Scotties Toy Box

May 20, 2017

Charming and elegant

Filed under: Art, People I like, Stories, Things I like — Scottie @ 13:58

Charming and elegant

Being a working poet can take you into strange places. I’ve given poetry readings in some of the roughest bars in Port Naain as their proprietors sought respectability, increased trade, or merely a drop in the number of apparently aimless, drink fuelled, killings.

Yet I’ve also performed in some of the finest houses in the city and so can count as friends both the most cultured ladies and the thugs with the most battered faces. As you can imagine, whilst I might have my own opinions, it is not my role to act as judge. I have found both kindness and treachery in both high and low places.

Hence over the years the people I tend to treasure are those who have proved themselves to be genuinely decent human beings. By this I don’t just mean that they are kind to their poet, (which is indeed a trait to be encouraged). It’s when you go into a big house and notice that the servants are happy, that the younger maids are not trying to be invisible, and elderly staff who have been with the family a long time are still living in.

Similarly you’ll meet the scarred ruffian who the street children adore, and who cannot walk down a street without the older inhabitants stopping him for a chat.

These are people to be cherished when you find them. They are less common that you’d hope but there are more of them out there than cynicism would suggest. I’d mention the case of Mistress Darnel to illustrate what I mean.

Mistress was an elegant lady, tall with that sort of figure that is so often described as ‘boyish’. I don’t remember when she arrived at Port Naain.

Apparently she was born here, moved out to her family estates to nurse an elderly relative, and after their death moved back to the city. Given the length of time she was away she had to re-establish her circle of acquaintance.

She wasn’t a formal patron of mine, although I was asked to perform at her residence. It was one of the happy households; you could tell that the staff had a genuine affection for their mistress.

After performing there a couple of times I realised that it wasn’t merely the staff who were fond of her. She had a small circle of close friends including a couple of gentlemen admirers whom remained on good terms with her even after they married somebody else. But what really struck me was that there were also a changing group of young men and women who were part of her circle for a while. Falas Buttot the painter was virtually one of her household and one evening over a glass or two, the topic of Mistress Darnel came up in conversation. According to Falas, for a lot of young people, she was the adult they went to for advice over problems they didn’t feel they could burden their parents with.

Indeed occasionally I was drawn into the nets she wove. On several occasions I was asked to privately critique poetry. More than one young poet owes their career to her support and my occasional appraisals. More importantly, thanks to the tact of Mistress Darnel and my heroic efforts, poetry has been spared the attentions of any number of cloth-eared individuals who had no grasp of rhyme, rhythm, or even what certain of the words they were using meant.

I well remember when Mistress Darnel had her accident. It was one of those stupid things, she was walking down Lame Pauper’s Ginnel and further up the Ginnel some fool knocked over a pile of barrels. One of them, bounding down the steep hill, struck Mistress Darnel with some force. Her companion, a Mistress Virisia was luckily unhurt. She saw her friend’s broken body sprawled across the cobbles and immediately got help. Mistress Darnel was carried home on a door and doctors were summoned. Obviously nothing could be done that might delay medical examination; her clothes were removed with a knife.

Now as fate would have it, whilst this was happening I was at the house of my grandest patron, Mistress Bellin Hanchkillian. A fine lady of the old school, a pillar of Port Naain, indeed her family owned a fair chunk of it.

I was half way through my delivery when a middle aged lady carrying more weight than she should burst in and nearly collapsed at my feet. This is unusual enough to put me off my delivery.

The woman looked up at my patron and announced, “Mistress Darnel has had an accident and is now a man.”

My first thought was that it was one hell of an accident! I think others had the same thought. Finally after she got her breath back our informant elucidated.

“Mistress Darnel was stuck by a barrel. When the doctors stripped her to see what her injuries were they discovered she was a man who had been passing herself off as a woman.”

Mistress Hanchkillian could see the heads put together as people started to talk about this. She slowly stood up and immediately everybody fell silent.

Nobody wanted to miss her words of judgement.

“Pah, there are too many in this city attempting to pass themselves off as decent human beings.” Then she turned to me. “Master Steelyard, pray have my Sedan chair brought to the front door. I wish to call upon Mistress Darnel.”

I left at speed and by the time Mistress had arrived at her door, the Sedan chair and bearers were waiting. Two other ladies of some note were intent on accompanying her so there was a further wait as their chairs were called.

Finally with the three chairs ready Mistress Bellin leaned out of her window. “Pray accompany us Master Steelyard; one never knows when one might need a poet.”

It took perhaps half an hour for us to cover the distance to Mistress Darnel’s house. When we arrived, it was the housekeeper herself who admitted us. She looked suspiciously red-eyed and through a half closed door I caught a glimpse of a maid who was still weeping. We were shown into a bedroom where the victim lay propped up on pillows. She had recovered consciousness but looked distinctly pale and I suspected that she was in a lot of pain.

Mistress Virisia was still with her. She stood at the head of the bed next to her friend, as tense as if she were preparing to defend her.

Mistress Bellin never hesitated. She walked over to the bed, leaned down and kissed Mistress Darnel on the cheek.

“My dear girl, you really ought to take better care of yourself. How are you?”

The other two ladies also stepped forward and added their own gentle queries.

I saw Virisia relax, and she and I got chairs to allow the other three guests to sit around the bed. After half an hour they left, fearing to overtax the patient. As she stood up Mistress Bellin promised to visit again and insisted that when she was strong enough Mistress Darnel would dine with her. As I handed her into her Sedan chair, Mistress Bellin give me a brief smile.

“Thank you Tallis. I have no doubt that you have other things to do.”

Indeed I did, sometimes a poet is merely a witness, but a witness must testify.

 

 

It may be that you might not realise that Tallis Steelyard has just produced his second book of stories and anecdotes. This is book, ‘Tallis Steelyard, a harsh winter, and other stories,’ is available from the first of June.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071LH1THB

 

 

Were Tallis less busy he’d doubtless remember to thank me, Jim Webster, for the efforts I make on his behalf. But you know what it is with someone like Tallis who is constantly in demand. So I just get on with writing his stuff down for him and from time to time making collections of his wit, wisdom and jumbled musings available for a grateful public.

 

Tallis does have a blog, it is apparently de rigueur now for all writers. It is available at

 

https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/

 

Riding in on his coattails I’ll merely mention that my own books can be seen at Jim Webster’s Amazon page https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/

5 Comments »

  1. A delightful share, Scottie.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by robbiesinspiration — May 24, 2017 @ 00:41

  2. Reblogged this on Tallis Steelyard and commented:
    It’s an interesting world

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by jwebster2 — June 1, 2017 @ 02:00

    • Thank you for the reblog. It really is a wonderful world to visit and get lost in. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Scottie — June 1, 2017 @ 11:34

      • Glad you liked it Scottie. I’ve had a lot of fun in Port Naain and the rest of the Land of the Three seas 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by jwebster2 — June 1, 2017 @ 11:40


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