There is much to be said for a good education and it must be admitted that Maljie’s mother had the best of intentions. Indeed it appears that this esteemed lady had the best of intentions in many fields but lacked the essential stamina necessary to bring things to fruition. The fact that she carried Maljie for the full nine months, and didn’t find a way to foist that particular task off onto some other unfortunate was a source of unceasing wonder to her friends.
She was the same with matrimony. Apparently, (and here I am reliant upon the memories of others as I never knew the lady in question) she could always be relied upon to know the name of her current husband, but was always somewhat vague as to the names and number of previous occupants of the post. But still, she doubtless meant well.
She arranged for Maljie to attend a good school. It wasn’t cheap, being a school for young ladies. Indeed it offered a very wide curriculum. Basically the course was designed for the daughters of landed gentlemen. When contemplating their daughter’s education these august individuals had specific aims in mind. They expected their daughter to be able to handle the estate accounts and to know enough about husbandry to be able to keep an eye on the estate bailiff. At the same time it seemed entirely reasonable to them that their daughter could make pleasant small talk. Their girl must also be able to rally the garrison of an isolated keep they happened to be staying at, and if necessary lead it to a victorious counterattack. Do not think these fathers uncultured, they hoped their daughters could write well and should also be able to play at least one musical instrument. Finally it was considered useful if the girl could dance. Whilst these may seem like an exhausting selection of skills to demand from anybody, you must remember that these men effectively looked for the same skills in their daughter that they found in their wife.
Fortunately for those who ran this sort of school, successful racketeers and warlords of dubious provenance also looked for similar skills in their offspring. Thus there were both lots of potential pupils and a considerable number of establishments were set up to educate them. Hence Maljie was sent to Madam Frothwhissal’s Academy for Young Ladies. She prospered there. When it came to music, her instrument of choice was the Aeolian Chimes. A somewhat eccentric selection but to be fair, in her later middle age I several times got her commissions tuning chimes for my patrons. I feel she welcomed the work; that and the chance to watch burly young men, stripped to the waist, hauling heavy steel pipes about the gardens on a hot summer’s day.
Similarly she was taught to dance. Again the style was more directed towards performance than it was to social dancing, but still, when your daughter can lay out somebody who has been bothering her with a well-placed kick under the chin that lifts the ne’er-do-well off his feet, what caring father is going to complain?
Mind you it was in finance and accountancy that she really shone. She had mastered the intricacies of double entry bookkeeping, contras and nominal ledger accounts by the time she was eleven. By the time she was thirteen she could show, conclusively, that the old equation of assets = equity + liabilities was, like every equation, capable of producing whatever answer you wanted. One merely had to know how to ensure the correct figures went into the equation to guarantee that the answer you sought came out of it.
Maljie was doubtless destined for success, but suddenly the family finances took a turn for the worst. Her mother’s third (or perhaps fourth?) husband left, taking with him the money. Maljie was forced to finish her education in the lowest sort of Dame school. In all candour she was probably better qualified to teach there than the collection of elderly ladies who divided the teaching tasks between them.
Not only that but Maljie had been taught to speak properly, enunciated her words beautifully, and walked with unconscious elegance. The slouching, grunting, apprentice delinquents who now made up her new circle of acquaintance did none of these. It was inevitable that she would be bullied, and indeed the attempt was made. Unfortunately for the school bully, whilst she was aware of Maljie’s ability to kick, she had totally overlooked the fact that manoeuvring wind-chimes develops upper body strength. Thus she was taken entirely by surprise when Maljie’s straight right struck her solidly in the face. With a muttered apology, Maljie stepped over her attacker’s prone body and made her way to the next lesson.
This was an epiphany for the other pupils. They recognised that Maljie’s ability to hand out sudden violence combined with an uncanny ability to juggle numbers put her very much in the ‘master criminal’ category. Here, to be fair, they had exaggerated her talents. The true master criminal would tend to disassociate themselves from the personal application of violence. This sort of thing can safely be left to accomplished minions. Maljie in reality never aspired to that level, offering a more bespoke or artisanal service, personally tailoring physical retribution to the needs of the situation. Still her reputation meant that she was rarely bothered.
At the same time the teachers at the school were in the habit of summoning Maljie when a prospective parent visited and wished to view some pupils. How many parents fell for this, and how many were merely intimidated into handing over the money by Maljie’s air of inherent superiority, is difficult to say. Still, in her final year Maljie, discovering that her teachers were as poorly grounded in accountancy as they were in literacy and numeracy, took over doing the school accounts. Thanks to her ability and business acumen the school started to show a constant, if modest profit. It is difficult to tell how much of this was due to parents remembering to pay their fees when Maljie asked them, and how much was due to her collecting fees in advance for prospective pupils who were not yet old enough to attend. As Maljie would say, ‘it is important to reserve a place for your child.’ Indeed in some cases she convinced parents to pay to reserve places for children unborn, or in several instances, not yet conceived.
But still, one legacy of her school days has not left her. More than once I’ve seen some fledgling thug out and about doing the sort of things that young rapscallions do. Yet should they start to hassle Maljie, their actions normally bring them a sharp clip round the back of the head from their wife, (to be honest, now it’s usually their mother or grandmother) with the words, “You watch yer manners, that’s our Maljie. Went to school wi her, I did.”
Should you wish to know more of the world of Tallis Steelyard, you are cordially invited to purchase
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Not only have we got Gentlemen behaving badly, we see Port Naain by starlight and meet ladies of wit and discernment. There are Philosophical societies, amateur dramatics, the modern woman, revenge, and the advantages of a good education. All human life is here, or at least such of it as Tallis will admit to.