The Height of Absurdity: Penzance 3.8

26 April, 2016 by katelaity

The Height of Absurdity 1

Kelyn gave her a slight nod. It was easy to see (now that I had gotten over the beard) that her manner was indeed like the very noblest sort of person and I felt abashed again at my caddish behaviour before. Even her speech, while a little odd of turn that I supposed to be Cornish in its style, was proper in every way and as culturally precise as any duchess’ would be. ‘We do not call ourselves anything but the people. It is you whom we call the white giants. Or did, until we met the Captain. He assures us that he is of the same people as you.’

‘Though there’s many what would argue against that,’ the Captain said with a laugh.

Tansy sighed. ‘I am afraid you are right there, Captain. It is a said state of the nation that we are always finding ways to divide ourselves from one another.’

‘Have you always lived in Cornwall?’ I ventured to ask, hoping my boorishness might have been, if not forgotten at least forgiven. Now a few more of the miners had appeared, perhaps wondering where their leader had trotted off to, and they were now leaning upon the ends of picks and shovels in the way of men (or perhaps women) did when offered an unexpected respite in the midst of hard work.

‘Always. The people of the Chirks have been hereabouts since the Great Mother stepped forth from her cave. We have cousins around further up the land and some across the sea, but we do not see them often and only meet at the height of summer for the fests.’

‘Fests? That sounds wonderful.’ Tansy had taken her memorandum book from somewhere in her voluminous pockets and had begun to take notes. ‘At midsummer did you say?’

‘They are quite extraordinary,’ the Captain said with a sigh that seemed to carry with a breath of the warmth of that season even here in the dank caves under the strange land. ‘You never danced so much in your life.’

‘And the food,’ Kelyn reminded him with a happy grin. ‘All the finest dishes from across the southern lands. Summer fish soup is without equal.’

‘Don’t forget the cakes, my lady.’ One of the miners stepped forward to add his voice. I noticed that he was a slightly browner shade of green and had a beard that was every bit the equal of his queen—if I might call her that—but had been separated into two parts, plaited and then thrown over either shoulder. It seemed eminently practical given the kind of work they did and the proximity to the ground they all had.

‘Cakes! And pies. All kinds of pies, sweet and savoury. They melt in your mouth, so buttery and soft.’ The Captain seemed quite transported with the memories of the food now and emitted many a sigh of longing.

‘You have to keep dancing all night long, so naturally the food must be substantial,’ Kelyn said. ‘Every clan tries to outdo each other with hospitality of course. Weeks of preparation, days of cooking, and then all the preparations. It takes what you would call an army.’

‘Oh, I should love to see it someday,’ Tansy said with an eager look. It was the sort of thing she would say. I wonder that she did not promise us away just then but perhaps she remembered we were already on one quest before tying us to yet another.

I must admit I felt a growing sense of unease that probably had as much to do with my nurse’s tales of the Gentry, as she always called them, as she had come from Ireland and was most superstitious. Well, what I had thought of as superstition when I became a youth and looked back on my nursery days. My parents had never asked so I never told them of the wild tales she unfurled for me in the night and how they terrified me so that I went in fear of Queen Mab in the garden and the Faerie King in the orchard and would always jump the brook in the fields as if a ghost were pursuing me. My mother remarked on it one, but put it down to boyish hijinks and thought no more of it.

Yet somehow seeing very faerie-like creatures was not so strange—at least after the initial shock it wasn’t. Indeed it seemed less and less objectionable as the conversation went on in a wholly natural manner and I thought freed of those childhood frights that I of course knew better than as a man. Yet I if I were to be entirely truthful on certain nights when the wind wailed like a ban-sidhe and mysterious sounds surrounded the house, when the wind produced such skittering scratchings as might belong to a faerie cat, I could find it possible to believe with childish alarm that things unseen moved in this world that were a great danger to us all.

However, when I looked at Kelyn I thought I would not be afraid of such sounds now and should greet them with a hearty welcome.




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