Copyright to the author Feb 2004



All around me - sheer decadence, sir. I fear my eyes, dazzled by the bright hues and merry twinkling of bejewelled satin and embroidered lace, will ere be blinded by the glittering gladness of youth as it twirls its gay masques and reels and roundels across the ballroom. Look at the way they hold each other tight, look at the way his hands, for example, are lingering on her arm as they change partners - it is not right, sir. No, not right at all.

Do you not agree, sir?

I fear for the future, sir. Do you not? These young creatures, why they are base animals, driven by their desires, their fleshly needs. The women are wanton with lust, dripping with desire and swollen with satiation. And the young… well, I cannot use the word ‘gentlemen’, sir, for I fear they are not. Urged forward solely by the swelling in their britches. Decadence, lust and licentiousness, sir, that is what we are become.

I fear they are lost to us, lost to us forever.

No, of course I do not deny them their youth. We were all young, and I daresay youth is allowed its high spirits from time to time. After all, what is youth but a rehearsal for life? A time to learn about responsibility, duty, sobriety and how to lead a good Christian life.

This, sir, this behaviour is not Christian. I’m sure we remember our younger days with much fondness, with no shade of guilt or remorse for past extravagances or excesses. Wine, we drank in moderation, in remembrance of Our Lord’s blood, not to revel in its intoxicating properties, its red richness running down our chins as we lapped it up in open invitation to degradation. Meat and bread, sir, we ate to sustain our bodies. Look at the way the men feed tidbits to the women, their fingers lingering on lips, tongues teasing fingertips as they withdraw. Disgraceful!

It is not right! We never did it! It is not right, sir!

Lovers, you say? Nonsense. Lovers, what are they but indulgences of trivial emotions and baser urges? The ballroom is no place for them. They must skulk in the piazza, under cover of cloak and mask as they flit from one sly assignation to another, hoping that the mystery of darkness covers their furtive tracks. Love has no place in society; it must skulk amongst the gutters or be locked away in an attic until the infection has gone and the burning in the blood has worked its course.

Love. Do not let the false emotions of that word soften your heart, sir, for it does no kindness for those so afflicted. Cured, sir - they need to be cured, to be cleansed… to have the disease cut from their consciousness. For what should happen, should it linger and bloom in its cancerous way? Love is no foundation for marriage, we all know that. It would be the ruin of us all, such a wanton, flitting and false thing as it is.

Yes, well sir I daresay I can say these things because of that. We have all, whilst the impressionable years afflicted us, felt the fever in the blood that burns reason away. But we were fortunate, were we not? We escaped it; we did not allow it to entwine us so completely that we lost all sense of what was right and proper.

Of course I remember that winter. You wore the darkest cloak, midnight-black as the raven’s wing, and a marble-white Arlecchino mask, and your gentlemanly curls spilled their unruly way from under the tricoleur hat. Such mystery, such intrigue arriving each evening at my window, the gondola waiting around the corner to spirit us away into the madness of carnivale.

What do I remember of those times? More than you, of that I have no doubt. Of course I remember the balls, the parties, the dancing and the music. Sometimes, when I lie in my bed, all I can hear is Vivaldi’s violin as he scrapes towards his ecstasy, and I grow dizzy again at the sensations of being swept around the room by you, a swirl of golds and reds and greens and blues and silvers as gowns and costumes and decor merge together in my bedazzled eyes, whilst your strong arms held me fast and gave me anchor.

Above all, you. I remember you.

I remember it all as a peculiar madness, a madness which afflicted a winter of my youth, and blighted the years which followed as the restlessness which coursed through my veins went unsatiated. One season, sir, and then you were gone. Enjoying a different woman’s charms through each carnivale year. And what was I to do, but purge myself of the delirium that you had bestowed upon me?

No, sir, on the contrary - it was easy. With much prayer, and much piety, I did it. And are you not thankful, sir? For we would not be able to talk so freely now, would not be such good, solid, sober companions in our middler ages. And where would we be, without each other’s friendship? No, sir - love is a brief interlude. One must have it over with as soon as possible, so one can move on to the proper business of living.

I wish these young, reckless people would get it over with quickly, if they must have it at all.

For I hate to watch them, and remember.

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