Arbeit had yet to return, even now. Claude didn’t have the slightest idea where he might be.
His mother had finished and taken the yawning Bloweyk upstairs. She said the young boy had a great time playing with the slightly older girl next door and skipped his afternoon nap so he should hit to hay early.
Angelina was also done. She quickly cleaned the table, and now washed the dishes in the kitchen. Claude really liked that part of his sister’s personality. She was a very delightful, helpful, and precocious little girl. She was only twelve years old, but she was already turning into a very good housewife.
Claude’s father leaned back in his chair and lit up his post-meal puff. It looked like something very complicated was occupying his mind, probably some new policy.
Claude put down the silver utensils and took a small linen cloth from the stack on the table to wipe his mouth. Dinner had been bony beef stew. It could be made from cheap cuts of meat from the butcher, but Claude loved it. Eating around the bone, however, took time and a delicate touch. He was the only one really concerned with eaking out every fibre of meat he could, which also meant he was usually the last one by a decent margin to finish.
He took his plate to the kitchen and handed it to his sister, then returned to the dining table.
“Father, tomorrow’s Friday. We have the afternoon off. Eyke, Boa, Wero, and I want to go to Balinga to fish. We’ve already rented Old Sunny’s boat. We’re going to camp by the lake as well. I won’t be home for the weekend.”
He was going to Egret one way or another, so he needed an excuse, this was the best one, and it helped that it was the truth as well, if not the whole truth.
The time his predecessor fell into a hole in the ice and fell sick was a whole other issue. All the boys were generally good swimmers. But good swimmer or not, such cold water stopped one dead.
It was also a nice bonus that fishing was a great way to make some pocket change. It had become almost a tradition in town for thrifty teens to fish by the lakeside, or even to rent a boat for a weekend, for vacation money. Those renting boats were somewhat fewer, though still far from rare, though they usually asked the fishermen from whom they were renting the boat to go out with them and show them the best spots to fish.
Morssen put down his black, ivory pipe and gazed at his son.
“You lack money? Why do you want to go fishing?”
“Yes. I borrowed some money from my friends. I want to pay it back with the fish I catch this weekend.”
“How much do you owe?”
“Not much, a thale and three riyas.”
“What did you buy? Where did you buy it? What sort of thing costs this much?”
It was less that Claude’s father was angry at his son for spending so much money, than that he was afraid the boy had been scammed. Few things a teenager would be interested in buying would cost that much. Things were usually either much cheaper than that, or far more expensive. Not that that was not quite a bit of money, it was the equivalent of a month of the average peasant’s income. If he was really scammed, Morssen would have to teach the bastard a few good lessons. It wasn’t just about his son losing money, scamming his son was challenging his personal authority.
Claude shook his head.
“Don’t worry. I wasn’t tricked or scammed. I bought it from Mock’s Goods, Well, it’s called Mock’s Fishing and Boating Tools now. The last owner got a cookbook made of beastskin. It looks like it’s several hundred years old. It must have belonged to an old noble family’s cook.
“It should be an antique. I like the recipes it has a lot as well. I thought I’d buy it for mother for her birthday. Wakri wouldn’t sell it for less than two thales. I had to borrow the money I didn’t have from my friends, but they managed to argue him down a little.”
Morssen didn’t appear moved.
“Show it to me. I would know better whether it’s an antique.”
Claude quickly went upstairs to get the cookbook.
He’d copied the entire diary, so he didn’t need to keep the book anymore. He was quite uneasy about the last entry as well, so it would do him better to give the book to someone else, like his father or mother, for safe-keeping.
It was of no use to him anymore, and he could get in a lot of trouble if its secrets were discovered and it was still in his hands. He didn’t like the idea of that happening at all. There was also the case that he’d told his friends he wanted to buy the book for his mother, if they asked her about it and he hadn’t given it to her yet, it would open up a whole other world of question he had no desire to answer.
What reason did he have to keep the book, anyway? He certainly didn’t cook. People would naturally conclude he had to have some other reason to keep it.
Claude admitted he was paranoid. He had transmigrated from another world, he knew how life worked, at least far better than a sixteen-year-old should. And having transmigrated, he was even more cautious about giving anyone reason to look more closely at him. And a sixteen-year-old boy holding on to an old cookbook was definitely such a reason.
He thought about it more often than he’d like, but he’d managed to keep himself from being consumed by it entirely. It pestered him until he dealt with whatever was its cause, but then it left him alone as well.
He stood in front of his father again, now, and handed him the book.
Morssen took it and gave it a sniff. He opened his spectacle box and took out his glasses. He slipped them on in a practiced motion and glared at the book’s cover for a while before flipping through it slowly.
Several minutes passed silently thusly before he finally took of his glass and put the book down.
“Wakri is a proper merchant alright. He doesn’t trick others like a hawker. It really is an antique. He didn’t overcharge you either.”
“That’s what I thought too,” Claude was quick to agree, “It’s made entirely of beastskin. It’s nothing like any of the common books I’ve seen in the bookshop before. I think it must have belonged to one of the nobles killed during the Tricolour War.
“I thought it would be a good gift for mother since it has seventeen great recipes and won’t wear down quickly. Not to mention it’s noble history.”
Claude reached for the cookbook on the table, but his father’s hand wouldn’t let it go.
Morssen cleared his throat and shook his head at his son.
“I’m really happy that you’re such a filial child, but you’re still too young. We don’t expect you to spend the money you do get on us. It’s enough that you want to give us gifts.
“This is a great gift for your mother, but it’s also an antique, one with a possible grand background, like you said. It would be a waste to put it in the kitchen where it would be damaged easily. You’re welcome to copy the recipes into a normal paper book, but I think the original should stay in the bookshelf in my study.”
“Okay, but I still owe my friends the money I borrowed from them,” Claude said unwillingly.
Morssen took out his black, gold-laced deerskin money pouch and gingerly took out two thales. He paused, the two thales ringing in his hand as he thought, then put one back.
“How about this… I’ll cover the thale, and the three riyas will be your gift to your mother, okay? Copy the recipes and give them to her on her birthday.”
“Okay…” Claude almost fainted at his father’s stinginess.
“I’ll still need a good notebook and a nice cover for her. I don’t have the money for that.”
“Didn’t I give you two riyas for books just the other day?”
“I bought Anna’s hairpin and Blowk’s figurines with them…” Claude murmured guiltily, his head lowered, the big toe of his right foot drilling into the floor.
“Look at you…” Morssen sighed, “You’re so close to being an adult but you still haven’t learned how to work with money… How are you going to make it in the world if you spend all your money on the first things that catch your eye? Anna’s still so young, what good will such an expensive hairpin do her? A copper one is more than enough. And Blowk either breaks his toys or gets bored of them in a few days, so why buy him such an expensive set for him?
“I know you love your brother and sister, but you can’t spoil them. I gave you that money to buy books, not gifts. Spending money feels good, and your brother and sister may be happy to get stuff, but you broke your promise to me. Where are those books you promised me you were going to buy with that money? You should never break your word, no matter how well-intentioned your reason behind it. You’ll get nowhere in the world if people can’t trust you to keep your word.”
Claude finally realised his father already knew he didn’t buy the books he said he was going to with the money his father lent him. He was waiting for Claude to let it slip somehow so he could teach him a proper lesson.
“As punishment for breaking your word, I’ll only give you this thale. You’ll have to cover the rest out of your own pocket.”
“Okay… I’ll use the money I make from the fish to pay my friends back the rest of the money and get the money I need to buy the notebook and the cover.”
“Sigh, stubborn as usual, huh?” Morssen sighed.
He stared at his son for a few moments then sighed again and took out two riyas.
“It’s not that I don’t want to give you the money, but I can’t trust you’ll just buy other stuff with the money. I can’t teach you to just ask for more money whenever you run out. You have to learn to be thrifty with what you have. I would be a failure of a father if I can’t teach you that.
“I only have a three-thale salary. I make just one riyas a day. We don’t just make money out of thin air, you know, but we still spend it on you guys without reservation. You have to learn how to be careful with what we give you, though. Don’t just buy anything that catches your eye.”
Claude pouted as he took the money from his dad. Did his father really think he didn’t know about his other income? If they really had to live on just his normal salary, they would not live like they did.
“Why are you giving him money, Father?!”