by Pam Sears
When you get stuck in a dive suit and upset your spouse....
|“This is no longer amusing, Albert. Go change at once!” Amelia snapped even as she tucked a last curl in place.
“Mphrgl.” Came the unintelligible reply.
Turning, Amelia frowned, then smoothed it away. Mama had always told her to be careful of how she frowned as the wrong kind would cause wrinkles. She had no desire to create early wrinkles so she worked hard to keep frowns off of her face but, really, Albert could try the patience of a saint with his antics.
“I cannot understand you, Albert. Either go change or open that silly window thing in front of your face and speak clearly.” She took in his … his… costume for lack of a better word … and had to fight the frown again.
Albert’s hand gestured to his face in a gangly manner and more strange grunts and odd sounds emerged. He almost sounded as if he were trying to speak from a distance through mud. It was ridiculous and she had no compunctions in telling him so.
“I don’t even know why you put that ridiculous thing on in the first place, Albert. Especially when you knew today was the day the photographer was coming to do our Sitting. How could you? You know how important this is to me.” And she allowed a tear to fall gently from the corner of one eye. Her tears always brought Albert to heel.
Urgent sounds and his heavily gloved hands patting at the air as he stepped clumsily toward her were his response. Hers was to back away until she bumped into her dressing table. Holding up one hand in a “stop” motion to ward him off.
“Enough, Albert. I don’t…” she paused and drew in a deep breath. “WE don’t have enough time for such folderol as this. You need to return to your room and have Havers help you change.” She spoke with firm authority and strode to her bell pull, giving it a less-than-dainty tug to call her lady’s maid.
When that good woman appeared and saw the master of the house she gasped, hand going to her heart and eyes to her mistress. Clearing her throat she nodded her head. “How may I help you, m’lady?” She refused to look toward her ladyship’s husband again.
“You can fetch Havers for me, Smithers. He needs to take my husband to his rooms and get him ready for our photograph Sitting.” Amelia gestured imperiously toward her husband.
Smithers curtsied, cast a quick glance at the Master once more, then hurried out. Amelia was left staring at her husband who continued to gesticulate wildly and make his strange, burbling mud noises until Havers showed up. He rapped gently on her door before entering at her bidding. When he did he gave his lordship a long-suffering look and only just managed to hold in a sigh.
“I take it his lordship needs some assistance, m’lady?” He queried politely.
“Yes, Havers. I’m afraid your skills will be put to the test to have his lordship ready in thirty minutes.”
“Thirty minutes, m’lady?” Havers was aghast as he stared from her to the strangely dressed lord of the manor.
“Yes, Havers. That is when the photographer will be here for our formal Sitting. Do, please, hurry.”
Both of them had managed to ignore his lordship as they spoke. He managed to turn ponderously from one to the other, still making those odd noises which were beginning to sound annoyed. Finally releasing the sigh he’d been holding back Havers nodded, firmly gripped the sleeve of his lordship’s odd costume, and led him out.
Amelia picked up the fan lying on her dressing table and applied it vigorously. Really, it was like having an undisciplined eight-year-old boy. Albert’s enthusiasm for such childish games was one of the reasons she refused to have a child of her own. If they were even half as exuberant as her husband….
Well, at least Havers had him in hand now.
“You will just have to suffer, Albert. That’s all there is to it. I made this appointment with the photographer months ago, which was very difficult to do. He has innumerable clients and we were lucky to get this date and time as it is. To even think of trying to reschedule!” Amelia exclaimed.
“My dear, please,” Albert began placatingly.
“No. It is the outside of enough that I’ve had to put up with this behavior today. Now, that you’re stuck like… like… this!” She gestured dramatically at the strange suit her husband still wore in spite of Havers’ best efforts.
“It is a dive suit, my dear.” Albert spoke to her through the little window that now stood open on his helmet. Havers had confessed, in utter chagrin, it was the only thing he’d been able to open about the suit and that had taken considerable effort. “It’s used by men to be able to go under water and breathe safely for long periods of time.”
Amelia glared at his brush of a mustache which was all she could really see through the little window.
“I don’t care if the Queen herself wears one in the royal bathtub, Albert. I care about the fact that you are currently wearing it and we have a sitting with the photographer in less than five minutes. And that you knew this but dressed in that oddity anyway.”
Albert drooped slightly. “Well, I cannot get it off. Havers tried. I’m sure there’s some secret to it but we cannot discover what it is. You will have to get your picture taken without me, I’m afraid.” His voice boomed hollowly from within the helmet as he began to turn back to his rooms.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Amelia strode over and grabbed his arm. “I don’t care what you’re wearing at this point, although you will be sleeping in your own rooms for the next week at least. You are going to have your picture taken.” And she dragged him out of the room to head toward the salon she had chosen for their sitting.
“But… but… my dearest dove…” Albert gabbled. “You cannot possible want the embarrassment of a photograph with me in this dive suit.”
Amelia stopped and spun to face him, leaning close. A smile graced her lips but her eyes held promises of Albert’s life turning chaotic very soon.
“I know exactly how much you were looking forward to this sitting, dear.” She informed her husband who gulped as she continued. “I suppose we shall just have to deal with the fact future generations will find it…. humorous…. that Lord Axelburry got locked in a dive suit. Now, come along dear.”
Knowing he was defeated, and making a mental note to give Havers yet another raise for “losing” the key, Albert followed his wife resignedly into the sitting room to face the photographer. He and Havers worked hard to keep “Lord Axelburry” out of the limelight. If his enemies ever found him... he shook his head inside the helmet.
Then another thought occurred to him. If his wife ever found out about his early years and the ... ahhh ... high jinx he and Havers got up to!
Albert shuddered and considered how he would manage to hide from her. Glancing at his wife’s set face as he followed the photographers instructions he decided he and Havers needed to make very, very sure that necessity never came up.