We get all manner of diminutive characters appearing at the gates of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers. One never knows who will appear next. So I wasn’t surprised when a rather lovely young lady in a flowing sage green and dusky pink dress with a silk headscarf and dangling earrings arrived. Initially she introduced herself as Gladys from Glastonbury, but her professional name is – apparently – Psychic Sabrina.
“I thought of spelling it P-s-a-b-r-i-n-a, but I think that’s a bit much, don’t you?”
Yes, I did.
“So you’ll be wanting somewhere to work, um, Sabrina,” I said.
She nodded gratefully. “Just a very small consulting room. I could do with a couple of chairs and a little table, if possible, and maybe somewhere to store these.”
As she spoke, she was unpacking a trunk containing the tools of her trade – a dowsing pendulum, a pack of cards, a large golden teapot (“tea leaf readings, my lovely”), and sure enough a china cup and saucer.
“I was drawn here, you know,” she confided. “The cards told me to come. They showed me – I mean, I know it sounds a little clichéd, but it was so clear – that I’d meet a gentleman here who would be, well, significant in my life. Tall, dark haired, very good looking.”
I thought about our few remaining gentlemen. Most had left for America last month. George Entwistle has almost no hair and can only lay claim to being the 12th scale equivalent of 5ft 9 by wearing his top hat everywhere he goes. Hugo is certainly a distinguished-looking chap and may have been dark haired once, but he’s been grey for many a year. That only left oil-smeared Henry and his brother…
“Charles,” I called, “Could you give me a hand making a set of shelves for a little room I’m putting together? A stack of about three, to hang on the wall? A nice grungy but feminine paint or paper finish, please.”
Charles went to work at once, while I set about covering an old room box with some rather beautiful floral papers and painting oddments of furniture in a mix of brown, anthracite and bronze.
Psychic Sabrina, meanwhile, remained strangely unaware of what was going on around her as she unpacked crystals, a ouija board and a set of tarot cards, lovingly wrapped in a dark silk cloth. Next came various candles and a bottle of dried berries (“Rowan, for protection, dearie”). I hoped the shelves would be large enough.
The next day all was ready for Sabrina to move in. She was delighted with the room and spent some time putting up posters and charts, then began stacking her shelves and arranging the furniture.
It was only natural that Charles would drop by to check on his handiwork and to introduce himself to our latest resident. He came upon the lady as she was deeply engrossed in a tea leaf reading and his gasp was audible.
Sabrina finally pulled herself out of her state of deep concentration to find him standing there. She’s a professional, I’ll give her that. There was the tiniest flicker of recognition in her eyes, as she realised that this was the stranger she had come to meet, but she quickly regained her composure and greeted him with a friendly smile.
“Hello, lovely. Have you come to have a reading?”
I’ve never seen Charles lost for words before. His mouth opened and closed a few times before he could trust himself to speak.
“Ahem, well, I actually came to check whether the shelves were suitable for your needs, madam. A-a reading, you say? Are you some sort of a fortune teller or something? Never dabbled in such things before, but… Well, it couldn’t hurt, could it?”
Sabrina was clearly used to putting anxious customers at their ease. “Oh, so you’re the gentleman who built these splendid shelves. Why, they are just perfect for my equipment, thank you. What a craftsman you are! Yes, I can tell you about yourself, point you in the direction of the best paths to take for a happy and successful future and answer any questions you have. Shall we begin with a palm reading? You just come and take a seat. I’d like to give you a reading as payment for your hard work on my room.”
Charles nodded meekly and sat down. He answered Psychic Sabrina’s questions – his name, his circumstances – without once taking his eyes from her face. She smiled and nodded, studying him just as intently.
“Let’s begin with your right hand, then” she cooed, finally. “Just hold it out for me. Are you happy for me to hold it?”
“Oh yes, certainly,” Charles replied, a little too eagerly.
Me, I’m no clairvoyant, but I think the writing is on the wall as far as these two are concerned.