Friday, 20 March 2009
I knew a man once. His name was Henry... at least I think it was Henry, but I can't be sure. Anyway, Henry was a very smart man - some people used to say he was a little too smart. He had PhD's coming out of his ears and in all kinds of subjects. He was visiting Professor in several prestigious universities and governments used to consult with him. One afternoon he came up with solutions to the National Debt in fifty countries. He invented a cure for Bigelow's Syndrome and Tigwidget's Disease, which had both been incurable until he came along.
He never bothered with either religion or politics considering their practice dull. But he was a terrific historian and political scientist. He solved the theft of the Snorkhampton diamonds and found the Willesly child through sheer deductive reasoning. He had one weakness, for in all the great minds there is a weakness. It is as if Nature in her infinite wisdom does not want the great people of our age to get above themselves. So she puts in them a flaw to remind them and the rest of us that they are only human and no better or worse than anyone else.
Of course people admired and were even jealous of Henry, but he ignored them. For his weakness was folktales. He loved to read them and it was said that when he was very little his mama had read them to him to keep him entertained. I don't know if that was true, Henry's mother went off to Peru soon after he got a job and home of his own. She never looked back and nobody ever found her, not even the nosier sections of the press. Still, Henry loved folktales and I loved them too, which was how we met.
One weekend in the late afternoon Henry came around and invited me to go for a walk with him. He was quiet and soft-spoken, so I knew his brain was working on something. I agreed, having nothing to do that afternoon, my book on Poetic Cultures in Ancient Incan post-Breakfast Societies having stalled again.
We went out towards the Neveryoumind Woods, named after a fractious landowner of times past and there I paused.
"The bluebells are out Henry," I said quietly, "It might not be a good idea to continue."
Henry looked up out of his reverie and blinked owlishly. For a moment he stood there, his hands in his pockets and a slightly preoccupied look on his face. I repeated myself for him and he winked.
"Oh come now, you're not afraid of faeries, are you?" he said with a grin.
Almost instantly I had a bad feeling inside. I sighed and tried to reason with him, but for whatever reason, he would not listen. I was cross and turned away. I would not go into the bluebell woods. Henry told me I was being foolish - superstitious even. Perhaps I was, but I had in my family an aunt several times removed who could not speak because of the faeries and I wasn't going to challenge them if I didn't have to.
Henry however dismissed me with a wave and walked purposefully into the woods. He even trod on a few bluebells to show he did not give a damn for the faeries. I could not help myself then. I had to turn and watch. I saw a wild looking young woman glare at him and watched him turn. She said something to him and I heard him say clearly,
"Madam, I am Henry and there are no such things as faeries as you well know. It's all superstitious nonsense."
He paused when she spoke then shouted, "Henry Hargreaves, dammit. What do you mean you've never heard of me? Everyone's heard of Henry Hargreaves."
I remember seeing the young woman smile a slow spiteful smile and heard her say, "Henry Who?" and in that instant I was standing looking at a young wild woman and a man I vaguely felt I knew. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away, not sure where I'd seen him. I know that nobody afterwards ever mentioned Henry Hargreaves. Nobody seemed to know who he was, tho' I slowly remembered him as if I had known his once a long, long time ago.
On the brass plaque outside the Henry Hargreaves building in London however only the mocking words of the young wild woman could be seen - "Henry Who?"