Friday, 17 April 2020

A Grim Fairy Tale



ONCE upon a time, there was a leader whose name was Bullington Bertie. He lived at the centre of a forest, surrounded by members of his court. As a jolly jape he led them on hunting parties to kill partridges and dismember foxes. 


For even greater amusement, they searched the wood for paupers. These they hounded by ripping up money in front of their hovels. If any of the poor did not share the swine-pink skin of Bullington Bertie, he called them ‘picaninnies with watermelon smiles’. The women who modestly covered their faces with wimples he taunted and called ‘letterboxes’.


One day a simple man arrived in the forest with his many disciples. This man’s name was Jeremiah the Just. His followers carried banners and gonfalons sewn with FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW.

Bullington Bertie was incensed at the arrival of this rabble, but he didn’t feel threatened because he had planted his spies as Jeremiah’s ‘counsellors’. Most important among them was Lord Kneel of Gilbride and Sir Stammer of Suthringa.

Those of Bullington’s men who looked as if they might be swayed to join Jeremiah were handed proclamations on vellum that had been scribed in advance. A soothsayer had predicted Jeremiah’s arrival and the power of his message. Bullington’s lawyers had decided that anyone who chose to follow Jeremiah would be accused of heresy. Bullington’s followers were fearful of being charged and racked and so rallied around their leader.

Five years later, a terrible plague swept through the land and people were confined to their homes while Bullington Bertie and his entourage retreated deeper into the forest to carry on with their emerald and ermined lives.

In desperation, the people of the kingdom beat drums and called out to Bullington Bertie to give alms and coin to those caring for the sick and dying. The people prayed and wept that he would give comfort, but he cared nothing for anyone who was not like him and his people continued to sicken and die.

Travellers arriving from foreign shores were not placed in quarantine as the law prescribed. Bullington’s advisor, Sir Cum, had told him the poor were costing too much and needed to die like cattle, preferably in their own hovels. Of course, if members of the court became ill, there would be the doctors and apothecaries to keep them alive.

But don’t despair, dear readers. This fairy tale will have a happy ending. It is because the pen is in your hands, and you will write it.

David Wilson & Anne Aylor



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