Daryl and I, preparing for the monthly Words, Wines, and Whatever tasting event at Domus Logogustationis, walked into the kitchen, where we happened on Maury, seated at the table, wearing one of his wonted looks of weary beleaguerment. He was eating a melon bitterly.
“Why so low, Joe?” Daryl said.
“My aunt eloped,” Maury said.
“Oh dear,” I said. “Your aunt eloped? To play?”
Maury gave me a look that suggested he was considering uttering some seldom-heard discouraging words.
“Wait,” said Daryl. “Your aunt ran off to get married?”
“Well, yes, she did,” Maury said, “when she was much younger. It was a bit of a family scandal, but only a bit. It saved my grandparents a lot of money, and everyone saw it coming. So when she threw her suitcase out the bedroom window, went downstairs and announced she was going to go buy some milk, her father simply said, ‘Get some flowers while you’re at it,’ and gave her a dollar. My mother said, ‘Good luck,’ and off she went to the waiting car.”
Daryl was momentarily nonplussed. “…And this accounts for your current funk?”
“Well, no,” Maury said. “That was just the first in what has shaped up to be a habit.”
“You can elope more than once?”
“I say,” I said. “I think we must taste elope tonight. You didn’t know that ‘run away to get married’ isn’t the original meaning? That sense has only been around since the nineteenth century.”
“Well, it means ‘run away’, anyway, right?” Daryl said. “The lope is the same one as in lope meaning ‘leap’ and is cognate with German laufen, ‘run’.”
“The oldest sense in English,” Maury said, “was ‘run away from one’s husband with one’s lover’. You can tell that that one comes from the fourteenth century – that was the ideal of romantic love back then: romance didn’t lead to marriage, it led away from it.”
“So your aunt ran away from her husband?” Daryl said.
“More than once,” Maury replied. “As I said, it came to be a habit. And then she’d elope from the lover she’d eloped to. Sometimes she eloped to another lover and sometimes back to her husband. He was a patient man. And not an altogether faithful one.”
“So who’d she elope from this time?”
“The nursing home.”
“You can’t elope from a nursing home!” Daryl exclaimed.
“In fact, she took a cantaloupe when she eloped this time. But, yes, you can elope. It’s the term nursing homes use when one of their inmates goes AWOL.”
I chuckled. “It certainly always gives me an image of seniors running away to get married.”
“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Maury said. “They’ve found her in some interesting places on previous elopements.”
“Well,” said Daryl, “what’s knocked you for a loop this time?”
Maury took a bite of his melon and considered his response.
“Hey,” I said, “where’d you get the cantaloupe, anyway? It’s not on the menu.”
Just then a winsome septuagenarian in a nightdress came out of the pantry. “Lovely place you have here,” she said. “Where do you keep the words?”
“Gentlemen,” Maury said to us, “meet my aunt Susan.”
Thanks to Marie-Lynn Hammond for asking for elope.