Written by: roseyn
I was experienced neither in the rudiments of polite conversation nor in the proper carriage expected in such favourable company. Be it what it would, I maintained an upright posture [at times made difficult with the lamentable conditions of the road] and with a countenance I prayed was pleasant. “So what know you of my uncle?”
The Reverend half-smiled. “Silas Dench was a most formidable and shrewd gentleman. And one who gladly bestowed his charitable assistance to those less fortunate.” He fixed his eye upon me, longer than I deemed comfortable. “But, I expect you are already acquainted with his notable generosity.”
I thought his manner to be odd, a little too curious. “I fear you know my uncle better than I. But yes, in thanks to his ‘notable generosity’, good fortune has indeed befallen me.”
The Reverend coughed quietly. “Pardon me but my latter statement was not in reference to your own good personage… but to the Bal Maids.”
I took immediate pause and gave thought to the Maids, the young, unmarried women who laboured at the East Levant Mines and of their now, precarious situation due to my uncle’s passing. “To be sure, Reverend, the Maids will continue residing in the estate’s cottage as they have done these past years.”
The reverend nodded. “You appear to have inherited your uncle’s remarkable compassion as well. But there are those who think accommodating the Maidens most inappropriate.”
The perpetual strain in maintaining a straightened carriage began to cause me considerable discomfort. I adjusted my silk cravat, a forced pretence to relieve my hands from petrification. “And you, Reverend? What is your view?”
“My view is irrelevant,” he said, with a markedly dismissive voice. “And I do hate capitulating to sordid gossip.”
I didn’t consider myself a highly learned man but the irony of his statement was quite laughable. Still, his warning left me more than a little nonplussed.
We settled into a congenial discourse upon the approaching royal wedding. In truth, it was more favourable to the Reverend’s knowledge, but it relieved me into a more comfortable state.
Before too long the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves fell into slow trot, the eternal shroud of road dust cleared and we arrived at my journey’s end.
I hadn’t really contemplated my Uncle’s abode. But I stared in awe as the splendid colours of twilight alighted the two-storey stoned dwelling upon its regal chimneystacks projecting from a wavy, slate roofline, upon its bountiful, verdant gardens.
The carriage stopped near the arched door. I expressed my gratitude to the Reverend and descended the carriage. Before parting company, I distinguished joyous laughter to our left. A small group of ladies, attired in traditional white protective clothing.
The Bal Maids.
I stood fascinated by one in particular.
A most agreeable looking woman, even handsome despite her resolute glare and her ill-meaning smile.
“The Bal Maid of Great Condurrow,” the Reverend said, as if it were some ghastly affliction. “That’s the title she has behest herself.”