THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL CHAPTER SEVEN

Ellen Fisher is a fickle character – at least from this author’s point of view. She comes and goes when she pleases and seldom gives me any insight into where and what she has planned. Most days I am content to let her alone. It’s not like I don’t have other projects on the go.

In fact my literary brain is much like a large restaurant kitchen: Something is always cooking. At present I have several stories and essays in various stages of editing and preparation. My novel City Of Steel is complete (at least as far as I can complete it without publishing) and readers of the Intellectual Plane can find a link to a third excerpt here.

In addition I started writing a brand new novel, which by comparison to City of Steel is a much more straightforward crime-thriller set in my current abode of Kingston, Ontario. After the length and complexity of City of Steel, it feels good to write something set in a completely different universe.

Between these projects and the demands of my day-job output on the Intellectual Plane has been low. Or more accurately, since mid-September, output has been non-existent. So in an effort to remedy that situation, I went looking for Ellen Fisher.

There are times when a writer must be like a journalist and track down a story and the actors therein. Today, instead of waiting for Ellen to appear, I went looking for her and the following is what she had to say.

As always comments and/or hate-mail are welcome.

Many thanks and kind regards
Chris O’Connell
October 5th 2017

LINKS TO EARLIER CHAPTERS

THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL
THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL CHAPTER TWO
THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL CHAPTER THREE
THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL CHAPTER FOUR
THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL CHAPTER FIVE
THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL CHAPTER SIX

*

THE GIRL FROM THE PAPER-MILL

CHAPTER SEVEN

There’s a warm sweet smell emanating from the tavern’s hall that rouses my appetite. Despite my anxiety, I dress in my stolen two piece suit and pull the hat down close over my hair. A final look in the bedroom mirror causes me to break out in a cold sweat. In the stark light of day, there is no disguising that I am a woman dressed in a man’s clothing.

After pacing the room for several minutes it occurs to me that the answer to my predicament is obvious. Why should I hide what I am when the there is little doubt the authorities are concerned with who I am?

The lesson from Beth Bradshaw suddenly rings out loud and clear in my consciousness: Appearances can be changed. None of us appear as we really are.

After pulling my stolen hat low over my face, I leave the room and go to the front desk. The duty-clerk is a thin, harried man whom I don’t recognize. He doesn’t pay much attention to me, other than to collect my room-fee and query in a bored tone of voice whether I will be staying another night. I politely decline and ask if there are any carriages going into town. He points absently at the door and mutters something about a pony-cart leaving for Reyjavik in the next ten minutes.

Outside is a narrow cart pulled by a large Belgian horse with a shaggy mane and an indifferent driver. I pay the driver a silver coin for passage and his expression tells me I have paid too much. As the cart bumps down the hill towards down-town Reykjavik, a cool north breeze carries the salt scent of the Atlantic along with the acrid smell coal-smoke seething from a hundred chimneys. I strain to see if the ship that carried me to Iceland is still in the harbour. And then relief washes over me with the same cool touch of the ocean’s breeze.

The ship is nowhere to be seen.

*

My driver leaves me in the middle of Reykjavik’s main street. In the daylight the wooden buildings are friendly and rustic by comparison to the buildings near the paper-mill where I grew up. The townspeople are friendly and move with easy purpose. Carts of goods from the harbour rattle past in an unhurried manner. A mix of pleasant scents fills the air: Wood-smoke, fresh baked bread, cooking fish and the ever-present tang of the ocean’s spray.

In a general store two blocks from where my driver left me, I parlay my English coins into new pants, boots and shirts and most importantly a warm, woolen jacket. The seller, a balding moustached man is kind and understanding despite neither of us speaking the other’s language. He graciously provides me with my change and points me in the direction of a nearby eatery.

As I leave the general store, my arms laden with new clothes, the church bell rings announcing ten o’clock in the morning. My stomach growls as I make my way into a nearby tavern. The main hall is filled with men and women, almost all wearing brown or black pants and heavy white woolen shirts. A couple looks up when I take a seat nearby and smiles.

“God morgen!”

I reply with the only danish word I have gleaned so far on my adventures: “Tak!”

Thank you. It seems to satisfy the couple who return to their conversation.

There’s no menu on the table, and most of the customers appear to be eating the same food. Nearby two men chew slices of buttered rye bread and swig steaming mugs of black coffee.

A shadow falls over the table and I flinch. “Hvad kan jeg give dig?”

When I look up I find myself staring into a familiar face. It is the man who was entertaining the patrons at the tavern I stayed at the night before. He peers down at me, his eyes surrounded by dark circles. The whites of his eyes are red from too much ale. Despite this I am struck by how good looking he is. I recall the tavern-keeper’s smile: That is nephew Malthe.

Flustered I blurt the word without thinking. “Malthe?”

He cocks his head. “Har vi mødt hinanden?”

“I’m sorry I don’t-“

“Oh!” he grins. “An English! Have we met?”

“I saw you play last night. The piano I mean.”

He smiles. “Well if I’d known such a beauty as you was there I would have played longer!”

Someone bellows from the kitchen: “MALTHE! Skynd dig og hjælp mig!”

Malthe rolls his eyes. “My father. He can wait. You want breakfast, yah?”

I feel heat in my face from his complimenting me. “Uh…yes. But…?”

“Yah?”

“There’s no menu!”

He chuckles. “Breakfast is breakfast: Whatever Papa cooks. Today its hafragrautur – what you English call porridge.”

I recall the oatmeal gruel the foreman used to feed us at the paper-mill and my stomach roils. Malthe frowns. “It’s very good! Papa is a good cook!”

Before I can answer Malthe’s father bellows from the kitchen: “Malthe! Kom her!”

Malthe gives me a hard look: “Well?”

“Yes please” I say reluctantly.

He smiles. “Do not worry! It’s good, yah! You will like!”

Then he disappears into the kitchen and yells something at his father.

*

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