The inside of Soffie’s head is a terrifying place.
Alysann’s robe didn’t quite fit right, especially not about the bosom. But in one of the stories Mr. Marshfield gave me last Winter, there was a lady gone to war who wrapped her bosoms in order to pass as a man and find her beloved. It was ever so romantic and I wish, wish, wish Miss Luned would do a play of it! Only it worked better in the story. I kept losing the end of the linen scrap, and it didn’t make me flat as such. Just… ah… squished down, like. The tops all poofed like rising dinner rolls. I wish I were willowy like Miss Luned, who is the prettiest woman in Bree! She knows my name, you know. She waves to us all the time. My best friend is her sister’s apprentice and that’s practically family. And her friend Miss Adalay actually sat and talked to us like she wasn’t a famous actress with a mysterious past, but a normal person! They’re just grand.
So, I wrapped them down best I could, and I thought I had it pinned tight. But! It fell out the robe’s bottom on the way to Master Smith’s apothecary and oh! I was so embarrassed. People saw the linen come fluttering out and they pointed and I just know Missy will find out! I could die, just die! I pretended I didn’t notice it and carry on. I have to hold up the robe’s skirts a bit because Alys is more willowy than I am. I’m… well, like a boxwood, or an apple tree. Short, round, and dismally cheerful. Anyhow, the girl in Mr. Marshfield’s story never had her bosom bindings come off. I’ll have to ask Master Taylor if there’s a trick to it.
Anyway, Master Smith gave me the list of questions and the tablets to write down answers. She made me repeat her back the instructions three times. She just must be upset because … well, I won’t tell tales on her. She’s nice and people talk about her enough without me adding. I just see why she learned how to make soap, is all. She sure goes through it.
I’m not allowed to say what I’m doing because it’s a great secret! I only look like an apprentice, you see. I made sure I did my hair up with a spare quill and splattered ink on myself because I need to look the part. That’s how Miss Luned does her plays so good, see? She pays attention to details and becomes the part! I won’t even think about why I’m really here, and I’ll make believe that I’m a right proper apprentice scholar! I have motivation and character and things. I’m perfecting my craft! Just like Miss Luned. I wish I were skinnier, though. Scholars all seem skinny. I hope nobody notices. I’ll try to pretend I’m skinny real hard.
“Hullo, Mistress. I’m an apprentice at the archives and I’m writing a study on the relationship of illness to travel. May I ask a few questions? It’s for science. Is this your home? How many occupants? What well do you use? Have their been any illnesses in the past year? If so, whom? Are they still ill? Have any of their relatives similar illnesses? Have you traveled to any of the following in the past three months: Staddle, Trestlebridge, Midgewater, Chetwood, Starmere? If so, did you notice a change in health when drinking the local water?” I write everything down and don’t think about the arsenic. No, not a word. I pretend I’m Alys and I look eager and perky and use my very best handwriting for notes. Some of them pat me on the head and give me a cookie, and I always say thank you. I am the part! Just like Miss Luned or Miss Adalay. Just for today, I’m an actress! Oooh, but Papa would be so upset. He can’t ever know neither.
By the end, my feet are like to falling off and my hand’s all cramped up. But I didn’t stop until I got every single house in the district, including shops and taverns! It wasn’t so frightening because I wasn’t me. I was Sapphire the Scholar! And under that, I was Sapphire the Spy!
You see, Cuddles, what I was really doing was finding out if arsenic had gotten into the water! It’s important because an innocent lady might be accused falsely of a crime she didn’t commit! They’ll think she’s evil, like Lady Yvette in the play two weeks ago, when she’s really been framed! I’m sure she’s been framed. She’s Mr. Marshfield’s sister and I’m sure she’s just lovely. But people will talk because a lot of people are mean like Missy and her lot, so I can’t breathe a word… to people. But you’re a cat and someone has to know what an exciting day I had! I helped! And it’s not a play neither. It’s real. I bet, when her name is cleared and she finds out how I spent a whole day helping, she’ll weep with gratitude and buy a dress from me, and I’ll make her the best dress she’s ever had, and she’ll wear it to a ball, and she’ll meet a handsome man who will marry her and they’ll be happy ever after!
Oooh, I wish I could tell Aly. But it’s more dramatic this way. I’m a woman of Mystery! Intrigue! Suspense! Maybe if I keep it up, I’ll start looking dramatic and mysterious and willowy too.