Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Sixteen



I stretched and then nearly fell off the sofa seat that I had chosen to sleep on.  I stood up and walked to the nearest window and looked out to see that the sky was just beginning to turn pink, my preferred hour at this time of year to wake up and start the day.  And I certainly had a long day ahead of me.

It had taken a hacksaw to get the rusted padlock off the door and by that time it was too dark to do much more than make sure there were no monsters hiding in any closets or under any beds.  I sent off the young men sent by someone called Mr. Clark and turned to look at my temporary living quarters.

First was to decide which bedroom would be mine but since I was sure I didn't want to use any of the rooms until they have been thoroughly cleaned I decided to sleep on the sofa since there was no staff to see and get affronted by it.

I dressed quickly then had a light breakfast of some of the traveling food I had fixed for my journey.  It left no mess to clean up but a bit of wrapping paper and that I twisted and placed in the tinder basket near the kitchen fireplace.  I carried my apron over my arm and then headed out to try and catch some of the staff at their breakfast in the staff dining hall.

The Talbot boys saw me coming and one held the door for me while the other bolted down a hall.  I heard benches and chairs being moved and when I entered I caught the different expressions on various faces.  The ones that knew me were unsurprised and even welcoming.  The ones that didn't ranged from worry to disdain.

"Goodness, please I did not mean to interrupt."

All but a few began to sit down.  Some remained standing stiffly.

"Is there something you wish to say?" I asked them.

A prune faced woman said, "Your are the Widow?"

I inclined my head.

"You do not belong here."

"Well, you are certainly free to have your own opinion about that."

My answer flummoxed her.  "But you are the Widow Linder."

"I had thought that was already an established fact."

"You ..."

I gave a slight smile but inside I wanted to stamp my foot.  "I had hope to give you a few days but I suppose, to forestall any issues or create problems for Mrs. Linder perhaps it is best that I make things clear up front."

I looked around and tried to hold onto my pleasant expression.  "The household has been through a trying time.  I have been told that there have been ... let us call it a bit of confusion during a stressful transition.  But the time is over for that to any longer be an excuse.  I am here to make sure that the transition continues in a much calmer and constructive fashion so that The Guardian and the other Linders can see to their responsibilities without the interference of ... delays."  I looked at the boards that lined one side of the dining room and saw with surprise they were blank.  "Where are the schedules?"

The prune-faced woman said, "In my office."

"They do not belong in your office.  They belong written upon the boards here so that all might see them."

"That is not the way we do it."

I did not like her tone.  "I suggest you rethink your answer Mizz ... ?

When she did not give me her name Jode Talbot whispered, "That's Mizz Kinsey.  She was the housekeeper at old Guardian's holdings."

I knew I would have to tread lightly.  "You were aware that Linderhall already has a housekeeper?"

Her nostrils flared and she said, "I was to have the care of the Guardian's private quarters."

"And do you now?"

She swallowed and then complained, "Final arrangements have been impossible to make with everything at sixes and sevens."

"Well I am here now and the sixes and sevens will cease.  Fetch me the schedules.  Now.  The Guardian was quite explicit last night as to his wishes and his wishes were that Linderhall return to its former efficiency.  And that is exactly what will occur."  When she still stood there I said, "Starting with the schedules being posted for all to see.  Transparency Mizz Kinsey.  It prevents abuse of status, inadvertent and otherwise."  Turning to the rest of the staff I said, "This is merely a reminder to some but status grants responsibilities, not rights.  The greater your status the greater your responsibilities ... and in particular the responsibility of preventing abuse.  The Guardianship of Tentuckia has always stood on the principle that all, regardless of status, are treated justly and are free of abuse.  The Sheriff has assured me that regardless of where someone stands in the line of status, they will be treated equally under the law.  The Chancellor said much the same to me last night.  And the Guardian sealed it even further by stating that they are starting the way he means for the family to go, by making sure that there are no injustices in the incomes or taxes."

I sighed.

"But The Guardian and those under his authority cannot accomplish these tasks among the people of the region if their own home does not reflect those values."

Mrs. Kinsey interrupted my speech.  "I am sure Mrs. Linder will have something to say of this."

"Indeed.  She already has," I replied.  "She gave me leave last night to set this part of the household in order so that she might focus her energies on the neighboring families and on the pending arrival of the heir.  It behooves us all not to cause her any more stress than she is already under because the wife of the Guardian or not, she is still a pregnant woman.  Her health will not be jeopardized under my watch.  Do I make myself clear to everyone present?"

There was a lot of nodding all around.  Everyone knew the dangers of childbirth.  I continued, "I am well aware that everyone here has been under considerable strain and many are still recovering from the deadly illness that struck Linderhall.  It is my intent to make this better for everyone ... but if I find someone is intentionally causing problems I will not hesitate to take action.  I will not abuse my status but I won't be rolled like a sausage either.  It is time for all of us to get to work, with a common goal.  I do not wish to see the Great Council stick their nose in here."

"They'd never," said a man who reminded me of a frog.

"Oh yes they would.  And the Mayor's Council could cause problems as well.  If you thought living at Linderhall and being the Guardian was like being some great king of old you are badly mistaken.  The Guardianship is a position of servitude to the people, not one of the people serving the Guardian.  And as you have given your word to work for the Guardian by being here at Linderhall you too now serve the people of Tentuckia by making the Guardian's job easier, not more difficult."

I turned to Mr. Holman and said, "I am aware that the health of so many has precluded a normal schedule but if you and the other upper staff could put together a list of the most pressing matters that need attending I will try and provide a schedule since Mrs. Kinsey has failed to do so."

"I have not failed," that lady intoned like an outraged goose.

"Oh yes, you have.  I gave you multiple opportunities to fetch the schedules you said were in your office.  You failed to do so.  That only leaves me with the understanding that the reason you did not fetch them is because they do not exist.  If you think to stave me off and twit the Guardian's wife about my orders you can save the effect.  She will be unavailable to you for the duration.  I will have a word with Dr. Cummins to make sure of this and if you persist I will take it to the Guardian directly even if it means bypassing the Chancellor to do it."

She paled but remained sitting which only reinforced in my mind that her so-called schedules were non-existent, made up as she went along, or reflected so much favoritism that even I would be able to tell.

I sighed in real disappointment.  I had not wanted it to devolve into me pulling so much status on my first day back at the Hall.  It was depressing.  Speaking to Mr. Holman again I asked, "Has Mizz Marta had her breakfast yet?"

"Mrs. Cooksey should be making it up right now."

"Thank you."

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