Today was an odd day. My morning began just as they all begin, without any indication that the evening will bring a change either in perspective or situation. But circumstances created both, as a result of a bizarre incident at The Griffin, where I ended up this evening. (This after a good deal of internal back-and-forth about whether it is sinful to have a drink after you have vowed that you will not or whether – God bless you, my ever-inventive inner politician – the important thing about giving something up is that you ease into it, rather than forcing it in a draconian way which will only breed dissent and restlessness and which will inevitably lead to a coup.) But the point is that I ended up at The Griffin, where I met with Patrick, who is lately back from India and who has taken it into his head that I will give him money to go back there again, despite the fact that he appeared to be wearing the same dilapidated outfit that he was inhabiting the last time we met, nearly three years ago (also at The Griffin, I think).
And so, pushing aside my concerns about spending an evening in an alehouse less than a day after I had given up ale forevermore, I met up with young Patrick, hoping that he would have some fresh information for me about the comings and goings of the East India Company, and some solid advice for me to build on as I enter into this tea business. Patrick is a good man, I think (though he stutters so much that I am often filled with a desire to knock out his teeth so he can more easily push the words past his lips), but he is also an idiot, and it was not long before I had to abandon my attempts to take in what he was saying so I could more fully direct my attention to keeping the smile on my face and not explaining to this earnest, fragile young man precisely what I thought of his business acumen.
I was saved, in the end, by a sudden commotion on the other side of the inn. Patrick was in a great state of excitement about rubies, or elephants, or some other such nonsense, and I was in an equivalent state of rapture related to the size, shapeliness, and other indefinable qualities exhibited by a pair of breasts that were flouncing past me, attached, I think, to one of the girls who work at the bar (all related in some way or another to Brendan Donnell, who has been the proprietor of The Griffin as long as I can remember). I watched her cross to the other side of the room to bring an ale to young Jim Marsters, a sickly, effeminate character who is nonetheless able to intimidate newcomers with tall tales about how he lost his left ear (in actuality it was bitten off by my neighbor’s dog when the boy was stealing apples), when out of nowhere, a great, bruising Irish fellow who had been singing to himself in a corner for half the evening launched himself at young Jim and began pounding the fellow about the face and chest, before slipping on his own spilled drink, crashing headfirst into a table, and falling to the floor, which he proceeded to pound with his two fists in rhythmic accompaniment to his own anguished cries. The scene was at once so absurd and so pathetic (especially after Jim Marsters began to kick at the lad’s ribs at first tentatively, then with more and more vigor) that Patrick and I felt constrained to intervene. Patrick, softhearted fool that he is, insisted that we bring the man home with us, at least for the night, lest he end up thrown in prison (or beaten to death), and I obliged – in truth, because I had drunk a little too much in the course of the evening to be as eloquent as I would have liked in explaining why this was a rotten idea. But as soon as I have rested and my wits are more or less restored, I shall go and see if the drunkard is awake, so I can kick him out of my house and set the dogs after him.