The Dark Mailer
Chapter 2: Interviewing Mistress Goodwin
Copyright© 2012 by normist
As it was a goodly step to the market, I lifted Samantha onto my shoulders. There she could ride comfortably and converse with me quietly.
"What do you think, Uncle Robert? Who did it?
"I don't know Sam. We'll have to see where to go when we've spoken to Mistress Goodwin."
When we reached the market, we saw that the stalls each bore the holder's names, so we soon found Mistress Goodwin's stall. She sold small wooden toys.
After introducing myself, I asked her, "Mistress Goodwin, may I have a private chat with you, concerning Goodman Prescott?"
"Yes Sir. Just a moment," she said. She turned to her neighbor, "Mary, can you keep an eye on my stall for a few minutes?"
Meanwhile, I had lifted Samantha off my shoulders and had put her on the ground. She seemed very interested in the toys, so I left her there while Mistress Goodwin and I went to a quiet corner of the market.
"Now Sir, what did you want?"
"Firstly, tell me, is your husband aware of your affliction and your need for daily treatment?"
"Yes. It was he who first made me go to the Healer. I was getting continually more and more tired, The Healer recognized what was wrong with me and gave me a palliative to keep me going for a short while. He explained how I needed treatment from the Apothecary until he could prepare a proper permanent treatment. He also told us what the Apothecary had to do. Goodman Prescott has treated me very well. He's done what he's had to do and has respected me like a friend. He has been very kind."
"Thank you. So I take it that your husband is aware of what the treatment entails?"
"Oh yes! We've had a good laugh over it several times."
"Is anyone else aware of your visits to the Apothecary and what his treatment is?"
"Well, Sir, there's Mary, my neighboring stall-holder. She knows I have to see the Apothecary every day, as she keeps an eye on my stall for me. But I haven't told her what he does to me."
"I see. However, she is presumably aware of how much time you spend at the Apothocary's each day?"
"Yes, but sometimes I also squeeze in a little shopping at the same time."
I thought that there was nothing else to be learned from Mistress Goodwin, so I thanked her and we returned to her stall.
Samantha asked me, "Uncle Robert, Do you think I could have this please. I'm sure it's very eddo ... It will teach me a lot."
She was pointing at a box. The lid bore a picture which depicted a set of wooden blocks of related sizes and shapes which could be assembled together by means of miniature dowels.
"How much is this?" I asked Mistress Goodwin.
She looked to where I was pointing and said "Eleven dollars, fifty."
"We'll take it."
She wrapped it up and tied stout twine around it with a small loop, to make it easier to carry. I hoisted Samantha on my shoulders again, and bade Mistress Goodwin farewell. We set off carrying Samantha's new toy.
As we left the market, Samantha whispered in my ear.
"It's her. The other lady! She's the dark mailer. She did it 'cause her husband lost his job. She didn't like to do it to the stall lady, but she felt she had to."
"Who did, little one?"
"The lady who looked after the stall while you went off to talk to the other lady!"
I'd noticed that the name over that stall was 'Robertson'. We made our way to the Sheriff's office and I asked who the stall-holder was and where did she live? A few minutes later he had consulted his records.
He said, "I know her and her husband. He was unfortunately laid off from the livery stables in town. They recently lost the contract for hosting the Pony Express here in town. It caused them to lay off a number of stable hands. Most of the hands got jobs on the farm where the Pony Express went."
"Thank you Sheriff. This may be just the information I need to clear up the other matter. I'll let you know how it turns out."
We left and walked home. Rather, I walked. Samantha rode on my shoulders.
At home, John and I saddled up. We then rode to the address the Sheriff had given us. We tied up our mounts and knocked on the door. It was opened by Mistress Mary Robertson who recognized me, and promptly burst into tears.
"May we come in?" I asked her gently.
She stepped back and gestured for us to enter. We did so and she led us into a parlor. "I suppose you've come to arrest me. Can you at least allow me to apologize to Goodman Prescott first? I don't know what came over me! I couldn't see anything else to do!"
Her voice broke into a sob.
"Now, calm down, Mistress Robertson. I'm not here to arrest you. In fact, I can't until I've given you a warning. No, we're just here so you can tell us what happened. Why don't we all sit down? Is your husband at home? He should be here too."
"No. He's out. Probably looking for work. The livery stable in town that used to serve the Pony Express had to lay off a lot of their ostlers when they lost the contract to a farm outside of town. A lot of the single men from the livery stable moved to that farm, but they didn't have living quarters for married couples."
"Look here is my card. When your husband comes home, send him round to that address. You will have to make your peace with Goodman Prescott, but I don't think that will be impossible." I handed her a note of the Apothecary's home address. "Good day to you, Mistress Robertson."
We stood and left to make our way to the Apothecary's house.
He let us in and seemed glad to see us.