Because I think it is done, and and I couldn't seem to write anything else until it was.

Rosemary Potatoes

"Pass the mashed potatoes, will you?"

A clawed and furry hand passes me the dish of potatoes. I spoon a large helping on my plate and hand the dish back.

"Why are you doing this?" He seems confused.

"Because they are very decent potatoes, and I am hungry."

"No, I mean, you are here, you are calm, why?"

"If you had thrown the potatoes at me instead, I would probably have left to clean up and have been rather angry at you, but since you didn't I am neither gone nor upset."

He is confused, then frustrated. I am being purposely dense, and we both know it.

"Why did you take your father's place here, with me?"

"If this was his place I could move a seat over, though the servants might have to set out new silverware. Really it just seems a waste. You should really consider some name tags if you are going to make such a big deal out of it."

He sighs and changes tact.

"Will you marry me?"



"At home, we put rosemary in our potatoes, these are just plain. I can't very well marry into plain potatoes."

"Rosemary?" his tone is flat as the carpet.


"You see? The Rosemary does wonders for the flavor, bit light on salt though. No, no don't worry yourself I've got it." Two shakes then I hand it to him. "Here, just a bit, then they are perfect."

He shakes the salt, amending the mistake, but his heart really isn't in it.

"Father always says it is best to keep potatoes interesting," I chatter pleasantly. "Dull potatoes leads to dull dinners and dull evenings."

I finish my meal with relish, he barely touches his.

"Oh come now, the servants will think that you didn't enjoy your chicken!"

"They are made of wind."

"That doesn't mean they don't have feelings."

"Which are hurt if I don't finish my meal?"

"They put a lot of time and effort into that meal, it's the least you can do."

A pause.

"Will you marry me?"



"If a man cannot enjoy his dinner, then he has nothing else in the world worth enjoying."

He blinks slowly at me. He finishes his dinner.

"Ahh, I figured you for a roast beef sort of man."

"I enjoy it more than chicken."

"I can certainly tell, and it is a very good roast beef. This wine as well! What is it? I shall have to recommend it to father." I tilt the wine glass to the light, looking at it.

"I do not know."

He catches my look of disapproval.

"The servant could bring the bottle," he waves a paw and a servant whispers off.

"If you buy and serve something to your guest you really aught to know everything about it, what if it was a poor year? That could ruin the whole meal!"

The wine bottle floats into the room and is brought to me for examination.

"Ah, no wonder it is so good! I really should have recognized the Garier Vineyard, father keeps a good stock of it in the cellar."

"Will you marry me?"



"There could be anything in your cellars, for all you and I know. There is too great a risk of spoiled meals in the future."

"Bless you, oh dear, it seems this dust just really isn't agreeing with you. Perhaps that might serve as at least a small excuse for why you have never come down to examine your own cellars before."

He sneezes again, and looks rather miserable.

"Now look here," I hold my lantern up to a shelf of French Merlot, "This looks to be a very good Merlot, it's lighter, so you might serve it with mushroom dishes or fish. Those are always good meals for important business, because then everyone is still awake after dinner, though, of course that really depends on if you want everyone fully awake."

He looks at me strangely, "Where did you learn this?"

"Experience, I imagine you are often sleepy after a heavy meal, most people are."

"No, not that."

"Oh you mean the wine pairings? That's just what everyone says."

"No! Well, yes but- That and- and all the stuff about wine and cellars and how to do business and such."

"My father is a merchant, and a very good one, you know," I remind him, "There is plenty of business done over dinner."

"But you are a woman."

"I'm glad you noticed." I move over to the next shelf down of white wines.

"Women don't need to know about business."

"Father always said, it's not about what you need to know, it's about what you should want to know. Makes everything much more fulfilling. Here, what to you think of this one?" I hold up a bottle for his examination, "This one for tonight?"

He doesn't even look at the bottle.

"Will you marry me?"

"I'll suppose that is a yes for the wine," I sigh.

"Will you marry me?"



"Because that was a terrible wine choice with the beef, weren't you listening while I was teaching?"

"It was so pleasant out today, don't you think?"

"I wouldn't know," he answers.

"One of the last pleasant weeks of the fall, I'm sure."


"I took a walk about the entire property, or I must have, there is a lovely woods out back. I think I was lost in it for a little while."

He is all concern, "You shouldn't-"

"It was glorious!" I say glowingly, "It is quite impossible to get lost in the woods near my home."

"I see."

"And you have quite a high concentration of mocking birds, did you know that?"

"Are they the ones that wake me up in the morning?"

"Quite probably! Did you know, they like to find the tallest perch they can and sing all of the songs they have collected recently. They are quite the little performers."

"Yes, then I agree, the concentration of them is very high."

"So you didn't go outside at all today?"


"Oh, and the colors of the leaves are simply stunning! Like the entire forest is decked out for celebration. Ah, and the breeze so crisp and clear that it makes you feel light and clean all the way through. Even father makes exceptions with work for lovely fall days."

He picks at his soup.

"Will you marry me?"



"Because the sky is far too blue today for marriage."

"You were working in the garden today," he observes quietly over his green beans.

"I was. I was yesterday as well. The weeds were out of control, but don't worry, I have quite subdued them."

"Where did you find the shovel?"

"I didn't."

"But I saw you-"

"I stole one of the spoons from breakfast, I hope you don't mind."

"And the gloves?"

"You know, gardening in lace gloves is not really something I would recommend, they don't provide much in the way of protection."

"Your hands!"

"Have accumulated a fine array of battle scars from the insidious weedy enemy."

"Why would you do that?" He is incredulous. I have become rather immune to that look.

"Because my father always taught me that one should not sit idle but leave the world a better place than how you found it."

"You were bored," he summarizes.

"Tragically so," I agree, "I cannot bear so much barren empty time, with nothing to do but examine one's memories and thoughts. What do you do here when we are not having dinner or examining your cellar?"

He is silent.

"Well, I am done with the west garden for now, do you have any more?"

"No, no more gardens," he looks at my hands. "There is a library, it needs a lot of work."

"All out of order I imagine."


"Dust and Mold run rampant."


"Very well, I will gladly take up the challenge."

"Will you marry me?"



"I am far too busy organizing a library."

"-and then I found a book all about botany absolutely riddled with a black mold, quite ironic I think."

"What did you do with it?"

"I put it in the stack in another room to copy out if possible. The servants have agreed to set about copying the books, though I believe I shall be helping on occasion, I would love a chance to read through that one on tyrants. Also, I suspect they are afraid of mice."

"The tyrants?"

"No, silly. Though they certainly might be. The servants. I had to chase out several mice hiding under the curtains before they would enter the book copying room. That is probably why some rooms have fallen into disrepair and others have not."



"I wasn't even aware the wind servants could talk."

"Oh they can't."

"But then how did you get them to agree?"

"I just assumed that they did when they started bringing in paper and pens."

"I see."

"How would you like the books organized?" I ask.

"However you like."

"Oh come now, by title perhaps?"

He looks at me suspiciously, I think he recalls the bottle of wine question. "No, by author."

I put a finger to my lips in thought.

"Will you marry me?"



"Because I couldn't possibly marry a man who doesn't know that libraries of this size are organized by subject."

"You are missing dinner."

"Oh goodness, look at the time, I hadn't even realized. You are quite right."

He waits at the library door.

"Are you coming?" He asks after several more minutes.

"Oh yes, yes of course."

He holds open the door.

"Any time soon?"

"Just after this page."

He waits.

"Dinner will be cold."

He taps his foot.

"I thought you said that if you can't enjoy dinner you can't enjoy anything else." He points out.

"Yes, which means that dinner is quite at the bottom of the long list of things which can be enjoyed."

I turn the page. Just one more.

"What are you even reading?"

"Did you know that the tiny starter leaves in a seed is called the cotyledon, and that you can tell what kind of plant it is by the shape and number of them?"

"Why would you care?"

"What if I called you a hilum?"

"I might be a bit offended."

"I would just be confused, being called the part of a bean that used to attach to the plant."

"Does that prove something?"

"That you don't know your anatomy of beans very well."

"There are some black ones on the table that are getting cold at the moment. I don't see the need to know more."

"Right! Dinner, I had quite forgotten, I don't suppose you could bring it in here? Wait, terrible idea. I will bring the book. Much cleaner that way. Father used to always disapprove of my bringing books to the table, well, until I shared, of course. Dinner would be cleared away and we would still be going through them. But yes, dinner."

"You really love this library."

"I love books. I love stacks of books. I love great mountainous piles of books! And there are quite a lot of books here to love."

"Will you marry me?"



"I couldn't marry a hilum."

"But we have established that I am not a hilum."

I sigh.

"Because the most interesting part of a bean to you is how they are served."

"Aren't you worried the book will get dirty?"

"No, I am very careful."


"It must be a very interesting book."



"Will you marry me?"

"Hmm? Oh. No."


"Well, I'm reading right now."

"What is this one about?"

"Hmm?" I look up from the page I was reading.

"What is the book you have this evening about?" he repeats.

"Justice," I pause, "And I think he is trying to relate it to kings and countries, but it is being done in a rather round-about way."

"I see."

In the silence, I return to my paragraph.

"You have not finished your dinner."

"I'll get to it."

"You didn't last night, or the night before, or the night before that."


"You will hurt the feelings of the servants," he observes slowly, as if unsure if turn about is fair play.

"You are right, I am being a terrible guest."

"...So are you going to eat?"

"After this page."


"I- I don't think you should bring books to the table anymore." It is odd to see such an intimidating beast so very nervous over just a few little words.

"Oh?" I peer at him just over the top of the book.

"The servants aren't the only ones whose feelings might be hurt."

"Very well then." I smile close the books and eat my room-temperature soup.

"You are not annoyed at me?"

"Why would I be?"

"It was another test wasn't it?"

"I don't know why you would think that."

He blinks slowly at me.

"I was rather wondering how long it would take you," I admit.


"Curiosity. Testing Limits. Seeing how long I could get away with the pleasure of having books at table."

He doesn't ask that night. I think he might have been annoyed.

"Why do you love books so much?"

"Because I hate trees."

"What?" He is startled.

"The more books I read the more trees must be cut down so that more books may be printed to feed my insatiable hunger."

"That is not a real answer."

"Drat, I must be slipping."

"What is the real reason?"

"Escape. From boredom?" I offer.

"Not to this level, that you spend so much time just being around them."

"What about thirst for knowledge?"

"Why is it a question?"

"Because it is a rather boring answer," I admit.

He waits.

I shrug.

"Comfort," I say finally. "Good memories, mixed with habit."

"Like what?"

"Like long evenings, on the nights when father wasn't busy, spent in front of a large fire, with books and spatters of conversation."

He blinks. He doesn't get it.

I sigh. "Did your parents tell you they loved you?" I ask, changing tact.

"I wouldn't have cared if they did."

I pause. "Who took care of you?"

"The housekeeper." He hunches his shoulders.

"And how often did she say she loved you?"


"How often,"

"Very often," he shrugs, confused where I am going.

"Did it ever feel... overused? As if she was just saying it? Like you knew she meant it, but the word didn't mean anything at the time?"

He frowns and says nothing.

"Father used words, the same way he used numbers in ledgers and dinners with business. He used words as tools." I rest my chin in my hands. "He told me with words that he loved me, but an evening in front of the fire, with warm mugs and interesting conversations and good books and being told how very clever I am- Evenings when his time, valuable as it was, was all mine..." I shrug.


"I think I am going to go to bed early." I stand and turn from the table.

"Will you marry me?"



"Because tonight I am not nearly clever enough to come up with a good response."

"Did your mother die?"

"Goodness, but that is an abrupt sort of question to just ask. You are supposed to lead up to such a question so it is not so startling."

"I have been trying to for the last half hour but you keep changing topics."

"Are you saying you don't enjoy talking about how different concentrations of sand in concrete affect the strength? Drat, I should have chosen a more distracting topic. What is your opinion on cream in tea?"

"Is that why you are so close to your father?"

"Did you know that the cream doesn't just mask but actually removes the bitter flavors from the tea?"

"Did she?"

"I do not know, and I frankly do not care." I snap. "She did not care to be a part of my life so I have no interest in hers. It is a recognized flaw of mine that I hold onto grudges like barnacles to a ship."

He is silent for a while. "I take my tea without cream," he says finally.

"It does make the brewing process somewhat simpler," I agree.

"Will you marry me?"



"Because I take my tea with cream and sugar."

"You will be up all night if you finish that entire pot of tea," he observes.

"Up all night in the library. As long as the servants can keep the fire fed I see no problem with this eventuality," I say, settling back into my chair in front of the fire, warmed cup in hand.

"I won't be able to stay awake that long."

"Perhaps you should have some tea as well."

He does not accept my gracious offer.

"The library seems to be coming along well."

"Do you think so? I have been avoiding the histories because I know that I will spend far too long there. There are a number of remarkably interesting books, but they are so hard to put in order. Organized primarily by time period or location, I keep asking myself, and have yet to come to a decision."

He does not offer an opinion.

"Do you sit so far back because you would be over-warm with all the fur?" I ask.


"Must be nice, with the cold winter setting in."

"I suppose."

"Are there any good lakes about? I believe I saw one just a little ways off on the north hill. I should think it would be frozen over by now. I do love ice skating. I don't suppose that you have any spare skates about?"

"I do not believe so."

"Not a single pair! I shall have to request that my pair from home be sent in my next letter, though father will have to look for a new box for his skates. We have always stored our skates together, it seems a shame, because the box is really too big for just a single pair... Of course, it would be even more a shame to go an entire winter without skating. Will you join me?"

"My size makes it particularly difficult."

"Oh, you are quite right, we will have to make sure that the ice is plenty thick."

"The claws make it rather difficult as well."

"I suppose they would. What about a very large snowman? I am sure your size is an advantage there."

"We will have to wait for snow."

"I am taking that as a yes and I shall hold you to it as soon as there is a proper snow!"

He stares at the fire for a while and I return to my book.

"Why are you still here?"

"Because the fire makes it much easier to read and I have had quite a lot of tea."

"You know what I mean."

I close the book, leaving my finger to mark the spot. "Because I gave my word that I would stay here for as long as you deemed sufficient."

"Will you marry me?"



"Because you would let such a small thing as claws stop you from ice skating."

I return to my book.

"Please, please get rid of it!" I cry.

"You mean to tell me, that you would dig through a cellar, brave a garden, and chase out mice without a moment's hesitation-" he has left out the most obvious of course "- But you are terrified of spiders?

"Petrified," I insist, "Which is why you must take the enormous one planning it's attack on the beets outside this moment."

"It's hardly enormous, and I could just squish it."

"No!" he stops midway in his reach across the table.

"But you hate spiders."

"I don't hate them, I am terrified of them. There is an entire ocean, three islands, and gull covered rock worth of differences. Not the same at all. I mean, I am hardly terrified of you. But that is why, you must scoop it in a cup and take it outside."

"I would rather not. It is cold outside."

"Oh, I suppose you are right," I pause and think. "Well, you could take him to the cellar where he stay warm, he will probably set up in a corner where I won't have to see him."

"Why can't I just stay here and squish it?" he asks, impatience showing.

"Because we have no flies at home."


"Father always scoops them up and takes them outside because it will eat the flies, and because he says they did not mean to scare me and so have done nothing wrong"

"I still don't believe you are afraid of spiders," he groans, sweeping the spider into a cup just before it completes its conquest of the beets.

"What do you mean you don't believe me?"

"I don't believe you," he repeats.

"Are you saying I am lying? I never lie."

A laugh bursts from him, "Of course you do, all the time."

"I most certainly do not!" I insist, "And I take offense that you think so of me."

He pauses as he tries to think of an incident.

"The time with the wine," he offers.

"I asked you a question. I would not lie to you, nor anyone else. I am careful to avoid doing so."


"What do you mean, why? Being seen as an honest person makes so many things in life that much easier, and father always says that the easiest way to be seen as honest is to actually be genuinely honest."

He looks at me like he still doesn't quite believe me, then looks back at the cup. "I think it escaped."

"Oh dear," I peer about, just in case the spider is heading back in my direction. "Well then, I might just leave the dining room to him for the night."

"Will you marry me?" he asks before I stand.



"Because apparently, I am not very honest."

"Has there been some sort of trouble on the roads recently, do you know? I should think we are past the worst part of winter and snow to cause any serious delays."

"I would not know," he responds.

"Oh, I see..."

"Where are you going? Don't you want dinner?"

"Would you have it sent to my room? I need to write another letter, then go check with the servants that nothing new has arrived."

"Perhaps he is just late in sending this letter?" he suggests.

I look at him. Long and hard. He will not meet my eyes.

"I apologize for my absence this evening."


"My answer for this evening is still no, because my handwriting has been terrible this afternoon and I must go fix it."

"Will you marry me?"



"You know why."

He says nothing and stares at his plate.

"And I would like to read my letters before I go to sleep tonight. Thank you."

I stand and leave.

"I must return home."


"I believe you knew that my father was sick before even I did."

"He will get better. It is just a cold."

"I am quite certain that he will. That does not change the fact that I must return home to make sure that he eats his soup and business continues without him so that he does not stay sick twice as long as he needs to, or it may very well become more than a cold."

"Will you return here?"

"If I must."

"I- You can't go."

I blink slowly at him and stand. "And I cannot marry my prison keeper. Good night, sir."

I march out.

"I am sorry. I was selfish and stupid. You can go. It is not my place to say you cannot visit your father."

"Good I am already packed," I say shortly.

"Will you marry me?"


"I trust your father is better, since you have returned within the week," he says quietly over rosemary potatoes.

"Yes, quite. Thank you for inquiring." I take a sip of fine red wine, an appropriate pairing with the roast beef.

"Good that's- that's good," he says awkwardly.

We eat in silence.

"I walked the grounds while you were gone," he says finally.

"That's nice," I sigh absently, staring at the dark wine in my glass.

We are both finished but neither of us move.

"He is lonely," I say, more to my wine glass than him. "He doesn't say it. He spoke of everything and more when I was home, to the point where I was worried his throat would never get better with all the conversation rushing out of it, but he didn't say that. He wouldn't. He just doesn't know what to do on his own, so he just works more." The wine glass blurs.

"I guess that is good for his business," he says slowly and awkwardly.

I put the wine glass back down and sit up straight again. "Of course, but he can't spend all his time working," I say matter of factly. "So I told him that he must go to visit the neighbors weekly. Just because I am not there to set up dinners with them is no reason for him to become a hermit. He agreed of course, but I left specific instructions with the housekeeper to see that he does. He really can be quite easily distracted sometimes." I smile across the table.

"Ah, yes," he nods, at a loss for more to say.

"Well, I think I can get in a bit more work in the library before I go to sleep, but the ride really has quite tired me out."

"Will you marry me?" he asks before I go.



"Because I fear I am coming down with whatever father had so I really can't be going about marrying in this state."

"You have been quieter since you go back," he observes from his seat by the fire.

"Have I? I shall try to shout more when I run through the halls, perhaps I should look for some bells to wear as well, but where will I get bells?" I muse.

"You don't talk as much," he elaborates.

"Well, I finally started on the history section, so I might be a little distracted," I continue to flip through the same offending history books.

"You haven't been reading as much either, just working here."

"Nonsense," I set aside a tome on Renaissance artists to the fourth pile.

He doesn't argue.

"Why did you come back?" he says finally.

"I gave you my word that I would stay unt-"

"Words are tools." I don't think he has ever cut me off before.

"And so I would do well to make sure that I keep my tools in good order," I say dismissively.

"Why did you come back?"

I don't have the answer he is looking for. "I have a library to organize, I am not one to leave a task half finished."

"And when you finish the library?" he asks sullenly.

"I shall invest in a good pair of gloves and move onto the front garden," my eyes don't move from the pages as I skim them.

"And after that?"

"And after that I shall move onto organizing and stocking the cellars, and after that I shall move onto chasing out the mice, and after that I shall move onto the music room, and after that the greenhouse, and by that point perhaps you will deem it sufficient." My tone is short.

"Will you marry me?"


"Will it ever be yes?"


I continue to flip through the book.

It is many moments before he can herd his thoughts into a response, "Why did you come back?" he repeats.

"Because, I gave you my word that I would stay until you deemed it sufficient."

He does not understand.

I finally look up at him.

"I will stay, because I gave my word, and my father taught me that that means something. I will continue to be useful, because my father taught me to stay busy and keep learning. I will be pleasant and civil, because my father taught me to always try very hard to be kind to people and things you dislike. I will even try my best to be happy, because my father would mourn if I were otherwise. I will stay and be all of those things, even if you decide I must stay here until the very last years of my life. To the very last years of my father's life. Because, the more I miss him the more I will hold to every one of those lessons he taught me, even if like chains they bind me more and more tightly here.

But I will not marry you."

"Why do you hate me?"

Not 'Do you hate me?' but 'Why?'. My eyes do not stray from the steak as I cut it.

"Let me answer your question with another question. What do I love?"

"Books," he answers because it is the obvious one.

"What else?"

"Tea and fires."

"And?" I press, sawing at the steak.

"Rosemary potatoes and good wine."


"Learning and blue skies and being stubborn."

"Quite right. I love all of those things and more and I would miss them if they were gone, but more than any and all of those things together I love my father. He made sure I grew up well, and thoughtful, and a little bit spoiled. I love who I am and how I think, and I owe all of that to him. I am terrified of a world that is too big and too overwhelming without my father, because it is made a brighter, better place by his strange thoughts and his big heart."

He frowns silently at the carpet.

"Will you marry me?"

"Not for the world."


"Because you threatened to take him out of it."

"Will you marry me?"


"Will you marry me?"

For my father.