PATIENCE gave the jar of partly blended pot pourri a discerning sniff. “Promising,” she murmured as the cocktail of orange, cinnamon and clove assailed her senses.
She gave the mix a stir, replaced the cork stopper and returned the jar to the shelf of her stillroom.
Satisfied, she went through to the houseplace, where frost flowers embellished the casement and a sleek grey cat washed herself on the hearth.
“December again, Puss,” Patience said briskly.
She had a liking for this time of year.
“Daft,” Mam had remarked, back in autumn when Patience had called in with some shopping. “Nobody thinks kindly of winter. That’s when folks need cheering up.”
A comforting pot pourri for dismal winter days was a distinct possibility, and on the way home through the wood she had halted the pony and trap and gathered some cones of larch and curling husks of beech nuts.
She began saving the peel of oranges and lemons, drying it in the range. Applemint leaves, rose hips, rowan berries, a bay leaf or two, anything she could lay hands on went into the winter mix. A hint of cloves, cinnamon sticks, sandalwood raspings.
Then the fixatives: gum arabic and powdered orris root to lock the scent.
She stirred the mix when the moon was new and bright, leaving it to mature in the cool dimness of her stillroom.
Making fragrances was her living. No-one produced a true rose, or violet or lavender, like Patience Lowe, and there were some who would pay generously for a personal blend that made a scent their own.
Would the new pot pourri be popular? Patience hoped so. There was food to buy, woollen for a winter gown, spices and other requirements for the stillroom. She had to think of the pennies.
She was building up the fire when there was a rapping on the back door and a voice hollered out.
“Pots and jars! Anybody home?”
The latch lifted, the door swung open and Wilf Rylands bent his head under the low lintel and stepped into the room, seeming to fill the small houseplace with his bulk.
Wilf had a pottery kiln in the garden shed of the family home, where he made sturdy pots for the cottagers. He also produced the earthenware jars and phials Patience used in her work.
“Morning, Patience,” he said. “I’ve brung your jars. Three large, three medium, six small.”
With something close to reverence he took the items from his wicker basket and placed them on the table. He glanced up, inhaling the air.
“What’s that I can smell? Summat spicy. Unusual.”
“It will be my new mix. You like it?”
“Tes grand. It would do my gran a power of good to get a whiff of that. Mam, too. Be a change from the reek of lye soap! Our place inna called Laundry
Cottage for nothing.”
“You make it sound a penance,” Patience said with a smile.
“Nay, Mam’s happy to be doing a service for folks. There’s much to be said for your line of work an’ all. A whiff of summat pleasing makes folks feel better in themselves.”
Patience was silent. Was she wrong to regard her work in a purely commercial light?
Perhaps everyone, from the better heeled to the lowly cottager and those poor souls who’d been injured in the war with France – like Farmer
Blunt’s lad, Thomas, and Master Benjamin at the Grange — might benefit from a sample of her winter mix.
Wilf glanced through the
The mixtures Patience created could bring solace as well as sweet fragrances . . .