Fancy's Story by Fred Cartan

Chapter Three
Tragedy Strikes

Shortly after Fancy had began her new life at Hundsmuth, she began to receive insistent invitations to visit Hoarhound House. She was happy to accept the hospitality of Sir Grimace and his wife, Patience, when she could arrange the time. They were always pleased to see her and she enjoyed the chance to visit them and her other friends at Hoarhound House. Patience, it seemed, was making sure that Fancy did not miss the country parties, dinners and similar social occasions because of her parents' death. Indeed it seemed that Patience was engaging in some subtle matchmaking, as the dinners were invariably attended by eligible young dogs from the surrounding estates.

Fancy frankly enjoyed the candle lit dinners, the conversation, and the attention, and the opportunity to flirt. She looked forwards to these occasions. Her wardrobe may not have been strictly up-to-date, but it sufficed, and she did enjoy dressing up and greatly liked the opportunity to dance. Such occasions were rare in Hundsmuth. She liked the amenities of Hoarhound House, the stables, the gardens and the pleasant country life. She liked the feeling of being accepted by the gentry as one of their own. She felt content in the affection of her aunt and uncle. They treated her as almost their child.

Unfortunately, Fate was again to strike. Her happy second life was soon to end. About the time Fancy began to settle comfortably into to her new existance, she got another blow. Patience fell ill. The doctor felt it was only a cold but it worsened, and after a short illness, she died. Fancy was hit hard because Patience had become almost her mother surrogate. Fancy missed her private reviews of the parties and her comradely bouts of advice about life, dogs and her future.

Her loss was especially difficult to Sir Grimace, since he, for all his gruff talk and independent ways, had loved her and greatly depended upon her council. Her loss was a bitter blow to him.

With his wife's death, Sir Grimace changed. He became moody. He was not often seen at the parties and riding meets given by his neighbors and seemed not to enjoy them when he did attend. His dress suffered in spite of Goodbone’s best efforts. He neglected the affairs of the estate. He spent much of his time riding about the hills and moors near the estate and would return only when exhausted. His appetite suffered. He ate little and began to loose weight. He made occasional visits to the village tavern where he would silently nurse a single glass of ale. He rarely spoke to anyone without being spoken to. If friends attempted conversation with him he would slowly answer but his periods of silence usually soon terminated such exchanges.

Fancy did her best to help. She tried to get him interested in a new horse, or some new clothes, or other diversions with little effect. She worked with Goodbone and Cider to plan parties or other diversions and she nagged him to get out into society and out of his shell. He recognized these attempts to cheer him up and seemed appreciative but could not pull himself out of his depression.

Fancy's visits to Hoarhound house slowly became an ordeal in spite of Sir Grimace's clumsy attempts to be cheerful. The atmosphere at the Hall was only a little relieved by the efforts of butler Goodbone and his wife to cheer him and to keep him busy.

There was another reason that made Fancy's visits less pleasant. Her aunt Comely, Sir Grimace's older sister, had returned to Hoarhound House with her son, Frowly Snarf and his wife. After Patience died, Sir Grimace felt the need of family to fill the silence in the house. He invited Comely and her son to stay.

Comely was several years older than Sir Grimace and had been a beauty, headstrong and impulsive. She was the toast of every local dog at country parties and events. She showed far more interest in clothes and social life than in apple pressing or wheat farming, and in flower gardens, not a bit. Her father, Sir Growler, had been hard put to control her. Suitable swains from the country appeared and were ignored.

She had somehow acquired the belief that her life at Hoarhound House was absent culture and acceptable social nuance. In her view, her life then, as contrasted with the life of society and the aristocracy she read of in the popular magazines, was boring, common and deadended. She had pleaded with Sir Growler to let her visit London, citing relatives there who would be happy to have her. Sir Growler, who believed London to be a sink of depravity, vice and moral corruption, resisted. However, Comely persisted, and he finally agreed to allow the visit.

For Comely, London was both a joy and a catastrophe. Her relatives introduced her to local society. She liked London and, if her social life was not that of the court, it was exciting, a bit shocking, and not at all like home. She successfully manufactured reasons to stay in London and returned to Hoarhound House as infrequently as possible. And when she did, it seemed only to reinforce her view of country life. Formal society, elegant dinners and dances excited her and in London she had a following of polished and pedigreed young hounds who kept her occupied. She felt that in the city she had found her place and clearly belonged there.

Several years before Sir Growler died, Comely attended a party given by friends in London and met a dashing young Alsatian. He was a proficient dancer, wore the finest clothing and spent his coin freely. He told her that he was a count and dazzled her with tales of aristocratic homes, vineyards, and notable friends. She told him of the family estate, describing it in somewhat more enthusiastic terms than was accurate. Their acquaintance proceeded rapidly to an affair.

Actually he was a traveling musician. When he learned that Comely was pregnant and not wealthy in her own right and that her father, Sir Growler, was belligerent and carried a whip, he emitted a series of perfumed promises, and vanished. Comely was left with a young mongrel pup, the assistance and pity of her relatives, and a daunting burden of regrets.

Being a dog of the old school, Sir Growler could not allow Comely to return to Hoarhound house. The scandal would have been intolerable. He spread the word that Comely had married an officer of the Queen’s Dragoons and was living with her husband at a distant colonial post. Sir Growler settled a small income on her with the condition that she continue living away. She leased a small house on the outskirts of London and settled into a much restricted life.

She had at first tried to return to the social whirl but found the responsibilities of a single woman with a young pup and her need for financial restraint precluded a return to her former social life. Whether she wished it or not, her duty and her life became directed to the nurturing of her son.

Friends had tried to direct her into marriage, and had even provided a candidate, a prosperous greengrocer. He was a tall taciturn dog with good manners but with little inclination to formal social life. However, he seemed to like her and had even proposed. Comely seemed to like him but ended by rejected him, on the unspoken grounds that he was beneath her class. Her friends continued to try but none of the other dogs they introduced seemed to be compatable. Comely gradually pulled more and more into herself and her life with her son. Eventually her friends stop trying.

From reports, her son, Frowly Snarf, was a contrary pup and didn't improve as he grew older. Comely tried her best. The results were heavy costs and a thin polish of proper gentility. He learned to play the violin. He managed a normal course of schooling. As he grew older he seemed to disregard his expected role as gentleman. He utterly rejected the thought of a church career. He showed no interest in the military, more formal education, or the law, disappointing Comely.

He did not seem eager to earn money by any respectable means or to hold a suitable position. Instead he spent his time consorting with musicians, traveling actors, composers, writers and similar low types. He slept during the mornings and spent evenings in bars and music halls, earning money by playing the violin or helping run these low amusements. Comely told friends that he provided her with money from these efforts to help pay their expenses but there were those who were unconvinced.

He claimed to be a playwright and apparently worked at it and consumed much paper and ink but no plays appeared. The general view was that he lived off his mother and while he was unfailingly courteous with her, at least in public, to others, especially those who knew his history, his bohemian behavior seemed wilful, selfish and thoughtless. Proper people considered him, as his birth would suggest, a thoroughgoing mongrel.

Frowly Snarf had married a foreigner he met during his nocturnal work. She was Natasha, a Russian wolfhound, and a talented dancer and singer. Hearing of the marriage, Fancy had sent a polite note wishing them well but had no reply. On a later visit to Hoarhound house, Fancy met Natasha. She proved to be a quiet dog who liked singing and other cultural activities. She was slim, with blondish fur and blue eyes.

To Fancy she seemed lonely, isolated from her own culture in a strange society, and without a supporting group of friends. Fancy liked her and symphasied with her situation.

Natasha seemed most at home with young pups. She had an inexhaustible collection of folk stories. At parties or whatever possible social occasion, she would abandon the adults and gather whatever pups she could find and tell them tales of evil czars and brave farmers, stupid bears, evil witches, greedy dragons and scheming maidens. The pups were entranced and would gather in a close ring about her to hear every word. On subsequent occasions the pups would seek her out and beg her for more stories. And she seemed happy to oblige.

Natasha seemed to genuinely be in love with Frowly Snarf, which Fancy could not understand. Of course, Frowly Snarf appeared to treat her well, as he should, since she took over much of the task of dealing with Comely, Sir Grimace, and the servants. Privately she judged Natasha’s love to be a triumph of obligation over reason but said nothing.

Comely was pleased to return. The costs of maintaining a separate house had increasingly strained her limited finances and her unhappy memories of life in the country had faded. She packed her clothes, her son and his wife and gave up her home, and returned to Hoarhound House.

While she was pleased to return, Frowly Snarf was not. His life was centered about the evening entertainments of a big city and he did not look forward to the change. Apparently he regarded country life as barely endurable. However, as Comely had spent most of her money to educate him or placate him, and as he had no conventional profession nor regular employment, he accepted this exile in his normal surly way and tried to amuse himself as best as he could.

After their return, Fancy found little congeniality with them when she visited Hoarhound House. Comely kept an obvious reserve and Frowly Snarf kept odd hours. Both accepted her as a family member, but aside from their respect and concern for Sir Grimace, Fancy felt they had little in common. They apparently felt the same way and conversation with them outside of the routine of weather and local happenings easily became forced.

Comely seemed even at times to avoid her company. This saddened Fancy a bit but after considering the mismatch of their interests, she felt it for the best. For these reasons and because of Sir Grimace's continuing depression, Fancy made fewer visits to Hoarhound house after Patience died.

There were other reasons. Fancy was needed to keep the import business going. The manager depended on her to deal with customers. She was familiar with the homes of most of the local landowners and their tastes. Her knowledge of the stock and her flair for design and colors brought an active and essential trade into the business. Fancy rather liked her work.