April 23

Silence and other thoughts

It seems the days pass much faster than they ought. It took nearly two days to discover Patrick behind the bookshelf, mewling like a broken kitten. The heathen, having his choice of literature to keep him company, forsook the Holy Book and instead was found perusing a stack of racy pamphlets that Jack had picked up from the docks.

Of the “debacle” I should not say much more than I find these customs both impudent and ridiculous. Having bled my country til nothing was left but her bones, these officials seem intent on assaulting their own citizenry.

I find myself in a malaise. Wealth has not brought with it contentment, and I find myself spending more time poring over papers and receipts than visiting the bawdy house. I begin to understand Jack’s nature more by the day.

April 16

On the Tax Ramifications of the Classification of Species

Stuck between Jack's fireplace and Dante's Inferno this afternoon, after our attempt to deceive the hearth inspector failed, and Jack, angry with Sean at his part in this additional and unnecessary expense, led the inspector straight to the Crimson Unicorn to make certain every hearth there was accounted for on the King's rolls, forgetting that he had left me pinned behind a bookcase I could not move alone, I had some opportunity to reconsider my tack in an ongoing feud with His Majesty's Customs Officials.

With a few colleagues from the Society I have been attempting to raise Atrophaneura dasarada in a hothouse, and our agent in the East returned recently with many fine larvae on its preferred meal:  several bushes of Indigofera kirilowii.  His Majesty's customs official down at the dock considers this Indigo and thus subject to a comically high excise tax.  I explained, politely, that Indigofera kirilowii is not at all the useful Indigofera tinctora, and therefore is not subject to this tax.  He explained, not at all politely, that

1) Indigo is Indigo;
2) I may pay him; or
3) I may go swive myself.

Our poor larvae, therefore, sit chomping on their bushes in a dockside warehouse while I dash between the Royal Society, soliciting funding for the tax, and the docks, where I beseech, cajole, threaten, and again beseech the customs official to see his gross taxonomical error.  I have had success in neither so far, and I fear that His Majesty's Customs house will soon become the world's greatest lepidopterium. 

Perhaps I can persuade Jack to vent his spleen at that damned official, to the advantage of my poor Atrophaneura dasarada

April 15

Tax Day

Current mood: Impecunious

I will not make a secret of the fact that I am in a very ill temper this evening. The fault lies directly with King Charles, though Sean and Patrick are in no small degree responsible themselves. It is the singularly unjust policy of His Majesty's government to intrude upon the privacy of citizens like myself, who have worked our fingers to the bone to scrape together some small comforts in this harsh world, such as a fireplace (or, in my case seven fireplaces) to keep out the bitter winter cold; a healthy mare to provide transport from place to place (or, if your estate is as large as mine, a team of horses and a French-made 1676-model Gala Coupé carriage); and a trusted maid to keep your home in order (again, if we are talking about me here, which strictly-speaking, we are, this would technically be three maids, a manservant, a full-time groom, and a personal chef). To intrude, as I say, upon the privacy of citizens like myself who have barely enough to make ends meet as it is, and to count the number of fireplaces in our home—by way of establishing our worth—so as to make us pay a "Hearth Tax" to support the dubious policies of the Crown, whether we agree with them or not.

King Charles II: Robbing England blind since the Restoration

As I do not agree with the policies of this government (particularly those which allow government agents to make nuisances of themselves where people's fireplaces are concerned), it has been my own policy for some years to leave the door unanswered when the taxman comes to call, and I have made a point of including it very prominently in the list of "100 simple rules to make your stay more pleasant for all" which I give to all my guests. As of this morning, when he answered the door—my door—to the Hearth Tax inspector, Sean has now broken every single rule on that list. Including the one about not being drunk before 9 o'clock on Sunday mornings, which I only put in there as a joke. Well, as soon as I realized who it was that Sean was speaking with, I did the only thing a reasonable man could do in such a situation: I roused Patrick from his study and set him to work moving large pieces of furniture to conceal as many fireplaces as he could before the tax inspector discovered them. When Sean found me and Patrick, frantically pushing a day-bed in front of the fireplace in the withdrawing room, and blithely informed us that a man was "here about the hearths," I instructed him (through gritted teeth) to return to the tax inspector and distract the man for as long as he could manage. 

The dreaded Hearth Tax

This proved not to be very long at all, as the gentleman appeared—followed by a shamefaced and sullen Sean—less than fifteen minutes later, just as Patrick and I were maneuvering a massive bookcase to cover the hearth in the dining room. Patrick had managed somehow to get himself between the bookcase and the fireplace, so when the inspector walked into the room he discovered me effectively walling my accomplice in behind the collected works of Dante Alighieri, which—especially after Patrick involuntarily pushed his hand through La Vita Nuova and both volumes of De Vulgari Eloquentia to reveal that he was standing in front of a fireplace—proved very difficult to explain in any other way than that I was attempting to cheat the government out of its blasted hearth tax. I hate Tax Day.