19 April, 2016 by katelaity
Then there was the matter of the beard. When I say ‘beard’ you might imagine such a facial accouterment as will be found on the finest dandies of London, trimmed neatly into a pleasing shape and well taken care of by the best of fashionable barbers. This is not the beard of which I speak. The beard at which I was then staring in disbelief could better be described as the outcome of a fight between a bramble and a mossy outcropping on the peaks of Mount Snowden. It, too, was green.
‘I say,’ I said.
The strange little fellow responded but with a voice much too high for the human ear to catch and being not otherwise equipped, I struggled to understand what was said. ‘I beg your pardon?’
The little creature seemed to bristle with some kind of emotion and opened its mouth to speak once more. This time the words were clear though the voice remained very highly pitched and left an almost physical mark on my ear drum. ‘You’re standing on my beard, you giant lout!’
‘I beg your pardon!’ I jumped back as Tansy and the Captain turned to regard us with some little show of alarm at the contretemps. ‘I did not mean to incommode you, sir.’
‘Sir!’ The little fellow nearly exploded with anger.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t know these parts well,’ I said flustered beyond belief with this breach of propriety. I felt for my handkerchief as this was the occasion to employ one to demonstrate the proper level of contrition. ‘Could you correct my ignorance as to the proper mode of address?’
‘”My lady” is generally considered the polite way to address a fine woman like myself,’ the small green creature continued, patting her long trailing beard with a protective air as if it might have been somehow damaged by my incautious tread.
You could have knocked me over with a feather or even a beard at that point for I hardly knew what I could say that would not further show me to be the worst sort of churl. ‘My lady, a thousand pardons. You must think me most awful.’ I discovered that I was more or less backing away from her as if that would save me from further insult, though I challenge anyone to see a woman such as that, green as that and with a beard so considerable and seemingly wild in its length to jump to the assumption of the fairer sex.
Life was so much more complicated than my nurse had led me to believe as a tot.
Tansy in contrast marched boldly over to the little green lady, tucked her umbrella under her elbow and thrust out a hand to shake hers. ‘I am so delighted to make your acquaintance. I am Tansy Popkin.’
‘A delight.’ The little woman shook the much larger hand without any sense of the disparity being awkward. The contrast between green and pale flesh could be most markedly seen. But I decided to ask no questions for I felt that my interference in the conversation could not help things improve any at all, for which I felt very awkward indeed. ‘I am Kelyn of the Chirks. I struck the bargain with this man,’ she indicated the Captain, ‘to put my people to work in order to fill our coffers with more useful things than those we possess, of course I mean the green calcite. He, of course prizing it, was happy to make the trade.’
‘And what is it that your people prize in the exchange?’ Tansy asked looking from Kelyn to the Captain who looked very pleased with himself indeed.
‘I have offered to them a huge store of Indian cloths and Chinese silks that I accumulated in my years of travels.’
‘Don’t judge us by the drab outfits we wear to labour in,’ Kelyn said with a chuckle, picking at her darkened clothing. ‘Come the evening we all dress fit for royalty.’
‘As is only right,’ the Captain said, bowing low—in fact very, very low—to kiss her hand.
Kelyn laughed but did not withdraw her hand from his attentions. ‘We do not believe in your absurd systems of class, but I am pleased that you think I would be in the top register of society if we did.’
‘And who are your people, if that is not a bold question,’ Tansy asked, her voice kind and thoughtful. ‘For I cannot say I have met anyone quite like you…’
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