A STORY FILLED WITH STENCHES NOT GLORY
The dining room was a large silver room with lots of decorative crystal lamps. In the centre of the room a gorgeous crystal chandelier dangled with pretty crystals that resembled snowflakes. That chandelier descended to the floor and a huge round marble table surrounded it. The carpet was a light grey with colourful patterned pink rugs. Funny crystal ornaments of the Little Stinkers were placed on decorative silver tables around the room.
‘Let’s take our seats at the dining table,’ he said gesturing to the large round marble table. When Tingle and Josh got closer they noticed the marble table had painted pictures of beautiful scenes set into it.
‘I like the table…’ Josh said rubbing his hand over it and then bouncing Dino across the surface.
Sebastian gestured towards their seats, which resembled mini-thrones. They were purple velvet with high, silver wriggly designed backs, the silver strands looked like the interwoven creepers on trees. Tingle and Josh walked around the table and looked at each picture inset into the marble. Tingle chose a picture that had mountains and Josh picked a picture of the beach to sit in front of. Sebastian sat by a beautiful picture of the forest. ‘I miss nature,’ he said trailing off.
Josh bounced Dino across the table towards Sebastian who watched the children. He noticed Tingle giggled as she watched different Little Stinkers bring in bowls of food. All the while Sebastian appeared sad.
‘So what do you know about me?’ he finally asked.
‘That you made perfume for a Queen. Someone put garlic in it. You were banished. You then made perfume for a faerie who gave you some wishes and then you ended up here. We don’t know how you ended up here though,’ Tingle said watching the Hippobottymous darting about. Their wobbly little bottoms looked like shaking pink jellies.
‘I think you should know the whole story,’ Sebastian said thoughtfully. ‘Someone was jealous of my scent success and sabotaged the most wonderful perfume created especially for a Queen. I was then ridiculed and nasty songs were sung about me. What made it worse was that I was banished from the city so went to live in the forest and quietly continued making nice smells. I didn’t bother anyone; instead I focused on creating aromatic loveliness. That is how I met the faeries. At the time I was very angry with the people from the city, yet realised that I was happy living in the forest and I became a hermit. I could spend my time making beautiful aromas and I began giving them to the faeries who would come and visit, make me nice food and invite me to their faerie parties. I was happy.’
‘Where did you live?’ asked Josh. He watched a Pongaroo bounce by with a tray of food. It was amazing that nothing fell off.
‘I found a cave to live in and made it into a beautiful home by carving dead wood into furniture. The faeries were kind and in exchange for perfume they would make me faerie cakes and provide me with nice duvets to keep me warm.’
‘It sounds very nice,’ said Tingle.
‘I like faeries,’ said Josh.
‘It was quite lovely because I had faeries as company and wildlife would visit. I also used wild flowers to make remedies for sick animals. As I said: I was happy and did not bother anyone.’ Sebastian sat back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head.
‘So how did the Great Stink happen?’ Josh asked. ‘Stinky, stinky… STINKY!’
‘I will come to that… So… one day I was gathering flowers for my perfumes and a group from the Palace were out in the forest hunting. They were chasing a deer and the deer ran to my cave to hide. The hunting party followed the deer and found where I lived. Some of the faeries protected the deer by making it invisible. That made them angry so they smashed up my home and of course they thought it was funny. Then when I stood up to them they struck me down, tied me up and they sang the stinky pong song.’
‘Oh horrible! Did no one help you?’ Tingle asked just as a few Whiley Wafters drifted above the table like little clouds.
Josh looked up and smiled.
‘The faeries came to help but Sir Gilbert captured a number of the faeries in glass jars… He must have heard about their weakness.’ Sebastian shook his head sadly.
‘Who is Gilbert?’ Josh asked.
‘He was a knight who wanted to be the Queen’s favourite,’ Sebastian replied.
‘Ahhh…’ said Tingle.
‘Finally, after reaping havoc, they set fire to the forest where I lived. They destroyed my beautiful perfumes and ruined everything. Then Sir Gilbert stood over me. He grinned an evil grin and said… ‘The day I put garlic in the perfume changed everything. As soon as you were out of the way I became the Queen’s favourite. I got my way!’
‘I don’t like him,’ said Tingle.
‘Finally I knew the face of the saboteur: Sir Gilbert, a very popular knight in the court, who always had wanted to be seen beside the Queen. He chased women in power to increase his own status. He was a very charming and deceptive man. What’s more, he was known as the faerie hunter. I stared him in the eye and said, ‘Thank you… you have given me reason.’
He laughed his ridiculing laugh at me. ‘Reason for what?’
‘To create a stink so great that it will go down in history… It will be dedicated to you,’ I replied with anger racing through my veins.
‘You can’t even make a perfume smell nice,’ he said. He then spat on me… That was my worst moment because the forest was on fire, my beautiful aromas were smashed and they tried to swat the faeries. What made it worse is he captured Lydia, the Faerie Queen, in a jar. In that moment, a rage so strong raced through me. I intended to save Lydia and create the greatest stink ever known to man.’
Tingle frowned, ‘They were horrible people.’
‘Horrible. Horrible… Horrid!’ cried Josh.
Sebastian nodded, ‘It is amazing what jealousy can do to people, especially when they want the attention of someone in power.’ He then smoothed his fringe. ‘Anger can drive a person to do things they wouldn’t usually do. Unfortunately I had a deep desire for revenge.’
‘So what did you do?’ Tingle asked.
‘The faeries used their magic to bring rain to put out the forest fire. At the same time the faeries tried to find out where Lydia had been taken to. It took a while so I spent a few weeks thinking deeply about stinks. I would walk for hours and hours considering all the different smells that I knew and then one day I stumbled upon a terrible stink by accident. I had been so caught up in thought that I wondered into a boggy swamp. It didn’t just smell bad, it made rotten sprouts, with gone off eggs and bad morning breath smell nice. The aroma reeked, was rotten and rancid. So much so it made my head spin and made me sick. A moment later I fell to the ground and just laid in the most disgusting stench for a couple of days. It seemed that when I thought things couldn’t get worse they did!’
‘Erchhh yucky!’ said Josh, he gazed at all of the food on the table. There was potato salad, nice little triangle sandwiches with the crusts cut off, different sliced vegetables and some jelly.
‘Help yourself, if there is anything you want me to eat then point at it and I will show you it is safe,’ Sebastian offered.
‘So Mister Stinkworthy. You were asleep in the boggy bad smell? How did you get away?’ Tingle questioned. She picked up a cheese and pickle sandwich and smelled it.
‘One of the faeries found me and put some moss up my nose to stop me breathing in the stink. She then helped me out of the swamp. When I returned to the forest and saw the moss and the lichen I realised how much I loved fresh air… It was then I realised what I was going to do. I intended to take my revenge by creating the greatest stink that London had ever known. I intended to find Queen Lydia and free her. The stink would distract any guards watching over Queen Lydia. To stop us being affected I intended to create an antidote, resilience and a mask. The ultimate stink became my obsession. The thought of Sir Gilbert trying to explain to the Queen that such a huge stink could not be contained became my driving force. I intended to make sure that he paid for his cruelty!’
Tingle looked at Josh, ‘You could have just made nice perfumes and lived in the forest.’
Sebastian nodded and put some potato salad on his plate. ‘Sometimes you can’t explain what comes over you. I was never a bad person, yet circumstances and unfortunate events made me do things I would never have usually done.’
‘What happened?’ asked Josh waving Dino.
‘I became obsessed and started creating little creatures that could help me with my plan. I needed to find a way to get that disgusting stink into the city and then cleverly release it. The thing is London was already on its way to a big stink and at the time I didn’t know that. As I researched and created nasty niffs I realised that I could use the dirt already festering in the rivers. In the end I simply intended to help those foul fragrances become the biggest stink ever to take place.’
‘Oh,’ said Tingle biting into a cheese and pickle sandwich.
‘So over the winter I built an army of Little Stinkers who would take that swamp smell and put it in special bags made of natural fibres that the faeries weaved for me.’
‘The faeries helped you make a giant stink?’ Tingle asked in a tone of surprise.
‘Yes. When I shared my plan, they did giggle, they said they wanted to be part of it to save their Queen. We decided that all of the magical woven bags would evaporate at the same time on one special day. We also made those bags so they were like balloons. That way we could fly the smell to all the places that we wanted to release it. We came to the conclusion that the best way to release the stench was along the River Thames. It was central to London and wound through the whole city. What was even better was the new government building had just been built beside the river and Buckingham Palace was close enough to receive an epic stink.’ Sebastian smiled mischievously to himself.
‘Stinky, stinky… STINKY!’ cried Josh.
Sebastian began to laugh, ‘Oh it was stinky…’
‘Very stinky!’ said Tingle. ‘So what happened next?’
A couple of the Hippobottymous, with their wobbly bottoms popped over to the table and checked there was enough cutlery.
‘Well, it seemed that nature was on my side because the summer of 1858 was hotter than ever. So there was a bit of a drought.’ Sebastian gestured to a couple of Hippobottymous who climbed up on the table and filled some beaker with water.
‘What is a drought?’ Josh asked.
‘When there is no rain and the sun is so hot that it dries up all the water,’ Sebastian replied.
‘Ahhh,’ Josh said watching the Hippobottymous climb off the table and hand the plates to each other.
‘So the river was already low and because it was low it started to show all the nasty stuff that had been thrown in it. At the same time, the heat began to make a stench.’ Sebastian lent back in his chair and shook his head.
‘Ohhh,’ Josh said. ‘What is a stench?’
‘A really, really, reeeeaaaally bad smell. Think of the worst smell you can imagine and multiply that by one hundred,’ Sebastian theatrically.
‘Ercccchhhh yucky!’ cried Josh.
‘So that bit of luck made it easier for me to add to an already bad smell. The Londoners were complaining and many people felt quite sick due to the horrid stink. Women fainted on the street from the heat and pong. I only knew this because some of the pigeons reported it to the faeries who told me about it all. Anyway… over in the swamp, we filled numerous balloons with the ultimate swamp smog and we intended to transport it overnight to the Thames. On that particular night, by the light of full moon, we called all the bats, all of the pigeons and all of the faeries together. We invited the rats and mice too. Of course all of the Little Stinkers joined in and together the group set about turning the plan into action. The rats took the swamp stench into all the tunnels under London. The mice took the swamp stench to all the house basements and hid it under the floors. The pigeons placed the stench in all of the trees and the faeries hid the stench all along the river. I stood at the centre of London Bridge and the view was magnificent. It was like watching fire flies carrying balloons along the Thames. It was so wonderful. Oh and just so you know I created a special stink filter to allow myself not be affected by such a dastardly doom-filled disgrace.’
‘Oh that is nasty!’ said Tingle.
‘I know…’ said Sebastian.
‘What happened?’ Josh asked tucking into some potato salad.
‘Well on that beautiful July morning the sun rose at around four. At sunrise all of the special woven bags evaporated.’
‘Stinky, stinky… Stinky!’ Josh cried with delight.
‘Oh sooo stinky. That stink filled the air. The sun increased the heat and the stink became a smog and then a stench. People woke up that morning and opened their windows and… the stench got them!’ Sebastian grabbed his throat and wriggled.
Tingle giggled at the strange man. ‘What happened?’
‘People passed out, others cried and the heat of the sun made the smell worse than anyone could have ever imagined. The whole of London came to a standstill. The smell was so bad that people could not eat breakfast. By mid-day the smell formed a thick fog and it became a ‘real pea-souper’.’
‘Pea-souper?’ Josh repeated.
‘Think of the colour of peas and think of a fog. Now imagine a fog so thick and the colour of peas.’
‘That really happened?’ asked Tingle. ‘I thought Auntie Joanna was joking.’
Sebastian nodded, ‘Yes very thick and very green!’
‘Wow!’ said Josh.
‘That day went down in history. At the same time the Queen became enraged in the Palace. She called her court together. ‘We are not amused! What is this stink? It isn’t right! We need to solve it. We need the best brains in Britain to get here and figure out a solution!’
Tingle clapped. ‘Good thinking!’
‘Good stinking!’ said Sebastian with a grin.
Josh giggled and glanced at the jelly and a trifle that had just been brought in.
‘Well it seemed that some of the best brains had already anticipated a stink because of all the dollop that had been thrown in the river. They had come up with an entire sewage system but had been ignored. It was only that this stink was so huge and even affected the Prime Minister that people finally paid attention.’
Tingle watched some of the Little Stinkers nibble food from a buffet in the room next to the dining room.
‘Why don’t you dine with the Little Stinkers?’ she asked
‘I usually do. They are being polite because this room is for guests,’ he replied.
‘Have you had any guests?’ Tingle asked.
‘Only a few like Mildred and Bertie. Or whoever had looked after Waftness over the years,’ he replied.
Tingle studied Sebastian, she didn’t know what to make of him.
‘So how come you ended up here?’ she asked
‘Well the Queen wanted the smell to go away. They tried lime to cover the smell but that didn’t work. Then they tried lavender but it didn’t last. Finally she called the court together and asked them for their suggestions. They called in a number of specialists including a lady who made herbal remedies. She had an idea to create a neutraliser but could not create enough to clear such a huge scale stink. Eventually she suggested the Queen summon me. ‘Why don’t you summon the Master Perfumer Sebastian Stinkworthy?’ she had suggested.
The Queen was resistant. ‘Why would I summon the man who put garlic in my perfume?’
‘He is a master at aroma creation, he is likely to understand how to neutralise too,’ she replied.
‘Never!’ cried the Queen.’
‘She was a little bit silly,’ said Tingle thoughtfully.
Sebastian gestured at the sandwiches. Tingle nodded and Josh waved Dino so Sebastian offered the plate of sandwiches to the pair. Tingle and Josh took a couple and put them on their plates.
‘She would not call me. So the stink went on. Many of the Londoners moved from the city to the country to escape the smell but the smog remained. The newspapers had a field day and called the smelly smog ‘The Great Stink!’ Every day the city dwellers grew sadder, angrier and more frustrated. Finally they had enough and began to revolt. They revolted amongst a revolting smell,’ Sebastian giggled and that made Tingle and Josh giggle too.
‘In the end the Queen gave in and sent a messenger out to the forest to find me. He read a summoning that said ‘The Queen has requested your presence at the Palace.’ I looked at him and said no. I had a look of disdain.’
‘What is disdain?’ asked Josh.
‘It is a kind of upset and annoyance…’ Sebastian replied. ‘Does that help?’
Josh crumpled his face in thought, ‘sort of.’
‘You cannot turn down the Queen!’ he said with spurn.
‘I am banished. I can do what I want. I said to him.’ Sebastian shook his head at the situation. ‘The next day some guards came out and threw a net over me and took me to the Palace as a prisoner. In the Tower of London the Queen visited me and demanded that I make a smell to neutralise the Great Stink. I said No.’ Sebastian nibbled on a salmon sandwich and sighed. ‘So she then threatened to cut off my head for disobeying her.’
‘That isn’t nice,’ Tingle said and took a bite of her sandwich.
‘So what did you do?’ Josh asked. The trifle looked lovely!
‘What could I do?’ Sebastian asked.
‘You made a nice perfume?’ Tingle suggested.
‘Nope I made a special machine that sucked up the bad smell. It had a large funnel and sucked the smell into magic balloons. Those balloons would float up into the sky and dissolve. There is a lot of space in the sky and winds above the clouds so the bad smell would thin out.’
‘Why didn’t you make a nice smell?’ Tingle’s face looked confused.
‘I didn’t think they deserved it,’ Sebastian replied honestly.
‘Did it work?’ A few of the Hippobottymous shuffled around them and filled their beakers with cloudy apple juice.
‘Yes – we sucked up the bad smells with the sucky machines and sent the balloons into the sky. The following morning London woke up to fresh air and there was celebration on the streets. People heard that I was imprisoned and had saved the day so demanded that I was freed. One minute I was a baddy and the next a hero.’
Josh clapped and so did Tingle. ‘It all worked out! So how come you are here?’
‘Well Sir Gilbert didn’t like me being a hero did he? So what did he do?’ Sebastian said in a whisper, as though conspiring.
‘Uh oh!’ cried Josh.
‘Sir Gilbert and his fellow knights went to the Queen and said they had witnessed me first hand say that I had threatened to make the greatest stink of all time. They also knew there was magic involved. So after being made a hero I was put on trial and found guilty of stink creation. At the same time Sir Joseph Bazalgette and Charles Henry Driver were given lots of money to build a pumping station and sewer. So it was decided that as part of my punishment I would live in the London sewers for eternity. So here I am. The Queen learned that I would live forever and stated there would always be guards ready to hunt me down if I tried to escape.’
Tingle glanced at Josh. They hadn’t seen a single guard. Should they tell him?
‘So you haven’t seen the outside world for over a hundred and fifty years?’ Tingle asked.
Sebastian shook his head. ‘It is probably closer to one hundred and seventy. I lost count.’
‘That’s a very, very, long time,’ said Tingle.
‘How is it out there?’ he asked.
Tingle didn’t know how to answer. ‘Erm… I like it.’
‘I like it too,’ said Josh.
‘It smells nice,’ Tingle remained thoughtful.
‘Yes… nice,’ said Josh. A Hippobottymous arranged bowls in front of them for desert.
‘Well that is all about to change. I thought I would surpass myself with the stink and make an absolute stench. That giant hummer isn’t just for England, it will be for the whole world. Why play small when you can play large?’
Tingle shrugged, ‘I don’t know Mister Sebastian. The thing is… the Queen we have now is different to the Queen that put you in prison. Sir Gilbert and the knights that were nasty have had great, great, great grandchildren now and wouldn’t even know what happened. We only know about you because Auntie Joanna told us and our great, great, great, great gran’s stories.’
Sebastian was thoughtful, ‘I need to finish what I started and then I will have completion. There is no point starting something and not finishing it… otherwise that project floats around your mind like an asteroid or hangs around like a bad smell. This particular bad smell has been hanging around for close to one hundred and seventy years. So let’s finish our deserts and then you can go to bed.’
‘Where will we sleep?’ Tingle asked, wondering what kind of place they were expected to sleep in.
‘In the guest rooms,’ Sebastian replied.
‘Have you had many guests?’ Tingle glanced at Josh who was scraping his plate and licking his lips as he admired the deserts.
‘Only Mildred and Bertie. Other than that you are the first children,’ Sebastian said, he appeared quite excited.
Josh watched the Hippobottymous and the Whiley Wafters and wondered where they slept. Did they have their own bedrooms? Did they use normal toilets?
Illustrations by Robin Dry -Thank you so much!