The Crollalanzas —
The Partially Comical and Oft-Times Tragical History of Four Sisters and a Wolf Hound, told with select examples of drollery, dignified into scenes by way of dialogue, arranged for the pleasure and benefit of all curious persons.
The like never before published (mayhap with reason sound, if good profit be the aim).
Modernized, henceforth, in spelling and punctuation.
Believe little of what follows, if you like. It is always wise to be skeptical, and the woman drawn onto the page by the curves, dashes and tails of these few inked words was, herself, a notorious fabricator; once made a career of it, in fact.
But she would maintain that the story you are about to read is just as true as most tales put to paper—verily steeped in steaming truths— although it is a strange and meandering account that may well overstretch the borders of your credibility. She would remind you that truth can be stranger than fiction; that one person’s clear and undoubting prospect can, to another, be no more trustworthy than the reflection in a distorted mirror; no less mischievously concealing than a Carnevale mask. It is a curse of humanity that there are very few things in this world, or beyond it, that we can unanimously and unequivocally agree upon to be ‘truth’.
As she points out, our reality is virtual now; what do we know of truth anymore?
All this said— and those warnings duly given— should you be so disposed to a fondness for whimsy, I hope you will allow yourself to be swept into the pages without concern, to idly drift along with the characters of this eccentric epistle, be still an hour or two, suspend your disbelief with the wild abandon of pantaloons tossed asunder, and know that no harm can proceed from it.
But now, begging your forbearance for one further moment; a word about our heroine, if I may.
From the beginning, let one thing be without doubt; it grieves me to admit that she is not the stuff of feminine ideal. The reader, therefore, should not look upon this work and think it be an example of how all women behaved, or even how many females thought in that century. In fact, the opposite is true, and I can assure you that our unbecoming, truculent heroine occasionally suffered regret for her outspoken ways; that she felt the vicious spike of envy in her breast when she saw other women who excelled at their role and shone within its confines. Yes, there were times when she wished for beauty and grace; to be a paragon of soft-voiced, docile womanhood. But such yearnings were fleeting, like the childish dreams of finding herself transformed into the warrior empress of some fantastic realm. And just as unlikely to transpire in reality.
Perhaps, knowing from an early age that she would never fit the preferred mould of the day, Truzia Crollalanza deliberately presented herself to the world as an unrepentant malefactor, embracing her oddities with relish. There was, it turned out, some satisfaction to be had in hearing the anxious whispers of various prattle-bags and wary, toplofty gentlemen, who inquired into the state of her mind and the completeness of her faculties.
"Is the chit quite sound?"
"Is that young woman altogether...with us?"
"Is she moonstruck?"
Her sisters claimed she was a changeling. What other excuse could there be? "At least we have cured her of biting, wetting the carpet and chewing the furnishings," they would say with all solemnity. "But never let her near a sharp bodkin, if you value your eyes. And do not feed her or she will follow you home."
In truth, by the spinster dotage of her twenty-fifth year, Truzia was happiest in an old, loose kirtle, with her hair netted and bound to keep it out of her eyes, a goose-feather quill stuck behind her ear to dry, fingers ink-stained, and her temper unapologetically disobliging. She preferred to be left alone and unobserved, so that her countenance be free to work itself into the ugliest of expressions, and her mind liberated to roam, unmolested by the demands of household chores or polite conversation. To put it lightly, by the standards of her day, she had quite failed her duties as a woman.
But not for her would come subservience to the male gender. She sought satisfaction and distinction in other— some may say, selfish and cowardly— ways, content to write scenes of romantic love without exposing herself directly to its agonies.
Had she ever recognized anything in her real life that resembled cupid flying overhead, she would have shot those plump kneecaps out of the cloud before that meddlesome, grotesque, nightmarish little beast could fire its own arrow.
But, of course, with all that said, the inevitable happened.
She had counted twenty-five years in this unsociable fashion, but before she reached the twenty-sixth anniversary of her birth, Truzia would be undone. In what was expected to be her “middle-age” this unhinged, untamable, most wretched of creatures fell in love. You will have guessed that already, a page into her history, which shows that you have greater wit than she, who did not see it coming in a thousand such pages. She, perhaps, was the only soul who remained willfully oblivious to her own romance.
The despaired-of, ink-bespattered hussy very nearly overlooked it altogether.
I suppose you will not like her very much and think her an ill choice for a heroine. But this is her story and I, who do not like her much myself at times, am charged with the telling of it.
So, prithee, do not look to these pages for a lesson in morals, the banging of a political drum, or an example of good behavior finding its own reward— any more than you would read it for a lesson in history, legal counsel or religious guidance. But, if you be in sour temper or bereft of merriment, I pray you find within these pages some scratchings of entertainment. For this is nothing more than the story of one random little life and its trail of havoc, arched across the sky like the tail of a shooting star.
We are all tiny, flickering lights that burn briefly in the hugeness of being. Our bodies float uncertainly through life, buoyed upright by bags of air under our ribs, the purpose for our existence quite unknown. We live but for the blink of an eye, or a puff of breath in the great scheme of time, but nobody is insignificant, nobody is gone that is not missed, nobody born who never touched another soul, even if they are unaware of the mark they left behind. Every life has a story worth the telling. Even hers.
The magnificently awful story of Truzia and her sisters is coming later this year. Be thee prepared.
(Top image: Elizabeth Poullet 1616 age 22 by Robert Peake)