Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-One



My interview with The Linder troubled me so that I completely forgot my intent to go to the market on Veneris until mid-day.  I was prepared to make a late run on Nanny when Mrs. Talbot stopped me and said, "If it is the market you're wanting why not wait until the morrow?  It will be a barter market and there'll be twice as many booths and stores set up as there normally are."

"Really?  I missed the barter markets every time they came around when ... before ..."

Understanding that I meant the first time I had lived at Linderhall Mrs. Talbot gave me an understanding smile and said, "Yes ma'am.  It's also a day that those of us that do the shopping for the hall will be going."

So it was agreed that I would accompany them but I think more for their peace of mind than my own.  It is puzzling how they had less problems when I was fourteen and running errands upon Nanny from one boundary to the other and yet now that I'm a widow, more respectable and some older, they do.  Perhaps they have forgotten how self-sufficient I can be. Or perhaps they are simply trying to make up for what they were unable to give me before.  Either way it is pointless.  I am not Mrs. Linder but Widow Linder and one day I will leave this place and need to be prepared to do things for myself without someone's protection.

Upon completion of the rest of the day's work I decided to return to the Dower House to take one last look at my lists to determine what it is that I needed so that I would waste as little time and funds at the market as possible.

I had informed Mrs. Cooksey that I would not need a tray and I saw a guilty glint of relief in her eye which told me I had chosen rightly.  The Linders had evening guests that were staying until after the Sabbath.  Amongst their number were three men from the Mayor's Council, including Dr. Cummins' father in law and the brother Gerald Linder whom I had not met.  From the Great Council came Benjamin Corvot, husband of the sister Chell and a man called Ferdnan Tice whom I knew to be well connected and very influential.  Mrs. Linder would entertain the ladies that included Chell Linder Corvot and the other wives.  My understanding from gleaning information from the new staff is that the women were all a close knit group and I determined not to interfere or insert myself in their number.  Not doing so was actually a relief that I guarded others from knowing.

I still worried a bit about certain staff creating problems but apparently when the Sheriff makes up his mind on a thing he does it with aclarity.  Mrs. Kinsey has been shipped off.  Not permanently and not far but the assignment appears to affectively control any mischief she might seek to make.  She has been assigned to the barracks under the direct supervision of a woman known widely as "The Dragon."

I'd only met Mrs. Dargen a handful of times during my first installment at Linderhall and each time she'd scared me worse than being alone and axe-less in the middle of a hungry forest cat frenzy.  Marta considered her a friend but admitted that she was not an easy woman and had definite ideas on the way things were to operate.  I'd steered clear of her and intended to continue to do so as I know she hadn't approved of me ... or should I say had not approved of my marriage and I just happen to be part of it.  Marta told me not to take it personally but as an impressionable fourteen year old that was asking the impossible.

The late afternoon was coming on pleasant after a roastingly warm day.  In my walk to the Dower House I saw several staff taking advantage of the breeze to complete the last of the day's work out of doors.  I waived but did not linger to talk.  I had my own work to attend to and did not want to hinder anyone else either.  I had nearly put foot upon the first of the pavers when I heard pitiful crying in the hedge row.

I stepped over and heard, "Come along Rosie.  Nurse is going to be cranky if she founds out we're gone."

"But I saw him come this way.  I know I did."

"You can't have.  We've looked and Daren isn't here and you know we aren't allowed to go near the stable.  The horses scare you."

"But he said he'd come see us and that was hours ago."

I was about to step into their line of sight when I saw a woman come out of the hedges on the opposite side of the path and bare down on the two young girls with anger.  "There you two useless spares are.  Going and making more work for me.  They should sell you to someone that can get some use from you."

The young girl called Rosie tried to back away but fell backwards over a stone bench placed beside the path.  The younger girl stepped in front of her and said to the woman, "Don't talk to us that way.  I'll tell ..."

SMACK!

I was not two seconds stepping onto the path and leveling a woodsman's right clean against the woman's chin sending her tip over tail.

"Why you slut.  Who do you think you are?" she snarled.

In a voice I don't ever remember using before I said, "I am the Widow Linder and I am going to make your life a living hell.  How dare you touch these two girls!"

The immediate fear on the woman's face told me she'd thought I was just another staff.  I reached down to take her arm ... and think it was just to pull her up but the mood I was in it is just as likely it was to pull the arm off ... but was thwarted when two hands placed themselves on my shoulders and a cold voice said, "Take THAT to the cells."

I turned to see the Sheriff and his eyes were like black chips of volcanic glass.  Several other men stood there as well including The Linder, the Chancellor, and a couple I did not recognize.  Too angry to be polite I held my head high and pulled myself from the Sheriff.  I turned to the girls and picked the small one up and took the hand of the other and pulled them towards the Dower House kitchen door.

"Pull the latch please.  She is getting heavy."

The older of the two just looked at me, then at the door before connecting my instructions with the metal lever.  We walked into the kitchen and I sat the younger on the counter and fumbled for a candle when the gas lamps came on.  I looked and the older girl had turned them on.

"Thank you.  Is your mother about?  She's going to be extremely upset and I don't want her to have to wait to hear word that you are safe."

The older said, "Mother's dead."

That is when the obvious clicked.  "Oh dear," I muttered.  I dampened a soft cloth with cool water from the tap and laid it against the hand print that was already creating a bruise on the younger girl's face.  "Would you two young ladies happened to be named Rosalee and Liesel?"

"Are we in trouble?  It's my fault," the older of the two said in a voice resigned to punishment that I did not like.

The younger girl got a ferocious look on her face and said, "Is not.  Rosie isn't bad.  Nurse is bad."

Quickly putting a period to their worry I said, "I should say so.  Even if you had aggravated her quite vigorously there is absolutely no excuse for the type of behavior that she exhibited.  At most she should have corrected you and perhaps restricted a privilege.  What you did was not deserving of corporal punishment and I'll have quite something to say if someone tries to tell me otherwise."

The older girl came and stood so close to me I nearly couldn't minister to her sister.  "Heavens Rosalee, I'm going to wind up squashing you and feeling very bad about it.  How about you hop on the counter as well so I can finish with Liesel here.  And take this cloth and wipe your face ... particularly that nose.  You've given yourself quite a red one that is in serious need of a bath."

From the door I heard boys' voices.

"Hah ... told you."

"No, I told you.  Knew the Widow would have 'em."

I called, "Jode, Jude ... no bickering if you please.  My nerves do not appreciate it at the moment.  Is your mother available?"

"No ma'am," one of them said sorrowfully.  "She's helping Mrs. Cooksey."  But then he looked over then looked back at me and said more brightly, "But Joel's wife is pretty good with the littles and she's just coming down the path."

"Very good.  Fetch her please."

A young woman of about twenty walked through the kitchen door.  I looked at the two girls and said, "This is Tiffen Talbot.  She is excellent at telling stories.  She knows a wonderful one about a princess and a pea and if you will sit here at the table with her I might be persuaded to ask her to kindly share it with you."

It was easier than I expected as the girls were fascinated by the unusual number of braids that Tiffen kept her hair in, a custom that was a relic from being raised by her grandmother who had been a pirate slave down in the Southerlands before being rescued by the man who eventually became her husband.  Joel had met her at a meeting the Autumn before my marriage and declared he'd have no other even if she didn't have a dower.  Tiffen for her part proved to be a welcome daughter to Mrs. Talbot.

I left the young girls in Tiffen's capable hands and stationed Jode and Jude by the kitchen doors then did my best not to act like a bear with a sore head as I stomped over to where the men were still congregated and muttering.


 

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