Fancy's earliest memories were of her parents. Her mother, Content, was a warm, loving parent, who Fancy remembered for her gentleness, her quiet assurance when Fancy was afraid, for her care when she was ill or suffering from pupish scratches and cuts, and for loving hugs and kisses both public and private. She somehow seemed to Fancy to soothe and quiet the world and to make their home a refuge from whatever storms. She remembered her mother's perfume, the warmth of her fur and the cream colored dress her mother seemed always to wear to formal or family occasions. Walking, her mother seemed to float rather than walk as other mothers did. Fancy could not remember her raising her voice or showing anger or bitterness. Thinking back, Fancy could not remember her mother ever spanking her, even though she could remember occasions where it would have been understandable.
Content seemed able to keep the details of running a house invisible. Things ran well and properly, clothes were washed, cleaning was done, food appeared on the table and tasted delightful to a young daughter even if the amounts were spare.
Content somehow made fun of their time together, Fancy remembered. When they were walking, she could find humor and laughter in watching birds or the young lambs in the pastures. She taught Fancy to value all children and occasional adults. She allowed no discourtesy to those they met, no matter how deserved. Fancy remembered her laughter with perhaps the greatest sense of loss. Her mother's serenity was a foil for the natural ebullient nature of her father.
Fancy remembered him as always active and forever with a project or task to do. He was always in and out of her day and had a smile for her that was like the sun suddenly appearing through clouds. He seemed to collect friends and whenever he was home, there were new things to see, new people to meet, trips to take, and new wonders to examine and appreciate.
Whenever he could, Fancy's father took her with him on his local trips. He treated her as an interested and intelligent person, no matter her age, and spent time explaining his work and the goods he dealt in. Even as a child she grew to know the colors and appearances of the rare woods and fabrics he sold. She learned the names and aromas of his spices and something of their usages.
Fancy thought over what she knew of her family. Her father, Cutlass, was the son of a ship builder from somewhere along the north coast. He had, she had been told, some strains of Viking and Spanish blood. She had never met her father's parents, as they had died before she was born. Her father had seldom spoken of them, but when he did, it was with love and appreciation.
Cutlass was educated as a shipwright and had worked in his father's yard but though his work was highly praised, he spent much of his free time in the shops of the traders and merchants in the port town. He learned about their goods, and usages and of the growing market for exotic and fine goods. He grew to feel his future should be as a shipmaster and trader rather than as builder of ships.
Putting his convictions to action, he shipped out on several trading ships first as clerk and than as agent for some of the merchants in his port. He was active, helpful and was accepted both by merchants and seamen. He learned the needed skills in seamanship, in language and business to conduct his proposed tradings. He became known as an unusually astute and reliable agent and, consequently, his merchant sponsors allowed him a personal interest in their trading.
In several voyages he had built enough profits to consider setting up his own business. He located a small ship in poor, though repairable, condition and persuaded his father to repair and fit it for the continental trade. His father, though reluctant to see his son leave, did a good job on Cutlass's ship and Cutlass soon found himself an independent trader.
His judgement of the needs of the growing middle and upper classes was good and his success in trading and merchandising resulted in growing profits.
He moved his ship to the port of Hundsmuth and established his store and warehouse there feeling its location, close to a growing population, was desirable. He made frequent visits to the local merchants, showing them his goods and whenever possible visiting the local nobility and gentry to establish future needs. He had met Grimace, the son of a local estate holder, and they hit it off. Both were of an age and shared many interests. Grimace then invited him to visit his family's estate.
It was on one of these visits to Hoarhound house, the home of Grimace's father, Sir Growler, that Cutlass met her mother, Content. Content was Sir Growler's daughter and it was love at first sight for both.
Fancy remembered asking her mother why she had liked her father when they first met. Content explained to her, in a bemused way. "Fancy, I had never met anyone like him. He was always active and exciting to be with, and when he told of of his trips, he made the things he described real and exciting. His dress was always correct but there was somehow an air of the sea about him. He was always gentle with others except when necessary. You could tell that he was used to command, but he always listened to me carefully and cared about my interests. He told me of his hopes and dreams of fortune, and how he wanted a home and children."
This impressed Fancy, so when she had a chance, Fancy had asked her father the same question. He seemed startled, at first, then laughed and picked her up and sat her on a table in front of him while he tried to compose an answer. "Your mother," he said, "had beautiful eyes and trim paws. She was quiet and peaceful and was interested in the things I did. Of course, she could also cook and tend house and seemed always to befriend those she met. Now how could I not want her for a wife?" And he smiled and said, "and she has excellent pups." He then he picked her up, gave her a hug, set her on her feet and left for his work.
Their courtship was brief. Cutlass made every excuse possible to visit Hoarhound house and spent his time with her. They walked in the apple orchards and in the gardens. He delayed other trips and rescheduled other of his business so that they could meet. Both knew that they wanted to marry immediately.
Finally Cutlass's business could no longer wait and with her anxious consent he approached old Sir Growler to ask for his permission for their wedding.
Although he liked Cutlass, Sir Growler forbade the match as unsuitable. The rest of the family had sided with Content's obvious desire and favored the match, and tried to intercede with Sir Growler. And although Cutlass made his case strongly and Content tearfully pleaded with him, and he seemed at times almost to waver, finally he set his jaw and would not change his view.
Cutlass had to stop his suit, at least obviously. Content was broken-hearted and retired into silence and tears. Her brother Grimace consoled her as best he could and said he felt it was a case of Sir Growler, mistaking, in his old age, the difference between a trader and a tradesman. He promised to keep trying to change his father's mind.
Cutlass was disheartened at first by this rejection, but it was not in his nature to give up anything he wanted without a battle. He managed to speak with Content before he left for Europe on a buying trip and tell her of his plans.
When he returned in about a month, he managed again to talk with Content. In another week, Cutlass had organized some of Content's friends and the two eloped. They were married immediately in the port of Hundsmuth with their closest friends in attendance. Her brother Grimace managed to attend, with his wife Patience, but because of his father's views did not feel that he could give the bride away. Instead, he congratulated them warmly and offered them what help he could quietly provide should they need it.
Sir Growler was furious at the marriage, but with constant persuasion from Grimace and Patience and other of Content's friends he finally grew to accept it. He did love his daughter and missed her. Being the crusty old dog he was, he still could not accept them publically but kept up with their affairs with interest. Eventually, they made occasional visits to Hoarhound house and these seemed to disarm his anger.
Cutlass and Content set up their home in a small cottage near Hundsmuth where Cutlass's ship was berthed and his business was located. They were happy. Cutlass was trying hard to build his fortune and money was not plentiful, but Content proved to be the good manager Cutlass had foreseen and their life was pleasant. They had many friends in the area and there was much visiting between them when Cutlass was in port.
At Cutlass`s insistence, Content accompanied him on several of his trading voyages and to her surprise found that she enjoyed it. With her native good taste and her interest in fine fabrics and housewares, she became a great help to Cutlass. His business acquaintances in France and Italy found her pleasant and she grew to know many of them and their families. She helped Cutlass with the necessary business records and, in any case, she was a great comfort to him on the trips.
Fancy was born three years after their marriage. Content had hoped for a son, but after seeing Fancy's wrinkled face for the first time, she was happy. Cutlass was overjoyed, and was beaming when he had the chance to hold her or to assist Content in her care. Fancy's advent meant that Content could no longer accompany Cutlass on his trading trips and this saddened Content.
Content proved to be an admirable mother, and Fancy grew rapidly into a charming young pup. She seemed to have some of the active nature of her Father and was a minor trial to Content at times. She took Fancy with her to the warehouse where she worked and both looked forwards to the times when Cutlass could stay with them.
As Cutlass had foreseen, improving economic conditions had brought an increasing demand for the fine fabrics and woods and household items that Cutlass stocked. His business began to grow more rapidly and his fortunes improved. He, of course, studied with interest the wants of the growing middle and upper classes. He noted an increasing interest in the exotic goods, spices, woods, jewels and silks of the East. Seeing an opportunity, he sold his ship and purchased another, larger, ship and fitted her out for the India trade.
His timing was excellent as was his taste in goods. The sales from his first eastern voyage enabled him to enlarge his warehouse and expand his business. He began to offer a complete line of exotic furniture and home furnishings in his store. He worked with selected local craftsmen to make furniture from his woods and use his silks and other fabrics in cushions, drapes and other items. He continued to stock the best continental laces, china and other needs. He employed a friend of his to manage this business when he was gone and to act as a sales agent. This proved a wise move, and his friend Greyears handled the job admirably. The local gentry and prosperous townsmen liked his stock and the business continued to grow.
About this time, old Sir Growler was thrown from his horse and broke his hip. His tenants, who saw him fall, hurried to him and carried him back to Hoarhound House. Although in some pain, he very nearly thanked them, but, being the crusty old dog he was, he blamed the weather, the conditions of the ditch banks, his saddle and the undoubted malicious tendencies of his horse.
Although Grimace did his best to keep him company, the duties of the estate that now lay upon him kept him away from his father's bed more than he liked. Sir Growler refused to let his neighbors see him in his helpless state and he gradually became quieter and less demanding. He seemed to loose his interest in second guessing Grimace's handling of the affairs of the estate.
Patience spent much of her time reading to him and relating the affairs of the neighborhood, which he seemed to relish. However, for all of their solicitude and the attentions of the staff and the local doctor, he recovered slowly and hated being confined to his bed. When winter came he had just began to hobble about a bit, and on one of his jaunts to look at the horses, he caught a chill, and then pneumonia, and after a short illness, he died.
Grimace inherited the estate and title. He had always been fond of his younger sister, Content, and wanted to strengthen family ties. At his insistence, Cutlass's family was welcome and Content and Fancy made frequent visits to Hoarhound House especially when Cutlass was off trading. They found it to be a welcoming family home. Indeed, it became a second home to Fancy.
Some of her earliest memories were of the upstairs nursery. It had been inhabited by generations of children of Hoarhound house. The family had apparently believed in color for children's rooms. The window had a stained glass section in its top with bright red and blue segments that glowed with color when the sun was shining. The polished oak floor was partially scattered with brown, blue and red woven rugs. There were two childrens beds. Her favorite bed had an old carved oak headboard with ivy leaves and birds on its top and rabbits on the bottom. The rest of the room had similar motifs. In the opposite corner of the room there were two carved cribs with angels looking down from front and back on their occupants.
There was a large wooden toy box under the window with a cushion on top so that children could have a place to perch and spy out. Inside the box were a remarkable collection of toys from past generations. Fancy remembered spending many happy afternoons mining the box and playing with newly discovered treasures. There were several tall cupboards and wardrobes with faces of clowns and dancers cut into their doors. There were two rocking chairs, one in a child size and another in adult size suited for rocking unhappy children to sleep. Both were fitted with colorful cushions.
The house itself was a wonderful place for a young child to explore. It was a long two-story stone building with a slate roof. There was a circular driveway in front that defined a formal garden. There were halls running the length of each story with stairs and an entrance at either end. The hall on the upper floor was centered with bedrooms on either side. The hall on the lower floor was set somewhat to the back to allow more depth for the more public rooms.
On one side of the entrance were the adjoining great hall and library. The great hall had a very high ceiling so that the upper hall ran along its back with a railing, overlooking the hall. On the other side of the entrance was a dining room, kitchens and living quarters for the butler and his wife. There was a stairs in the entrance leading to the upper hall. Behind the lower hall were the storerooms, the pantry and a couple of small bedrooms, one of which was used as an estate office. There were adjoining outbuildings at either end of the building for stables, servant quarters and other purposes. When she was little, she remembered many happy hours spent exploring the rooms and halls.
She also remembered Sir Grimace and his wife Patience. Although they had married several years before Content, they had no pups and regarded her with ill-concealed affection. Although Sir Grimace gruffly denied it, he became a doting uncle.
Parties and fetes seemed common at Hoarhound House. Fancy was not old enough to take part in the dancing but she and another frequent visitor, a neighboring pup, Singlefoot, Squire Amble's son, along with other visiting pups, would often set at the railing above the great hall and watch, wide-eyed, the proceedings going on below them. Fancy especially watched the ladies and their party dresses and behavior and admired the dancing. Singlefoot said she was silly but this criticism didn't bother Fancy even though Singlefoot was taller and a few years older.
When there was a dinner as well as a dance, the visiting pups were fed at a table in the kitchen and when finished would peek in the dining room to see how their elders behaved. Cider monitored their behavior and impressed the children with the proper use of the tableware and their duty to be seen , occasionally, but not heard. No matter how hard they pleaded, Cider would never give them the wine or liquors their elders were taking. However, she could almost always be persuaded, after some intense pleading, to fetch extra portions of the desserts.
At home, Fancy looked forward to seeing her father when he returned from a trip and enjoyed the time he could spend with her. She and Content looked forward to his loud hellos, and to the stories he told about his trips and the places he had been. They would also look for the exotic gifts that he'd bring them. Fancy had a favorite doll that Cutlass said was dressed as a Egyptian princess and a clock of her own from Bavaria that struck the hours and had a little wooden trollhound that popped out of his kennel just before the clock struck.
Content had always wanted to travel with Cutlass. When Fancy was eight, Content finally convinced Cutlass that she would be well cared for at Hoarhound House. With the enthusiastic agreement of Sir Grimace and Patience, Content began to sail again with Cutlass on his trading voyages.
Though she missed her father and mother, the voyages were never so long that she felt deserted. Patience provided the warmth and mothering she may have missed and Sir Grimace was always glad to have her about and often took her with him when he walked about the estate. He took her to watch the gardens being planted and took her when they were being harvested. When the apples were ripe and picked, he took her to the cidery to watch the apples being squeezed and the barrels being filled. He took her to watch the sheep being sheared. He would explain what was being done and introduced her to the tenants and to the neighbors.
She had a tutor, the educated daughter of a Hindsmuth merchant, who looked after her early learning. She learned sewing, reading and writing, some common mathematics, riding, history, some local stories about witchcraft, proper manners, a minimal religious background and a friendly and common-sense attitude. If the day was pleasant, the tutor would be hard pressed to keep her attention. She was an understanding young dog and on pleasant days she would take Fancy out to see the flowers, or the new lambs, or just to watch the tenants harvest their crops.
When her father and mother were scheduled to return, Fancy bounced about impatiently until she saw their carriage turning into the estate road. She would come shooting out of Hoarhound House's great door and greet them with enthusiastic hugs. Her parents visits were never long enough for Fancy and were happy mixtures of gay periods, more surprises, quaint and curious gifts, new clothes, and sad farewells.
Cutlass and Content both took time during their visits to catch up on Fancy's life and worries. Each of them held long discussions with her about her life, her education, her wants, her problems. Cutlass was addicted to bouts of good advice which Fancy tried to appear to accept but which she sometimes filtered heavily. He, however, was never critical and enjoyed just being with her and her joy with her gifts.
Content was somewhat more critical, though loving. She questioned Fancy about her behavior and experiences, and at times gave her reasoned injunctions and advice that Fancy soon found to be worth accepting. Fancy reveled in the time they spent together and tried to pack the most fun and enjoyment in the time available.
Cutlass's business continued to grow and he kept putting his profits back into it. At table he often discussed his business problems and his proposed actions. In later years, Fancy's memories of her father's descriptions and explanations of his plans for their future, over dinner, were some of her fondest memories.
When Fancy became fourteen, her tutor announced she was soon to be married and must regretfully leave her situation at Hoarhound House. Fancy's parents then decided that she needed more formal schooling. To her immediate sorrow, she became a student at an academy for female pups in Hundsmuth. After the relative freedom of her life at Hoarhound House, the restrictions of the academy were at first unpleasant, but as she made friends with the other students and developed a social life she grew to like it there. Visits to Hoarhound house, and with her father and mother whenever they returned, helped her to be a happy young dog.
She learned geography, Spanish, French, history, more practical mathematics, a bit of law, the duties of her class and position, drawing, folk medicine, adolescent pranks and scandals, discrete flirting, some theology, and to enjoy stating her mind.
Fancy had to stay at the academy most of the time. The headmistress was greatly concerned that none of her young pups should come to harm and paid much attention to their activities. Fancy had a room to herself in the upper story of the academy building with a window looking out over the harbor. She had a fine rosewood writing desk her father had provided and a carved mahogany bed and a tall wardrobe. Her old trollhound clock was over the bed and she had a chest of drawers containing, in addition to the usual clothing and treasures, a large supply of illicit cookies and tea. These comestibles provided the ammunition needed for planning pupish insurrections with her friends.
Because of the close location, she had the chance to spend much of her free time with Cutlass's store manager, Greyears, and his wife - and they rapidly became close friends. She learned Cutlass's rare woods, spices, teas, coffees, silks and eastern fabrics. She learned about their furniture and home furnishings. Fancy helped with sales, and other work about the shop. She learned rapidly and because of the time spent in the shop and with her parents, she became most knowledgeable in these goods.
She was a great help to the manager and a rising attraction for the young dogs in the town. Young furniture makers, upholsterers and merchants in the town began to spend more than the usual time with their purchases when Fancy was there. Fancy enjoyed their attentions, in a well-pedigreed fashion. She smiled at them, made entertaining conversation and wished herself older and independent.
Fancy, when she thought of it, felt her life in admirable shape. She had a pleasant life, good friends, proper clothes, affectionate parents and good financial prospects. When she thought of her future, which was seldom, she supposed she would marry, have children, and live her life comfortably as a proper English country matron.
When Fancy became seventeen, tragedy struck. Her fathers's ship was overdue, and after a few months of worry, word came that it had been lost in a storm off the African coast. The natives who came across the wreckage found no survivors and the ship and its contents destroyed and scattered. Only a few labeled fragments of the ship's stern and part of a lifeboat survived to identify the ship.
The loss of her parents was a tremendous personal blow to Fancy. She had difficulty accepting it at first, but the attentions and the helpful concern of her friends gradually brought her to accept that they were gone.
When her fathers's will was read, there was even more bad news for Fancy. Cutlass had borrowed heavily to finance the last trip. The funds remaining to operate the business were limited. Future operation would be a spare process. When Cutlass's personal funds were accumulated, the amount remaining was rather small, much less than the manager expected.
There was no explanation for these limited funds. Lawyer Grumble, the family lawyer and a stalward family friend and Basset, investigated, found nothing and was distressed to tell Fancy the sad news. When all debts were repaid, Fancy was left with only a few thousand pounds of family funds. The interest from this was a bare living.
In accordance with Cutlass's will, the trading business was divided between Fancy and his manager, Greyears. This was no problem as Fancy thought this provision fair. She liked and trusted the manager and his wife. After a while, Fancy began to accept her losses and began to look to the future with determination and some degree of optimism.
Finances being what they were, Fancy had to leave the academy. She now stayed with the manager and his wife in their small home as the family home in Hundsmuth had been sold to provide her more income. Grimace and Patience had sugggested she come live with them, but she felt her obligation to stay and help keep her business going was more important than the comforts of Hoarhound House.
Fancy started working full time in the trading business and was a great help to the manager and his wife. All three worked long hours to keep the business going. It survived. However, without a private supply of goods, the business had to purchase them from other traders and profits were meager. Most went to support the manager and his wife. Fancy, who liked the manager and his wife, did not feel cheated.
Some of Fancy's friends began to drift away, though most remained. Comforts and new clothes became less frequent. She enjoyed her work, however, and the diminution of her social life somehow seemed less important. Work became increasingly important to her. The smells of the spices and woods in the storeroom were a consolation and she liked to sort through the silks and prints enjoying their colors and textures.
She was frequently left in charge of the store when the manager was away on trips to find new goods and found she had a knack with customers. They found her advice on decorating to be sound and gradually she built up a clientele who came to depend on her selections. She learned much of the problems of the cabinet makers that used her woods and the drapers and seamstresses who bought their fabrics. They, in turn, grew to appreciate her advice on their work.
Her social life was not completely barren. The young furniture makers and upholsterers were still attentive. But dances and parties came less often. She still found herself the center of attraction to many of the young merchants and tradesmen in the town and although she was not ready to take any of them seriously, she enjoyed the dances and balls and the opportunity to polish her flirting skills.
Her future, as she now thought of it, seemed pleasant but a good deal less promising than it had been. She knew herself, of course, to be a member of the local gentry but with rather fewer resources than before. She still had her friends at Hoarhound House and in the countryside.