Jenna Mohl, BFR Staff
Mr. John Crumpet and Mrs. Victoria Crumpet were in the middle of breakfast on a dreary Saturday morning. Mrs. Crumpet was regaling her husband with delightful tales of social scandal, while Mr. Crumpet read the paper, tugging on his whiskers whenever he read something that vexed him, which was often.
“And then she spilled wine all down the front of Mrs. Butterston’s white dress! Isn’t that quite shocking?”
“Hmmm…yes. Indeed, dear. Quite shocking” answered Mr. Crumpet, without looking up. “Damn idiots, the lot of them” he muttered under his breath, in response to a particularly offensive article.
Mrs. Crumpet smiled as she buttered a piece of toast. “I daresay she won’t be invited to another one of their parties, which is really no loss in my opinion. She’s terribly dull.”
“Indeed, dear.” Mr. Crumpet attempted to eat a bite of egg but, as he was not looking at the table, completely missed his plate. He let out of a hum of surprise when he raised the fork into his mouth and it yielded no delicious results.
Mrs. Crumpet, taking note of her husband’s inattention, watched him over the top of her teacup. She daintily wiped her mouth with her napkin, before saying, “It all has worked out quite splendidly actually. I didn’t invite her to our party next week and was beginning to feel rather bad about it.”
Mr. Crumpet nodded his head, muttered a few “indeeds”, and took a sip of tea.
However, suddenly he began to choke. Coughing, Mr. Crumpet put down his paper and sputtered, “What do you mean our party?”
But Mrs. Crumpet, who had become very interested in the appearance of a snag in her lovely lace tablecloth, was conveniently prevented from answering by the arrival of their maid, Matilda. Matilda had served Mrs. Crumpet for years and was utterly devoted to her.
“I have a letter for you, ma’am.”
“Oh, thank you, Matilda!” Mrs. Crumpet clapped her hands upon receiving it. “Look John!” She flashed the letter towards him in such a way that would have made it impossible for anybody to actually ‘look’. Mr. Crumpet, unfortunately, could not have looked even if he wanted to, as he was still choking on his tea.
Mrs. Crumpet took no notice of the hacking coming from the other end of the table. “It’s from Lady Garda!” She opened the seal and scanned the contents of the letter, with Matilda standing just behind her chair.
Mr. Crumpet, by this time having fully recovered from his coughing fit, ventured to try again, “What do you mean—” Mrs. Crumpet held up a finger as she continued to read and Matilda shot him a silencing look.
Incredible, thought Mr. Crumpet. I am to be subject to the glares of a servant! However, worried that Matilda might see his face and know his thoughts (for though Mr. Crumpet would never admit it, he harbored a fear of his wife’s maid), Mr. Crumpet lowered his gaze and focused on a piece of bacon.
Mrs. Crumpet finished the letter and placed it next to her plate. “What does it say, ma’am?” said Matilda, at the same time Mr. Crumpet demanded, “What party?”
Mrs. Crumpet ignored the query of the latter and said “Oh! It’s wonderful news, Matilda! Lady Garda is coming and she’s bringing her two nieces with her!”
Mr. Crumpet tried to follow. “Bringing them where? Here? When?”
Matilda shared in her mistress’s excitement. “Yes, but I’m afraid we shall be short on gentlemen then, ma’am.”
“Quite right, Matilda. Perhaps I could send an invitation to the…”
Mr. Crumpet’s mouth opened and closed, like that of a fish; he watched helplessly as the conversation (and his money, for, knowing his wife, it would be no small affair) flitted further and further away from him.
Finally, he slammed his hands down on the table and thundered “Victoria!”
Matilda and Mrs. Crumpet ceased their chatter. Mrs. Crumpet waved Matilda out of the room. As she closed the door, Matilda gave Mr. Crumpet a reproachful look.
“You should not shout so, dear. It’s bad for your health,” said Mrs. Crumpet, once they were alone.
Mr. Crumpet took a breath and with effort, lowered his voice and spoke very slowly. “Victoria, my sweet, what is going on at this house— our house— next week?”
Mrs. Crumpet laughed gaily, as though this were the most hilarious question in the world. “Why, we are having guests over for dinner and dancing.”
Mr. Crumpet gave his wife a look of utter indignation and began to tug at his whiskers. “Am I to find out this way about a social gathering in my own home? A mere after thought?”
Mrs. Crumpet rolled her eyes. “Oh don’t be silly, dear. I told you about it weeks ago.”
“You most certainly did not!”
“I most certainly did!” said Mrs. Crumpet, color rising to her cheeks.
Mr. Crumpet leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms with the utmost dignity. “I heard nothing of the sort.”
Mimicking his stature and air of nonchalance, Mrs. Crumpet raised her eyebrows. “Do your ears not work? I’ve heard that’s common as one gets older.” Mr. Crumpet, as his wife well knew, was incredibly sensitive about his age.
Taking the bait, his eyes widened and he sprang forward in his chair. “I beg your pardon, Madam!”
“I heard very well what you said!” said Mr. Crumpet, brandishing his piece of bacon.
“Do not take that tone with me, Mr. Crumpet!” said Mrs. Crumpet, who was also now leaning forward in her chair. “It is not my fault if your ears are defective!”
“Defective you say!” Mr. Crumpet suddenly stood up, as if he were addressing an angry crowd, rather than one person. “I’ll have you know that no human ever possessed a pair of ears superior to these!” As he spoke, Mr. Crumpet alternated between gesticulating wildly with his piece of bacon and pulling his ears out on the side of his head in a manner that brought to mind a monkey. “These ears are a masterpiece of creation!”
Mrs. Crumpet narrowed her eyes at this display and curling her lip, said “Well, if your hearing is an impeccable as you seem to believe, then you should recall my informing you about this party two weeks ago!”
With a vein pulsing in his forehead, Mr. Crumpet put his hand to his head and clenched his eyes shut. “Madam, if I listened to every single trivial thing you said, I should have no time to do anything else!”
There was complete silence for half a heart beat, then hysterical sobbing as Mrs. Crumpet threw herself, face down onto the sofa in the corner.
“You are cruel, John! So cruel—You don’t understand my pain: that my thoughts and impressions should be disregarded and scorned by the person I love most— it is almost too much to bear.”
Mr. Crumpet was dumbstruck, for he found himself confronted with the one-thing men fear above all else: a crying woman.
He hesitated before sitting down on the edge of the sofa. Knowing he should perform some act of comfort, he reached down to stroke Mrs. Crumpet’s hair. However upon noticing the intricate braids, he thought better of it. He tried again to pat her shoulder, but at the last moment remembered the bacon grease on his hands and wisely reasoned that getting bacon grease on his wife’s dress was unlikely to improve the situation.
Mr. Crumpet settled for awkwardly rubbing his wife’s arm with the back of his hand. “Darling, I apologize. I spoke in anger. You know I defer to your judgment in all things.”
Mrs. Crumpet, whose face was turned towards the couch, shook her head and sniffled. “I don’t believe you.”
Distraught, Mr. Crumpet entreated his wife again. “Truly darling. I love you and my sole reason for existence is to make you happy.”
At this incredibly romantic statement, Mrs. Crumpet sat up and kissed Mr. Crumpet on the cheek. “You are too good to me John. Thank you.”
Then, wiping her suspiciously dry eyes, Mrs. Crumpet leaped from the couch and sang out, “Matilda! I need your help with the guest list!”
Mr. Crumpet watched her go. He remained seated on the couch, with a look of utter bewilderment, which morphed into one of extreme concentration as he tried to figure out what had just happened.