Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-Seven



It wound up that I knew many of the names and families represented by the Woodsmen in the crowd around the Sheriff and I and they knew me ... or not me precisely but my family and my general disposition as Widow Linder.

"Mr. George, may I ask you what has brought so many Woodsmen to Little Linderton at this time of year?  Hunting season is soon to begin in earnest is it not?"

"Taxes," the man spat.

"Taxes?"

"Aye.  The Collectors be telling our Guild they only want metals and not meat."

Unwilling to step into such a discussion any further I was saved from having to say anything at all as The Linder himself strolled up.  To say that we were all slightly stunned by his appearance was putting it mildly.

"Honestly," I exclaimed in shock which loosened my tongue even more than it usually was.  "I thought it was only the Nealy side of your clan that exhibited wonton lack of sense."  He turned with a raised eyebrow like no one had spoken to him like that in far too long if ever.  "Just look at you.  What is Mrs. Linder going to say?  Soot from one end to the other.  Caked in mud to your knees.  Cuts and scrapes showing through your gloves. You look decidedly un-Linderish you know."

"I may be The Linder but I am also The Guardian of Tentukia Widow.  I will not be molly coddled and told to sit in the carriage like some geriatric old fool unable to do his duty."

Understanding dawned.  "Ah ... been mashed about have you and told what you could and couldn't do.  That explains it.  Tell a man he isn't allowed to do something and likely that is the first thing he will try and do.  Or so I learned watching my brothers act in such a way.  But if it was for your duty then you appear to have done it heartily and with much gusto.  However if I might suggest, for Mrs. Linder's sake you might wish to ... er ... hide the burned bits and have your barber snip the singed bits before presenting yourself."

"What?"  His hand went to his hair and then he said chagrined.  "Ah.  Perhaps you are correct.  Would you be so good as to ... hmmm ... cover for me by letting the ladies fuss over you for a bit?"

"Botheration Sir, you ask a great deal."

He grinned.  "If you don't owe me you certainly owe Daren here.  He nearly turned inside out when he found you'd never made it to the carriages."

It wasn't really a request but at least he made the order a polite one and gave me a Guard as escort.  And sure enough as I predicted the fussing was entirely uncomfortable.  After everyone had calmed down April pulled me aside.  "Still feel up to getting some shopping done?  The stalls on the other end are still in full swing."

Close to exasperation I declared, "Anything to get me out from under all these eyes and this clucking."

Many of the Linder party decided to remove to Linderhall, including the girls whom April had sent home with Tiffen, but April and the Below Stairs ladies were made of stronger stuffing and we returned to our business with lists in hand.

I noted the stalls that were closed and when I mentioned it to Mrs. Talbot she sniffed.  "Them.  It was some of them Borderland bucks that started this mess.  I know some good Tentuckian merchants that will give us a good price for what we've come for.  Should have visited them first to begin with."

------

It was with aching feet and a much lighter purse that I returned to Nanny.  She was happy to see me and accepted her carrot as was her due and stepped lively when I threw my market bags over the saddle and started loading them with my purchases.

I did get some oak galls but only because Mrs. Talbot said that it was already on the household list.  The wax merchant was the sister in law of one of the head gardeners and gave me a good deal on a supply of scented candles to help drive out the stale air that unfortunately still remained in the upstairs privies.  I also ordered a bag of lime for this same purpose.  At one of the fabric houses I purchased several lengths of both bleached and unbleached fine muslin which would be delivered with the Hall's goods.  I had need of new underclothes and intended on using the muslin to make my own rather than pay the cost of what was in the shops.  I also wished to make some for Nat who tended to wait as long as possible to apply to the Bishop for access to the closets that the Brothers used.

The other items that I picked up were pen nibs, ink, pencils, waxed thread for sewing together my note pads, a packet of hair wires, and a skein of fine black yarn so that I could crochet some extra snoods as time presented itself.  I ordered several skeins of hemp yarn that I planned to dye as I needed.  I ordered some corn fiber yarn to knit a throw for Mizz Marta's lap since wool made her itch.

"Have a passion for yarns do you?" April said with a laugh.

"Oh Aye.  My stitching may not be as good as it should be but I do enjoy the sensation of needles or hooks weaving yarns and silks into useful objects."

Mrs. Talbot added, "And she makes the most beautiful lace.  She is the one that repaired the large lace table cover that Mrs. Linder used for last evenings supper."

Grinning April asked, "Should I speak to James about starting a line of Linderhall Lace?"

I shook my head vigorously.  "Don't you dare.  I've got more than enough to go on as it is right now.  But ... perhaps ... yes, it might be a way for me in the future to find some independence."

"I knew there were several reasons for me to like you and not just because you've given my little brother a fine opponent to deflate that head of his."

I laughed and said, "My pleasure I assure you."

April laughed once again and said, "I tell you, this is the first time I've seen him bored when presented with several Misses when we have guests.  Usually he is too eager to have a go at some fun."

"Good Heavens, are they trying to marry him off then?  Although upon reflection I suppose an alliance with the proper family would be timely."  Then in alarm I looked at her and asked, "They don't have the same designs on me do they?"

With a cynical snort April said, "I don't believe they've gotten around to it yet but I would stay on my guard.  Chell brought that brother in law of hers for some reason, and it certainly wasn't for me."

Shuddering at the idea of being forced into company with a man like that I said, "If they were smart they'd pack him off to the Guard to get that posing knocked out of him.  Unless it is his desire in life to have a career as a statue model.  He needs to find something useful to do with his status."

April peeled another laugh and we continued our looking in the fabric house.  I sighed over some of the silk thread and the other yarns but I had what I needed and needed to remember that I could live without my wants.  But temptations were certainly calling; the local yarns made from buffalo and alpaca herds and camel yarn from the Western regions called to me.  I nearly fell to the desire for an exotic yarn from the Southerlands made from banana stalk fiber.  There was another from a north eastern area that was a mix of cotton and kelp fiber in a pink that didn't look like it could possibly come from a natural dye.  I had to force myself to walk away from a skein made of silk and musk ox that I envisioned in a scarf about the Sheriff's neck.  Turning away from that I faced several racks of brightly colored soy yarns and added a skein of true purple to my purchases though I had no idea what I would use it for.  Resolutely I headed to the counter and avoided looking and feeling the yarns made from yak fibers, cashmere, mohair, meriboo, and all of the many others than were begging to be touched and felt.

When we left that shop I admitted that I hadn't gotten everything I had come for but more than sufficient to tide me over through the winter if I was careful and told the other ladies, "Well I'm tapped out and have more than enough to keep me busy for quite some time.  What is left on your lists?"

April stepped into the bookseller to gather some things for the girls and called me in to offer my opinion between two basic homekeeping texts.  It was an easy choice for me as one was written by my own Sister Evelyn and I knew it to be extremely comprehensive and would last them several seasons of lessons.  I mentioned that if she wished she could look over my college volumes to get an idea for a direction to take.  I also mentioned that she might want to schedule observations with the household staff so that they can get an idea of the purpose of the lessons.  "Since they have not been exposed to the idea that they should have housewifery skills - I presume because they are expected to marry such a high status that they do not need them - I would at least give them concrete evidence of how such talents and skills make their daily lives easier so they can be duly appreciative and protective of any staff under their protection."

"That's a fine idea.  Do you think you could haul Liesel around with you?  I really need to give Rosalee some extra attention so she can regain her confidence."

Surprised but willing I said, "If you think it would be helpful.  I move rather quickly from one thing to the next but at least she would get to meet the Hall Staff, something I doubt she has had a chance to do this point."

And with that the last few purchases for the Hall were made and we returned to our conveyances.

-----

"Are you sure Widow?  There's plenty of room in the wagon."

"Your offer is kind Mrs. Talbot but Nanny needs to be ridden or she will grow as round as a barrel.  Plus I need to clear my head a bit.  I won't get out of sight of everyone."

"Oh I don't think you will be riding alone," the woman said.  She actually tittered which warned me who was approaching.

There stood the Sheriff but he did not have his normally mischievous look but rather appeared nearly as serious as he had at our first meeting.


 

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