For once I cannot be blamed for any of it. It’s obvious that nothing that happened was my fault. Indeed if blame is to be allocated, the only person on whom it can fairly fall is my lady wife Shena. Still I am old enough to realise that this is not how the world works. Hence, with a somewhat heavy heart, I have taken steps to at least avoid physical retribution.
To take this sad tale back to the beginning, it all starts, as many tales do, with the pupils of Dame Ralash’s school for ‘young maidens of humble family up to the age of thirteen.’ Shena is an ‘old girl’ of the establishment, and like all the other girls who have attended, she accepts unswervingly Dame Ralash’s conviction that ‘Her girls support each other.’
So Shena introduced me to Charity Belle. A rather pretty young lady, still somewhat naive but utterly charming, she had attended Dame Ralash’s school. Her family had fallen upon hard times; her grandmother had been the toast of society. She somehow overlooked the necessity to provide a husband for herself at the same time as she provided a father for her daughter. This was no youthful slip; Fedalia Belle was over thirty when her daughter Anticipa was born.
Anticipa was a true beauty, wooed assiduously by many. Although she lacked any claim to wealth and status she was seen on the arm of many a wealthy and influential gentleman. Whilst she was always the mistress and never the wife, her wit and charm guaranteed her entry to any society event. Society was somewhat surprised when she too gave birth to a child when in her late thirties, assuming that she did this to put pressure on the father to step forward and do the honourable thing.
But Anticipa not merely avoided naming a father, she gently and courteously turned down offers of marriage from men whom gossips claimed were the father; as well as from men who hoped they were the father, and indeed from those who would have been delighted to have been the father had they ever been offered the opportunity.
Still money was not plentiful, but there was enough to ensure that young Charity was enrolled with Dame Ralash. There she gained a decent enough education. Not only that but it has to admitted that the lessons she learned from the good Dame left her rather more ‘grounded’ than her mother or grandmother. Thus it was that when she left school she made her way quietly and a little shyly into the world of the assistant in a lady’s clothes shop.
By all accounts she was good at her job. She had the family looks and the family charm, but to this she brought something of herself. She was tactfully honest and a lady could try on a garment knowing that if it didn’t suit her, Charity would not merely tell her, but do so in a manner that robbed the matter of any sting.
The reason Charity entered my world was that she had acquired two much battered notebooks. Both her grandmother and mother had been of the school that one should ‘keep a diary so that one day the diary will keep you.’ Charity wished to prepare the diaries for publication, feeling that they contained any number of entertaining stories and uplifting moral tales which would provide education and edification for her contemporaries. Realising she needed advice she approached Dame Ralash who sent her to see Shena. Shena of course asked me to assist the girl.
So I glanced over what little she’d written. She’d kept the style of her mother and grandmother, but brought to them an accuracy of spelling and grammar that one would expect from an alumna of Dame Ralash’s establishment.
Finally I introduced her to Silac Glicken of Glicken’s Printers. He guided her through the technicalities of production and, with me watching carefully, made her a most reasonable offer to publish both diaries in a single volume. There I bowed out of the tale, secure in a job well done.
You know how it is; you do a good deed, ensure the beneficiary is happy, and then go about your business and frankly think little more about it. So the writing career of Charity Belle passed from my recollection as I busied myself with my own work.
Then one morning, a small boy knocked on the door of the barge as Shena and I sat at breakfast. He thrust a parcel into my hands, muttered, “Master Silac said as how you were to get this.” He turned to flee and added, “’An he said you’d want to read it now.”
Curious I opened the packet to find a nicely bound volume, ‘The tolling Belle.’ The name of the author, Charity Belle, appeared below, in faux calligraphy, all picked out in gold lettering on the spine.
I poured more coffee and started to read, feeling that I could perhaps spare half an hour to get a feel for what the young lady had achieved. An hour later, Shena having long departed to her office, I was still reading, but had poured myself more coffee. It was gone noon when I finally put the book down and pondered the situation.
It seems that Charity’s mother and grandmother had been at the centre of virtually every controversy or scandal in Port Naain in the last two generations. Thanks to Charity’s efforts and their diaries, I now knew who the masked man had been at Lady Belona’s Ball. I had finally worked out exactly who had pushed Bling Cowdan from an upper balcony at the Hall of Records. I now even knew who had loaned the money to Radsel Oeltang so that he could afford his first sinecure, and why they had loaned it to him. My head was spinning!
My head stopped spinning when I read the ‘end note.’ In it, Charity had written, ‘I could not let this little work be published without recording here my thanks to Tallis Steelyard. Without his kindness and generosity, this book could never have been written.’
Within the hour, wearing my kitchen porter’s overall, I was slouching inconspicuously up the gangplank of one of the great paddle steamers bound for Oiphallarian. Travel not merely broadens the mind; it is good for the health as well.
Fancy a holiday with Tallis? Click here to find out more…
At this point it seems pertinent to mention that the story of Tallis’s escapades continues on other blogs. They will be reblogged in what may one day be accepted by biographers as the chronologically correct order on his own blog. Thus and so you can easily follow his gripping adventures.
Also, as an aside, the reason for this whole performance, (aside for being ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’) is that another volume of his anecdotes has been published.
This is ;-
Available for Kindle through Amazon UK and Amazon.com
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. It covers the perils of exam invigilation, the problems associated with literary criticism, the benefits gained by hiring erotic dancers and the healing properties of hot water and syrup of figs. An unparalleled guide to the pitfalls which await the honest artist attempting to ply their trade.
About the author
The inimitable Tallis Steelyard is also occasionally known by the name of Jim Webster.
Someone once wrote this about him:
“Jim Webster is probably still fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels.”
Now with many much acclaimed fantasy works and two Sci-Fi to his credit it seems he may be getting into the swing of things.
If life is so dull at the moment that you feel the need to see my Facebook page .
On the other hand Tallis also has his own blog here.
In the interests of completeness my blog is at here too.
And if all else fails, there is always Twitter.
Click the images to go to Jim Webster’s Amazon page for all his books.