The name is Chastain, and see that you mark it well as I am not in the habit of repeating myself. Yes, I am named after that noble Chastayne family in the south. I was never told the reason for this directly so I cannot make any claims with the Kingdom Heraldic College, which is a pity of course; but one can well surmise that I was named so as an unofficial mark of paternity, so while I needs must remain officially cloaked, we can come yet to an understanding between us of who and what I am.
Now, I see by your satchel and writing book that you are well-lettered, and so it is most providential that we make each other’ acquaintance, for I believe we can be of mutual assistance each to the other. I am not, as you shall soon see, content in my current station; and after some years of diligent struggle in this endeavor, I am lately rewarded with good fortune in the form of news which can restore me to my proper place in society. I have discovered that it was never my father’s wish that I be denied my birthright, but rather that he was compelled to deny me for as long as he lived by a woman of a most blighted character and not the least estranged to unseemly conduct. Evidence of this exists in the form of letters, correspondence between my father and this malevolent woman, wherein all is discussed between them openly and all stands revealed. These letters are in the possession of one Sophia Barrett. But alas, it required a great deal of my modest salary to acquire this information and I now have to reach Miss Sophia Barrett before she departs for Carlisle from Bellsworth, two days hence. I needs must reach Bellsworth by the morrow and… well, you see my dilemma–
Oh! May devils take me for my doggerel, you ply the Shadow Trade! Why did you not stop me with some sign? I hope my confidence amused you, my fellow!
Yes, I am called Chastain, that part is true – but my father is hale and hearty, doing for the Pendlewells of Broughton, or so I last heard. Being brought up in that noble house, I learned to speak as they do, but such speech always felt in my mouth like the taste of caviar when set out over-long. I last saw father near to five years past when he had me put out of his master’s house for a thief. Of course I denied it. How can it be thievery when they pay him such a paltry sum of four sovereigns a year? When I took that silver, I was straightening accounts, that’s a fact! If you ask me, I think father was glad I stood up to those thieving Pendlewells, for they are stealing his labor at such a brutal price – he was simply unable to say it openly. But I will not be bought and cowed as my father. As he does for the Pendlewells, I do for myself. I have pride, and right proper!
And these days I am on the road with Ernie. You know, the one with the obnoxious wagon? Laugh if you will, but “The Great Ernesto” runs a tight bit of trade, he does. Keeps to the provinces and he’s meticulous with keeping records of where he’s been, what schemes he’s run. Never been caught because no one’s ever thought themselves cheated by him. When he runs a scheme he leaves with his mark’s gratitude. I’ve seen his work and he’s a master; let not his manner fool you. Ol’ Ernie’s as shrewd as they come!
But as you see, I run the games. I say my sad stories, usually some sort of dispossessed noble like what I wearied you with at the start, and the money flows. People love those, you know! It taps into every poor man‘s dream, that. That’s why it works. They all wish they were Lord of the Manor, Master of the Hall, or some such doggerel. And now here comes good ol’ Chastain offering them a taste of it, and they chase it like good beer. I tell you, this is the life, my friend!