April 21, 2011

Female Hare

“Capital B.  E, L…” Saskia muttered, inkstained paws darting into nooks in the wooden tray she held and plucking out little nibs of tin, setting them into the rack.  Her morning had been occupied with arranging seven freshly-ordered rolls of paper in the storeroom.  Mister Sheridan, her employer, had arranged to be absent for the delivery, citing some business about a “poet of some renown” the next town over.  Naturally.

Letters snapped into place, one by one, her paws connecting each click to the next almost rapidly enough to render the sound a constant rattle.  Saskia needed a spare hour that afternoon, and the delivery had disturbed her schedule.

The bell above the door gave a chipper tinkle and she glowered at it before turning to the newcomer across the counter, hastily erasing the frown and replacing it with a placid not-quite-smile Sheridan would be proud of.  A short ferret stood in the doorway; he doffed his feathered hat and half-bowed.

Saskia huffed, and replaced her frown.  “Merritt, you bally idiot, ‘ow many times ‘ave I told you to never, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever, come ‘ere durin’ working hours?  If Sheridan comes back–”

“D’lighted t’ see you too, miss.  I do so happen to have encountered your charming employer across town, at the Silver Anchor.  He complimented my hat before proceedin’ to make an ‘onest try at coverin’ my boots in what was–if I’m not mistaken–about half a bottle of last year’s house sherry.”

Saskia grimaced and returned to setting type as she spoke.  “Then wot’s your business?  I’m behind schedule.”

“Business indeed.  Fifteen pages, a hundred copies, three days, totaling ten silver pieces, at our usual rate?  Not the sort of thing that could be done over a counter, more’s the pity.”

“And when”–she paused to spell ‘adamantine’–“‘ave you done anything above a counter?  Is this’n dodgy politics, or pornography, or is it gen’ral criminal-bleedin’-enterprise?”

Merritt sniffed.  “Do you care?  If you’re getting scruples from reading that nonsense, I’d do well to be rid of you, dearie.”

Saskia had softened her glare for a moment, but the ferret had obligingly reminded her of it.  “No.”  She finished setting her page and laid it on the counter.

“Still perfectly pleased to offer you the chance to work in my shop full-time, y’know.”

“If I could be seen with you in public, that’d be a temptin’ offer, wot?”

“And me a perfectly respectable tradesbeast, too,” Merritt clucked.

“You know,” she growled, “Wot I meant.”

“If ever you tire of hiding from Sheridan whatever it is you need the spare gold for, keep it in mind, Saskia.  Or if he lets so many clients drink him under the table he ends up in debtor’s prison and you on the street.”  Merritt smirked as though he’d deployed some high-society bon mot.

“Get out, you bally… awful… creature.”  Saskia winced.  “You’ll ‘ave your pages Friday.”

” ‘Bally awful’ goldmine, you mean.  And indifferent to how you’re spending all these shiny, shiny coins on opium or frilly dresses or what-have-you, too.”


The ferret bowed again and left, the bell jingling as he swept out.

Saskia wouldn’t admit to being tempted… but all the same, Merritt would make a nice change from sneaking about under Sheridan’s pointy nose.  If she could stomach the dodgy dealing.  Well….

Saskia began her next page.  It was some book of right terrifying “moral poetry” that didn’t even rhyme properly.

She planned to offer Merritt a typesetter’s job in her own shop, and see how he’d like it.  Eventually.

%d bloggers like this: