Story for the Day: The Leaf Flute - Part 2
Since Seamhair, the Frewyn Halloween, is around the corner, we are giving away The House Guest as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway. Enter HERE for a chance to win. And now, more of Bartleby and his flute:
Form his place, however, being nearer the teahouse, Danaco saw Shandanzo, coming at last down the lane. Danaco extended his calves and danced about on tiptoe, invigilating his target from over his shoulder, looking and trying not to notice his missing guardsmen. Here was an odd way of going about, first to be insisting that more protection was required of his sentries, and then to enter the most crowded part of the markets with no one at all—very strange indeed, and Danaco swiftly danced back to their stall and prepared for the real performance.
“Rannig, begin to play,” he commanded, in a hush. “Bartleby, sit in your abditory over there and look as though you are watching us but keep a lookout.”
Bartleby hopped over to his hove in the shade of the laurel, trying to keep out of the way of the two caiques, who would not go away or stop dancing along the boughs, and Danaco clapped his hands and pointed his front foot as Rannig began to play.
Danaco struck out the rythym with his heels, Rannig followed with a succession of notes, and the display was begun in earnest, Danaco making wide gyrating motions whilst undulating his hips and holding out his arms. A small collection of women began to form, some passing by and stopping to watch the dark Lucentian with the long hair and painted skin bend and thrust, some came from the teahouse, leaving their places at the terrace to gain a better look at what was to pleasing to the eye. Children began to gather around the edges of the congregation, come first to see the large and painted foreign man do a ridiculous hip dance, and then to see a giant playing a small whistle. Some of the children, in clamouring to see Rannig, bushed against Bartleby’s surcoat, and after he flurned and called them disease-ridden urchins, he looked up and heartily wished the caiques would do onto their heads what he wished they would not do on his own.
Danaco twirled and began the dance again on the left foot, craning his neck and swaying his body with a saltational step. His eye was on Shandanzo, who was moving down the lane and going, Danaco trusted, to the teahouse directly opposing the stalls. Bartleby too was watching him; he seemed to be waiting for someone: he was standing at the entrance to the terrace, he was looking about expectantly, he was growing impatient, and then, from the top of the lane, came four men, one of them the guardian whom Danaco had seen before, and the other three large and looming, looking very much as though they were hired. They moved as one entity toward Shandanzdo and clouded him on all sides.
“Oh, drat,” Bartleby sighed. “We will have to do something—go away, you sniveling droolmonger, and stop sucking on your arm,” he hissed at the child beside him, who had stepped on his hem. “That is a very unsanitary and unwholesome habit, and if you don’t stop screwing up your face, it will stay that way, which I should like to see for the scientific aspect as well as for revenge.”
The child, now perceiving the small old man, started and stared at him.
“Stop stepping on my toes! Oh, go away, you wretched pusill. Nobody cares about and you are a blight on your family.”
Once having understood him, and having been properly horrified, the child’s lip began to quiver, and he flailed and ran away.
“Bartleby,” Danaco sang, dancing close to the old man. “You ought to be more forgiving to the children.”
“It stepped on me twice! think it might stop crying long enough to apologize. Instead, it runs back to its mother. It ought to run back to the womb, where it can only be an annoyance on the lace-mutton who brought the harbinger of microbes into the world. I do not mind a good and quite child so much as I always hate their parents, who are thankfully very far off. Our man is at the terrace, captain.”
Danaco turned his back to the audience of applauding women and whipped his hips about in a circle. “I know,” he said to Bartleby surreptitiously, “and he has come with three more than I was expecting. Very well, a change of plan.”
The captain performed a last thrust and ended his dance in a low bow. An ovation resounded from the crowd, and they all milled about in anticipation of more, remarking on the Lucentian’s extraodirnary abilities, as the captain turned back toward Rannig. He motioned for Bartleby to join them, and once Bartleby had pried himself from his spot, the captain spoke seriously, his eyes low, his mind working feverishly away.
“If we are going to get that seal from him, we must first do something about those four guards. Splitting their ranks and disabling two at a time would be much the best thing.” He turned and peered over the dispersing crowd. “He is going to sit on the terrace by the edge. Two of his men are moving into the teahouse, probably to place his order, and the other two are standing on either side of him. Rannig, you go into the teahouse and dispose of those two guards. Break them, if you must, only do it in the alley behind the establishment, and do try not to create any mess.”
“Bartleby, you will change places with Rannig. You will stay here and play.”
“Play, captain?” said Bartleby, with unanswerable dignity. “Play what exactly?”
“Anything you like. You see how Rannig did it, keeping to the same six notes. Play anything, so long as it have a beat. Rannig, when you are finished making those guards regret their meeting you, you will signal us.”
Rannig shambled away, endavouring to hide himself with copse of trees lining the lane, and as Shandanzo was facing the traders’ stalls, Rannig was able to hasten passed and slip into the teahouse from a side entrance without being noticed by Shandanzo and his two guards.
“Go on, Barlteby,” Danaco encouraged him. “Play something.”
“But I don’t know how to play either of those instruments, captain,” the old man contended, looking at the whistle and recorder Rannig left behind.
“Oh, Bartleby, what a fuss you make. You need not write a symphony, only get together a few notes. Hurry, we must continue the distraction to give Rannig time. Shandanzo should not see the time pass or wonder where his guards are.”
Rannig, having heard the captain’s comments in the subliminal and particular part of his brain, wondered how anyone could see time, and moved toward the second and main entrance of the teahouse.