Tuesday, December 20

Sleeves, tunics, and gambesons: modesty and honor.

"That's not your tunic." It was a rather abrupt greeting, one might think. Well, so it was.

"I know. Somebody gave it to me while my clothes dry. I think it's father's--the shoulders on this are fantastically huge." She shrugged to show the seam where the sleeve met the torso of the shirt was several inches past her own shoulders.

"I don't think it's your father's." There was an awkward silence.

"Umm. I need to take it off, then." The woman in the tunic blushed. Another pause. "How very embarrassing. Whose--never mind, I don't want to know. I don't have anything to wear until someone brings out the next batch of clothes. It should be any minute. All I have are stockings."

"Oh dear. His squire is waiting outside for the laundry--"

Smoothly eliminating the tension in the room, Juliana (nee Fiona) sailed into the room with several dresses laid over her outspread arms. "Put these on!" she said, and as Juliana's prophecies generally had a habit of coming true, the tunic was exchanged for the proper underdress, and the tunic was spirited out of the room to its owner, none the worse for wear. Another prophecy from Juliana made sure that nobody would slip the secret of such impropriety on behalf of the ladies.

Juliana took a phial of oil, a brush, and a comb from her basket and clucked at her lady's hair all pinned up and drying only in patches.

"Juliana?"

"What."

"The dress is still a bit damp in places."

"It will dry. Give me those ridiculous pins. Turn around. Sit there. Your hair has to dry before midsummer, so let the fire warm it a bit and it will dry faster."

"Couldn't you just brush it wet this once? It's cold."

"Not if you want hair when I'm finished. I've raised you better than that, girl; you have to treat your hair like silk if you want it to look like that."

"Yes, but it's cold."

"I've got other things to do than to listen to you whinge about being cold. Don't touch the brush. I'll return in a moment. Your hair had better be dry when I come back."

"I'll do my best."

Juliana sailed out of the room as majestically as she had entered, and the lute player laughed, shaking her head.

"Isn't she sweet?" said the lady, sitting obediently and still in front of the fire.

"No. I mean yes. I wasn't laughing about that, though--I just think it's funny that he's been wearing your sleeve as his honor and you've been wearing his tunic for modesty."

"What?! I think you must be mistaken. I haven't given my sleeve to anybody since I came of age."

"Didn't you hear? Oh, no, you were gone. I thought certainly you would have heard at the first opportunity--a man made an idiot of himself insulting your charity in the north, and somehow or other it got to be awkward. One of the southerners threw the gauntlet and they fought for your honor."

"When did this happen?"

"A fortnight back--the justice is to be pronounced tonight after the feast. I thought you must know."

"No, I didn't. I only just returned, you know Thank you for telling me . . . " She began to comb through her tangled hair with her fingers. "Mercy! What an interesting world I live in." The door opened, letting in a draft, and Juliana entered bearing brocade slippers.

"I have to find the rest of my company--we'll need to set up in the hall soon." She gathered up her lute and finished buttoning her hood. "Oh, you might like to know that the southerner won."

"What? Oh! Thanks."

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