Story for the Day: The Blue Shirt
There is nothing that distresses a king more than clashing.
Carrigh watched her husband agonize in this private committee of habilatory apprehension, and her lips pursed in a smile. “Do you want to change, sire?”
“No. Yes. Possibly.” He thought for a moment, rapt in the vicissitudes of hasty indecision. “Maybe I should wear the light blue shirt as you suggested. I am wearing spring colours anyway. What? I didn’t say I wouldn’t change now. I only said I wouldn’t change for dinner. You put the idea of a blue shirt in my head, and even though all this matches well, it has no distinguishing factors, excepting the jerkin, which might as well be the same since the embroidery is nearly the same as—I’m changing.”
“It would have taken me less time to fix the snag in the other shirt…” she began, but simpers and smiles soon became silence; Alasdair should have been perfectly satisfied in his white shirt had she not persuaded him to the blue, but as she had mentioned it, and she being his wife he trusted her judgment more than anyone else’s, he reasoned he ought to wear the blue if only his wife’s choice. He froonced and folded, tied and tightened, the blue shirt was tucked into place, the green and gold jerkin was donned, and turned toward the mirror, to oscillate and scrutinize himself, to fuss and flump in earnest fabulosity, before he turning to his wife for a more thorough inspection. “What do you think? The difference in colour doesn’t make me a gapenest, does it?”
“No, sire,” said Carrigh, in a serious accent.
Alasdair turned back to the mirror, to study and consider, unable to decide whether he were tolerably prepossessing or absolutely hideous. He began to fidget. “Are you sure? It’s not too blue, is it? It’s blue, but not very blue? Blue with green and gold? Are you sure, my darling. I don’t know. I think the contrast is making me itch.”
“It is very complementary, sire.”
“Are you sure? Well, if you think so,” and as he began tying the matching cravat, he added, “But if Pastaddams has a panic over it, I’m going to tell him it was your idea.”
“I hope you do,” said Carrigh, with playful defiance. “I need an excuse to tell him to be more colourful.”
Alasdair lifted his chin and tucked in the ends of his cravat. “We cannot all look stunning in bright colours as you to, my darling.”
“But Pastaddams wears hardly any colour at all.”
“That is true.”
“He’s been wearing the same white shirt and black waistcoat since I met him.”
“I think he must have fifty of the same waistcoat, all with one slight variation, a red satin pocket strip or a blue silk collar—Oh, now I’m overdressed. Do you think I’m overdressed? I look as though I’m going to a dinner in the parlour and not a breakfast in the kitchen.”
“You did say you didn’t want to change for dinner, sire,” was Carrigh’s smiling reminder.
“True, but I will have to wear this all day. Maybe I’ll just take off the cravat and put it on again later.”
Alasdair untied the cravat in a flurry of flailing motions, and Carrigh succumbed to quiet mirth. Alasdair would be Alasdair, and whilst she might contrive to make her husband a little more vibrant in dress, she could not do away his horror of being befrilled.
“There. I think that looks well.” Alasdair nodded approvingly at himself, and then looked thoughtful and frowned. “I know I wear jerkins often,” he acknowledged, “but I like to think that I’m experimental with my outfits some of the time. Am I?”
“You have a very classical style, sire.”
“I like the Old Frewyn look. It’s not ostentatious, it’s dignified, it’s comfortable-- at least I think so. I don’t know why more young men and women don’t take it up. My grandfather dressed in an even older style, just as Breandan does, and both of them wear—or wore, in my grandfather’s case-- their doublets and robes amazingly well. You wear your pleated dresses beautifully, my darling. I love this transparent spot here in the front you’ve put in, but everything you make always looks well on you.” Alasdair stopped to gratulate, thinking his wife’s talents as a gifted artisan only expatiated her good nature, for while she was an exemplary craftsman, her overpowering loveliness and shining character must always surpass anything that her needlework could invent. Her pieces were always exquisite, but they were made more so because she was exhibiting them. He watched her pull the strings on her bodice, drawing her breasts closer together, and Alasdair gripped the sides of his breeches in feverish exultation, his mind determining to practice gentlemanlike manners whilst his hands would be adjusting her bodice for her. Notions of wrinkles in his holiday attire attacked him, and he instantly drew his hands together behind his back, governing himself with the internal command of, Don’t touch yourself, don’t think of her delightful—don’t!
“Alasdair,” said Carrigh sweetly, “what is it?”
“Oh, nothing,” he hemmed, shaking himself out of his reverie. “Do you need me to do you up in the back?”
They were dressed and ready for their appearance in a few minutes, Alasdair putting his blue cravat aside, Carrigh tying a lace shawl around her shoulders as ornamentation rather than a practicality, and once Alasdair had trained his fringe, cleaned his teeth, and set his collar to rights, he gave himself an appraising look, declared himself tolerably presentable, and led his wife out of the room.
“How maneh tymes did His Majesteh change?” asked Aghatha, spying Carrigh suspiciously.
Carrigh tried not to laugh. “Only once.”
“Well,” Aghatha shrugged, “‘tis bettah than most daehs anehhow. Luckeh His Majesteh daint stand in the mirreh much. He deserves it, if yeh daint mynd meh sayin’, Majestae, bein’ such a well-lookin’ man as he is. Luckeh the glass hasn’t takin’ him in or nothin’ in the kingdom’d evah get done. The governin’ o’ things hinges on whethah his fringe is in ordeh.”
Aghatha gave Carrigh a knowing look and drifted into the bedchamber, the sheets already in hand, her powers at neatness already at work, one hand peeling back and removing the older bedding whilst the other was unfolding and unfurling the new.