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It was the summer of the year dear Queen Vic made her way down to Matlock Bath that the four downtrodden friends found the tiara. Now, being from Bath as they were, they weren’t totally oblivious to the finer things in life, but all the same, it took them a solid day to realize the tiara was indeed what it seemed.

There was some debate as to their next course of action. Wiggle, always this way and that in matters of importance, thought the Queen had lost it from her carriage trunk, and they should return it right quick for fear of being blamed for the crime.

Tom, five games of blackjack behind him and nursing his tenth pint, bought into the carriage angle, but argued to keep it. If the Queen hadn’t noticed yet, the Queen wouldn’t notice at all. Besides, getting it to London would cost them a pretty penny, and he had very few pennies to give.

Ponners had no opinion on the matter, but took the tiara home to draw it in one of his copious sketchbooks. One of his sketches sold, half a century later, for nigh on 200 quid, which would have amused him greatly.

But it was Abstar, wild red hair a freckles a-plenty, that made the real move. One evening, after a particularly disastrous outing with Tom, he made his way down to the edge of town, bottle in hand, and sat idly with a tramp named Pep, all beard and no teeth. What happened next was a matter of some debate, but by morning, the town all a-buzz.

The haggard tramp of old had been replaced in the night by a wondrous, luscious creature named Lady Pep of Bath. In her oddly-fit corset, bright gown and rouged cheeks, the men of Matlock Bath found — if not love — a modicum of odd fascination. Never mind her deep, throaty voice; never mind the five o’clock shadow, or the odd gait to her walk. The thing about her was the story, and the story wiped the rest away.

To hear it told, Abstar happened upon the river that night, and in the depths of the current, out emerged a beautiful woman, buck naked from head to toe. Abstar, stone sober as always (bless my soul and hope to die) was dumbfounded by the sight, and though he offered her his coat, it was much too short to be of use to her.

Thereupon, old Pep the town drunk had appeared, and gave to the woman his long, thick cloak, with a toothless grin. In thanks (or so said Abstar), the lady of the river bestowed upon Pep her magic tiara, which she said would grant him insight into the futures of men. Like a witch, but less heretical. And the very touch of it transformed him into the Lady now seen prancing around town, singing feminine songs in a tenor voice.

Soon, all of London was pouring out to see Lady Pep, begging to catch a glimpse of her odd beauty, and perhaps spy into their own destinies. Ponners, ever the artist, made keepsake paintings of the Lady; Wiggle, with a nose that wiggled when he laughed, became the town’s youngest mayor, and its most popular to boot; Tom took over the tavern he loved, renamed it The Lady Pep, and reaped the rewards. And Abstar, who, as manger for the magic tiara and the one who wore it, kept the whole thing afloat.

It was years later, after Pep had passed and the tiara was put on auction, that Abstar, a millionaire many times over, sat down with the ailing Queen Vic in her summer home up north. After tea, and with a slight smile on her face, the Queen said to him: “The tiara was mine, you know. It was not magic, it was Dutch. And the Dutch don’t tell the future at all.”

And Abstar, ever the wily one, with his greying red hair and courteous smile, replied: “Not so, your Majesty. For when I saw the tiara, it said to me thus: ‘Stick lipstick and jewels on a hapless tramp, and by God, you’ll be rich.’”

And thus was born the British film industry.

This 1kStory was written for Paul Abbot with the set-up:

4 guys (Abstar, Ponners, Wiggle, Franco) on a usual summers day by the river in Matlock Bath find some treasure on the bank, get advice from a local tramp called Pep on what to do with the treasure, and become millionaires.

Wiggle is wobbly & his nose wiggles when he giggles, tom loves his ale n playing cards, ponners is the creative arty one, abstar well who knows erm joker.

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