I placed the embossed card on the gentleman’s silver tray and linked elbows with Mathilda. The gentleman rang a small bell and called out, “My Lord and His Lady, Norton and Porsche Hollingsworth of Cabernath Town.” Without further ado he unceremoniously dropped the card in the silver bucket positioned at his feet. There was a smattering of applause and Mathilda and I breathed easier as we moved smoothly into the crowd. We had gotten past the guard dogs.
The crowd had its own life. It seemed to breathe and move about the grand hall as a living, pulsating, entity that was made up of seeming random and diverse elements. There were dark people, fair people, and people of all shades in between. Tall, short, fat, skinny, bearded, clean shaven, there were people speaking languages I had never heard before. There were men and women, but no children that I could see. Mathilda tugged my arm and pointed towards the banquet table where a buffet was laid out, the likes of which I had never seen. We began to edge in that direction, trying not to appear overly anxious.
“Why’d ya have ta name me after a feckin’ car?” Mathilda whispered.
“What’re ya goin’ on about? Whaddya mean?”
I shook my head and chose not to explain. “I named myself after a motorbike.” I offered up. She sneered but dropped the subject as we arrived at the buffet and she tucked her clutch between her arm and her breast. A large man dressed in a chef’s costume handed us each a plate with a linen napkin rolled around silverware and gestured towards the sumptuous spread, indicating that we should help ourselves. I took a whole fish and a large helping of rice pilaf. Somehow a smattering of veggies made their way onto my plate as well. Mathilda went to the carving table where another man in white costume sliced her off what must have been almost a pound of prime rib and piled it high on her plate. He gave her two Yorkshire puddings, mashed garlic potatoes and then drown it all in an Au Jus.
The patio beckoned and we went through French doors to the outside. It was a clear night, lots of stars, warm, pleasant. I thought it would be a good night for sleeping rough, if you were so inclined. A wide stone balustrade ringed the patio and we moved towards it. I studied the landscape and the gardens but spotted no one until I reached the edge and looked straight over. One Eyed Jake, and Snake Bite were flattened up next to the wall. I handed down our plates.
“What? No chocolate?” hissed Snake Bite, “Where’s dessert?”
“Keep yer pants on,” Mathilda shot back in a stage whisper, “Desert’s on a different table. We gotta go back fer that.”
Jake smiled up at us and lifted his fish to take a bite. “Get on then.” He said.
Our second trip yielded chocolate cake, berry tarts with cream and warm Dutch apple pie.
“Finish up and be off with you,” I told the pair. “We’ll meetcha back at the river later.”
Snake Bite scratched her ass and nodded her head, “See if ya can get some hootch.”
Mathilda and I went back inside and crawled into the crowd. We made our way through a receiving line of some sort, shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries, and bowing to people we didn’t know, who didn’t know us. Finally, we found the bar, and standing behind the bar was a young, well endowed lady with a narrow waist and a lot of the buttons undone at the top her blouse. Mathilda tugged on my arm.
“What are you having, Norton?” she asked.
“Huh?” I tore my eyes from the barmaid’s cleavage, “Uhm, whiskey please, neat. How about you Porsche? What’ll it be tonight?”
“Long Island Iced Tea,” she said and the buxom bartender went to work. She was a real pro as well as a looker. She held up a bottle of 21 year old Glen Lapphrog and looked at me inquiringly.
“That’ll do nicely,” I said and in no time we had our drinks in hand and melted back into the moving crowd.
“We’ll have to find another bar for the next round,” Mathilda said.
“Why, I quite liked that one and I quite like this whiskey too.” I took another sip.
“She’ll remember you though, the way you stared at her tits. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.”
The rest of the evening is a blur. We had a lot more booze, ate our fill of rich foods and Mathilda distracted one of the barmen while I snagged two more bottles of Lapphrog. When we left the party, the crowd was thinning a bit and Mathilda tossed her high heeled shoes in the shrubbery near the front steps. We ran across the lawn to the road and made our way back to the river. Jake and Snake Bite were there and I stashed one bottle. We polished off the other. Snake Bite had a grand ole time teasing us about crashing the ball and calling us Norton and Porsche. When we all finally passed out it was almost dawn.
We’ll probably stick around her for another couple of days and then we’ll move on. That’s what we tend to do. We move on. Life is good.