Monday, April 30, 2007

Help from Ennis

I have had an idea.

Yesterday, when I was cleaning another of those blasted machines from the museum, I had to take part of it apart to get into it properly. When I went to put it back together, I was horrified to find that there were several parts left over. I'm usually good with machines, but this one was quite complex, and I'd clearly misunderstood some part of it.

While I was gazing at the pieces, and peering into the machine to try to understand where, among the cogs and springs, they should be put back, Ennis came by, leading some horses to be put on the King's carriage. I could feel him looking at me but I was suddenly struck by an idea: I ignored him, instead taking a tool and starting to undo the fastenings, cursing under my breath (but loud enough so he could hear I was upset).

To my disappointment, he went on, leading the horses around the corner and out of sight. So I went on as well, taking the thing apart as far as I had before, and then putting the pieces back carefully, piece by piece, trying to see where the extra pieces fit in.

Suddenly a hand reached in and stopped me from working anymore. It was Ennis! He silently took the tool out of my hand and gently pushed me aside, and then swiftly - and so deftly! - put the pieces all back into their places. I watched carefully, and it made perfect sense. I felt a little foolish then, as I thanked him and he looked over my shoulder, but also I was gleeful inside. He may not have been friendly, but at least I had made him curious.

Then, with a nod, he was gone. I stood there for ages, wondering about it, before I rolled the machine on its platform back up the ramp and into the museum.

I think, perhaps, I might have the beginnings of a plan.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Passing-Ceremony

Hieram has started his advances again. I do not know what to do. I dare not offend him, for fear of his family, but this is unbearable.

It was all right until my birth-celebration, which was a large one this year as I turned fifteen. For girls in our part of the world, fifteen is a special age, when we have our passing-ceremony as well as the birth-celebration. Each girl has a great party to celebrate her stepping into the world of adults. For one day, she is the center of the world, and everything is done to make her happy. Aunts and cousins come, and there is feasting, and she is the guest of honor.

Preparations began three days early. My mother and Asta, the helping-woman and occasional cook, had conferences in the kitchen, and local children kept running in and out. It is the custom for children to be given sweets in honor of Kalil, the goddess of growth and learning, on a girl's feast-day, but all children, since the beginning of time, it seems, begin trying when the preparations begin. I watched them and remembered doing the same when my sister had her passing-ceremony. I remembered Asta giving me apples to quiet me - and sure enough, there they came with apples, juice all over their hands. They saw me and giggled, and I felt myself turning red.

I was and am unused to such attention. Usually my lot in life is to wander through the courtyards and echoing rooms of the museum as if I am some part of the architecture. In the village, and even in Lethiam, the larger market-town where we go once a month, I feel unimportant, unseen. True, there are a number of people who say hello, but only in passing. No special attention is paid to me. For those few days, though, people turned to me with broad smiles, saying, "There she goes!" and "She is growing, is she not? What a fine young woman she makes!" and so on. I was like to die with shame.

Which was unexpected, because I've been so looking forward to this moment!!! All my life, I've dreamed of being fifteen - being able to go where I like and just, well, be a grown person. I've dreamt of the celebration: what I will wear, how I will do my hair, how many cakes I will get to eat, how all the young men will look at me, and so on. Yet once the time arrived, it felt all wrong. All my childhood I imagined when this moment came I would be a different person. More popular or more easygoing, more adult. A person who enjoyed the attention. But I'm not: I'm still me, used to being left alone, and easy with my freedom to slip through the world without being noticed.

Worst of all was Hieram's attention.

It started on the day when my mother was meeting with the Asta. I was outside cleaning one of the Machines from the Museum, which Axel had helped me move out into the North courtyard on a cart. My hair was tied back, I had smudges on my cheeks, and my sleeves were rolled up. The machine had a million tiny crevices which all desperately needed wiping out, and I was wet and cursing when Hieram walked into the courtyard.

I didn't notice him for a moment, but after a particularly ferocious curse, I heard him say "tch, tch" behind me. I turned around fast, and there was his smiling, smug face and his immaculate clothing. He waved a finger at me as if to say "naughty, naughty" and then went on smiling as I went back to work.

He wouldn't leave!!!!! I grew more and more annoyed, what with that terrible machine and the feeling of his eyes boring into my back as I scrubbed. Finally, I lost my temper and turned on him.
"If you want to admire my work, you can come back when I'm done," I told him. "I've no mind to work my fingers off with you standing there sniggering."

He looked surprised, as if he didn't expect me to have a temper, and then sloped off to some other part of the Museum.

The next day I went to the village to see about

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Hands Named

A view from the Museum Tower

My benefactor has a name! I saw it on the screen when I came to her this eve. There was a letter, with the words "sincerely, Eleanor" at the bottom, and my host was just writing it when I first looked through her eyes.

Eleanor. I like that name. I can feel her smile as she writes this.

I am always surprised, coming to her, how little she looks about. Her gaze is so focused, so narrow. It is as if she has lost interest in looking at the world, or has grown so used to the familiar sights that they are merely a code to her, a sort of summary; as if instead of looking at the cat her mind supplies the word "cat" and puts it in his place. I cannot imagine living in such a small world! I love waking up in the morning and seeing how the light plays on the tree outside my window on any particular day. The world is always different!!!!

Perhaps this is why adults so often lack understanding, because they cannot see that each moment is a different moment; each time you see something it is new. Looking out at the world through Eleanor's eyes I notice she skims over so many things that I would stop to look at. I do not think this is merely because I find her world strange, and want to look at it. It is as if her world is a patchwork - or perhaps a map - of known, dull things, and she has ceased to look at anything carefully, unless it changes or something new appears. It makes me shudder. My father says ignorance is the lowest form of misery, and I see now what he means.

Still, Eleanor, please don't be offended. I know you are ..with.. * ...too far

Monday, April 2, 2007

Mourning for Ennis' Losses

Tonight the Hands are tired; they shake and have difficulty writing. Still, I have so much to talk about, I hope they will bear with me.

I saw Ennis, finally. He was mostly silent and nearly sulky in his mood. I had gone with my father, who was there to offer to give him a small room on the edge of the Labyrinth to work on his machines, but Ennis declined, claiming his hands were too scarred to work on fine machines anymore. Father persisted in extending the invitation, saying that if Ennis felt ready, the space would be there in any case. When Ennis would not come see where it was, my father explained to him where it was, while Ennis hung his head and looked away. I do not think he will make machines again, and I do not think he understands the risk my father runs of offending someone by his offer, for many people would frown on a stableboy being given space in the Labyrinth to tinker.

Yesterday Ennis was to return to the stables to begin working again, but when I went to say hello, he went on working and would not come out. He seems angry all the time now, and I worry that he is unhappy with me for seeing him in pain, with his skin peeling. He walks with a limp now, and the skin on his arms and hands is so tight it makes it hard for him to use a shovel or a pitchfork, but he does it anyway, with his mouth in a grim line; it must be quite painful. The beauty that was once his is dulled, and he turns his head so that people will not look upon the scars on the side of his face.

I went home and cried in my room, after that visit. Everything that once made Ennis so special is gone now, and I am afraid it will never come back. He no longer smiles, or pursues his secret art; the Ennis that made dry jokes which passed over people without so much as ruffling their hair is lost or gone. His grace and fiery strength, all lost. I fear that he will grow old this way, like Lukas Orn, who is twisted and grim, though he is respected by all.

My father says it is a terrible shame, and a crime, that he may not even offer a place for talent to grow without fear of censure. He shakes his head, and claims Ennis to have the potential to be the greatest gear-turnier since Alloway, who invented the Pneumatic Salamander two hundred years ago.

Hieram returned from his hunting trip three days ago, but I have not seen much of him, thank the Gods. I was afraid of a return to the cat-and-mouse game we had been going around and around in before he left, but he has largely left me to myself, for which I am immensely grateful. Things at home have been lonely; my sister is back with her family until the lying-in, my father distracted with a commission by the King for an Exhibit in the Palace, and I have much to do, while carrying this grief in my heart. My mother, as always, lives in her own world, abstracted; when she is not tending to the management of the household, she is upstairs in her study poring over mathematical equations which she says may help explain the universe, though I cannot see how.

I must stop. The Hands, that unseen woman, is taking longer and longer to write. I wonder if she is ill? I have thought about her visit to the horrible place last sevenday, and wondered if it was some kind of examination place. Yet she sees no-one; no-one visits her here other than the cat, which I have now seen twice. It comes in by the window-sill.

I would like to find a better name for my benefactor than the Hands.

And away...