When he had been a boy in the large houses, warm air and long cool lawns of his childhood; when he had looked up to the ladies in their wide silken skirts and the gentlemen in their fine flared coats and high boots, John had learned the art and language of innuendo. It had never been lying, but a code of honesty, a way of speaking what one may not say aloud. There was a complex code of honourifics, orders of precedence, seating arrangements, the position of one's hat, the details of one's dress, the deepness of one's bow, an elaborate phrase accompanied by a raised brow. John watched, John listened and John learned. Small subtleties could be angry or witty, could be a slap in the face or a punch to the jaw. These could insult someone, cut them to ribbons. Done in the presence of others, these could ruin a reputation. They were spoken of, mimicked, sometimes in whispers with sly smiles, sometimes for years. Outright expressions were so extreme they would call down a duel. An observer would have seen the smooth veneer, the elegant and graceful movements, but underneath would be the expressions of sordid truth. It had been a scandal when one of the otherwise respectable townswomen, widowed early in the war, had begun to wear clothes of blue and green after only two years! One could call a woman a whore by simply addressing her as "Mrs. ___" rather than Miss or Ma'am, if she were unmarried. One could indicate one's doubt of a man's character by habitually omitting a respectful address of 'sir.' One could grant a child favour or prominence by insisting he be addressed as Master Hidalgo rather than Francisco. One could renounce a family and spurn the memory of a good wife if, after her tragic passing, one immediately marries a girl one has been courting during your wife's infirmity. By the same token one could ridicule a man by addressing him by a title he had dishonoured by his conduct. Taking up an alien profession to one's father, abandoning his church for a rival religion, and refusing to address his wife at all were actions loud as a trumpet blasts. Loudest of all were absence, and silence.

Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Fandom: History.
Word Count: 377
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