Mistress Messia Theldit was always known as ‘the young mistress.’ This is because her mother and grandmother had also been given the name Messia. So to avoid confusion, grandmother is referred to as ‘the Lady Messia.’ Her daughter seems to have won temporary custody of the communal name and she is referred to as Messia. The youngest of the three is habitually known as ‘the young mistress.’
As well as sharing a name, the three generations shared a common quest for excellence. It doesn’t really matter what the three ladies tackled, endeavoured to do it to the best of their ability. This is not entirely an unmixed blessing. When the Lady Messia was much younger, her husband ran into problems due to corrupt business dealings by some of his associates. Lady Messia felt that as a loyal wife she ought to support her husband. Many ladies achieve much by being sympathetic and providing a shoulder to cry on and a keen mind to act as a sounding board for plans for the future.
Lady Messia achieved rather more. She was well liked by those who worked for her, indeed I’d go so far as to say her staff were devoted to her. Thus when she suggested a certain course of action that might be considered unconventional, they supported her wholeheartedly. Hence two of her husband’s corrupt business associates found themselves dangling upside down beneath the Mid-reach pier. Here children driven out of the Warrens as not worth feeding will congregate to live. They’ll stake corpses washed down stream under the pier as fishing bait, and are rumoured to survive by eating all sorts of unsavoury items.
The two fraudulent financiers were faced with a simple decision. They either told Lady Messia (and the assortment of cooks and gardeners who were holding the ropes) where their cash boxes were hidden, or they’d be left there. Both of them paid up. Not only that but the news that crossing Lady Messia was never going to end well soon spread, and before the week was out the others in the cabal had paid up as well.
The next generation, Messia Theldit, never had to go to such extremes. To an extent she didn’t need to. Lady Messia had put down a marker and everybody knew that these were not ladies who were idly pushed around. Messia was a lover of verse and whilst she wrote little, what she did write was inevitably brilliant. There again, I doubt she produced more than twenty lines a year, but polished those lines until they were perfect.
She was also a patron of verse. Here I found her easy to work with, as she accepted that my extemporised verses tossed off on the spur of the moment could not be expected to achieve the quality of her own work. But woe and betide anybody who laboured long over their words and still produced drivel. The look in her eyes as she handed back to the erring poet his newly published collection of allegedly hard won verses could shrivel the soul.
Then we have the young mistress. She is indeed young and has yet to make her full mark on society. As far as I can tell she has two great loves. One is clothing. For one who is little more than a girl she has a fine eye and is, in a small way, a leader in the fashions of her age group. Her other love is hunting, and she sees no reason why a young lady cannot combine to two. Thus she can be seen outside the city wearing outfits not entirely suitable for the activities she is engaged in. But she does seem to carry it off.
Trouble was brewing when old Garl Furtling painted the picture of her you see above. Garl swore to me that she was dressed exactly as he painted her, and that he had seen her fetch the bird down with a single arrow at over fifty yards. Given that the bird was in flight at the time it’s some feat.
But the painting was exhibited and Felton Mortplace, (he calls himself a poet) was at the exhibition. For some reason he decided he would stand in front of it and mock it to all and sundry. He described the head gear the young mistress was wearing as ‘inane’, her gown as ‘badly cut’ and her footwear as impractical and obviously painted on later.
It just so happens that the young mistress was watching this from across the exhibition hall, having dropped in on her way home from another hunting trip. With her first arrow she pinned the sleeve of his coat to the picture frame and with the second arrow she pinned his coat tails to the wall panelling. This last shot was more difficult than you might presume, because she chose to put the arrow between his legs and the arrowhead creased but didn’t actually cut the crotch of his britches.
Indeed it is good to see the younger generation continuing the family tradition of excellence in all they tackle.
Believe it or not, the rumours are true. I have indeed produced another thrilling tale.
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Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.
There is even a review!
Runaway Poet, Flat Boat Sailor, Master Gunner, Flower Arranging Judge, Adventurer and Escort of a beautiful young Lady, are only a few of the skills exhibited by Tallis Steelyard in this extraordinary story.
In my opinion, the world and characters from Jim Webster’s mind would make a wonderful TV series, starting with this one.