On A Knock-Knee’d Ingrate

Once upon a time there was a knock-knee’d ingrate. He was slumped outwith the palace gates, clutching a begging bowl. No matter how many times he was chased away by the princeling’s henchmen, he returned to his patch and whimpered at passers by, hoping they would fill his bowl with slops.

Before we go any further, it would be helpful to consider the different characters, both individual and collective, we have encountered thus far. We have met two individuals, the INGRATE and the PRINCELING. We have also been introduced to two collectives, or groupuscules, in the persons of the HENCHMEN and the PASSERS BY. We might like to draw a diagram to get these all clear in our heads, using say, a triangle for the PRINCELING, a square for the INGRATE, and a couple of amorphous blobs for the HENCHMEN and the PASSERS BY, one blob filled in in black ink and the other blob left blank, that is, white, assuming our diagram is drawn on white paper. Next, we may wish, with pinking shears, to cut out each of our four shapes, the triangle and the square and the black blob and the white blob, separating them, so we have four bits of paper, which we can thus manoeuvre on a green baize tabletop as we follow the action. Doing so will be an enormous help in visualising the drama about to unfold.

Let us assume it is Thursday afternoon. The sun is shining, or it might be raining, or perhaps it is merely overcast and threatening imminent rain from louring clouds. Or, if it is the depths of winter, perhaps the palace and its environs are carpeted in snow. There is a howling wind, or a balmy breeze, or it is one of those hot unbearable humid days when the air is thick and still and suffocating. We might posit all sorts of weather for this Thursday afternoon, but we need not try to cut shapes out of a second sheet of paper in order to add a suggestion of weather to our diagram. We could, but we do not need to. While I am on the subject of the diagram again, briefly, I should point out that the green baize of the tabletop on which we have posed our representations of the INGRATE and the PRINCELING and the HENCHMEN and the PASSERS BY ought not be taken as an indication of verdant lawns or greensward. Christ almighty!, nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing whatsoever grows in the vicinity of the palace, for miles around, not grass nor bracken nor vetch nor brambles nor weeds nor nettles. It is a blasted landscape, as if visited by hellfire. Why this is so need not concern us.

On this Thursday afternoon, the knock-knee’d ingrate has returned to his patch outwith the palace gates following his most recent chasing away by the henchmen. His begging bowl is empty. It is that time of afternoon when passers by are few and far between, what with early closing and curfews and roving banditti and, possibly, inclement weather, but see above. The princeling, in his chamber, pokes his head out of the window and sees the knock-knee’d ingrate and flies into a temper. He summons his henchmen, those that are on duty. Other henchmen are taking naps in their little hench-cubbies. We do not need a separate blob for them, for our diagram. They are, as it were, breathtakingly irrelevant. I mention them merely because, having referred to the henchmen who are on duty, you might start wondering about the henchmen who are off duty, and become distracted from the main business, fretting about where the off duty henchmen might be, and what antics they might be up to. Well, now you know.

Turn for a moment to the green baize tabletop and align your cut-outs accordingly, the PRINCELING triangle and the black HENCHMEN blob right next to one another, the INGRATE square at some distance away, and the white PASSERS BY blob tucked away in your pocket, out of sight.

We ought to have a spot of dialogue here, with the princeling shouting his head off at the henchmen demanding that they chase the knock-knee’d ingrate away from the palace gates, and the henchmen protesting that they have already done so, several times today alone, and every time we chase him away he comes lurching back, sire, no matter how fiercely we screech, how violently we poke at him with pointy implements, how fast we chase! To which the princeling responds by shouting even louder, even more fiercely, and telling the henchmen he will have their guts for garters if they do not rid him of this infernal knock-knee’d ingrate!

The having of guts for garters is a common exclamation of princelings, though how often or regularly the threat was carried out, by this princeling or others, is by no means clear. Let us assume that these henchmen are sufficiently alarmed at the prospect that, clattering away along the corridor after their interview with the princeling, they mutter among themselves, trying to come up with a plan that will prevent the knock-knee’d ingrate ever returning to his patch.

Move the black HENCHMEN blob a little further away from the PRINCELING triangle, to reflect this latest development.

There are so many corridors in the palace, and so many staircases, and so many lobbies, that the henchmen have plenty of time, on their way from the princeling’s chamber to the palace gates, to devise a stupendous number of plans. Much as I would like to tell you about each and every one, I am not going to. Instead, I will reveal, as a magician does at the climax of a conjuring trick, the plan that won favour with the henchmen, as being the most effective. They decided to kill the knock-knee’d ingrate and bury him, with his begging bowl, in an unmarked grave.

Now place the black HENCHMEN blob slap bang next to the INGRATE square. And, unexpectedly, take the white PASSERS BY blob out of your pocket and place it on the green baize tabletop slap bang next to the other blob and the square!

For cor blimey!, it is rush hour, and all of a sudden there are dozens if not hundreds of passers by passing by the palace gates. Several of them stop to pour slops into the knock-knee’d ingrate’s begging bowl. Being an ingrate, he does not say thank you, nor even acknowledge the receipt of charitable slops with a nod, as he might do were he not an ingrate. One would think, with such ill manners, he deserves to be killed. But the henchmen are very wary of carrying out a killing in front of witnesses. It is not their way. So instead they stand around puffing on cigarettes and pretending to be interested in flocks of birds in the sky.

What this means is that at the end, we still have all four cut-out paper shapes, and have not scrunched up the INGRATE square and chucked it in the bin, which is what we would do had he been killed and buried, with his begging bowl, by the henchmen. Tomorrow, we will play the game again, but next time we will swap the INGRATE square and the PRINCELING triangle. We will turn the world topsy-turvy, by installing the ingrate in the chamber and having the princeling begging outside his own palace gates. That should prove quite a lark.

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