I found myself at my dear friend Vi’s house earlier this year. On one day of that visit, Sir and I would be sitting leisurely in her office – sipping coffee and having a fantastically random conversation. During one of the comfortable silences in the conversation, my eyes wandered the shelves of books, memories, artifacts, and mysterious boxes – most of which I’d been through at least once at this point.
Atop one of those shelves, a small tub I had never seen before caught my attention. It was clear, less than two feet long, and appeared to be full of black stuff and chainmail – it was intriguing, to say the least.
Casually I asked what was in the tub, and Vi glanced up at it. She fully expected to have an immediate answer for me. Generally, she knows what’s in every container in her office. People are not supposed to put things in her office unless she tells them to, and she always tells them EXACTLY where it should go.
“I have no idea, I didn’t put that there,” she answered, her head tilted and her face reminiscent of the cutest confused puppy you have ever seen.
I love when she gives these kinds of answers. It means I get to dig through whatever it is and help her figure it out. Gleefully I set aside my coffee and the Sirly One got the tub down. Holding it in his lap, we opened it up and started carefully pulling things out of it.
Aside – If you have read The Hat, you know that I’m a rather unruly bootblack type. If you haven’t, you might want to pause here and give it a glance, it will make the rest of this story even more entertaining.
As things came out of the tub, first there was confusion. And then there were other feelings. Sir turned a look of utter disbelief on Vi. I, on the other hand, went straight to rage and frustration. We stopped pulling things out, and carefully started to put things back just as we found them, it needed to be properly documented.
Our voices mingled in an onslaught of thoughts, feelings, and questions.
I demanded answers to my accusations that amounted to “bad Leatherwoman… bad bad evil horrible Leatherwoman”, though I did not stop grumbling and hissing long enough for her to answer.
Sir on the other hand was asking perfectly reasonable, if completely dismayed, questions about who it belonged to, how long it had been kept like this, and even making the polite request to take the items. (Oh… we were taking the items. There was never any question about that)
So, what is it, you ask?
It is a collection of leather items. Old leather items. One piece is believed to be from the late 1800s, most known to be 20 or more years old. Sashes, vests, belts, etc – even prototype cuffs designed by Vi herself. Every bit of it folded up and sealed in a plastic tub with absolutely no ventilation or moisturizing agent of any kind.
On investigating, we eventually discovered what is the most likely scenario – “What had happened was…”
The kinklings that come to visit Vi and the Library often do things around the many houses to help keep things neat, clean, and orderly. On one such occasion, the helper in question – not having the information a bootblack or experienced leather person does – found these items loose somewhere, folded them up, and stored them away for safety.
It is believed the items were in the tub for a little over a year. The leather itself is now being cared for, slowly and gently, hoping to restore each piece to reasonable condition once again. However, the creasing and stretching that happens when you fold leather – especially dry leather – may never be reversed.
Time will tell the tale, and I’ll be sure to post an update if we get lucky on one or more of the pieces.