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“Please excuse me, your honorableness.” Ancilly stood in one swift motion and immediately began tidying the bath things. She said not another word to Alice.

Alice was dismayed—certain she’d done something to offend—and attempted to apologize. “I’m truly sorry,” she tried to say, “I didn’t—”

But Ancilly had begun humming very loudly and pretended not to hear her. Alice looked away, dejected.

And then she heard Ancilly sing.

It was the same song as before—she recognized the tune—but this time, Alice paid closer attention.

I fell into the sky one day

And it didn’t hurt at all

I fell into the sky one day

But I didn’t fall at all

I saw a lady reach for me

She told me not to fear

I saw a lady speak to me

She told me help was here

Oh, I didn’t know

A truth from lie

She looked so strange to me

But when she pointed

At the sky

I knew where I should be

In the sky

In the sky

I fell one day

Into the sky

In the sky

In the sky

I fell one day

I learned to fly

Oliver was waiting for her back at the eggshell house.

Paramint had given up his home for them that evening—and for the duration of their stay—and Alice was immensely grateful for his sacrifice. In fact, she’d lost track of all the kind things Paramint had done for them since they’d arrived.

It felt indulgent to take so much time for themselves here in the land of Left, but when Alice was being honest with herself, she was able to admit that a bit of rest was necessary. Jumping from village to village was beginning to wear on her, and she wanted to be at her best when they finally found their way to Father.

She’d plopped down on the couch next to Oliver and had already begun telling him all about Ancilly and the peculiar case of the seamstress when she noticed he was looking at her in a very odd way.

“What is it?” she asked him. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing,” Oliver said. “It’s just that you look . . . different.”

“Do I?” She looked down at herself. “I think it’s because I’m clean. And because of this staggeringly beautiful gown, obviously.” She laughed and looked admiringly at her skirts. She and Oliver had already marveled together at the gifts they’d received. Oliver had been given ropes and ropes of their finest pearls, which he currently wore draped around his neck and chest, creating the illusion of a collared bib.

Oliver tilted his head. “Perhaps.”

“Well, you look the same,” she said to him, looking him over. “How do you always manage to stay so clean?”

He smiled and ignored her question. “Alright then,” he said. “Tell me more about the seamstress.”

Oliver was wide-eyed by the end of her story. He was so full of thoughts and questions he could hardly sit still. In fact, he was already up and pacing the length of the room. “This is very, very interesting news,” he said. “Very interesting.”

“And the song,” Alice said. “So strange, isn’t it?”

Oliver met her eyes from across the room. “Very strange. It sounds like Ancilly was trying to tell you something without actually telling you anything.”

“Yes, I quite agree,” Alice said. “I wonder what it all means.”

“Me too,” said Oliver, hesitating. “But I have to say, I can’t see how the secrets of the seamstress would lead us to a painter.”

“Well,” Alice said, grasping for a connection. “They’re both artists. Maybe they did know each other?”

Oliver frowned. “Possible. Unlikely, but possible.”

Alice sighed.

“But that song,” said Oliver. “So strange.”

“And so sad,” said Alice. “To think that the seamstress was pushed off the branch! Oh, how I wonder what happened.”

Oliver raised an eyebrow. “Do you think the song is true, then? You think the seamstress has flown away?”

“If by flown away you mean fell to her death, then yes,” said Alice, “I think it’s true.”

“A dead end, then? Pardon the pun,” he said, fighting back a smile, “but I’m assuming a dead seamstress wouldn’t have much to say.”

“Well, it’s all we’ve got for now,” said Alice, defeated. She slumped lower on the couch and kicked up her feet. And then, very, very quietly—so quietly she almost hoped Oliver wouldn’t hear her—she said, “I hope we haven’t made a serious mistake choosing to fix my arm over finding Father.”

Oliver joined her on the couch.

“Alice,” he said gently.

Alice mumbled something.

“Alice,” he said again. “Please look at me.”

She did so, but reluctantly. Oliver’s eyes were such a striking shade of violet. So bright against his skin.

“Finding a way to fix your arm,” he said, “will never be a mistake. Please understand that.”

Alice looked away. “But what if we never find Father because of me?”

“That won’t happen.”


“It just won’t,” Oliver said.

“Oh, alright,” Alice said, and sighed. “But I do hope we figure out the next step soon. We can’t afford to stay here much longer.”