Perilous Artifacts: Olive Goes Out
Ten stories deep on the south side of Glasburyton in the poorest sept of the city, Olive tugged at the set of her jacket one last time, brushed a hand over the oddments attached to her belt, making them jingle, and readjusted her hatpin. In the flickering light of the gas lamps, the tarnished mirror in the dim hallway of Miss Millrig’s Academy for Abandoned Waifs did little to inspire confidence that her costume of sturdy brown serge was adequate to her upcoming task. She made a face at her reflected self and dropped a coil of sturdy rope into a large basket, which she hung over her left arm. She turned on her heel–and almost ran into Miss Millrig herself.
“Honestly, Miss Avornian! Mind how you go,” Miss Millrig bit off the words in an imitation of an upper-crust accent that provoked a hastily hidden smirk from Olive. “And where indeed d’you think you’re going?”
Olive stopped and took a deep breath, and dipped a shallow curtsey.
Mindful of her lessons, she produced the upper crust accent flawlessly, “If you will allow, Miss Millrig, I am off to the ravine for some fresh produce from the garden.”
It was a good excuse made even better because it happened to be true. Of course, that wasn’t all Olive had planned, but surely her benefactress could not object to the occupying of a few spare moments by exercising her particular talents?
“The servants have already been to the allotment this morning, but if you long for sunshine and fresh air, I have no objection.” Miss Millrig pursed her lips and tapped an imperious foot. “But I do question your plans for the carabiner clips and climbing rope.”
Olive’s heart fluttered in sudden panic. What if she said no? “I spotted a particularly fine honeycomb beneath the overhang last time I was there. I thought we might have the benefit of it since it overhangs our allotment.”
“You are quite sure it doesn’t belong to any other allotment?”
“No, how could it? Our allotment has poor enough sun as it is, shadowed by that overhang. Who could the city fathers assign the underside of the overhang to–that would agree to take it?”
“To whom would.” Miss Millrig corrected her with another stern look of reproof.
Olive sighed. “To whom would the city fathers assign the underside of any overhang?”
“Clearly, they’ve overlooked an opportunity for beekeepers.” Miss Millrig looked her over from head to toe. “You’ve forgotten gloves and netting. I wouldn’t want to be you, dangling inches from a nest of angry bees without them.” She unlocked the low cabinet situated below the hallway mirror and rummaged in the top drawer, producing a voluminous wad of netting.
Olive hastily rummaged in the pockets of her jacket. “But I thought I had them here–ah!” She displayed her gloves. “See? Not forgotten, just tucked away safely until needed.”
“Very good. Now; how might you carry this netting? That basket is too rough. I want it back without any holes in it!”
Olive took the netting, and tried to fold the wad a little smaller, then stuffed it in one of her breeches pockets, where it bulged in an unsightly manner.
Miss Millrig closed her eyes and huffed. “No, no. That will never do!” She rummaged yet again in the cabinet and came up with a small leather knapsack filled with oddments, which she dumped out into the drawer before holding out an imperious hand for the netting. “And you can give me that rope too! No sense in advertising what you’re about between here and the ravine.”
Olive managed to stifle a sigh. What would anyone care if she walked through the sept with a coil of rope? But the knapsack would likely come in handy on the return journey. She pulled the strap over her neck so that it hung crosswise over her body and rested on her right hip, retrieved the basket, and paused, waiting for Miss Millrig’s approval.
At last, Miss Millrig nodded and allowed her past, to exit the door into the bustle and bedlam of Lower Crankshaft Lane.
For the next installment (available next Tuesday), read Perilous Artifacts: Honey Comes First, where our heroine encounters friends and trades the promise of honey for a ride on a steamer.
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