One of the Docks boys arrived today. Asked to see me by name. I honestly thought the Chamberlain was going to have apoplexy. A Docks Boy, asking for a Ladies Maid. Asking to see her in private. I don’t think such a thing has ever happened before. But he was an insistent Docks Boy, with a delivery. And under orders to pass it in to my own hands and no other. When asked whose orders, he would not say. When asked who he worked for, the matter became redundant. The Chamberlain had no cause to waylay one of Prince Caine’s charges.
So did I find myself in the blue parlour, taking delivery of a small box from a Docks Boy, whose mouth was black from what smelled distinctly like aniseed liquorice. He grinned at me. and waited. The impudent morsel was waiting for me to open the box.
Which I did. and inside nestled in burgundy velvet was a wondrous thing. A bird, a metal bird with gears and plates. I confess I was surprised, and a little shocked. Who would send me such a gift. Surely there would be a mistake. This was not for me. This would be for Highness Sioned. But Highness Caine knew of my dismissal. Why would one of his Docks Boys bring it to me?
I said as much to the young man, all of ten or eleven I should judge by his round face and stature. He just grinned toothily again and pointed to an engraved plate on the box. It was engraved with my name.
I fell to studying the bird, its intricate mechanism and lifelike countenance. I did not notice that the boy was handing me a large tag until it was practically under my nose. “Tell me your name” it said. I looked from the bird to the note and back again, read it in its entirety. And all the while, the boy waited, occasionally fishing a medallion of liquorice from an obviously stuffed pocket, and slipping it in to his mouth to chew with relish.
“Tell it your name, mistress” he urged, his words slurred slightly with the candy.
I felt foolish. But did as the note advised.
What happened then stunned me to silence, and also tears. Never have I seen such a thing. The bird almost came to life, as much as a metal thing of wheels and cogs and plates can do. It came to life and began to sing the sweetest and yet saddest of songs. I don’t know how I came to be sitting down, but when the bird had finished its song, and with a slight tinkle of gears, resumed its previous state, I was perched on a chair, and the boy was gone.
I looked again at the note to find that he had turned it over in my hand. I read what remained, and I could not stop the tears.
I shall treasure this always.