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Ideas in unexpected places [CD] - Early Morning, 16th September

Douglas FitzJames

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Dundarg room at the Hen's Toes

Room #2

A nicely appointment two room apartment. There is a hearth burning in the main room, and some comfortable chairs and a loveseat beneath the window, a comfortable rug covering the floor. In one corner a tiny desk allowed for letter writing. A pair of side tables next to the chairs created space to leave a glass or a book, but there was also a small dining table in the other corner, seating two at most. In the other room there was a large double bed with drawn burgundy drapings, with Dundarg's trunk at the end of it. The large window let in plenty of light and looked out upon the street, which on the middle of the day was rather busy with carts and people.

An alcove covered by a burgundy curtain contained the water closet. The slop pot was emptied twice a day. A box in the stables is reserved for the temperamental black horse the man rode in on. 

In some ways it felt odd, but Douglas had made a conscious decision not to leap out of bed this morning. Whilst in the military he'd been in the habit of rising early, and whilst in Aberdeen as Lord Lieutenant he'd done same. And on his lands, because in each there was always so much to do. But today, there was only what he pleased, aside from his duties as a Life Guard of course, if any had been assigned. Given his late arrival and his lack of attachment to any particular company, they could be quite variable. 

He'd sent his man Aed downstairs with his request for kippers, black pudding and fried bread for breakfast, and asked him to bring a tea tray back up. Now Douglas was sitting up in bed in his nightshirt, like Lord Muck, drinking his cup of tea that his man had poured from the tray set on the side table, and trying to decide whether it felt luxurious or ridiculous. Possibly a bit of both. Oh well. When in Windsor...

Glancing around, his gaze settled on the books he'd purchased yesterday, sitting on the tiny desk, and he asked Aed to bring them to him. Flicking On Plymouth Plantation open, he glanced at a few pages, noting that it was written in a very straightforward style. Easy to read if not particularly fascinating to him. Perhaps more interesting to someone involved in trade. The other he'd purchased on impulse, and it hadn't been cheap, but the book, a translation of one that had travelled the entire length of the silk road, intrigued him. He knew nothing of the Far East apart from the fact that the secret of silk making had first come that way. Flipping through a selection of pages, he was surprised by the number of careful illustrations included in the volume, many of them technical. There was a picture of a large loom, and some sort of water pump, and the text featured instructions.

Flicking back to the beginning, he read the contents page. The first chapter was apparently devoted entirely to the cultivation of two grains; wheat and rice. Neither would grow in Scotland, where the growing season was short and cold enough to allow for only barley or rye. Still, he wondered whether there might be anything interesting in there. The fourth chapter dealt with the harvesting and processing of the same grains. There was a chapter on making clothing, and another on dyeing it. There was a chapter devoted entirely to the production of sugar. He snorted to himself in amusement. All the crops required much warmer climes than his; perhaps he should give this one. 

Further along however there was a chapter on producing metals from ores, another on casting them and yet another on forging and hammering. There was a chapter on making paper. Then right at the end were three that caught his attention. Chapter fifteen was on weaponry, and a quick flick to that section confirmed it included a number of gunpowder weapons. Chapter seventeen was on brews and ferments, always a favourite, and Chapter eighteen on the production of pearls and other precious gems, particularly jade. The mention of pearls made Douglas think of the freshwater mussels in the ocean-feeding streams in Scotland, the ones with the shiny inner shells that occasionally yielded a very rare pearl. Doing things backwards because he was nothing if not contrary, Douglas turned to the last chapter of the book and began to read. 

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