that’s what she thinks.’
Perhaps I should have tweaked his ear for having such cheek, but I did not.
When Merryl and Beth came to breakfast I told them that Mistress Midge had found Sonny on the doorstep. I asked them not to tell their mother or father about him, and said that I’d be taking him back to the foundlings’ home as soon as we got to London.
The girls were rather delighted with him, exclaiming how grubby and tiny he was (for he was as scrawny as a day-old rabbit despite the amount of food he was capable of putting away). They admired his shiny scalp, all the more so when he told them that it was shaved every week to keep the lice off, and, discovering he could do tricks with cards and coins, they fell to treating him much as they did their pet monkey, carrying him from chair to stool and making him their baby. He took all this in good part, for I believe it was the first time he’d ever been made such a fuss of, and the three children plus the real monkey entertained each other most of that day, leaving me and Mistress Midge to get on with the packing and stacking of boxes ready to be taken to London. There was a great deal to see to, DrDee having ordered that we should take as much as possible in the wherry with us.
I found time to say goodbye to Isabelle that day and because I knew I’d be seeing Merryl and Beth very soon, my only regret on leaving Mortlake was that my ma wouldn’t know where I was. When last I’d seen her, I’d assured her that in the event of any emergency, I could be found in Mortlake, at the magician’s house, and anyone locally would be able to tell her where this was. Supposing, I thought now, one of my sisters was poorly and Ma needed to tell me of it – or suppose she was sick herself and no one knew how to reach me? I pondered on this problem for some time but found no solution to it, for even if I’d been able to obtain parchment to send her my new address I had no money to pay for a messenger to go as far as Hazelgrove. Besides – and this decided it – neither Ma nor my sisters could read.
I thought about my family and of home as I packed boxes, tied up books and wrapped utensils, musing on the last day I’d spent there: the day of the village Michelmas Fair. On this day the great lady of our manor, the splendidly gowned and jewelled Lady Margaret Ashe (who had, in her youth, been lady-in-waiting to our queen) had opened the fair and entreated us all to enjoy ourselves. I’d been doing just that when my father had come along with his threats and his bullying, causing me to run away.
But perhaps I had reason to be grateful to him, Ithought, for if he’d not been such a bully and a tyrant then I might never have landed up in the magician’s house and so met Tomas.
We had to catch the morning tide, and Old Jake, who was sometimes employed by Dr Dee to do odd jobs around the place, arrived with a cart early the next morning to take everything down to the wharf. Mistress Midge and I were ready for him and, having been up since an icy-cold five of the clock, surrounded and befuddled by all the pots, pans, boxes and bundles we had to take with us, were pleased to be on the move at last.
Sonny was a little quiet; probably because we’d explained to him that as soon as we arrived in London he’d have to be taken back to Christ’s Hospital. Our neighbour, Mistress Gove, had assured us that it was against the law to steal a child from a foundlings’ home, and that we could be punished for doing so. Informing Sonny of this, I’d told him several times that he’d be better off in a permanent place, that at least they’d see he was always fed and sheltered – and in time they’d apprentice him to a shoemaker or baker so that he had a good trade. Whenever I started on this all too familiar track, however, he’d taken to putting his hands over his ears and whistling so that he couldn’t hear me.
The journey was not pleasant, for an icy wind swept up the river