To Market Downhill

Rising the next morning Sarah dressed in the clothing Lady Abigail had set aside for her the previous night. If she was to become a lady, Sarah thought, she would need someone to help her keep not only ranks straight but fashion as well. Margaret smothered laughter as Sarah entered the kitchen.

“Oh goodness,” Lady Abigail flourished her hand.

Sarah, who was becoming familiar with that gesture, looked down at herself.

“She must have long legs ta make your skirt look that short,” Margaret mused.

Lady Abigail just sighed. “Back up we go, that skirt will not do.”

“Why not?” Sarah asked as they ascended the stairs. She could see nothing wrong as the skirt was the same length as all the others she had.

“Why not?” Lady Abigail repeated, somewhat frazzled. “Child!” She picked out one of Sarah’s skirts and sighed. “I suppose that, since you did not grow up in Vervell, I ought to allow you more leeway.”

Sarah took off the borrowed skirt. “So why will that skirt not do while this one will?” Sarah took the proffered skirt from Jason's mother.

“Because this skirt,” Lady Abigail held the one Sarah had just shucked, “is an embroidered Noble woman’s skirt; a skirt that should always be long enough to hide one’s ankles.”

“Oh.” Sarah finished putting on her own skirt, which only came to mid-calf. “So this skirt is?” she asked as Lady Abigail returned the embroidered skirt to its trunk.

“A middle class woman’s plain skirt,” she responded. “It is one of moderate fullness and length,” she paused and studied Sarah for a moment, “and suitable enough for you to go to market in.”

They returned downstairs for a quick breakfast, for Lady Abigail did not let them linger over it. Standing she led Sarah from the dining room to the front door. Magaret appeared from the kitchen and hurried after them with baskets and hats.

“Here ye are Mi’lady,” she handed a basket to Lady Abigail. “And one for ye as well,” Margaret handed the second, and smaller, one to Sarah. “And don’t forget yer hats.”

Sarah placed the straw hat on her head, suddenly feeling a bit silly. It was the kind of hat she could see old southern ladies wearing to church on Sunday. Thankfully hers was adorned with a single flower and ribbon. Lady Abigail’s was much fancier, with what looked to be a full bouquet on one side. Then, to Sarah's surprise, they headed out the door and began walking.

The trip down the hill through the city was much different than the carriage ride up it. For one, there was a path, fitted with stairs, that cut a straighter route through the city. It was a bit narrow and barely allowed Lady Abigail and Sarah to walk side by side. As they met someone walking up, Sarah tried to fall in step behind Lady Abigail. Unfortunately she nearly knocked into the woman as Lady Abigail had moved to the left while Sarah went right. Think England, Sarah chided herself as she resumed her position beside Lady Abigail.

A large stone wall now rose before them, one of the five Lady Abigail had mentioned during the carriage ride. Here it sported a small portcullis that the path went under. A heavy wooden door lay open to the right against which two Scouts, judging by their clothing, lounged. They immediately stood to attention as Lady Abigail neared.

The Scouts bowed their heads to the Lady as she passed them. Lady Abigail acknowledged them with just the barest of head movements. Sarah copied her while trying not to look at the men. Their stares were a little too ogle like for Sarah’s taste. Walking through the wall Sarah enjoyed its deep shade. But, though thick, they were soon through and passing by two more scouts.

“Was that?” she heard one say. The voice sounded a bit like Jess.

“Couldn’t be,” said the second; another familiar voice.

Allen, maybe, Sarah thought. But when she looked back they were hidden by her hat. She stumbled slightly and turned her attention back to the stairs.

They passed through a second wall and by more people. Then, just beyond the third wall, the path ended, depositing them on a thoroughfare of the market. The noise that had been so absent the night they arrived was in full swing. Peddlers walked the streets calling out their wares. Merchants and buyers argued over prices. Even the voices of the animals, two levels below, could be heard.

“This way,” Lady Abigail, touched Sarah’s arm, bringing her out of her daze.

The End

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