The foolishness of love.
Have you noticed how there are some men who seem to be fated to be a sad disappointment to their wives yet if they behaved as their wife seems to demand, then they’d end up divorced in short order?
It was the intriguing story of Caster Jessip which reminded me of this truth. Caster was a peddler. He dealt in frills and furbelows, gimcrack jewellery and the off-cuts of machine-made lace which he passed off as perfect for edging and finishing.
He’d started life as the youngest son of peasant farmer on a small farm south of Port Naain. He had soon realised that all life held in store for him was backbreaking toil and no reward. So he’d borrowed some money from the pocket of a drunk in the Hellion’s Arms and had used that as his original business capital. It must be said that due to the guilt he felt over this action, he’d bought that habitually intoxicated gentlemen far more drinks over the years than the original loan really warranted.
Still he was quite a good peddler. Now most peddlers sell a wide variety of goods, most of them very worthy. Both the lady and gentleman of the house can easily justify the purchase of pins, needles, salt and an ever dependable bottle of Tody Whissup’s patent laxative. Caster on the other hand sold nothing a lady could justify buying. So he approached his customers in an entirely different manner to the average workaday salesman. Caster flirted unmercifully with them. He winked, he made suggestive comments, he flattered and cajoled. It shouldn’t have worked; he should have had his ears boxed. But somehow, for reasons nobody has ever put a finger on, it worked well. Perhaps he never actually said anything to offend? Perhaps it was because he was not too proud to change a dirty nappy, help with the washing up, or even clean windows, provided the target of his sales technique remained within earshot. He was selling ‘the dream.’ He would do this whether the lady was alone or whether her husband was present. Indeed husbands tended to find the whole process immensely entertaining, and the guffaws of a husband normally doubled Caster’s takings.
That is how Caster met his own wife, Hillit. She was swept off her feet by his talk and gave as good as she got. The realisation crept over Caster that he was entering dangerous and uncharted territories, but he pressed on, and eventually they were married.
Now their marriage wasn’t a bad one. They had two bonny children and were doing well enough. Yet Hillit always felt a sense of vague dissatisfaction. The exciting rogue she had married turned out to be a decent man and a good husband. She realised that this wasn’t really cause for complaint. (Many a woman has discovered the exact opposite, and they are the ones to be pitied.)
When Caster arrived home he wanted no more than to enjoy his lady wife’s cooking, play with his children, and tell them stories when they went to bed. Indeed it might well be that Hillit could, in truth, describe him as boring.
I confess that this is something I too am familiar with. I will spend an evening being fascinating, witty, and sweeping people off their feet with roguish charm. When I get home I just want to sit in silence staring into my coffee mug. Shena has commented on it. Still as she also said, there is only so much roguish charm a girl can take and in all candour, the silent Steelyard is not without his place in her life.
For Caster things would doubtless have continued well enough, until his wife’s mother moved in with them. Caster had never really known her; almost by definition, when he was courting Hillit his efforts had been put into separating the object of his affections from her mother.
Unfortunately it meant that the old lady didn’t really know Caster. So she seemed to assume that his rapscallion persona was the real Caster. She would regularly abuse him as an adulterer, a breaker up of happy families and a seducer of innocent maidens. Not only was Caster innocent of the charges, he frankly would have been at a loss to achieve any of them.
Still the accusations of the old termagant and her constant berating him made home life uncomfortable for him.
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