(123-04-18) Spice Club
Spice Club
Summary: Esme sells Camillo some spices. They discuss happiness.
Date: 18-21/04/2016
Related: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank. You have to use full URLs, like http://gobmush.wikidot.com/logtitle)

"… And look where you're goin'!" calls Esme, mildly aggrieved, after the last of her delivery boys as they hurtle out of her shop and down along the Shambles, a menace to passersby and to their own baskets. She stands on the threshold of her shop with one hand on the door and the other on her hip, pursing her lips and muttering something to herself, a vision in red and yellow and blue stripes. (A vision of what, the gods only know.)

Camillo makes his usual unassuming approach, though since Esme is taking up the doorway at the moment, he stops a little short to dip his head and offer, "Good day, Mistress Esme. Can I trouble you for some spice and sweet beans? The cook has a mind to experiment with some new sweets."

Despite having had a very good idea that a green shirt was approaching out of the corner of her eye Esme affects to jump slightly, pressing a hand to her striped bosom. "Oh! Master Camillo, I didn't see you there," she lies easily, smiling up at him. She steps backward into the shop, holding the door open for him; "Come in, come in," she insists, "I daresay you've come to the right place if it's spices you're after. I don't reckon there's many in Oldtown with a broader selection than mine… my husband always used to say I only opened this shop in the first place so's I could do all our cookin' at cost," she chuckles, the bell tinkling as she lets the door fall shut behind this favoured customer.

Camillo does not seem equally startled by her apparent startlement. He simply ducks his head a little in grattitude and steps in. He looks to Esme as they walk in. "I'm not sure I know what she wants. Or if she knows what she wants. So perhaps I had better buy a few kinds to be safe. They'll always get used. But you use fine spices in your pies. Can you recommend two or three?"

"That I can," the little shopkeeper assures him with mock gravity. She gives his arm a friendly pat, too. She always seems to be in a good mood these days.

The sweet beans are soon measured into a sack and set aside — Esme's measures are so efficient yet so conscientious, a delight to behold — and then, whilst her shop girl attends to the whims of such other customers as wander in and out in search of their own groceries, Esme herself unlocks the battered and unassuming cabinet behind the counter which is home to a wealth of rare, fragrant, varyingly expensive spices. "I'd think what she really wants is somethin' out of the common way, if she's tryin' a new dessert," she muses, setting out a couple of cheap glass jars on the shelf below the cabinet, turning to smile at Camillo on the other side of the counter. "Now, I don't know what she already has, but, as you say, they'll always get used… and the quality's what you'd want for the Hightower, to be sure. D'you mind much what you're spendin'? They're not cheap," she apologises.

"Yes," Camillo says. "We have the usual things, but I thought you might have a few interesting varieties I know less well. If we could have a small amount of two or three, I think the price will be worthwhile. If she likes one, I'll buy more of that."

"Mmm. I'll give you enough to try a dish a couple o' different ways," decides Esme, "because it's really playin' about and puttin' 'em together in new ways that leads to the most interestin' tastes…" She beams at him; she unscrews the lid from the first of her chosen jars and with the tiniest spoon in all the world measures a modest quantity of its contents onto a small clean square of parchment. Her quick and clever fingers then fold it up into a packet which seals itself by means of corners tucked snugly into folds. "Do you know," she muses, restoring the first jar to the cabinet and addressing herself to the second, "I think I've got somethin' upstairs that might be what you want. I don't keep it down here because there ain't the call…"

"Oh?" Camillo responds, expression showing mild interest. "For the cook?" His eyes seem to follow every movement of her fingers, though he seems interested rather than concerned about any potential mistake.

The shopkeeper's small, work-worn hands are as precise in this as in all else; the two tiny parchment packets, set next to each other, are identical in size. "Yes; though I reckon I have some leftovers," she chuckles, eyeing Camillo as she locks the cabinet, "if you happen to be peckish at all." The key disappears into a pocket of her dress and, carrying the packets of spice, she comes round the counter again (picking up the sack of beans on the way) with the apparent intention of whisking Camillo away upstairs.

Camillo dips his head in a shy assent to the offer of food, following along behind Esme in his stray-dog way. "You're very kind," he says sincerely.

In the butchery Esme pauses to have a quick word with the puppies in here, so to speak; no urgent matters having arisen since she last put her head round the door, she asks after an arriving customer's mother's bad leg, expresses delight at its being on the mend, and herds Camillo up ahead of her into the clean, cheerful, pleasantly shabby flat he once described as 'very nice'.

As usual at this hour, the air is redolent of bacon and eggs. Esme deposits Camillo's shopping on the table and waves him to a chair with a hand which is then quick to pull open a drawer and produce knife, fork, and second-best napkin. "How are you gettin' on, eh?" she asks. "And your plants?"

"Oh," Camillo says. He often makes that sound of mild surprise when asked directly about himself and his on-gettingness. "I'm doing fine, of course. The plants are starting to put out leaves. You can make out that they have different shapes."

Esme beams down at him as she sets his place, knife and fork precisely aligned, napkin folded so that all its edges match. She's a very neat and tidy person. "Then they must be healthy," she deduces, turning away again to fetch a stone jug of apple cider and a pair of well-handled wooden cups, which have yet a few years of service in them, "and you must be lookin' after them well… I haven't seen you for a while, have I?" she remarks, pouring the cider. "Not that you're obliged to come and call on me, mind," she chuckles, "but I'm used to seein' you and so I s'pose I'd almost begun to wonder if somethin' were the matter."

"Oh," Camillo says again, when Esme explains her concerns about him. "I'm sorry if, um… Everything is all right," he revises his opener, nodding his thanks at each item she puts in front of him. "I've been thinking about things," he says, as usual. "Someone that I know says everyone has a Purpose and you're supposed to find it and you can never be happy if you haven't found the right one," he mentions. And likely that 'someone' is a person Esme is aware of, since Camillo hardly seems to have a broad social circle. "But I don't know if that is true or if it is enough just to…be alive. When that is not so easy."

Esme has stopped where she is to look at him as well as listen to him. "Well, now," she says slowly. "I'm glad you're all right, of course… But I might be tempted to turn the rest of that on its head, dearie." She replaces the stopper in the jug and turns again, to find him a plate and something to put on it. A pasty and — oh, look, a peach. Originally itself from the Hightower, shh.

"I reckon it's our purpose to be happy," she suggests, setting this impromptu repast before him. "Now, I don't mean havin' fun all the time and what have you," she adds hastily, pulling her own chair out from the table and lowering herself into it. "I think real happiness, the kind that lives in you deep down and don't change when you have a hard day, means leadin' the right kind of life, in tune with what the gods intend for you, and servin' Their will as best you can with the talents They've given you. There may not be a grand Purpose in that, with a capital P," she pronounces it audibly, by the way, "no high destiny that changes the face of the kingdoms, but it's purposeful all right. It's somethin' that's given to us all in our way, high or low. You don't chase round lookin' for it, either. You find it inside you."

Camillo tilts his head a little at Esme's take on the matter, picking up his fork when she puts a plate in front of him, mostly looking at the food. "But if you don't find it, does that mean you are doing something bad?" he asks.

"No," says Esme promptly, "not necessarily. But it might mean you ain't happy yet." She runs a hand over her head, pulling off her bright blue headscarf, which she drops on the edge of the table in front of her. "My purpose, that's an easy one," she says quietly as she sweeps back loose strands of grey hair and secures them by the adjustment of rather pretty hairpins tipped with gleaming blue cloisonne. "Lookin' after my son. Everything I do is for him; I wouldn't be happy, and I certainly wouldn't be livin' right, if I strayed from that purpose. I don't suppose it's so cut and dried for most people, though… We do all have a right place in the world, Camillo," she promises him, "and just from our talks I might be tempted to say the Hightower is yours. But you're the only one who can really say, dearie, if it is or it isn't."

Camillo eats a bite of the pasty while thinking this over with the great seriousness he devotes to so many conversations. "The Hightower is a fine place," he says. "I had a place once before where I felt like I was of more use. And I had fewer questions then."

Esme pats her hair and then lowers her hands into her lap, satisfied with her repairs. "It's good to be useful," she agrees. "But I'm really not sure about Purposes," again she gives the word an exaggerated capital, and purses her lips; "I don't know who it is you've been talkin' to about that, perhaps someone very nice who means very well, but I can't help feelin' I hear that kind of talk, purposes and destinies and fates, most often from people who…" She hesitates, looking for the right words. "Who're afraid their lives don't count for much, and so they try to make themselves bigger and grander than they are. I think people like that miss the beauty in small things."

Camillo looks up from his pasty after another bite. "No," he says firmly. "It isn't… It wasn't a small person. Only…a young person. And sometimes young people don't…always know what they will come to know. Later. Or." He lets his comments trail off there, not clarifying what the other possibility is.

“A young person,” suggests Esme, nodding, “might be clever enough to know himself pretty well, but infer too much from that about other people, eh? Without havin’ much experience of the rest of the world… A young person of an uncommon kind,” she muses, with visions of striped beards dancing in her head, “but modest about it, might underestimate his own rarity.”

Camillo looks thoughtful about that answer, which seems to appeal to him in its pleasant plausibility. At last he nods. "I think you see things very well, Mistress Esme," he says. "I am glad we can be friends." Also glad to tuck back into that pasty.

"Well, if I do — I've been lookin' for a while longer than most people," Esme allows with a little shrug, careful as usual to deflect anything that has too much the scent of praise. "I'm glad too, dearie; I think it's nice to take a few minutes out of the day sometimes just to sit down and talk about, oh, somethin' besides orders and inventories and bad legs… Which reminds me." And with this wry reference to her shops and her customers, she taps the table with the palm of her hand and pushes herself up out of her chair to open her own personal spice cupboard, over the sideboard to the left of the hearth where she does her cooking. It's hardly less rich than the one downstairs.

Camillo looks up from his meal to Esme. "Do you ever take advice from people?" he wonders. "Or do you feel more that…you know your ways by now?"

Coming back to her chair with another glass jar and another tiny spoon, Esme answers Camillo's glance with a crooked smile. "Oh, I'm not too old to surprise myself now and again," she allows softly. The two tiny packets she made up downstairs are sitting upon a third piece of parchment, and she draws this one nearer to her over the well-scrubbed surface of her table. "And I've found it gets easier as you go on, admittin' there are things you don't know. So if I don't know, and I reckon somebody else does — I'll ask advice, it'd be foolish not to, though I may not take it. Not if I don't like it. Why," she asks, measuring out a fine pinkish powder with a fragrance pungent enough to reach Camillo across the table, a fragrance not entirely suggestive of dessert; "have you got some you'd like to offer—?" She tilts her head inquisitively.

Camillo lifts his left hand to forestall any notion that he has advice for anyone else. "No, no," he says. "Only I wondered. Since I…took my position here, anyway, I've…asked many people for advice. I had another place before where…everything was clearer but…there were complications and I had to leave. Things have been less clear, here, so I've asked advice. But sometimes I wonder if…the advice people give isn't more…them explaining themselves. Than guiding. At least for my particular situation. I think maybe…people give the advice they would want to be given. Sometimes." He looks curiously at this pink powder.

Esme restores the lid to the jar and sets the little spoon on top of it. Then she begins folding the parchment into another packet. "I think you're probably right," she agrees, "that is the kind of advice people usually give. Now, some of what I've given you, it's been a bit like that," she inclines her head toward him with this admission, "because I'd tell anyone, for instance, that the best place to look for happiness is in understandin' the will of the gods and tryin' to live by it, and that it's good to be useful. But the rest…" She shakes her head, still smiling slightly. "You and I are quite different people. Even what we have in common, we got to by separate routes. So I don't tell you what I'd tell me because it wouldn't do for you. I'd not try to make you over in my image, dearie — that's a prerogative of gods, not shopkeepers."

She sets the third spice packet in a neat line next to its fellows. Of course it proves to be of precisely the same dimensions.

Camillo nods again, watching while she makes up another packet, quaffing a little cider meanwhile. "Of course I don't mean to say I think your advice has not been good. Only…lately I've wondered if I ask too much advice in general. Of everyone."

"I don't think there's anythin' wrong in any amount of asking," stresses Esme. "Especially if you're not sure of your own intentions. Hearin' what other people have to say can help you work out what you don't think, as well as what you do. It's as I said — you don't have to take advice if you don't like it. But sometimes, well." She shrugs, and sips her cider rather more delicately. "Sometimes you might just hear something that's helpful… I hope you'll not ever take too much advice," she insists, having always given it with one hand and warned him against it with the other, "but askin' it and hearin' it and weighin' it, that seems all right to me. Flattering to your friends, too," and she chuckles softly, "to be asked."

Camillo takes that in, as well, with as much gravity as ever, and finishes the last bite of his pasty. "I think you give good advice, Mistress Esme. For me…it has been hard to know what I believe or…what I want. I know that for some it comes naturally. But I am uncertain, so often."

Esme regards him across the table, nodding slowly, sympathetically. "I've always been used to bein' sure of that kind of thing, and then just lately I've been less so — I don't like uncertainty," she admits, "not one bit. I don't know how you go on with so much of it, dearie, and that's a fact… I suppose that's why I'd like to be of help to you, if I can."

"You're very good," Camillo says, gaze lifting to Esme's face once more. "And patient. Not everyone is patient. I thank you for that. It is strange, isn't it? As a child you think you will understand everything when you grow older, but then it seems the older I get, the less I understand clearly."

Two compliments at once constitutes a hail, from which Esme retreats. “Oh, well,” she says, gaze swerving away as she rises; “it’s only my son who taught me a bit of patience.”

She puts the jar back in her spice cupboard (and hangs the tiny spoon upon its tiny hook) and straightens a couple of things on her sideboard (they don’t truly require straightening) and leans over the table to pour another drop of cider into Camillo’s cup. “I reckon this is one we’ve talked about before,” she adds in an undertone, as she runs out of little domestic delays and sits down again. Facing him squarely, with her forearms resting against the edge of the table and her hands clasped. Her black eyes are steady and thoughtful upon him. “You were sayin’ you didn’t think you were very clever, because you had so many questions,” she recalls. “And I said I think it’s only fools who think they’ve got all the answers… I think it’s pretty impressive, really, to have as many questions as you do, dearie. Most people hardly ever stop to think, or to ask… And you have to know you don’t understand a thing,” she says firmly, “before you can begin to understand it. It don’t just happen by magic, or divine inspiration. I’ve always had a hungry mind, and I’m glad of that. I wouldn’t like to have been…” She unclasps her hands, and lets out a small pensive sound as she clasps them together again in a different configuration. “One of those people who stay content with their early certainties.”

Camillo looks thoughtful about all this, not an unusual expression on his face. He presses the fingertips of one hand against the tabletop, but then takes the time to have a sip of cider as well, once it's refreshed. Then he looks to Esme. "And you think," he says slowly, "That happiness according to one's own natural state is a form of service to the gods. So…should one try to understand it? What happiness feels like or what creates it? Or is it one of those things that cannot be understood?"

Esme gives him a small, pleased smile. "You put it better than I do," she confides. "What were people made for, after all, but to love and to serve and to know the gods, to live by Their precepts and Their gifts—? To be, as best we can, what They intend us to be? And if that ain't the kind of life that'll tend toward real happiness, I don't know what is. Oh, I don't mean we should all take holy vows," she chuckles; "that ain't for everybody. But in each of us, there's some gift They gave, some skill or some quality… and where we can make the most of that gift, in Their service as it were, well, that's our right place, don't you think?" She tilts her head and quirks the corners of her mouth at him, openly inviting his participation in the question. "Don't you think that might be apt to create a bit of happiness for us?"

"Maybe," Camillo admits with a small nod. "I think…maybe my gifts were…more used in my last place if not…better used. It's such a big household, the Hightower. It was easier to know what I was about and whether I was being helpful when I served one man. To see the openings where things were needed. It's harder now."

"I never have to ask those questions," says Esme simply; "the one man I serve is my son. Everything I do is for him, one way or another. To keep him safe and happy and make sure his world stays unchangin' around him…" She clears her throat. "Perhaps you'd feel better if you could nail down your responsibilities a wee bit," she suggests, unclasping her hands again and resting her chin in the palm of one of them, supported upon her elbow. At this angle one or two of her new hairpins are visible again, dainty bits of blue cloisonne gleaming against her grey hair. The colour of cornflowers. "Which might not mean narrowing 'em, mind. Do you think you could take on more, if you understood well what it was you were to do? Or are you busy enough as you are?"

Camillo tilts his head a little at Esme's suggestions, though it soon rights when he goes to drink more cider. "I am busy," he says. "But it is different. It's hard to express how. But maybe I should…think about meanings that are outside my occupation," he hazards, quite carefully.

His hostess's dark gaze is full of friendly interest. She nods a little into her palm. "Outside your occupation," she echoes softly. "And somethin' a bit beyond your new herb garden, too, I think you mean…?"

"Maybe," Camillo admits, nodding once. "Maybe I should…try to know myself better. Other people seem to know themselves. Or…anyway, something outside. You have a son. It is different from your business. And it means more, even if you are very skilled in your business." He nods at this thought. "Perhaps there is something to be said for…finding another place just… Well, elsewhere."

Again Esme nods; "It means more, aye," she murmurs below his words, and then, "Your own self, dearie, that's a treasure the gods have given you. Make no mistake about it. What's in your own mind and your own soul, that you can never lose, nor nobody can take from you. Knowin' yourself, knowin' who you are and what you can do, I reckon that's important… But those are things you can learn anywhere. You look in for 'em, not out." A firmer nod. "What kind of other place? Somewhere away from the Hightower? What are you thinkin' of?"

Camillo narrows his eyes at the mug in his hand. "I don't mean another place to work, but maybe other places for…" He pauses a while to find words to finish his sentence with, "Finding meaning. I never really thought…doing as I pleased or…thinking about my own self would be much of a virtue. But…I think about the things you say." His gaze lifts to drift around the flat. "Life is very strange. Sometimes things just seem to happen to people. But also sometimes…they don't." Whatever that was supposed to mean.

His gaze is followed by Esme's own, darting hither and thither before returning to his face; she imagines what her flat must look like through his eyes, and doesn't get it quite right. "Oh, I know all about that," she agrees in a low voice. She smiles faintly. "Though sometimes it's only that they're takin' their own good time in comin'… because they'd not have been quite so welcome any sooner. I don't know that you need to seek that kind o' meanin', to happen upon it," she says, slowly and judiciously, "but you've got to keep both eyes open to know it for what it is if it comes seekin' you. And you've got yours open, haven't you, Camillo? I think that's the main thing."

Camillo smiles a little at Esme. "Sometimes it's hard to tell," he admits a shade sheepishly. "Did you ever have the dream…where you're trying to open your eyes, you're with people and you're trying to open your eyes and look at them, but the light is too dazzling and you just can't? They stay closed and won't pry open? But the light comes in through your eyelids?"

Esme lifts her chin from her hand and gives him an odd, curious smile with her lips slightly parted, and then shakes her head. "No," she says. "Not that one. I mostly have dreams about things like a floor I can't ever finish moppin', or expectin' guests for dinner and the fire keeps goin' out, or findin' mice in my flour bin downstairs. You know. Nightmares," she chuckles.

Camillo looks at his mug again and nods. "I guess dreams are the same as most things," he says. "Some are the same for everyone, but some only one person at a time knows about." He drinks again. "I've dreamed about mice, though."

"What kind of meanin' do you think you might like to look for?" asks Esme, regarding him over the rim of her cup between one sip and another. "I remember when we talked about marriage a while ago, you didn't seem so keen on the idea, so not a wife and children…? That's what most people mean," she tilts her head, "when they talk about the real meanin' of their lives."

Camillo brings his attention back to Esme. "Do you think there's nothing else?" he wonders. "I mean, do you think there are not many who have found value besides marriage or work?" He doesn't sound sarcastic so much as curious.

"Well, lots of things have small meanings," allows Esme evasively. "But if we're speakin' of the kind of greater meaning that makes it all worthwhile, the passionate devotion that gets you out of bed every mornin' in the depths of a long winter when you've a cold in the head…" She shrugs. "Work, marriage, or the gods. I don't know that I can think of any other," she apologises.

Camillo turns the handle of his mug a little to one side and nods solemnly. "I don't know," he says. "Maybe I will find nothing. Or emptiness. I don't know. It must be how someone feels crossing a sea."

Another sip of cider; and Esme sets down her cup and rests her forearms once again upon the edge of the table, leaning slightly forward in Camillo's direction. "If you do find another," she says softly, "I'd be very interested to know what it is. I've tried the other three," a low chuckle, "but I tend to think they come back to the same thing, really. What I was sayin' before. Tryin' your best to live as the gods intend you to live."

Camillo nods solemnly. "I suppose they do want us to work and marry and worship," he concedes. "But…some of us must fail in some area." He drinks from his cup. "I have heard it said that men die more often than women, even as babies and children. Surely then there is not a man for every bride. And this…must in some way be the design of the gods, the way you see it."

"I've heard that too. But then, more women are drawn to the Faith — there're more septas than septons," Esme points out reasonably. "And then, ah," she flicks an amused glance ceilingwards before essaying such a delicate point, "a woman who remains unwed is less likely than a man to misbehave in certain ways. It's the men who don't marry who face the greater temptation." And, more often than not, gleefully surrender to it across the square at the Bawdy Bard.

Camillo looks thoughtful about it. "If the men are more likely to misbehave than the women then…wouldn't they have a harder time finding women to misbehave with?" he wonders. "Or do you mean fewer women…work harder in that regard. Or…?"

"Fewer women workin' harder," agrees Esme, sounding amused. Which she is, by the earnestness with which Camillo is approaching even this question. "A thrivin' trade in a port city especially, of course."

Camillo does sometimes present the most strangely misplaced logic. He quaffs again of the cider, getting down toward the bottom of the cup. "Yes," he admits without pretending ignorance. "I understand what you mean. But I wonder sometimes if people would take care of the women who work at such places if they could not do that work."

Esme gives a small shrug. "I've found other jobs for a fair number of 'em over the years… but some end up back in the same kind o' places again just because it's what they know and it's easier coin than scrubbin' floors, or standin' all day behind a shop counter, or runnin' to and fro with pots of ale. As long as there're men who fancy misbehavin', there'll be such women." She gives a short, philosophical smile which fades away again into a plain and pensive expression. "I don't see that there's anythin' the matter with their characters — it's only the influence of the world and the men in it. Savin' your presence, dearie." And she reaches across the table to pat Camillo's hand.

Camillo nods a few times. "I suppose that's so," he admits. "Perhaps it is a trouble brought only by men. Perhaps we bring a lot of troubles. I don't know what things would be like if there were only women in the world." He looks thoughtful about that for a moment. "Do you think the Stranger is neither man nor woman?"

Of course by now Esme has rather a better idea of why, that morning in the Starry Sept, she met Camillo offering his devotions before the great sparkling dragonglass figure of the Stranger. "I do," she agrees, "though I usually say 'He' just because it's easier. It would be fair enough to say 'She', I suppose." She pauses. "Of course there'd be no Bawdy Bard in a world without men, but there'd be no Kingsguard neither. You men do give us an awful lot of trouble, one way or another, but I reckon just about every woman would say it's worth havin' you around." She's smiling a smile which touches her eyes.

"Do you think women wouldn't fight if men weren't around?" Camillo continues to question curiously, looking at Esme. "I wonder. I don't know. But perhaps the gods made us for some reason."

"We'd fight all right," says Esme promptly, without having to think it over, "but in different ways. Less violence, but a sight more cruelty." She drains her cup of cider and sets it down with a low chuckle. "There are lots of reasons. Every way the one goes with the other, that's a reason. I don't just mean the obvious, either, getting children — but all the ways in which an extra pair of hands, extra but different, can come in handy. Nobody can be good at everything, after all, not even you or me."

Camillo nods thoughtfully. "But even among… There are many differences, aren't there? Between any two people?"

Esme just looks at him. "You know there are; why ask me?"

Camillo blinks back at Esme's questioning of his question. Apparently he hadn't expected that as a response. "Oh," he says. "I don't know. Only… I don't know. I think people are hard to…see one way or the other, sometimes. As just one thing or another," he concludes a bit lamely.

Still studying him, Esme picks up the blue headscarf she took off when first she sat down. Her deft fingers unpick the knot from it. "Nobody's all one thing or another," she agrees softly. "We're a bit like onions — or trees. Layers within layers, and new ones all the time as we get older." She puts the scarf over her head and smooths it into place, knotting it behind her neck. "Why would you want to see somebody so plainly? What's the one thing and the other?"

Camillo shakes his head a little. "I wouldn't," he says. "I don't see much of anything very plainly," he admits. "But…there's some good in that. Sometimes people only think they see clearly. When they know the shape they are already looking for. I think."

"That may be so," agrees Esme, fixing in place with two plain hairpins the headscarf which is so much a part of the shape she gives people to see, to recognise, and to underestimate. "At least if you know you don't know, you're more likely to be payin' close attention, and to see a little bit of what's real." She gives him her most encouraging, most grandmotherly smile.

Camillo nods slowly, watching Esme re-arrange her scarf. "I see," he replies, nodding once. "Well, I think I've taken a lot of your time today, but you're always so kind about having me in. What can I pay you for the spice?"

Grey eyebrows lift. "Oh, the— ." A nod to the spice packets and the sack of sweet beans, as though she'd quite forgotten they were there. (She hadn't.) "I'll put them on the Hightower account, don't worry. And you know," her eyes meet Camillo's again, "I always enjoy our talks. It would be the easiest thing in the world to be a bit busy when you came in, wouldn't it, if I didn't want to talk— ?" she says, rather practically. "So you know I mean it."

Camillo dips his head. "I do," he says. "But I thank you for meaning it. Truly." And he /does/ seem sincere about that. When it's confirmed that the purchases are on the account and all is settled, he reaches for them. "I hope all is well with you, too. You seemed…happy today. And if you are, I'm glad of it."

As the signs and portents all indicate an end of their little visit together Esme gets up again and collects their empty cups, and sets them at the back of the sideboard as a deposit towards tonight's washing up. "Oh, I daresay I am," she chuckles. "Should I be makin' a note of what it's like? … We had a lovely time out on the water day before yesterday," she adds chattily, putting away the jug of apple cider, "I'm sure you heard about that up at the tower; and if you stop in the butchery you'll only hear about it again. My son can't stop talkin' about the dolphins. He wasn't expectin' to see them again this year, you see."

"I heard something about it," Camillo confesses softly. "I'm so glad it pleased your son. I hope it pleased you, as well. They must be beautiful from a boat, the dolphins. Were they very near?"

Having completely run out of tidying up to do Esme leans back against her sideboard and folds her arms comfortably across her striped chest. "Near enough," she concedes, smiling slightly. "Well, I mustn't keep you. I do hope Lady Marsei was all right, later on. No ill effects from her little bit of seasickness. She was very gracious, of course."

"I'll be sure to check on her condition," Camillo replies. "But she is so often kind and gracious. And I am sure she can weather some seasickness. She has strength, in her way." He dips his head. "Good day, Mistress Esme."

"I mean she was very good to my son," Esme clarifies; "he's still got no idea who they are, and that's best, really. Well. Let me see you out, dearie. And if you think it's proper, do please give her our regards, and say we both hope she's feelin' better, eh?" And she opens the door, and follows him down.

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