perky minette was next. she came up and picked "violent." "ohhh - but i am not a violent person! " she looked around for sympathy. "can i trade with somebody?"
"absolutely not. pick your author."
"samuel beckett." she looked blank. "samuel beckett." she went back to her seat.
by minette de montfort
illustrated by roy dismas
special thanks to Prof. Dan Leo for his editing efforts
i had always been curious about fenwick, as he was a rather mysterious fellow, and also somewhat resentful, as he seemed to be held in somewhat higher esteem by his fellow creatures than i was. so it was with no small feeling of delight when i was taking my morning constitutional by the quayside that i beheld fenwick himself emerge from the dragon and mussel pub. and by the look of him, in no mean hurry.
i immediately made the decision to take this heaven-sent opportunity to follow
the celebrated gentleman and learn something of his mysterious ways.
i have always been a forthright walker - as indeed, i always endeavor to be forthright in all things. one foot in front of the other, one foot, then the other, that is good policy i have found, and will get you where you are going. no one walks as boldly and briskly as i, depend upon it. and yet, on this fateful morning, damn my eyes if fenwick was not keeping up almost as brisk a pace as i was. almost, mind you, almost. no one walks as i do. and yet fenwick was keeping up a good pace, one foot in front of the other, one foot, then the other, looking neither to the right nor left, no, neither to the right nor the left, very proper, quite sound in technique he was, and at the rate he was going would be in open country in no time. this is treacherous territory, i thought to myself, if he should reach open country, if he should reach open country and happen to glance around.... damn me, the whole glorious enterprise would be dashed to pieces, properly dashed to pieces for want of proper precautions and preparation.
true, fenwick had been looking neither to the right nor the left, neither to the right nor the left as he kept up his almost admirable pace, but could i count on this, especially as he was rapidly approaching the town limits? what did i know of fenwick anyway? almost nothing, really - which is why i was following him in the first place, was it not?
i needed a plan! and quickly! as an old military man (i should say, as an old student of military affairs - and of affairs generally) i knew the importance of good planning. as well as sound inspiration.
a disguise! i needed a disguise! i needed inspiration! fenwick could decide to turn his head at any moment, and all, all would be lost! well - no doubt i could brazen it out. but brazening it out, i must confess, has never been my strong point. no, not at all. the good lord, or the gods on olympus, or chance, or the mysterious workings of fate, or whatever, have given us all certain qualities but not others - forthrightess, decisiveness, pluck, determination - these qualities i had in abundance. but the ability to brazen things out - brazenness itself - i am afraid that has never been my "road game" as the gypsies (or is it the americans?) say.
and then, just as i was about to give up hope - not that i ever give up hope, no, no, not such a determined fellow as i - inspiration came to me in the form of a fruit stand by the side of the road - a most unfortunate looking little establishment situated across from the quay just before it ends and before the high road begins, and manned by a disrespectful looking individual i had a vague sense of having encountered before. had i passed this way before? (the eternal question). perhaps when i was a bit none the better for drink? (for i often find solace for my melancholy meditations on this unfortunate existence in this time-hallowed manner.) but i digress. i would buy some fruit in a bag, then poke a couple of holes in the bag with my stout walking stick and put the bag over my head - a primitive disguise, to be sure, but a well nigh impenetrable one.
so, conquering my instinctive or well-earned distaste for the fellow, i approached his stand boldly, keeping one eye on the retreating form of fenwick. but as he had now left the quay and entered the road, where could he go but straight on? i had every confidence in my ability to catch up with him.
"nice plums today, governor, nice peaches," the fellow addressed me familiarly. "bananas straight from the tropics. apples always a dependable standby. what's your pleasure this morning?"
"look here,what's the cheapest thing you've got? whatever it is, i'll have one of them."
"now what kind of a question is that, from a fine looking gentleman like yourself?"
"it's the question i am asking you."
"well, governor, i suppose one strawberry would be the cheapest item. but you don't want to be buying one strawberry, do you? that would seem mean. and you'd be a laughingstock, wouldn't you, to all your swell friends."
"the attitudes toward myself of my 'swell friends' are no concern of yours. i will have one strawberry, if you please. and kindly put it in a bag - the largest bag you've got."
"a large bag, sir? well sir, in that case, i will have to charge you as much for the one strawberry as for half a pound. six pence and a half, to be exact."
"what! what sort of insolence is that?" i barely restrained myself from shaking my stout walking stick in his foolish face.
"it's the sort of insolence i have," he answered barefacedly.
"very well then, give me half a pound of strawberries - in the biggest bag you've got! and make sure they are fresh. and be quick about it." i looked up the road at the disappearing form of my quarry. my insolent friend noticed this, and looked up himself.
"ah. following colonel fenwick, was you? i suspected as much. " he began putting strawberries in a paper bag, one at a time, holding each by the stem and inspecting it. "a fine gentleman, colonel fenwick, much admired by all. a master fencer and swordsman, so they tell me." one strawberry, then another. "and a world class explorer and big game hunter." another strawberry, very carefully inspected. "not to mention a dab hand with the ladies, yes indeed. and a scholar - " another strawberry, even more carefully scrutinized. " - a scholar who knows not just the greek and persian and hebrew, but the assyrian and babylonian and chaldean as well. imagine, sir, being able to read - "
"will you hurry?"
"you wanted your strawberries fresh, didn't you? i wouldn't want no complaints."
"just put some strawberries in the bag, please. i absolve you of all responsibility for their freshness."
"good enough." he glanced up the road. fenwick was no longer in sight. "i suppose you'll be wanting to catch up with the colonel, eh?"
i disdained to answer. he was folding the top of the bag and i was reaching into my pocket for his fee when i heard an all too familiar voice at my elbow.
"why , if it isn't muggleton - old sneaky muggleton! "
"good morning, costermayne," i replied with such civility as i could muster.
"how are you, sneaks? been looking in any more ladies' windows lately? ha ha ha!"
i ignored this preposterous calumny - a tale for another time - although it seemed to afford no little amusement to my fruit selling friend. "i am doing very well, costermayne. a beautiful morning, is it not?"
"indeed," he responded, with the leer that never left his face.
"a morning," i continued, "to start life anew, as it were."