You know how they say that every little boy’s pocket has a piece of string in it? (Which is patently untrue, but that’s what they say, or used to.) Well, several of my coats also have a piece of string in them. I fiddle with them when I’m walking along with my hands in my pockets. They’re there because I have an abiding notion that one day I’m going to be required to tie something to something. Like, you know, one of those occasions when you’re walking along the lane minding your own business, and chance upon a maiden in distress, hands clasped to her bosom and crying:
‘Oh my, oh my! Whatever shall become of me? The buckle of my shoe is irretrievably broken and the sky betokens snow, methinks. I still have half a mile to walk before I reach the safety of my dear home and family. Shall I never see them more? Shall I nevermore feel the fond embrace of my dear mama, or sit beside the glowing hearth, there to read The Swiss Family Robinson for the seventeenth time, or see pictures of clouds and mountains and sundry beasts in the glowing embers, or settle in my feather bed, repository of dreams and fond imaginings, where the electric blanket shall fade into a bygone thing fit only for the moths? And what of my dear little dog, whose shivering form you see sitting plaintively beside me? Will she have no supper tonight, or any night, for shall we be found on the morrow, frozen to the hard earth in this wild and desolate place? I am undone, sir. I am lost, I say, lost…’
‘Never fear, my little one,’ I’ll reply, ‘for I have here a piece of string which will avail thee of thy rescue. Sit you down on this embankment among the browning detritus of summer growth. Lift up your leg (and what a very fine leg it is) that I may do the deed.’
‘Whatever do you mean?’
‘Mend your shoe.’
‘Oh, I see. Very well.’
And so she will sit, and present to me her foot (and what a dainty little foot it shall be) and I will proceed, explaining as I go along:
‘First, we take the string around the back of your heel (what an enchanting little heel it is) like this, and then we cross it in front and take it under the shoe and settle it against the heel of the shoe, and then we bring it back like this, cross it in front of your leg again (did I mention what a very fine leg it is?) take it back around the back (forgive my clumsy English, madam; I am but a rude peasant) bring it to the front again and tie the ends in a bow. May I dare the presumption to suggest that you like bows?’
‘Oh I do, sir, I do. I do so love bows.’
‘And now, my dear, you may proceed homeward to your supper with no fear of further distress, and live to walk another day.’
‘Oh, my dear, dear, sir. You are such a comfort to me, and such a hero. How may I ever repay you?’
‘You must not ask such a thing, my pretty. I forbid it. Virtue is, as ever, its own reward.’
And then she will blush, and begin to perspire (but only modestly) and talk of being all a-flutter, and blink three times, and I will stride manfully back to my lonely abode, head held high and light of heart for having saved the day.
So that’s why I have a piece of string in my pocket. I said I was in a strange mood, didn’t I? I have no idea why.