Princess Ida Serial

Due to circumstances over which we have no control, as they say (or, to be more specific, due to publishing new books, attending homeschool marketing conferences, and rehearsing for an upcoming performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida with the Bucks County Gilbert and Sullivan Society, to which we all belong), the Once Upon a Time serial has rather fallen by the wayside of late. But have no fear! Esther will be back with us next month. But for this month’s serial, Cate is putting out a story version of the operetta in which we will all be performing next weekend. She will actually be playing the lead role of Princess Ida, but the story below is told from the point of view of Lady Psyche, Princess Ida’s right-hand woman, since Ida is not around for some of the most crucial plot developments. Enjoy!

Psyche’s Tale: An Eyewitness Account of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida

Princess Ida’s twenty-first birthday was a very quiet occasion for us at Castle Adamant. Ida was always supremely indifferent to such worldly festivals, and maintained that age was only a matter of the mind’s maturity and retained vigor. That fitted with the rest of her philosophy of life, placing the highest value on education and the pursuit of wisdom. Indeed, I sometimes wondered—on the rare occasions when I had the time—whether she attached any value to anything else.

But of course, the rest of us professors and schoolgirls could not let our principal’s majority pass without some sign of recognition, so we had the Daughters of the Plough prepare an even finer meal than was usual (we always ate well at Castle Adamant; Ida held that the mind could not work at its fullest capacity without the aid of a well-nourished body, and food was a harmless pleasure compared to some of the others in which she feared her girls might interest themselves), which included all of Ida’s favorite dishes; and the schoolgirls presented her with a gift of a rose-garden tapestry they had worked themselves, bearing the legend “Castle Adamant: Princess Ida’s University for Women. Long may she reign to teach us, and confusion to all her male enemies!” I, as Professor of Humanities as well as Ida’s best friend, gave the opening speech at the festive board, wishing Ida many happy returns on behalf of all of us; and then Lady Blanche, Professor of Abstract Philosophy, gave another (long) address full of insincere compliments and not much else; and then Ida rose and thanked us briefly.

She always tended to brush off our demonstrations of regard on these occasions with an unconcerned aloofness that might almost have seemed rude to those who did not know her, but today she was even more dismissive than was usual, and left the table somewhat abruptly, just before the grand finale dessert—a cake shaped like the goddess Minerva, the muse of wisdom, decorated to rather resemble Ida herself. But she didn’t wait even to see this subtle, if sugary, compliment to her erudition, but betook herself to the garden with her books.

I found her seated on her favorite bench beside the stream, not far from the rustic bridge and just beneath the overhanging willow tree. She was not reading when I came up, but she was still unaware of my approach, gazing abstractedly out into space and toying somewhat uneasily with the tassels on her gown.

It was very unusual to discern any signs of mental perturbation in Ida’s demeanor, so I grew even more concerned. I sat down next to her, after requesting permission with a gesture, which startled Ida into recognizing my presence. She inclined her head to me wearily, and smiled—her own grave, otherworldly smile.

“What would you, my dear Lady Psyche?” she inquired, with her sincere affection for me and her definite consciousness of her own superior station nicely blended in her voice.

“I thought you seemed distracted with some unpleasant thoughts today, madam, and thought you might desire my counsel or else sympathy,” I said as pleasantly as I could. Ida does not generally like it when anyone, even me, notes any signs of weakness in her and offers help.
But this time she only sighed deeply, and gazed out into space again, for so long that I began to think she had forgotten my presence and wonder whether I had better not go. But then she recollected herself, and turned to me once again.

“Forgive me for alarming you with my broodings, my dear Psyche,” she said, attempting to smile more warmly this time. “It is only that—you know what today is, Psyche?”

“Yes, Ida dear,” I responded, a little surprised that she should ask and wondering whether she were quite well. “It is your twenty-first birthday.”
“Yes, twenty years since the day we first met, Psyche, at King Hildebrand’s castle in Bohemia, when I was brought there to be betrothed to his son, Prince Hilarion,” Ida spoke with barely supressed passion in her tones. “With no consent of my own, of course. It was all due to King Hildebrand’s insidious offers of peace to my father, King Gama, under the impression that a betrothal would properly seal the rift between our kingdoms, which had lasted for over a century!”

I nodded. I knew all about this, of course, even though I had been only six months old at the time. My nurse and Ida’s had struck up a splendid acquaintance, however, with the result being that I had been chosen to be sent to King Gama’s court at age eight, to be brought up alongside Ida and somewhat smooth the transition between the two courts for her, as it were. Of course, that had never happened, as Ida had talked her father—the most crotchety, complaining, critical, and completely disagreeable old body there ever was, but he was fond of her—into giving her Castle Adamant (one of his many country houses) to start her dream of a woman’s university, before she was even sixteen years old! I had come with her—anything that had anything to do with book-learning had a fascination for me; I was a voracious student myself—and we had never left since.

“So you know what else today would have been for me,” Ida continued, regarding me with a questioningly upraised eyebrow. I nodded solemnly, and she went on. “I should have been brought to Castle Hildebrand again, to fulfill the terms contracted twenty years ago, had I not had the foresight to withdraw from the world and its oppressive obligations altogether. Today was to have been my and Hilarion’s wedding-day.”

“Yes, Your Highness—madam,” I corrected myself. Ida prefers less ceremonial terms of respect and deference from her subordinates. Courtly manners were not the main focus at Castle Adamant. “But, surely you do not think . . .”

“And I can scarcely help being preoccupied by the dread thoughts of what might have been,” Ida interrupted me. “For even when one has escaped a calamity, its horrors appear with even greater clarity before the mind, to be regarded with mingled relief and astonishment that such could have been the case. And furthermore,” here she got up from the bench, her agitation growing even more marked as she paced restlessly to and fro across the path, “I cannot but feel the serious forebodings of what may not be the consequences to my father, when he tells King Hildebrand that I will not come!”

How anybody could feel any concern over King Gama, who, despite all his other failings, was very well capable of looking out for himself, was quite beyond me. But if Ida really cared that deeply about her father . . .

“But, madam,” I said respectfully, “surely you will not allow these considerations to distress you? Your father is, after all, but a man.”

“True.” Ida frowned slightly, as is often the case when she is attempting to square an apparent contradiction within her own mind. As usual, she gave up the quest very shortly.

Turning back to me with a smile, and a wave of her hand clearly meant to dismiss the subject, she said brightly, “Well, ‘tis no great matter, Psyche. What is of the chiefest consequence is that we remain here to teach our maidens, and raise their thoughts and aims to the loftiest heights of pure wisdom. My father may well consider himself fortunate to aid in such a grand cause, at no matter what personal cost; ‘tis not to be thought of!” Ida’s voice rang out with her accustomed energy, when airing her grand schemes and principles for the elevation of womankind. “Thou and I, my dear Psyche, think nothing of what we sacrifice to our cause; nothing is anything, indeed, compared to it!”

“Indeed so, madam,” I replied a trifle abstractedly. I had heard all of this so many times before, that it had become rather difficult for me to pay close attention every single time Ida chose to expound upon her views, which happened fairly often (about twice or thrice a day). And exactly what I had sacrificed to the cause, other than the time I spent teaching, which I wouldn’t have wanted to spend any other way anyhow, I really didn’t know. Ida herself, of course, was the only one who could possibly know what she might have given up in order to found Castle Adamant University, for there were certainly no outward signs of any sort of deprivation or self-sacrifice. This was what Ida had always wanted, after all.

We strolled back to the castle, arm-in-arm; and then I had to leave my principal, as I had a class to teach on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, bringing out its inherent testimony to the superiority of womankind over the male-dominated, corrupted, ironically termed “brave new world.” I sometimes amused myself with wondering just how shocked the original authors would have been, if they but knew what ideologies and agendas their own words had been twisted to support. I had no delusions about what the play was supposed to mean, but that wasn’t what Ida wanted taught, and I knew how to teach what she did want. I more than half believed she was right, anyway. Who but a mentally superior woman could have come up with her entire scheme for the liberation of womankind? And if taking some poetical liberties with the literature courses was the price to pay for the success of that scheme, well then, I was fine with that.

I passed Lady Blanche in the hall, and she greeted me with her usual half-smug, half-oppressed smile. I nodded to her briefly; my fellow professor is far from being my favourite person at the university. She pretends that Ida makes more of me than she does of her, and uses that as an excuse to do pretty much as she likes. She didn’t take particular pains, in her lectures on “abstract philosophy”—more abstract than philosophical, if you asked me—to ensure that they upheld and expounded Ida’s views, but rather her own.

And Blanche’s views tend mainly to her own superiority and sense of ambition. She’ll never be satisfied until she is head of the school, which will never happen while Ida remains here. Ida does not trust her any more than I do, but she keeps her here as part of her wholesale project for recruiting women against mankind.

Lady Blanche had lived at Gama’s court several years before I first came there. A handsome, proud noblewoman with little interest in anything but climbing as high as she could on the social ladder; she had a gift of smooth speaking and oiling her way into the good graces of and promises of promotions from her superiors, and had already reached the post of chief nurse and lady-in-waiting to Princess Ida, when calamity struck.
Her husband, an Officer of the Guards, had obtained a commission to Gama’s distant island protectorates as soon as he conveniently could after his marriage, and set sail there with no intentions of ever coming back or sending for his wife to join him. In brief, he deserted her, and their as yet unborn child as well.

This clear case of male duplicity made a deep impression upon Ida, and when she and I left to found Castle Adamant University, we stopped first by the convent in which Blanche had taken refuge, and invited her to join us, promising her and her then ten-year-old daughter, Melissa, lifelong sanctuary and respected status among us. But even without the promise, I doubt whether Ida would have ever felt it worth her while to let go a woman whose experience could so clearly uphold her negative theories on mankind, no matter how annoying she was.

And then there was Melissa. I glanced over the heads of my pupils as I entered the classroom, and smiled as I encountered that half-shy, half-eager gaze at the back of the room. Melissa is not my star pupil—she’s not particularly clever, although she has some quick insight in her own way—but she is Ida’s. Having been born and brought up in a convent, with no training except her mother’s oppressive drilling—“just do what I tell you, regardless of what you think right”—Melissa was a perfect specimen for soaking up all of Ida’s theories with no dilution from pre-conceived notions from the outside world and its cultures. Of course, the only problem with that is that she’d be just as quick to pick up any notions from any other quarters, so Ida has to keep her (and her mother) here if she is to keep her perfectly unspoiled and correctly indoctrinated.

By the time I had settled into my lecture, I had quite forgotten Ida and her earlier concerns. She had been quite at her ease by the time we had gotten back; and at supper that night, she even took pains to thank Melissa and Chloe for a special “secret” gift they had smuggled into her bedroom—an embroidered silken sachet filled with fudge. So I dismissed the matter from my mind, only to have it borne in upon me again very suddenly, under rather unusual circumstances, several weeks later.

The way in which it came about was as follows.

Several new applicants had arrived the day before, and after having passed the appropriate screening, they were to be solemnly inaugurated into the student body today.

It was a gorgeous, romantic spring day (mid-June, to be precise), and I was giving my Classics lecture outside. I usually did, when I could manage it.

The students were merry and enthusiastic, singing the school song with vigour as they took their places, melodiously setting forth their clear ideals and ambitions:

“Towards the empyrean heights
Of ev’ry kind of lore,
We’ve taken sev’ral easy flights,
And mean to take some more!

In trying to achieve success
No envy racks our heart,
And all the knowledge we possess,
We mutually impart.”

Melissa raised her hand as she sat down, and I nodded to her to pose whatever question she might have. I often resorted to this unique teaching method: I let the students ask their questions and pose the topics that interested them first, and then based my lecture on that, instead of lecturing them on one certain topic of my choice and then listening to their questions on only that subject afterwards.

“Pray, what authors should she read, who in Classics would succeed?” Melissa asked me shyly.

I shuffled my notes until I found the appropriate answer. “You should read Anacreon, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, likewise Aristophanes, and the works of Juvenal: these are worth attention, all.” A murmur of approval—both for Melissa’s pertinent question and my own prompt and comprehensive response to it—passed through the crowd of girls. “But—” I raised my eyebrows warningly, and the tittering stopped as my pupils leaned forward to pay due attention to my next words—“if you will be advised, you will get them Bowdlerized!”

“Ah!” Whether any of the girls knew what “Bowdlerized” actually meant, was a question I did not have the answer to in my notes. I was quite prepared to explain it, though, as the process whereby literature was cleansed of any inappropriate language or references, named after Thomas Bowdler, who had actually started the process with Shakespeare’s plays (which didn’t need it half as much as the works I had just listed; but what else could you expect from the pagan authors of the classical era?)

However, none of the lady students asked me for the definition of the formula; they were too busy taking notes to remind themselves to use it. And then Sacharissa, one of the university’s longest-remaining students (having arrived one year from its inception), changed the subject to one which, once started, there was never any going back from, even at (or should I say, especially at?) Castle Adamant.

“Pray you tell us, if you can,” she added somewhat nervously (Sacharissa is always getting in trouble for raising issues that she ought not to ever mention), “what’s the thing that’s known as Man?”

The girls gasped at her boldness in raising the “forbidden topic,” but their horror was somewhat misplaced. There is no rule against talking about men in Castle Adamant; in fact, Ida particularly wants us to talk about them. We just have to talk about them in the right way.
I knew how to deal with this topic perfectly, having been in on Ida’s schemes for her university and its teachings on all subjects, especially this one, from the very beginning. I drew myself up straight and tall to my full height, commanding attention.

“Man will swear and man will storm,” I began reciting the catalogue of crimes very slowly and distinctly. “Man is not at all good form. Man is of no kind of use—man’s a donkey, man’s a goose—(here the girls all giggled hysterically, and nudged one another)—Man is coarse and man is plain.” I paused and thought for a moment before adding, offhandedly: “Man is more or less insane. Man’s a ribald, man’s a rake: Man is nature’s sole mistake!” My voice rose to a thundering proclamation at the end.

The girls all hastened to take notes on this fact; and then, the time allotted for class having already expired without my having even begun my lecture on Classics, the girls joined their voices in the school chorus once again:

“And thus to empyrean height
Of ev’ry kind of lore,
In search of wisdom’s pure delight,
Ambitiously we soar.

In trying to achieve success
No envy racks our heart,
For all we know and all we guess,
We mutually impart!

And all the knowledge we possess,
We mutually impart,
We mutually impart, impart . . .”

“Attention, ladies!” This burst of patriotic school fervour was interrupted by an impatient voice, as Blanche, huffing and puffing from her long climb down the hill from the castle, (Lady Blanche is a bit on the “massive” side, although she stoutly denies it), arrived in our midst. As she tried to get her breath back, she waved an impressive-looking sheet of manuscript at us, which had the effect of quieting all the girls down as they turned to her. For my part, I quietly stepped off the podium and went over to sit on the bench—the very one where I had sat next to Ida on her birthday. I knew quite well what was coming next.

“. . . while I read to you the Princess Ida’s list of punishments,” Blanche continued, unrolling the manuscript. The girls drew closer to one another, trading uneasy looks. Ida is not known for dealing leniently with offenders against her pet system, and rule-breakers are scrupulously penalized for the slightest transgression. And Lady Blanche enjoys nothing more than seeing to it that such penalties are carried out to the letter—she and Ida are alike at least in this: “mercy” is not a word in either of their vocabularies. I suppose they both think they have comprehensive enough ones without it.

“The first is Sacharissa,” Blanche announced, rolling the words over her tongue with obvious relish. I slumped a little on my seat. Not again! “She’s expelled!”

“Expelled!” the girls all gasped, as if this hadn’t happened to Sacharissa fifteen times before. People are always getting expelled from Castle Adamant; but it’s the worst punishment that can be given, even if it has no practical effect. Ida would not really let any of her girls go voluntarily; it is only the shame of expulsion that comes through in the punishment.

“Expelled,” Lady Blanche repeated, dwelling on the word as though it were as sweet as honey in her mouth, “because although she knew no man of any kind may pass our walls, she dared to bring a set of chessmen here!”

Sacharissa had started to cry. Being expelled may be an old experience for her, but it is never a pleasant one. “I meant no harm; they’re only men of wood!”

“They’re men with whom you give each other mate,” Lady Blanche replied slowly and distinctly, fixing each girl before her with a gimlet-eyed gaze before which they shrank. “And that’s enough! The next is Chloe.”

Chloe was a tolerably new student, and this was her first punishment. I was interested to hear what it was for, and leaned forward to hear better as she stood up, blushing and trembling with shame and wringing her hands at being thus singled out for disgrace before all her companions. Chloe is the timid, retiring type, poor thing!

“Chloe shall lose three terms (now you see why Sacharissa has been with us for so long without having graduated; when she wasn’t being expelled, she was losing terms like this), for yesterday, when looking through her drawing-book, I found a sketch of a perambulator!”
I dropped back on the bench while the lady undergraduates gasped in shock. Oh, why couldn’t the girls have a little more prudence? What could be more obviously annoying to Ida’s acute sensibilities than this?

Blanche held up the sketch of the baby-carriage, amid more gasps, while poor Chloe hid her face in shame. “Double perambulator, shameless girl!”

I got up, having had quite enough, and guided the trembling culprits back to the comparative seclusion of the hedge-surrounded benches where the rest of their mates were still gathered, while Blanche re-rolled out her manuscript importantly. As she glanced further down, a disappointed look came over her face. “That’s all at present,” she announced regretfully, while all the girls—and myself—sighed with relief.

“Now, attention, pray.” Lady Blanche rolled up her manuscript and tucked it under her arm, drawing herself up to her fullest height (not particularly full). “Your Principal the Princess comes to give her usual inaugural address to those young ladies who joined yesterday.”

I glanced over to the other side of the stream; yes, Ida was slowly approaching along the path, and had nearly reached the bridge by this time. The young lady students rose respectfully to their feet, waiting to greet her. And while they waited—as was most natural to them—they sang.

“Mighty maiden with a mission,
Paragon of common sense,
Running fount of erudition,
Miracle of eloquence.

We are blind, and we would see;
We are bound, and would be free;
We are dumb, and we would talk;
We are lame, and we would walk.

Mighty maiden with a mission,
Paragon of common sense,
Running fount of erudition—
Miracle of eloquence, of eloquence!”

Ida stood quite still on the centre of the bridge for a brief, impressive moment, gazing into space: with her queenly head crowned with braids of her golden hair, she looked exactly like a statue of the goddess Minerva whom she tried so hard to emulate. Then, slowly recalling herself to the task at hand, she came down the other side of the bridge and crossed the meadow to the platform above us, nodding stately greetings to several of the students, as well as to myself and Lady Blanche, as she went. Mounting the platform, she took a steady survey of the expectant assembly before her, and her whole demeanour changed. Even from my place, clear across the meadow, I could see her eyes flash fire; when she spoke, her voice was trenchant and alive with purposeful intensity.

“Women of Adamant!” All faces were raised to her expectantly; she extended a hand in gracious acknowledgement, and yet commanding their further attention. “Fair neophytes, who thirst for such instruction as we give”—I hid a smile over Ida’s characteristic use of the royal plural in referring to herself, despite her professed disdain for court manners—“attend, while I unfold a parable.”

I sat down, still looking at Ida with a polite pretense of attention, but I had stopped listening. I had heard this speech exactly seventy-two times before.

“The elephant is mightier than Man,” Ida announced. The new students exchanged looks, slightly confused as to what relevance this parable could possibly have to their situation, and edged a little closer to Ida’s platform, awaiting what she might say next. “Yet Man subdues him. Why? The elephant is elephantine everywhere but here,” Ida continued, tapping her forehead significantly. A murmur of comprehension ran through the assembly. “And Man, whose brain is to the elephant’s as Woman’s brain to Man’s—(that’s rule of three)—conquers the foolish giant of the woods, as Woman, in her turn, shall conquer Man.” A whisper of exited chatter greeted this bold statement. I half-listened as Ida went on.

“In Mathematics, Woman leads the way; the narrow-minded pedant still believes that two and two make four! Why, we can prove, we women—household drudges as we are—that two and two make five—or three—or seven; or five and twenty, if the case demands!
“Diplomacy? The wiliest diplomat is absolutely helpless in our hands . . .”

As Ida went on about logical argument, social graces, school mission, and the rules of fashion, my attention wandered. I gazed out past Ida’s head, over the sweeping castle grounds, to the strong walls of Castle Adamant. I could see the branches of the grand old trees just outside the gates tossing above the grim stone ramparts.

“There must be quite a breeze coming,” I speculated idly, but before I could take note to myself of the interesting meteorological phenomenon that the air where I sat was at present completely still and sultry, my attention was recalled to Ida once again. She was in the middle of her tirade—not actually part of her inauguration speech, but she almost invariably got drawn into it at the end—against the main fashion-houses of the day, and her determination to obliterate their influence, as an example of how she should soon treat all institutions founded and led by men.

“Let old associations all dissolve; let Swan secede from Edgar—Gask from Gask—Sewell from Cross—Lewis from Allenby! In other words, let Chaos come again!” Ida ended with her hands extended high in dramatic invocation, and the clustering band of students burst into enthusiastic applause. I doubted whether one in ten of them understood the implications of all that Ida said, but passion for a cause is catching, even if you don’t know what the cause is.

Ida regained her composure and smoothed her dress and hair carefully before descending from the platform—despite her strict rules against fashionable dress, she is quite particular of her own—and crossed towards me and Lady Blanche, through the crowd of curtseying, deeply respectful maidens. “Who lectures in the Hall of Arts today?” she inquired, back to being the businesslike, no-nonsense Principal of Adamant University.

Lady Blanche bustled past me to Ida’s side, all self-importance and specious formality. “I, madam, on Abstract Philosophy. There I propose considering, at length—”

“I don’t doubt that,” I muttered to myself, glancing at Ida, who had concealed her expression of disdain under the thinnest veil of supreme patience and courtesy.

“—three points,” Blanche continued. “The Is, the Might Be, and the Must: whether the Is, from being actual fact, is more important than the vague Might Be, or the Might Be, from taking wider scope, is for that reason greater than the Is: and lastly, how the Is and Might Be stand compared with the inevitable Must!”

Lady Blanche’s dramatic proclamation of her topic, utter bilge as it was, had at last managed to arouse Ida’s interest, if only slightly. “The subject’s deep—how do you treat it, pray?” she inquired, with pointedly polite curiosity.

Watching Lady Blanche, I could see her eyes narrow cunningly as she replied: “Madam, I take three possibilities, and strike a balance, then, between the three! As thus: The Princess Ida Is our head, the Lady Psyche”—here she indicated me; I traded quick glances with Ida and then drew back in a modest, retiring manner, hoping to thus invalidate what I guessed Blanche was about to hint with regard to my objectives—“Might Be, Lady Blanche—Neglected Blanche—inevitably Must. Given these three hypotheses—to find the actual betting against each of them!” Lady Blanche concluded, a self-satisfied smirk on her vapid face.

Ida’s own face had grown cold and pale during these last few sentences. She took a step towards Blanche, and when she spoke, her voice cut like a knife of ice. “Your theme’s ambitious: pray you bear in mind, who highest soar fall farthest.” I heaved an almost inaudible sigh of relief; thank goodness, at least Ida wasn’t being taken in by her as yet! “Fare you well, you and your pupils!” Ida threw a half-pitying, half-suspicious look at the poor souls who would be sitting through this libellous lecture, and then turned on her heel to go, beckoning to the rest of the young-lady students over her shoulder. “Maidens, follow me.”

The girls lined up in a double row: Ida at the head, me at the foot; and marched off in step, their voices raised once again:

“And thus to empyrean height
Of ev’ry kind of lore,
In search of wisdom’s pure delight,
Ambitiously we soar,

And all the knowledge we possess,
We mutually impart,
We mutually impart, impart!”

Ida led the girls inside, but I paused just outside the door and glanced back to where Lady Blanche was still standing, bolt upright in the centre of the meadow. The breeze, which had in fact picked up by now, carried her words, clearly intended for no ears but her own, to mine.

“I should command here—I was born to rule! But do I rule? I don’t. Why? I don’t know. I shall some day . . .” here I missed the next few words, as an unruly gust of wind blustered from the wrong angle, and when I next could hear clearly, Blanche was singing herself.

“Come mighty Must!
Inevitable Shall!
In thee I trust.
Time weaves my coronal!

Go mocking Is!
Go disappointing Was!
That I am this
Ye are the cursed cause!
Ye are the cursed cause!

Yet humble second
Shall be first, I ween;
And dead and buried be
The curst Has Been!

Oh weak Might Be!
Oh May, Might, Could, Would, Should! . . .”

Unable to stand any more of this outrageously grammatical declamation of Blanche’s life philosophy, I went inside and up to my spartan chamber to change out of my academic garb into my more informal afternoon attire.

“ ‘Humble second,’ indeed! Fiddle!” I huffed indignantly to myself as I tightened the laces of my bodice, thinking of a few ideas for putting Lady Blanche in her proper place that I would have liked to run by Ida for her approval, if only it had been my proper place to do so.

I checked my watch necklace; there was still a good half-hour before luncheon, so I could take a little time to read for recreation. I went to the door and carefully checked up and down the empty hall, before returning and extricating a slender, brown-covered volume with rather worn corners from underneath my mattress. If Ida ever caught me reading this romantic epic poem, I could easily manufacture an acceptable excuse of reading it purely for instruction in the areas of metrics and metre, thinking to use examples from it for instruction in one of my classes, but I would rather that she simply didn’t catch me reading it. I settled down for a few delightful stolen minutes riding away with my very own gallant, in the person of his rescued lady—what a pity it was, that men were so unlike my hero in reality, as Ida said!

“But have you left no lovers at your home who may pursue you here?” Ida’s voice, filtering through my window-curtains, recalled me to reality with a guilty start. I hastily re-hid the book under my mattress, and went to the window, throwing open the shutters and leaning out.

Ida, who had apparently taken her afternoon reading outside to her favourite bench, was standing beside it, talking to three rather ungainly-looking women, dressed in student robes. More new arrivals! I’d better get downstairs to greet them. My word, but they were unattractive ladies, though! Even from this distance, I could see that; and besides, one of them was just in the process of excusing the issue to Princess Ida.

“. . . We smile at girls who deck themselves with gems, false hair and meretricious ornament, to chain the fleeting fancy of a man, but do not imitate them. What we have of hair, is all our own. Our colour, too, unladylike, but not unwomanly, is Nature’s handiwork, and man has learnt to reckon Nature an impertinence.” The speaker’s companions, huddling behind close to each other—shy, I supposed—nodded their vigorous agreement with these sentiments.

“Well, beauty counts for naught within these walls,” I could hear the complacent smile in Ida’s voice, even though I could not see it, as she was turned from me and gazing intently at the first speaker, evidently eager to make her feel welcome. “If all you say is true, you’ll pass with us a happy, happy time!”

One of the other two piped up here, in a very thin, squeaky little voice, that yet sounded almost strangely familiar to me. “If, as you say, a hundred lovely maidens wait within, to welcome us with smiles and open arms, I think there’s very little doubt we shall!” Her companion next to her gave her a sharp nudge, almost a smack, at this juncture, which I could scarcely understand. There had been some oddly suppressed amusement and—something else—in the speaker’s tone, but I couldn’t quite see what was the matter with the sentiments she had expressed; in fact, they were just what Ida wanted to hear.

As I hurried down the stairs, I cudgelled my brains over where I could possibly have seen—or rather, heard—the second of these new arrivals before. Could they be some of the students who had earlier left the university, finding it too strict for their tastes, and had now repented and returned? But no; Ida had been speaking to them as entire newcomers. I still had not settled the issue as I ran across the meadow, meeting up with Ida, wending her own way back to the castle, midway throughout.

“Ah, there you are, Psyche,” there was an unusually sweet smile on Ida’s face as she greeted me. “I wondered where you were.” I blushed at the memory of what I had most recently been about, but my principal did not seem to notice as she continued: “Three new students have just arrived. They are still down by the bridge, I believe; I should like you to welcome them and introduce them to Melissa—she is always the best for making newcomers feel at their ease—before luncheon. They are splendid girls!” she added with sudden warmth. “Well, one of them is, anyway; I scarcely noted her two friends, I must admit, except to realize that they were decidedly her inferiors. It must be solely her natural kindness and sympathy that led her to take them up. I have never known a kindred spirit to so suddenly reveal oneself; we share such perfectly complementary views on the most central and most delightful of matters!” Ida seemed very excited, and I could scarcely blame her. While she and I are, you might say, “kindred spirits” in our own way, our ability to enjoy this relationship has lessened considerably ever since we left her father’s court and came to found Castle Adamant, where my subordinate position makes it difficult for Ida and I to share heart-to-heart talks about matters unrelated to business, as we used to. And the rest of the students are too far inferior to Ida in mental capacity to provide her with a companion; if she had found one among these new arrivals, I was too happy for her to be jealous, especially since I had some hope that my sense of “recognition,” as it were, might foretell the discovery of another kindred spirit for me, in that one of the other two friends.

With a smiling assurance to Ida that I would do as she requested of me, I ran merrily along the path, coming around the curve in the stream up to the rustic bench, just in time to overhear the tail end of some remark made by the one of the three new students who had made such a good impression on Princess Ida. From my vantage, however, it didn’t seem to make much sense.

“. . . maids, against our will we must remain.” The laughter—unusually deep and chesty—that greeted this statement was astonishingly boisterous, almost raucous. I could not understand, still less approve it.

“These ladies are unseemly in their mirth,” I remarked to myself, as I pushed away the hanging branches of the weeping willow and approached the three, who, upon seeing me, jumped a little and backed away, huddling together and appearing to be in conference. I surveyed them critically: from close range, they appeared even more awkward and inelegant of figure in their ladylike student costumes. I strained my ears to hear what was being said; it was the third of them, whom I had not heard speak as yet, who was addressing the one that Ida had found a kindred spirit.

“ . . . she’ll remember me, though years have passed . . .” the rest of the whisper was lost upon me. The one whose voice I thought I had recognized earlier glanced over at me, with an oddly admiring look. I felt uncomfortable, and backed up a few feet. But I couldn’t just leave; I was acting on Ida’s orders. And she seemed to like these young ladies, if that wasn’t too inappropriate of a term!

Ida’s new friend was whispering back now, and I stopped to listen more closely. “ . . . virtue of necessity . . . secret to her gentle care,” was all I got out of it.

The three now fell apart from each other, and the one I had heard whispering first approached me, with a strange mixture of hesitation, warmth, and embarrassment on her broad, strong-featured face. “Psyche!” The voice sounded husky with emotion.

I surveyed the three of them, my confusion growing greater by the moment. Where had I met these girls before?

“Why, don’t you know me?” Now this voice was starting to sound familiar—too familiar. Good gracious, if it was what I thought—could I be going mad?

But no, for my suspicions were immediately confirmed. “Florian!” the figure announced, coming quite close to me and throwing back his hood, revealing the full visage of my handsome twin brother.

“Why, Florian!” I cried in amazement, not knowing what else to say.

“My sister!” Florian embraced me heartily, as though we hadn’t seen each other in ten years—which, in fact, we hadn’t. I had gone back to Hildebrand’s court for one Christmas when I was ten, and never met any member of my family after that. I had heard that my parents had died, a few years before, and Florian was all I had left. But until now, seeing him again so unexpectedly, I hadn’t realized how dreadfully I had missed him.

“Oh, my dear!” I cried, embracing him in my turn. “What are you doing here—and who are these?” I turned inquiringly to the other two figures standing self-consciously—and yet a little self-importantly, too—beside us.

The one whom Florian had been whispering with stepped forward, cutting off the other’s intended attempt at approach to me. “I am that Prince Hilarion to whom your Princess is betrothed,” he announced, dropping his veil to his shoulders, so that I could plainly behold his noble, expressive features and kingly bearing. He held his head with the air of a genuinely romantic hero; I couldn’t believe that I was seeing this outside of my books. “I come to claim her plighted love. Your brother, Florian”—indicating him—“and Cyril,” turning to the other, the one whom I had first recognized as familiar, “come to see me safely through.”

So that was who it was! Cyril! The best friend of my childhood! It was almost too much. I stepped forward, my hands outstretched in greeting to both my brother’s friends.

“The Prince Hilarion?” I repeated, looking up into his face, and curtseying deeply as he nodded his confirmation of my address. “Cyril too?” I turned and gave him both my hands, which he took more than willingly, beaming openly into my face. He was evidently as delighted to see me as I was to see him, and didn’t care who else knew it. Cyril had always been demonstrative and outgoing—and ready to get himself and anyone else who would follow him, especially me, into trouble. But I had always been fond of him and his harum-scarum ways, for all that.

I gently freed my hands from his strong, almost possessive clasp, and stepped back again, gesturing for the three of them to draw together, so that I could look at all of them at once. “How strange!” I exclaimed, my voice still tremulous with delighted surprise. “My earliest playfellows!”

“Why, let me look!” Now it was Hilarion who stepped forward and took my hands. “Are you that learned little Psyche who at school alarmed her mates because she called a buttercup ‘ranunculus bulbosus’?” Florian burst out laughing, as brothers habitually do to their sisters, and I wrinkled my nose at him; but nodded, giggling, to Hilarion.

“Are you indeed that Lady Psyche,” that was Cyril’s easily recognizable voice again, as he pushed past Florian and Hilarion, to monopolize my attention once more, “who at children’s parties, drove the conjuror wild, explaining all his tricks before he did them?” He was grinning broadly at me, and I was on the verge of reminding him that he was the one who had announced the solution to the sleight-of-hand demonstrations, after I had explained it all to him in the utmost confidence, when Hilarion came to the front again, and Florian pulled me away from Cyril, with a “she’s my sister, not yours” manner.

“Are you that learned little Psyche,” the Prince pursued, “who at dinner parties, brought in to dessert, would tackle visitors with ‘You don’t know who first determined longitude—I do—Hipparchus ‘twas—B.C. one sixty-three!” All four of us nearly collapsed with laughter at this point; I hadn’t thought of that instance of five-year-old presumptuousness for years. “Are you indeed that small phenomenon?” Hilarion demanded, once he had got his breath back.

“That small phenomenon indeed am I!” I brushed my hair out of my eyes—between the embraces and the hand-shaking and the laughter, I had been more rumpled and disarranged in the past five minutes than I had in the course of any three hours of hard labour over the past ten years. But, judging from the complacent looks Cyril was directing at me, it couldn’t have been that unbecoming. Something in his expression, merry and careless as it was, nonetheless succeeded in bringing me back rather abruptly to the hard, cold facts of Castle Adamant reality.

“But gentlemen, ‘tis death to enter here!” I cried, moving forward with my arms outstretched protectively, as though to turn the three of them around and hurry them out of the sacred grounds they had so daringly invaded, shielding them myself from any observation the while. “We have all promised to renounce mankind!”

“Renounce mankind?” Florian mimicked me, shaking his head in his most worldly-wise, elder-brotherly (he was scarcely ten minutes older than I was) manner. “On what grounds do you base this senseless resolution?” Here he elbowed Cyril significantly, and he elbowed Florian right back, grinning, as if to say, “well put, old man!”

I shook my head, trying not to smile at their irreverent attitude towards the foundational principles of the university I had helped to found. What did they know about female ideals, anyway? “Senseless? No,” I replied decisively; and fortunately still having my lesson-book at hand, I took it out and searched rapidly through its pages for inspiration. The very thing! I tucked the book back inside my waistband, as I went on with the material from a lecture taught only last week, to enforce Ida’s central ideology: “We are all taught, and, being taught, believe”—here I paused, and surveyed the three boys severely for a moment. They returned my gaze gravely; even Cyril knew better than to crack a smile at this juncture—“that Man, sprung from an Ape, is Ape at heart.” I often wondered just how strongly the proponents of evolution would maintain their cause, if they realized all of its natural implications for the total demise of society as we know it.

“That’s rather strong.” Cyril had evidently realized them immediately. He had muttered these words to Hilarion, but I overheard him easily—he never had had any notion of how far his boisterous young voice could carry.

“The truth is always strong!” I retorted, vigorously, and prepared to recite the full explanation that Ida had drawn up to illustrate her point, with regard to this matter:

“A Lady fair, of lineage high,
Was loved by an Ape, in the days gone by—
The maid was radiant as the sun,
The Ape was a most unsightly one—
The Ape was a most unsightly one—

So it would not do—
His scheme fell through,
For the Maid, when his love took formal shape
Express’d such terror
At his monstrous error,
That he stammer’d an apology and made his ‘scape,
The picture of a disconcerted Ape.”

My listeners exchanged thoughtful glances—not as though they were convinced by the principles I was expounding, but as though they were thinking, “Ah, now we understand what is behind all of this university-going and disdaining of mankind! Well, well, and what are we to do about it, fellows?” I felt somewhat less certain of myself than I usually did when airing Ida’s views in my lectures, as I went on through the next verses:

“With a view to rise in the social scale,
He shav’d his bristles, and he dock’d his tail,
He grew mustachios, and he took his tub,
And he paid a guinea to a toilet club—
He paid a guinea to a toilet club—”

—That men would spend good money to a club in order to be recognized as gentlemen by their dress, or “toilet,” while a girl’s ladylikeness could be revealed by her dress and demeanour in itself, was something, I thought, that should clearly indicate, regardless of any flaws in the Darwinian theory, the natural superiority of the female to the male. But I continued—

“But it would not do,
The scheme fell through—
For the Maid was Beauty’s fairest Queen,
With golden tresses,
Like a real princess’s,
While the Ape, despite his razor keen,
Was the Apiest Ape that ever was seen!

He bought white ties, and he bought dress suits,
He cramm’d his feet into bright tight boots—
And to start in life on a brand new plan,
He christen’d himself Darwinian Man!”

—I enunciated those last two words most carefully—

“He christen’d himself Darwinian Man!

But it would not do—
The scheme fell through,
For the Maiden fair, whom the monkey crav’d,
Was a radiant Being,
With a brain far-seeing—
While Darwinian man, though well behav’d,
At best is only a monkey shav’d!”

The three friends exchanged laughing looks as I concluded my song; but then, much to my surprise, they joined in the chorus themselves!

“For the Maiden fair, whom the monkey crav’d,
Was a radiant Being
With a brain far-seeing—
While Darwinian man, though well behav’d,
At best is only a monkey shav’d!”

I sang the last two lines again myself; but by now, I was beginning to have my doubts as to the applicability of this theory to these three young men. Why, so far from being pompous and tyrannical, they were laughingly appropriating these disparaging views to themselves! Ida would never have just “laughed off” even a joke or false theory that professed to downgrade female intelligence! I didn’t know but that I preferred my former playmates’ manner, especially as they crowded about me again in so friendly a fashion—Florian squeezing my shoulder with brotherly affection, Hilarion nodding and smiling as though nothing could be more satisfactory to him than this reunion, and Cyril slyly endeavouring to gain possession of my hand once again, and not minding a bit when I slapped him, playfully. But before I could express what I was feeling about the situation—

“Oh, Lady Psyche!” Breathless and agitated, Melissa appeared, like some red-faced little fairy, in our midst. We fell rapidly apart from one another; the boys drawing some greater distance away, towards the bridge. Melissa stared after them, wide-eyed, and then returned her gaze to me, its innocent questioning almost unbearable. Oh, why hadn’t I remembered that Ida was sure to send her out to meet the three new students, after she had bade me introduce them to her?

“What, you heard us then?” I cried distractedly. “Oh, all is lost!” I turned away, wringing my hands as I tried desperately to think of some way to get these three fine, brave young fellows safely away from here before any real mischief could begin, and how to bribe Melissa to keep their secret, and then explain their sudden absence to Ida . . . my head was in a whirl, and for perhaps the first time in my life, I could find no ideas written down in my handy little lesson-book to help me out of my predicament.

Fortunately, I didn’t need it. “Not so! I’ll breathe no word!” And shaking her head earnestly, Melissa came up to me for long enough to lay a softly reassuring hand on my arm, before turning and half-apprehensively, half-excitedly approaching the three young men. “How marvellously strange!” she breathed, coming up to Florian, who happened to be in the front of the trio, “and are you then indeed young men?” She reached out a hesitant hand to touch his shoulder, as she might have petted some wild beast in the Castle Adamant menagerie, in assuring herself that it had indeed been thoroughly tamed.

Florian took her hand, somewhat awkwardly, and bowed gallantly to her before releasing it. Melissa gave a little gasp and stepped back, her hands pressed to her flushed cheeks, and beaming with girlish gratification all over her pretty face. Whether it was her beauty or her pleased reaction that more strongly impressed my brother at the moment, I do not know; but he certainly looked at her with a great deal of honest approval as he replied, somewhat playfully:

“Well, yes, just now we are—but hope by dint of study to become, in course of time, ‘young women.’ ” He went into a high falsetto tone on the last words, at which Hilarion and Cyril almost fell over with laughter, in which I also joined.

Melissa’s face remained quite serious, however, as she rejoined, in earnest appeal: “No, no, no—Oh, don’t do that! Is this indeed a man?” she cried, coming closer to Florian, and tentatively touching his face—which action did not appear to interfere with his complacency of spirits in the least. “I’ve often heard of them, but, till to-day, never set eyes on one. They told me men were hideous, idiotic, and deformed!” Cyril gave me a look at this point, pursing his lips and shaking his head in pretended disapproval. I shook my head back at him, with a deprecating gesture meant to absolve myself of any responsibility in having put these notions into Melissa’s impressionable young brain.

She seemed to be forming new—and improved—notions just now, however. “They’re quite as beautiful as women are!” she insisted, falling back a little and surveying the three, although her eyes came to rest on Florian again at the last. “As beautiful—they’re infinitely more so!” she breathed, clasping her hands in ecstasy. “Their cheeks have not that pulpy softness which one gets so weary of in womankind: their features are more marked—and—oh, their chins!” She reached out and felt my brother’s beard, starting slightly at the feel of it. “How curious!”

“I fear it’s rather rough,” my brother excused himself, taking her hand and smiling at her, in a somewhat embarrassed manner.

“Oh, don’t apologize,” Melissa replied eagerly—“I like it so!”

Feeling that matters had, by now, gone quite far enough as was consistent with the bounds of propriety, I started forward to change the subject. Cyril came to my side; less from a desire to help me in my motive, I suspected, than from one to urge me into a similar reaction to him as Melissa was demonstrating towards Florian. Truth be told, I would have been very little loath to oblige him, by this point.

“The woman of the wisest wit may sometimes be mistaken,” I admitted, smiling warmly at him. “In Ida’s views, I must admit, my faith is somewhat shaken!”

“On ev’ry other point than this, her learning is untainted,” Cyril replied, with gallant deference to my royal principal’s merits, taking my hand in his as he spoke. “But Man’s a theme with which she is entirely unacquainted!” I had to agree; how could Ida possibly be acquainted with what she refused to have anything to do? I marvelled that this thought had never occurred to me before.

Melissa had temporarily deserted Florian now, and gone over to Hilarion (although my brother was still following behind her, like a devoted puppy—I made a mental note to tease him with that simile, later, and pulled my hand from Cyril’s, so that my brother wouldn’t have an excuse to tease me back!) “My natural instinct teaches me,” Melissa began, prettily naïve, gazing up into Hilarion’s strongly handsome face with open admiration, at which he smiled benevolently, “and instinct is important!” she added—“You’re everything you ought to be, and nothing that you oughtn’t—Oh!” she exclaimed, as Florian caught her around the waist and pulled her jealously away.

Hilarion laughed good-naturedly, and bowed to Melissa with appropriately distant gallantry. “That fact was seen at once by you, in casual conversation,” he observed pleasantly, “which is most creditable to your powers of observation!”

“Then jump for joy,” I cried, suddenly overwhelmed with a need to express the fullness of my delight at these newly arrived revelations, “and gaily bound,” I ran into the centre, pulling Cyril after me and organizing an impromptu “Grand Chain” dance, in which the other three promptly joined, singing along with me:

“The truth is found—the truth is found!
Set bells a-ringing through the air—
Ring here and there and ev’rywhere—
And echo forth the joyous sound,
The truth is found, the truth is found!
And echo forth the joyous sound,
The truth is found—the truth is found!
And echo forth the joyous sound,
The truth is found—the truth is found!”

And singing and dancing and laughing, the five of us capered off together, hand in hand at first; but somehow, by the time we reached the castle, we had all split up. I had to go inside to set up for luncheon—we were dining out in the meadow that day, as the weather was still remaining so fine. Hilarion went off to find Ida, Florian going along with him to help, and Melissa had disappeared—taken up by her stern griffin of a mother, I supposed. I hoped she wouldn’t pump her about the “three new students” too closely!

That left only Cyril, and as soon as I had finished giving the necessary orders to the Daughters of the Plough, I ran off to find him. I wasn’t too surprised to find him in the Refectory, taking satisfactory draughts of the good wine we produced at Castle Adamant ourselves, drawing it out from an oaken barrel. That just seemed like it was one of the things that he would have grown up to do.

“Now, that’s enough, you great oaf,” I scolded, running up to him and pulling the glass out of his hand. “Can’t you wait for luncheon? We’re dining outside to-day; come along now!”

“I haven’t heard the bell—or don’t you ring one for meal-times here, what with all the rest of your unorthodox views?” he teased, shaking back his longish, court-style-cut hair from his flushed face.

I shook my head and propped my hands on my hips, keenly aware that I was utterly failing to look as stern as I wished. Cyril just kept on beaming at me—I knew quite well what his feelings towards me were. Back at King Hildebrand’s court, as children, even though we had all four been equal playmates, I had also always been very aware of being Hilarion’s little subject and Florian’s little sister. Being Cyril’s “little sweetheart,” for his especial association with me, had followed naturally. Evidently, his views on this matter had not changed in the past twelve years since I had left the court. But we were grown-up now, and circumstances had changed, and the sooner he realized this, the better!

“Of course we ring a bell, but we have to get down to the meadow before—oh, what’s the use? Tell me all about what brought you here on this wild-goose chase, then, you naughty boy, if you must do something while waiting for your meal,” I ordered, dropping down on a nearby stool and checking my watch. Less than ten minutes now, thank goodness!

“It wasn’t my idea, Psyche,” Cyril retorted, grinning down at me as he leaned negligently against the barrel, balancing himself with his elbow. I had put the glass on the table, just out of reach, I thought, but I had miscalculated how much Cyril had grown in the time since I had seen him last, and he reached out an impossibly long arm and collared it again, filling it up coolly from the spout as he went on, “Well, but didn’t any of you suppose that there might have been some kind of an uproar at the court, when you and Ida didn’t show up last month on the specified day, as promised by King Gama to our King Hildebrand?”

I groaned dismally. I could just imagine peppery old King Hildebrand’s reaction—I remembered how he had blown up at me and Cyril after some of the latter’s exploits, in the past! Apparently he hadn’t changed much since then. “I was a little worried, I confess, and so was Ida,” I admitted reluctantly, thinking back to our conversation beneath the willows, on her birthday.

“She should be!” Cyril remarked loftily, refilling his glass again. He balanced his fingers on either side of the rim, regarding the swirling liquid with a practiced, slightly hazy eye, as he went on talking. “Her father and brothers are being held hostage, until Hilarion comes back—with Ida.”

“We’ll see about that,” I replied dryly, hiding a smile at the idea of Ida being at all concerned over the fate of her three remarkably unintelligent—or in-tell-I-gent, as they pronounced it—overgrown hulks of conceited warrior brothers, whose only talent seemed to consist of carrying around impossibly heavy swords. Whether or not they could actually use the things, I had never seen put to the test, but I had my doubts. A “month to dwell in a dungeon cell” could do them very little harm. Ida wouldn’t capitulate just for that.

“Oh, you’ll see all right,” Cyril said airily, draining his glass. “Just you wait ‘til Hilarion turns the charm on full blast—he’s already gotten started!”

“No doubt he’s had practice,” I returned, with an ironic twist to my mouth.

“Not at all!” Cyril repelled my slanderous insinuation with warmth. “As far as Hilarion’s concerned, in his own mind, he’s been married to Ida for twenty years—and he’s a dashed faithful husband! That’s what I know: he’s always dreaming about Ida, talking about Ida, singing about Ida, composing sonnets to Ida; and the whole court knows all about his passionate feelings for her, and they’re in complete sympathy with him. Why, all the ladies of the court are always holding him up as a pattern to their own gallants, and whenever a fellow complains that he needs some encouragement, the girl retorts: ‘Well, look at Prince Hilarion; he gets no encouragement whatever, and see how devoted he is!’ There isn’t a girl alive who can stand against such tactics; though I’ll admit, they’re not my way.” He filled the glass again, as if to illustrate his point. Taking comfortable sips as he continued, he went on breezily, ignoring my half-mocking, half-disapproving laughter and attempts to get a hold of the glass: “It’s astonishing to me, how a fellow can be so attached to a girl before he’s even seen her to remember—although he always insists he does remember her. ‘A blushing bride, all bib and tucker, frill and furbelow! How exquisite she looked as she was borne, recumbent, in her foster-mother’s arms! How the bride wept—nor would be comforted, until the hireling mother-for-the-nonce administered refreshment in the vestry. And I remember feeling much annoyed that she should weep at marrying with me. But then I thought—“These brides are all alike. You cry at marrying me? How much more cause you’d have to cry if it were broken off!” These were my thoughts; I kept them to myself, for at that age I had not learnt to speak,’ ” Cyril rather improved his lengthy quotation of his friend with comically exaggerated gestures, which got a ready laugh out of me; I was glad to find that Hilarion’s growth in sentimentalism had not impaired his sense of humour. “I’ll make a bet with you, if you like, that he’ll have her swooning in less than a week! What odds?”

“Don’t be silly, Cyril!”

“Come on; don’t you want to get out of here, really?”

“I don’t know—but still, I wish him all the best, I’m sure,” I said, with a thoughtful shake of my head. “After all, it’s a great mistake to break a vow—especially a bridal vow.” I frowned a little as I considered my principal’s lack of principle in this area; it really did do her normally virtuous character very little justice.

“A bride’s a bride,” Cyril affirmed my statement, turning to fill his glass yet again. This time I jumped up, and thrust the plug back in with energy before any of the wine could spill out.

“That’s more than enough now; why, you’re already swaying on your feet, Cyril! Come on, I’d better get you out into the open air; luncheon will be being served any minute now.” Cyril followed me along willingly enough, as I dragged him out through the courtyard and down to the meadow.

As we ran along together arm-in-arm—although I was helping Cyril along more than he was me—I noticed another figure creeping stealthily ahead of us, keeping close to the hedges, until he reached the edge of the stream, when he stepped out boldly into the meadow’s sweep, not far from where another figure was standing in the centre of the hill, staring out pensively. Florian and Melissa!

“Melissa—come!” my brother whispered. I distracted Cyril with my watch—he was getting to the point where he was overly concerned with the smallest of details—and pulled him down behind the hedge, so I could watch the other two while my companion puzzled his by-now aching head over the roman numerals.

“Oh, sir!” Melissa rushed to him. “You must away from this at once!—My mother guessed your sex!” Why was I not surprised? “It was my fault.—I blushed and stammered so that she exclaimed, ‘Can these be men?’ ” Here Cyril attempted to get up; I pulled him back and took my watch away again, much to his bemusement. By the time I could return my attention to the little tête-à-tête, matters had gotten more developed. “She keeps your secret, sir, for reasons of her own,” Melissa almost whispered, but I caught the words on the breeze. Well, that was a relief, anyway. Of course, if Hilarion could get Ida, that would be all the better for Lady Blanche’s plans to gain the first position at Castle Adamant, and she had no doubt realized that right away. Sing hoity-toity! “But, fly from this and take me with you!” Well, that was coming on rather strong! My brother evidently thought so, too, and embraced Melissa delightedly. She, quickly recovering her maiden modesty, drew embarrassedly away, exclaiming nervously—“that is—no—not that!”

“I’ll go, but not without you!” my brother declared passionately, going down on one knee. Good grief, I had never had the slightest notion that he could be so charming when he chose! Melissa sighed and clasped her hands dreamily, regarding him with adoring eyes.

Just then—much to my relief, as I was starting to have some extreme difficulty keeping Cyril under control—he had noticed the two of them now, and seemed to think that the right approach to take to the situation was to laugh uproariously at them, and I was afraid he would be overheard, even with the wind blowing the other way—“Bong, bong, bong,” came a familiar sound.

Familiar to me, that is, but not to my brother. Florian cocked his head inquiringly in the direction from which it had come. “Why, what’s that?” he asked Melissa.

“The luncheon bell,” she replied, lightly explaining with a careless little wave of her small hand.

Florian bounced up onto his feet again with alacrity. “I’ll wait for luncheon then!” he decided immediately, offering Melissa his arm. Oh, so like a boy! Melissa was evidently learning twice as much in the past half-an-hour than she had in all her years previous at Castle Adamant, for she sighed and laughed and took Florian’s arm, completely abreast of what would be the best thing to do.

I grabbed Cyril and dragged him determinedly across the meadow after them, hoping that between the three of us, we could keep him quiet. I caught up to Melissa just as she was spreading out the picnic blanket, and pushed Cyril down onto it, gesturing explanation to the others, who immediately fell in with my plan and gathered closely around him, setting up for eating some sobriety-inducing food.

The rest of the castle inhabitants were pouring into the meadow by now, led by the Daughters of the Plough bearing platters of meat, fruit, and sweets. I could just see Ida and Hilarion, lingering on their way, in close conversation, and traded smiling glances with Cyril, who was clear-headed enough to notice that, at least! But what Ida would think when she found out that her newly discovered “kindred spirit” was not only a man, but the very man she had spent her entire life avoiding—I shuddered to think. Hilarion had better play his cards very carefully, or she’d never forgive him. I leaned forward to hear better what they were talking of, but thanks to Cyril’s growing obstreperousness, and the girl students chorusing away as they laid out their own picnic blankets and selected their favourite tidbits from the trays, I couldn’t notice anything more than that Hilarion was talking very earnestly, and Ida was smiling and nodding and seemed exceptionally pleased by all the sentiments he expressed. So far, so good. I took some sandwiches off the tray nearest to me and gave them to Cyril, with a warning look, and joined in the song myself, to take my mind off all these complex predicaments, for the moment.

“Merrily ring the luncheon bell!
Merrily ring the luncheon bell!
Here in meadow of asphodel,
Feast we body and mind as well.
Merrily ring the luncheon bell!
Ring, oh, ring,
Oh, merrily ring the luncheon bell, the luncheon bell!”

Lady Blanche, arriving on the scene at this juncture, with an even more severe expression of countenance than usual—even if she was going to fall in with our plans, that didn’t mean she was going to approve them!—blocked the approach of several of the most eager young ladies to the most well-filled sandwich tray. “Hunger, I beg to state, is highly indelicate, this is a fact profoundly true,” she declared haughtily, helping herself to a substantial portion as she spoke. “So learn your appetites to subdue!” She prepared to take a bite out of the biggest sandwich.

“Yes, yes, we’ll learn our appetites to subdue,” sighed the girls, regretfully handing their own sandwiches back over.

“Madam, your words so wise, nobody should despise!” Somehow, while I wasn’t watching, Cyril had sneaked out from behind me—and when I turned around and looked at Florian and Melissa, gazing sentimentally at one another, I understood why—and gone up to Lady Blanche and grabbed away her sandwich before she could take even one bite! I couldn’t help enjoying the expression on her face, as she watched Cyril chomping satisfactorily away on it himself, before he swallowed and added, drunkenly apologetic: “Curs’d with an appetite keen I am, and I’ll subdue it—I’ll subdue it”—he repeated, wavering—“I’ll subdue it”—he hiccupped—“with cold roast lamb!” He took another bite of the sandwich, and came unsteadily back to me, looking so very pleased, however foolishly, with how he had handled this delicate situation, that I didn’t have the heart to scold him as I pulled him back down next to me, inwardly resolving to not let him get away again so easily, if I didn’t have a bite to eat myself in order to accomplish it.

The rest of the girls had been watching their unorthodox new associate with some puzzlement and even trepidation at first; but the conclusion “she” had provided to them certainly met with all of their approval! “Yes, yes, we’ll subdue it with cold roast lamb!” they all decided, descending upon the sandwiches again, despite Lady Blanche’s desperately futile attempts to ward them off.

“Merrily ring the luncheon bell!
Merrily ring the luncheon bell!
Oh, ring,
Oh, merrily ring the luncheon bell, the luncheon bell!”

Once all the girls had collected their food and their friends, and settled down in their own respective nooks to giggle and dine and generally relax, and with Cyril completely occupied with the food I had piled as high as I could on his plate, I was able to return my attention to Hilarion and Ida, now seated side by side on her favourite bench.

“You say you know the court of Hildebrand?” I had evidently come in just in the middle of the conversation, which Hilarion seemed to have been steering around to the most applicable topics—or maybe Ida was more interested in them than I would have thought. “There is a Prince there—I forget his name—” Ida broke off with well-assumed carelessness, turning away and plucking at the daisies growing beside the bench.

“Hilarion?” Hilarion hinted, straining his voice as high as it could possibly go. I dared not look at Florian, or I should never be able to keep a straight face. I leaned forward to listen more closely.

“Exactly!” I was startled by the eagerness in Ida’s voice. What did she care about him? Evidently this consideration occurred to her, too, for she collected herself, and when she next spoke, her voice was cold. “Is he well?”

“If it be well to droop and pine and mope, to sigh ‘Oh, Ida! Ida!’ all day long, ‘Ida! my love! my life! Oh, come to me!’ ”—Hilarion was certainly putting it on well, as Cyril was attempting to convey to me with his elbow in my ribs: I shoved him away, hard—“If it be well, I say, to do all this, then Prince Hilarion is very well,” Hilarion concluded seriously, giving Ida a look that would have made anybody start thinking.

But Ida wasn’t looking back at him. She was gazing at the ground, with flushed cheeks and bright eyes. “He breathes our name?” she rather breathed herself, fingering her collar with unusually nervous fingers. Then she abruptly straightened up, and took a shortbread off of her plate. “Well, it’s a common one!” she remarked brusquely, taking a bite. “And is the booby comely?” she added a moment later, once manners would allow.

I heard Melissa giggle behind me at this contradictory remark, but it failed to amuse Hilarion quite so much. “Pretty well,” he returned, somewhat huffily. “I’ve heard it said that if I dressed myself in Prince Hilarion’s clothes”—Ida gave him an astonished look—(“supposing this consisted with my maiden modesty,” he made haste to add), “I might be taken for Hilarion’s self. But what is this to you or me,” he added, turning a little away from her, evidently trying to keep his annoyance over her scorn in check, “who think of all mankind with undisguised contempt?” He glanced back at Ida, curiously. I, too, wondered what she would have to say to that!

Greatly to my surprise, she laughed, although a faint blush lingered on her cheeks. “Contempt? Why, damsel, when I think of man, contempt is not the word,” she replied, almost playfully, bending to pick up a piece of fruit from the tray at her feet, and turning to offer it to Hilarion, who didn’t even see it, being absorbed in gazing fervently at her.

I didn’t think he should be quite so obvious about it, but I was too busy puzzling over what Ida’s cryptic response—so different from how she usually referred to Man—could possibly mean, to have any ideas left for helping him out.

“I’m sure of that, or if it is, it surely should not be!” Apparently Cyril had caught Ida’s remark, too, and was as interested as I in figuring out what it meant, if not as subtle about it. I tried to hush him, but he brushed past me towards the bench. I clutched desperately, but missed him by inches.

Hilarion, fortunately, pushed him away before he could get Ida’s attention. “Be quiet, idiot, or they’ll find us out,” he hissed at him. But Cyril only brushed him off as well, now being in that state of supreme alcohol-induced indifference to anyone but himself and what he had made up his mind—or what was currently left of it—to say.

“The Prince Hilarion’s a goodly lad!” he announced, now standing before Ida. I slumped down despairingly, and traded glances with the Prince so named. No doubt Cyril had a hazy notion in his mind of “helping boost Hilarion’s footing” with Ida in this manner, but if we didn’t all watch out, he might spoil everything! I got up, to try and watch my chance of pulling him back. Hilarion gestured for me to wait a moment, though—Ida might get suspicious if we moved too quickly.

You know him then?” Ida was looking at Cyril now, with some barely concealed—well, yes, it was contempt—on her face. Of course she couldn’t know the reason for Cyril’s unbounded high spirits—at least, I hoped not—but she never approved of anyone growing too lively in her presence.
“I rather think I do!” Cyril responded, swaying back and forth and keeping his feet by what seemed like a miracle. “We are inseparables!” He grinned at Hilarion, who looked like a prisoner being tortured on the rack, by this point.

“Why, what’s this?” Ida gasped. “You love—him—then?”—the notion definitely seemed to bother her considerably. Well, maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to bring a little green-eyed monster into the picture. Go it, Cyril—just not too far, please!
But he was well past knowing how far was too far. “We do indeed—all three!” he replied, looking stupidly at the fingers he had held up to display this arithmetical “fact.”

“Madam, she jests!” Hilarion said hurriedly, getting up and thrusting Cyril back, energetically. I grabbed him before he could fall, and prepared to lead him back, with Florian and Melissa’s proffered help. “Remember where you are!” Hilarion thrust his face very close to Cyril’s, looking rather like his father did when angered, his eyes flashing their indignation.

But Cyril’s mind had not yet moved past an earlier remark, so he didn’t take this last one in. “Jests? Not at all!” he scoffed, shaking me off and moving back towards Ida again. Hilarion blocked his way. Cyril surveyed him thoughtfully a moment, and then seemed struck by a brilliant idea, and pointed a shaky finger at him. “Why, bless my heart alive, you and Hilarion, when at the Court, rode the same horse!”

I groaned aloud at this lame paradox, but fortunately my despair was drowned out by Ida’s own horrified exclamation. “Astride?” she cried, rising indignantly to her feet.

“Of course!” Cyril turned and looked at her shocked face for a moment. He seemed to puzzle himself briefly over what the matter could possibly be; then, with a shrug, dismissed the issue as too difficult for present contemplation. “Why not?” he riposted. Returning his attention to Hilarion, he continued his devastating catalogue: “Wore the same clothes—and once or twice, I think, got tipsy in the same good company!” He burst into loud laughter, and elbowed Hilarion companionably in the ribs—which gesture of good fellowship was far from being very well received.

“Well, these are nice young ladies, on my word!” Ida exclaimed, directing an affronted glance at me. Well, what did she expect me to do?

Cyril, always one who, having once taken up an idea, would carry it through to its full extent, had not done himself full credit even now. “Don’t you remember that old kissing-song he’d sing to blushing Mistress Lalage,” he bawled at the top of his voice to all and sundry, “the hostess of the Pigeons?”—I’d bet anything it was Cyril himself who had sung it, and it looked like he was about to do it again! Yes, I was right—“Thus it ran,” he bellowed, shaking off Hilarion, who toppled back down onto the bench.

Florian, at this point, charged past me and started to take a more active point in handling the situation. In almost one motion, he smoothly urged Ida back to sit down on the bench, helped Hilarion up so that he was also blocking her view, and shoved Cyril behind him back towards me. Well, thanks a lot. It was too late to stop him from singing, though.

“Would you know the kind of maid
Sets my heart aflame-a?
Eyes must be downcast and staid,
Cheeks must flush for shame-a!

She may neither dance nor sing,
But, demure in ev’rything,
Hang her head in modest way,
With pouting lips,
With pouting lips that seem to say,

‘Oh, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me,
Though I die of shame-a!’
Please you, that’s the kind of maid
Sets my heart aflame-a!
‘Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me,
Though I die of shame-a,’
Please you, that’s the kind of maid
Sets my heart aflame-a!”

By now, my cheeks were “flushed for shame-a” myself, as I tried desperately to drag Cyril back to the picnic blanket—while avoiding his attempts to kiss me and any of the other girls who were unlucky enough to get in his way as well. Fortunately, they were all trying to stay as far away from him as they could; but then Cyril broke away from me and went chasing after Lady Blanche, of all people—and he still had another verse to go.

“When a maid is bold and gay,
With a tongue goes clang-a,
Flaunting it in brave array,
Maiden may go hang-a!

Sunflow’r gay and hollyhock
Never shall my garden stock;
Mine the blushing rose of May,
With pouting lips,
With pouting lips that seem to say—”

Really, this song didn’t seem to me to be describing the sort of girl Cyril would want at all—nor Hilarion, nor Florian, for that matter. I wasn’t a bit like this girl, and Ida wasn’t, and even Melissa really wasn’t, either. But it’s no use trying to reason with a completely tipsy gentleman, so I just sighed and watched resignedly, with folded arms, as Cyril roared out the last chorus, aiming it towards Ida now—but she was fortunately blocked by the broad shoulders of the other two new “lady” students!

“ ‘Oh, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me,
Though I die of shame-a!’
Please you, that’s the kind of maid
Sets my heart aflame-a!
‘Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, kiss me,
Though I die of shame-a!’
Please you, that’s the kind of maid
Sets my heart aflame-a!”

As Cyril held the last note, he put the finishing touches to his destruction by shoving between the other two and attempting to grab Ida’s hand. She shoved right back, knocking Cyril off balance—much to his astonishment—and darted to a safe distance, brushing off Hilarion’s attempts to follow and appease her.

“Infamous creature, get you hence away!” she cried, in tremulous tones. I cast a dull glance around the entire assembled company, grouped together in various stages of shrinking horror—except for Lady Blanche, who was standing apart with a look of grim satisfaction on her face. I should have liked to pull her hair!

But there were other more pressing concerns at hand. Hilarion, who had restrained himself for just as long as was humanly possible, turned on Cyril now and struck him savagely. “Dog! There is something more to sing about!”

Cyril choked. “Hilarion, are you mad?” he exclaimed, sounding suddenly sobered—ten minutes too late. I sighed and raised my eyes to Heaven in mute appeal. What next?

“Hilarion?” There are no words to describe the tone of Ida’s voice in full—amazement, horror, revulsion, shame, and terror were all mixed up in it. “Help! Why, these are men!” Cries went up all around, from the girls who had been equally slow on the uptake. Ida wrung her hands in her hair, distractedly, and rushed blindly for the bridge. “Lost! Lost! betrayed, undone!” she cried, reaching the overpass on flying feet, and turning there at bay. “Girls, get you hence!” she ordered, with a commandingly outstretched hand.

I was used to obeying Ida without question, and almost automatically began to herd the girls in my immediate vicinity back towards the castle. Hilarion, having somewhat recovered himself and finished glaring at poor Cyril by now, slowly straightened up and headed towards Ida, his hands outstretched in self-deprecating appeal.

It failed to touch Ida’s heart, however. The look of stunned aversion on her face only deepened, as she slowly backed away across the bridge. “Man-monsters, if you dare approach one step, I—Aaah!” the one step too many had been taken by Ida herself, as she pitched off the side of the bridge into the rushing waters below. Hilarion dashed forward.

“Oh! save her, sir!” I cried, instinctively but unnecessarily, as Hilarion was already plunging in.

“It’s useless, sir—you’ll only catch your death!” shouted Lady Blanche, from behind me.

I flung her a scornful glance over my shoulder, as I rushed onto the bridge myself, with several of the other girls, to breathlessly watch the rescue attempt. “He catches her!” cried Sacharissa, who had the best vantage point.

“And now he lets her go!” gasped Melissa, who was just above me. “Again she’s in his grasp—”

“And now she’s not,” I groaned, leaning over the railing precariously far myself. Florian grabbed my arm to keep me back, evidently thinking that one girl falling into the water was enough for one day (and, anyway, it wasn’t as though Cyril was in any condition to rescue me). I strained to see into the depths of the churning froth about the two struggling figures. “He seizes her back hair!” I cried, in mingled relief and anxiety.
“And it comes off!” Lady Blanche shouted hopefully, from a distance.

“No, no!” I shouted back, indignation giving strength to my voice. As though Ida would dream of wearing a hairpiece! “She’s saved!—she’s saved!—she’s saved—she’s saved!” I stumbled off the bridge and collapsed onto the bench next to Cyril (who had his face hidden in his hands, poor boy), weak with relief.

The rest of the girls scampered off the bridge as well, to make a path for the two bedraggled figures climbing up the bank, fetching them blankets, and chattering excitedly to each other. The circumstances were, I admitted, such as would appeal to girlish romantic tastes. “Oh, joy! Our chief is sav’d, and by Hilarion’s hand; the torrent fierce he brav’d, and brought her safe to land! For his intrusion, we must own, this doughty deed may well atone!” Cyril looked up and glanced at me hopefully; I gave him an answering glance and shrug—although there was no doubt now, judging from both the whispered words and the adoring looks being cast at Hilarion as he helped Ida back up the hill, what the sentiments of the student body at large now were, I had my doubts about Ida herself letting go of all her prize prejudices so readily.

I had not deceived myself, either, unfortunately. Shaking Hilarion off angrily, Ida drew to a little distance above him, and cried, in a voice tremulous with frustrated fury: “Stand forth, ye three, whoe’er ye be, and hearken to our stern decree!”

Hilarion immediately went down on his knees, as did Florian; Cyril awkwardly got up off the bench and followed their example, with my assistance. “Have mercy, O lady, disregard your oaths!”

“I know not mercy, men in women’s clothes!” Ida retorted. Isn’t that just what I said before? “The man whose sacrilegious eyes invade our strict seclusion, dies! Arrest these coarse intruding spies!” she gestured imperiously to the stolid Daughters of the Plough, who came forward and began to bind the three young men’s hands. Where they had gotten the ropes from so quickly, I was sure I didn’t know—but I suspected Lady Blanche.

“Have mercy, O lady—disregard your oaths!” I was joined in my pleading by the rest of the girls. There was not one of them who was not on Hilarion’s side by now—but what did that matter, if Ida was not?

“I know not mercy, men in women’s clothes!” she repeated haughtily, turning her back coldly on the man who had just saved her life, and was now being bound by her orders. Oh, for shame!

But Hilarion’s methods of appeal to Ida’s finer feelings took a somewhat different approach than mine would have, had I even dared to speak to her. Drawing away from the young woman who had bound him, he went down once again on one knee, unhesitating and unashamed, as his voice rang out in passionate longing:

“Whom thou hast chain’d must wear his chain,
Thou canst not set him free.
He wrestles with his bonds in vain
Who lives by loving thee!

If heart of stone for heart of fire,
Be all thou hast to give,
If dead to me my heart’s desire,
Why should I wish to live?

No word of thine—No stern command
Can teach my heart to rove,
Then rather perish by thy hand,
Than live without thy love!
A loveless life apart from thee
Were hopeless slavery,
Were hopeless slavery.

If kindly death will set me free,
Why should I fear to die?
If kindly death will set me free,
If kindly death will set me free,
Why should I fear, why should I fear
To die!”

I listened with bated breath to this tenderly powerful appeal, hoping that it would have some significant effect on Ida’s sentiments. Towards the end of the song, indeed, she seemed to be giving him some attention, and even wavering a little in her resolution. But Ida despises weakness in herself even more than she does in anybody else, and she once again drew herself up proudly, and swept an outstretched arm towards the Daughters of the Plough. Take them away!

Miserably, I followed after the three young men and their impassive guards, longing to do something to ease the situation for them, but well aware that Ida was watching the retreat with sternly folded arms. We crossed the greensward and approached the corner tower, underneath which lay the Castle Adamant dungeons. The Daughter of the Plough in the front unlocked the door and led us in.

Around the curve in the stairs, as we waited for the Daughters of the Plough to finish raising the heavy bars across the door leading to the dungeon, Cyril turned to me with agonizingly imploring eyes. “Oh, forgive me, Psyche!” he pleaded brokenly, his head bowed with keen remorse.

“It’s Hilarion’s pardon you should ask, not mine,” I replied, with sorrowful regret.

“But it’s only yours I care about!” he insisted, trying to take my hands, even though his were bound together in front of him, and bending his head down to kiss mine. I withdrew them quickly from his grasp; he gave me a look of pain and bewilderment, and I smiled at him reassuringly and mutely turned my cheek to him. He gave me another look, this time of incredulous delight, and then gladly availed himself of my silent invitation.

I drew back in a moment, and watched as the boys descended into the dungeon after their lady guards: Cyril moving like a man walking on air to the seventh heaven; Hilarion walking with the steadfast and self-sacrificial tread of a martyr going to the stake; and Florian stumbling along absently, as though his mind were elsewhere. Exactly where I wasn’t sure, but I could readily guess with whom!

I had to talk to Ida; she couldn’t just let matters stand the way they were. Swiftly, I turned and rushed back up the stairs and out again into the meadow.

Ida was still standing where I had last seen her, staring at the tower with pale face and stony eyes, the wind whipping her blanket around her otherwise immobile figure. Well, these signs could be considered promising, if I went about her the right way, but the task was hardly one to be approached with obvious relish! But I squared my shoulders and headed towards her.

My attention was suddenly caught by some movement on the stairs leading down from the castle ramparts. Melissa was climbing down, stumbling in her haste; and even from this distance, I could see that her face was pale with tense excitement, as she jumped down the last step and took off like a shot towards Ida.

“Madam!” her high voice carried clearly, and Ida turned to look at her inquiringly. And now—what was that I heard outside the castle walls. That martial, pounding, battering sound? Oh, no—oh no. I caught up my skirts and started running; the last thing Ida needed right now was some new trouble to further sour her against her three precious male prisoners. But Melissa had the start of me, and she’d reach Ida long before I could . . .

If you’d like to hear more of what happens next, then come to the show! Performances are at Delaware Valley College, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, at 8 P.M. on Friday, June 13th, and 2 P.M. and 8 P.M. on Saturday, June 14th (a great Father’s Day celebration idea!) To order tickets and for further information, see the following website: www.bucksgilbertandsullivan.org.

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2 thoughts on “Princess Ida Serial

  1. You had such a rich and full education Cate, G&S wasn’t a part of my childhood, I’ve so much catching up to do, I sang in the Yeoman of the Guard at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music at the end of year production once and as Yum Yum one time. I hope you all had a fabulous time in the production I used to love performing with my brothers.

    I’ve made a note of ‘cudgelled my brains’ I like that.

    1. Thank you, Charlotte. I’ve been very lucky to get to experience so many different kinds of things with my family. We had a wonderful time with the production; Ida was my first lead role in G&S, so it was very special for me. I’m hoping to do Yum-Yum next year; my family and I just moved across the pond to England, Buckinghamshire to be exact, and the closest G&S society is doing The Mikado next fall.

      I’m glad you liked one of the archaic-sounding phrases I like to use in my writing! Sometimes I wonder whether anyone will know what on earth I am talking about!

      Best regards,

      Cate

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