This is my eighth piece for my tea-inspired December writing challenge. Took rather longer than 15 minutes, but I don’t want to be writing two-part ones all the time. I’ll try to stick to the time limit tomorrow. Or not!
Now the reader who’s been keeping up with my little tales will be thinking there’s no bad ones and never a cross word spoke on the Isle of Man, and that all it takes to turn a man from surly to cheerful is the right woman. And there’s some truth in that right enough. But the island is a place like any other, with joy and sorrow and some that’ll never be happy no matter where they are in life.
And one such was William Jowett, and it wasn’t just that he was an Englishman in Mann that made him cross – though there’s enough about the place that makes them brought up to different ways gnash their teeth and tear their hair.
No, this Jowett was as mean-spirited and miserable a one as ever lived, and he’d have the coat off a starving man’s back sooner than give him a little longer to pay what he owed. For Jowett was a moneylender – that’s to say he worked for the Bank in Castletown, and made it his business to know everyone’s business and find ways to charge them for it.
Well known in the town he was but not well liked, for all that he had a fine big house out by Derbyhaven and a wife and two boys at King William’s College, and plenty of servants to make life easier for him.
And so one day Kirree the witch, fed up of hearing the townsfolk carrying on something awful about this Jowett, decided to do something about him and his penny-pinching ways. She went to the Bank, all neat and tidy dressed as she could, leaving her blue cat and her tall hat and even her witches’ broom at home, so them in the bank didn’t know but that she was just an ordinary old woman.
“Come to pay me respects to Mr Jowett”, she said to the clerk on the desk, “and brought him some of my own home-made gingerbread, the good it is that even a fine gentleman like Mr Jowett has never tasted its equal”.
The clerk wore a very white shirt with a very stiffly starched collar under his jacket, and this was apt to making him cross and unhelpful to all those who asked for his aid – and isn’t that always the way with the sad folk doomed to dirty their hands with the business of the Bank? But the smell of warm ginger coming from Kirree’s basket was so tempting that he thought he’d better tell Mr Jowett in case he heard tell – as he surely would – of this wonderful gingerbread and how it had been refused entry to his office.
So the clerk went and told Mr Jowett and in the shake of a duck’s tail, Kirree found herself in the finest room she’d ever seen.
“Sure and you’ve an office finer than the Governor himself”, she exclaimed, turning around and around to admire it, while the scent of the gingerbread wafted out to fill up even the far high corners of the room.
And Mr Jowett, seated behind his enormous mahogany desk, couldn’t but feel hungry, even though he just eaten the four courses that was all he allowed himself in the way of lunch.
Presently, Kirree stopped her spinning and sat on the mean, narrow chair meant for visitors, placing her basket on the desk and beginning to rummage in its depths.
“Here we are now”, she said, removing the biggest, boldest and above all tastiest-looking gingerbread man Mr Jowett had seen in his life. “This is a gift from me to you”, she said, “to show you my admiration for all you do for all of us poor ordinary folk here in Castletown and all around”.
Mr Jowett smiled his thin smile and nodded his pinched head and he may have even uttered a word or two. But in the next instant he was clutching that gingerbread man in his hands and biting and chewing and swallowing and biting and chewing and swallowing as if he’d never eaten for weeks.
Kirree looked on with a smile as he ate, and soon it was all done and Mr Jowett was using a finger to chase the last of the crumbs around on his shiny black trousers.
“V-very good”, he finally managed to squeak, as the warmth of the ginger spread throughout his body. And not just through his body either, for it seemed as if the warmth of the spices had made their way into his head too, and everything seemed just a little brighter and more pleasant than it had a moment before.
“Well I’ll be leaving you now”, said Kirree briskly, standing up and gathering her basket.
“Oh but must you rush off so soon after giving me this delicious gift? Surely you’d like some tea, or coffee perhaps? We keep some for our very best clients, you know, and you are definitely that, dear lady. Or perhaps I can lend you some money?” He leaned confidentially over the desk and whispered, “We have such a lot of it here, you see, and I often think it must be a lonely and boring life for all the notes and coins stuck down there in the vault all the time with never a glimpse of daylight or the chance to change hands”.
Kirree thought it was just possible she’d overdone the special spices, but it was too late now and anyway he’d been asking for it, so she declined politely and went on her way. And from that day on, William Jowett was the most jovial and charming of men to everyone he met. He lent money to all those who asked for it, and he might have got in trouble with the Bank’s owners excepting that Kirree had a stern word with the townsfolk. “I’ve sorted the bank man for ye”, she said. “But you’d best not be taking advantage of him, for if ye do they’ll be sending another one – and worse – from Douglas to replace him.”
So Mr Jowett’s loans were always repaid on time and his head office was happy with him, and so was his wife seeing him so much more generous and ready to please than before. His servants, too, his horse and his cat and his dog all thought him greatly improved. Only his sons, come back from school for the holidays, thought him altered for the worse, for they were already well on the way to becoming bankers themselves.