So it was that young Stonild was emancipated and free to choose her own path, which is not necessarily a privilege when one is a partly-educated youth of limited financial means. In such cases, no one can be said to be completely free, as one must, by necessity, accept the kindnesses and opportunities offered by others. She found that she could increase the number of kindnesses and opportunities by diligent work and a friendly manner and took pains to make use of both.
This led to her saving up a tidy sum from her employment with Mr. Pold and being put forward by the elder Mr. Catherson as a candidate for apprenticeship under a most respected lawyer, Millen Rochdale. Strange as it may seem now, a university education was not then considered a prerequisite to a career in law, it being only strictly necessary to study the books and pass the bar exam.
Upon Rochdale’s selection of her among a small but respectable field of intelligent and talented youths and her acceptance of the selection, Stonild was obliged to do something she hadn’t had to do since her infancy – step outside of Eleheim. Rochdale’s life and livelihood were located in Queenston, then a day’s journey up the river from our present capital.
Queenston, at that time, was a decidedly lovelier and better established city than Eleheim, and were it not for certain incidents involving rebellion and fire, it would have been the capital today. Unlike the mud-sodden Eleheimers, Queenstonians held a positive horror of dirt that wasn’t safely contained within a garden or better yet, a pot. After the aforementioned fires, stone and brick became the fashion. “Somehow, the bricks gleamed. It hurt my eyes and while my nose was grateful, my heart perversely missed the grime,” Sir Stonild recounted. Despite her initial discomfort, she thrived in the city and in her studies, cramming activity in every available moment. To be idle in such an atmosphere seemed an insult against existence.
In this heady atmosphere, a sixteen year old Stonild Lark fell victim to her first romance. Eon Talbot, a university student whom she met at a dance, was the target of her affections and she was amazed to find, despite his relative handsomeness as compared to her homeliness, he reciprocated. There being no one to legally gainsay her, she wed him promptly, being convinced that such an opportunity was not to come again.
Ms. Rochdale was not amused at this turn of events. To her credit, she did not broach the matter with her wayward apprentice with a tirade, but laid out a series of arguments explaining the need to change her course. Lark, chastened and informed, was convinced to annul the connection and set Talbot at his liberty.
A year later, Talbot moved out west. Two years more, and he married again. Eight years more, and he cautiously began a correspondence with Sir Stonild that lasted until Talbot’s regrettably premature death at the age of 47. It is worth noting that as owner and editor of the Deighton Cryer, he was one of the most influential local supporters of New Shorsha’s admittance into Confederation. That happy event would have happened with or without him, but would it have happened quite as soon? Sir Stonild personally doubted it.
Events were to come that made Lark grateful not to have the distraction of family, in any case.
That’s the end of Part III. If you enjoyed it, please consider throwing a tip my way via PayPal or Patreon. Again, if there’s some little aspect of the world you want to know about, put it in a comment and I’ll see if I can’t write something about it. Part IV is scheduled for Friday. Cheers!