In Chapter CCX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular abandons her resolve to backtrack to the real beginnings of the story and just goes on as if nothing has happened. Tristram Shandy would have at least apologized for doing so. But this is what makes Ms. Crepuscular one of a kind.
We find Lord Jeremy Coldsore confined to his bed at Coldsore Hall, the result of falling down a marble staircase because he has not yet learned to cope with having two left feet. His friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, has brought company to cheer Jeremy while he suffers–a merry minstrel named Johnno the Merry Minstrel.
“I don’t think I can bear to listen to any music just now, old boy,” groans Jeremy.
“Relax, Germy, and jist enjoy it. It ain’t every day you git to hear a feller who can sing and play the harmonica at the same time.” This is Johnno’s one accomplishment. To criticize its execution would be like criticizing a dog for playing poker badly.
Nevertheless, Johnno’s rendition of “I’ve Got Rhythm” brings a tear to Jeremy’s eye and moves him to demand an encore.
“Tell him what else you can do, Johnno,” says Twombley.
“Oh, it’s nothing, really. Only I have a unique ability to sniff out cunningly hidden cuss bags.”
For the remainder of the afternoon, Johnno discovers one concealed cuss bag after another, some of them in astonishing places. One turns up under Twombley’s hat; another, tucked into Jeremy’s underwear. By suppertime they have half a dozen cuss bags ready for the incinerator. Johnno concludes by playing a rousing off-key performance of “Sonny Boy.”
“Looks like your bad luck’s over and done with, Germy!” exults Twombley. “At least until Black Rodney sneaks some more cuss bags into your house. He must have what the Frenchies call ‘a keen desire’ to stop us from gettin’ hitched to Lady Margo and saving Coldsore Hall from your creditors.”
“But now we have the means to defeat him!” cries Jeremy. Johnno accepts his invitation to stay at Coldsore Hall for the immediate future, in return for free access to the wine cellar. In a theatrical aside to Jeremy, Twombley adds, “Hope he don’t find any of the bodies that I stashed down there!”
The chapter ends with a flourish, regrettably misspelled as “flurrish.”