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RiversD

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A slightly self-indulgent thing speedwritten last night after the lovely VoOs came up with the idea of someone being forced to use his pocket square for... other purposes. Set somewhere in the early twentieth century.

 

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Mr George Donovan paused in the doorway to give himself the once-over. His shoes had remained in pristine condition despite the journey. Excellent- that had been his main point of concern. This being established, he checked the hang of his jacket, the knot of his tie, and the symmetrical nature of his pocket square. All were in order. Good. He knew he had gained something of a reputation in town as someone who could be relied upon to put up a good show- “standards must be kept”, he told anyone who commented- and he had no intention of letting his first invitation to one of Lady Rigby’s dinners be the night he let the side down. He knocked.

Once shown in for sherry, he joined a group of persons lining up to pay their respects to their hostess. As he waited, he took a moment to admire the skill of Lady Rigby’s decorators. Flowers had been arranged in great columns, perfuming the room and giving it the air of a sylvan temple- if such a thing had been designed by a confectioner, at least.

Lady Rigby greeted him, and he kissed her hand, making her giggle. He was rather pleased with the affectation.

“You have certainly gone to a lot of trouble over the flower arrangements, Lady Rigby. They are just gorgeous.”

She seemed delighted by the compliment. “Oh, we have raided my cousin’s hothouse for the occasion. They have turned out a fine offering this year. It is good of you to notice- so nice to find a man who appreciates such things!”

“He would have to be a boor indeed who would find nothing to compliment in these, Lady Rigby. Though I doubt I could name the plants giving me such pleasure. I am no botanist, and I fancy there are one or two species’ there I have yet to encounter.”

“Well, you must make their better acquaintance sometime.” Lady Rigby gave him a smile as she prepared to move on to her next guest. “Botany is one science that has rewards for even the lowest beginners, I believe.”

George returned the smile with a slight bow. His eyes felt a little dry, and he took the opportunity as his hostess turned away to blink several times in rapid succession. A slight prickling feeling remained, however, and he put it down to nerves. Doubtless it would settle.

To George’s chagrin, as he moved among the guests making polite introductions, the feeling spread steadily south from his troubled eyes,  putting down roots in the tender parts of his nose and causing it to twinge internally until he was sure he could feel the lining of his nostrils swelling in protest.

As the guests filed in for dinner, it had become a genuine concern. In fact-

George stepped smartly aside as the niggling itch bloomed into a sternutatory urge with hardly a breath of warning. He constrained his nostrils between two fingers and fought to at least restrict the noise of the inevitable expressions.

h’xcht! h’chssch!”

He pinched his nose hard when he had control of it back, hoping to squash the cause into submission. To no avail, alas. If anything, the action only made him feel more conscious of a kind of pressure in the upper reaches of his nose. It felt as though he had pushed cotton deep into both nostrils.

The sneezes had precipitated a rush of moisture to his eyes, and he reached for something to dab it away with. Then he tried his other pocket. Nothing of use there, either. Dear god, had he forgotten to bring a handkerchief? He remembered his man setting one considerately upon his dresser- had he really neglected to pick it up? The evidence seemed to suggest so. And how typical, that on the one evening on which he was to have need…

He cast about for another solution to his tearful appearance. There was his pocket square, of course, but that was unthinkable. To sacrifice one’s sartorial decorum in a cause such as this was as good as to admit total defeat.

However a more minor sacrifice might, perhaps, be acceptable. He still had his gloves, thin things, worn purely for the fashion in this balmy summer. He slipped one on, feeling his ears grow hot with embarrassment even at this, and used two fingers to soak the worst of the flood from his eyes.

He followed the rest in to dinner in a tight-lipped temper with the rebellion of his own body, and with his own absent-mindedness. To visit a Lady’s home and have no handkerchief for using… it was disgraceful.

Here too there were elaborate flower arrangements, a magnificent display running down the centre of the table, lilies splayed open like stars upon a carpet of dark green foliage. The whole had a rather pleasant smell, the earthy, forest scents of the greenery harmonising with the honeyed tones of the hothouse lilies.

George was seated between Mr Josiah Pendleton, of the Clockmaker’s Guild, and a Miss Lucy Gallant, Daughter of Sir Frederick and Lady Anne. She was a most charming young woman, quite making up for Mr Pendleton’s pedantry, and George soon found that he was beginning to enjoy the evening despite the continual needling of his nose.

She wore a ring- a gift from her father, she told him- which was marvellously pretty, but decidedly loose on her slim finger. She gesticulated as she spoke, and George could see the little band slide back and forth as she did so. It was perhaps not so surprising, then, that in the midst of an energetic discussion over the second course, she flung her hand sideways a little too suddenly and sent it flying into the flower arrangement, to her obvious dismay.

Wishing to be a gentleman, but nonetheless pushing his sleeve clear of harm’s way first, George reached into the foliage for it, leaning over to better see what he was doing. The action brought his nose directly above one of Lady Rigby’s sublime lilies, its powdered stamen trembling as he disturbed the arrangement beside it.

George drew a sharp breath of triumph as his fingers closed about the ring. He turned and handed it graciously back to Miss Gallant, who was effusively grateful.

“Oh, thank you. So silly of me, but I did tell father it would be too loose when he bought it…”

This led into a diversion on the subject of her father’s unwillingness to hear female counsel on another matter, but George found it difficult to attend. Upon regaining his seat he had found his nose assaulted with a terrible tickle, which was developing into a strong and desperate desire to sneeze.

A careful pattern of breathing, which had already chased off two half-hearted attempts by his nose to interrupt this meal, seemed to have no effect on this abominable itch. Indeed, his breathing was becoming shakier by the moment, in defiance of every effort of his will

Cupping his hand to his face in a manner he hoped suggested attentiveness rather than slovenly manners, he pressed his index finger to the underside of his nose in an attempt to alleviate the annoyance. To his horror, he could feel a definite wetness seeping from his nostrils and making fast acquaintance with his knuckles. He hoped to god it was not as visible as it felt.

Miss Gallant did not seem concerned, but she was beginning to blur as his eyes- the originators, so it seemed, of this cursed affliction- began to anticipate the moment with a sheen of irritated tears.

There was no help for it. He must sneeze, and soon. He had no time even to properly excuse himself from the room.

“Forgihve me, Miss G-gallant, I ha-have-ah! AH! ngxSCHch!” He barely managed to twist away from his abortive apology, unable to even compress the sneeze to his usual standard. He gasped, a single, shaking inhale, and sneezed twice more, as incapable of stopping these last as he was of calming a hurricane.

hhh’ISCHih! h’sschUH!”

George managed to affect a pause, pinching his nose once more and sniffing in hope of holding back the wetness within it which had been evident in those last sneezes. There was a certain Sisyphean aspect to his endeavours, however. It was surely only a matter of time before they became redundant in the extreme.

He felt as though there were ants in his nose, creating a constant, prickly tickling as they ran up and down. It was almost like his nose was being teased, goaded into purging this awfulness with a… but no, he should not even think of it. The slightest thing might shift the balance out of his favour.

Now Miss Gallant did look concerned.

“Bless you, sir! Are you alright, Mr Donovan?”

“Forgive me, I think something in the air took a dislike to me.” George tried to pass it off with a smile and a self-conscious rub at the tip of his nose, but there were fire ants in his nose now, and his eyes were betraying him with every blink, tears soaking the length of his eyelashes and threatening at any moment to escape and ruin him entirely.

“Well, if you’re quite sure…”

Another smile, while George pinched his thigh in a last-ditch hope that his mind might be distracted from the all-consuming itch that had his nostrils flaring and his eyes beginning to squint, tears brimming.

“You’re very kind. But Iiiih’TSSSCH!”

It burst out of him, snapping his head down towards his lap and sending a loosed tear tumbling onto his pristine trouser leg. There had been no possible defence, and he knew in every nerve of his body that he wasn’t finished, that this pernicious itch would not rest until he was utterly undone.

There was nothing for it. Even as he thought it, another sneeze forced its way through, opening the floodgates in his nose.

hn’sssSCH!”

The wetness he had perceived earlier now felt more like a tide. He could feel it beginning to leak and, with utter humiliation on the cards no matter what, snatched his perfectly-arranged pocket square from its place and clamped it to his nose.

hh’itsSCH! Isch! isch! ISCHih!”

Eyes streaming, nose on fire, George pushed himself to his feet, keeping a close hold on the piece of cloth that was all that shielded him from soaking the assembled company with each sneeze.

hh-ISCHuh! ah…hh…’tssSCH! hh..I am terrihh…terribly…hh’ISSCHUH!

He made what semblance of an apology he could force between sneezes and the uncontrollable hitching breaths that were now acting as heralds to the sneezes themselves, and staggered from the room, almost blind.

Outside, servants helped him to a chair, where he sneezed until he could no longer take a breath through his nose, and then sneezed a little more for good measure.

The flower arrangements were no longer giving him pleasure. In fact, proximity to them only seemed to make matters worse. Still, at least the gaps between sneezes eventually became long enough for words.

“No, no, I will… will take my leave.” He managed to splutter to the servants. “Give my apologies to her ladyship, but I really- oh dear, I- hhh! I’m sorry… have to ah! huh-ahh! Have to sn-snee- eh…”

He could feel what little of his face was not already flushed turning scarlet as he imagined what he must look like to the servants; tousle-haired, shiny-nosed, head flung back in expectation of a sneeze that Would. Not. Come. And clutching his ruined pocket-square in one hand.

ah…huhhh…” damn it all, why was his nose shy all of a sudden? He needed to sneeze, his whole body was hanging in thrall to it, and yet…

In desperation, and with an intimation of the root of his suffering, he hitched and sighed his way to the nearest column of flowers, plucked a fluted lily from its base and lifted it gingerly to his nose.

Even unable to smell the flower’s perfume, he could feel the prickling wave of it roll up his nose, felt the tug of his breath deepen, and hardly had a chance to drop it on the table before he-

hhh’IESSSCHU! Hh’iesssch! Ah..huhhh! h’ESSSCHiiuh! Excuse me.”

That final humiliation over with, George took his hat from the footman and strode out into the night. He managed to hold off from sneezing again for two whole streets, which he judged to be well out of earshot of Lady Rigby’s, for all it mattered now…

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Oh man this is like nearly every thing I love all rolled into a package with a bow. George you gentleman you, trying so hard. Lovely River!

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I seem to have lost the ability to form a coherent sentence, but yeah, this was just unfair. :stretcher:  

 

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StaraiRoalanstjay

So how could I NOT click on a story called 'Decorum'?! And I wasn't disappointed either, this was absolute gold-dust. Thank you so much for this!

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Absolutely lovely! I'm a sucker for an old fashioned gentleman in need of a handkerchief! I read this on the Tumbles and it was just as delightful the second time around! :D

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Excellent story! I just love flower allergies, and something about the fact that he didn't even know he was allergic made it even better. The descriptions of the allergic torture were superb, as was the complete loss of control.

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  • 1 month later...

Love the description of the allergy and the loss of a handkerchief and the last part of not being able to sneeze and being embarrassed and using the flower for inducing, AMAZING 

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Oh. I knew your fanfics, but this original is... well... (swallow with difficulty) absolutely awsome.

On 08/12/2016 at 10:43 PM, RiversD said:

A careful pattern of breathing, which had already chased off two half-hearted attempts by his nose to interrupt this meal, seemed to have no effect on this abominable itch. Indeed, his breathing was becoming shakier by the moment, in defiance of every effort of his will

Cupping his hand to his face in a manner he hoped suggested attentiveness rather than slovenly manners, he pressed his index finger to the underside of his nose in an attempt to alleviate the annoyance. To his horror, he could feel a definite wetness seeping from his nostrils and making fast acquaintance with his knuckles.

This bit knocked me out for a while. I think I just forgot what breathing meant.

On 08/12/2016 at 10:43 PM, RiversD said:

hh-ISCHuh! ah…hh…’tssSCH! hh..I am terrihh…terribly…hh’ISSCHUH!

He made what semblance of an apology he could force between sneezes and the uncontrollable hitching breaths that were now acting as heralds to the sneezes themselves, and staggered from the room, almost blind.

Outside, servants helped him to a chair, where he sneezed until he could no longer take a breath through his nose, and then sneezed a little more for good measure.

... Until I read this. And started to hyperventilate.

I think I'm going to look for your other original stories.

THANK YOU!!!

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