Story for the Day: Aldus Craughleigh
Nobody enjoys tax season-- unless you're Aldus Craughleigh. Known for his gleeful love of numbers, Aldus, the kingdom's treasurer, is the only one in the world who looks forward to adding receipts and canceling deductions, but as much as he disturbs the citizens of Frewyn, his absolute abhorrence for disorder will one day be the ruin of him, as Prince Draeden discovers:
To the treasury they went, and sitting at his desk before the great vault was Aldus Craughleigh, the kingdom’s treasurer, a man chosen for his ability to sit long hours poring over accounts, his unaffectedness with regard to being in the presence of immense fortune, his indiscernible joy with regard to counting and cataloging every coin, and his powers at disconcerting those who were late in their taxes. He was a particular man, glorying in efficiency and regulation, and was therefore a horror to every maid in the keep who did not perform to his notions of sterility and organization. He wiped everything, polished and sanitized every pen, every seat, every table in the treasury, his greatest pride being the red carpet, which had been laid down in King Breian’s time and which was kept in pristine order regardless of how many had trod it underfoot. He kept himself in the same order as he kept his accounts: his surcoat boasted his thin and upright form, his high brows and constant flout complemented his strict adherence to his task, his sleeves were tucked and protected by the band of his gloves, keeping them free from any insanitary harm; his long face was rapt in the constant exertion of income and dividends, his small round spectacles pinched the tip of his crooked nose, his sobering manner revolted against his gaunt cheeks and angular jaw, and when he sat at his desk, his head was bowed and back was bent, his mind engaged with constant calculations, his ever-moving pencil following the lines of his statements, with his pot of stewing black tea to his right and his stack of new collection accounts to his left. He heard and saw nothing beyond the scratches of his pen and the sums at the end of his page, but when he heard the dreadful din of Bryeison’s footfalls and the sound of Draeden’s voice caroming off the cavernous walls of the treasury, his shoulders tensed and he began lamenting their approach, hoping that the king should be accompanying them to keep some tolerable semblance of order in the visit.
“I didn’t know that Aldus comes in so early,” said Draeden, in a half-whisper.
The king smiled. “I think he might live here if I didn’t tell him to go home in the evenings.”
“Does he really love being a treasurer that much?”
The king gave him an arch look. “I think he can love nothing else better.”
Of course I love nothing else better, Aldus thought in reply. I can trust numbers, for they hardly ever lie, unless hand has tampered with them. Conversancy only breeds false security, and while money might be the cause of many evils, it never has any ill intent, until it come into the hands of those with the same.
Bryeison noted the slight quirk in Aldus’ brow, as though he were listening but endeavouring not to hear their conversation while making his private replies. They passed the threshold, whereupon the treasurer looked up from his work, all the superimposed odium being done away the moment the king met his eye.
“Good morning, Aldus,” said Dorrin.
“And a good morning to you, Your Majesty,” said Aldus, his voice melodious and baritone. He stood from his chair, his form thin and attenuated, and glared at Bryeison’s feet. A drawn out sigh escaped him and his fists clenched. “Do be more mindful of your steps, Commander,” his said, in an agitated tone. “They announce your presence more than you can do yourself. And your boots are caked with dried mud from the yard. It is there for a reason. This is a place of business, Mr CreNaCille. I need not remind you that there is a mat to step upon and a scraper to be availed of before entering the room, but…” He paused and inhaled, his impatience for such disorder beginning to discompose him. He removed his spectacles, gave a dignified sniff, and resolved that there was little point in exerting his powers of epicurism and elegance onto the giant; his years as a groomsman and as a ruffian in the armed forces must have ruined him for tidiness or sanitation, and he must be left to his own salubrious notions of caked boots, unburnished leather, and the modes of heathen address. He would have reprimanded His Highness for the use of high tones and strident whispers so offensive to the ears, but his eye discovered a slight trail of dirt coming from the hallway, which crumbled over the threshold and along the red carpet of the treasury floor. All his remaining forbearance for such impropriety dissipated, and as he was about to lecture Bryeison for maculating so fine and well-kept an article, and therefore all his peace, he observed that the trail did not lead to Bryeison’s boots but led to Draeden’s. His chest surged with consoling breath, and he examined the young prince while stifling his desire to remind His Highness that the carpet upon which he stood was far older than what their ages together could recommend. A terrific shame it was that Frewyn’s First Son should appear to so great a disadvantage, and Aldus was obliged to forget his remonstrances and console himself with the notion that Searle, a man who understood the necessity for cleanliness and order, would be along in a little while to relieve him of the blemish on the ancient arras. “And how,” he continued, exhaling and replacing his spectacles, “may I serve you this morning, Your Majesty?”
Amused by the treasurer’s evident vexation, Bryeison pursed his lips and laughed to himself while Draeden wondered what could have so distressed the treasurer in so short a time.