Part 2

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About midmorning, a ruckus came from the front of the inn. This was not uncommon when visitors arrived. But this visitor proved an enormous surprise.

The magnitude of the arrival became known to me by Mistress’ caterwauling. “Oh, my son! My son is home! Bless the Heavens that I have lived to see this day!” She fell into in raptures for this son, out in the courtyard for all to see. I had no idea that she had any living relative.

I scrubbed the floors in the dining room between breakfast and lunch as usual, so I could see everything. Into the foyer bustled Mistress, still squawking her joy. Behind her strode a corpulent man dressed in ornate clothing that looked ridiculous to me. He had no personal beauty, but he expressed himself as a man admired by all and conscious of it. His importance outshone this little inn.

Mistress’ raptures now encompassed a second person in the form of a daughter-in-law, who followed behind the son with an irritated expression. “Oh, my dear, sweet daughter, Nicole! I am doubly blessed to have two children now!” Nicole looked unimpressed. She also wore very fine clothes and her hair shone in an ornate coif, covered with a fine lace cap. Her face was pinched and her nose came to a dangerous point, directed upwards. She allowed Mistress to act as a maid and remove her velvet mantle edged in fur.

“So lovely, my dear!” Mistress began.

“Mother, there is nothing we could desire more than rest right now,” the son proclaimed in a nasal tenor voice. “We will discuss everything when we have refreshed ourselves.” One would think that he was the master here.

Soon Mistress’ prodigal son and his wife retired to the best two rooms at the inn. Mistress had no other outlet for her raptures but me, so she regaled me with all the excuses why she hadn’t paid a visit to her son while I finished the dining room.

Dempsey was his name. She told me why he never visited her: His influence was great in the city where he crafted beautiful garments for rich men. He enjoyed great riches himself and couldn’t be bothered by his old mother’s little inn.

When I finished in the dining room, she followed me to the Kitchen where I scrubbed the floors but couldn’t touch anything else. There she excused Master Dempsey at length for not answering her many long letters. He magnanimously sent her an announcement of his marriage two years before. It was made of such pretty paper that she had kept it safe in her room.

The tinkle of a bell interrupted her raptures about Nicole. Mistress leapt to respond. “Of course, they will want food! How stupid of me!” she exclaimed.

I marveled at the transformation in my Mistress. I didn’t know this woman who had replaced her.

Our work attending Master Dempsey and Mistress Nicole proceeded even later into the night than normal. Mistress attended her son and his wife with food and compliments, and when they dismissed her, expounded upon their glories to me. I fell upon my bed of straw exhausted in mind and body that night.

The following day, I awakened as usual at dawn and began my regular duties. Mistress had miraculously awakened before I approached the inn and said to me, “Girl, my son will take over the inn from now on. His enterprises in the city became…tiresome. He and his elegant wife will live here and run the inn. You will obey everything Master Dempsey tells you. Do you hear?”

I nodded, amazed.

“Girl, today you’ll go to the market.”

“Mistress!” I exclaimed, my feelings about her first amazing statement overshadowed. My emotions brought me pain from the collar. But Mistress had never permitted me to leave the inn’s property before. It was unheard of that I should go to the market!

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