The Good­wife

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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 . . .

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