It always seems as if I end up at parties once in the Punchy Lands, dear PF. I suppose that’s because some of the most interesting interactions take place at parties.
On one particular trip, I ended up attending King Arthur’s birthday party. (It was unclear how old he was turning. I think he purposely kept it a secret.)
It was a sunny day, and the party was taking place outdoors—which was a good thing. For you see, King Arthur’s castle is dark, damp, and…smelly.
And that’s because England is stranded in a dark age. Very Punchyish indeed.
Anyway, one large pavilion was set up not too far from the castle. King Arthur was sitting next to Prince Beef, who had come all the way from America to attend the festivities.
“It’s always nice,” Arthur was saying in his nasally voice, “to sit back and watch all the guests interact with each other.”
“Um-hmm,” Prince Beef replied nonchalantly. He had his eyes closed, and appeared to be resting.
Arthur looked at him angrily. “Are you sleeping at my party?”
Prince Beef didn’t move. “My man,” he said quietly, “hush, for you are vexing me greatly. Your voice is piercing; it’s hard enough to take when I’m not trying to sleep.”
“But this is my birthday party!” Arthur objected. “You’re not allowed to sleep!”
“Desist, my man,” the prince replied in a firm voice. “Desist or bear the ill effects which most certainly must come.”
King Arthur turned angrily away, and that’s when he saw me. His countenance brightened slightly. Last time we met a duel was fought betwixt us, of which he was the champion.
And nothing is more highly esteemed in the Punchy Lands’ England as a winning score in dueling.
Arthur motioned for me and I joined him.
“Well, P. VJ,” he said, “nice to see you here. I’m never sure when you’re going to show up.”
“Me neither,” I said; “which is a pity. But I’m afeared that the professor can’t keep a schedule. So, is Ruber actually cooking for your party?”
I couldn’t help noticing a small tent not too far off with the words Ruber’s Catering on the side.
“Yup.” Arthur didn’t seem to want to talk about it.
“Really?” I asked. “You should have a food tester, I think.”
“Would you be quiet? Go about your way. I’m done conversing with you.”
Suddenly, another voice rang out, one that was quite close. “My dearest, sweetest, esteemed, honored, Prince Beef! What an honor to find you here—and in such good health!”
Mr. Ratherquite and his Ladies were here, and they were standing in front of the prince, who was still trying to sleep.
“You and your trouts weren’t invited!” Arthur yelled at Mr. Ratherquite and the Ladies. “Leave at once!”
Mr. Ratherquite looked indignantly at the king. “I will not leave until I have spoken with my dear prince.”
The Ladies nodded their approval.
Prince Beef’s eyes fluttered open.
Mr. Ratherquite bowed quite low.
“Oh,” the prince said, “it is you who has awoken me. Your yakking hath tickled my ears awake.”
“I am heartily sorry,” Mr. Ratherquite began. “But it was probably not me. No, it was this foul King Arthur who was screeching just a little big ago. Yes, it is he with whom your quarrel lies, not I. I would—”
The prince cut Mr. Ratherquite off with an impervious wave from his royal hand. “Desist annoying me—as is your wont. Instead, run along and play in the mud, where you and your followers belong.”
Mr. Ratherquite’s face grew redder than red, I believe. Then he quickly slipped off his silk glove and just as the prince shut his eyes to resume his nap, Mr. Ratherquite slapped him across the face with it.
The prince jumped to his feet. “Fool!” he shouted. “How dare you hit my cheek!”
Mr. Ratherquite drew his rapier. “I would not have been insulted had you insulted me alone. But you—I won’t even call you sir, since you are no gentleman—insulted two ladies who had absolutely nothing to do with our conversation. Now I challenge you to a duel. Draw your weapon of choice.”
The prince closed his eyes and turned away. He was trembling and his foot was violently tapping. I surmised that if his foot continued tapping in that manner, it wouldn’t be too long before there was a hole beneath it.
“What are you doing?” Arthur asked.
“Trembling in rage against this fool,” the prince replied. “I am violently tapping, which will, in the end, be better for him. For my rage is great.”
“I’ll take care of it for you,” Arthur said.
The king snapped his fingers, and, immediately, a few guards appeared.
“Escort Mr. Ratherquite and his trouts to the dungeon, where they will stay until I have time to waste on them.”
As Mr. Ratherquite and the crying ladies were being dragged away, Mr. Ratherquite repeatedly called out in a confident voice:
“This isn’t the end!”
Then he faded away and was gone.
“I just got a splendid idea!” King Arthur said happily, turning to me. “Mr. Ratherquite will play the part of food tester, which you so gracefully suggested.”
I believe I winced.
For I actually felt bad for Mr. Ratherquite.