by Dawn Knox
Previously – Bartrum the Garden Gnome finds himself in Her Ladyship’s Garden with no memory of life before his arrival. However, he’s certain of one thing—in the absence of any definite job description, it is up to him to invent himself and to make up the rules if necessary…
By the time the final brushstroke had been applied to what had been the blank canvas of Bartrum’s life and the resulting picture had been framed and hung on the wall, several other paintings had spontaneously begun and were in various stages of completion.
In an uncannily short time, Bartrum had taken over the Garden, launching Mrs Bartrum into the position of the First Lady Gnome of the Garden, making her very happy. Many of the other Garden Ornaments grumbled about the coup they hadn’t foreseen nor noticed while it was taking place. But they only dared to moan in the privacy of their own homes or burrows, and no one dared challenge Bartrum in public.
However, his new position brought challenges as well as privileges. And he suspected he was holding one of those challenges in his hand now. It was in the shape of a letter which had been delivered by Deano, the Post Kangaroo. Bartrum already knew who it was from because he’d spotted the large letters on the front, proclaiming OFSGAR, Office of Standards in Gardens–and that could mean only one thing–Her Ladyship’s garden was about to be inspected.
Bartrum remembered the previous inspection which had occurred shortly after he’d appointed himself Head Gnome. He hadn’t foreseen the rigorous nature of the scrutiny, nor how much of a toll it would take on his marriage. Mrs Bartrum had been less than understanding during those dreaded two days and as his stress levels rose, she’d threatened to leave him if he ever got ‘snippy’ with her like that again.
He must make sure this inspection ran more smoothly than the last or he’d have to think up some way of placating his wife. He could do as she’d begged during the previous inspection and simply resign but he liked being in charge of Her Ladyship’s Garden. By rights, the position should have gone to one of the Marble Elves because everyone knew they were the most intelligent of the Garden Ornaments. Exactly how everyone knew was a mystery–it wasn’t like there were exams to pass. And no one ever mentioned it but everyone knew that everyone knew.
Bartrum was clever, ambitious and ruthless in the extreme. He was also shrewd enough to recognise who were the bright sparks in the Garden and to enlist or even bully them into assisting him whenever his authority was under threat.
Today was going to be one of those days.
He held his breath as he began to slice open the envelope. There was no doubt there would be an inspection–the only uncertainty, was when it would be and how much time he would have to prepare. It didn’t take a Marble Elf to know that if an inspector was to arrive that day, the Garden was likely to go into special measures and ultimately be closed down–even the Wooden Robin could have worked that out, if he were given a few clues and a prod with a sharp stick.
But what might happen if the Garden closed? Would they all be cleared away and thrown on the rubbish heap? Would Her Ladyship bring in new Garden Ornaments? Or would Mr Po Lin be fired and the Garden gradually turn into a wilderness. Bartrum shivered. He had no idea but it wasn’t going to happen on his watch. He would call a meeting and insist that changes were made and the best person to supervise those changes, he knew, would be Crispin, the Marble Elf. Not that Crispin would relish the task. He was a gentle Elf who liked a quiet life. He already had a full-time job keeping Sylvester, his nephew–a grumbling, mumbling teenage Marble Elf–in check. But needs must. And Crispin would understand that unless the Garden Ornaments collectively pulled their socks up, life may never be the same again–quiet or not. And if for some reason, Crispin didn’t grasp the importance of this inspection, then it was Bartrum’s job to make him understand, by any means–fair, foul or otherwise.
A few hours later, Crispin was ready and waiting for his nephew, Sylvester. He clicked his tongue in disapproval.
“You’re not going to Bartrum’s meeting like that!”
“What? What?” said Sylvester, checking his reflection in the hall mirror. “I cleaned my teeth and combed my hair,” adding “yesterday,” under his breath.
Crispin’s gaze travelled down Sylvester’s figure and rested on his feet.
“What?” asked Sylvester again. And in that interesting way teenage boys have of not being able to spot the obvious when it comes to cleanliness and sensible clothes–he couldn’t see it.
“Boots…” said Crispin, nudging Sylvester’s right boot with his toe.
“It’s clean!” snapped Sylvester.
“Yes, and that should help you work out what’s wrong.”
“I don’t know what you’re making such a fuss about. You usually complain when things aren’t clean. Talk about making up the rules as you go along…”
“I’m not complaining because it’s clean. I’m complaining because it’s mine… and you’re wearing it.”
Sylvester looked down. On his right foot was a gleaming Elf boot with pristine, curled tip and on the left was his scuffed boot, with a tip that dangled limply.
“Oh… Well, where’s my boot, then?”
“Wherever you left it.”
Crispin decided it would be wiser to wait outside and not get involved in the door-slamming, drawer-slamming and frenzied swearing. He’d tidy up later, after the meeting. He looked at his watch. They’d have to leave in ten minutes whether Sylvester found his boot or not. Bartrum demanded punctuality and only death was an excuse for absence–and sometimes not even then.
Gnomes, Elves, Fairies and assorted animals waved and greeted Crispin as they passed his Toadstool on their way to Bartrum’s meeting.
“Morning,” trilled the Wooden Robin as he stopped to pull up his woollen socks. Crispin waved, “See you there,” he called and checked his watch again.
Just four more minutes until they had to leave. Crispin closed his eyes and enjoyed the sun’s warmth on his face. It was going to be a lovely day. But then as far as Crispin was concerned, every day was lovely in the Garden. Who could fail to be moved by the beauty of nature that was all around them?
Crispin checked his watch again. It was time.
“Sylvester!” he yelled.
The two Marble Elves made it to Bartrum’s meeting with seconds to spare, although there was only room at the back, which suited Sylvester who was sulking.
Fluffy slippers with pom-poms are fine at home but if the laughter of a group of young Gnomes was anything to go by, they weren’t likely to become must-have footwear any time soon in the Garden.
Although, as Crispin reflected, it’s very hard to predict what might happen in the Garden and it wouldn’t have surprised him to find Garden Ornaments out and about in fluffy slippers with pom-poms in the near future.
Nothing about the Garden ever came as a surprise to Crispin.
Well, it hadn’t so far.
But Bartrum was about to change all that.
About the author
two previous books in the Chronicles Chronicles series are The Basilwade
Chronicles and The Macaroon Chronicles both published by Chapeltown
You can follow her here on https://dawnknox.com
on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls
Amazon Author: http://mybook.to/DawnKnox
The Crispin Chronicles
Links to the previous chapter:
Chapter 1 – Her Ladyship’s Garden - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/04/the-crispin-chronicles-1-her-ladyships.html