Saturday, November 1, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night....

It was the evening of October 30, and Edward and I were making our way home from Penzance after the broadcast of the radio play. We travelled in silence, Edward piloting us home while I gazed at the star filled sky.

Our automaton butler, Mr. Primary Gears, was awaiting our arrival at the door. He took Edward's overcoat, hat and gloves and my wrap as we made our way into the warmth of the main hall of Primbroke Manor. The wood panelling gleamed softly in the flickering firelight and made the room even more inviting. The other servants had retired for the evening, so the house was quiet and still.

"Will you or m'lady require anything this evening?" Mr. Gears asked.

"No, you may retire for the night, we will be fine on our own." Edward replied.

"Very well sir." Mr Gears said before going to his storage area.

Edward headed for the parlour, not ready yet to settle for the night. I followed him, sensing that perhaps all was not well and in time he might need someone to serve as a sounding board for his thoughts.

As I settled in on the sofa, Edward prepared his pipe, taking considerable time tamping down the tobacco and making sure the draw was right before he too, sat down. He puffed away in silence, the crease between his eyebrows becoming deeper, his teeth clenching on the pipestem every now and again. I knit a few more rows of my lace edging, discreetly keeping an eye on him and finally decided to break the silence.

"Is everything all right my love?", I asked tentatively

Edward paused in his smoking for a moment before answering. "As well as one could expect." he replied. "Why do you ask?"

I leaned over and gently tried to smooth the lines between his eyebrows. "I cannot recall the last time you've smoked your pipe, to the point where I question how good that tobacco is anymore and by the intensity of your puffs, and the fact that I'm sure you're leaving teeth marks in your pipe stem, I seem to think something is troubling you. You also have not been yourself these past few have scarcely seemed to notice that Cook has been making the most wonderful meals and you've just been abnormally quiet. This leads me to believe that something is troubling you, and I would be delighted to help you with it, if I can."

Edward looked at me for quite some time, drawing the odd puff off his pipe before he set it aside on the table.

"Have you heard anything in your travels about a new land tax that has been suggested?" he asked.

I thought about this for a moment. "I've heard rumblings of something of that sort, although I've not been out in society much as of late. I know that the letters from Lunar used to be filled with his plans for a new home for Tensai and himself once they had cleared more land, but in the most recent letter he just said that he's had to put them back on the shelf for the time being. What are these new taxes?" I asked.

"What has happened is that the world Government, the Lindens, have decided that private islands such as Argylle are too costly for them to administrate, and as such have decreed that they will be implementing a 66% tax increase as of January first of the upcoming year."

I stared at him blankly, my mind racing over the figures and costs of the taxes of Argylle. I had never paid much mind to the financial end of matters regarding our island home, Edward had always had a firmer grasp on what land transactions entailed, but I knew enough to know that this truly was not a good situation at all.

"What has the Guv'nah said about this?" I asked , "Since we pay our taxes to him, and he is the title bearer of all of the Duchies in Caledon, I am curious to know his stance on what this all means."

"An emergency meeting was held in Oxbridge the other day, and the long and short of it is that he is adopting a wait and see pose. He is stressing that there is no need to panic, that Caledon will remain, but perhaps altered. I have been in contact with him, telegraphing him and will be remaining in close communication with him until this is resolved."

I sighed deeply. "I have never understood the Linden government. They seem to make the most arbitrary decisions, but I suppose they can as they are a dictatorship. They stew and quake, fret and tremble about some things and then plow blindly into other decisions. This could really start a rebellion, if not an all out revolution."

Edward chuckled slightly "Oh, I think they have created a malestrom that they did not expect in their wildest dreams. The newspapers are filled with nothing else but this...people are writing letters to the editor in massive numbers, some eloquently written, others take a more....heated stance. There have been good suggestions but ultimately, it will be the Lindens who decide what step they will take from here. I can't help feeling that they are suggesting such a massive tax increase, so that when they come back with one that is more tempered, it will seem like a gift and we'll all be pleased with it."

I snorted delicately.

He continued, "This has wide reaching ramifications though. Not only is Caledon affected, but our neighbouring sister state of Winterfell is as well. There are many, many communities that will feel the sting of this knee-jerk decision, some will be altered drastically. It's even been rumoured that Antiquity will not survive this at all. If this goes through, it has been said that the Grand Duke will allow all the lands to go back to the Government and all the residents will be essentially homeless."

"That's rather like throwing the baby out with the bathwater." I said. "I suppose we can be thankful that we will not be homeless, we still have Rosehaven in Steelhead, although I doubt we could keep our staff there. I'm sure with a good character, they could find employment in other homes in Caledon, as good help is so terribly hard to find."

Edward sighed. "No, we will not be homeless, that is true, but I would be sorry to see this all go. We will have to sit down and take a hard look at the accounts and see if this tax increase is justifiable and feasible. Until we hear official word from the Guv'nah about his next step, we will have to just be patient and wait."

"Oh lovely...patience was never one of my better virtues." I grumbled. "However, you are right. There's nothing we can do but sit tight and bide our time. I do hope though, that the Linden Government change their stance at least a little bit and perhaps for once try a little clarity rather than their usual 'clear as mud' way of sharing information."

"Yes, and perhaps someday pigs will fly!" Edward laughed.

I giggled, "Well, if bunnehs can, I'm sure pigs are next!"

We settled again, Edward puffing on his pipe in a more relaxed manner and myself to my knitting. I couldn't help feeling that the spectre of this new decree was lurking though, like the fogs that came in off the water at night. Was this some sort of Hallowe'en game of Trick or Treat? I softly sighed and resigned myself to being patient. Only time would tell what would happen next.

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