The sedan chair bearer’s story

The sedan chair bearer’s story

It has to be confessed that Majie was a sensible patient. She took seriously the advice given to her by those charged with her care, only ignoring it when it suited her purposes. Still she made good progress and soon reached the stage where her left arm was no longer strapped across her chest. Instead it was supported by her left side and she was encouraged to exercise it, gently.

The sling had a metal support, and this support was extended so that there was a piece she could grip with her left hand. Unfortunately whoever had made it had not made a good job of it and it was soon causing problems. She had a word with a local tradesman and he soon appeared with a carefully carved wooden body for the sling. This had a recess in which her arm, carefully padded, could rest. Instead of the rather strange knobbly bit she was supposed to grasp there was a beautifully worked wooden hilt cross-gartered with leather strapping to ensure she could grip it comfortably.

Indeed he had produced, in wood, something that was virtually a lady’s handbag. It had a number of little drawers in which Maljie could store essentials. Thus three little drawers each contained a set of dice, all weighted differently for different occasions. Similarly another drawer held a pack of cards. This pack was still wrapped in the original paper with the manufacturer’s seal extant to prove the pack had not been tampered with. (Personally I have some doubts as to the validity of most of these seals. I know at least two people who make a reasonable living producing them. Given the manufacturers’ propensity for frequently introducing new seals to try and keep one step ahead of the card-sharps, this guarantees that the forger’s market never shrinks.)

But the piece d ’resistance of the whole ensemble was the swordstick. If you grasped the hilt and tugged, the blade slid smoothly out of the sling. Now to be fair, the term ‘swordstick’ was something of a misnomer. It’s just that the term ‘poniard-stick’ is rarely heard nowadays. When I pointed out to Maljie that she was left handed and would thus have to wield the poniard in her right hand, she admitted the problem. Still she was philosophical about it, pointing out that because of the long term effect of the injuries, she would have to learn to become more ambidextrous. She regarded it as a learning opportunity.

People were very aware that at some point in the future Maljie would lose the sling and then would begin a long period of exercises. These had been laid down for her by Hunkan Groten, bone setter and judicial torturer. This period was already being referred to as ‘the time of pain.’ Maljie had kept detailed notes of every insult, every poor taste joke or teasing comment and intended that the equipoise be restored. Laxey was already referring fondly to the little shrine in the Warrens with its congregation of crazed anthropophagi. Now with the benefit of foresight they appear to have become a simple folk who thirsted for the pure spiritual teachings of Aea. He was apparently trying to get a transfer there.

Still now that she was more mobile Maljie’s social life resumed. She had been invited to a fancy dress ball and had decided to attend dressed as one of the natives of the legendary Ten Thousand Islands. This meant that she had her entire body intricately painted to represent the tattoos. She then wore merely enough clothing to ensure some element of decency and structural support. The ensemble was topped off by wearing her hair up with bones thrust through it instead of the more normal pins. She then summoned a sedan chair.
Now Maljie has always had a good relationship with sedan chair bearers. Whilst she doesn’t tip especially generously, every chair-man knows that when he walks into a bar at the end of his working day, he merely need comment in a loud voice, “We’ve just had Maljie in the chair,” to ensure that suddenly everybody is offering to buy him a drink just to hear the full story.

This journey was more sedate than most. It went very quietly until they came upon somebody trying to turn a coach and four in a quiet residential street. There was no point in trying to get past. The crowd which had gathered to listen to the cursing of the coachman was blocking the road. Maljie sat calmly in her chair waiting, and then noticed a two-seater chair pull up next to her. She glanced across at the chair and witnessed the expression of shock on the face of the lady in the chair as she beheld Maljie in all her finery. Obviously she said something because then the other lady in the chair twitched back the curtain and peered out. Maljie contorted her face into an obscene grimace, swiftly drew her ‘poniard-stick’ and made a lewd gesture with it. Almost immediately the other chair veered off and disappeared down a side street.

Outside the coach and four were struggling. After a discussion with her bearers, Maljie agreed that the cursing had become repetitive and it was decided they would leave the road and instead take a route which would take them around the edge of the Sump.

Sedan chairs are rarely sighted in the Sump, the streets are little more than winding alleys, the inhabitants larcenous, and the conditions underfoot unsavoury. Thus her chair-bearers were picking their way with some caution. Half way down one particularly winding alley there was a shout from behind and a young man sitting astride an ordinary sedan chair, modified to take four bearers, overtook them at speed. He made a dismissive gesture as he passed and then cracked his whip to encourage his bearers to greater efforts.

Five minutes later they caught up with him. Obviously the bearers had slipped trying to take a corner too fast, this had brought the chair down in a heap. One of the bearers was nursing his ankle, the other three were closing in upon the young man, wielding lengths of broken carrying pole with grim determination.

As Maljie’s chair slowed, he shouted, “I say, have you any room?”

Maljie smiled sweetly, “Plenty.” She then said to her bearers, “Come on gentlemen, we haven’t got all day.” With that her bearers grinned and broke into a jog. The various shouts and cries were soon left behind.

Finally Maljie arrived at the ball. I knew of her arrival because I was loitering in the kitchen, awaiting the call to perform. Hence I heard the story of the journey first hand from her bearers.

It has to be said, Maljie’s outfit elicited a lot of comments, many of them favourable. Later in the evening, fortified by good fellowship and an adequacy of plum brandy, she introduced the guests to a new dance. It was danced to the tune of a song which had been briefly popular at one time, (when it was sung in an obscure forgotten language thus ensuring nobody realised how banal the words were) about the antics of farmyard fowl. The dance was based on the exercises Maljie was instructed to do and consisted of waddling round in a circle, with hands clasped together on your chest, flapping your elbows like chicken wings.

To be fair, that have been more ridiculous dances, but I do feel that asking people to sing cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep as they danced did little for dignity or elegance. Indeed I felt that more thought could have been given to alliteration, cadence and perhaps even an element of rhyme.
Because, by the nature of things, the dance tends to be somewhat solitary, the hostess announced that there would be a prize for the person who danced it best. Much to everybody’s surprise this was won by an elder hierophant who astounded the assembled company by his uninhibited vigour. Indeed as the prize was presented I heard one of his juniors mutter to a companion, “Aea has lost the services of the finest chicken impersonator in Port Naain with his retirement.” His companion muttered back, “A sad loss, we’ve theologians aplenty, but good chicken impersonators are hard to find within the ranks of the priesthood.”


If you wish to learn more of Maljie, you are warmly recommended to purchase the following volume, available in paperback or ebook

As a reviewer commented, “Maljie is indeed a Lady Par Excellence. From mountain climber to pirate, currency inventor to financial genius, balloonist to Temple Warden, and more – much, much, more…
The female reader will want her as a best friend, the male reader would be wise to exercise extreme caution if he knows another lady like her.”

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