The many portraits by Abbott originate from the wish of Horatio Nelson’s friend William Locker, Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nathalie is thinking to herself that this party might not be a total waste of time, after all. She’s just spotted the dashing Jonathan at the other side of the room, but he’s being cornered by some old biddy, who will have her say to him, no matter what. You know the type! She looks like one of those formidable douairieres in full regalia, straight out of an Oscar Wilde play.
Or she could be compared to an old but still fearsome battleship, sailing through the battle of Trafalgar, blissfully unaware of all the commotion around her, after just having drunk Lord Nelson under the table and feeling none the worse for it. Nathalie is a woman of good upbringing and with a sensitive nature. Much as she would like it, her sense of politeness as yet prevents her from rescuing her future beau from the clutches of the old dragon. Jonathan is of a similar disposition and this prevents him in turn from telling the old woman to shut up and leave him alone. And Aunt Zelda is being ruled by her inner demons and is pretty much on autopilot.
I think that so far everyone can identify with this scenario from having seen it in a movie, read it in a book or even from having experienced it in real life. How things are developing between the two youngsters is pretty much obvious. Nathalie can judge from Jonathan’s body language, that he feels uncomfortable at this stage. He himself, out of inbred respect for his elders, does not want to show the old dear how he feels, but is unable to prevent himself from doing so. That leaves Aunt Zelda: how is she feeling and what could she be thinking? Let me point out, at this stage, that I call her aunt because it seemed appropriate to do so, but she is not in any way, shape or form related to either of the others.
This lady is feeling a pervasive sense of despair for acting the way she does and secondly for what causes her to do this in the first place, which also adds a sense of impotent rage. You see, the only way can can get anyone to acknowledge her these days, is by brute force, for if she doesn’t, then people tend to ignore her altogether. This was not always the case, but she knows that she is showing the wear and tear, inflicted upon her by her main enemy in life, which is time!
She is telling herself: “I hate to do this. I can tell that this young man is obviously uncomfortable at being accosted by me in this manner, but what to do, how to break the vicious (in both senses of the word) circle? For although I must admit that I am starting to show my somewhat advanced years, I still have the soul of a young woman, one that needs to be appreciated and even loved! Why can’t people just come up to me and have a chat, without me having to resort to this?” Just then, a light went on in the darkest recesses of her mind. This was provoked by a thought that startles her, frightens her even. What!!? Just spit out the truth!!???” A booming silence engulfs her from all fronts. “Surely you jest, Marie-Antoinette? (which is her real name, but kept secret). Well, what have I got to lose? It can’t get any worse than this!
“Jonathan, I can tell that you’d rather be anywhere else but here! Please excuse this foolish old woman. All I really want is to have a nice and cosy chat with someone, but everybody seems to be avoiding me. I do apologise! Now, run along and go and rescue that damsel in distress across the room!” This confession startles Jonathan out of his reverie for the lovely Nathalie.
For the first time, he really looks Aunt Zelda in the eyes and what does he see there: intelligence, wit, compassion even and a plainly human need for a bit of companionship. He tells himself that Nathalie will understand and asks auntie is she would fancy a cup of tea?
She answers: “Tea? What a novel idea! I’d be delighted. You know, you might not be as shallow, as I thought to begin with, young man!”, and takes him by the arm. He counters: “You’re not as fearsome as you let on, old woman!” — “Watch it with the “old” bit, you young whippersnapper!” They both laugh and head for the kitchen.
Nathalie has followed the proceedings and comes over and asks if she can join them? Auntie says: “Why of course, my dear! Why don’t you sit next to this remarkable young lad. I am sure he won’t mind!” And she winks.
Right at this moment, a gentleman of around Aunt Zelda’s age comes over and asks her is she would care to dance? Off they go to dance and they start murmuring to each other. After a while, the murmurs grow sweeter in tone. And the rest in NONE of our business!!! End of the Exercise in Empathy.
Did you notice that once the door to humanity was opened, everybody seemed to recognise it immediately? Do you still have the same opinion of these three protagonists as you did at the start of this story? Because they’re still exactly the same people! So what has changed? You see: a dragon is only a dragon if you let it. Once you allow it to have feelings, you need not fear it anymore! Toodeloo gang, love you all to bits!