small side door and down the narrowest corridors to a small, drab cell with flaking walls. This room, furnished with only a metal stretcher (not unlike the one he had slept on for most of his time at the foundlingery), was to be his bunk for the night.

'Tomorrow,' Witherscrawl informed him, 'you will be woken at five of the morning, if you are not already up by then, and must move immediately to the parade yard, for the calling of the roll. Then you'll meet the Lamplighter Marshal, our officer commanding. Then you will receive your routine and begin your instruction. Do you understand?'

'Aye, sir.' Rossamund was beginning to feel, all over again, the familiar doubts about the desirability of this occupation. Without a bath or even a wash to clean off the grime of travel, he was told that he was to have his bright-limn extinguished in no more than fifteen minutes.

Extracting another 'Aye, sir!' from the new arrival, Witherscrawl left Rossamund to prepare for sleep. The only thing on the foundling's mind, though, was the letter he held in his hand: the precious letter with dearest Verline's unmistakable writing upon it, the letter addressed to him personally. It was like a sweet song to his tired soul, an encouragement from those far off-he was still thought of, he was remembered.

He sat down on the cot, causing it to creak loudly even under his slight weight. Hands shaking a little with excitement, he pried open the seal and many securing folds to reveal the message within. The date-twenty-third day of Lirium-was scrawled at the top. It had been written five days ago, the day Rossamund had been discovered hiding in that boxthorn by Europe. Eagerly, he read on: My dear and most missed Rossamund, How I wish I could right now see you here in front of me. I would hold you till you squirmed out of my grasp and stood there looking at me bashfully, like you used to do. As this cannot be, simple correspondence is all I have (I thank Madam Opera for teaching me my letters!).

Yet I hug you even now, in my heart, and pray constantly too that you might be safe and thriving. It's silly of me I know but I miss you-see! My tears have smeared the ink! One day, find your way back to me, even just for a visit, so I might see you grown and well, and be filled with pride at what a fine man you are undoubtedly becoming. We could take a rest-cure to my sister, so I might show you off to her as well.

I have to tell you too that dear Master Fransitart is determined to come to you at Winstermill, or wherever you will be stationed on the Wormway. Though he does not show it, nor say what the cause is, I can tell that he is greatly distressed. All he will say is that there is something he should have told you long ago-though he will not speak what that is. He says that he must tell you only, in your company alone, and does not want to risk such things in letters. Oh Rossamund, what can it be? Do you know?

Regardless, what he has to say is not so much of my worry, but rather that he is getting old, as vinegaroons go, and his pith is beginning to fail him. I don't want to worry you, Rossamund, heart-of-my-heart, but I think you need to know, so that you might be ready to care and comfort him, who has done as much for you for so long, when he finally arrives to you. I am frightened that this journey will be his last, my heart, so look out for him-he says he intends to leave for Winstermill as soon as winter is past its worst and the season is fit for traveling once more for one of his poor health (he listened to my pleas in this at least). Expect him within the last week of Herse, or the first week of Orio at the latest. Look out for him then, won't you?

I must end, for Madam is demanding her bath, but reply to this the instant you get it, for I-we-ache to know that you are well.

Master Fransitart sends you his blessings, or he would if he knew I was writing you. If he did know, I am sure he would tell you to stay at your task till he comes, no matter how anxious I might get.

I send you my love-filled blessings too, and over again.

Most assuredly your Verline

PS: By the way-though this is not so important-you will not be surprised, I am sure, to learn that the day before yesterday, Gosling ran away from us, and cannot be found. I am ashamed to be so uncharitable, but the mood here has lightened considerably. Write me as soon as you can, please! Also, Master Craumpalin wishes to know if you have had any use for his potives.

While Rossamund read the letter, he was first moved with joy, but then to increasing alarm. Had Master Fransitart, ill as he was, finally repented of letting him go and now planned to fetch him back to the oppression of the foundlingery? Was this the big secret? It's the first week of Pulchrys now… He counted the months on his knuckles: Pulchrys, Brumis, Pulvis, Heimio, Herse, Orio: that means he'll be here in four, maybe five months!

As to the news about Gosling: well, Verline was right-Rossamund was not surprised. Indeed, he was glad for Verline and the masters' sakes, and for the littlest children too, that his old foe had run off.

There came a heavy hammering at the door of his cell. A discouragingly serious voice bellowed, 'Douse lanterns!'

Rossamund scrambled to unfold the blankets and pillow supplied, and wrestled them over the unsavory- looking mattress.

His bright-limn still glowing, the hammering soon came again. 'You don't want to start your career with us like this, son. Get your lantern out and get to bed!' That voice held promise of all manner of things terrible, unguessable.

Quickly turning the bright-limn over, so that its light would dim and gradually expire, Rossamund completed making his bed in the faint twilight of its dying glow, undressing in pitch blackness. Finally, as he lay, restlessly shifting, with many creakings and groans of the metal frame, against all the uncomfortable lumps of the mattress, his fading thoughts swam. They dwelt for a moment on Verline, and her worries, but it was Master Fransitart, his failing health and his intended visit that troubled him most. Rossamund did not know how to feel about his old dormitory master now. He wished the old vinegaroon would just stay in Boschenberg and leave him to his new path. With a flash of guilt it occurred to Rossamund that Fransitart might not survive the journey; though he was already regretting the intended visit, he would hate any harm to come to his old dormitory master even more.

In the orbit of his sleepy musings, he wondered too if Europe, the duchess lahzar, would indeed return as she had said and ask him once more to be her factotum. Worry for poor Freckle stirred him for a moment, and this became concern for where Fouracres might be that night. So spun his tired thoughts.

As sleep slowly overtook him, he marveled that, through the many twists of what should have been a straightforward journey, he had managed to bumble, still intact, still healthy, to his destination. At last, for better or for worse, he was where he was originally destined, to finally become a lamplighter.

Tomorrow he would wake to the beginning of a whole new life.

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