The Curmudgeon


Monday, February 11, 2013

11 February 1355

It was practically closing time at the Gallows and Glockenspiel, and Hooligan Motts was polishing up the taps with a three per cent solution of Crudworthy's Traditional Horrific, and keeping slightly more than an eye on the doors. Some sort of commotion was going on outside, composed largely of bell-rings and shouts, at such volume that even Ten Gallon Harry was stirring.

"Eleventh of February, thirteen fifty-five," Hooligan Motts announced as a precautionary measure. "Nearly closing time."

The shouting continued, but the bell-ringing stopped. Malvolio Quabbage was so far emboldened as to prod Ten Gallon Harry in the nose with the sharp end of a green and purple umbrella which he had purloined from Melon Head Myrtle's banana daiquiri. The nose of Ten Gallon Harry was noted for its sensitivity to umbrellas, but there was no visible response.

Hooligan Motts had just squeezed the last of the Crudworthy's Traditional Horrific into the reinforced steel bucket which was the strongest available receptacle aside from Granny Forbus' evening stomach, and had taken slightly less than half his eye off the doors, when the doors burst inward and admitted a great deal of noise and a large liveried personage with a scarlet face and a hand-bell.

"Oyez, oyez, oyez," cried this apparition, almost in the ear of Granny Forbus, who twitched with annoyance and sucked her malevolent teeth. The liveried personage shook his hand-bell vigorously, and the resulting clangour caused Limbless Fred to spray cards across half the room, thus winning by default a game which had seemed hopeless only a moment before.

"Oyez, oyez, oyez," repeated the liveried personage, who seemed to believe that he warranted some attention.
"Nearly closing time," said Hooligan Motts.
The liveried personage blinked at him, then began again: "Oyez, oyez - "
"Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah," mimicked Granny Forbus inaccurately.

Having gained the attention he sought, the liveried personage took a breath so deep that his leather belt creaked, and proceeded:

"Whereas upon the evening of the tenth day of the present month, being the feast of Saint Scholastica, a most rude and unseemly disorder did occur in the Swindlestock Tavern, property of our most respected mayor, John Barford, and whereas certain students at the University have prevailed upon the said John Barford in a most naughty and saucy manner with a deadly weapon, namely a flagon which was among the legal chattels of the said Swindlestock Tavern, and whereas - "
"Just a minute," said Granny Forbus.
"And whereas," continued the liveried personage, "the said John Barford having sought due and legal redress by the most lawful and holy means, namely by ringing the bells of St Martin's Church, the said students proceeded in a most blasphemous and heretical fashion to ring the bells of St Mary's Church, and whereas - "
"Hang on," said Granny Forbus.
"And whereas," continued the liveried personage doggedly, "the said John Barford, fearing for his safety and for the safety of the said Swindlestock Tavern and all the chattels and flagons therein, did most lawfully call upon his loyal friends and customers to muster in his defence, and whereas there did then ensue a great and noisy disorder in the streets - "
"That's more like it," said Granny Forbus. "Tell us who won."
"Streets, the said John Barford, in his capacity as injured party and mayor of the town of Oxford, now calls upon all able-bodied males, including all burgesses, villeins, churls, serfs and scroungers, along with any deadly appurtenances accruing thereunto, including scythes, rakes, pitchforks and similar items of a chastising nature, to join with him in the defence of the king's peace and the furtherance of appropriate educational values," concluded the liveried personage. "Given upon this, the eleventh day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand three hundred and fifty-five. Oyez, oyez, oyez."

Oblivious to the scowl of Granny Forbus, which was curdling the dye in the back of his coat, the liveried personage strode to the bar, where Hooligan Motts served him Old Groveller's in a half-pint porringer and Ten Gallon Harry opened one eye and asked whether anything might perhaps be going on. "Ears are ringing," he complained.
"There was a fight here yesterday," said Malvolio Quabbage, "and it looks as if there's going to be another one today."
"You see?" said Pippa Twelve Toes to the liveried personage, pointing out Malvolio Quabbage. "That's how you make an announcement. Nice and concise because yakking goes packing."
"But an announcement from the mayor," protested the liveried personage, "must necessarily be delivered with a certain ceremony. We must show respect to our betters."
"That's all very well," said Pippa Twelve Toes; "but anything with a lot of long words tends to annoy Granny, especially if she thinks there's a fight buried in there somewhere. You don't want to annoy Granny, not when she's sitting between you and the door."
"Good in a fight, is she?" inquired the liveried personage with sledgehammer nonchalance.
"Well, I wouldn't want to get on the wrong end of her," said Pippa Twelve Toes. "I'd rather face an able-bodied male with a chastising appurtenance any day of the week, and more besides."
"She could pass for an able-bodied male," speculated the liveried personage; "upon the field of battle, with a hat over her brow and a weapon in her claw, who would notice the difference?"
"Now, now," said Hooligan Motts to the liveried personage, "we'll have no recruiting here, thank you very much."
"But 'tis a proclamation of the mayor," protested the liveried personage.
"Not in here it isn't," said Hooligan Motts. "Special license."
"On whose authority?" demanded the liveried personage.
"The owner's," said Hooligan Motts.
"Mayor Barford will wish to speak with him," said the liveried personage. "Whereas heretofore and in perpetuity the granting of special licenses within the precincts of - "
"Mayor Barford will have to wait a while," said Hooligan Motts hastily. "Closing time, you understand."
"I shall convey your respects," said the liveried personage, finishing up his Old Groveller's. "No doubt Mayor Barford will wish to pay a visit here tomorrow, once these students have been properly instructed in the ways of discipline." Taking up his hand-bell, the liveried personage bowed politely to Pippa Twelve Toes and made his way to the doors.

"Oi you, oi you, oi you, too," sneered Granny Forbus, and flicked something at him to speed him on his way.


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