Aunt Bébé and the Count, from Aston Kings, by Humphrey Pakington

Aunt Bébé had married as her third husband a Belgian count some twenty-five years her junior, and the faithful count stood gallantly behind her chair, striking what he believed to be an English attitude, and dressed in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers of tussore silk, and on his head a check cap with ear-flaps tied under the chin as though to restrain the bushy brown whiskers that luxuriated from his cheeks. The count’s principal duty was to pick up anything Aunt Bébé happened to notice that she had dropped–a full-time job, as the bishop remarked–and the wonder was that with this amount of gymnastic exercise he continued to grow stouter year by year. He had never obtained a mastery over the English language, and, while he was naturally expected to speak English to the rest of the family, he and Aunt Bébé employed a sort of pidgin French as a means of communication between themselves. The signal that the count’s services were required would be a shake of Aunt Bébé’s ringlets and a trembling finger pointing down at the grass, whereupon the count would give a gentle neighing sound, followed by “Ma Bébé” in most feeling accents, would step forward, bend to the ground with surprising alacrity, and, grasping the fan, gaze with a look of loving inquiry into the eyes of Aunt Bébé. It might have been the fan that Aunt Bébé wanted, but if the count happened to guess right the first time she would switch over to something else. “Na, na,” and the trembling finger shifted its position, “ze mouchoir,” and the count would be rewarded by a pat on the hand and a “Mon chéri.” An unwary stranger might sometimes stoop to save the count, but Aunt Bébé would quickly explain that her chéri was of a jealous disposition where she was concerned, and would allow none but himself to serve her.

from Aston Kings, by Humphrey Pakington

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