Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mr Feathercott's Business, Chapter One

Had one wandered up a remote London road one gloomy Tuesday in 1957 one might have observed Mr Feathercott making his way home, his impeccably trimmed whiskers drooping in the chill evening air.
On the other hand one might not have; for Mr Feathercott was a singularly unremarkable character, with his wilting whiskers and his crushed bowler hat. Mr Feathercott, alas, was the last of a race of rather ordinary Victorian gentlemen, now nearing his seventieth year, and with no notable achievements in his long life to single him out for fame and fortune. Born to a dying race, Mr Feathercott had lived much of his life in obscurity. He had once brushed the hand of celebrity with his overly large nose when he had, after the unfortunate drowning of his elder brother (unfortunate insofar as it brought his heretofore ignorant brother into some sort of renown) come to a moderate inheritance. Moderate it was indeed, for ‘moderate’ was a word which could be applied to Mr Feathercott from the tip of his frayed bowler to the toes of his unpolished brown shoes.

Mr Feathercott principally wore brown, and managed to do even this simple and unpretending colour discredit when he ported it. He frequently clashed with his wife, whose colours of choice were dirtied pinks and blues, colours which under ordinary circumstances might have done her pale complexion credit, but which, when worn by her and in conjunction with her husband’s muddy coloured clothes, made her appear consistently at a disadvantage. She had learned to bear this with patience; though nearly twenty years his junior, she had been born to that fascinating fin de siecle generation which had managed to liberate its art, its literature, its economics – but not its women. Mrs Feathercott’s marriage had been one of convenience, and she had no qualms in letting this be known. It was sadly noted by her daughters, on more than one occasion, that their poor mother had never had the advantage that so many women had had in that wartime period when they had finally felt some freedom from the presences of their husbands. Mr Feathercott had been too much of an invalid to be forced to enlist in the army, though in the years after the war his health had improved so drastically that he was now, at seventy, sprightlier than he had been at forty. During the war Mr Feathercott had aided his wife in knitting, sewing and preparing various household items for the soldiers in the trenches. Many a warrior, on a cold and lonely night, with the clash of shells peppering the dust above him as his soul, or rather sole, music, had armed himself with the carefully stitched tablecloths and handkerchiefs which the Feathercotts had crafted. As such, Mr Feathercott could comfortably consider himself a patriot, and congratulate himself on having contributed to the glorious victory of his country. Mrs Feathercott, already in her thirties, had understood that Mr Feathercott was a constant in her life, one she would never escape. She had accepted this over the years, and had decided that depressing as this knowledge was, there was little she or Mr Feathercott could do about it.
But no doubt the reader’s attention has already strayed, in this short meander through the battlefield of time. One may question, and quite rightly, what such an unremarkable man (as Mr Feathercott undoubtedly was) was thinking as he walked down this remote London road on his way towards his bleak townhouse. And the answer would be: something positively unremarkable, of course.

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