Godfrey “fehed” and” poo-pahed” over the vintage , red and black plaid steamer trunk we had dragged home. He found my find utterly ridiculous, but I knew the trunks story would one day be told..Adelaide’s story…
Elderly, bow-legged, hobo-worn, she spoke in a manner both direct and genteel-” you have my trunk, the plaid one, she pointed. “A scrap dealer pinched it as it aired neath a tree, I am Adelaide, once a chambermaid, this trunk means the world to me. “While you just stand there, I will tell the long story, of the red and black trunk, the places its been, the tale of a wayward “Lady in Waiting”, who once turned down sheets for The Queen.
My old dad, village drunk, bought the plaid trunk, he was so very proud of me, last time I saw him we parted at a pub, after seeing me off to Piccadilly. “I entered service, a proper young lady, on the royal Yacht “Britannia” we journeyed down under, an indiscretion rendered my life asunder, placed disgraced on the streets of Melbourne, I sat alone on my trunk of plaid, was caught being naughty in a linen closet, with Marvin the Butler’s lad.
Alas and alack! the pub I found work in was rowdy and mean. they laughed at me, Adelaide the barmaid, no more fine sheets, no more Queen. “Singing, he was, down Flinders street, a handsome young chap I chanced meet. Filled the plaid trunk, our few things to stow, away, away, to the hot wild Outback we’d go. My Benny went a’ droving oft months far away, restless, a writer of bush ballads he. But he had a great heart, rode a sturdy blue-grey, and Benny always returned home to me. “When fortune failed us we left station for city, walked hand in hand down the quay cool of evening. Sitting on my old steamer trunk, I told Benny stories of my home in wales cross the sea. “Middle years brought deeper longing for home, Benny now skilled in the Carpenter’s trade, hired on and soon, a long sea voyage by schooner we made”.
My plaid trunk full of brass tacks and nails, and rolls of canvas for mending the sails, she foundered in southerly gales off Chile- but my old battered trunk floated free, we washed ashore with the sail cloth and only a rag that my knickers had been. Adelaide the survivor, long ago I turned down fine sheets for The Queen…”On the beach we sat, kept cheerful with raw fish and song, stood on my plaid trunk, waving my knickers , rescue came before sunburn or thirst, we loaded my precious plaid trunk first, dropped off at a dock, (they were bound for Peru), traded nails and cloth for an old piebald mule, along with a rickety cart, without map or clue, for far north places, dawn saw us, still singing depart.
“My trunk as a stage, Benny sang his bush ballads on the streets of Panama City, “I told sad tales of our sea trials, the troubles we’d seen, since I’d dallied in that closet with a butler, and upset The Queen. Besides a stage, a wind break, a shelter, alas with space only in it for one, my trunk was a refuge from beach crabs, and cast pleasent, cool shade from the sun.” A place to rest when hitching a ride, and though lacking handles, all we owned those years we have roamed fit neatly inside. “in a long out dated travel guide- “Exploring America’s South”, is a photo of Benny, the trunk and I at the Yazoo River’s mouth. “That hole in the rear? , very small to the right?, happened when my trunk was lost overnight, what made the gouge, I do not know, was in the seedy and sad, Winnipeg Bus depot…to make short story long, speed narrative on, my trunk was purloined from neath trees on a lawn, we were sleeping out, when at Tuesday’s dawn, the coppers came and drove us away, despite my plea, the old plaid trunk was lost to Benny and me. The Queen’s portrait hung high on the wall, downtown at the R.C.M.P. Square, flattened grass was all I saw, when finally we were set free.
We searched junkyards, pawnbrokers, the swap meet, to no avail. Until one day on the #50 Bus, an odd young man rose and gave me his seat, told me he heartily disliked beets- a story he told then, in verse ,of a trunk in the window of a luggage shop, not asking his name, I made the bus driver stop, a block from Godfrey’s Luggage Sales, you have my old plaid trunk, remove it please, so Benny and I can may get on our way home to Wales.
It could not have been Godfrey, she met on the bus, simply could not have been. But thus ends in mystery the saga of Adelaide, once a lady in waiting, she turned down sheets for The Queen. I picture the odd pair now, heading east cross the prairies , heading home to that Welsh valley green, Benny singer of bush ballads, and a once refined lady with her steamer trunk, she turned down sheets for The Queen..