Posted by: Briar Rose | March 3, 2004

Market Misdemeanor


Christmas Season, Aldebaran Country Scene



Chapter III: Market Misdemeanor

So there was the autumn and the winter – roaring fires, acorns and chestnuts popping on the hearth. I would invent all sorts of stories to which Francine would listen enthralled and then she would shiver and regard me with so much awe (which I very much enjoyed).

I was adventurous and this gave rise to the speculation that I had a streak of wickedness in me. I love the outside world – the markets, the gardens and parks particularly. Some of the servants used to go to those places and I would hear them talking. Once, I prevailed on Hilda, one of our maids, to take me with her. She was a flighty girl who would always had a lover and had at last found one who wanted to marry her. I persuaded her to take me to the market. She likes to act outside the law, too. She was rather fond of me and used to talk to me about her love life. He was the Schulitzeberg’s coachman and she was going to live in a cottage with him.

I shall never forget the market — its star-like orangey and deep bluish naphtha flares illuminates the turquoise-colored brick roads. It was the perfect place where the raucous cockney voices of stout little merchants called in their goods. A fine-grained wooden carts on which mounds of bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, prickly fruits, yggdrasil berries and mastela fruits polished until they shone, were arranged side by side with the pumpkins and carrots. A number of panda carts lined up next to each other, on which, second-hand cardigans, mufflers, hoods, and robes in good condition were being sold in a much reasonable price. I walked further and I reached the part were small shops and restaurants were situated. I sniffed ecstatically at the cloud of appetizing steam that came from the Shish Kebob Bistro. Next to it was the Chillies, a small but very fine-looking eatery owned by an old merchant. There, he and his wife serve seafoods – chili steamed clam flesh paired with a bao and Tom Yum Goong soup is their specialty. It was late November when I first saw it all, just as when the holly and mistletoe were being displayed among the goods. Most of all, I like the people who bargained at the stalls and carts, and then jostled and laughed their way through the market. I thought it was one of the most exciting places I had ever visited. I returned home with Hilda starry-eyed and wove stories about the market to impress Francine.

I rashly promised that I would take Francine there. After that, she kept asking about the market and I made up outrageous stories and had Francine breathless with excitement.

Then the day came when we actually went there. It was a week before Christmas, I remember – a darkish day with the mist enveloping the trees of the park. I loved such days. The Park looked like an enchanted forest bathed in that soft bluish light, and as I looked out on it, I thought to myself: “I’ll take Francine to the market.

Of course, this was the day. There was to be a dinner party that night and the whole household would not think of nothing else — the perfect day when we could get away and be back before they noticed.

I told Nanny Matilda that Francine and I would look after ourselves, and soon after afternoon honey royal tea, we set out. I had carefully noted the number of the bus and the stop posts where we had got off and we reached the market without mishap. It was then about five o’clock.

I gleefully watched the wonder in Francine’s eyes. She loved it: the candy cart that was decorated with lots of candies and candy canes, cubed cacaos and chocolates, and the half-baked cookies and ginger breads; the panda cart where children can buy toy soldiers, and poring dolls, yoyo dolls, rocker dolls and chon chon dolls displayed interestingly; then, there were the flowery carts stuffed with aloe leaflets, singing plants and sunflowers; there was a young female blacksmith with a huge stall where people can buy red and blue sandals, brown and black boots and other clothing. From the Chillies Eatery came the appetizing odor of the Tom Yum Goong combo soup, we looked inside and saw people sitting on the three-legged chairs and devouring the hot steaming stuff. Then there was an old bard playing his lyre with his cute little yoyo sitting on his side and the cap on the ground into which people dropped zennies.

I was delighted to see that Francine was of the opinion that I had not for once exaggerated the charms of the market. When the bard’s wife began to sing in a rather shrill penetrating voice, the people started to crowd around us, and as we stood there listening to her singing voice, a crowd came pushing its way to us.

Mind your backs,” cried a cheerful voice, “Make way for Januz Balaaz and Kataryzna Kiieve! Stand aside please…” Proudly said by the cheerful voice that introduced the famous Clown and Gypsy in the town.

I looked around me sharply and fought my way through the crowd; I called her name, but there was no sign of Francine. I didn’t panic immediately. She must be somewhere in the market, I told myself, and she couldn’t be far away. I had presumed that she would keep close to me. I scanned the crowds, but she was nowhere to be seen. After 10 minutes of frantic searching I began to be really afraid. Without money, how could she get home by herself? After half an hour, I began really very frightened. I had brought Francine to the market and BAM! I lost her.

And now, Francine was lost. What could I do? I knew I must go back to the house and confess what I had done and search parties would be sent out to find her. This was distasteful to me for I knew it was something that would never be forgotten and might ever result in my being officially sent into an orphanage, for after I had committed such a sin, Aunt Shaela would in finally have a justification to send me away. I suspect that she only needed such justification.

I therefore found it difficult to leave the market. Just one more look, I promised myself, and kept my eyes alert for Francine. Once I thought I caught a glimpse of her and gave chase, but it was a mistake.

It must be getting late. I was getting frantic. “Silly Francine!” I thought, finding some comfort in blaming here. “Stupid little thing! Why couldn’t she have stayed with me?

What was I am going to say? What trouble there would be! How could she have found her way home? Oh, what had happened to Francine!” I uttered to myself.

I descended from the bus and made my way to the house intending to creep in by the servants’ entrance. I saw with a shudder that the red awning was up and the red carpet down and that guests were arriving. I ran to the back of the house. Oh dear, the only thing for me to do was to go to the house and confess to the first person I saw. I made my way to the stairs to the hall and then I heard voices.

A Kafra Police Officer stood there, respectful, competent and reassuring, and beside him, looking very small in comparison, was a pale-faced Francine!

Found wandering,” the Officer was saying. “Lost. We brought her home as soon as she told us where, Ma’am.

It was like a tableau and one I believed I should never forget.

Aunt Shaela, a-glitter in a low-cut gown twinkling with emeralds and diamonds, and Uncle Jordan, immaculate in his evening clothes, had been brought down to the hall from the top of the staircase where they are supposed to receive their guests instead receiving their truant daughter brought home by a police officer.

Several guests stood on the stairs. The Schulitzebergs were just arriving – Mr. Leic, Lady Polgara and the great Chio. I noticed the intense mortification in every line of Aunt Shaela’s statuesque form: her emerald earrings quivered with passionate indignation. Francine began to cry.

It’s all right now, Missie,” said the police officer.

My dear,” said Lady Polgara, “what on Earth has happened?

Where is Nanny? What has she been doing? Francine, go to your room,” said Aunt Shaela. Francine saw me suddenly through her tears and cried: “Rose!

Aunt Shaela turned and her basilisk gaze was directed deadly straight at me.

Rose!” She said in a voice full of evil omen.

I came forward. “We only went to the market,” I began.


Yes, Madam?

I will have the young ladies taken to the nursery.” And to the police officer, “If you would care to follow me, you will be refreshed and our appreciation shown to you.

Then Nanny Matilda took me by one hand and Francine by the other. Her anger was apparent in the grip of her fingers. I would have some explaining to do, I was sure, but at the moment, I could only be relieved that Francine was safe.

We only thought we’d like to see the market,” I explained.

This could cost me my job,” muttered Nanny Matilda venomously.

And I know who was at the bottom of this, Miss Rose, and don’t you go trying to put it on Miss Francine. She was led.

Francine murmured, “I wanted to go, Nanny.

You were led, Miss Francine,” said nanny. “Don’t I know miss Rose.

Well, it was my idea,” I said. “And no one should blame Francine.

What your Aunt Shaela would say to you, Miss Rose. I don’t know. But I wouldn’t like to be in you shoes.

We were sent to bed without supper — not that we cared for that – and I lay in bedroom wondering what life was like in the orphanages. I supposed, I’d be all right at the orphanage in case Aunt Shaela finally decided to put me there…

Aunt Shaela called me the next morning. She looked as thought she had had sleepless nights.

Such conduct,” she was saying. “I despair you! Evil is in your blood. Most people would send you away. After all, we have our own daughter to consider. But blood is thicker than water and you are of our family. You have tried our patience sorely, Rose – mine and Jordan’s. I must warn you that you will have to mend your ways if you wish to stay under our roof”

I said, I hadn’t known known Francine would get lost and if she hadn’t no one would have known we had been to the market.

Such deceit,” she cried, “is intolerable. I am glad that Francine did get lost — even though it ruined my evening. At least we know what a wicked child we have under our roof.


Aunt Shaela had given instructions that I was to stay in my room until I learned the the Quality of Mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice. Perhaps, that would teach me to be grateful for those who had — and let it be remembered that could well be the last time — shown mercy towards me. I should have nothing but bread and water until I had perfected the piece, and while I was in seclusion, I might well reflect on the havoc I had wrought.



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