The Costle of the Orinoco
by Bill Kitcher
As Charlie woke that Friday morning to the sound of mail dropping through the letter slot, he had the same thought he had every morning. Waking up was a mixture of good and bad, and, no matter how he tried to reconcile the two, there could never be any connection between them. On the one hand, waking up meant the start of a new day, the possibility of something exciting, a letter in the mail, an offer of employment, a bingo card which invariably won him a camera or a travelling bag (although he never understood why he should be obliged to buy something from a store in order to collect his prize, after conquering such probably incredible odds), or even meeting someone new and interesting who would become a life-long friend (although this had never happened). On the other hand, waking up meant exactly that, waking up. As sleeping and dreaming were such enjoyable, relaxing, and inexpensive pastimes, it seemed to Charlie rather ridiculous to do anything else. He knew he had to eat and drink, but surely a highly technological civilization such as ours could invent some form of nourishing, intravenous drip that wouldn't wake you up.
This kind of intense mental activity always brought Charlie to full consciousness, and he never went back to sleep after waking, except for the occasional nap after breakfast. On weekdays, he would lie in bed, imagining all the things that could possibly be in the mail, until he was so excited he had to rouse himself to investigate. He loved the time he spent in England, where there were two mail deliveries during the week, and even one on Saturday. But this wasn't enough to keep him in England. He felt a pull back to Canada, its minus 30-degree winters, its humid summers, its black flies.
He put on his housecoat and slippers, and walked down the corridor to the front door where the mail lay. It was a good day, a large pile of letters, although, as he got closer, he could see what looked to be a fair number of bills among the pile. He picked up the mail and sorted through it, arranging them in order from most promising to most distressing.
At the top was a postcard from St. Lucia in the West Indies. He stared at the picture of the white beach in the blazing sun, and sighed. He looked out his front door; it had begun to drizzle. His parents were visiting St. Lucia. Charlie's mother described only the weather for the entire trip, and signed it, “Best wishes, your mother and father (Mr. and Mrs. R. G. Haley).”
There were two letters from companies to which Charlie had applied for jobs. The first read, “Dear Mr. Haley, Thank you for your application for the position of General Manager, Textiles. Unfortunately, nothing on your CV seems to indicate that you have any experience in any aspect of our business, and for that reason, we cannot offer you employment at this time. However, we will keep your application on file in case a suitable position should become vacant. Yours faithfully, etc.” The second read, “Dear Mr. Haley, Thank you for yor intrest in wanting to aply for imployment with our orgnizatin. At this time, there are no opnings, but we shall keeep yor letter on file and contact you if an opning siuting yor paticular skiills and experiense becomes avilable, either thru redundansy, termination, or death. Good luck in yor future indevours, Thomas M______, Personel Director, Ministry of Education.”
There was a bill from the telephone company for $38.19, which would have been reasonable, had Charlie owned a phone.
A bill from the electricity company was for $35.07, although Charlie knew he had paid this one. He was very frightened of the dark, and wouldn't have attempted a night in the dark alone for anything.
As usual, Charlie had two bills from the gas company. One had his name on it, and came to $33.62. The other was addressed to T. L. McKeever, and was for $2,817.08. As far as Charlie knew, T. L. McKeever hadn't lived at that address since 1969. Charlie had written to the gas company several times, but obviously the computer hadn't had time to digest the information yet. Either that, or T. L. McKeever was living in Charlie's walls.
The last letter was from the city council informing Charlie, in an unfriendly way, that he was to be fined for non-compliance with the city's hedge height rules. Charlie had cut the hedge to the required height, but it had grown again, and the city administrators did not look kindly upon that.
He dropped all the mail onto the floor, and stared at the wall. This was potentially the worst day of Charlie's life, so he reminded himself to be careful for the rest of the day. He sighed in exasperation, letting his head fall forwards, onto the wall. The vibrations dislodged a painting, which fell to the floor, the glass splintering into a hundred tiny pieces.
There was no point in pretending the world was going to right itself in the next two days, so he decided to give up on this particular weekend. He took a long bath, remembering to wash in his ears; he had all the time in the world now, and his ears had been neglected for weeks. He gargled with vinegar and salt, and set off for the Duchess of Durham (the pub, not the person).
At the pub, he met his friend, Richard, who offered to buy him a drink.
“If you're buying,” said Charlie. “I'm afraid I can only afford a couple for myself. Despite what the minister says, not all poor people can afford to drink all afternoon.”
“Still haven't found a job then,” said Richard, waving to the bartender.
Charlie thought he detected a note of gloating in Richard's voice, but decided immediately that it must have been in his imagination. He and Richard had known each other since the age of six, and Richard had always helped Charlie out when he could. Richard was helpful, friendly, honest, and interesting. On top of that, he was intelligent, funny, handsome, sincere with women, a good tennis player and dancer, and had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Charlie hated him.
“No, no jobs,” said Charlie. “I had a couple of offers today, but they weren't really right for me. You know how it is.”
“Yes, I do,” said Richard.
Charlie thought that perhaps Richard had seen through his little lie. Was it possible to know someone that well after only twenty years?
“I've just remembered something,” said Richard. “I think I know where you might be able to get some work. I was talking to this woman named Judy the other night—”
“She was named Judy the other night?”
“— and she edits encyclopedias.”
“She said they're looking for proof-readers for the final pages. You can read, can't you?”
“Encyclopedias? I can't think of anything more dull, unless it's dictionaries.”
“You need the money, don't you?”
“Yes, I suppose so. And perhaps I could help them out. I'm sure they'll have lots of factual mistakes I could correct.”
“Uh, yeah,” said Richard, and went back to his pint, wondering if Judy would ever forgive him for what he was about to inflict on her.
Charlie had a terrible weekend. There was no mail, of course, and he spent most of the time coming up with reasons why he couldn't work for an encyclopedia. He phoned Judy, who said she'd be delighted to meet him on Monday. It was not looking promising for Charlie.
By the time the mail landed on Charlie's mat on Monday morning, he was in the offices of Encyclopedia Universica, trying to pay attention to Judy rattle on about what they actually did at the encyclopedia. It was sounding more and more dire all the time, what with their computers, and readers' inquiries and complaints, and the possibility of having to work on a category like “Dance,” or “Governments”. He wanted to just get up and leave quietly, but the mental picture of all his bills, especially T. L. McKeever's, loomed large, and he thought he'd better make an honest attempt at getting the job.
“So, what experience have you in editing?” asked Judy.
“Uh, I can read,” said Charlie. This didn't seem to go over too well, so he thought he'd try to expand his answer. “I know a lot of things.” This, too, was met by a disbelieving pause. “I'm just kidding,” said Charlie. “Two years ago, I was in England setting up the Encyclopedia Englandica.”
“I've never heard of that,” said Judy.
“No,” said Charlie. “It doesn't sell particularly well in North America. I was in charge of the system administration of the computer, as well as commissioning of new text, and revising the old.”
“That's very good. What we'll be doing is proof-reading. Do you have any experience in that?”
“Oh, my goodness, yes. I worked on my university newspaper, then the New York Times, the Rome Daily News, and Cosmo.”
“And recently?” asked Judy.
“Well, unfortunately, there have been rather hard times recently. My mother was an invalid living near Orangeville, and I had to take care of her for a couple of years before she died. My father's in a home. Then, three years ago, I broke my back in a surfing accident, and haven't been able to work since.”
“I thought you were working in England two years ago.”
“Uh, yes. Two to three years ago in England. That's where I broke my back.”
“Surfing? In England?”
“Oh yes, the surf in the English Channel is phenomenal. Much like Lake Erie, which, as you know, is all because of Niagara Falls, the largest waterfall in the world in terms of volume of water.” Charlie thought this bit of encyclopedic trivia would impress, and it obviously did.
Judy stood up and extended her hand. “Charlie, I'd like you to come for work tomorrow.”
“I'd be happy to,” said Charlie. So that was how one got a job doing something one was eminently unsuitable for, he thought. And everything fell into place; he now understood why the electric company and the city council, and beyond that, businesses, banks, and governments, were the way they were. Everyone was a liar.
Charlie arrived at work the next morning on the dot of twelve minutes past nine. He had been delayed by the appearance in the mail of a letter from the telephone company telling him they had made a mistake. They had not charged Charlie for his second phone, and so his bill was now $57.43.
Judy, having got the job of Encyclopedia Editor because her sister had married the company accountant, explained to Charlie how to use the computer and do the necessary changes. Judy gave him a stack of letters from readers pointing out mistakes in the last edition of the encyclopedia, and told him to research the points and modify the entries if need be.
“Where do I do this research?” asked Charlie.
“Look in all the other encyclopedias, and see what they say. If they have different opinions, just take an average and put that in ours.”
“But how do we know the others are correct?”
“We don't. But we're the leading encyclopedia on the continent, and we have to stay pretty middle-of-the-road. I know for a fact that when the other encyclopedias have a query, they look to see what we say.”
“So, in other words, the wrong information might be published just because everyone keeps looking in each other's encyclopedias, and perpetuating the same mistakes.”
“Aren't there any independent fact-checkers?”
“Well, of course there are, Charlie, but where do you think they get their information?”
Charlie set to work on the stack of letters. Many of them pointed out that areas or populations of places were wrong; Charlie thought this aggravating. Did it really matter that the population of Indonesia was 267,103,000 and not 267,086,000? Was this particular reader so incredibly bored that he spent all his time searching for discrepancies of 17,000 people? And, really, if someone were to ask you the population of Indonesia, wouldn't “267 million” be close enough, or even “about 300 million”? Who were these sticklers for detail?
Some of the errors were simply typographical. Nevertheless, it was probably important to know that, in 1939 in Spain, an authoritarian government was established by Franco and not by France.
Other letters pointed out that perhaps the information wasn't as complete as it might have been. To describe a rattlesnake as a snake with a cylindrical body and a long tail is, at best, simplistic, and to say that a robin has “a cheery chirp” is extremely relative, depending on how you feel about birds.
Over the next two weeks, Charlie began to enjoy his job, but he was still having difficulties with his various bills. He phoned the telephone company from work to tell them he didn't have a phone, but because he was on the phone, they didn't believe him. When he insisted he was using a work phone, they referred him to his last letter, in which Charlie stated that he was home all of the time, and that the telephone company could call at his apartment at any time.
The gas company informed Charlie they had uncovered a mistake, and that they had been inadvertently sending him two bills. They immediately cancelled one of them, took the $2,817.08 owed by T. L. McKeever, and put it on Charlie's bill.
The city council again reminded him about his hedge violation and, despite Charlie's assurances that he was keeping the hedge under control, the council said they had more important things to do than keep checking on Charlie's hedge, and therefore he still had to pay the fine.
Charlie decided the best policy was to ignore all of this, hoping it might just possibly fade away of its own volition, but the following week, he received a very distressing letter. The police had consolidated all of the charges against him; he was charged with fraud against the telephone company, the gas company, the electric company, the city council, and the pizza delivery man. His court appearance was in a month's time, unless he paid the bills in full. This couldn't have come at a worse time for Charlie. Not only could he not afford T. L. McKeever's bill, which had now risen to $3,002.26, but Charlie hadn't been paid since he started work, because the company wanted to cut down on expenditures, and thought Charlie's wages were a good place to start.
At work, Charlie was back working on the letter “C” because they had forgotten to include all entries from “Copernicus” to “crop rotation”. His mind was obviously elsewhere, and Judy had to remind him several times to take his head off the desk.
But, as if destiny was intervening, an extraordinary thing happened. Charlie typed in the entry for “costle”, a rare, South American parrot, and was re-reading what he had written when he thought something was wrong. He checked the contributor's notes, and, sure enough, Charlie had typed “short, rounded beak” instead of “short, rounded wings”. This seemed a rather odd substitution, because even Charlie knew that a beak wasn't the same thing as wings, but he wondered if perhaps, in the recesses of his mind, in the dark labyrinths of his extensive knowledge, that he knew that the costle had a short, rounded beak. He checked the other encyclopedias, but they didn't even have an entry for “costle.” He looked in zoology books, and spent four hours in the library, but still, there was no result. He phoned universities, the Avian Society, several zoos, and veterinarians, all to no avail. Then he phoned the Venezuelan embassy, who put him onto the Venezuelan government in Caracas, who put him onto the Ministry of the Environment, who put him onto the Venezuelan Wildlife Society, who put him onto Dr. Hernando Perez, who worked at a research station on the Orinoco River. Several hours and several hundred dollars later, Charlie had his answer. The costle did not have short, rounded wings; it was a flightless bird whose long, thin wings had evolved millions of years ago into appendages which flapped to keep the costle cool. The costle did indeed have a short, rounded beak, which it used for bashing predators.
Charlie was pleased that he had been right all along, but it disturbed him to think that if he hadn't known the truth, then the information would have gone into the encyclopedia as it was, and a generation of readers would grow up thinking that costles had short, rounded wings. Charlie remembered people saying to him that they were going to prove something to him by showing it to him in a book, but he now knew this was worse than useless.
This information about the costle meant that typographical errors could become truth; it meant that the particular bias of the contributor could become knowledge; it meant that an insidious plan was beginning to develop in Charlie's brain.
Charlie wrote to the Crown Attorney and told him he fully intended to pay all of his bills immediately. The Crown Attorney passed this information to the parties concerned, and everyone was relaxed and happy for about a month, until they realized they hadn't received any money from Charlie. They wrote to him asking him where the money was. Charlie wrote back and apologized profusely, explaining that the Post Office must have had some problems. He told them that as soon as he had checked with his bank that the checks had not been cashed, then he would make arrangements to issue new checks. So it went on like this for months, round and round, until the companies were foaming at the mouth, and Charlie was sitting contentedly in his apartment, smiling a lot.
Charlie was most pleased because he was out of work again; working really wasn't something he wanted to do all the time. His job as a proof-reader and editor had come to an end, he had been paid in full, and the encyclopedia had been published, and by all accounts was selling very well in all sectors of the targeted market, especially the terminally stupid. Charlie had been offered a permanent job, but he thought it would make severe restrictions on his leisure time, and it might be slightly boring, since he now knew everything from having read the entire encyclopedia twice. So, he spent his time watching game shows and occasionally wandering the streets and dropping into the Duchess of Durham (the pub, not the person) for a pint of plain.
Charlie knew, however, that his capture was imminent. Whatever one might think about the Crown Attorney's staff, one cannot say that they forget about certain cases after a while. The police arrested Charlie; he was held in a remand centre overnight, participated in a riot, and appeared in court the following morning.
The list of charges against Charlie had grown considerably. The aggravation he had caused to the various companies had made the Crown Attorney's office very upset, and they stuck Charlie with every charge they could think of. Realizing what kind of a character Charlie was, they took every unsolved crime out of their files, and pinned them on Charlie. The charge Charlie was sure of being acquitted of was the kidnapping of a sheep from a farm near Belleville; Charlie's doctor could affirm that Charlie was allergic to wool. The charges were read out, and everyone went home, agreeing that that was a good day's work.
By the following winter, the prosecution had built up a fairly strong case against Charlie. They contacted his bank, appropriated his records, and proved that none of the amounts for unpaid bills had come out of his account. They produced the various letters Charlie had written to the companies assuring them of his intentions to pay, thus implicating him in fraudulent behaviour. They produced witnesses, employees of the various companies whom Charlie had harangued several times over the phone and who, expecting Charlie to phone up to complain and give them abuse, taped his speeches. The court was subjected to many hours of, “You're an incompetent, flatulent fool who can't even shuffle a piece of paper in the right direction, which is all a cretin like you is expected to do. The uselessness of your ability pales in comparison only to the thickness of your alleged mind. You're probably extremely ugly, as well.” The court agreed that the last statement was substantially correct, and therefore inadmissible as prosecutor's evidence.
Gradually, it became clear that the valid charges against Charlie would be enough to send him away for ten years breaking rocks on Baffin Island, and the other, less likely charges were dropped, although an angry sheep farmer from Prince Edward County named Wilkinson swears to this day that he saw Charlie skulking around his fields in the summer of 2013.
Charlie's lawyer thought the case was going nowhere and resigned after three weeks to spend more time on his own case against Charlie for probable non-payment, but Charlie maintained confidence and optimism. When it came time for the defence to present its case, the judge asked Charlie if he wanted another lawyer, but Charlie felt he could go it alone.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” began Charlie, “if that is indeed what you are...” Charlie's humour was lost on the jury. “A severe miscarriage of justice is taking place here, and I urge you not to let my life become stillborn. I am an honest man, as I know all of you are.” Charlie smiled at each and every member of the jury. “Except for those of you who are women. And what a lovely looking group of ladies we have here too.”
“I object!” cried the prosecutor.
“And so do I!” responded Charlie quickly. “Is it not unfair in our society that some women are attractive and some look like woodland fungi? Is it not unfair that some people are born with money or natural ability, and thus have a pleasant life, while others are born without any advantages, and thus lead difficult, even miserable lives? I am one of these unfortunates.” Charlie hung his head for maximum impact. “But do I have a right to complain? Many will say no, and these are the people who have been lucky in life. These are the people who believe that we live in a dog-eat-dog society, although I don't suppose there's anyone who's seen a dog eat another dog. These people believe humans must fight to get ahead, but we know that creates people who are losers because of the fight. And losers become vindictive, and plan revenge, and break into our houses, and steal our stereos...”
“Mr. Haley,” said the judge, “I believe you are straying.”
“Yes, sorry, your honour. Where was I? Ah, yes, those people who believe that some have the right to own things, and that others do not have that same right. I will come back to this later on.
“You have all heard the charges against me. The gas company, the phone company, the city council, etc., etc. Large, mega-million-dollar companies out to get me. I am an insignificant speck compared to the immensity of hugeness of these companies, and yet, they bring the full power of their assets to bear against me. And look at it this way. They won't pay for the court costs; they will be added to your next bill.”
The judge was about to interrupt again, but Charlie held up his hand. “But that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about these charges. I am charged with non-payment of my bills, and it is true. I did not pay them. I am guilty.”
The jury “oohed” and “aahed” and looked at each other.
“But!” cried Charlie, silencing the hubbub in the courtroom. “But!” he cried again, making sure he had everyone's attention. “I am only guilty if the law is just, and if the law has a precedent, and if the law has a basis in history. And I intend to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the law is not valid.” He looked at the judge and jury to make sure they had grasped the enormity of what he was saying. Assured that they had by the blank looks covering their faces, Charlie turned to the courtroom, raised his hand, and clicked his fingers.
His friend Richard, who had been waiting patiently at the back, rose, then wheeled a small wagon to the front, on which were several boxes. He then left the court and went back to the Duchess of Durham (the pub, not the person).
Charlie opened the boxes. “Your honour, I would like to present Exhibits One through Twenty-six, the Encyclopedia Universica. If we turn to the letter “F”, and specifically to the entry under Benjamin Franklin, the prestigious politician and scientist, we read that Franklin flew a kite in a storm, thus proving that lightning is a form of electricity. He is quoted as saying, and I quote, 'I sincerely wish that the benefits of my discovery will be available free of every charge to every person'. Ah, I hear you saying. That was America, this is Canada. Well, let us go further. If we look at the entry for George III, the King of England and Canada at the time, we read that he was mightily impressed by Franklin's discovery, and decreed that the use of electricity be a universal right. Well, you might be saying George III was bonkers. Fair comment, so let us look at the entry for the Duke of Portland, Prime Minister of a coalition government in 1783. That particular government did not accomplish much, but the Electricity Act of 1783 states quite clearly that electricity is to be considered a right, not a privilege, for every subject of the king. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I am under no obligation to pay for my electricity.
“Let us now go on to my supposed obligation to keep my hedge trimmed to a certain height. If we look at the entry for local government, we see that the Local Government Act of 1911, passed by the government of Wilfrid Laurier, strictly forbids the trimming of hedges.”
There were murmurs in the court.
“I see you are skeptical,” said Charlie. “Then read it here! This is the truth! The Encyclopedia Universica is the leading encyclopedia in the land. Do you doubt what is written in black and white, with the occasional colour illustration? Now, let's talk about the phone company—”
The prosecutor rose to his feet and interrupted. “Your honour, we think we see where Mr. Haley's arguments are leading. We request an adjournment until tomorrow morning, to study this new information.”
“Your honour—” Charlie protested, but was interrupted by the judge. The judge didn't like Charlie, and liked Wilfrid Laurier even less, ever since the former Prime Minister defeated him in the election of 1908. The judge adjourned the court.
The following morning, the prosecution brought several boxes into the court and removed books from them.
“Your honour, my colleagues and I were up all night looking through these other encyclopedias. The information that Mr. Haley gave us from the Universica is not corroborated by any of these other encyclopedias. We can only assume that the Universica is a source of misinformation.”
Charlie chortled audibly and pointedly. “That is the weakest argument I have ever heard: saying something doesn't exist by denying the proof. Your honour, the Encyclopedia Universica is the most respected and popular encyclopedia in the country. Ask anyone. It is to the Universica that other encyclopedias look when they want information. Let me show you the folly of the prosecution's evidence. I will open up one of these inferior sources of knowledge at random. Now, let's see. Ah, here. Look at this. Alexander Pushkin, Russian writer. It says that 'Eugene Onegin' was published in 1832, when it is well-known that the year was 1833. Shall we try another? Look at this, your honour. It says the population of Indonesia is 266,400,000, and I can assure you it is 267,103,000. Your honour, need I go on?”
“Are you trying to say, Mr. Haley, that the Encyclopedia Universica contains no mistakes?”
“To my infinite knowledge, sir, that is correct.”
The judge started to bluster. “Why, you impudent, arrogant young swine. Prosecution, do you wish to adjourn to ponder this?”
“Uh, yes, please,” said the prosecutor.
“Take as long as you like,” said the judge.
Charlie grew a beard in the remand prison, and grew old, and grew slightly disillusioned with the judicial system. When court was re-convened, he could barely remember what the fuss was all about. The prosecutor's grandson, now an old prosecutor himself, was smiling confidently.
“It seems, your honour, that the defence’s case rests on the veracity of one encyclopedia compared to another. Mr. Haley discredited the other encyclopedias by pointing out errors. If I can find an error in the Universica, surely that will deny the credence of Mr. Haley’s argument. Your honour, I introduce Exhibit Twenty-seven.”
The doors to the court opened, and a security guard brought in something completely covered in a sheet. Every once in a while, the something inside the sheet squawked. The prosecutor took the sheet off, revealing a cage with a beautiful bird inside. It was green with yellow plumage, about a foot high, with large talons and a short, rounded beak. The prosecutor opened the cage door. The bird looked sceptically at the opening, then stepped onto the ledge. Just as it appeared as if it would topple onto the floor, it launched itself into the air, and flew majestically about the room.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a rare South American parrot known as the costle. The Encyclopedia Universica describes this as a flightless bird, but, as you can see, it flies very well, unlike Mr. Haley's story. Furthermore, we have discovered a startling new fact. Mr. Haley used to work at the Universica, and it was he who wrote all this spurious information he has been passing off as knowledge. His downfall was his unwillingness or oversight in checking his information. His sole source for the costle was Hernando Perez, a discredited veterinarian living in disgrace on the banks of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. This pathetic, sadistic man spends his time removing pin feathers from the wings of costles so he can have pets around him. That is why his costles are flightless. Your honour, the prosecution rests.”
The costle landed on Charlie's head and excreted.
Fifteen seconds after the jury left the courtroom, they returned. Charlie knew there was very little hope, but he thought the jury might have had the decency to let him at least ponder the possibility of freedom.
“Your highness,” said the foreman to the judge, bowing solemnly, “we have reached a decision. The defendant has deliberately and maliciously misled and defrauded all these companies. He has broken the law. We conclude, your majesty, that Mr. Haley is guilty of all the charges.”
“Well done,” said the judge, “I think we –”
“Nevertheless,” interrupted the foreman, “is there anyone in this room, nay, in the country, who hasn't been messed around by some organization or another? The supermarket always overcharges me. Does anyone ever talk to the correct person when phoning the Canada Revenue Agency? And why does my bank think they're doing me a favour by letting me put my money in there? Then they go and charge me $26 to deposit a check for $322, just because it was in a foreign currency, and they had originally told me it would cost me $1.50! And the whole process took a month, because the check had to be returned to the foreign government from which it came for the bank to make sure the check was actually made out to me! And you can bet that multi-national companies don't pay 8% fees on their multi-million-dollar transactions into Canada–”
“What are you trying to say?” asked the judge.
“He's innocent, your lordship. He's as innocent as a new-born baby.”
Following protestations by the judge and prosecution about the obvious perversion of justice, Charlie walked out into the street, a free man.
Rain teemed down, the drains overflowed, garbage flew about everywhere; it was a glorious day. Charlie knew that the turning-point in his life had come, and it was time to attempt something radical and adventurous. He set off for the Duchess of Durham.