We’re pleased to have you for a visit, Mr. Landau. It’s not often we have a man of letters in these parts. I hear your stories are quite popular in some sets, though I’m not much of a reader, I’ll admit. You look tired, though. I hope the train ride wasn’t too long? Now, mind that step, bless you.
These stairs are narrow and a mite crooked, but I’m sure you’ll get the hang of them soon enough. Now, what is this? I’m sure I told that girl to sweep up here. Well, old houses, you know. Now, this is the garret, as you can see, but we’ve given it a lovely sprucing up. You like the color? Mother was worried that it was too green, but I said it made the place seem quite sunny, though I don’t suppose the rug goes very well now that I look at it.
The windows stick now and again, if we’ve had rain – which you know is often out in these parts – but if you give the casing a good whack, they’ll come open fine. This one has the best view. Oh dear, mind your head, Mr. Landau. It’ll take you a while to get accustomed to the ceilings, like as not. You are a tall one, I’ll say that, and willowy.
See out there? Isn’t that nice? Just below is the lake, which I’ll grant you looks a bit bleak just now, but in a few weeks, it’ll be surrounded with flowers – purple and blue and little ones of yellow that you only see when you’re down walking through them.
Now that, out there, is Grandy Mountain, which’ll wear that bonnet of snow all the year, even in July, when we’re all broiling like pigs over a spit down here. There’s paths up, but some safer than others, so you’ll need to ask around before you set off on any exploring. But then, I suppose you might not be the sporting type.
Now, here I’ve been gabbing away and not telling you where to put down your trunk. Oh, but then so you have and over there, too, in that spot. Oh dear. Well, I don’t see why not. I suppose if it crimps the edge of mother’s rug, we can somehow smooth it out. Maybe over the kettle.
Oh and so you’re moving it, are you? Well, it might be for the best. I’d recommend putting it there, in the front gable. That way you can walk straight up to it as you need and not bump your head. Is it as heavy as all that, sir? You do look a mite strained, Mr. Landau.
In Dr. Dransfield’s letter, he said you were sick from exhaustion, so I imagine you’ll be needing plenty of rest. Well, as you can imagine, sir, we have a surplus of quiet out here in our little corner of the world. Mother has the preacher – and sometimes Anna, that is Ms. Galvistan – out for Sunday supper every week, but generally it’s just the two of us, so you shan’t have to worry about the noise of comings and goings.
Now, I’ve put this table here for your typewriter. It’s mother’s sewing table, but the contraption’s been on the fritz, so we sent it to London to have it looked at. It’s quite a sturdy little table, though not very big. You could open the top to make it a little bigger, but then there’d be the hole and what good would that do you, I ask? I’d only request that you leave this bit of oil cloth in place, so as not to scratch the wood. Mother thinks it’s walnut and very fine, though I suspect it’s only the finish. Still, she’d be so heart-broken if it were gauged by your typewriter.
You look so fagged, poor Mr. Landau. I shall get out of your hair in just a moment, but first I ought to point out one or two more things, so as you’ll feel absolutely comfortable and need me no more to feel right at home.
I will admit to knowing a little something about you besides that you’re a writer, Mr. Landau. A little something which has made mother and me very sympathetic to your plight. It was Mrs. Whitticombe, who does over our bonnets, who told us about it. She’s a terrible gossip and that son of hers, Jimmy – the one who up and went off to work in the theatre – well, he’s the one who told her. She says that Jimmy’s getting very important in London, but Mrs. Whitticombe likes to put on airs, so there’s no telling the truth of that. She tried to sell me feathers for my autumn bonnet once; said they were ring tail pheasant, but I could tell she’d marked plain ones in with paint. It didn’t look natural, at all. Still, out here in the provinces, when there is only one woman who’s any good with hats, you have to make do and put up with the prattle. Isn’t that right, Mr. Landau?
Well, I only wanted to say, mother and I are very sympathetic, dear man. I blessedly have never had the misfortune of falling in love – indeed, I think I’m missing the part that fancies men very much. Not that I mean to say… Well, I mean, I think love is a rather foolish thing. That is all.
I think people like you must take it all the harder, isn’t that right, Mr. Landau? I mean, artist, they say, are quite sensitive people really. Mother says they take things harder than other folks. So, we’ve made a pact – mother and I have – to be sure you’re not bothered by a soul while you’re up here. You shall have as much peace and quiet as you need and before you know it, sir, you’ll be right as rain.
Now, enough of that, Mr. Landau. I can see you’re getting all the more strained by the minute. I know I shouldn’t have brought it up, but I just thought you’d like to know you have our sympathies. It’s always the delicate ones who the girls throw over for men with charm and swagger. We’re terrible, fickle creatures, mother always says, and not to be trusted. Oh, dear, you have got a look about you, sir. Quite pale, you’ve gotten.
But to business, sir. I’ve cleared out this wardrobe for your things. It smelled of mouse, I worried, so I hung some lavender in it. Then mother said gentlemen didn’t like to smell of sachets, so I had the girl take the lavender down and scrub it good with lemon oil. It turned out quite nice, if a bit pungent. I hope it’ll do. Oh, I see you’ve found the bed. My goodness, you’re a quiet one, aren’t you?
Well, I had wanted to point out that mother volunteered her favorite coverlet because it’s so pretty, but she did ask that I show you the lace along the edge, so that you’d be extra careful of it while you stayed. No, no, sir. Not that edge. It’s here, under your boot. Oh heavens, and it’s so delicate. I think it was rather extravagant of mother, poor dear. I don’t think you’ll be able to relax at all, knowing that lace will be ripped to shreds by the time your stay is over. I have a nice wool blanket, plain but sturdy, that I shall bring up before supper. Never fear, sir. We’ll have everything sorted soon enough.
I did want to tell you about dinner, because mother is very strict about sitting down, only because she’s rather cross if the cabbage goes cold. When you hear the bell, it means five minutes until we sit down. If you prefer to take dinner in your room, you may let me know earlier in the day. I don’t suppose you’re much of an eater, but I hope our chilly air will enliven your stomach. Hot meals are the best way to keep the bones warm.
Oh sir, I hate to see you getting up if you’re so tired. I told you I would tend to the coverlet later. You are a dear. Mother was given that coverlet by a very fine lady who stayed here many years ago. A shy enough creature, delicate like yourself, who cut her summer short quite out of the blue. She sent us a letter, weeks later along with the coverlet, apologizing for her hasty departure. I think she was the type who enjoys the city more than the countryside. It seemed her nerves only got worse the longer she stayed with us. Poor dear.
Now, if you open the window today, Mr. Landau, it may get a bit chilly by sunset. The draft is the devil. Oh, my! What a whack you’ve got on you, but as I said, that is the only way to get it open. That is rather a lot to open it, dear sir. It may stick if you open it so far. I had wanted to have the girl take some beeswax along the case, but you know she said she needed to get home for supper and I thought perhaps that was a hint that she thought we ought to offer her some of ours and I hadn’t made very much that day. Well, and the girl is a rather large creature with a big appetite. I think her people are Welsh and you know how they eat, sir.
Well, and so you’re putting your trunk on the sill. Sir, is that wise? Well – oh my! There it goes! If I didn’t know better, Mr. Landau, I would have thought you sent that out on purpose. Mr. Landau, what in heavens name are you up to? Do you need air? My goodness, you’re far too long legged to try to fold yourself through that opening. My goodness, it’s like watching a spider coming out of the drain. Mr. Landau, have you quite lost your senses? Oh!
What madness! I hope he hasn’t fallen on mother’s hydrangea. She is terribly particular about them and they barely came back last year, what with all them mites and then the mildew. Mr. Landau? Mr. Landau, what were you thinking? Oh my, and now he’s up and over the hedge. How peculiar.