Depths still deeper for Economous I am afraid?
PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION
Chapter 5 PART 3
Had this been before – before the portrait and the failed search for the Duke of Rabbits – he might have retreated to the Moldwood to draw, to dream, to forget: but a fellow cause of his confusion, the Lapinduce’s haunt was lost to him now. Instead he bought three bottles of Missus Apostle’s Best Buttressed Claratine from the first goose-a-grab grocer he clapped eyes upon and lost in angry thoughts, somehow he stumbled homeward. Tripping and thumping up the narrow staircase to his garret and ignoring the shouts of his landlady for “Quiet und care, please!” he finally sank himself in to the forgetfulness of a triple helping of cheap fortified wine.
Slouched upon on his sole soiled tandem seat, Economous pondered joining those few acquaintances he had managed to form in this great anonymous city bent on ceaseless endeavour for the unspoken promise of a fortune as reward. The notion, however, of an evening of revelry amongst happier souls he was still yet to fully trust whilst he was so sunk of wind seemed a sour prospect indeed.
He stared now in uncertain awe at the black calibrator of pricesless black elder lain with his numrelogue on the cushion beside him. The spicy scent of the wood seemed to saturate the close air of his cramped dwelling. He took up the wentry rod in his grasp and was amazed once more at the lively tingling he had originally remarked the first time he held the wood, a tingle that grew with every swig of claratine until he was convinced this inanimate tool was animate after all. Yet for all this, it was in some fashion a useless thing: how could he carry such a priceless device about freely without gaining the unpleasant attention of some unpleasant soul with an eye for such things? He certainly could never show it to his fellow concometrists or the masters at Pike Athenaeum or Athingdon Athy. It was just some secret memento of his secret meeting with a secret monster and would remain that way for ever more.
“I name you Miserichord!” he declared with a wry blurt of laughter, plucking the appellation from some half-recalled morsel of history, the tale of an ancient blade of black wood and glass made by forgotten arts.
The tingle of the wood in his hand sharpened abruptly, cutting Economous’ mirth short and causing him the drop the bizarre item to the floor. Glaring at it, his glower turning to a puzzled frown as his mind was already disbelieving what had just happened: that the calibrator had pulsed energetically, like the beat of humours or the wriggle of a live fish he had plucked with hookpoles from the [CREEK NAME HERE] as a child. More perplexing yet was the profound sense that it had done this almost as if in response to its naming.
“Pffff!” the aimless illuminator puffed. “Nonsense! Drunken, wine-bibbled nonsense!”
The image of the panderer on South Arm the fortnight gone – back when the Moldwood was an innocent place of calm and comfort – glaring at him in dignified shock flashed in his mind’s eye, set him to grinning, and her words repeating “How unseemly, sir!” set him to guffaws that had him rocking until his gaze fixed with disconcerting clarity upon his numrelogue, so unwittingly yet blasphemously defaced.
With grim reluctance, he took it up and beheld the gilt-framed, coal brown leather of its cover. Finally opening the hallowed tome to the tear the Lapinduce had made in it, Economous peered at the sundered wasp-paper in waxing dread that even his fall-back future as concometrist was now likely in doubt.
One of the attributes he long admired in the concometrists – in the entire Brotherly Order of Metricians – was their comparatively broader way of reckoning upon the nature of monsters and the nature of everymen. Indeed, as a sworn measurer, he knew just how open such open thinking was. Yet even the most generous-minded metrician he knew at Athingdon Athy would baulk at a tale of a page removed by a mighty monster-lord, let alone the harder-headed brother-measurers of Pike Athenaeum here in Brandenbrass. All he had for excuses then was some false admission of negligence. Flexible as they might have been about a great many notions, the concometrists’ entire devotion to measuring the length, breadth and depth of all the world – and with this the wholeness of the documents that made this possible – was not a place where they bent.
Vision swimming, he began to dab at the incriminating frays, pulling little lose bits and pulling yet more with a clouded yet growing conviction that he might be able to remove the remainder and disguise the damage. Alas! At the wrong moment wine-clumsy fingers tugged a touch too hard, beginning an entire new tear on the following leaf necessitating its complete removal. This proved harder than the Duke of Rabbits had made it seem and only with a great determined wrenching was Economous performed with a histrionic flourish and a leap of conscience like he was a naught, taffie-stealing child. Alak! Such force in turn loosened the sew of the binding of the whole gathering to with the leaf had belonged so that it stuck out noticeably from fore edge.
Suddenly he was ripping and pulling and tearing in a venting fit of furry, of whelming frustration at all the forces that seemed to work against him, of panic for a future without a goal. Sobbing – almost growling – Economous beheld the ruin he had made of his precious numrelogue and refusing to own the blame for its destruction, took up the black elder calibrator and flourished it, intent on smashing it too as its touch seemed to fizz in his hand. CRACK! he brought the wentry tool down upon the iron-bound crown of his trunk chest, fracturing the wood and bending the metal fittings. This only served to raise his wrath. CRACK! he swung the swart wood at a beam that held roof from floor, fully expecting the calibrator to fly apart in splinters only to find the beam itself split and splinter near half-way through. Still this did not stop him and eyes fixed upon his tandem seat, he swung the rod high…
… The lightest rattle and smallest thump of front door and deliberate noiselessness in the vestibule three floors below – the telltale quiet of Asthetica’s return – stopped him still.
His dudgeon was vanished in an instant.
Panting, blinking at the disarray and feeling utterly and abjectly foolish, he escaped the wreckage of his violence. Eager to forget so unseemly an outburst, he hastened three steps a stride down the cramped flights to small shuddering vestibule, where his sozzled hopes told him Asthetica was even now reading his reply. He almost fell the final flight when found that though indeed the beautiful lady was there, so was the Reive of Lot-in-the-hole, arriving just in time to witness Lord Fold pluck Economous’ heartfelt note from the Asthetica’s unwary grasp.
To her eternal credit, Asthetica betrayed wide-eyed and red-cheeked shame at the audicity and discourtesy of her guest and made a flapping attempt to take the letter back but was simply thwarted by a raised hand from the reive.
Eyes angry and wide, cognisant of the dire consequence for any lowly soul who dared raise threat against a peer, Economous took a single step down.
The Reive looked up at him with an arch smile the hopeless you fellow slowly descended the last steps. “Such a handsome invitation, man,” he purred with supreme self-confidence. “What a fine and steady hand you have. ’Tis almost pity to break such a noble soul with the information that she chooses to grace this honoured body –” flourishing his hand with a twirl of purple-gloved fingers and flick of wide mauve hems of his sleek frockcoat, he gave a mocking bow to indicate himself “– with her excellent and steady company…”
With a wine-sodden rush in his humours and a flash of red passion so recently revealed in his garret, Economous staggered a second step towards the upstart.
“Alas for you, dear fellow, and you inadequate charms,” Lord Fold continued. “This excellent and steady maid will be with me for the Year Sending at none other than Sashette’s.” Dropping the name of that finest and most fashionable of fine eateries as if it were a trifling thing, the high-blown fellow blinked at Economous, knowing, owl-like. Infinitely secure in his elevated status, a foul gleam in his eyes dared the poorer, lower born man to do more, to go further, to take up his little, low-station anger and act!
“He’s married already, y’know,” Economous slurred in defiance, addressing Asthetica now as if the Reive of Lot-in-the-hole was not there.
Gasping, clutching at her pale, quivering throat, Asthetica looked at him wide-eyed, maybe even ashamed. “I know,” she said in a small voice.
“Why you coarse and stupid fellow!” Lord Fold declaimed with a sneering guffaw. “She already has knowledge of this! Surely if you cannot be so patently stupid and louse-headed to fail to apprehend that a man of broad power and high circumstance such as I could not be so without such slight details being common knowledge. If this is all that vexes you, boy, then know that this steady maid beside me has contented herself as my mistress…” He took Asthetica’s arm in his and patted it possessively.
Flummoxed and desperate to avoid the violence he was sure he would perpetrate if he remained even a breath longer, Economous shoved clumsily between Asthetica and the reive, causing the maiden to cry in alarm. Stumbling from the vestibule and out into the last evening of the old year without hat or neckerchief like some life-lost wastrel, he pushed roughly past the reive’s spurns and hurried down the To-Market lane before him, ignoring the cries of consternation from behind.