Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 103

Nancy was sitting in her parlor, reading the minutes of the last village meeting. Dull, boring and tedious. No way around it, they needed to be read and re-copied into the ledger she kept.

A ray of sunlight was streaming through the lace at the window, and made a pretty pattern on the rug at her feet. It was not difficult to imagine herself sitting in a glade by a stream...

What was wrong with her? She hadn't had spring fever like this since she was a girl. Nancy pursed her lips and picked up the pen again.

Mistress Tailor was upset that her stall in the market had been moved further back. Though it had more room for her goods, she felt trade had dropped off because it was not as visible. The candlemaker who had taken over her former space refused to relocate, holding out a copy of the agreement that had been signed by both the tailor and the officers of the market when he moved in. During discussion her brother the leatherworker offered to trade with her, as his stall, though further back, was at the edge and so visible as people approached the market by the main road.

After further discussion, it was moved and seconded that she would move her goods during the night with help from Otto and Owain in order to minimize disruption to the other vendors.

Nancy made a notation of the stall numbers and locations, her eyebrow raised in surprise when she realized that no one had mentioned it had been the tailor's request to trade with the candlemaker in the first place... it was like her though, to move first and look second. Nancy shook her head. Some people were just flighty like that.

A breeze caught the lace and sent it fluttering, and her attention was gone again. It had been a long time, she realized, since she took a break. And gratefully she put down the pen, set a marker in the ledger and stood up.

The little dog she kept heard the chair scrape back and came running from whatever corner of the house he had been sleeping in. Poor, dear little thing, he could barely see, and was lame in three legs, but he was always ready for a walk. Nancy took her shawl from the peg by the entry, and held the door open for him. They would walk down to the market and stop by to see Nan on the way back. Perhaps she would know something that might soothe the dog's arthritis.

The air smelled good. A fresh breeze from up the road to the river, and the aroma of spice buns from the baker, the brewmaster's latest creation lingered in the air then vanished as the honeyflower overtook it. Nancy stopped and picked a sprig of the sweet bloom as her dog sniffed the fence in front of the inn. She waved to the innkeeper's wife, who smiled as she hung linens on the bushes to dry.

Nancy enjoyed living in the center of the village. Always something to look at , people to talk to. Growing up on the farm, though it wasn't all that distant, she had longed for more contact with people. She nodded at the baker with his basket of deliveries; and sidestepped the children playing stones.

They patted the dog, and he rolled over. She bent down briefly and whispered something in the ear of the smallest child. His eyes widened and he nodded. She stood and watched him take his next turn, smiling when he cleared the circle.

The market was tall, and silent today. The one day a week the workers took off, a day for the grass by the building to recover somewhat from the trampling it took every other day as stalls were loaded and unloaded. The animals were always corralled at a distance but the loading and foot traffic of vendors and customers kept the grass short. She had always liked visiting the corral and stables, as a child. The animals were watched over by some older children from the school who were paid a few bits and as much of the bakers left-over sweets as they liked. Usually the baker made sure there would be plenty of left-over sweets, which the older children shared with younger visitors.

Nancy smiled. She liked her cousins, the baker and his wife. They were comfortable, jolly people who always made sure there were some treats for passing children. Their own children were grown and off on their own lives, but a couple of grandchildren and some of their friends usually could be found playing by the door or helping in small ways around the ovens, learning the trade.

It was clever, how the villagers had made sure that children felt free to choose their own paths by cheerfully letting them spend time in their shops and help as they were interested. Though in her own family children were often happy to continue farming (as her brothers and many cousins had proved), Adam and Ava had made sure they all had a chance to learn another trade. And all of them were encouraged to stay and learn in school far longer than many thought necessary, even as they learned farming, cooking, and other skills as they helped their parents.

Nancy let the dog drink from a puddle by the market, then walked slowly away, letting him follow when he was done. Poor little guy, she could tell he was hurting today. Normally, she was reserved and dignified in public, but she let her concern show on her face as she bent to pick him up. She cradled him in her arms, and carried him toward the doctor's shop.

Nan looked up from the counter as her aunt walked in the door, and quickly set down her vials to clear space for the dog. She listened as Nancy described the dog's gait, playing with him quietly and watching how he followed -- or didn't follow her movements and gaze.

"How old is he now auntie? I was very young when he was a puppy..."

"Oh, I'd say he's at least seven, Nan, possibly eight. But he's been getting lame since he was only four or five. Seems to bother him most in the winter, but today he's as lame as if there were a foot of snow."

Nan nodded and gently touched him on the shoulder. The dog winced and yelped, looking at her reproachfully. She kissed his nose and set him on the floor gently, watching him toddle toward his mistress.

"I know something that will help a little bit, Aunt," she said gently, "But I am afraid age is coming swiftly to him. Comfortable enough he will be through the summer, but winter will be hard and cruel."

Nancy nodded, and she turned as if to watch the dog by the door, though Nan knew her face was wet with tears. Esmeralda, who had been listening from the cellar, called to Nan then, leaving Nancy and her companion to explore the shop briefly.

Nan popped below and returned quickly with a box of powdered tea, a vial of blue liquid and a white ointment. Esmeralda had written instructions as she had listened to the conversation, though Nan carefully explained how to rub the ointment into the shoulders and hips, and how many drops of the blue liquid to put on the dog's meals twice a day.

The tea, of course, was for Nancy. Nan gave her aunt a hug before they left the shop, and just in that simple gesture, Nancy felt comforted and uplifted.

The little dog, quite unaware of the concern of the people, and already having forgotten the moment of pain Nan had given him, did his best trick, standing up on his hind legs and yipping happily then gratefully accepted a little cookie from Nan's pocket.

Nancy carried him home from the doctor's shop, and Esmeralda and Nan watched them from the door. Nan turned to the doctor with tears in her own eyes, "How I wish I could make all their pain disappear!" she whispered.

And the doctor gave her student a gentle hug, "I know, dear heart," she whispered back, "I know."