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Wiggly Barstool
Wiggly Barstool
Wiggly Barstool
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Wiggly Barstool

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In this companion volume to Wobbly Barstool, Wobbly’s dynamic, mercurial son Wiggly seeks to promote veganism in Edwardian Britain while matching wits with a scampish Irish baronet.
Release dateSep 29, 2016
Wiggly Barstool
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    Wiggly Barstool - Jane Lowy




    WIGGLY BOUNDED DOWN THE STAIRS with greater than usual exuberance and flung himself like a spaniel onto the Chesterfield beside me, sloshing the cup of Earl Grey which I had heedlessly retained in my grasp. Sorry, old boy; I didn’t think, he said, offering the antimacassar to sop my trousers. Then, after marveling at the jolly lot of dust that had evidenced itself in a beam of strong morning sunlight as a result of his recent exertion, he disclosed what had prompted it.

    Seb, he said, there’s a story to be told. Posterity demands it. You’re the one to tell it.

    Groaning inwardly, I asked my cousin whatever did he mean, knowing full well what he meant.

    Our story. The story of us all. What else?

    After venturing a sip of my remaining tea as a stalling tactic, I said, But why me, Wiggly? You’re rather the hero of the tale, I think.

    Your flattering supposition is beside the point. You are the writer here. It’s in your blood.

    My protest that I had never demonstrated any shade of my father’s brilliance as an author and had never attempted anything on such a grand scale merely elicited a dismissive snort. Bosh. You’ll do. You’ve got that painstakingly detailed journal of yours for starts, haven’t you?

    Yes, I sighed in resignation.

    Good man. I’m sure you could dash something together in a trice. Besides, we both know I haven’t the patience for it, he said, grinning triumphantly, and leapt up and away.

    *  *  *

    Having been induced to attempt this account of what might in truth be considered a somewhat remarkable story, I suppose it would be as well to begin with the history of Wiggly’s and my association. My cousin, William Barstool, known from infancy as Wiggly for obvious reasons, was born on April 12, 1871 in Restinstump, Suffolk county, England. I, Sebastian Barstool, followed in July of that year. Growing up in the same village, the children of sets of parents who were quite friendly to one another, we were thrown together a great deal and became staunch playfellows from an early age.

    Ostensibly a fruit and vegetable farmer, Wiggly’s father, Mr. Wobbly Barstool (whose history, along with that of Wiggly’s mother and my parents, was ably chronicled in the book Wobbly Barstool by Mrs. Jane Lowy), had fallen into favor with the late Queen Victoria due to his folksy negotiatory prowess and received a tidy annual stipend for his role as an occasional diplomat in particularly sticky governmental situations, both foreign and domestic.

    My own father, Dr. Tobias Barstool, whose treatise Let Them Live in Dignity: The Noble Innocence of Beasts created such a stir in decades past, ran a successful school with my mother which dealt with sympathetic relations between human and non-human animals.

    Thus our two families lived comfortably and harmoniously in a pastoral paradise, surrounded by extensive family connections, any one of whom was always ready with a kind word or a helping hand. It was, however, through the joint acquisition of a substantial fortune by my father and Wiggly’s mother that we were able as boys to attend Eton, and later as young men, Oxford. The circumstances behind this influx of wealth being rather singular, I shall briefly relate it.

    The relationship between Wiggly’s family and my own is complex. Though our fathers are half-siblings, my father, Tobias, and Wiggly’s mother, Prunella, are also (I beg the reader to consult the aforementioned work by Mrs. Lowy for the delicate details). Tobias and Prunella are possessed of an aunt, Hoaxonia Baddonschilde, who was particularly nasty and troublesome before she suffered a nervous collapse brought on by traumatic events at the time of Wobbly and Prunella’s marriage (again, I must refer you to Lowy). Mrs. Baddonschilde’s husband removed her to Australia to escape the consequences of her various crimes, both legal and moral, of which he was largely guilty by complicity, and cared for her in her gibbering insensibility for five years until she reawakened suddenly and inexplicably as a devout Buddhist. What in the Austrogaean environment could have inspired this transformation will likely never be known, but the completeness of her conversion was certain. Over the next six months, she called for and greedily devoured every text on the religion that could be obtained. Then, in her fervor to atone for her past misdeeds, she renounced all worldly goods and vowed to extinguish selfishness from her being, a view that her husband rather encouraged than not, having been brutally henpecked from the outset of their marriage.

    Mrs. Baddonschilde humbly requested Mr. Baddonschilde to make reparations to her niece and nephew, whose family she had severely and cruelly wronged. He, hoping to rid himself of any guilt in the matter, was happy to agree. Prunella and Tobias, who had refused monetary compensation when the Baddonschildes once would have been compelled to pay it, now decided to accept the gift that their aunt earnestly offered them and pleaded that they take, convinced of the sincerity of her repentance, and determined to put the money to good use by furthering their children’s interests, as well as by other more philanthropic employments.

    Wiggly adapted well to the Etonian environment and quickly became a favorite among students and teachers alike. His popularity stemmed from his natural charm, buoyancy, good looks, and strong sense of fair play, combined with his skills on the cricket field, where he greatly excelled as a bowler. Following a match, shouts of Well played, Barstool! or Barstool, good business with that pitch! rang frequently in our ears as we walked together, with the occasional kind addendum, Buck up, Sebastian; you’ll get there. It is to my cousin’s credit that he stuck by me faithfully during our schooldays, shielding me from any attacks, either physical or emotional, that my innate diffidence and abysmal gamesmanship might otherwise have inspired. In turn, I assisted Wiggly in his studies, elucidating concepts that he had imperfectly noted while in the classroom, his restless mind having a tendency to wander.

    By the time we entered Oxford, Wiggly had grown into a confident, tall, slim but sturdy, wavy-fair-haired young man, while I remained timid and something below the middle height, with lank dark hair and nondescript features. But though unprepossessing in manner and appearance, I believe I may fairly boast of my memory, which I am told is exceptional. I am able to recall to the slightest detail every sight and sound to which I am exposed, any word that I hear or read—Wiggly declares that I am a walking camera and gramophone combined. This particular faculty, in combination with my ready understanding, allowed me to carry on smoothing Wiggly’s academic pathway, just as he eased my social. In this way we were able to sail through University with scarcely a ripple, save for those in the hearts of any young ladies whom Wiggly had chanced to smile upon during off hours.

    Our association being mutually beneficial and our affection for one another enduring, Wiggly deemed after graduation that we should take up residence together. I raised no objection. We chose to rent a modest country house known as Dovetail Inglenook in the village of Wilderdale between Restinstump and London, far enough from our childhood home to allow us to stretch our wings and distant enough from the great city to allow substantial breathing room at reduced cost, while being comfortably near by rail or motor to both family and business. Our landlady, Mrs. Hugson, cares for us admirably.

    While I took up writing, now and then managing to sell a story to a literary magazine, my cousin began what was to become a series of careers, each commenced with a zeal which dwindled after a few years or even months into indifference and disenchantment. He bore such titles as flower cultivator, athletic coach, dance instructor, London tour guide, public relations consultant, and even Member of Parliament for a session, after which he declared that he was fed up with political tomfoolery. Wiggly’s thoughts then turned to photography, a method of employment which he enlisted me to assist him in undertaking, as he had frequently done with his other pursuits, finding me readily adaptable to most situations, so long as I was not required to strain my feeble social muscles by putting myself forward. This new venture captivated Wiggly, and after he had obtained the requisite supplies and equipment and mastered their usage, he set about to build a clientele. This posed no difficulty, for there were seemingly unlimited numbers of ladies who wished to have their portraits done, providing Wiggly’s lens with possibly the most genuine expressions of devotion ever captured on film.

    It must not be thought that my cousin toyed with the affections of women, for he was innocent of any such callousness as that, but his handsome clean-shaven boyish face and youthful energy were not without their effect. He unwittingly fascinated wherever he went, and though he was not immune to feminine attraction, he sought to hold such passions in check and had never yet succumbed to love. As I had no reason to believe that I stood any chance of success in the area of romance, I had dismissed the idea from my thoughts as impractical. Thus we remained two heart-whole bachelors, even into our thirties.

    Wiggly, who has been popping into and out of my room and peeking over my shoulder as I write, has begged that I leave off the introductory claptrap and get on with it. This suggestion being sound, I shall follow it.



    IT WAS THE AFTERNOON OF MAY 3, 1903, when the story I am to tell commenced. The day had not gone particularly well—rain had spoiled the portrait shoot; the photographic subject had fled for shelter under Wiggly’s greatcoat (which he was wearing at the time); the unicoated pair in running to the house collided squarely with the subject’s husband coming unexpectedly around a corner; and said husband threatened to break, first, Wiggly’s camera, then move on to Wiggly’s anatomy, should he ever again find his wife in similar proximity to Wiggly’s person. As my cousin sat brooding during the train ride home (his motorcar being ailing), I could already detect impending signs of discontent with the status quo.

    The lurching of a passenger into us following a station stop served to change the direction of Wiggly’s thoughts. Oh! Terribly sorry, sirs; can’t think what happened. Must’ve been that cow, he said cryptically.

    What’s that? responded Wiggly, after a quick scan found the corridor free of bovines.

    This cow—heifer, really—that I came across on my recent holiday in Ireland. Rummiest thing I ever saw. ’Spect I was musin’ on it and not payin’ proper heed to—pardon, sirs, don’t mean to intrude.

    By no means, my good man, Wiggly reassured him. Pray, have a seat and tell us more.

    I made room for our fellow passenger, and he gratefully plopped down beside me.

    She’s known as ‘The Miracle of Tipperary’. Born with a large Irish shamrock on her side, perfect down to the stem and veins—her natural coloration, apparently. Clover, her name is—well, it would be, wouldn’t it?

    You don’t say? breathed Wiggly.

    Our coachmate, his loquaciousness fostered into full flower by the first-class bench cushions, went on to describe this unusual animal in minute detail, including its caretakers and precise location. By the time we departed at the next station, I could see the light of interest rekindled in Wiggly’s eyes. That cow, Seb, he said.

    What of it? I prompted.

    We must photograph it. I’ve an idea something will come of it if we do.

    Wiggly never having been one to let the grass grow under his feet, it was consequently settled that we would set out the following morning. To Ireland? cried our landlady upon being told of our impending absence. Right after breakfast?

    And the earlier the better, my dear Mrs. Hugson, put in Wiggly.

    Very well, sir, sighed the good woman. Suppose I oughtn’t be surprised at your sudden flittin’ abouts, havin’ known you these ten years.

    Just as we know you to be the most understanding and accommodating of souls, rejoined Wiggly.

    I need to be, livin’ with the likes o’ you, she said, with a playful flick of her feather duster. Wot calls the two of you to Ireland so sudden, sirs, if I might ask?

    A cow, Wiggly informed her.

    "A cow? she echoed incredulously. Why, I could show you more than a few of those within easy walkin’ distance of here, if you like."

    Our interest, I explained, stems from the fact that this particular animal bears a peculiar coloration pattern which renders it an ideal subject for photography.

    If you say so, sir. But if you were to ask me, said our old housekeeper, placing a maternal hand upon a shoulder of each of us, I’d tell the both of you gentlemen that you’d be far better off searchin’ for wives than cows. A good sensible woman would settle you down, Mr. Wiggly; and an adoring little wife of your own, Mr. Sebastian, would build you up and bring you out of yourself a bit, if you don’t mind my sayin’ so.

    I blushed at the thought of this unlikelihood, while Wiggly responded, Mrs. Hugson, you take such jolly good care of us that the temptation you speak of is greatly reduced.

    Well, I’d best slack off a bit then, hadn’t I? she sniffed.

    Your industrious nature would allow you to pursue no such course, I fear, madam, returned Wiggly before vaulting upstairs to pack.

    *  *  *

    My cousin’s pert analysis of our landlady’s character proved correct, for she was up with the lark and had a sustaining breakfast awaiting us as early as we cared to appear. By the time I groped my way down the stairs a good two hours before my usual time, Wiggly was halfway through his meal. Awfully decent of you to rally ’round, old chap, he greeted me between champs of toast. Now look slippy, or we’ll miss our train.

    I did my best, which was in this case sufficient, for we made our train to London. From Paddington we began our daylong westward journey, first across England and then Wales, where the train was serenaded by a succession of Welshmen who immediately broke into song at the sight of their countrymen, forming a chorus that ebbed and flowed all the way to Fishguard harbor. We boarded a ferry across St. George’s Channel and after several hours rough travel reached Ireland at Rosslare. Our travel by rail then resumed and as we approached our destination took us into the fertile plain known as the Golden Vale. Our eyes were soothed and our minds caressed by the sight of pastureland gently rolling past our windows like a cool emerald sea. Dotted upon this sea, we being now in the heart of Ireland’s dairy country, were numerous black-and-white Friesian cows, which if I am to continue my metaphor, must have been holy cows, able to walk on water.

    We arrived at Tipperary town that evening. Wiggly was all for locating our photographic subject at once despite our travel weariness, but I pointed out that the fading Irish springtime light would be insufficient for our purpose, besides our application being no doubt better received the next morning. My cousin assented to this reasoning, and we turned our remaining energy to obtaining food and lodging. Upon inquiry, a nearby tavern was recommended to which we immediately repaired. After our rooms had been acquired and our effects deposited within them, we sat down at the bar for our supper, hoping to engage the locals in conversation concerning our object.

    English gentlemen, are ya, sars? remarked the innkeeper pleasantly, setting before us steaming bowls of our requested vegetable stew.

    Indeed we are, good fellow, replied Wiggly.

    Ah well, we’ll not hold dat against ya.

    Jolly decent of you.

    Noot’in’ a’tall. What brings you gents to Tipperary town?

    A cow, Wiggly said significantly.

    Does it now? said the innkeeper, cocking his head. Surely you’ve one or two o’ doze in England.

    Our country does boast such assets. However the specific animal in question is fabled to bear the likeness of your fair country’s symbol proudly upon its flank.

    De Miracle o’ Tipperary? She’s real, right enough, sar.

    You relieve me immensely. Would have been rather a long trek to no purpose otherwise, eh, Seb?

    I agreed.

    A soight ta behold, dat she is, sars. You’ve come all dis weh ta have a look at ’er? Well, bless ya, sars; she’s well wort’ de trip!

    I then felt a hand upon my back just as, judging from his start, my cousin felt its counterpart. Pardon me, gentlemen, but if I might have a word? softly sounded the voice of the hands’ owner from behind and somewhat below us.

    We turned to see a rather odd-looking man of perhaps sixty years of age, small and round, expensively dressed in a suit of kelly green. His red hair, tinged with gray, stuck out in tufts around the sides of his gleaming bald head and bearded his wrinkled, rosy, round face. He was the epitome of an Irishman, seeming in fact almost the parody of such; yet his clipped tones bespoke the well-educated Englishman.

    After an inquiring glance in my direction, Wiggly said, By all means, sir. We are at your disposal.

    I would prefer to speak more privately. That corner table will do nicely. Would you be kind enough to join me there for a few moments conversation? I shan’t keep you long from your suppers.

    Both of us being curious, and Wiggly thwarted by hot food which he could not gulp, we descended our stools and followed him. It was with a pleasant sense of novelty that I found the man even shorter of stature than myself, while Wiggly positively towered over him. Our sitting down together had something of a leveling effect however, as the stranger may have calculated.

    Forgive me, gentlemen, he began, but I could not help overhearing your conversation with the barman. I understood you to say that you have an interest in seeing the so-called ‘Miracle of Tipperary’.

    We do, sir, said Wiggly, for such would be necessary in order to photograph her.

    There was, for but an instant, the slightest perceptible dilation of the stranger’s pupils.

    I fear, gentlemen, that you have been sadly misled. The Miracle of Tipperary is quite of this earth. It is merely a cow like so many in these parts and is as common as dirt.

    My spirits sank, and there was a look of consternation on my cousin’s face as he said, You’ve seen her, then?

    I have.

    And no bewilderingly realistic shamrock on her?

    Our companion drew a long, slow breath and exhaled pityingly.

    But we had it from the innkeeper just now that she’s all that she should be! protested Wiggly.

    Gentlemen, how little you understand the Irish. Centuries of English oppression have convinced them that existence is cruel. Their warm, sensitive natures have shrunk from the harsh realities of life and have turned instead to fantasy, where they seek a haven in imagination. Give an Irishman the slimmest, most meager fare, the thinnest, most wretched gruel, and he will make a feast of it in his mind. He has little choice if he is to maintain his sanity and the cheerful outlook which is his mainstay. And so it is with this cow—a group of blotches with some vague resemblance to something cherished and familiar is mentally amplified until it achieves a state of significance, even profundity. Then, gentlemen, you must also factor into the equation the Irish sense of humor. The temptation to get a bit of his own back from the Englishman is great. This may all quite possibly be a jest at your expense.

    But, look here, man, cried Wiggly, becoming incensed, it was an Englishman who told us of the thing in the first place! He’d seen it with his own eyes and described it to us in astonishing detail on the train in London.

    This gave the gentlemen pause, but he almost immediately came back with: Sir, you underestimate the power of suggestion. Take anyone, no matter how level-headed, and surround him with people who swear that what he sees is something other than what it is, and he will be hard-pressed to trust his own senses. Doubtless your Englishman thought he saw what he said he did.

    Wiggly eyed him skeptically.

    No, gentlemen, said the green-clad stranger, kindly continuing to include me in his address, though I had ventured not a word, I advise you to cut your losses now. To attempt to follow through with your original intention would only waste more of your time and make you the laughingstock of the area. Preserve your remaining dignity and beat a hasty retreat back to England the first thing in the morning.

    We’ll decide for ourselves, thank you, Wiggly replied coolly.

    "You would do well to heed my wisdom, sir, for my experience is vast. I am a man of the world. Je suis un homme du monde. Soy un hombre del mundo. Sono un uomo di mondo…"

    The man, with perfect pronunciation, as far as my knowledge went, proceeded with an impressively long succession of multilingual utterances as he drew away from us and slowly edged towards the door, including the staccato vowels of some Polynesian tongue and the clicks indicative of one of the African languages, the meaning of each, I must surmise, being, I am a man of the world. The last of the series I recognized as Irish Gaelic, "Tá mé fear ar fud an domhain," and with that, he skipped out the door. When he passed the window, the lamplight revealed a number of gold teeth glinting in the wide grin he gave us as he tipped his green derby before vanishing into the shadows.

    The man’s off his chump, declared Wiggly, goggling perplexedly.

    His interest in the matter certainly strikes me as odd, I accorded.

    It’s balderdash, if you ask me. Fellow was rotting us from start to finish. What business is it of his, I should like to know?

    I could not say, and said as much. We then returned to our stews, which had in our absence achieved a tepidity amenable to free consumption.

    His meal dispatched, Wiggly summoned the innkeeper. I say, my good man, you wouldn’t chance to know who that joker was who was having us on just now? he inquired.

    Him? Why yes, sar, Oi would. Everyone knows dat gentleman ’round here. He’s Sir Patrick O’Dell, owner o’ dat cow you’re here about.



    THE DAY HAVING BEEN LONG, wearisome and confusing, we retired to our rooms after this rather unsettling episode. I

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