Not everything that goes wrong is the fault of Maljie. Now I realise some people hold as an article of faith that Maljie is the source of all the troubles that beset us. Yet it has to be accepted that people are entirely capable of going astray without Maljie’s gentle hand on their shoulder, pushing them. I tell this story mainly to prove, at some vague and existential level, Maljie’s comparative innocence. Admittedly some have pointed the finger claiming that her very attitude is infectious and has somehow become inculcated in the mendicants. Let us, for once, be fair here. I would suggest that we all try to encourage the mendicants into attitudes of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Maljie can hardly be expected to take the entire blame when this programme displays signs of abundant success.
The problem arose among the mendicants because of others behaving badly. The Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm has a ‘programme’ of encouraging mendicants to find gainful employment so they can support themselves. Indeed we are willing to work with any who are looking to provide apprenticeships or other forms of training which will set our mendicants off on the path towards self-sufficiency. Because of contacts we have, a lot of our young mendicants have gone into usury. Admittedly more have been taken on as enforcers rather than as clerks, but still, it is a trade and one can rise high within the profession if you have what it takes.
Similarly quite a number of our mendicants go into ‘domestic service.’ We get them scrubbed up and presentable, teach them to read and similar. Then there are a number of respectable households who are happy to give a young person a chance. Once ensconced safely in a career, they can develop their skills and advance.
But, alas, not all potential employers are entirely to be trusted. The problem arose with a woman starting hiring some of our mendicants, at a day rate, to be waiters are events she was putting on in the Grand Sinecurists Dining Room. She provided a uniform and basic training. The job itself was not an issue, the clientele on the other hand, were.
The Sinecurists themselves, many of them skilled political operators, deeply cynical, fearing neither men nor the gods, amoral and out for themselves, were not the problem. The source of concern were the ‘hangers on.’ These lesser lights, peddlers of extreme political philosophies, the followers of lost dreams, purveyors of services which appeal to those driven by political necessity, cluster around the Sinecurists like flies on the corpse of a dead dog.
My suspicion is that the woman doing the hiring, one Methani Treble, was picking staff in an attempt to pander to these hangers on. She insisted on only the prettiest girls and boys. Fortunately our mendicants do look out for each other, and would ensure that none of their comrades was backed into a dark corner, or left alone in a cloakroom. But frankly they grew sick of it. They felt that ‘something had to be done.’ So they did it. They had a quiet word with some of the older mendicants. These pooled their collective wisdom, and picked on the particularly hairy mendicant as the answer to their problems. The plan was simple. He would dress up as one of the maids (as the girls were experiencing the most persistent problems, the prettier boys being not perhaps pretty enough to be an issue) and when somebody made an inappropriate suggestion, or hands wandered where they shouldn’t, he would scream loudly, swing round and give the offender a smack in the face that lifted them off their feet and loosened teeth.
Frankly I have seen worse plans, and feel it would undoubtedly have worked save for a flaw in the execution. The dress. The mendicants quietly borrowed one from stock. It was the spare used by an older, more heavily built lady. She was not fat but any means, but could perhaps be considered ‘stocky’. So with very little effort it could be made to fit our young male mendicant. Indeed there was even room for appropriate padding.
The problem lay in the length. These maid’s outfits were not particularly long. Indeed they just about covered up the wearer’s drawers as they tied at the knee. On our somewhat taller male mendicant they covered very little. Even with perfect posture there was no way to bend respectably.
Fortunately, Laxey noticed the mendicant leaving for work and stepped in rapidly to prevent a riot. He asked, nervously, what was planned. (When you see a young male dressed like that, one does tend to worry) He then pointed out that if he went dressed as he was, firstly he would probably have to fight his way to work, would be refused admission when he got there, and would doubtless have to fight his way home. Thus the plan was jettisoned.
Instead Laxey suggested that the mendicants took council with some who had been mendicants but had moved on in the world. He called in a young lady who, as assistant to a usurer, regularly attended these events with her employer. The mendicants put their problems to her. She promised to be present, take names, and have the matter dealt with.
It worked well. Firstly if one of our youngsters had problems, they could point out the source of the trouble to the young woman. She would then point out the offender to one of the enforcers who would express his disapproval later, outside. Very few who received this sort of warning caused trouble again, even when they were walking unaided.
There was the problem of the ‘ladies’ who were causing problems as well for the youngsters. Here the enforcers were somewhat reticent at administering salutary justice. But the young lady overseeing the process soon came up with a solution that satisfied both the aggrieved youngsters and the enforcer’s sense of being gentlemen and not hitting women. She merely had them throw the offending ‘ladies’ off the wharf, and as they tried to climb up the ladder out of the water she would tread on their hands and point out that next time they would find themselves floating face downwards. Thus was propriety maintained.
Finally, in the interests of decorum I instructed our artist to produce a more general picture to give readers an idea of what the maid’s uniform should look like, as opposed to what it did look like.
There are many tales told about Maljie, some printable. Try the following
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There is indeed a page on this blog given over to Maljie
As a reviewer wrote, “When I pick up a Tallis Steelyard book I know I am going to have the most enjoyable of rides start to finish. There will be social comment and cynicism, there will be intriguing concepts and fascinating settings, there will be battles of wit and cunning plans, but two things above all will stand out – the incredibly interesting characters and the wonderful moments of both subtle and laugh-out-loud humour.
The author has an eye for personality quirks and the humorous possibilities in just about every occasion, and seldom leaves either unexploited to the full.
This book was, however, something I embarked upon with a little more trepidation that usual when approaching a Tallis Steelyard book, because unlike the collections of vividly imagined and portrayed cameos which I have come to know and love, this is an entire novel.
Yes, there are still those wonderful cameos, but there is also a rare opportunity to follow Tallis through an unwitting adventure, all thanks to the indomitable Maljie of course. The way Jim Webster writes, I was sitting in the hot air balloon along with them.
If you enjoy Tallis Steelyard in shorts, you will enjoy as much in long form. If you have yet to make his acquaintance, then dive right in and do so, but hang onto your hat it’ll be a very wild ride!”