you to the best of their limited resource appalls all those at hand. And yet, aware of your singular focus on Kingdom and Country, they remain, true.
You, gallant Sir, are NOT an Honourable Man.”
Salvers once again, delicately settled the page on top of the previous. Last page, only one, and his time would be up. Push on, Sir, press on. A new life awaits. Perhaps one without gloves.
“And so, Gentlemen, consider this the first of a succulent series of opines from my poisonous pen. We, not one, are devoid of wrongdoing. Yet we muster and fluster and putter and find ourselves above and beyond, hiding our precious selves in this golden palace for protection from the mean reality we see in the faces of those outside.
Rest assured, Hallowed Men, we are none of us above reproach, not one. And rest assured, furtherly, you shall hear from me again in the morrow and beyond.
For, like you, I am NOT an Honourable Man.”