Monday, 8 August 2022

The Woodlanders Stop Working from Home

As the clock struck 1 in the morning, Marty South dropped another bundle of thatch spars by the door, and returned to her chair. The fire, flaring bright when she had put on the waste wood, had already resumed its sulky, sullen glow. Somewhere out in the woods, a badger unwrapped a hedgehog.

She picked up the next spar gad, examining it for the perfect place to split it. Her father's snores drifted down the stairs. Marty was surprised to hear a tap at the door.

"Oh," she cried, "is that Barber Percombe, a-come to buy my beautiful long hair to make a wig for Mrs Charmond,  the rich lady at the hall?"

"No," came the answer.

"Then it must be Doctor Fitzpiers, come to ask my father if he can buy his brain when he dies."

"Indeed not."

"Then - oh - could it be - is it Giles Winterborne, come to ask me to be his wife?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Then who are you, stranger?"

The door opened, and in loped a man of the proportions of a willow wand. He wore the year's latest most fashionable clothes, and a top hat.

"I have always worked from home, Sir."

"And do you work flexi-time?"

"I am sorry, Sir. I do not understand your up-country speech."

"Do you work when you like?"

"I do, Sir. Although, thanks to my father's sickness, "when I like" is actually all the time. During the night I make thatch spars. And in the day I plant..."

"Never mind, never mind. This is just the kind of woke attitude that caused Master Starbux's coffee house to go out of business. I expect to see you in the smoke factory in Shottsford-Forum at 5 sharp of this morning. If you should start walking now you will have time to beg for a crust from a passing mail coach."

He stopped, and looked at Marty's ungloved right hand, red and sore from her night's work.

"Excellent. Excellent."

And he was gone into the night.

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