It was still dark when I awoke in the opulent, seven tier bed of our grand estate. I was most confused because the last time I had been roused from my sleep in such a manner was to the sight of a maid thieving from my underwear drawer for ritualistic purposes. I pride myself on being an understanding Lady of the Manor but this was too far and we hung, drew and quartered her on the spot.
It took mere minutes for me to decipher the cause of my wakefulness: my husband Cornelius was reeling off the wittiest one liners I had ever heard. “Stop,” I pleaded, “my sides are racked with tortures.”
“I can’t,” he seemed frightened and I realised something was wrong. However the more I tried not to laugh the funnier it was.
An hour passed and all seemed back to normal. We were far too awake to rest so we rose early and went about our day. However the next morning brought the same thing. This time I was really afraid and, between guffaws, I vowed to take him to Doctor Fellows.
“Ah,” said the good doctor as he gazed into Cornelius’ hidden crannies, “I’m afraid what we have here is an unfortunate bout of comedy routine.”
“Heavens,” I said, “is it terminal?”
“No,” the doctor stroked his grey beard in a serious manner, “however each morning for an hour he will rattle off the funniest stories and wittiest tidbits, and neither of you will ever have a lie in again.” Such a thought was too horrible to contemplate and I gathered Cornelius in my arms. No amount of Oliver’s Ointment For Wrinkles And Baggages would possibly cover my deprivation.
Cornelius, ever the pragmatist, suggested a way to make a few extra pennies from our troubles. We booked the village hall (some of the locals had to forego extra rehearsals for an upcoming play but we reminded them fairly who owned the largest house in town and they soon backed off after we threatened them) every morning for a week. We put up posters politely requesting that the villagers attend or else, and Monday morning the room was packed with folk excitedly rubbing the sleep from their eyes. I wheeled Cornelius, asleep upon a makeshift bed (really an oversized trolley with mattress atop) out onto the stage. The audience quietly applauded, tentative with adulation. All eyes were on us. The place was so still you could have heard a beetle sigh.
Cornelius snorted and rolled over. The onlookers shared glances and I, for the first time, was apprehensive. I shook the trolley gently producing naught but a mumble about not needing milk, eliciting a titter. Then, just as my skin prickled with embarrassment, he lurched upright and launched into a routine funnier than Mabel Cartright’s of the London stage. The place shook with astonished hilarity, guffaw after guffaw ringing from the heavy beams. Once it was over Cornelius fell back exhausted.
Five more nights this continued until we noticed empty seats. We presumed it to be the fault of the egg swallowing festivities but even less were in attendance the next day. There was nothing else for it and, whilst backstage, I attached pasties to his nipples beneath his shirt and sparkled undergarments betwixt his thighs. Only five watched as hilarity fused with burlesque, but the day after the place was again full.
If only we could have kept a moving record of the way he punchlined a tale with a twirl, or punctuated a joke with a thrust, but the satirical sketchers and portrait artists did their best. It brought tears to my eyes the way he was loved by all, and subsequently we embarked on a tour of Europe as Coquettish Cornelle and His Hour of Fun, I wearing a larger powdered wig with each performance.
Alas, it was over too soon, and on the outskirts of Budapest his funny failed him. He awoke upon the trolley, lips sparkling with glitter and eyes ablaze with Fabuliner, and nothing left his mouth. After a few sad attempts and desperate shimmies I removed him and booked our transport home, but it was fun while it lasted.