It has to be said that as a gentleman who works with many ladies of mature
years, I have discovered more than I really want to know about the
relationship a woman has with her mother. Some of these relationships are
good. As daughter grows older she comes to recognise the mother for the wise
lady she is, and as the mother grows older she recognises the sensible woman
her daughter has become.
Some are not so good, but few have been as troublesome as the relationship
Madam Rosamie had with her mother, known universally as the Dowager. For
some reason it appears that the Dowager held her daughter in supreme
contempt and made no secret of the fact. What made things difficult for
Madam Rosamie was that the Dowager was always so nice to everybody else.
Now I’m not sure at what age a girl will start buying her own underclothes.
Such matters are not ones that I’ve ever thought to ask about. But even into
her fifties Madam Rosamie would receive from her mother a large parcel of
nether garments. These were always for a lady two or three sizes larger,
made of a cheap scratchy material, and were in the sort of colours one would
only wear under three layers of black. Rosamie was left in a quandary, she
was not somebody who would wish to casually ‘throw something out’, but these
were garments she wouldn’t have inflicted upon a scullery maid. (Even if she
had one of the appropriate size.) The drawers she finally sent to a local
stable where they used them as hay nets for their horses. The brassieres she
gave to a local greengrocer who used them when he wished to put on a novelty
display of melons.
Now Madam Rosamie was a respectable widow with children of her own who were
old enough to have left home. She maintained quite a large household because
she enjoyed entertaining. So she had more kitchen maids and downstairs maids
than you might normally expect to find.
Not only that but because there was no gentleman of the house who might be
tempted into philandering, Madam Rosamie could hire pretty maids without any
fear of the consequences. Indeed the situation worked to her advantage as
pretty girls, realising the nature of the house, would often apply for jobs
Obviously it was something soon noticed, and at her soirees one would find
bemused ladies who were accompanied by sons and nephews, all of whom had
suddenly developed a passionate interest in the poetic art. As an aside I
might mention that several girls did make good and happy marriages.
Yet the Dowager stalked into the house, glanced round, and came to the
conclusion her daughter was running a bordello! Now I suppose people are
entitled to their own opinions. This is fair enough. But I feel that they
are not entitled to vent their opinions to the Watch. (Running an unlicensed
bordello is an offence)
Obviously the Watch had to get involved, and whilst courteous, they were
firm and needed to be convinced. The question has to be asked, whilst it is
doubtless easy enough to prove an establishment is a bordello, how exactly
does one prove it isn’t? Providing evidence that something isn’t happening
can be tricky.
Eventually the Watch realised the difficulty they had put Madam Rosamie
under and so they agreed that one of their officers, posing as an odd job
man, would live in for a period. This seemed fair to Madam, and Watchman
Pilkin moved in to a small box room. He turned out to be a real treasure. He
was a man who could fix virtually anything, and at the end of the fortnight,
Madam Rosamie insisted on paying him for the work he’d done, even though he
was also drawing his Watch pay. The maids were so sad to see him go they had
Cook bake a cake and there was something of a small leaving party for him on
his last day.
A week later he had to move back in. The Dowager, realising her strumpet of
a daughter had cozened the Watch, proceeded to advertise her daughter’s
putative establishment with discreet advertisements in appropriate
newssheets. Eventually she even had somebody walking ‘round the city with a
sandwich board. He would give passers-by handbills with graphic
illustrations for the illiterate.
Pilkin, now in full uniform, dealt with the situation. Initially he
courteously clarified the situation for the potential client. But when that
failed, as appropriate he became stern, mocking, and in three cases resorted
to percussive castigation with his truncheon. Eventually the word got ‘round
and the steady flow of potential customers finally dried up.
Still everything comes to the one who waits. Madam Rosamie was holding a
garden party and of course the Dowager attended. Now it appears that she had
spotted two of the servants sneaking off, so she followed them. In this case
it was the youngest maid and the boot boy, both of who were aged about
fourteen. Madam Rosamie and the rest of the staff of course knew about their
infatuation, but wisely pretended not to. At the same time, they maintained a
gentle watch over the activities of these two young people. In reality, this
is something quite easily accomplished as each generation, in the face of
all the evidence to the contrary, assumes that it is the first generation to
discover love. It never seems to occur to them that the older generations
have in their time tried all the same ploys that they are now attempting.
But the Dowager decided she would covertly follow the young couple with the
aim of catching them ‘in flagrante delicto.’ In this she was aided by the
fact that this part of the garden was a maze of winding paths and bowers.
The Dowager noticed that if she took a higher path, she could make her way
between two rose bushes and be in a position above and behind her prey.
Alas for the Dowager, the bushes were thicker than she’d expected, but there
was still a path of sorts. Unfortunately for her it was both steep and
slippery due to the rain. She skidded, lost her footing and rolled down the
steep slope becoming more and more tightly entangled in what was in reality,
a bramble patch.
Her struggles were to no avail, merely getting her more tightly entangled.
Fortunately, her two young potential victims heard her cries and ran to the
rest of the party to get help. Thus, it was that Madam Rosamie and I were the
two bold souls who discovered exactly what the problem was. I borrowed an
old pair of trousers from the junior footman, who used them when it was his
turn to clean the guttering on the roof. I added to it a jacket borrowed
from the gardener and cautiously I penetrated the maze. After almost
stumbling I returned to the top of the bank, acquired a rope, and had a
group of the heavier servants bracing themselves to support me as I made my
way down again.
When contemplating the situation, it initially seemed that the obvious answer
was just to tie a rope to the Dowager and pull her through what was left of
the brambles. After brief discussion this was discounted.
With a pair of secateurs, I tried to cut the brambles away from the
discomforted lady, but eventually I realised that this was fruitless. The
only option was to cut the clothing off the lady and pull her out of it,
abandoning it to the thorns.
This, as you can imagine, is a ticklish operation, especially with a lady
with whom you are in no way familiar. Still I somehow managed it without
outraging probity too much. I tied another rope around her ankles, took the
end up the bank to the now growing collection of guests and staff, and
arranged for them to pull while I returned to help guide the lady past
They had only pulled her about a foot before it was obvious we would have to
think again. The Dowager had got her hair entangled as well. By this time it
was raining heavily. The number of potential pullers was diminishing by the
minute and I would have to act swiftly. I asked for the clippers that the
cook used to cut the hair of male staff and applied them. Now I am no brute.
I didn’t cut all her hair off. I merely used the clippers on those patches
where the thorns were entangled. Finally, soaked and muddy I gave those
enthusiastic souls who had remained the order to pull heartily.
If a few minutes we had dragged the Dowager up the slope, got her onto the
path at the top, untied her legs, and her daughter, radiating a sort of
manically cheerful concern, escorted her into the salon. Here she was met by
the assembled guests who applauded her vigorously on her escape. Old towels
were fetched and she was allowed to sit down whilst a sedan chair was
summoned. This took her to the Goldclaw Baths. There she could get herself
clean, a hair dresser could doubtless be prevailed upon to do something to
her hair, and her maid could meet her there with a complete change of
I might comment at this point that since the moment when she reached the
path and I untied her ankles, the Dowager has never addressed a word to me.
On the other hand Madam Rosamie speaks most highly about me to all her
friends, claims she cannot run any form of party without me in attendance,
and even, if we meet in town, will address me in affectionate terms as ‘My
And the hard sell!
So welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of
Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his
So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This
great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis
makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to
a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry
readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run
These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and
its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty
criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet
musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is
here, and perhaps even a little more.
Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover
the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan
Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady
writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks
the great question, who are the innocent anyway?
And then there is;-
Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at
the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt
of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red.
Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through
the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death,
by changing the rules?
If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some
of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to my Amazon page at
Tallis even has a blog of his own at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/