August 25, 2020

Cocktail Talk: No Name, Part III

wilkie-collins-no-nameThis is our final Cocktail Talk from Wilkie Collins’ dandy (if long, as a warning – not a scary warning, but just a “know what you’re getting into” warning – book) No Name. If you haven’t read the No Name Part I Cocktail Talk or the No Name Part II Cocktail Talk, I strongly suggest, in an amiable way, that you do, just to get more background on the book, learn about monks drinking grog and whiskey-swilling carriage drivers, and feel your day is complete. Also, those two follow the more traditional Spiked Punch Cocktail Talk style, in that they actually talk about drinks, spirits, booze, and all of that. WHAT! I can hear you say. “How can the below quote be a Cocktail Talk, without, well, cocktails (or such) in it?” Well, it is my site, but instead of belaboring that point, let me site precedence, in a past Cocktail Talk from one of Collins’ bosom buddies (in the main, though authors can be cranky, am I right?), Charles Dickens. Specifically, the Dombey and Son, Part IV Cocktail Talk, which is about one of my (which is saying a lot), maybe my all-time (which would really be saying a lot) Dickens’ characters, Diogenes the dog. And the below No Name Cocktail Talk is about dogs, too, in this case two dogs. Brutus and Cassius. They aren’t at Diogenes’ level – only some dogs are! – but they are good dogs, and this scene of their owner Admiral Bartram at dinner (being served by the books heroine – in disguise! – Magdalen) is charming. So, forgive the lack of booze below, but enjoy the abundance of pups.


The two magnificent dogs sat squatted on their haunches, with their great heads over the table, watching the progress of the meal, with the profoundest attention, but apparently expecting no share in it.  The roast meat was removed, the admiral’s plate was changed, and Magdalen took the silver covers off the two made-dishes on either side of the table.  As she handed the first of the savory dishes to her master, the dogs suddenly exhibited a breathless personal interest in the proceedings.  Brutus gluttonously watered at the mouth; and the tongue of Cassius, protruding in unutterable expectation, smoked again between his enormous jaws.


The admiral helped himself liberally from the dish; sent Magdalen to the side-table to get him some bread; and, when he thought her eye was off him, furtively tumbled the whole contents of his plate into Brutus’s mouth.  Cassius whined faintly as his fortunate comrade swallowed the savory mess at a gulp.  “Hush! you fool,” whispered the admiral.  “Your turn next!”


Magdalen presented the second dish.  Once more the old gentleman helped himself largely – once more he sent her away to the side-table, ­once more he tumbled the entire contents of the plate down the dog’s throat, selecting Cassius this time, as became a considerate master and an impartial man.  When the next course followed – consisting of a plain pudding and an unwholesome “cream” – Magdalen’s suspicion of the function of the dogs at the dinner-table was confirmed.  While the master took the simple pudding, the dogs swallowed the elaborate cream.  The admiral was plainly afraid of offending his cook on the one hand, and of offending his digestion on the other – and Brutus and Cassius were the two trained accomplices who regularly helped him every day off the horns of his dilemma.  “Very good! very good!” said the old gentleman, with the most transparent duplicity.  “Tell the cook, my dear, a capital cream!”


–Wilkie Collins, No Name


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