Chapter sevenMature

LONDON, 1856

The dim light from the candle on the table to the right of the work bench created little enough light to read a newspaper let alone carve intricate detail into wood. The woodcarver rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms above his head to relieve some of the stiffness he felt from sitting in one position for too long. Focusing back on the box in front of him he blew gently across it’s surface, removing tiny shavings of wood that had been removed as he chiselled the strange pictographs and made sure that the pieces slid freely.

This was exacting work, copying a piece that had been made by a Japanese master craftsman with many more years experience than he himself had. Each element had to be constructed precisely to enable the piece to work. But he wasn’t going to be beaten by it. After turning the wood initially on a lathe he had used a two-handed grip to chisel the shapes he needed, one hand guiding the cutting edge while the other provided the driving power. But now for the more precise work he braced his guide hand up against the wood and used it as a fulcrum to pivot on throughout the motion, affording him much more control and accuracy.

Squinting in the poor light he cursed his failing eyesight. He was not used to working through the night but his customer, a Mr Stockett, had paid handsomely a fortnight ago for the commission to be completed with speed and accuracy and he took his profession, and his livelihood, very seriously.

Finally he sat back and reviewed his work from all sides. The box was complete. It was five inches wide and eight inches across with enough space inside for a small object. By his reckoning it would take a total of 52 moves to open the box. For a moment he wondered why his customer needed such a strange and detailed place to hide something, but that was not his business and he retired to his bed for the remainder of the night, satisfied with both his work and his reward.

The End

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