I am honored to present today’s portion of the ongoing story. If you have missed the previous parts of this blog tour featuring Tallis Steelyard’s adventures courtesy of Jim Webster, never fear, I have a list here.
And now for part 8: Matchmaker
Salina Toldeck was, to be honest, an incurable romantic. It wasn’t merely
that she read those slim volumes of romance where love finds a way and the
story ends tactfully at the bedroom door, she even wrote them.
Now please don’t think I’m mocking another genre. Whilst I may hold strong
opinions on the subject of essayists, and my suspicions with regard to
musicians are both well known and based on many sad experiences, I am
generally supportive of all literary genres. The more entertaining, the
better has been my rule of thumb.
Salina herself was not one of the more successful writers in her chosen
field. I suspect that to an extent her youth was against her. Also one has
to ‘break in’ and she’d simply not had time to do this. So as well as her
writing she worked on the front desk for the Clothiers’ Guild Benevolent
Society hostel. This institution provided accommodation at a reasonable
price for those travelling to Port Naain on business. It had a decent dining
room, so that one could entertain one’s business clients there, and half a
dozen small sitting rooms one could hire for a meeting. It also had a
considerable number of small but cosy bedrooms.
Salina would greet all visitors, take bookings, book tables for dinner and
generally help the visitor make the most of their stay in our fair city.
Also, being Salina, she would almost inevitably take them under her wing and
attempt to find them a husband or wife. This wasn’t really a service the
Benevolent Society offered, it was merely what Salina did, whether anybody
asked her to or not.
The first time I came across it was when she started to feel sorry for
Todmarsh. He dealt in hides and bone meal and probably spent a third of his
life in Prae Ducis, a third in Port Naain, and a further third onboard boats
travelling between the two.
Salina always felt he seemed lonely and a little lost. Talking to him one
day he commented that he always stayed with them because he loved the
cooking. Musing on this later, Salina realised that the cook, Maddan, was a
widow and had also been complaining about being lonely.
She took advantage of her role to engineer meetings between Todmarsh and
Maddan, even to the extent of asking Todmarsh if he wouldn’t mind escorting
her home on an evening after work. Soon, love blossomed and eventually they
Now it might be supposed that Salina was acting against the best interests
of her employer. She was in danger of losing not merely a regular paying
guest, but a cook as well. In this she was more fortunate than she deserved
to be. Whilst Todmarsh did stay with his new wife when he was in Port Naain,
Maddan kept working in the kitchens at the hostel. As she said, it gave her
something to do, especially when Todmarsh was in Prae Ducis with his other
wife and family.
Another of the guests who caught her eye was Bassan Felttedder. He was in a
small way of business bringing decent quality cloth into the city from the
south and having it made up into clothes locally. Salina made a habit of
pairing him up with the young widow, Carai Lantyard who stayed at the hostel
with her four young children as she untangled her late husband’s various
Initially it has to be said that Bassan was courteous but showed no signs of
wanting any deeper involvement. It was Salina who pointed out to him that
the children were all past the potty training stage, and that mother and her
offspring displayed robust good health.
Bassan looked more deeply and realised that one of the businesses Carai was
trying to dispose of was a small clothing workshop where a group of skilled
needlewomen made up sensible clothes for hard working patrons. Thus, this
was a marriage made in heaven, Bassan proposed, was accepted and a new and
hopefully profitable partnership was born. (Along with a fifth child who
came along a respectable period of time later and seems to be as brisk and
healthy as her siblings.)
Obviously I mention only the obvious successes. Some couples Salina gently
pushed together were not perhaps as well suited as she’d thought. Others
might have enjoyed a brief, if tumultuous, relationship which didn’t last.
Some formed friendships which might well deepen into something more
permanent and formal over the years.
One consistent failure was her efforts with Neap Witherslack. He was a young
man with his own business; he was a supplier of fruit and vegetables. He
purchased them mainly from farms north of the city, but would also pick up
more exotic vegetables from the wharves. These he then sold from his cart as
he made his way round the city.
I don’t want you to think you have here a young man who chaffered over the
odd cabbage, or a handful of boelits. Neap would arrive at one of the big
houses, or a hostel, and would think to sell a couple of nets of cabbage, or
a sack or two of brown root tubers.
Salina decided that Neap ought to get married. She tried getting him
entangled with various of the maids, one or two of the younger lady guests,
and even the nurse who used to come on a regular basis to deal with Mister
Quallon’s feet. As an aside Mister Quallon was another of her failures, as
he seemed to have decided that he had reached an age when he knew what he
wanted. He decided that the role of cantankerous old man suited him, he was
good at it, and even enjoyed it. Thus he wasn’t intent on changing for any
chit of a girl.
Still back to thrust of our story, Neap, with gentle humour, would fall in
happily enough Salina’s efforts at matchmaking. He walked out with any
number of young ladies. He took some of them to various theatrical
performances. He dined out with others, and at Salina’s urging, took one
lady to the races. If questioned, tactfully, afterwards by Salina, all the
ladies would insist that Neap was charming, they liked him, but they felt
they would never be more than friends.
Salina would normally have risen to the challenge and given more thought as
to whom she could partner Neap off with, but one of her books had finally
found a publisher who seemed willing to do more than take her money to print
it. She was suddenly caught up in the whirl of book launches and similar. I
saw quite a lot of her during this period. You’ll often find poets at a good
book launch, or anywhere else where there is a chance of free wine. It was
where I got to know Neap. Almost by definition, one holds a book launch at
what might loosely be described as a ‘catering venue’. Neap made a point of
attending all Salina’s book promotions, and whilst there he would point out
to those in charge that it was possible to buy better quality produce for a
lower price than they were currently paying. I rather feel that he did
better out of the various events than she or her publisher did. There again
he was offering solid value and had a reputation for being reliable.
It was when all the fuss had died down and Salina was back working her
regular hours at the hostel that Neap made his move. He arrived at her desk
as usual when delivering, and she asked what he had for them.
Neap took her hand and said, “Will you marry me.”
At this, I am assured by two housemaids and the cook who chanced to be
passing by, Salina blushed prettily and said, “Mister Witherslack, this is
Rather dryly Neap commented, “Well if you’d not kept trying to foist me off
onto everybody else I might have had a chance to work up to it in a more
She thought about it, and briefly contemplated playing ‘hard to get.’ Even
as she did so she decided that this would be foolish, so she kissed him and
agreed to marry him.
Whether matrimony gave a depth to her writing, or her style was merely
maturing naturally, her next book sold rather well, and when the arrival of
the first of a number of children meant that keeping the front desk was no
longer an option, she drifted effortlessly into the role of lady novelist.
And now a word from the author:
So welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of
Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella-length collections of his
So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This
great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis
makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to
a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry
readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run
These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and
its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty
criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet
musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is
here, and perhaps even a little more.
Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover
the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan
Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady
writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks
the great question, who are the innocent anyway?
And then there is;-
Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?
If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some
of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to my Amazon page at
Tallis even has a blog of his own at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/
If you’d like to keep reading then check back in over the next few days for:
Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read this story. As always, kind comments are appreciated.