Ezzel hurries down the main, and pretty near only, street of Gumgeeville, carrying a large but not terribly heavy package with both squiggly and normal writing on it.
Ezzel met the train to see if anybody got off, something she does whenever she has time in order to be first to know whenever something out of the ordinary happens.
Ezzel offered to deliver the package addressed to Ma Mullins, and originating in Simeland. She's very curious to find out what's inside.
Ezzel goes around to the back door of the Mullins place.
Ezzel: Maree? You home?
Ma leaves her scrap basket to answer the door.
Ma: Ezzel? Come in. I promise, I'll have a square for the raffle quilt by next week.
Ma really ~~ hopes ~~ that she won't have to sacrifice the scraps from the shirt she made Jed from the in-Territory cloth she brought back from Simeland.
Ezzel: Don't worry. I always make a few extra to make up for people who don't do their part.
Ma: Now, now. You know I always do my part.
Ezzel bustles in and puts the package on the table.
Ezzel: I just happened to be down at the railroad station so I offered to bring you this package you got.
Ma: A package? I don't know that we ordered anything. Maybe Jed did?
Ezzel: It's got that squiggly writing on it. I think it came from the Other Side.
Ezzel's voice makes the capitals clear.
Ma goes over to the table and reads the label.
Ma: It's from Bart!
Ezzel: I figured as much. Nobody else we know is living over there.
Ezzel discounts Magit, Ukoh and Mik, of course, since they aren't really human any more.
Ma debates holding the package until Jed gets in from hoeing the corn field, but it does have only her name on it.
Ma yields to ~~ temptation ~~.
Ma: I suppose I ought to see what it is.
Ezzel isn't going to try to talk her out of it.
Ma cuts the string with a knife, then peels the paper back.
Ma gasps with ~~ astonishment ~~.
Ezzel cranes to see.
Ezzel: What is it?
Ma reaches into the package and pulls out a skein of yarn, mostly rust with flecks of cobalt blue, turquoise, yellow, magenta, and other brilliant colors.
Ma: It's amazing.
Ezzel: Is that the kind of thing they wear over there?
Ezzel has never seen yarn like that, and isn't sure she likes it.
Ma: Only for special occasions, I expect. It will be lovely as a border on the vest I'm knitting Jed for special times.
Ezzel reaches over and fingers the yarn.
Ezzel: I wonder if those little colored bits fall off when you wash it, or if the colors run.
Ma: Oh, I hope not. It's got a strange texture, too.
Ezzel: Maybe Sime sheep are different than the ones we have here.
Ma: I don't know. We didn't see many farms, except from the train.
Ma reaches into the package and pulls out a folded square of cloth.
Ma: Here, help me unfold this.
Ezzel sorts out where to take hold and steps back carrying the end of the piece.
Ezzel: Lots here.
Ma: Yes. Enough for more than one...oh, my!
Ma: Just look at it.
Ezzel: Good strong thick cotton. Good for shirts for Jed and Vrian. The stripes are kind of nice, too. Don't see that around here on work shirts that I can recall.
Ezzel examines the cloth more closely.
Ezzel: Kind of nice the way the stripes look sort of braided in.
Ma: Yes. There's a good texture to it.
Ezzel: Feels like it'll take a lot of wear.
Ma is already planning possible garments.
Ma: Yes. Durable.
Ma folds the material with Ezzel's help, sets it carefully on the table and reaches back into the package.
Ezzel is eager to see what else is in there.
Ma draws out another piece of cloth, somewhat smaller than the last.
Ma: This isn't as heavy.
Ezzel: Dress weight, that. Or aprons.
Ma unfolds it.
Ma: This... this isn't for aprons. No one would want to spill on it.
Ma stares at the brilliant wash of colors in a kaleidoscope patterns.
Ezzel thinks it's a bit hard on the eyes, in a big piece like that.
Ezzel: Be nice on a quilt block. Liven up the whole quilt.
Ma: Yes, indeed. It would make it really... stand out from the crowd.
Ma refers to the lack of such patterns in the Hannard's Ford store.
Ma pulls out the next piece of fabric.
Ezzel peers at it closely, squinting slightly.
Ezzel: The shapes aren't all the same, some of them are kind of distorted, like they're trying to get away.
Ma: But the colors are a lot more subtle than the others. This would make a nice blouse for spring.
Ezzel: Yes, it would.
Ezzel fingers the cloth.
Ezzel: Nice soft feel to it.
Ma: Yes. The weave is as fine as anything I've seen at the Ford.
Ezzel: Almost a nap to it, as well as the fine weave.
Ma reaches into the package.
Ma: There's one more.
Ezzel: Good thick wool, that. Make a good winter coat.
Ezzel is starting to feel envious.
Ezzel: Your boy must be making good money, to send you all this.
Ezzel can't even estimate what it all must have cost, since she's never seen anything very similar for sale in Hannard's Ford.
Ma: Donors earn a great deal, I'm told. Even while they're in training.
Ezzel: People around here are looking more prosperous since they started selling their stuff to that Sime at the Ford.
Ezzel is envious of that too. It doesn't seem fair, but virtue will have to be its own reward for Ezzel and her husband.
Ma: Yes. We haven't eaten cabbage three days in a row for a long time. And see? The roof doesn't leak any more.
Ezzel: I guess it did pull you Mullinses out of a deep hole.
Ezzel wonders if it was worth it. Now that so many local people are donating, the stigma is getting to be less than that of being badly in debt.
Ezzel: Hard to think of Bart as a servant to a Sime, no matter how much he's paid. Bright boy, deserves better.
Ezzel is tactful enough to say servant instead of slave, like the preacher does.
Ma: They're not servants, exactly. Bart says there are a lot of times when it's his job to tell the channel he's working with what to do, or not do.
Ezzel: Really? He's just a boy. But of course Simes go crazy every month, so then they'd need to be told what to do, I suppose.
Ma: I guess. I don't know a lot about that part of it, really.
Ma still hasn't reconciled what she saw at Bart's graduation with her preconceptions.
Ezzel: That Sime in Hannard's Ford doesn't take time off when she's crazy, so her sl-- servant must keep her under control somehow. I shudder to think of the people who submit to her tentacles when she's like that.
Ma: It must not be too bad, because I haven't heard anybody complain.
Ezzel: The things some people will do for money.
Ma: Not everybody does it for the money. Virla doesn't need it, you have to admit.
Ezzel: Well, yes, but everybody knows she's gone a bit crazy herself since that happened to her only child.
Ma: She wants to stay in touch with her daughter, and to set her up for a good life. That's what you want for your children, isn't it?
Ezzel: Well, of course, but ours are all human, thank God.
Ma: Which leaves your grandkids. Who have a one in three chance of being Sime.
Ezzel shrugs. It's in God's hands, and God has been good to her and her family. So far.