Now I was safely home in Port Naain, I was wary about just picking up where I left off. After all, I’d left the city under something of a cloud with unpleasantly inclined people hunting for me. There again, I’d merely assumed they were unpleasantly inclined, I hadn’t waited long enough for them to prove their intentions one way or another. I had decamped from the city because I was being blamed, I feel unfairly, for the publication of a book of children’s tales. These tales were claimed by some to cast a harsh light on the antics of the rich and powerful. Now I’ve upset the rich and powerful before and so far my unfailing solution to the problem is to just leave the city for a few months. Thus I when I arrive back, these people have been upset by somebody else and I have been forgotten. In this case I suspected that I hadn’t been away for long enough.
What to do about it? Well what I did was to quietly go about my business, visiting patrons and suchlike, but all the while trying to pick up any gossip that might be relevant to my situation.
You might be surprised to discover what you can overhear if you’re careful.
I once overheard two ladies expressing their surprise that a third lady seemed to have forgiven me for some unintended slight or the other. Fortified by that knowledge I acted immediately, wrote the lady what I felt was a charming poem, and called upon her to both apologise if I had offended her, and to present her with the poem. As it was, the two ladies I’d overheard were correct and the lady had realised that it was a lot of fuss over nothing. Hence when I arrived to apologise I was made most welcome and the rupture between us was securely healed.
Yet on another occasion I had just finished giving the company a selection of verses. As I moved quietly through the throng I heard one lady ask another where a third lady had disappeared to. The answer rather perturbed me. “Oh she’s just realised that Tallis is here so she had gone to get her sedan chair bearers to give him a sound thrashing. So I sought out my hostess, and explained that it was probably for the best if I disappeared quietly without attracting attention. She was most understanding and recommended that I leave via the kitchen. To be fair, when I arrived in the kitchen, the cook asked why I was leaving through the back door. I explained. Because I’d always made a point in dropping into the kitchen with a few tales for those working there, Cook was dismayed at this news and insisted I take a shoulder of orid, “For you and that lovely wife of yours.”
But I seem to have drifted off the point. I was forced to walk as if on eggshells, as I didn’t know whether I was still in bad odour or not. There are times I wish that there was somebody definitive I could just ask. They would come up with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and I could act accordingly.
Yet even this sort of service would not be without its problems. Dorbert Wengul had once attempted to provide something similar. Dorbert was one of those people who would often express his opinion first and contemplate the consequences later. After several hard lessons, he learned discretion. But his experiences had given him an idea. He would keep abreast of events generally. Thus if, for example, a poet had inadvertently offended somebody and felt it wise to leave the city, the poet could just drop Dorbert a line and Dorbert would write back stating whether it was or was not safe to return.
Initially his scheme worked well and he looked to be on the road to building up a flourishing little business. Because his first clients tended to be people he knew, and they tended to have offended people he knew, (if only distantly) it was comparatively easy for him to know whether the offence had been forgotten.
But as word spread about the service he provided, with glowing reports about its convenience and accuracy, he had even more takers. His new clients tended to be people who were not from his social circle, and they had offended people who were just names to him. This presented him with a quandary, but he rose to the occasion. He decided to just ask the offended person whether they were still offended. You can see his reasoning, he’s asking the one person who does genuinely know the answer to the question.
Perhaps a year after he implemented this policy, one quiet afternoon he was browsing his records. In the cold light of day it became obvious that in those cases where he didn’t approach the offended person, they forgot about the offence far more quickly than when he did approach the offended person. Indeed it occurred to him that, in reality, he was reminding them of the offence and was thus ensuring that it wasn’t forgotten and thus inadvertently forgiven.
Initially he was somewhat downcast by this discovery. After all it meant that his business model was flawed. But as he thought about it, another scheme suggested itself. So he offered his ‘Reminder’ service. Hence if you were offended by somebody, you would pay Dorbert a retainer and every month of so he would remind you, in exquisite detail, about how you had been offended. This was an invaluable service for those who like the luxury of nursing their wrath, but have busy diaries and might otherwise allow some imagined slight to slip, unavenged, into an unintended oblivion.
But once Dorbert started offering this service (alongside his other, rather than in lieu of it) he found he had another group of customers. These were the rivals, professional or personal, of people who have been forced to flee. They were happy to pay Dorbert’s retainer. To them it was a cheap and efficient way of ensuring that their rival didn’t return. I know a number of ladies who have been left wondering why their admirer never did return, leaving them to seek solace in the arms of their second choice. The second choice was the one who’d wisely invested with Dorbert and had thus ensured their rival couldn’t make an inconvenient homecoming.
I think that Dorbert felt that he had now reached a position where he could hope to achieve financial security. To be fair to him, he wasn’t looking for wealth, he just wanted a liberal prosperity. Indeed he felt obliged to congratulate himself on his perspicacity in creating this business. You can perceive where he was coming from, he calculated that not only were the rich and powerful inclined to think positively of him, but those who might object to his business practices were excluded from the city. Indeed if they tried to enter Port Naain to remonstrate with him, the rich and powerful would doubtless have their hirelings administer a salutary lesson. Unfortunately Dorbert had forgotten one group of people. He had overlooked the families of those who were effectively exiled. This group came to his attention by the simple expedient of beating him up in a back alley. An assortment of wives and children explained to him as they administered the beating that what they were administering was a medicine, designed to remedy a number of moral and ethical deficiencies they had noted in his character. Dorbert took the hint, left the city that evening under the cover of darkness and has never returned.
Yes the tour continues, and to read more click on this link and you’d be at Ken’s blog