New Zephyria
by Robin Gordon

Auksford crest: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"

-  Auksford  -

Part II: The Royal Wedding

Chapter 8: Send for Dr Pimple

Copyright Robin Gordon, 1996/2004

"Dr Pimple called while you were asleep, Your Highness" they told him when he rose at about a quarter past eleven, "but we didn't like to disturb you, so he went away again."

"Dr Pimple!" cried the Prince. "Of course! Send for Dr Pimple! Send for him at once! Find him wherever he is! Tell him it's a matter of life and death!"

"I think Your Highness exaggerates the urgency," said Dandy.

"Don't stand there trying to talk like Oliver Simpkin, you fool!" yelled the Prince, forgetting his manners in his anxiety. "Dr Pimple's the only one who can get me out of this mess, and if you don't find him Dandy, you're going to be best man and wear the same clothes as I do!"

The fastidious Dandy paled. "As Your Highness pleases," he said coldly, and turned away.

"If Your Highness would care for a little breakfast ..." murmured the butler.

"No time for breakfast," snapped the Prince. "I've got to get to the Palace straight away - and if you want to have a prince to be butler to, you'd better find Dr Pimple and send him to me before 12 o'clock!"

* * * * *

It was nearly ten to twelve before Prince Egbert reached the Palace. The King and Mr Secretary Simpkin were waiting impatiently.

"Thought you weren't goin' to turn up," said the King testily. "Well, now you're here, Bertie, what's the verdict? Who's your best man."

"Look here, don't you know, what?" gabbled Prince Egbert. "I'm sure we can find a way out of all this. I've been awake all night, but I've sent for Dr Pimple ..."

"One can understand Your Royal Highness feeling a little under the weather in the circumstances," observed Oliver Simpkin, "but I fear that Your Royal Highness's state of health is not germane to the issue under consideration."

"Eh?"

"It's got nothin' to do with the case!" snapped the King. "That's what you said, isn't it, Simpkin?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," murmured the Secretary. "We have to inform the Boranians in less than ten minutes' time of the identity of Your Highness's best man. Is it to be Prince Bruce?"

"Um ..." stammered Prince Egbert.

At that moment Prince Bruce was shown into the room, his face pale and his eyes rimmed with black.

"Sorry I'm late," he said. "Spent a bit of a sleepless night then slept late this morning."

"His Majesty needs to know," said Oliver Simpkin, "whether you will act as best man."

Prince Bruce swallowed. "Yes," he said. "Yes, of course I will. I shall probably be laughed off my throne when I become King, but a Zephyrian Prince must keep his word."

"Capital," said King Arthur. "Deuced sorry about the laughter and all that, but noblesse oblige, eh what?

"Yes," replied Prince Bruce, looking distinctly green about the gills.

"Excellent," said Oliver Simpkin. "I shall inform Prince Boris of Borania immediately."

"No, but, I say, but ... dash it ... I mean, well ... dash it, after all ..." protested Prince Egbert. "I mean, well ... dash it, don't you know?"

"What is the fool burblin' about?" demanded the King.

"I believe his Royal Highness wishes to indicate dissatisfaction with the outcome of our deliberations," said Mr Secretary Simpkin, moving towards the door.

"Does he, by Jove?"

"Yes I ... er, well ... look here ... dash it, yes I ... YES I JOLLY WELL DO!" said Prince Egbert. "I fail to see ..." began Oliver Simpkin.

"We've got to wait for Dr Pimple," gabbled the Prince. "If there's anyone can get us out of this mess it's him."

"I hardly think," murmured Oliver Simpkin in a tone of lofty disdain, "that a simple family doctor could solve a problem that has baffled not only Your Majesty's Government ..." "Pack of half-wits!" growled the King.

"... but even the best brains in the Civil Service."

"Still ..." the King reflected, "no harm in tryin'. Deuced clever fella, Pimple."

"I shall wait until precisely midday," stated Oliver Simpkin. "As soon as the clock strikes I shall go to Prince Boris."

"Do you think Dr Whatsisname can get us out of it?" muttered Prince Bruce to Prince Egbert.

"He might," replied Prince Egbert.

At that moment the carillon in the Palace clock-tower began to play. Oliver Simpkin bowed to the King and turned to the door - only to find Prince Bruce leaning against it.

"That's only the introduction," said Prince Bruce, "not the chimes."

"Preposterous!" snapped Oliver Simpkin. "Move out of my way!"

"SIMPKIN!!" roared the King, outraged at such discourtesy to a member of the Royal Family.

"Oh, I do apologise, Your Majesty. What I meant to say was that I should be most grateful if His Royal Highness would consent to move aside so that I might carry out Your Majesty's bidding."

"No power on Earth will move me from this doorway!" announced Prince Bruce grimly - then, to everyone's amazement, he suddenly shot forward and almost collided with the indignant secretary.

Bastable, the Royal Butler entered. "I do beg your pardon, Your Royal Highness," he murmured, and an indefinable air of tranquillity seemed to permeate the atmosphere as he spoke. "I had no idea you were behind the door. Ahem, a visitor, Your Majesty. Dr Pimple."

"Capital!" said the King. "Let's hear what he has to say. Sit down everybody. Simpkin, get a chair for Dr Pimple, would you?"

* * * * *

The princely predicament was soon explained. Dr Pimple reflected a moment.

"Corks!" he said. "That's a poser. Just let me think a mo'. Mmmm. Tell me, would Prince Bruce be willing to stand down and let some other chap have the honour of being best man?"

"You bet!" said Prince Bruce fervently.

"Then, gentlemen, I think I may have it," said the doctor. "Can I take it that Mr Simpkin could manage to give the Boranians the best man's measurements without letting on who he was?"

"Of course, of course!" snapped Oliver Simpkin. "Any half-way competent senior civil servant could do as much."

"Wizzo!" said Dr Pimple. "Well, my wheeze is this; let's give Prince Boris his own measurements. The Boranians will pretend to make a suit to fit them, and on the day before the wedding Your Majesty will make a surprise announcement: to show New Zephyria's gratitude to the Emperor for his magnificent gift and to demonstrate the depths of our friendship for him, we have chosen his son, Prince Boris, to be best man. I should think His Imperial Highness will fall ill quite unexpectedly and have to stay in bed on the day of the wedding. Prince Bruce will step into his shoes - but not into his trousers. A suit made for Prince Boris wouldn't fit Prince Bruce at all, anyone can see that. Since tradition demands that a royal New Zephyrian bridegroom and his best man must be dressed alike, Prince Egbert will, with great regret, have to leave his fine Boranian clothes in their box and wear an ordinary suit."

"We'd never get away with it," said the King, "would we?"

"The Boranians would just make up another pretend suit overnight," said Prince Egbert.

Oliver Simpkin smiled. "Not without losing all credibility," he said. "When I tell prince Boris that the best man needs a suit too, I shall give him the opportunity of demonstrating his generosity by sacrificing to our needs the very last of the fairy cloth. He will not be able to resist the temptation to play the rôle of disappointed magnanimity to the full."

"Eh? What?" said Prince Egbert.

Dr Pimple explained. "Mr Simpkin will trick Prince Boris into saying he would have liked a fairy suit for himself but will give up the very last of the enchanted cloth to make one for the best man."

"Dashed clever!" said Prince Egbert. "But how are we going to find out Boris's measurements? Can't just roll up and ask him. Make him suspicious, what?"

"I have Prince Boris's measurements," said Oliver Simpkin. "They were on page 412 of the statistical report our spies sent back from Borania last April. They were rather unusual measurements. Surely we have a weakness in our plan here, Doctor. There can scarcely be another human being in the world who combines so large and stout a body with such short legs. If Prince Boris does not recognise his own measurements his tailors undoubtedly will."

"Genuine tailors might," replied Dr Pimple, "but my guess is that these bird are just actors - they don't have to make any real clothes, after all. Besides, even if they do recognise the measurements they'll probably keep mum. The Boranians don't exactly love their royal family. Probably something to do with Emperor's unfortunate habit of killing large numbers of his subjects whenever anything irritates him. They'll probably find it quite amusing to see someone make a fool of Prince Boris."

"But what about Boris himself?" demanded Prince Bruce. "His legs are so ridiculously short - less than half the length of mine - that he'd surely recognise his own measurements."

"I doubt it," answered Dr Pimple. "Like most vain men he probably thinks he's the bee's knees, or the cat's pyjamas, if you prefer. He probably thinks he's a perfect specimen of manhood with nothing in the least odd about his physique. I think it will work. Shall we go ahead?"

"Yes!" said the King. "Jolly good wheeze, what?"

I shall go at once," said Oliver Simpkin.

* * * * *

It all happened as predicted. Prince Boris was so delighted with his new rôle as magnanimously self-sacrificing donor of the last of the fairy cloth that he did not even glance at the measurements as Oliver Simpkin handed them to the leading tailor.

Such was his delight that he called another press conference. "To make the royal wedding complete," he told the reporters, "I, Boris the Bear, Crown Prince of Borania, will give the very last of the beautiful fairy cloth of Borania, with its shimmering iridescent colours and its golden stars, to make a suit for the best man of my beloved cousin, Prince Egbert. I would have liked to have one made for myself. Such magnificence I have never seen before, nor will any of us ever see again. I weep with emotion. I shed tears of joy whenever I look upon it. All this will I sacrifice for my noble cousin the Prince of New Zephyria."

He played his part so well that he almost began to believe it.

* * * * *

On the day before the wedding Prince Boris was invited to a banquet at the Royal Palace. Every notable New Zephyrian was there: the King and Queen, Prince Egbert, his bride-to-be and her stepsisters, the Archbishop, the Lord Chief Justice, the Prime Minister and the whole Government. Queen Edna and Prince Norman of Old Zephyria were there too, with their son, Prince Bruce, and there was also a sprinkling of other kings and queens, princes and prelates, archdukes and ambassadors. Reporters and television crews from all over the world were on hand to record the glittering scene.

"We have a special announcement to make," proclaimed King Arthur. "In token of our friendship and esteem for our Imperial Friend and Brother, the Emperor of Borania - may he live forever, what? - we have decided to bestow upon his noble and illustrious son, Prince Boris, the highest honour. Come forward, Prince Boris!"

Prince Boris went forward. "I am overcome!" he roared. "We Boranians feel such things deeply. It is our soul!"

The King patted him gently on the shoulder and turned to the cameras.

"We too," he said, "were overcome by emotion at the magnificence of the Emperor's gift to us, and even more so by Prince Boris's generosity in sacrificing the very last of the fairy cloth to provide a suit for our son's best man. It gives me great joy therefore to announce to you all the honour that we propose to confer on Prince Boris."

Here he clasped the Boranian Prince by the hand, looked him straight in the eye, and announced: "Most noble Prince, you are to be the best man at our son's wedding. The second suit has been made for you!"

Boris the Bear opened his mouth. A few strangled sounds came out, but no words.

"I can see that you're filled with emotion," said the King, patting him on the back. "It's the Boranian soul, I expect.

"Three cheers for Prince Boris of Borania!" called Prince Egbert, and the cheers rang out, loud and long. Boris turned away. Egbert and Bruce clapped him enthusiastically on the back, and others followed their example. Dandy thumped him as hard as he could in revenge for his fall, but the Bear scarcely noticed. He left the hall without answering any questions from the eager journalists.

* * * * *

Next day the streets were lined with joyful spectators. The festive scene was broadcast all over the world. Prince Boris watched it on television in his bedroom. A sudden illness welling up from the depths of his soul, brought on by his emotional response to the great honour done him by the Royal House of New Zephyria, had laid him prostrate. He had sent a note regretting that he was too ill to take part in the ceremonies.

The King announced the sad news to the world's press. Prince Bruce of Old Zephyria, his son's closest friend, would step into the breach, but, unfortunately the groom and best man would not be able to wear the magical Boranian clothes.

They wore instead what Queen Edna called their sailor suits, for both were admirals in the Zephyrian navies. The wedding was a great success, and all attention was focussed where it belonged: on the bride - and, of course, on the extraordinary beauty of her two stepsisters. The fashion columnists were enthralled with the new princess's going-away outfit. They praised her good taste to the skies and made special mention of her elegant gloves.

The wedding was a happy and joyous occasion. Even the republicans came out and cheered, and the Professors Jolly were inspired to write another of their fairytales. As for Prince Boris and the Boranian tailors, they crept quietly away while the festivities were in progress. No-one knows where Prince Boris went, but it was two whole years before he dared show his face in Borania.

* * * * *

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