Now out on bail, Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney:
“Dear readers, I am out of durance vile by virtue of my editor, who paid $900 bail just before the publisher fired him. The judge ate one of my toothpaste rolls and is not only still alive, but has also expressed doubt that I have poisoned anyone on purpose. This has enabled me to continue my novel in peace!”
In this chapter, a traveling salesman named Elston The Traveling Salesman, finding Scurveyshire added to his route, visits The Lying Tart. Mr. Elston sells paper cutlery. He used to sell ordinary steel cutlery, but found that to be unworthy of his talents as a salesman. He relishes the challenge of selling paper knives and forks. His wife and children are starving, but he is unaware of that.
Having stood a round of drinks, Mr. Elston proceeds to sell several sets of deluxe paper cutlery. The locals, meanwhile, bring him up to date on Scurveyshire’s current troubles. People are still rather miffed about all those peasants being sucked under the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard.
“But this is absurd!” remarks the salesman. “Why, it would be the easiest thing in the world for all of you to get together and simply drag the pool away!”
This strikes most of the customers as a most irresponsible saying, probably motivated by an evil quirk in Mr. Elston’s character.
“That’s exactly the sort of thing a witch would say!” exclaims a jolly toper named Ernest Phinrod. In no time at all the entire company is convinced that Mr. Elston is a witch, in league with the spirit of the medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney. An impromptu taproom court immediately sentences Mr. Elston to death.
“You must not judge them too harshly,” Ms. Crepuscular admonishes her readers. “The good people of Scurveyshire do the best they can in spite of their massive ignorance. Most traveling salesmen do get out of Scurveyshire alive. Mr. Elston was merely one of the unfortunate few.”
As Scurveyshire’s Justice of the Peace, Lord Jeremy Coldsore is not informed of the incident until after it has been concluded.
“There’s likely to be a spot of trouble over this!” he muses fretfully.