"now , where were we?" asked harriet, after the unfortunate cook had been sent packing.
hiram cleared his throat. “you had just mentioned, mother, that doctor wilson had told you that you had only a short time to live. “
“oh yes. and i had also got to the point of telling you that you were pitiful fools and must do as i say.”
“yes,” agreed hiram. “you had mentioned that.”
“and do you understand?”
hiram hesitated. “i understand that that is your opinion.”
“my opinion! but surely you do not dispute what you are pleased to call my opinion?”
“you are certainly entitled to your opinion as to my abilities, mother. i do not think, however, that i am going to be amenable to the suggestions you are going to make as to my future.”
“what!! do you defy me?”
“i am not sure that i will agree with you.”
harriet was speechless. she could not have been more astonished if hiram had turned into a chicken or a rattlesnake before her eyes.
“and in what way - and in what way, you pathetic ninny -, “ she finally managed to articulate - “do you presume to not agree with me?”
hiram sat up a little straighter in his chair. “have you ever wondered, mother, what i have been doing all these years when i was at the factory?’
“i assume you were doing nothing, while bud riley and the other foremen ran the place.”
“that is true enough in its way, but i was doing something the whole time i was doing nothing.”
harriet’s eyes narrowed. “get to the point, hiram. what was this something you were doing - and, more importantly, what can it possibly have to do with my instructtions - my dying instructions - to you.”
“i was writing poetry.”
harriet laughed. “you were writing poetry? poetry?”
harriet laughed harder, clearly relieved. she looked around the room, but there was no one to meet her amused gaze. hermione’s eyes, still filled with tears, were cast on the floor.
“and how is writing this precious poetry going to detract from your continuing to go to the factory every day, which, among other things, is what i had envisioned? bud riley will continue to run the factory, as he always has, and you can do whatever you please.”
hiram leaned forward. he twisted his hands together. “up until now i have been concentrating on epic poetry.”
“hiram has showed me some of his poetry, mother,” hermione blurted out. “i think it is really quite excellent. he should be proud. and - and - “
“i am not interested in what you think,” harriet interrupted her. “i do not see what any of this has to do with anything. “ she stated at hiram. “why, exactly, can you not continue to go to the factory every day, poetry or no poetry?”
“because, mother, i feel that i have exhausted the possibilities of the epic form.”
“and what has that to do with the price of grapes?”
“because, to get right right to the point - “
“yes, by all means, do.”
“ - i have decided to become a wandering minstrel.”
“a wandering minstrel?”
“and what does a wandering minstrel do when he is at home?”
“a wandering minstrel is never at home, mother. he lives on the open road, and the sky is his roof and the fields are his bed.”
“do you mean that you wish to become a beggar?”
hiram hesitated, but only for a moment. “if you put it that way, yes.”
“and give up your portion of my inheritance?”
harriet laughed, even louder than before. “i can not say that i did not know you were an idiot, but i never suspected you were such an idiot as this.” but even as she spoke, harriet’s brain, after its initial shock, was starting to process hiram’s words.
maybe this was not such a bad thing - assuming that he was serious and would go through with his nonsense. she had had a little more hope of making a good match for hermione. perhaps, with only one of them to worry about, and that the one with a better chance, it would all work out…
harriet held up her hand. “enough. enough of this for now. we - or you two - can take this foolishness up later. for now, i am going to explain to you the plans i have and that i will put into effect.”
both hiram and hermione nodded respectfully, and held their tongues.
“everything will be divided equally between you. hiram will inherit the house - “ harriet hesitated but neither of them spoke so she continued. “as it is to be hoped that hermione will marry sooner than later. a share of equal value from the capital twill be set aside for her dowry. stock in the factory, and the remaining capital will be split equally between you. do you have any questions?”
neither had questions. hermione continued to dab at her eyes with her handkerchief.
“here is the most important part, so listen carefully. both of your inheritances will be placed in trust until you marry. until then, of course, household expenses will be paid, the factory will hopefully pay its own way, and you will receive allowances - allowances not commensurate with any frivolity, to be sure.”
harriet paused, but neither hiram nor hermione spoke up. what a couple of milksops, she thought. not a millimeter of spine between them.
“do you have any questions?” she asked again.
hiram felt he had to say something. ““i assume mr cooper will handle the trust.” mr cooper was the family lawyer. much as she despised lawyers, harriet could not completely dispense with one.
“no, mister cooper will not handle the trust.”
hiram was surprised. “who, then?”
“madame smithwick! but, mother - “ it was hiram’s turn to laugh. “madame smithwick is a ridicuous charlatan. you laugh at me for writing poetry - and you entrust the family fortune to that ridiculous creature -“
harriet’s face reddened. “i will be the judge of madame smithwick’s competence. madame is in harmony with the universe, and i trust her to do what i will instruct her to do.”