Posted on 2014-10-08
Call me Osgood. All my clients do.
Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse and with nothing particular to interest me as a fourth son to a village law clerk, I thought I would cast about a little and see the more interesting parts of the world.
As it was, I never had to leave London to find adventure. What I found became my calling and my profession as Q. Nathaniel Osgood, haberdasher and tailor to the superheroes of London and its greater environs.
For nigh on three decades now, I have been the man behind the curtain, fitting and cutting and sewing heroic costumes and mending the tears and rips to the capes, scarves, hats and bonnets of our Town's great defenders--the Caped Order.
They all come to me, you see. The gentlemen and yes, ladies, who patrol our streets and parks, their faces seen but their powers unknown. What lies underneath and is woven into their cravats and bonnets, surtouts and pelisses are secrets known best by me and wielded only on the scurvy wastrels that these crusaders battle and expel from our towns and villages. The country's blockhouses and gaols are full of the bung nippers, rogues, snudges, drunkards, picaroons, thieves, imposers, and such whose evildoings have been foiled by this secret association of goodness and strength.
Have I revealed how this all came to be? It began with a small misadventure, a scrape with ill-fortune that led to all my future happiness. As I had mentioned, I had left my family back in N-----shire to make my way in the world. I was coming into my whiskers, a bit on the scraggy side and hungry for more than a hot meal. My cash purse was running low, and I'd given up on a ship's ticket, determined to seek out adventure in London. Strolling through some greenery not a stone's throw from the chancery stables, I heard a muffled cry. Turning toward it, I spotted two large men looming over a pair of sweethearts not much older than myself. Her pelisse was torn, his jaw was bloodied, and both wore expressions of terror. "You there," I called out, rather foolishly. "Are you all right, then?"
The two giant devils turned round to me, their grimy, near-twin mugs leering. "'Ey mate," one chuffed. "Be a fool and come closer." Afore I could move, one had his paws around my neck and the other's hands were in my pockets. Everything darkened overhead, when suddenly I heard a loud bang followed by two loud grunts. When I opened my eyes, there stood a tall man in black; in one hand he gripped a rope wound tightly around the stunned rogues. In the other, he held my torn valise. Once I regained my sense and thanked him, my eye was caught by his cape, a billowing black cloth that only enhanced his strength and power.
That was the moment I noted a flaw. A hole, a torn piece of fabric from which sunlight peeked. Had this just happened, as he saved me and the young couple staring at him, their mouths agape? And was that blood on his hand? Suddenly my head cleared. A knife lay on the ground, near the feet of his oversized but outmatched opponents.
"Please sir," I said. "Let me help." In our long, cold winters at home, I'd learned to mend a shirt or two, and my mama had wrapped a needle and thread in my bag. It took but a moment to repair the great man's cape and tend to his hand. No stitches were needed there, just a small mop up. He eyed me carefully when I finished and asked my name and occupation. Supplied with one, and informed the other did not yet exist, the great man handed me a card. "Wash up and be there before noon." His green eyes flashed, and with a smile and nod toward an approaching constable, he flipped his cape and was gone. When my stupor wore off, I looked at the card. Wm. Wooster, Tailor of Bond Street.
I was at the door just past sunrise. Within five years, I had become the son Mr. Wooster had wished for, marrying his daughter, Patience, and adding my name to his on the sign. It was there that I learned the name of my rescuer, and there that I had the good fortune to meet him again many times, until his death not five years later. That great man, Sir Lewis de Bourgh, was only the second superhero ever killed in action. Some speculated his poor health and marital unhappiness took its toll, and he embraced combat and fighting more than was warranted. But I assure you of his valor and abilities when I tell you that London's streets were safe and well-patrolled under his guardianship. With only a sickly daughter as his heir, his cape and title as guardian was passed down to his nephew. Today, more than a dozen heroes are protecting my family and our fellow citizens. Working as their knight of the thimble brings me greater pride and satisfaction than does my lucrative tailoring business for "the regular people" they protect.
Just between us, I'll tell you that three gentlemen can claim credit for more than half the scoundrels moldering in London's gaol: quiet Captain Wentworth, who patrols the docks and warehouses; sensible Mr. Knightley, who makes habitual strolls through the parks and shopping districts; and of course, the intense Mr. Darcy, who oversees it all as the town's guardian.
Would you like to know a few of my secrets? Of their secrets? Well, I can boast of some of my innovations--eelskin snuffboxes that transform into underwater breathing apparatuses; parasols with reinforced ribs and stretchers to act as shields; a surtout that folds out to make a portable hammock. But I've too much respect for, and the people of this country too much need for, these enigmatic crusaders to reveal their secrets. That would put them in danger. Suffice it to say all three men require extra-long capes made in the finest materials. For his day capes, Mr. Darcy chooses a pocketed silk that blends in and unknots easily from his cravat and can hold small items, such as stones for a slingshot. His custom candle-proof gloves are quite handy for swinging from chandeliers or wielding torches. And Mr. Darcy's utility belts are of fine polished leathers, with hidden compartments for his ropes and whips and other, unmentionable weaponry.
A neighboring milliner, bootmaker and I have colluded for years on such finery; nigh on ten years ago, we established the Royal Council of Caped Order Costumers, and earned for ourselves the King's crest. Not that the king has a bloody notion of what happens in the lands he rules. I've the idea that not a one of these fine men and women would wish to save his bulbous arse but for loyalty to the crown and love of country. I dress finer men than he every day of the week.
Mr. Darcy is the finest among them. Since he married two years ago, I have had the privilege to create many of Mrs. Darcy's heroine costumes and apparatuses. Have I mentioned that Mrs. Darcy is a particular favorite? Her joie de vivre and commitment to goodness, her eagerness to invent new manners of concealment in gowns, and her determination to repair and restore a torn pelisse with an underlining from an old cape, is unusual. She favors function and form over feathers and lace. Her mindfulness of waste does not make her my most lucrative customer, but she is the one I most delight in serving. Of course, I am not her tailor. That honor, as well as the warmth of her company, the taking of her measurements, and the sewing of her capes and gloves and reinforced utility reticles, belongs to my wife and partner, Mrs. Osgood. A true union of like minds.
Rather like Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Oh I tell you, his cape has never fluttered as it has since he became husband to this most remarkable lady. When some of my customers wed, their adherence to duty often flags as their interest and er, energies... are elsewhere spent. Not Mr. Darcy. His astonishing bride had spent years as a member of the Caped Order in the country, where her family has a small, but as she tells it, charmingly shabby estate. There, and in a village or two beyond, she kept a sharp eye on the militia and the ne'er do wells who passed through to steal and pilfer or charm and importune, leaving behind a trail of debt, bewildered shopkeepers, furious fathers and fallen girls. Some might make sport of such neighbors, but not Mrs. Darcy; she saved them.
The good lady would never speak of it, but her cousin by marriage--Colonel Fitzwilliam--takes pleasure in accompanying his cousin to my shop. He claims he comes to watch his cousin "trussed and made fancy," but I take note of his keen interest in my inventions. The Colonel likes to boast of Mrs. Darcy's talents and tease his solemn cousin. He says that in the year prior to her marriage, Mrs. Darcy's canvasses turned up a thieving steward or two, an errant redcoat, and at least three sticky-fingered maids. Most impressive. I've no notion as to how she learned her skills or what master trained her in the arts of her craft, but Mrs. Darcy is more than a quick study. She has great depths of intelligence and wit. I believe that she might have outshone her husband one day but for the babe she now carries. Already Mrs. Osgood and I miss her fine company. When that child is born, I fear I will lose their regular patronage; rather than risk leaving his child fatherless, as Sir de Bourgh did, Mr. Darcy might heed the example set by other young husbands and pack away his capes or begin training an apprentice. I will miss him almost as much as I miss his wife's company. I hope they have many a son.
Mr. Knightley, Mr. Wentworth, and their country counterpart, Colonel Brandon, are, of course, great and worthy men of the Caped Order. But I must confess that none of these gentlemen is my best customer.
No, indeed. If defined as "the Superhero Who Places The Most Orders," my best customer would be Sir Walter Elliot. Frippery and finery, he must have it all. Embellishments to his cape, a giant swirling E on every bit, the best cloths and fabrics and finest trims, in various hues of black and grey, dark greens and rich blues. Not to mention the letting out and taking back in of the material circumnavigating his generous frame. Such spindly legs and arms, so much vast expanse of belly. He resembles, I believe, a human cannonball. His shape has inspired innovations to my work for the Order and for my regulars. For example, I've begun adding a series of variably spaced buttons and buttonholes so Sir Walter's man can dress him to better adapt to that day's fluctuating girth. Oh, there are minor replacements and repairs always, to be sure. The man has the most unconscionable habit of losing gloves, dripping wine on his sleeve, or tossing about and singeing the edges of his frilly-edged capes.
I'm given to understand that his record of success in the superhero business could use some polishing. Mr. Knightley, whose own wife's father sniffled and sneezed his way out of the Order, quietly observed that rouged cheeks and a ruffled cape were likely draining energy from other, more vital parts of Sir Walter. His stylish costumes come at a high cost, and they certainly are draining his purse. Or would be, should he be paying his bills. Two months ago, Mr. Wentworth married Anne, Sir Walter's constant and kind daughter. Two days after the wedding, I received instructions to forward all bills, future and past, to Captain Wentworth at Kellynch Hall. What an astute and generous couple, those Wentworths.
I have gone on too long, and said too much. I do my part here on Bond Street, and believe my sons will carry on my duties; young Freddie rarely leaves the nursery without his own cape secured around his neck, and Lewis scours the broadsheets for news of our clients, dare I call them friends.
We are a lucky people, we English, to have the Caped Order looking over us. Indeed, they are a marvel.The End