Story for the Day: Salt and Vinegar - Part 2
Bartleby clearly does not know how to enjoy himself at a pub:
All was reconciled by the captain’s speech: the waitress was highly gratified by his compliment and attention to her, and with a schoolgirl’s giggle and an arch smile, she tripped away to the bar, where two men were quarreling over the copper that Bartleby had tossed their way. They gave up the coin when asked for it—it fell absently from their hands when the woman’s deep dales came into view—and claiming her prize, she placed the coin with the rest of her change, and hurried away to the kitchen, leaving the two men to invigilate after her, astonished that she should use her vale as a purse and wondering what else might be hidden away in such a sacred cove.
“Yes, go rollick elsewhere, you understapper,” Barbly grumbled into his glass. A shadow surmounted him, and he looked up to find Danaco’s disapproving aspect glaring back at him. “What?”
The captain placed his hands on his hips and raised a brow. “I need not tell you, I think.”
A firm look silenced the old man, and the captain’s unconquerable stance and severe disapprobation garnered a repentant yet somewhat disdainful submission.
“You need not speak to her,” the captain demanded, “but you will not lambast her with coins either, or I will have Rannig hold you over his knee and blade you.”
Bartleby, knowing the captain was being only half serious, would not have smiled for the world, but grunted his acquiescence and turned away.
“Ye got in trouble with the boss,” Rannig whispered, in high glee.
“I did not get in any trouble with anybody, my boy,” was Bartleby’s scoffing reply. “That was hardly even a reprimand. The knight is the one who deserves all the castigation in the question, for drinking more than his tolerance allows and for rudely cramming his nose where it does not belong.”
“But my nose is still here, sir,” said Damson, palpating his face. “I have not put it anywhere—that is, it still feels attached, sir, and with so many witnesses about, I do not think that the sir-in-the-table who is endeavouring to masquerade as me would take it for himself.”
Damson touched his nose and seemed distressed, which was all Danaco’s happy regale, and Bartleby did his utmost not to succumb to base measures and try to convince the knight that his nose had been severed by the waitress’ wondrous gorge.
“Here, sir knight, you may put your nose in that,” said Danaco, laying the roasted vegetables before him. “Inhale, and you will have proof that your nose is still with you.”
Damson did as the captain commanded, and the moment the scent of roasted roots, drizzled over as they were with garlic oil and festooned with a sundry of spices, assailed him, he planted his nose firmly between the sliced carrots and hummed in unabated delight.
“Nobody else will be eating those now,” Bartleby huffed. “Never mind. I know the boy will take some regardless of whose nose has been in it.”
Rannig, whose hand was in mid-ascent over the vegetable plate, smiled abashedly and lowered his hand.
“Take some if you like it,” said Danaco. “The knight is not infected with any diseases, and we may always ask for more.”
“No, please, captain. I beg you,” cried Bartleby, putting a hand on Danaco’s arm. “On no account are you to summon that cockish wench again. It is bad enough to see her pints posting away in my peripherals, but my intelligence could not endure another misspoken syllable.”
“I was surprised at your recommending someone else to teach her better syntax and elocution when there is no better teach than you for such a task. You have done amazing work with the giant, and you might double your great good fortune in pupils if you take on such an unstudied creature as that.”
“I believe you mean unlearned, captain.”
“You are not being academic by her, you old sock, if you think you cannot learn from her as she would learn from you. You should take her delightful turn of phrase as a rarity and pen it down for purposes of posterity, for I do not think I have heard anyone cut up the word math-e-matics so neatly in all my life.”
Bartleby rolled his eyes at the remembrance of such unbidden slaughter, plucked a roasted carrot from beneath Damson’s nose, and shoved it into his mouth.
“Such an illustrious haberdasher of nouns as you are, you should show her mercy by improving her speech, not admonishing it.”
“I will help her improve her speech when she learns how tobutton her blouse. How is that?” Bartleby gnashed away at his carrot. “Those mountainous pecks will haunt me now. I will have nightmares of them running about on fine legs trying to smother me.”
“A nightmare to you, my old friend, but a joy to a knight who has been desperate for a resting place for the better part of two days.”
“You enjoy tipping the velvet so well, captain, you ought to teach her how to speak in eloquent strides. Your caresses will do more to cajole her into civility than my academic could ever do. A slap across her luffing sails would teach her to tame them. Unfortunately, she doesn’t understand the nature of commerce—pay is given, a service rendered, and so forth—she would make a grievous vaulting piece besides. She is fit for nothing but the congress of a cow.”
Danaco clicked his tongue and gave the old man’s arm a playful slap with his napkin. “You are too vicious betimes, my old friend. You should take pleasure in what she so freely displays where other women less savoury would make anyone labour for such an exhibition. The sound is unglamourous, I grant you, but the sight is far better if you should dare to look. She does not enter into the realm of my preferences—she has rather too much upholstery, Myrellenos was over-generous there, and I am never lascivious-- but she is more than regular in her features, and the knight does not dislike her.”
Damson, his face firmly planted in the vegetable plate, made a loud “hrrmmm” in reply.