Barrett spent several more days pointlessly attempting to find work of some sort, not with any real hope, but just because he didn’t want to admit defeat. However, he finally had to accept it, no matter how must he hated the idea of being subordinate to Denton and Melody. Delaying any further would only increase his debt, unfair as it was. He couldn’t think of anything he could do in Triridge, nor could he think of a way to leave. He knew the guards wouldn’t just let him out of the city, and he didn’t have any way to disguise himself or survive in the wild regardless. At least accepting the position as servant would give him time to think.
The head servant was named Albert… and he smiled too much. It was a patently false smile that never seemed to disappear, like someone had carved it into his face. Barrett though it would be hard to talk with a face like that, but he managed it just fine. “Now then, since you don’t seem to have any skills, we’ll have to train you from the ground up. The first lesson is that you must respond to everything with a ‘yes, master’ ‘yes, mistress’ or in the case of me, ‘yes, sir!’” Barrett barely even had any time to think before a slap hit his face. “Where’s my ‘yes, sir!’?”
It had only been a moment, and it seemed like Albert was still talking so he hadn’t wanted to interrupt, but he knew that it was better not to say that. “Yes, sir! Sorry, sir.” He added another name and face to the list, and started keeping record of more new things.
The first week was very frustrating. Denton took every opportunity to order Barrett around for trivial things, and add insults wherever he could. “Pick that up for me!” “Go get me tea!” “Clean up this mess!” “Too slow, are you stupid? You can’t even do a servant’s work!”
Barrett was also expected to take care of various cleaning duties. Though Albert said he needed to be trained to do everything, there was actually no training involved. He was just told what to do, and not where to find the tools necessary to accomplish the tasks, or what was really involved. The only thing that kept him sane was Margerit, who would occasionally speak a few words as she walked by. “Dust rags are in the storage building behind the manor,” or talking about how some types of wood needed special soap and then a rub of a certain oil to make sure they didn’t tarnish.
Albert looked upset that Barrett was performing as well as he was, but he didn’t deny him the use of the proper materials… even if he wouldn’t tell him they were needed and was watching for mistakes.
Barrett returned to Simon’s house at the end of the week. It was the one place he could get a nice and comfortable meal, even with all of the crowding around the table. Barrett noticed a few different faces the second week, but everyone obviously needed the food… and the company.
Barrett clutched his face. He was unfortunately now used to being slapped for his ‘mistakes’ such as being slightly too slow, but he had just been punched. Fortunately he still wore bandages over his face, so that Denton couldn’t see the anger he felt. He couldn’t help but think of the possibility of strangling him in his sleep, ignoring the consequences…
Barrett stared at the single silver coin he had received for wages. Of course, he should have been paid much more. However, he had to cover his former debts… and then there were the costs for a place to stay and food, and deductions because of his mistakes. At least, that was what he was told when he received the insubstantial pay. Barrett knew full well that live-in servants received their wages on top of room and board, at least at the price he was theoretically getting paid.
There was also the fact that any mistakes he made now were caused by others. Denton seemed to delight in tripping him as he walked by, only to make clean up whatever mess was caused, and then chastising him for not fulfilling his other duties. Barrett knew that things would be much worse if he didn’t fulfill those duties, so he had to stay up later and get up earlier than the other servants. Speaking of the other servants, some of them caused him trouble on purpose as well, feats that Albert looked on with approval. Barrett had a good memory… and when he tried, he was good at remembering names, faces, and events. Everything went on the list.
Every meal at Simon’s place came with a message. Talk of the way the world ought to be, the way people ought to behave… as well as an admission that neither of those things were how things were nor how people behaved. The church of Ristos gave food to the hungry and money to widows, and even sponsored an orphanage… but for all their talk of charity, it was their own coffers that filled most of all. Barrett wanted to think it had been better in Durham, but he couldn’t be sure. Though Simon was too humble to say it, Barrett knew that true charity was giving to those who needed… even when one had very little. Simon’s house, while suitable enough, had no adornments. Most of the chairs didn’t match, and soon another room was taken over with a table and more chairs for people to crowd around, leaving only the small kitchen and a likely tiny bedroom for the use of Simon and his wife.
Barrett needed to buy bandages. That was a painful fact, because his money was already stretched very thin. He could really have used it to get a bit more nourishing food. That would have been preferable, but the bruises and scrapes were getting worse… and he honestly couldn’t stand seeing his hands, or a reflection of his face.
He now had two silver pieces… and with that he could get a few rolls of bandages. Ironically, they would be better than the ones he had been given, which was just a small comfort.
“Alms? Alms for the poor?”
Barrett sighed. Another beggar. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel for them, but rather there were too many of them… and he had so little to give. There were some beggars who were merely lazy, but most of them truly had no other way. As bad as he had it, Barrett wasn’t the worst off. He didn’t want to see any more of it… but he turned to look anyway.