Lady Bracknell generally considers herself to be a fairly indomitable old bat, but the loss of her feline companion last week has affected her more badly than she had expected.
Having known for some months that the loss was imminent, Lady Bracknell assured herself that she would want to have a decent period of mourning for the dear departed and that, whilst she would very definitely be welcoming a new cat into Bracknell Towers before too long, she would refrain from doing so until such time as the palaver over the editor's trip to the Palace was safely out of the way.
But it is twenty years since Lady Bracknell last came home to a house without a resident feline, and she very quickly discovered that she simply could not tolerate the emptiness. Indeed, she could not even sleep.
So, on Sunday last, Lady Bracknell and the intrepid Becca
ventured out in the rain to the Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre
, with Lady Bracknell insisting to the last that she was "just looking".
Having explained her circumstances to Caroline, the very charming lady in charge of the cattery, Lady Bracknell was ushered into one of the less public areas of the building, wherein is housed the orthopaedic ward. Caroline suggested that Lady Bracknell might find herself particularly drawn to Casper, who had sustained a broken pelvis in a road traffic accident, and whose original owners had refused to pay the consequent veterinary bills.
Caroline - who, Lady Bracknell suspects, is rarely wrong about such things - was entirely correct in her assumption. Lady Bracknell's heart was lost in an instant, and her details were taken so that the ominous home visit could be arranged.
Despite having chosen Bracknell Towers as her current residence precisely because of those of its features which render it particularly safe and welcoming for cats of a nervous disposition, Lady Bracknell was nevertheless concerned that, following the home visit, it would be declared to be a species of cat death trap, and that Casper and she would be forever parted.
Of course, Lady Bracknell's fears were groundless, and Casper arrived yesterday evening. She spent the first few hours sniffing and scent-marking everything in her new home, before retiring to the interior of the wardrobe for a well-earned rest.
By lunch-time today, she had taken up residence on Lady Bracknell's bed, from which she can watch the birds in the back garden and plan their demise. (Although, as she will not be permitted to venture into the back garden for some weeks yet - by which time she may well find, to her disgust, that she is wearing a collar with a bell on it - the local wildife is in no immediate danger.) She is already convinced, however, that she could beat the resident magpies in a fair fight.
History does not relate the reason why the fair Casper was gifted with a boy's name. Not wishing to confuse her further with drastic change in nomenclature, Lady Bracknell will restrain her creative impulses to merely altering the spelling to Caspar. So that, instead of being a friendly ghost, she may be wise*. All Lady Bracknell needs now is a Melchior and a Balthazar and she will be much in demand for Christmas parties.
The editor informs Lady Bracknell that the blogger software is currently stubbornly refusing to upload photographs. This is a shame, because Caspar is very beautiful. Readers may rest assured that photographs will be interpolated into this post as soon as can be arranged.
*It is not, perhaps, widely appreciated that the gospels make no mention of there having been a specific quantity of wise men from the East at the nativity. The gifts which they bore were of three different substances, but nowhere is it stated that the wise men themselves were three in number.