Tales from the Circus - Hellige


Once upon a time, Hellige was not the hirsute vision of loveliness that we now know & adore, but just another pretty little rich girl.

When not playing in the chateau grounds she was taught by a veritable battalion of tutors, schooled in the vital feminine arts of hairstyling & harpsichord, watercolour & waltz, floristry & fencing.

Thus it was at vast expense that young Hellige was moulded into the finest marriage material and looked upon as a grand investment by a father intent upon using her to advance himself amongst the creme of the aristocracy.

To this end, although it mortified the poor girl, her portrait was painted in such a manner as to flaunt her undoubted assets.

Her father chose to unveil the painting after a long weekend of hunting & carousing with all his wealthiest friends - and made it clear that she was available to the highest bidder.

Enter Duc Gilles, fabulously wealthy and undeniably handsome yet the source of much worrying gossip. Hellige had often heard from her maids about his cruelty to both man & beast, his insistence upon exercising his droit de seigneur.

No amount of tears or flattery could sway her father's venal heart. And so it was that one mockingly fair May morning, Hellige found herself thoroughly examined by the joyless ladies of the Dowager Duchess's court before being bedecked in fine lace & the family jewels.

As if in a dream - or rather, a nightmare - she walked up the aisle on her father's arm to be given in matrimony to the notorious Duc de Rais.  Walking back down in her husband's wake she could not stem the tears.

That night, behind locked & sound-proofed doors, he indulged in every vice that had earned his reputation before falling into sated slumber. The young Duchesse, however, sobbed her way through what remained of her wedding night & prayed fervently to the Goddess for salvation - else she was determined to fling herself from the highest turret.  Rather meet her doom upon the jagged rocks than endure a lifetime of such humiliation.

Imagine, if you will, the newly-weds' reaction upon waking to find that Hellige had overnight grown a magnificent rose-hued beard!

The bishop was bribed to announce an immediate annulment and the rejected bride was banished at once, sent back to a furious father who was angrily counting coins, forced to return the sizeable sum that her hand had briefly brought him.

Concealing her relief beneath a mask of contrition, Hellige packed what she could of necessities and left her father's chateau with few regrets, finding herself a new home on the far side of the forest - a small cottage on the edge of a market town . Here she was not judged but viewed as a wonder, and made welcome by folk pleased with any fresh company.

In exchange for music & dancing lessons the women of the town taught Hellige to bake & brew, sow seeds & stitch seams. And it was during this time that she heard tell of a widowed farmer who beat horses & children alike.

Reminded of her own recent escape, Hellige watched & waited, flounced & flirted until the farmer overlooked the beard & invited our heroine to meet in private...whereupon those fencing lessons proved useful after all.

Apparently grief-stricken, our bearded beauty moved on...and on...and on, leaving several towns missing a sadistic character or two. Until her path crossed that of the Itinerant Bizarrium.

Now Hellige's cooking skills grace the campfire each evening. Unless she has spotted something amiss in that day's audiences, in which case the circus will miss its bearded lady for a little while - before she reappears with one more notch upon her rolling pin.