Monday, September 8, 2014

Thirty-Sixth Beginning: Daffith's Egg 02

[Continued from here.]

By the time the sun was fully risen, Daffith had been shooed out of both of Hawesbeck's hiring stables.  He was sitting in an alley, leaning against a wall next to his loaded barrow, and fighting a rising sense of panic.  There were so many ways that his plan could fail and her he was, completely unable to get started.

Mother used to say "first things first."  But the first thing, here, was getting a job in a stable, and he'd failed to do that.  Father would say something like "keep at the job 'til it's done."  But getting tossed out of a stable instead of shooed out wouldn't help things much.  Uncle Ures would say . . . Daffith frowned.  He didn't want to think about what Uncle Ures would say, but the though sneaked in anyway.

Uncle Ures would say something like: " It's all a matter of presentation.  Think of what the other fellow wants, what he wants to hear.  Then describe the deal from his point of view.  It's not lying, boy!  Don't you ever say that again!  It's just that any fellow you meet is going to be more interested in his own point of view than in yours.  If you remember to lay things out from his point of view, you've got more chance of convincing him that you both want the same thing for different reasons."

Daffith slouched back against a shop wall.  He should have thought of that sooner, but he'd been set on thinking of the whole thing from a farming view and now his chances were ruined.  He needed to get a job in a stable and now  . . . or did he need a job in a stable?  How about a job in a place with a stable, like a nobleman's house or - - an inn!  Daffith straightened.  An inn would be perfect.  But he'd have to think things through first, this time.  He'd have to think about what he could offer an innkeeper in return for the things he'd need to hatch the egg.

Daffith's stomach rumbled.  Too bad.  This was more important.  Maybe looking over a few inns would give him an idea.  Maybe just for today he could work in an inn in return for dinner.  Well, first things first and keep at the job 'til it's done.  Daffith rose and dusted off his seat.  Time to go study an innkeeper's point of view.

Two days later, Daffith trundled his wheelbarrow out of the city gates with the first light of dawn, ready to make his first true attempt at employment.  He had picked his inn carefully and he knew that he would feel deeply disappointed if he failed.  It wouldn't be the first test of his presentation, though.  He had tried it at other inns, inns he had known wouldn't hire him, but actual inns anyway, with actual innkeepers.  He had learned a few things about innkeepers and had gotten a few meals and slept in a few stables.

Innkeepers, he had learned, never trusted anybody.  They were always looking to be cheated.  That had made a disaster of most of the first day.  He had been drinking with cupped hands out of a rain barrel in the gathering evening and pondering that when he had remembered something else that Uncle Ures had said.  "When someone thinks you're out to cheat them, you have to explain things from your point of view.  You have to explain to them what you think you're going to get out of them, so that they can trust that you're serving your own self interests well enough not to have to bother plotting to cheat them."

It had seemed stupid and distrustful at the time, but that was before he had talked to so many innkeepers.  He could see why they'd get that way.  They'd do business with strangers and riffraff often enough to make them suspicious of normal folk, too.

So he had added an explanation of what he wanted out of the deal to his presentation.  He couldn't mention the egg, of course.  What he'd ended up doing is explaining about the farm and about his uncle and aunt and about how he wanted to do something like farming again.  It settled them, knowing that there was something he was after, something they wouldn't mind him getting.

He had also learned that innkeepers were more likely to give you a job if you'd worked at an inn before, even only overnight, and if you could name an innkeeper that they knew that could say that you worked hard.  There were also some rivalries between inns.  Uncle Ures had spoken about rivalries, about how one rival would buy something just because he couldn't stand the other having something he didn't have.  That part still seemed a little dishonest, but he wouldn't be lying and the egg needed to be nested down soon.  

Daffith stopped in the street in front of the inn and looked at it, gathering his final thoughts.  According to the old cooks and barmen and maids he'd talked to, the inns outside the city gates were once considered dangerous dives.  The idea being that only a criminal who couldn't risk being recognized by the gate guards would want to stay outside the safety of the city walls.  But as shops and houses and more inns began to sprout outside the walls, the idea of danger and impropriety waned.  Still, it was the inns within the city that could charge the higher rates and the inns outside that yearned to catch up, to shed their unfortunate past and stand as solid establishments.

The Pelican was an inn that considered itself to be rising competition to the inner inns.  It was not merely whitewashed, but painted in pelican light greys and browns.  The rippled glass of its yellow and orange patchwork stained glass windows were washed every morning and its grounds were kept spotless.  Being outside the walls, its grounds were large enough to allow a stable and a new, though at present unfortunately underused coach house.  It was the stable and the grounds that held Daffith's interest.  He circled the inn slowly, considering the possibilities, on his way to part his wheelbarrow by the kitchen door.

"You can't put that there.  Be off with you, farm boy!  Tend to your turnips."

Daffith was surprised and a bit cowed.  The girl standing with her hands on her hips and scorn on her face sounded so sure and in charge.  Still, this was his best chance and he couldn't just give up.  

"Are you Innkeeper Greenford's daughter, miss?"

"If I were, would I be dressed like this, fool?"

"Are you his wife, then?"

"No, idiot, of course not.  Off with you!"

"Then who are you to be running off people who have business with the innkeeper?"

The girl was older and taller than Daffith, with dark braids and darker eyes.

"I'm Lillian, and you can call me the scullery maid if you want, but I'm the one who sees the kitchen runs properly and I'm the one who shoos away fools who try to sell wilted extra vegetables and questionable meat at the back door.  Now get!"

"Since I haven't any vegetables in my barrow or any interest in your kitchen, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell Innkeeper Greenford that there is someone come to speak to him about a job tending to the stables and to the grounds.  You may tell him that I have worked with Sill, the gardener at the Golden Rings, if you think that would be of interest to him."

Daffith held his ground as the girl stared down at him angrily.  He tried to guess her age and ended in thinking her about seventeen.  Finally she made a disgusted noise and flounced toward the door, turning once to yell, "And get that thing out of the way of the door."

From her pointed finger, he guessed she meant him to head more toward the stables.  So he lifted the handles of his barrow and trundled off.

Breakfast was clearly underway, and several folks had collected their horses and left, when Daffith decided that the girl had not passed his message on to the innkeeper.  The thought made him angry.  He had purposely come early knowing that, though dawn was the time of greatest activity for the kitchen, it was sometimes the quietest part of an innkeeper's day.  Then or the time just after breakfast were the best times to speak to them about jobs.  To have missed the best time to talk to Greenford just because some kitchen girl felt snooty and above herself was infuriating.

A stableboy, well, man, maybe, was leading another horse out into the yard.  Daffith left his barrow and walked over, not entirely sue how to begin.

"Nice horse, sir."  In his ear it seemed a lame start, but it was all he could think of.

"Be nicer if it was mine."  The russet haired maybe-man looked down at him.  Up close, Daffith could see the beginnings of a mustache.  He couldn't decide whether this person was older than the snotty scullery or not.  Looking closer, Daffith saw eyes crinkled with impatience.  "I wouldn't order it saddled up immediately and then order breakfast in the next breath."

"Always smile at the customer," Daffith smiled, "even if he's obviously got a head full of manure.  It's what's in his pockets that matter."

"I see you've worked at an inn."

"Only for the last couple of days."  Should he start his presentation now, sort of a practice run before talking to Greenford?  "Actually, I'm sort of looking for a position now.  Sort of stables and grounds, both."  No.  This was not going well.  He was forgetting things and rushing things.

"In that case, how about you hold this horse while I get a few others saddled?  That way you can say you've already lent a hand.  Innkeepers like that, you know.  And if that fool does come out "immediately" his horse will be waiting just where he ordered."

"Could I walk it back and forth a bit?  Horses like that better than just standing still."

The stableman looked at him and seemed to see him a little more clearly this time.  He nodded, than began to walk away, talking to Daffith sideways as he went.  "Sure.  Good idea.  I'll be back soon.  And thanks."

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