The Faintest Lady 

The Faintest Lady

The Prince did not wonder what the lady was doing in the Palace courtyard. Yet why should he have wondered what the lady was doing there, when he did not usually even wonder about anything in life? Indeed, he did not wonder at the huge paving-slabs of the courtyard and how they could have been transported to the courtyard before they made that courtyard into a courtyard; nor did he wonder at the birds that did not seem too scared to perch in the courtyard at the sun-kissed fountain's edge; nor did he wonder at his mother the Queen's nettly insistence that he left his room regularly to cross potentially romantic paths with the ladies who were allowed, against all historic wisdom, to enter the courtyard for simply passing-through it as a short-cut as well as--in this particular lady's case today--for sedentary solitude.

But the Prince had stopped not-wondering, seeing the lady seemed to be sketching the bird-edged fountain with her sketching-pencil, sitting, as she was, astride a sketching-stool before a sketching-easel with a sketching-pad upon it. Indeed, the Prince was now so intrigued he did not need the Queen's encouragement to leave his viewing-seat in the Palace's viewing-balcony and to venture down the spiral slab steps to the slab-baked courtyard where he intended to tiptoe towards the sketching-lady and take a sneaky look at the sketch she was sketching with the longest sketching-arm imaginable. His toes stirred the sketching-lady's pencil-shavings with a crackly swish and she looked round, thus causing the arm's length pencil to skid skewedly across the sketching-pad's topmost sketching-sheet upon which she had been sketching. The lady straightways fainted and taken on a stretcher by the royal gardeners to the local well woman clinic. The Prince returned, through the pencil-shavings, smartly to the balcony simply to wonder at wonder.

The birds scattered to the four corners of the air as the fountains's faintest edges faded into the shimmering heat ... and the Queen, whose lot in life was not a lot she loved a lot, realised that she was at a loss for words and, upon later learning of the day's events, announced that pencil-shavings did not a match make.

(published 'End of the Millennium' 1999)

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