Gervung had looked over all the eligible women in the valley. He found them pretty enough, but they were not educated. They couldn’t talk to him about books. He told himself that he wanted a woman who could talk to him about books. His heart knew that he wanted a woman with curly red hair piled on top of her head.
One day, Gervung approached his best friend. “Hau, I am in need of things for my house. I’d like some new clothes. My aunt has what I need in her store, but how would I pay for them? I am richer than I ever dreamed possible, but people here do not use money.”
Hau nodded. “We trade for money. Sometimes your uncle will accept goods in trade. Sometimes we sell goods to my Marina’s papa, so we can take money to the store. I’ll look about for something to trade.”
Hau wasn’t the only one who set about looking for something to trade. In the way of the valley folk, they all looked for something to contribute to the project of sending the schoolmaster to the store.
Ulaylee had spun goat wool and wove it into a soft shawl. “Take this. I made a nicer one for Mama.” The shawl was folded and added to a growing pile of white pottery, dried fruit and nuts, carved wooden bowls, and pottery pots full of honey.
Gervung insisted that Trevung should come with him. When Truvung’s wife, Devola added soft baskets she’d made from the bark of trees, to the pile of goods in the wheelbarrow, Sabrina looked the younger woman up and down. She tried not to shake her head over Devola’s naked son who was old enough to have pants.
That evening around the dinner table Sabrina shared her concerns with the rest of the family. “Truvung is to go to the city with Gervung. I do not like the idea of Devola staying alone. I don’t think she likes it either but she doesn’t have city clothes and M’TW is naked. They can’t go to the city without proper clothes.”
Marina sighed. “Devola can wear our skirt and shirt.”
“We can give M’TW clothes. His papa owns land so he must wear clothes. Only mountain men go naked.” Young Hau surprised his parents by being generous and by understanding the subtleties of social structure.
Thus it was that when Gervung, Trevung, Devola and M’TW arrived in the city, people stared not at the men they’d known for years but at the pretty woman clinging to Trevung. “Has he married a rich girl? Whose baby is that? He looks too old to belong to Trevung.” They counted the months the men had been gone on their fingers. By the time the brothers reached the front door of their aunt’s store the parish vibrated with the news that Gervung and Trevung had returned, and Trevung had married a rich widow.
Gervung entered the store through the front door as befitting a man of property and a schoolmaster. His aunt’s husband hissed, “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to buy supplies for my school and a few things for my house. I wish for my aunt to meet Trevung’s wife and son.” Gervung being accustomed to controlling a classroom of students of all ages and abilities spoke in a tone that demanded respect and obedience. He’d learned in the past year to stand straight and tall with a bearing of authority.
“My boys!” Aunt rushed into the stunned pause after Gervung’s announcement. She hugged both men, and after being introduced to Devola, kissed her on the cheek. “Welcome to our family, my dear.” In truth Aunt didn’t know what to think about her nephews’ visit. She’d never expected to see them again when she sent them off to teach in the S’TO’s school.
Devola accepted the kisses and questions with shy grace. “I’m thankful to meet Truvung’s family.” Devola pulled a small piece of paper from her pocket, “Marina and Sabrina S’TO have written a list of the things they need.” Devola had said the magic words when she mentioned her friends. She handed Aunt the neatly printed list Young Hau had written for his mama.
Aunt eyed her new relatives closer and recognized the collar on M’TW’s jacket as being g’tun fur. Trevung had married well. She looked at her nephew in a new light and saw an attractive young man. She preened over how good looking her family had always been and took Devola up to their apartment above the store.
Aunt fed Devola cake and tea while asking questions about life in the valley. Devola’s answers were more than pleasing to the older woman. “Our house is new, so we do not have much. Our land is beautiful especially at sunset. No, I haven’t seen all of our land. It is too far for me to walk in a day when I must cook and take care of M’TW and teach him his letters. Trevung teaches too. The families pay us very well.” The questions and answers went on and on.
Meanwhile down in the store, Truvung had kept M’TW with him so he could show the lad all the things in the store. He didn’t want his son to be ignorant of the outside world. He could only hope that his son didn’t learn about how vicious the city people could be. He didn’t think that they would attack, but he’d carried the walking stick Rue had taught him how to use against wild dogs. Trevung sat on the floor next to his son and talked to him about a picture book.
Gervung talked to their uncle and negotiated for new clothes and supplies. The bell over the door to the store tinkled. Trevung didn’t look up. Gervung’s heart beat faster.
Marcia D’YnG with her red hair piled on top of her head and covered by a scarf that marked her as a future nun smiled at Gervung. “I thought you’d left to teach school.”
Gervung nodded, “I am taking a break to buy a few things for my house, and I need supplies for the school.” Gervung tried to look manly, which considering all the manual labor he’d done wasn’t hard. He looked down at his shirt that fit too tight over the shoulders and chest. “I need new clothes. This is the closest store to my school.” He blushed.
Marcia blushed and lowered her eyes. She hung back senselessly fingering leather lacings in bins on the nearest shelf.
M’TW clutching several books to his chest ran to the counter. “Uncle Gervung, can I have these? Please?”
Gervung smiled at the bright young lad and nodded. “And you can have some proper sandals, so you can walk on the way home. Go with your papa and find sandals.” Gervung used the interruption to move closer to Marcia. “Trevung and I have been very fortunate in our choice of teaching. I have a house and land.”
Marcia nodded. Her eyes seemed bright.
“I am paid well.”
Marcia nodded again and clutched her shopping bag to her ample black-clad chest.
Gervung looked out the window then back to the green eyes staring up into his. “Mostly, the country folk don’t judge a person by their family. They respect what a person does with their life. As the schoolmaster, I am treated with great respect and invited into the best homes. I dine with the finest families.”
I slight tension between the eyes appeared on Marcia’s face as she eagerly nodded again.
“It is a long, two day walk to where we live. The valley is isolated and somewhat primitive, but the people are the best I’ve met. They value education.”
Marcia nodded and smiled while her toe wiggled not quite tapping.
“We brought Trevung’s wife with us to do some shopping.” Gervung looked out the window.
Marcia stopped smiling. Her eyes narrowed and her hands moved to her hips. “Mr. Gervung, we had an understanding. Are you trying to back out on our understanding?”
Gervung grinned, “No. I came to town to…” He cleared his throat. “That is no. I am not going back on anything. I’m a rich man and I”
Marcia turned to leave, “You wait right here. I’ll be back in half an hour. I don’t have much to bring.” She fled the store.
Trevung finished the shopping driving a hard bargain with the uncle who’d never approved of him.
Gervung had become senseless.