In days of yore lived a young man of the Highlands named Davey (the young man, not the Highlands). He was a good lad of noble birth, the son of Lady Elizabetty and Lord Gilgregor Swinemoore of the Highlands, aristocratic but dim (Lord Swinemoore, not the Highlands or the lad).
Master Davey, having spent the bulk of his youth at boarding schools and university, seemed like a stranger to his father upon their first encounter in ten years. Most of the lad’s rough edges and garbled colloquial speech had been honed to the extent that father initially mistook son for a French castle-to-castle notions salesman. “Grzlmpd, Fop,” Lord Swinemoore garble-barked from the belfry in response to Davey’s knock at the drawbridge.
“No, no, Father, ’tis I, Davey, your son returned home from university in the city. Do be a good fellow and allow me entry. I do so miss you and Mother. Additionally, I have travelled a long distance without interruption and, therefore, must relieve myself with wicked urgency.”
“Umfrodoodle ormf zadnick, Davey?”
“Yes, Father: Davey. Pray, do please hurry before I involuntarily besmudge our good name and these new pantaloons post haste.”
The slow-witted father was unsure if the young man seeking to enter Castle Swinemoore, growing more anxious by the second (the young man, not the castle), was indeed his progeny. “Gluxumph then — shlokinye blam pooftah?”
“Yes, Father, I am quite certain I am not here to sell you tapestries. Now I beseech you to please lower the fornicating drawbridge and allow your only child into his home so that he may purge his bladder and bowels.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Gil. Don’t you recognize your own son?” Lady Elizabetty chided, more refined in manner and discernable in speech than her husband. “Let the child in, lest he overflow the moat.”
“Gluckshtein, gluckshtein,” father mumbled as he personally lowered the drawbridge. “Frop, Davey.”
“Nice to see you both, as well, but you must forgive my insolence as I implore my legs to the gallop as if they were my loyal steed Beetlebaum at the hunt, as I dash to the royal dumpatorium. Cheery bye, all.”
Three hours later and two stone lighter, son reunited with parents. After ritual bowing and curtsying, Lady Elizabetty hugged her son and whispered in his ear, “Don’t curtsy, Dear; it’s not very butch.”
“I wasn’t curtsying, Mother. After so long squatting in the dumpatorium, I have yet to regain my land legs. And by the way, you seem to be out of soap.”
“What is soap, Dear?”
“Wotblmx orf gubba, Davey?”
“Yes, I agree with your father. Tell us the news from the city, Dear.”
Son regaled parents with a decade’s worth of news and gossip from the city —political intrigue, society doings and technological advances. Lord Swinemoore was fascinated and incredulous with all, especially the new medical theory that drilling holes in a person’s skull doesn’t necessarily rid the mind of evil thoughts and demons. Lady Elizabetty scoffed at reported scientific evidence that some witches float on water and some sink during testing for witchiness.
“In a related subject, here’s a laugh you may find amusing. The chaps at the Tasty Pudding Club absolutely love this one: do you know how to make a dead witch float?” Davey quizzed.
“Krmp?” his father asked.
“Hold onto your crowns because this is sure to illicit a grand guffaw: two scoops festering mutton bile and one scoop dead witch.”
“I don’t understand, Dear,” his mother said. “Is the same scoop used for both bile and witch, and if so, is the witch a mini witch? Otherwise, one would need to employ a very large scoop (which I think should more accurately be called a king-sized peat shovel).”
“Never mind, Mother, it is no longer important. Oh, hey, here’s a simple one you are sure to enjoy: knock, knock.”
“No, no, Father, you are supposed to answer, ‘Who’s there?’ not, ‘Unless your army retreats immediately, I shall be forced to order my legions to pour hot oil on the lot of them.’ Let’s try again, but this time you answer, Mother. Knock, knock.”
“Advance and be recognized, good sir.”
“No, no, Mother: ‘who’s there?'”
“Have you taken leave of your senses, boy? It is I, your Mother, Lady Elizabetty Swinemoore of the Highlands.”
“Argh!” Davey bleated in frustration. “Knock, knock. Fornicating knock, knock. Now for the love of God, will someone please say, ‘Who’s there?'”
“Oh, I get it now,” Lady Elizabetty said. “Do come in, Madame — we’ve been expecting you. I do hope the Count’s gout is sufficiently improved so that he will be able to attend our ball in a fortnight. Care for some tea?”
“No, no, no, no, bloody no. ‘Madame who? Madame who?'”
“How should I know, Dear?” his mother said. “This is your game, not mine.”
At that moment, Davey wished that post-graduate education had been invented so that he might have a plausible excuse to once again flee from his parents. He took a few moments to collect himself, and with the measured speech pattern often employed by a lunatic just before he implodes with a violent rage, requested, “Someone say, ‘Madame who?’ Please … I beg you … someone just say, ‘Madame who?’ Thank you.”
“Madame who thank you,” his mother almost complied.
“Oy. Never mind. You both have ruined a very funny joke. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hang myself in the belfry.”
“Yes, Father, it was a joke.”
“Well, I must say, Dear, it’s not humorous at all.”
“Not with all the convoluted detours it’s not. You are quite correct, Mother, it is not humorous at all, thanks to you two.”
Alright then, Dear, let’s try again. From the top, shall we?”
“Merciful God, no,” Davey cried, “I don’t think I could possibly survive another round of this torture.”
“Well then, how about we take it from ‘Madame who thank you.’ Come on, Dear: ‘Madame who?'”
“Thank you for not saying, ‘Thank you.'”
“You’re welcome, Dear.”
“Well?” Davey asked.
“No, Mother, just say the following exactly as I instruct; nothing more/nothing less. No additional discourse. Ready? Here goes: ‘Madame who?'”
“Bravo,” her son mocked. “Sorry. Now here is my response to your question ‘Madame who?’: Ma’damn foot’s caught under your drawbridge.”
Master Davey’s maniacal laughter befuddled his parents. “?” Lord Swinemoore blurted.
“I quite agree with your father, Dear. That’s not humorous in the slightest. Who is this Madame person and why would she venture to our castle unaccompanied (Madame, not the castle)? Doesn’t she realize that the Highlands is no place for a genteel woman of noble blood to be traveling by herself? What did they teach you at that university — only nonsense and foolishness? I’d say we’ve wasted our money.
“Never mind,” she continued. “All this tomfoolery has quite piqued my appetite. Who’s in the mood for a nice bowl of festering mutton bile?”
“Klaatu barada nikto (with or without witch?)?” Lord Swinemoore quipped.