THE UNUSUAL RESIDENT

Concerning one of the many incidents involving Miss Elizabeth Barbett and her acquaintance of closeness, Miss Rosaline Ainsford.

"This is my office." remarked Mister Onthello, most revered schoolmaster of Dormere Academy, to his two newest charges; Miss Lizzie Barbett and her most loyal partner on many a venture (enterprises often mistaken for grave offences against society), Miss Rosie Ainsford. The statement concerning the office was, by the girls opinion, rather without point since the fact was made apparent from the moment one laid eyes on the particularly well-crafted plaque just outside the fine mahogany door leading into the favoured hiding spot of the schoolmasters existence. "It is not a poultry farm!" he continued, relatively undaunted by his persisting string of unnecessarily spoken remarks. After all, neither Miss Lizzie nor Miss Rosie happened to be the brightest pupils in the Academy, but they did pride themselves on being able to discern a den of flailing fowls from the tiny room they sat in without having the likes of Mister Onthello feeling indebted to tell them.

The altogether tedious office of the schoolmaster resembled something far from a poultry farm.

The walls, four in total quantity, were painted the most detestable of greens. A hue such as would remind any with the misfortune of stumbling across it of the greasy substance which may be found to emerge from the nostrils of a gentleman or lady as they give a thunderous sneeze into their crisp, clean handkerchiefs. Mounted on these most disagreeable and troublesome walls were portraits which, for all the lack of imagination they suggested, were framed in ridiculously over-decorated borders of gold and silver, crafted with what may most certainly have been and elegant hand- but where no doubt only there to redirect the attention from the pale, formal visages therein to the splendour around them. Most, if not all, of the afore mentioned portraits were of important and well-to-do members of the Onthello family tree. On the right, just above the well polished and precariously rickety desk, was the face of one well adorned with clothing of a discouragingly unfashionable nature. I shall say to you now, and it must be remembered, that for all of the resemblance this face may share with our schoolmaster-most-revered, it was most definitely another. The reason I have chosen to share this piece of information with you is that, quite simply, that this form wore a ball gown of enormous proportions – and of course there have been those of a dubious disposition who have oft demanded, in a disbelieving stance, the explanation for precisely why our dear Mister Onthello chose to have his image forever recorded in that particular garment.

Was it really any wonder that he kept a sly bottle of best brandy in arms reach?

Although Mister Onthello could hardly be assigned blame in his act of uttering the two uncalled for annotations- for when one has received a shock such as he had, one tends to lose the equilibrium one needs to prevent such useless observation from taking form. You see, the reason for his abrupt agitation with the two girls was al due to the unwelcome presence of a very much alive, and disconcerted, chicken.

Our dazed scholar had discovered this new arrival perched comfortably within the confines of his very best bowler hat, the one reserved only for Sundays; and instead of enquiring as to whether it considered an education at Dormere Academy, as etiquette would have merited, he instead raced off in search of the duo he very much suspected where the guilty party in this crime most heinous. No one living soul, fowl or otherwise, was to deface the reputed order of this office and get away with it.

The two girls, who where newly nine and almost ten, sat quivering on the two hard, wooden chairs that always sat in the corner; and soon found themselves wedged uncomfortably between two grossly displeasing walls and a flea infested old stuffed tom-cat. The reason for their trembling was not accredited to the rage building up inside their headmaster, in fact they paid very little attention to him as they chose instead to steer their attentions toward the schoolmasters poultry guest. They shook due to the insistent lack of heating throughout the entire building – and it was mid-winter to the bargain! Yet the schoolmaster-most-revered was angry, and was ready to unleash upon the two young Misses his weapons of stern lectures and threats to tell of their ongoing sins to their families, who were both branches of high society in the tree that was Victorian society; when there was a sharp knock on the door.

The knuckles the smartly rapped on the mahogany wood belonged to a hand, and that hand belonged to Young Sarah, the school maid and apprentice to Ancient Sarah, the cook.

"'Scuse me sir." she boomed in her usual roar, as she let herself in with her assortment of mops and brooms, "But Ancient Sarah said she heard of a mess in 'ere and I'm just come to…" the girl stopped dead when she met eyes with the increasingly infuriated farm-dwelling fowl. "Blimey!" she cried, dropping her collection of cleaning tackle. "Shame on you, Mister Onthello, sir! You was the one that said we wasn't to have pets!"

The schoolmaster gave a weary groan, and very much hoped his bottle of brandy was close at hand and was enough to calm his ever wavering nerves. "My dear Miss Sarah," he attempted in a voice sounding far from the symphony of patience he meant it to, "this is not a pet! It is, as you may be able to note, in fact an intruding chicken!" and with a deft motion the offending bird was dumped into the arms of the bewildered maid, where it then went on to flap and screech away. "Now, if you will kindly have him removed…"

"Her, sir." Miss Rosie spoke up.

"I beg your pardon?" his voiced sounded uncannily like the shrieks that the flustered chicken emitted as he wheeled around to face the rather short (and stout) Miss Ainsford.

"The chicken, sir. He's a she, sir."

"And her name is Patricia if you don't mind me…"

"You are already in a lifetime of trouble without contradicting your elders! If I, Nicholas Joseph Onthello, headmaster of Dormere Academy, decree that he is a male, then it is so and so it shall remain!"

"But…"

"Silence!"