The mob scattered from the narrow stretch of street by the inn as the carriage rolled up, and the small dopey-looking boy was left frowning at the terseness with which the crowd had hurried away, leaving him devoid of the coppers due to him for reading aloud such an exciting piece. The boy knew enough of the morning to realise that Queen Taspeth had died the previous night, and had not shirked at enhancing this knowledge with a story of conspiracy and murder quite contrary to the peaceful account presented by the words of the paper itself. Even journalists did not dare to exaggerate the death of their Queen—but small boys who get another penny for every degree of excitement in their stories are a different matter.
A large creamy carriage drew up at the inn outside which the boy still stood. The chauffeur, seeing the narrowness of the place, twitched the reins, and the horses halted with well-restrained whinnies.
“Move, boy!” the chauffeur ordered.
The boy blinked at him. “Yer wot?” he said, flapping his great ears and squeezing his eyebrows together.
“I said move out the way, or I’ll squash yer flat! Wouldn’t want that, now, would we?”
The boy pursed his lips, understanding. But he held his ground, mulling it over.
“Y’ ‘eard what I said?” said the chauffeur angrily. “Woncha geddout the way, kid!”
It was the driver’s turn to look bewildered. “’Scuse me, I am driving for ‘Is Lordship Lord ‘Emnen on the way to visit the King ‘Imself, so if yer don’t mind, move!”
“No,” said the boy, pouting.
“’Right, then,” agreed the chauffeur, taking up the reins and clicking his tongue. “Gidd’up!”
The horses stepped forward smartly and the wheels began to turn, and the muck-eared street urchin ducked and scuttered away with a tiny yelp of fright. Triumphant, the chauffeur shrugged and sniffed, and the carriage continued on its journey toward the palace.