Dear Sibyl,

You know, I've heard all kinds of weird rumours. They've told about robbed maidens and buried treasures, they've told about mysterious strangers surprising lovely ladies in the woods, they've told about wild parties and passionate dances, they've told -- anyway, somehow I just don't think they've told the truth.

So, how did you and Cap'n Pegleg meet in the first place, really?

A devoted admirer.

[Ooh, Pyth, do you think she'll fall for it?]
[Sure thing Cass, she won't be able to resist it.]
[But what a wicked way to -]
[Shush now, here she comes. You go paint your nails, I'll whistle a tune or something.]

"Pythia, you're out of tune."
"Sorry, Sib."
"Cassie, don't you have some correspondence to type up?"
"Yes ma'am."
"Mail's here, Sibyl."
"So I see."
"Wonder what's in the envelope on top." Pythia glared at Cassandra.
"A bill, most likely..."

Sibyl tore open the envelope with her antique letter opener. Adjusting her glasses, she began to read.

"Hm... hm! What an impertinent question."
"Aren't you going to read it out?"
"Oooh, what is it?"
"Merely some nonsense about 'Captain' Pegleg and I, and how we first encountered one another."
"So what's the answer then?"
"I'll answer it later."
"Oooooh, c'mon, Sibyl! Answer it now!"
"Yeah, Sib, we're both kind of curious about that ourselves. How did this cut-throat rivalry develop between you and the panto pirate?"

Sibyl peers over the rim of her glasses at them.

"Well, I suppose. Let me see..."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

It was back in the early days of the company, well before your time, Pythia. I doubt you were even born yet, Cassie. Well, in those days the founder, a rather eccentric older gentleman who's name deliberately escapes me, was still at the helm. I'd been hired in much the same capacity as Cassandra - stenographer and junior research associate.

One morning I came to the office as usual, and the founder handed me a telegram with a question on it. It was from a correspondent in Oregon, who wanted to know "What are the Grateful Dead so Grateful about, exactly?" Quite rightly, he thought that I was the woman for the job.

"You've got your head in tune with today's young people," he said, "Go out to California and find out. And do a good job, or it's zot for you!"

He was fond of saying that, for some reason. Said it all the time. Then he handed me a pile of cheques for expenses and disappeared into the back office to listen to his Handel. As I say, an eccentric man.

It wasn't long after that I found myself in California, searching out the Grateful Dead. It seemed to me at first that they were an artistic sort of band, and so I started hanging about theatres and art galleries and the like. And that is how I met Eustace Pegleg, second son of Clarence, Lord Stroplmore.

Eustace was a very serious young man in those days. He was a Shakespearean-trained actor, who had come over to North America and got into the so-called 'method acting'. Unfortunately, at the time there was very little calling for melancholy Danes or jealous Moors, so he was stuck in this dreadful pantomime, "The Duchess of Malfi". He was playing the part of a pantomime slug. As I said, he was very into the method acting, so he wore his slug costume everywhere he went, so as to "be a slug".

Well, there's no sense in hiding that I was somewhat taken with Eustace (despite the slug outfit), and he was absolutely smitten with me. We cut quite the swath around town in those days.

As my luck had it, he was also a terrific Grateful Dead fan. A couple weeks after we'd met, the Dead came to town, and he asked me to go with him. Well, tradition dictated that we arrive at the concert stoned out of our gourds, so we stopped off at the theatre first to see Eustace's costumer friend, who had a small garden set up on the roof. While we partook, he convinced Eustace to ditch the slug costume for something a bit more dashing - they dug out this pirate costume, and he changed into it. I have to admit I was relieved not to be going to the concert with a slug, although the stuffed parrot was a bit much.

Oh, the concert was, as we used to say, an absolute hoot. That's where the trouble began. It was there that I met St -- another young man, and, well, I ended up ditching Eustace.

We met up again some hours later. He was furious, ranting and raving. I got a touch ruffled myself, and we parted with mutual expressions of undying enmity.

The very next night was opening night for the panto. Disaster struck, and the lead villain, who played the pirate, fell ill. Eustace stepped into the role, and brought the house down. From that moment forth he was typecast as a panto pirate - he was never able to break into legitimate theatre again. Between that and the strong negative emotions associated with the pirate costume, I think his mind snapped, because some years later he shows up here, calling himself "Cap'n" Pegleg and shivering his timbers at me every chance he gets.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"But I doubt our questioner really wants to hear about all that..."
"Wow, Sibyl, that's so tragic... no wonder the poor guy dresses so badly."
"Funny thing, that, Steve Irwin said he used to be a terrific Dead fan."
"Well, it takes all types, I suppose. I've never really enjoyed the music since then."

She placed the letter in her in-box and flipped through the remaining mail, most of which were bills or notices informing her she might already have her own parking spot in New York.

Cassandra polished her nails thoughtfully.

"Say, Sibyl? Whatever happened to DRI's founder? The old centrific guy."

"Eccentric, dear. He went potty as well, I'm afraid. Last I heard he was in a nursing home somewhere in the midwest. His housekeeper - a lovely woman, her name was - oh, I've forgotten. Elsie? Elise? Lisabeth? Something like that. Anyway, she said that towards the end he started listening to the same Handel composition over and over, running around in a white bathrobe, pointing at people and shouting 'zot!' at them. Used to hoard soy sauce and all sorts of strange items as well. A shame, really."

"Cripes. So many balmy nuts in this business. If I ever walk in one day and declare myself to be a hat-stand, I'd appreciate your tying me down until the men in white coats arrive."

Sibyl smiled.

"All right, enough chatter ladies. There's quite a queue of material left to be answered. Invoices to be sent out, and so forth. Which reminds me -- Cassandra, Pythia..."

"Yes?" "Uh huh?"

"You owe me a tie-dyed Jolly Roger and six chocolate doubloons."