Talopian Hearsan was one of those people I just somehow never took too. I’m not sure why to be honest; he was always polite and respectful to a poet of my status. The problem was perhaps that he was too polite and too respectful.
In the same way he was always too nicely dressed, too well turned out, too pretty. Indeed I’m willing to swear that he couldn’t walk past a mirror without stopping to rearrange his hair or the lace on his collar.
He earned good money working for the city. Now that’s a trick that few can manage in Port Naain, but he was an inspector of taxes. So he would greet each newly arrived ship, check the manifest and calculate the duty payable. Not only does the city pay well, but, if you follow my drift, so does the job. A chap would struggle to go hungry with that sort of employment.
The Hearsans were reasonably well connected and he appeared at a lot of function I worked at. Never the star of the show but you’d notice him on the edges chatting politely to some of the younger and less important guests.
Nobody ever said anything but I noticed that maids would subtly change course to avoid him, ideally keeping a solidly upholstered dowager between them.
It’s strange really. I vaguely knew him for perhaps fifteen or twenty years, and never heard anybody say anything against him. No accusations, no claims, indeed if his name was mentioned somebody was bound to say, “He’s very ‘nice’.” Only they’d say it in tones that hinted delicately that the speaker harboured doubts.
I was left feeling that I was the only person in Port Naain who had not noticed something obvious. It was to get worse. Shena and I were just finishing our evening meal when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and was met by a delegation of shore-combers so senior that even I knew them to be persons of consequence along the Old Esplanade. I stepped back out of the way and gestured for them to enter. They trooped in and stood round looking at Shena as if they expected her to do something. She learned back in her chair and asked, “Hearsan?”
There were nods of affirmation but no other reply so she turned to me. “You were going to the Misanthropes Hall?”
That was news to me, but I can take a hint. “Yes, I’d thought it might be worth dropping in and keeping up with the gossip. Problem is I’m a trifle short of cash.”
Well damn me, old Chesset Breamgrater reached into his tattered britches, pulled out a silver vintenar and slipped it into my waistcoat pocket. “Don’t let us keep tha lad.”
So obviously I left.
Whereas previously I had entertained a vague suspicion that I was not sure what was going on, now it was an absolute certainty.
Continue reading here: Too nice?