With the evening dew settling into his oversized buckles, Pierre chuffed at the cold. By no means at all did he measure up to the hale and hearty stockiness of his brothers and sisters working the fields, nor did he quite yet attain the misshapen corpulence of the well statured servants. Simply put, Pierre was a runt. The frills of his court uniform hung limply into his concave chest, while the over-starched tails of his coat outshone his skeletal frame in propriety. With his wig askew (his slick oily hair a childhood contention of his mother’s, to the point of questioning their kinship), Pierre failed in many ways to be anything but offensive to the glancing eye. It was, therefore, no surprise that the Princess, after being interrupted by his loping gait past the hedges during her afternoon picnic (replete with macarons and financiers on the high lawn), politely requested he attend the night post at the end of the palace promenade.
Had it been earlier in the year, Pierre would have drifted into a doze, a long dribble drying in the corner of his chin. Unfortunately, no such luck for our personnage principal, for a hero he most certainly not. Had he succumbed to his nightly routine on this November post, perhaps he would not have noticed the strange shrieks coming from a candlelit window in the stable.
Perhaps, my dear reader, it is also at this point we must digress into the nature of this repellent creature. Pierre, how should we say, was by no means an insidious or malicious individual, yet he was known to linger at the most inopportune time. As a child, a mere decade hence, he was often found in the cupboard of a local butcher’s, rooted in fascination, yet protesting his innocence. Once, when the spell of randy youth approached him, his poor mother, after sending him out to the fishmonger, came across his frail shoulders hunched at the corner of the unmentionable part of the docks, eavesdropping on the yowls of the nighttime populace. She pulled his ear away from that harlot of ill-repute describing the services her heathen customer was past due on with such alacrity, that, to this day, his earlobe is prone to droop, particularly in weather of high humidity or instances of panicked stimulation.
And so, my friend, with his mother shoving him into the civil service in hopes of its strict mores straightening out his sloping spine, that we find Pierre, alerted to such strange shrieks on such a strange, and frigid night.
A chill weaved up his spine.
Pierre, transfixed to the spot, craned closer to the stable.
Through his keen and practiced auditory perceptions, Pierre was able to discern two different timbres---- one guttural, nay, nasal whinge, the other--- restraint overwhelmed. Pierre’s innate sense of intrigue prickled the faint whisker hairs developing on his upper lip, and he mused, Best check on the animals. Dare I say, wolves are hungry this time of year.
At no point do I wish to misinform you, my dear reader, and say Pierre was not a coward; oh, a coward he was! Yet his curiosity was the highest suit in his playing deck. And so, licking his lips in tantalized apprehension, the shadow of one ear looming into his neck, Pierre clutched his pike, braced his frame against it, and slid through the darkness.
As he slipped up to the stable, he recognized the nasal whinge as Bluebell! The crown prince’s prize mare! Besides the fact that such a fine specimen obtained her own suite apart from the common horses, the tone of the hoof stamping could only be attained by haunches of her caliber. Alarmed, yet excited at the prospect of saving the crown prince’s beauty from a wild dog, Pierre, gritted into his underbite, and charged through the stable door.
With the same speed his conviction to the cause flooded his pathetic body it did flee, as, his mother would later comment, it was not Bluebell that needed saving. To spare the sensibilities of my refined reader, I will disclose but one detail; the crown prince was in well attendance.
Pierre, the fop, lingered. Upon making eye contact with the crown prince-- a criminal offense in the typical light of day, he did the best he could under the given circumstances, and fumbled out a bow. Your Highness.
It was Bluebell that galvanized the following sequence. Seeing the open stable door, she fled the scene, flying past Pierre within an inch of his lobe. The crown prince, seeing his most prized possession slipping out of reach, and grabbing a crop, stamped out of his inhibitions to scream:
“YOU IMBECILE. YOU MORON. YOU SCURGE.”
Pierre, the poor fool, transfixed once more, bowed, “Yes, your Highness.”
Noting the flare of His Highness’ nostrils, not unlike Bluebell mid stride, a sense of preservation finally filled the idiot’s neural pathways, and he too, bolted, like a calf newborn, knocking his knees together in trepidation.
The crown prince, now completely disentangled, followed in hot pursuit, both coveting the newfound freedom with each leap, and charged with the lust of the hunt.
Pierre, in the scramble for his life, dropped his pike halfway through the promenade, much to his disservice. The crown prince, as a genuine athlete, did not neglect this new advantage, and picked it up in sheer glee with a cackle.
Pierre, a true nincompoop, I am sorry to say, startled by this newest addition to human sound, rotated his beaky head to note his chances. He was aiming for the creek by the sheep herding fields. There, at least, he had the cover of darkness down a winding path he knew well, undetectable by the dogs that were sure to follow in the morning.
However, it was with no such luck that our Pierre would arrive into the morning. In his panic, he erred in his familiarity with the palace grounds, and whether it was because the fog had rolled in, or the scenes of minutes prior still stung to his lids, he found himself face forward with the palace’s ivy frocked stone walls.
It is said, by men more eloquent than me, that a man in his final moments is often visited by the visuals of heavens on high. This was not the case for our child of ill-fortune; had he the wits to process an iota of the preceding events leading to his standstill, he would have known better than to do that which did follow.
Our hero, for at this point, such was he memorialized for generations hence in the hushed whispers of the servants’ quarters, wobbled around to his impending doom with a bow, and emitted the ensuing unpropitious phrase:
“Bluebell, your Highness, looks well.”