Mistress Laviscia wasn’t one of my more regular patrons. It wasn’t that we couldn’t work together; it’s just that I’m not the sort of person you’d automatically call upon for arranging the sort of event she preferred.
She tended to do a lot of ‘ladies-only’ poetry readings. Now to be fair a lot of the poetry readings I do are effectively ladies only. Apart from my good self, the butler and perhaps a couple of sturdy footmen to help rearrange the furniture, there will be no other men present.
Mistress Laviscia’s affairs differed somewhat from the norm. Because I wasn’t present at them I cannot report what I saw and I’m not going to sink to the level of reporting gossip. No matter how salacious and entertaining.
Mistress Laviscia lived with her younger sister, Modesty. Modesty was almost entirely dominated by her older sibling and enjoyed little freedom of action or thought.
Still Mistress Laviscia had her admirers, and frankly she treated them all pretty badly. She ensured she never had fewer than three, and all would be encouraged down the same path so that they eschewed all others and clung solely to her. Yet once she had them in this situation she kept them at arm’s length, disdaining intimacy.
Indeed I did wonder if her sole pleasure from these affairs was how much enjoyment she was denying others. Still it is not my place to judge.
One of her gentleman admirers, (the term lover is hardly appropriate) was Chrisdan Churl, a nautical gentleman. He was utterly smitten with her and she led him a merry dance. Then finally he stormed out and went back to sea. This sort of thing happened on an almost regular basis so the gossips of the city barely commented on it; until the kitten arrived. Chrisdan Churl had apparently travelled to exceedingly distant parts. On his return he had a carrier deliver to Mistress Laviscia the kitten in a rather charming basket. He then returned to sea.
Mistress Laviscia was entranced by the kitten. Not only was it a delight in and of itself, but its very presence in her household showed that Chrisdan Churl was still hers to toy with. He had obviously not escaped from her influence.
The kitten had the run of the house, enchanted the guests at her ladies-only affairs and was generally considered ‘a little darling.’
Yet the kitten grew, as these things do. As it grew, so did its appetite. Finally the creature was eating a full orid a day.
Now whilst Mistress Laviscia was adequately supplied with funds, her new pet’s refusal to eat anything but fresh meat did begin to eat into the sum of money she allowed her housekeeper for spending on the domestic necessities. Then there were the unexplained disappearances, a child here, a homeless vagrant there. People began to talk.
Finally Mistress Laviscia allowed herself to be swept off her feet by Pire Doorback. A Partannese noble of impeccable family and long lineage (by which we mean his family tree contained only occasionally cousin marriages, and the identity of his father and both grandfathers were known,) he pleaded with her to come south with him.
She agreed, they were married and she, plus her ‘kitten’ headed south. She made over her household with its paraphernalia and appurtenances to Modesty, leaving her with countless wise sayings to guide her and a considerable amount of sisterly good advice to ensure she continued not to enjoy herself.
Dwelling in Partann, Mistress Laviscia found that there were untold advantages. She could maintain tighter household discipline. So, for example, the maidens who attended her ladies-only events really were maidens. Added to this, her husband’s role within the judicial system ensured that her pet was considerably cheaper to feed than it had been in Port Naain.
Not long after she had moved south, Captain Chrisdan Churl returned to Port Naain. In a matter of days he had wooed and then married, Mistress Modesty. They lived happily together and had a number of delightful children. I would like it put on the record that Captain Churl never once brought back a pet for his family. A kinder nor more considerate husband and father probably never drew breath.
As an aside, I do remember sitting with the Captain at the end of a long evening. He raised his final glass and asked me to join him in a toast, ‘to the kitten’, who had served him so well.
Should anybody wish to read the story where Tallis first came to the attention of a jaded world in desperate search of the novel and sensational it is available for the not unreasonable sum of 99p