Story for the Day: Dinner with Count Rosse - Pt. 3
And now, Rosse gets his comeuppance in the form of a certain Captain:
The dining hall now well stocked, the show began: the hand drum player rapped out a rhythm in four-four time, the fiddler began bowing out clipped sounds, the mandolin introduced a few chords, and a reel was played, much to the delight of the traders, who came expressly to hear an afternoon of Frewyn music and see the traditional dances tapped out by striking Frewyn women in dresses garnished with embroidery and lace. They whooped and hollered when the dancers joined the song, roaring in tremendous delight, raising their glasses and swinging them about to the music, stamping feet and slapping tables to join in the beat. Ale sloshed and plummeted to the ground, the traders gawped at the dancers as they performed their high jumps, the ladies looked on somewhat impressed, the lords were eyeing the ladies and wondering whether they should not like some company for the long performance, and Count Rosse sat in mild contempt, despising that he had been addressed by a tradesman in a brogue he could barely comprehend and disliking even more that the trader was certain to have said something objectionable to him.
“They are shouting altogether far too much,” said Count Rosse, grimacing and holding his hand to his ear. “I cannot hear the music when they make such a noise. Do tell them to be quiet.”
“They are only applauding, Your Grace. There is little I can do—“
“Then tell the matron and have her quiet them. Such behaviour in a private hall is insufferable. I am sure that the lords and ladies as just as revolted by their conduct as I am.”
The attendant looked back and found the lords no longer at their table but sitting with the ladies, rapt in a quiet discussion and not at all disturbed by the traders or even regarding the stage.
“And this bacon they’ve given me has been heinously oversalted,” the count continued, flouting at his plate, “and this cottage loaf is much too dry. No, no, this will not do, not do at all. Have them take it away and bring me something fresh. And this wine is far too sweet to be drunk with the meal. It is more of a desert wine. Bring the matron here. I will speak with her about this.”
His voice grew more audible as he spoke, his pitch raising almost to a shout by the time he demanded the matron, and while the traders might not have heard, the lords and ladies and even the barman must have heard his numerous and unfounded objections.
“If he don’t shut up that fussin’…” Mittiedh bellowed, his fists shaking, his eyes smouldering in violent rage beneath his furrowed brow.
The matron leaned against the bar and looked unimpressed. “I admit the traders are being a bit raucous,” said she, folding her arms and canting her head, “but, as no one has made a formal complaint against them, I am not obliged to do anything, and I want His Grace to suffer a bit for dismissing Ailis. Gods, I hate that man. He has no reason in the world to be so disagreeable: he’s rich, he’s well connected, he has all the claims of land and rank to recommend his ease in life—but then I suppose that gives him every reason in the world to complain about anything that might bother him. He has no difficulties, and must invent a few hardships any sympathy at all. He must have absolutely no friends, and there I cannot say I pity him.”
“He don’t know what that is, Siebh.”
“No, I suppose not.”
“Can ye go over there and smother him with his own hat? He’s banjanxin’ the show.”
“Once his dinner comes, he’ll be quiet. Thank the Gods I came up from the cellar when I did. Mittedh, regardless of how badly we all want to do it, you cannot attack the count if you want to keep the place.”
“It’s my place and I should be able to admit who I want, so I should. If he makes it through his lunch without someone knockin’ out all his teeth, he’s not comin’ back in here, I’m sayin’ it right now.”
“You’d need a writ from a guard to ban him.”
There was a bustle near the stage: the count’s attendant was asking the traders to lower their drinks and be quiet, the traders were vehemently refuting, and a few Alys profanities were slung at the count, repelling those lords and ladies who could understand them.
“What’s all the hollarin’ about now?” Mittedh sighed. “If His Grace don’t stop botherin’ the rest, I’m gonna tell Delila to kick him in the head and make it look like an accident.”
“Mittedh,“ said the matron, in a plaintive voice.
“He’s sittin’ close enough to the stage. She can get him from there.”
There was a loud scuffing sound, chairs were being moved abruptly, and drawing everyone’s attention to the front of the stage. The music went on, the dancers continued dancing though charily, but the trader from Alys was standing and demanding to know what the Count said about him.
“What’s tha’ Aw ‘ear yewe cawl me?”
“I say, you are a very shabby fellow, very raucous and very rude, and you have no sense of what is due to your superiors.”
“’Ere, Awm goweena knock out awll yewer teeth, Awm.”
“I cannot understand you, sir, but you would do well to sit down and be silent. Most of your class are better seen and not heard.”
Mittedh opened the bar stall once more and stepped out. “Shise shin, Siebh,” he insisted. “I’m puttin’ him over the crags. It’s bad enough when he insults one o’ us, but another thing for him to be botherin’ payin’ patrons.”
The matron knew not which row to diffuse first: the one between the count and the trader, which was escalating to a feverish pitch though the count did not know it, or the impending velitation between the barman and the count. The trader might be talked down and all ills smoothed away by a free drink and another song, but there was no reasoning away the barman’s indignation; Mittedh had done with civility, his charity and patience for the count’s airs was gone, and before the matron could stop him, he was thundering toward the dining hall with the matron hanging off his arm, insisting that the Count’s meal was being brought to him and all quarrels would soon diminish, but the barman would not hear her. The count must be thrown out, if he would not go himself, and no one would stop the barman from doing what he had been longing to do since the count appeared at the door. Ailis, seeing the immense barman march toward the tables, hastened toward him, pushing him together with the matron in an attempt to hold him back while the count’s attendant was convincing the trader to sit down. Men shouted, voices hung in the air and rang out over the music, the dancers glinked nervously at one another, the lords and ladies were watching eagerly on. Arguments seemed to hinge on the moment, more waiters and waitresses joined in detaining the barman, a remonstrance broke out amongst the traders as to whether they should all have a word with the count, and Rosse himself as unsuspicious of everything, studying the meal that was brought to his table with affected circumspection. Something about the carrots was wrong, the potatoes were placed on the wrong side of the plate, the brazed chicken had the air of being too underdone though he had not yet cut through it, and the barman waited for the count’s hand to raise and for him to call over the matron with a string of grievances waiting for her when the door at the entrance was thrown open, light flooded the hall, and along shadow appeared over the threshold.