Molly Everhart Trueblood’s 8-Great Gramma was a Writer!
IN BOSTON TODAY!
A COLUMN OF THE SOCIETY OF THE CITY
As Reported By Emma Everhart Smythe
For the last week we have had as guest in our humble inn, the renowned Sephira Pryce, who kindly agreed to entertain us, and the readers of the Boston Gazette, by answering a few questions while her lovely home is receiving the attention of local roofing contractor and slate mason, Anthony Gearvais. Below is the interview in full, unedited by any hand.
Welcome Miss Pryce. Perhaps you would like to begin by telling us a bit about yourself.
[Laughing] Why would I want to do that? Surely all of you have already heard of Sephira Pryce.
Not all of our readers are from the Boston of your time.
Are you suggesting that my fame is bounded by the town gate, that outside of my immediate circle none have heard of the Empress of the South End? Dear me; such impoverished souls.
Very well. I am Sephira Pryce. To say that I am the most successful and influential thieftaker in Boston is to give far too much credit to those whose careers pale beside mine. For all intents and purposes, I am Boston’s only thieftaker, at least the only one of consequence. I recover stolen property for the city’s wealthy, and am paid handsomely for doing so. I own an estate on Summer Street near the New South Meeting House and I am a close — dare I say intimate –acquaintance of no less a personage than Francis Bernard, the Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
Will you tell us a bit about your childhood? Did you grow up here in Boston?
Yes. We lived in Cornhill.
That’s all? Was your father a thieftaker, too? Did you have any siblings?
If you must know, my father was a common laborer. He worked the ropewalks near the Common. We lived in a small room above a farrier’s shop — my parents, my two brothers and me. There was barely enough room for all of us, and we were always going without something — food, clothing, shoes. My mother died of pleurisy when I was eleven. My brothers were both older and they went off to fight the French, leaving me alone with my father. Neither of them returned. As soon as I could get out from under my father’s roof, I did. He was evicted from the room not long after and died in the Workhouse. I vowed that I would never live poor, that I would never subsist on an inadequate wage, that I would not die without a shilling to my name as he did. As you can see, it is a vow that I have kept.
What can you tell us about Ethan Kaille?
Kaille is no one. I believe he fancies himself a rival to me, but that is pure fantasy on his part.
Some say he’s more formidable than that. Some say he really is a legitimate rival.
I’m getting bored, and so is anyone reading this. I tell you, Kaille is nothing. Yes, he’s smarter than most men, and he seems to enjoy uncommon good fortune. That and his witchery are the only reasons he remains alive at all. Frankly, I should have killed him years ago, but he can be useful now and then.
Well, you said it yourself. He’s a witch, or . . . what is it he calls himself? A conjurer. No matter the name — he can cast spells, and he can be useful occasionally when it comes to tracking down others of his kind. My reputation depends on my ability to recover any item I am engaged to find. Sometimes, when the dark arts are involved, that becomes difficult. And so I occasionally find it helpful to have Ethan around to take care of those few matters that lie beyond my considerable talents. But, you see, even in this his place is inferior to mine. He practically works at my behest, although he probably would deny it. He works in Boston because I allow it. Far from being my rival, he is, in most every way that matters, my surrogate as circumstance demands.
How did you and he meet?
This is becoming tedious. Why all this concern with a man of so little consequence? I am Sephira Pryce, Empress of the South End, Queen of the Lanes. I make more money in a fortnight than Kaille does in an entire year, and I do so with an elegance to which he can’t even aspire. You should be asking questions about me, not about him.
Very well. Tell us how you became a thieftaker.
Of course. As I said, I vowed upon leaving my father’s home that I would never be poor again, and so I set about trying to make a name for myself in the streets of the South End. At first, I have to admit that I resorted to behavior that might have shocked those made of weaker stuff. But I make no apologies. I did what I needed to in order to survive, and I willingly used to advantage those assets that God bestowed upon me. Soon enough, though, my wit and skill with a blade made their mark. For a time, I stole, I fought, I smuggled. And then it came to me that I might do better to use my talents for good. So I amended my reckless ways, and began to retrieve goods stolen by others. And the rest you know. I am now renowned and beloved throughout the city.
And yet, there are those who say that you still steal, that you and your men are responsible for most of the thefts you investigate, and that you have built an empire upon a lie.
Who says those things? Name one person!
You cannot! And do you know why? Because they’re lies — nothing but lies — spread by those who are jealous of my celebrity and my success. No one would dare say those things to my face, because they know that they would feel the weight of my wrath, that my retribution would be swift and absolute!
And, naturally, because they would know that those things simply are not true.
It was Kaille who told you as much, isn’t that so? He would say anything to lower my standing in this city. He envies me — my renown, my lovely home and comfortable life. He wants those things for himself and he knows that they will never be his so long as I remain his superior. He cuts a sad figure. You may tell him that I said so.
What do you think of the recent protests against the Grenville Acts passed by Parliament?
Boring, dreary, tiresome. You really ought to limit your questions to matters that pertain to my life. But if you must know, I find the protests and the rabble who engage in them wearisome. They complain of taxes, but they know nothing of what it takes to maintain the colonies, and they refuse to credit that the King and Mister Grenville might know more of such matters than they do. They are like petulant children, except that even the most petulant child might be recommended by a fair face or the hint of an agreeable disposition. These fools have no fine qualities to temper all that I find so objectionable about them.
Are we almost finished? I grow tired of answering such inane questions.
One more question, and then I’ll leave you. What would you say are your finest qualities, and what would you say are your greatest flaws?
At last, a question I can warm to. My finest qualities? That is difficult — I have so many from which to choose. I am beautiful, of course. But you knew that upon seeing me. I am strong; I am dependent on no man. I do as I please and I refuse to be bound by the limits society usually places upon those of my sex. I have a great wit, and wisdom that would seem to put the lie to my tender years. I can fight as well as any man, but as you can see, I am nothing if not womanly.
As for my flaws, I would have to say that I am cursed with too generous and tender a spirit. I allow my kindness to get the better of me at times, though it has cost me in both effort and treasure to do so.
Nothing I can think of.
Well then, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a … pleasure.
Yes, I imagine it has.
Dear Readers, you have witnessed herein the reflections and considerations of the most celebrated thieftaker in Boston. One must wonder if all thieftakers are as fulsome in self-congratulatory praise as Miss Pryce, or if such glowing approval is unique to her own personality. Perhaps some enterprising editor will have a word with Mr. Kaille, and such traits might be compared.
Or perhaps you might spend a short time Ye Old Booke Shoppe in your town and endeavor to purchase THIEFTAKER, by this newcomer, author D.B. Jackson, a novel of fiction and magic and history. It features this Mr. Ethan Kaille who has been so scurrilously denounced by Miss Pryce. I am fain to suggest that he may indeed be cut of finer cloth than has been suggested herein.
With that, I bid you, my readers, adieu.
Yours, in truth,
Emma Everhart Smythe