Story for the Day: Tea and Rosamound
All parents have their various vexations, but for two such doting parents as Searle and Aldus, they can never worry enough about their beloved daughter.
It was twenty minutes before Ebhlin and Aghatha quitted the servants’ hall; they had done their tea and were eager to enjoy the courtyard now that the sun was come out and the path to the garden cleared of snow, and Aldus remained, watching Searle clear the table and hoping every moment that the ladies would go. They went at last, blushing and giggling at Aldus as they turned into the hall, and as the door closed and Searle was certain of their having gone, he pulled out Aldus’ usual chair and said, “May I offer you your regular seat, Mr Craughleidh?”
Aldus put down his paper and canted his head. “Is it safe to sit in?”
Searle inspected the seat. “I believe so. It does not seem hurt. The varnish is unscratched, and the cushion has not depressed.”
The joy of retaining his usual seat besieged him, and Aldus hastened toward his precious throne with all the alacrity that is sense of self-government could excite. He studied the armrests, the back, and the headboard, and frowned. “I will wait a moment until the seat is cold again. I despise sitting in seats that have been warmed by strange bottoms.”
Searle surrendered to coy smiles. “As odd as that might sound when saying it so decidedly,” he laughed, “I do agree with you. I cannot like it either, but in your case, Mr Craughliedh, I think it is due to nobody’s sitting in your respective chairs, whether in the workplace or at home, other than you.” He took his vile of lavender water from his breastpocket and sprinkled it over the cushion. “There you are, Mr Craughleidh, cleansed of any unpleasant smells, as I know you were fearful of. The seat is tolerably cool now. If you will please to sit down.”
Aldus did sit, and did so happily that there was a sigh of reprieve when he sank back into the straight back and soft seat. The comfort of his chair and the renewed silence of the room—he was only wanting tea and the closeness of his husband to make the moment perfect, and it was not long after his sitting down that Searle brought his tea from the other side of the table and began to refill his cup again.The teapot, however, was almost empty, and Searle was in the midst of saying, “You will please to excuse me whilst I boil some more water—“ when Aldus grabbed Searle’s hand and prevented him from leaving. He drew him close, placed the thegn’s hand on his shoulder, and caressed it, reveling in the succour that the felth of Searle’s gloves provided. He leaned against Searle’s wrist, pressing his cheek against him, and said, in a vexed and quiet voice,“Why must every holiday bring noise and confusion to this keep?” He sighed and closed his eyes. “…I despise noise.” He fondled the hand on his shoulder, pressed his lips against Searle’s wrist, and leaned back, the crown of his head touching Searle’s abdomen. His ardent looks invited the thegn to caress him, and Searle, happy to resign his formalities, grazed Aldus’ cheek with the back of his hand.
“If I may say so, Mr Craughleidh,” Searle whispered, looking down at Aldus and gently tracing the outline of his nape with his fingertips, “I think what you term noise is called merriment by others.”
“I despise that too.”
Searle reckoned that Aldus disagreed with anything that did not promise silence and a good fire and said nothing.
“I would go,” said Aldus, after a moment’s pause, “if only to watch you perform your duties and shun the rest of the world. I do enjoy seeing you in your holiday attire.”
“It is but once a year that I wear it, but I always keep it on after the celebration is over that you might see me in it at home.”
It was not the same as seeing Searle glide about the Great Hall, directing the management of the kitchen and ovens, commanding the servants to convey the dishes at the right time and in the right order, but he would have to attend the immense celebration if he wished to see Searle in his natural superior state.
“The celebration will not be so very loud, and you may sit with the other men who prefer not to dance,” said Searle, but Aldus disclaimed and refused to attend, preferring to stay in the treasury or at home until Searle could join him there. “You may sit with Rosamound and keep her in good company, as you know she prefers to stay in her room while all the music and dancing is going on. She always makes tea and tends the fire when I must be out attending His Majesty and his guests.”
True though it was that their daughter betimes was more of a soliudinarian than himself, Aldus could not help but feel that his retired habits had induced hers; she might have stayed at home knowing he should be alone there, and she might have wished to entertain him with cards and company until the more voluble and solicitous parent could join them.
“Do you think,” said Aldus mindfully, “ that it is good for her to stay in?”
“She always stays at home while any celebration at the keep is going on, and I cannot but observe that all the young people in this keep seem to like a celebration and will attend even if only to sit by and enjoy the meal. Do you think she ought to attend? Is it right that she does not like celebrations?”
Aldus seemed to retreat into himself, and Searle knelt by his chair and took the treasurer’s hand.
“You did not like celebrations or even company when you were younger,” said Searle, with a hopeful aspect. “I can recall a time when you did not like anyone to come into the treasury, not even when you had rung for tea.”
“Until a certain age, I cannot recall liking anything that did not have to do with accounts.”
“Mr Craughleidh,” said Searle, in a doting hue, “there are a great many things you did like. You were only diffident to express them because you feared no one else should join you in your preferment. You enjoyed your work, your dress, your quiet meals, and there is much you enjoy now. You enjoy spending time with your beloved daughter, and may I dare to say you enjoy spending time with me.”
Aldus barely smiled. “I might do all that now, but as a young man, there was so much I detested that I despaired of ever liking anything other than my work or anyone beyond His Majesty King Dorrin.”
“Then I have been an influence on you, whether a influence on the right side, however, I will not pretend to conjecture.”
Searle leaned forward to receive Aldus’ devoted osculation, but when he stood, Aldus suddenly grew grave again.
“But that is precisely what I mean,” said Aldus, growing more agitated as he spoke. “There was a time when I made a conscious decision to be solitary amongst my peers. I did not like to talk to anyone, I felt I had little to add to conversations which could not interest me,-- but do you think it is natural for a young woman to follow the same course? No doubt there are many young men who are serious and solemn, but women are altogether quite a different thing. Is it natural that Rosamound should adopt the same qualities? I see no other young women being quiet and alone. She is not a young girl anymore, of that I am aware, but…” He stopped here, his paternal cares overpowering him, and however he might try to disguise it, there was real feeling in his scrupulousness for his daughter’s situation. He was happy, though he was ill disposed to show it, but was she happy, and did she find merit and meaning in her work, and did she feel fulfilled in her office, and did she want any friends or was she determined to seek out a partner were questions which plagued an anxious mind.
Seeing his husband so discomposed about their daughter was a trial to Searle’s heart, and eager to assuage Aldus’ apprehensions, he sat in the seat beside him, pulled the chair close, removed his gloves, and placed his hands over Aldus’.
“I have tried not to ask Rosamound about relationships,” said Searle, his tenor soft and his countenance consoling. “She will have them when she is ready, be they attachments of love or friendship. I confess that I have often wondered about her disinterest toward making friends and have even felt that perhaps her time at the orphanage may have discouraged her from associating with others. She has told me that there were a few girls at the orphanage whom she considered to be acquaintances at least, but they were adopted into other families and the connection was severed. I thought this perhaps, this forming an attachment and the pain of losing it, might have biased her against the inclination to make any other friends, but I have not said as much to her. I thought perhaps she and Martje’s child Maggie might form a connection, as they both have similar qualities, but the age difference was to great for her, and while she did introduce herself to Maggie when she did come to the keep, I do not know that there was any friendship formed. We did encourage her when she came to be amongst the other children as much as she desired. I cannot think we erred there. We might have been more forward about playing with the other children on Gods’ Day,but she only liked to be with us, and I did not wish to force her into making friends, but she is a woman now, and friendships are not easily formed at her time of life.” He paused and gave a small sigh. “As an anxious parent, I cannot help but feel that perhaps my attention to the king has poorly effected her in any way, but she has positively assured me that it hasn’t.”
“She understands your position,” Aldus assured him. “She would never resent you for it.”
“She might not, but I am anxious all the same. I am worried that she might feel I did not spend enough time with her, though we have always been together every evening and Gods’ Day. She loves working beside you and loves the treasury. You know how she loves history and admiring all the artifacts. She says she does not like the raucous revel of a ball or a celebration, and while I do wish she would mix more with her peers, I will not do so to make her unhappy. She likes the library and her books and being home. She loves reading and computation. I do think think that we can ask more of her. She has always been reclusive. There are women who merely like being left to their own devices, and Rosamound has always been a very good girl and a steady child. We have never had to discipline her or have even known something like vexation one day in raising her, and that certainly speaks to her sense of maturity. She does love the holidays, but she likes spending them in a private way with us, exchanging presents and enjoying a quiet style of revelry, playing at cards with me and reading with you. She is a very serious young lady, but very feeling. His Majesty always invites her and means to include her in everything, but she will decline. It is natural, I suppose, for some to be introverted, for some to shun company and prefer solitary pursuits.” Here was a smile. “Wouldn’t you say so, Mr Craughliedh?”He would, and Aldus looked a little less grave, reconciling the disconcerting sensations as the natural worries of a loving parent.
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