THE TENANT, A guest post by Jim Webster


The Tenant

Garrat Stilforth Drane was very much the odd one out amongst the Drane
siblings. Whilst the others might have pursued unusual careers, Stilforth
(or ‘Young Garrat’ as his mother occasionally called him when his father had
in someway irritated her) appeared to have a deep seated aversion to
anything which might involve working for a living.

Unfortunately the obvious option, marrying well, was denied him. Even the
most generous described him as a ‘long streak of misery’. Thus abandoned by
the fair sex, Stilforth was forced to drift, ineffectually, from one
inadequately recompensed post to another. These he fulfilled in a
lackadaisical and half-hearted manner until his reluctant employer decided
with a feeling of relief that he could dispense with Stilforth’s services.
It was Meirdre, who, as older sisters often do, finally found him a suitable
trade. One recurring problem that beset the legal firm of Thallawell,
Thallawell, and Thallawell was tenants who wouldn’t pay their rent. Now
normally the partner dealing with the property would merely have a quiet
word with Meirdre and she would send an ‘arm and a leg’ man round.
This was almost inevitably efficacious. It didn’t normally take much, just a
couple of heads banged together, a few contusions and some broken furniture,
and the tenants tended to pay up in full.

Now this is well and good for houses down in the Sump. It’s even acceptable
in large sections of Ropewalk or the Commercial Quarter.

But when we come to the Merchant Quarter or Dilbrook, different tactics had to be found.
Respectable tenants, even if in arrears, would merely summon the watch. Then
the watchmen, secure in the knowledge that there would inevitably be a
generous tip, would cheerfully deal firmly with any of the lower orders who
might seem to be causing trouble. Thallawell, Thallawell, and Thallawell
were most displeased by this, and allowed their displeasure to encompass

Meirdre pondered long and hard before finally broaching the matter with

The next time Meirdre was asked to chase up a respectable tenant she and
Stilforth sprang into action. Firstly she had the tenancy assigned to
Stilforth, and he calmly moved into his new abode. The existing tenants were
shocked and mortified by his arrival, but when they summoned the watch;
Stilforth merely produced the papers which showed that he was the tenant,
the previous tenants having invalidated their tenancy by non-payment.
Presented with the evidence, the watch would leave.

Sometimes this would be enough to persuade the defaulting tenants to either
pay what they owed or leave, but some displayed greater determination. At
this point it is as well to mention that Stilforth was an early riser who
also retired early to bed. Thus the master of the house and his wife would
be somewhat put out when they discovered that Stilforth was already asleep
in the master bedroom. They were even more put out when, after a refreshing
night’s sleep, Stilforth would rise, perform his ablutions, and get down to
some serious and much needed, practice on his bladder-pipe.

During the day he would spend much of his time reading his newspaper in the
front room of the house. Still he wasn’t entirely idle. As an honest man he
could hardly be expected to pillage the larder of his current hosts. So
instead he would put a pan of cabbage, soused in vinegar, on the stove and
leave that to cook all day, every day.

Actually he never ate the cabbage. In the evening it was collected by a
local restaurant. The proprietor was happy to pay good money to ensure his
own premises didn’t stink of cooked cabbage and vinegar. In return for the
cabbage, the restaurant provided Stilforth with simple meals rich in beans,
broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and of course onions.

Other that the various entirely natural but noxious odours which had a
tendency to linger, the tenants had to cope with Stilforth’s own presence.
He merely sat in the room of his choice, reading his newspaper and
chuntering quietly to himself about how things were going to the dogs and
how the world had been so much better when he’d been a lad.
It was rare that the recalcitrant tenant could survive a week without
breaking down and paying the landlord what was owed.

Still, even Stilforth wasn’t always successful. I know of one case where he
might be said to have failed. In this case the victor was Lancet Foredecks.
Apparently it was when Lancet was trying to get the now celebrated Foredeck
Rooms (celebrated for the sugar pastries, infusions and the niceness of the
ladies’ powder room) up and running, and to be fair he was having cash flow
problems. Still his landlord took a sour view of the whole situation and
Stilforth was employed.

Initially Stilforth assumed it would be comparatively easy, he merely sat in
the tearooms and gurned at everybody over his newspaper. There was no point
him staying overnight because he’d merely have saved Lancet the cost of a
night watchman. For the first day or two it looked as if Stilforth might
succeed but then on day three Lancet struck back. He put a notice of the day
inviting people to come in to admire the installation art. Indeed he even
sat there with pen and paper, and for a small fee he would sketch any lady
who, greatly daring, sat at the same table as Stilforth. This policy was
remarkably successful, so successful that Lancet was making as much from his
sketching as he was from selling infusions and sugar pasties.

Stilforth took this badly, and rather foolishly put the matter in the hands
of his lawyers. They demanded that Lancet turn over all the earnings he had
made from his sketches to Stilforth as he was the cause and inspiration of
the work.

Lancet told them that he would see them in court, and as the defendant, he
was allowed to choose the day of his trial. He picked the day when Chard
Hunit, performance poet and mad genius, sat as magistrate. Chard listened to
the arguments of the lawyers and then asked Lancet for his defence. Lancet
merely asked the question, “If I paint a still life, how much of the
commission do I have to pay over to the grower who produced the cherries?”
Chard dismissed the case, awarding costs to Lancet. From these costs he paid
his rent and with the rest of the money finished decorating the Ladies’
powder room in the Foredeck Rooms.

And now the hard sell!

OK so perhaps the not so hard sell. It’s just that this is part of a blog
tour which is peering into the lives of Garrat Drane, and his lady wife
Taffetia Drane. Now we are meeting their various offspring, delightful
people and pillars of the community. Or perhaps not.
But still now is your chance to meet them and inadvertently you may discover
their importance to our hero, Tallis Steelyard. Tallis has his own blog at

But actually the purpose of this blog is to draw your attention to the fact
that a new book has been published. ‘Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.’

Rather than a collection of his anecdotes, this is indeed an ‘adventure’ as
Tallis ventures forth from the city of Port Naain. Questions are asked that
may even be answered, why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why
does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown
danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so
much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower
arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.

14 thoughts on “THE TENANT, A guest post by Jim Webster

  1. Pingback: The Tenant – Tallis Steelyard

  2. Pingback: Equine Entanglements ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post | rivrvlogr

  3. Pingback: Six men in a boat blog tour: A touch more colour ~ Tallis Steelyard (aka Jim Webster) | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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