Wednesday, 14 May 2008
The Water Dragon's Revenge.
It is said that in a country mansions in Britain, all kinds of strange things happen. Having met the Snork-Hamptons at a Royal Garden Party recently, I can well believe it. However, Reggie Fitz-Nizely (short for Regina she says), the daughter of Duke Snaffling Fitchett (a place in Wiltshire I'm told) told me that she personally heard it from Sarah Jones a city friend of hers that at Snaffling Fitchett once there was a water dragon. Reggie, I am afraid has no sense of romance or imagination so she chortled somewhat at the thought. If a horse were human, then it would look something like Reggie. She is glossy, strongly built and has a tendency to gallop when she ought to walk. Unlike a horse she also has a capacity for gin that would fell a lesser man. Next to Reggie most men are lesser too.
I sought Sarah Jones out one weekend, treated her to lunch and asked her about the water dragon. She sighed and then realising that I was not about to make fun of her she told me this tale; and now I'm telling it to you.
It seems that Reggie's grandma owned a small fleet of pekinese dogs that she adored. She would often take them for walks around the mansion grounds at Snaffling Fitchett and part of that walk involved going beside the large lake there. One by one, the pekes were disappearing it seems. Her Grace owned about thirty of the little terrors so it was impressive that she noticed, but when one particular dog with a name (and quite possibly) a pedigree bigger than itself went missing, her Grace sent out the whole household to look for him. He, I am afraid to say, was never found. But one of the maids found a large solid egg that looked like it was made of glass. When she handed it to the Duchess - a short woman with a dangerous and short-sighted look and a ghastly penchant for the most dreary of sensible shoes - her Grace was puzzled. She held it in her hand and tilted it. Within the form of it, something barely visible moved and the Duchess almost dropped the 'egg' in surprise. She placed it on a cushion and sent Grimes over to Wilting Stanley to ask the vicar to come and see it. He was known as something of a naturalist and the Duchess hoped he'd be of some help here.
Now it happens that there was a delegation of Chinese gentlemen staying at the vicarage in Wilting Stanley and one of these gentlemen was also something of a naturalist and a scholar of the folklore in his country. He was intrigued so the vicar brought him along and introduced him to the Duchess. The pekes, strangely one might think were not fond of the gentleman, which was a shame for he was a decent sort of chap. But perhaps it was because he was unknown to them, unlike the vicar who would occasionally feed them at table when the Duchess wasn't looking.
The Duchess showed them both the strange 'egg' but the vicar could make nothing of it at all other than what it appeared to be - a glass object in the shape of an egg. He did not see any movement in it at all. But the Chinese gentleman took the 'egg' gently in one hand and tilted it slightly. He frowned and then took from his pocket a lighter and flicked it into flame. Passing the flame beside the 'egg' he lit up an almost transparent arabesque within it. This barely visible thing seemed to follow the flame as if it depended on it.
"Wherever it was found your Grace, it ought to be returned. Or it should be placed into the lake within your great garden. For from what I recall of my country's folklore, what you have here is the egg of a water dragon. The mother dragon is unlikely to be pleased if the egg is not returned to her," the Chinese gentleman told the Duchess.
Now her Grace had always lived at the Hall and she prided herself on her sense of realism (probably where Reggie gets it from) and her historic solid Anglican family tradition. She giggled at the gentleman's comment and taking it from him she said that such nonsense was not the sort of thing a British Lady would consider. Besides, this was a Christian household in England and such silly things didn't happen here. The Chinese gentleman stiffened, bowed and bid her Grace goodbye. He placed the egg back on the cushion and returned to the car while the vicar tried to be diplomatic. The Duchess was somewhat mentally short-sighted as well as physically and still believed in droit de seigneur even tho' her family were seen as no better than any other in our modern age. She humoured the vicar and bid him farewell, telling him that she would expect him at lunch on Sunday after church as usual.
She did not, I'm sorry to report, return the egg to the lake. Instead she had it mounted in silver and placed it as a finial for a newel post at the bottom of the stairs. Without its mama to care for it and hatch it, the little dragonlet is thought to have died. That very night the lake vanished along with all the water in the house and around it. There was a severe drought at Snaffling Fitchett so that her grace was forced to leave for her London residence. Five more of her pekes disappeared too. It was widely reported that this was due to a mother water dragon getting her revenge, tho' nothing was ever proved and when her Grace returned to the Hall in the Winter, it rained something awful until the Hall was flooded, carrying off the remaining pekes and forcing the staff to resign for fear of a dragon much worse than her Grace.
The Duchess returned to London a wetter but no wiser a woman. Three years later, she died and Reggie's father inherited the title. The very first thing he did was take the egg and bury it with full funerary honours in the lake. During the oration he apologised to the water dragon for his mother's short-sightedness and assured the dragon that he would never do such a thing himself. It seems to have worked, for his family was spared, tho' Reggie is showing the same sort of daftness herself. Her friends are committed to keeping her in town for her own safety.