Walk don’t jig


Whenever I have time I like to loiter in one of the city’s markets and just watch the people going about their business. Let us just look at the scene here at the Ropewalk Market.

The first person you notice is Squeezebox Lil. Whilst she might appear unprepossessing, you can hear her across the hubbub of the market. She sits there with her squeezebox apparently playing to herself. Sometimes people will drop coins into her lap.

As a young woman Squeezebox Lil followed her husband (or at least the man she was living with) down into Partann when he went for a soldier.

Ten years and three children later her husband died but Lil stayed on with the soldiers as a nurse, the men of the condotta paying for her out of company funds. Finally when the condotta was dissolved she made her own way back to Port Naain.

Here she still works as a nurse; anybody needing her can find her in the Ropewalk Market. I know some of people she has nursed and they recommend her for dealing with fevers and also cuts and similar wounds. I had rather assumed that like many older women she’d be regularly called upon by women going into labour. Apparently this isn’t so. Purely out of curiosity I asked why not. It seems that, and here I put it tactfully, Lil is not perhaps the most tolerant of people. Her attitude seems to be that whilst somebody who has been stabbed or has caught fever is, to some extent, the victim of circumstances; the mother-to-be has in some way contributed to her condition. I was once warned never to use the term, ‘fallen pregnant’ in her hearing as it provokes her to loud and obscene sarcasm.

Still there are many in the criminal fraternity who have reason to be grateful for her skill with the needle, sewing up their various cuts and gashes.

Then next to her, talking to the young woman, you see him? The one with the shiny hat and the cane? That gentleman is Bathose Zare. A well regarded family are the Zare, with a cadet branch in Partann. The Port Naain branch are lawyers, their southern cousins tend towards piracy and smuggling to earn a living. Bathose is regularly retained to provide legal services to his more piratically inclined kinsfolk. The cane is reckoned by those who know to be a sword stick. To be honest his star is not in the ascendant at the moment. He had taken over the debt collection side of the family business and almost immediately ran into trouble with the courts. One judge commented that whilst he realised that bailiffs had to be firm, he felt that selling a costermonger into a lifetime’s indentured servitude in Uttermost Partann for failing to pay a ten vintenar bar bill was somewhat excessive. Justice Gimmore is not perhaps the most liberal of the judiciary but he insisted that Bathose purchased back the indenture out of his own pocket, and restored the costermonger to the bosom of his family. Apparently the Zare are the only family to have four of their members formally accused by the judiciary of bringing the legal profession into disrepute. At the Port Naain bar this is regarded to be a considerable achievement.

The lady is his distant cousin, Molini Zare-Ductis. She is in her own way a literary figure. She used to write an advice column in a Prae Ducis newssheet, under the pen name of ‘A lady’.  When the newssheet ceased publication she returned home and threw herself into the family business of reaving and brigandage. Her abilities in this area are highly commended by those who are expert in the business. Her reputation is such that her representatives can now levy blackmail over much of the area where Partann becomes Uttermost Partann. I believe she still submits articles to the Port Naain Literary Review, she’s considered something of an authority on early Naainese lyric poetry.

Then there’s the chap with the cap and monkey jacket. He’s normally just known as Caddo, and after the way of things he’s a seaman. He’s one of the crew of the Roskadil ferry. It’s perhaps not the most exciting of voyages, but perhaps exciting enough for a man who is notoriously prone to seasickness. Some years ago he did join the crew of a boat bound for Prae Ducis. He was so ill the Captain put him off at Rattlestone. It should have taken him two days to walk back but actually it took six months. To be fair it was not entirely his fault. He made the mistake of asking at one house for a cup of water. The lady of the house, a widow Garrant, had had her purse snatched when she was on the ferry and always blamed the boat’s owners for her loss. So she kidnapped Caddo and held him to ransom, demanding the ferry owners recompense her. Due to the slow pace of negotiations, the somewhat extortionate demands the widow Garrant made, and the total refusal by the owners to enter into negotiations, it appeared that Caddo might remain incarcerated forever. Finally Caddo’s wife took matters into her own hands and wrote to the widow demanding that Caddo be returned within fourteen days, failing which the wife would wash her hands of him, and the widow would be considered Caddo’s spouse. At this last threat the widow capitulated and Caddo returned at last to Port Naain.

Still he’s popular with the children, mainly because of his knack at making toy boats.

And the lady with the young boy who might well be cajoled into buying a boat? She is Alesia, instructor in etiquette and licensed tooth-puller. Given that she has a still for medicinal purposes, (She gives clients a large glass of pure alcohol prior to extraction) I have no doubt that the funds are available to allow her son to have his boat.



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