“The Queen is dead! The Queen is dead!”
The raucous cry resounded through the streets of the City of Carmun. Newsmen were pinning flyers to the door of every inn and pub, and the cobbles were thick with swarms of small children offering to read the newspapers to passers-by for a few coppers. Reading was all too common a profession amongst the Crescent children of Carmun.
Thus, it had never been established by the illiterate peasants whether or not Jabbo Appletree had really drowned himself. He appeared to be in perfect health the subsequent night in the pub, and didn’t seem to recall any swirling waters or crumbling bridges, to the peasants’ confusion. Why, that dramatic tale had been told by the newspaper itself—via a young street urchin. Though, of course, Jabbo’s poor memory might have been a natural consequence of the shock following such a distressing experience—or his alcohol.
The peasants did not suspect a hoax when they never heard again about the Cabinet meeting which was supposed to determine whether a pay rise was due for the miners; but their memories were as short as their reading abilities, and the young newsreaders continued to receive their few copper pennies in return for half a minute’s burst of imagination.
One such lad, a greasy-eared boy with small dopey-looking eyes, was droning his story through the autumnal drizzle early that morning just before the catastrophic call had reached the inhabitants of his street. Oblivious to the dreariness of his practiced tone, an eager crowd had collected from the hordes of peasants scurrying to their various workplaces, and they deftly punctuated his account with shocked gasps and attentive hums—the life of a Carmuny peasant was very wearisome without a little hard-earned gossip every now and then. Suddenly there was an abrupt rattling from the end of the street, and the peasants raised their heads fearfully.