art by Stephen James Kiniry
My Dearest Miranda
by Jaime Lee Moyer
My Dearest Miranda,
I must apologize for being so remiss in not answering your last letter promptly. I do hope you'll forgive me once I explain.
Living in an isolated country house is often a trial for one born and bred to city life. I'm still at a loss to explain why Horace suddenly insisted upon retiring to the country to write poetry. For the most part I've adapted, but if I'd known how bad the fey infestations were each spring, well, no amount of pleading on Horace's part could have induced me to move.
Such pests are easily dealt with in a civilized clime. The maids might find an occasional pixie in the parlor or the odd brownie in the pantry during an exceptionally bad year. One simply calls in the local exterminator wizard and never gives the matter another thought.
Oh, if only it were that easy when one ventures to the country. As soon as the weather turned warm, we had pixies nesting in every drawer and cabinet on the second floor. A swarm of them even took up residence amongst my undergarments in the lingerie chest.
Horace spent more than an hour convincing Annie, the housemaid we brought from town, to try to clear them out of the linen cupboard. I must admit, having the vile creatures hiss and snap at her was rather frightening for the poor girl. She staunchly refused to go near them until Horace took her into his study for one of his private chats. After time alone with him, she calmed down considerably. I don't know how I'd cope if he didn't have such a talent for dealing with the staff.
Once Horace demonstrated his technique, Annie mastered the trick of grabbing a pixie by the ankle and dropping it into a bucket. She went at the task with a good will and all went smoothly for a time. I allowed myself to hope the problem would be dealt with quickly.
My hopes were dashed the instant one of them bit her. Having a pixie sink its teeth into one's arm is certainly painful, but I think the girl over did the shrieking. She went on long after Horace pried the nasty thing off her.
That was the end of Annie's pixie removal efforts. I'm positive I saw a pixie stick its tongue out at me when she refused to try again. Horace maintains I imagined it.
The brownies in the lower part of the house were even worse. Cook was beside herself for the better part of two days. Finding brownies--or worse yet--their leavings in her pantry was more than the poor woman could bear. She was in tears more than once.
The flour barrel, the tea tin, all the spice crocks; everything was full of brownies. I'd no idea they ate so much. Cook absolutely refused to sift out the bits and pieces the brownies left behind. In spite of the expense, I supported her decision to purge the kitchen when she approached Horace at the end of that first horrible day. One shudders to think what might be missed by even the most careful eye.
Cook soldiered on as best she could with limited supplies. Having to keep constant watch over every scrap of food was a great strain on her. Horace, the dear man, volunteered to help her and spent a great deal of time below stairs. Meals were somewhat delayed, but one can scarcely complain under the circumstances.
The breaking point for Cook came the second night during supper. She set the French onion soup in front of Horace and lifted the soup tureen's lid. Miranda, the scream Cook let out frightened me enough to give me heart palpitations. The brownie floating face down amongst the bits of melted cheese and onion was beyond caring.
Cook fled the dining room and I was sure she'd pack up and go right back to the city. No civilized person could have found fault with her for doing so. Fortunately for us, Horace was able to entice her to stay. His charm does have its uses now and then. One wonders if the hefty salary increase and the private time spent with Horace in his study influenced her decision. One wonders....
I shan't bother you with the tale of the goblins in my petunia beds. You can well imagine what an utter disaster that was, what with their tunnels and little mounds of earth everywhere. Horrific as this all sounds, I still haven't related the worst of the story to you.
There was a troll in the lower garden.
Horace blames himself. When we first took possession of the house last fall he contracted with some local laborers to renovate the lower gardens. The grounds had been sorely neglected and were frightfully overgrown.
One of the features the workmen undertook to repair was a small bridge over the stream that meanders through our garden and into the neighboring property. I voiced my misgivings when I first discovered the existence of this bridge, but Harold assured me I'd nothing to fear.
He wasn't so sanguine when the kitchen maid, Betsy, ventured out to the kitchen garden for Cook. I don't think I've ever heard anyone scream quite that loudly. What with all the wailing and fainting and carrying on, none of us made any sense of what she said.
As always, Horace took charge. He required a considerable amount of time alone with Betsy to calm her nerves and get the whole story, but he persevered. That man has the patience of a saint.