From Blushes Supplement 15
Old Major Charles and his even older brother were an eccentric pair, the last surviving representatives of a grand old family which arrived in England’s green and pleasant land amidst the rape and pillage of the Norman Conquest. The old boys’ conquests of the present century were a little more modest, and their preferred form of combat was an extended game of chess which lasted from late spring to early autumn.
There were rumours in the village, of course, and a touch of bewilderment as well. Major Charles lived in Charlesworth House, the family’s ancient seat, while Captain Bill occupied the grange, just across the road; and neither old gent was willing to invest their family fortune in that miracle of modern science, the telephone. The chess game took place in both old houses, each man relaxing on his patio, taking turns to consider each other’s daily moves. At one move a day, the game could last all summer, and often extended into the autumn when bad light stopped play, but despite the villagers’ curiosity, no-one could discover how the two boys actually communicated.
At 6.00 p.m. after dinner, the game would recommence and on this particular Monday, it was the Major’s turn to make his move. ‘Sally and Annie — you’re on chess duty this evening.’ Two very reluctant young maids hurried along the dark unlit hallways to join the old man and his game. They found him deep in thought, a cloud of herbal-smelling smoke billowing in the summer air from his enormous pipe. Across the garden and the roadway, stood the gaunt edifice of the grange, the setting sun glinting warmly on the windows. His brother would be there, waiting, though with both old boys, their eyesight was beginning to fail with age.
Sally and Annie, in their little mini-uniforms of black and frilly white stood in position on the edge of the paved patio, their backs facing the distant grange. The old man staggered to his feet, his mind made up. He quickly made his move on the board in front of him, then fumbled beneath the table, his fat old fingers finding the trusty cane.
‘Bottoms up, my dearies,’ he muttered. ‘It’s time to communicate with the Major.’ With a sigh, the two girls bent forward, neatly touching their toes, their little dresses rising above their waists to reveal two fair white bottoms.
‘The knight,’ he muttered, ‘On square A3.’ Sally sighed with a little relief, realising that A would mean just one stroke tonight. The Major raised his cane, and swished it down across her pretty rump, prompting a little squeal from the girl. He staggered across to Annie, a few feet away. ‘And three for you.’ Three remarkably firm strokes were planted with surprising accuracy across the other maid’s bare rump. She yelled.
Across the void, the Captain’s butler was waiting for the tell-tale cracks. ‘One, sir. That’s A.’ The Captain nodded. ‘Yes, yes. I know, I know.’ The three further cracks arrived on the still evening air. ‘And three. That’s square A3.’ The Captain consulted his board. ‘Ah! The Knight, the old crook!’
Back at the House, Sally and Annie awaited the remainder of the message, still standing, touching toes, bottoms quivering, a total of four red tramlines across the two pretty bottoms. The Major reminded himself of the intended move. ‘C3.’ The two girls, well-experienced in the game of chess allowed themselves another brief sigh. It could have been worse, much, worse. Three strokes apiece and, across the way, the diligent old butler’s ears were awaiting the sounds.
Sally and Annie scurried back below stairs. Tomorrow, their counterparts at the Grange would be ‘on duty’.
If they had known the old boys’ intentions, of course, their relief would have been short lived. Next season, they planned to drop their boring old chess, and take up Scrabble instead. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, of course, and both the Major and the Captain knew many very long words!