Matrimonia Inter Corvum et Columbinam; Epicinium.
Given the notoriously extensive acknowledgement of the requirements of single birds upon their elevation to high office, it was very little to be wondered at when the newly minted Mayor took to him a wife.
The nuptials were held some very few days subsequent to Mr Ian Corby’s coronation as the Mayor. It was a low-key ceremony, for there was something about the reticent demeanour of his bride, which had persuaded her swart groom that the banns were not to be published beyond the minimal legal extent stipulated under Lex Matrimonia Avum. Thus, whereas Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet had previously in one of his expansive moments floridly pressed upon Miss Bianca Columbina the plenitudinous accoutrements of the Cathedral for the wedding then envisaged between those parties, Mr Ian Corby soberly resolved, in a manner very much in keeping with the Presbyterian garb in which he presented himself to the world, to splice himself unto the aforementioned party under the unpretentious aegis of the Registrars in the Old Council House in Corn Street.
The marriage took place on a Saturday. The bride resplendent in her customary whiteness, was given away by Mr Ezra Tertiary-Syphilis, who had ‘coptered in that very morning from St Peter Port to a sequestered nook of Filton Aerodrome. Miss Bianca Columbina was as dignified as could be hoped, and bestowed almost no guano upon the sanctified confines of that purlieu. Upon the conclusion of the formal proceedings, the guests, who numbered very few and were mostly low types from the taverns and stews and jakes and kennels which Mr Ian Corby democratically frequented, were gathered into charabancs and conveyed with very little to-do straight unto Anchor Road, where at the behest of the Pierpont Morgan thereof they savoured a canapé and a glass of fizz, and afterwards were thrust unceremoniously onto the pavement, and left to continue the festivities in the ale-houses of their choosing, inasmuch as the aforementioned investment banker never could bear the cant. Neither did Mr Ezra Tertiary-Syphilis tarry, but directly sought out Mr Jagtar Singh to carry him to Filton Aerodrome, and ’coptered out again most expeditiously, no doubt wishing to avoid such cant as the Excise Men might bring to bear on him.
That evening, Mr Ian Corby went home for the first time with his bride. Howsomever, the hearth over which he carried her was not upon that branch in Dogging Wood in which he had been accustomed to make his nest. For rather more well-appointed accommodations had been secured, which better accorded the dignity which had lately been bestowed upon that corvid. To put matters plainly, the duns had been dismissed from the apartments in Southville previously occupied by Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, this process also taking place at the prompting of the Sigmund Warburg of Millennium Square, the minions whereof then promptly invited Mr Ian Corby and the freshly minted and very fragrant Mrs Bianca Corby to take up residence therein.
Night fell, and with it a cold and dismal precipitation. Down below, the streetlights bathed the slick surfaces of the buildings in a wan and ghastly light. Cars washed by, death-ray eyes probing the blacktop. Pedestrians, lone or in pairs, buttoned-up and hats tilted against the slanting downpour, scurried along the pavements. Here and there in a doorway huddled a rough-sleeper or two.
Withal tonight swart Mr Ian Corby, ensconced up here in the warmth with his dazzling Persil-white bride, blithely ignored the cares of the world outside his nuptial paradise. A fire roared in the grate, bowls full of exotic nuts and seeds had been placed in every nook and cranny in every room, and plastic sheets had been thoughtfully laid out whereon Mrs Bianca Corby might, should the urge thus come upon her, do her business. Indeed, Mrs Bianca Corby was at this very instant taking her ease in the very manner just described. For his part, Mr Ian Corby, suppressing the mildest wince, and resolving to look indulgently upon this foible of his lady wife, was addressing her in the mildest terms.
“Weeeeell,” quoth he, “ah’ll be scunnered! Hugh’d hae thought ah’d feend mah sen the Mayor, and living here in this beeyootiful hoose wi’ mah beeyootiful weef! Weeeeell,” quoth he again, “ah’ll be scunnered!”
Mrs Bianca Corby gazed up at her new husband, and very softly cooed. And once more, all was quiet, save for the spattering of rain upon the glass, and of guano upon plastic sheeting.
I do not purpose to enlarge upon the discourse which then ensued between these two parties, for to do so would be an intrusion and to very little consequence. Suffice to say, what passed between them did not go unobserved, for none other than Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet perched upon the ledge outside, looking very bedraggled and down at heel. I cannot say that his appearance was the result solely of the inclement weather oppressing all who ventured out of doors that night, for he had of late engaged in terrible debaucheries. At all events, now he pressed his beak against the window, and by this means heaped coal upon the fire of his own rancour.
Presently, that sinner in perching in outer darkness, that wailer and gnasher of beak, became aware that he was not alone. His companion was a brown creature of the avian persuasion, and Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet found that there arose in his sensorium the half-remembered phrase, which made him shudder,
“Green and blue and vuckin’ brown.”
Withal, the newcomer seemed well enough disposed.
“They make a handsome couple, I think,” said he, glancing benevolently at the spectacle beyond the glass.
“There are those who would say so,” muttered Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, shuffling a little further along the parapet.
The brown bird looked somewhat askance at this, and said, after a pause,
“Bounteous Providence has blessed me with a sanguine disposition, which enables me to rejoice in the happiness of my fellow creatures. Having said which,” he added in an undertone, accompanied by a second more cursory glance through the window, “I do not consider that it entirely behoves us to intrude upon even so happy intimacies as these.”
He peered once more very curiously at his companion, who had hunched himself up under the dripping eaves in his ruffled feathers and was looking thoroughly disconsolate.
“My friend, I cannot help noticing, if you will pardon me for remarking upon the matter, that you have about yourself a melancholic air. Should you wish to unburden yourself to a benevolent stranger, I place myself at your disposal. Nevertheless, I fear that we if we are going to remain upon this parapet, at all events we should refrain from staring through the glass, for we are intruding upon intimacy, as I have said.”
“Green and blue and vuckin’ brown,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet aloud very suddenly.
“I am not at all sure that I apprehend your meaning,” said the courteous stranger allowing not the least diminishment in his considerable stock of sanguinity, “but no matter. Allow me to introduce myself. Tristram Acridotheres at your service.”
Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet cackled very bitterly at this.
“Behold the cuckold on the parapet,” he squawked, “compassed about by his usurpers.”
“I’m sure I do not know what you mean,” answered Mr Tristram Acridotheres with unwavering geniality, “for you speak in riddles. Nevertheless, I can see that you are troubled. And with that I can sympathise, inasmuch as I am myself by no means a stranger to tribulation.”
“I’m all ears,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet.
“Oh,” replied Mr Tristram Acridotheres, manfully ignoring the sarcastic tone of this rejoinder, “well in that case, I will confide in you. To this end, it would be best to trace my story back to not long after its beginning, for which I crave your indulgence.”
“Oh,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, “don’t mind me. Nobody else does.”
“Very well,” said Mr Tristram Acridotheres, and drew a great breath, and embarked upon his autobiography.
Tristramus Acridotheres: Apologia Pro Vitae Suae.
“For the greater part of my life,” said Mr Tristram Acridotheres, “I dwelt in Babylonian captivity, the pet of a meek and complaisant gentleman who made a lifetime’s study of feathered creatures. For much of that time, the dolour of my captivity was sweetened by the introduction to our household of a lady budgerigar, whom I took as my wife under the Lex Matrimonia Avum.”
“You don’t say,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet very snidely, “what a coincidence.”
“No doubt,” said Mr Tristram Acridotheres after a slight pause indicative of mild bafflement, “at any rate, there came a day when Providence smiled upon me, and I was able to effect my escape from that cage which, gilded though it may have been, was in the final analysis a cage. I cannot say that my joy was unalloyed, for in gaining my freedom I most shamefully did abandon my wife and the daughter who had blessed our union.”
“Green and blue and vuckin’ brown,” muttered Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet through clenched beak, “a foundling foisted upon a fellow.”
“I don’t know anything about any of that, I’m afraid,” said Mr Tristram Acridotheres, “the truth is that I wandered the world, looking about myself and seeking opportunities to better myself by my own honest efforts. And gradually, over the course of time, I found that I prospered in most of the affairs to which I turned my claw, and accumulated quite a pretty stock of shiny things.”
“How very nice for you,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, how perfectly delightful.”
Mr Tristram Acridotheres again looked somewhat askance at the tone of this remark, but chose the better course.
“You might very well think so,” quoth he, betraying no intimation that Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet might not very well think so, “only, at the back of my mind was always the longing for the wife and child I had left behind. Eventually, there came a day, when I found myself, perched in the best tree in a most exclusive copse, surveying the luxurious nest which I had built by my own labours, and I looked from glittering bijou to shiny trinket and back again, and I thought to myself, ‘Tristram Acridotheres, all this is hollow’.”
“Oh,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, “you noticed that too?”
“I did notice that too,” Mr Tristram Acridotheres replied, “and no sooner had the thought arisen, then I entrusted all my worldly accumulations to one of those offshore wealth management johnnies - chap in Palm Springs called Handjob, maybe you’ve heard of him,” to which Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet ventured a shrug, which might have signified a disinclination to bear any of the cant which was lingering about the place.
Mr Tristram Acridotheres ventured accordingly to continue.
“Thus disencumbered, I made my way home to the Babylonish captivity of my youth, purposing to be reunited with my wife and child. Alas, it was not to be. For I found upon my return to the coop that my wife and child had flown it, under the understandable misapprehension that I had been eaten up by a puss or an ape. Certain conversational avians of our mutual acquaintance upon my confiding in them gave me to understand that my wife had mentioned to them certain relatives of hers residing in this city. And so, the long and the short of it is that I came hither in search of them, and that is how you come to see me before you at this moment.”
Now there came over Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet a most peculiar sensation. His mind filled with the inchoate gruntings and hissings of beasts, low slithering creatures who did not know the salvation of St Francis. Something hydraulic prised apart the two halves of his beak, and he heard his own voice say, from a very distant place,
“She’s dead. I mean, they both are.”
“Dead? Say it is not so!”
Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, his mind spinning, was yet dimly aware of his mechanical part fetching up the sedimental muck from the bottom of the barrel, and therewith embellishing the canard.
“It is so. They were sick. They were taken to the animal doctors at Perky Pets. The doctors there killed them. Both of them. With Nembutal, a poison. And so they are both dead.”
“They were sick?” whispered Mr Tristram Acridotheres, venting a deflated sigh.
“Cankers,” affirmed Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet from within his private hell, “the cankers which are peculiar to their breed. A matter of unregulated cell-division, as is the case with all cankers.”
Mr Tristram Acridotheres exhaled.
“Then,” said he, “my quest has met with a fruitless end. There is nothing to detain me here. By your leave, I shall not tarry. If any persons seek me, I am to be found a few days yet, tying up loose ends in the Mynah’s Arms.”
Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet favoured Mr Tristram Acridotheres with a bitter chuckle.
“The Mynah’s Arms? How very droll.”
“I must admit,” sighed Mr Tristram Acridotheres, “that upon coming to this city, I chose my lodgings with a certain levity of spirit. How very long ago that seems now,” he added with another sigh.
A silence now reigned between that pair of bigamous widowers. Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet for some minutes gazed through the window at the domestic idyll running its course in his former abode, and gnashed his beak, while Mr Tristram Acridotheres rather pointedly looked elsewhere, and moreover did not gnash his beak. Eventually, Mr Tristram Acridotheres left off his rather pointed non-fenetral gazing, and embarked upon a period of rather pointed staring at his companion. Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, becoming conscious that he was the focus of perusal, shifted uncomfortably.
“May I ask, friend,” said at length Mr Tristram Acridotheres, “how you came by this knowledge of the fates of the love of my life and the fruit of my loins?”
“Pay me no mind,” said Mr Hawksmoor Perroquet, “I’m a parrot. Parrots say things.”
So saying, he took wing, and flapped away from that place, leaving Mr Tristram Acridotheres to his own company.
“If that fellow is to be trusted,” said Mr Tristram Acridotheres to himself as he watched the departure of the parrot, “then I am bereft. And I suppose that he is to be trusted, for I really cannot see what he would have gained by bad faith in a matter of such sensitivity. Alas, what a vale of sorrow this life has become for me. I suppose that I had better return to my eponymous lodgings, and ruminate betimes, until I can figure out what course of action I can take which will best alleviate the futility which weighs so heavily upon me at this accursed hour. But … poor Arabella! And poor Isolde! Theirs must have been a lonely death. Nembutal at the hands of the masked assassins of Perky Pets. It would seem incumbent on me that I erect a monument in an arbour in commemoration of my departed loved ones.