Laetitia and her group stopped at Big Springs State Park near Van Buren on the way to West Plains, Missouri. Big Spring is the largest spring in the Ozarks and one of the largest springs in the world. The spring is one of the major sources of water for the Current River, which is only about 1,000 feet away. After a hike in the park the group visited Blue Spring and Round Spring and did an underground tour of Round Spring Cave. Then they went to Grand Gulf State Park to view the canyon and natural bridge. Late that evening they arrived at West Plains, where they were spending the night.
Before dinner, Laetitia assumed her usual position on a bar stool and began to think what she could write for the limerick of the day. Within earshot, there was a table of young men having a lively conversation. Laetitia eavesdropped, of course. The term “eavesdrop” has several plausible origins. In his palace at Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s spies could listen to conversations in the great hall through concealed holes in the ceiling supports. In England during Anglo Saxon times some houses had small, concealed holes under the eaves near the entrance, so those inside could listen to conversations of those outside seeking admittance.
The conversation in this case was mostly about a local girl whom most of the young men had unsuccessfully tried to date. The talk was sometimes colorful, with phrases like, “decided she wants to fart in silk,” and “thinks she’s the Veiled Prophet Queen.” From overheard snippets, the following story emerged. “Old man” Murgatroyd, the well-to-do father of the girl, Millicent, had sent her to a private women’s college in St. Louis so she could meet and marry someone from the upper crust. Before she had succeeded in doing that, the economy took a downturn and Mr. Murgatroyd could no longer afford to send her to the school. She came home to West Plains, but had developed expensive tastes in the meantime, and none of the local men could afford to go out with her.
After dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.
When Millicent Murgatroyd deigns
To go out with the men of West Plains
She wants haute cuisines
Like foie gras terrines
And tartlets washed down with champagnes.