Saturday, July 07, 2007

Re: Slipper

Scribbling Sunday's prompt this week is: Slippery. My brain rearranged it to Re: Slipper.

To: His Highness, Prince of the Realm, Master of the Midnight Masquerade, Unwed Heir to the Crown and Other Equally Portentous Titles
From: Albertus Minor, Court Alchemist
Re: Slipper (Allegedly Glass)

SIR: Your Highness has commissioned me to determine whether the slipper left by an unidentified young lady at your late ball, claimed by her and by several witnesses to be glass, is in fact as advertised. I understand the matter to be of great importance, not only to Your Highness personally, but to the realm as a whole. Here in the Middle Ages, glass is of course very difficult to make, expensive, requires the reduction of entire forests for fuel, or else must be imported from Venice or other city-states of the peninsula at murderous rates of exchange. Glass manufacture is simply not a cottage industry.

At the very least, if the slipper is genuine, the young lady must belong to an extremely rich family and not a local family: I assure Your Highness that if there were a working glass furnace anywhere within your royal father's domains, your humble servant would be aware of it. Concealing such a manufactory from the Crown would be a treasonous offense; moreover, it is my professional opinion that none of the nobles of this realm (save the august Crown itself, of course) are wealthy enough to afford such an enterprise, or knowledgable enough to attract artisans of the necessary quality.

Conversely, the lady's family may be engaged in trade with one of the aforementioned peninsular states. I need not remind Your Highness that this would have fairly grave consequences to our foreign affairs, inasmuch as our holy and puissant Emperor (of whom His Majesty, your father, is a willing and potent subject) is at declared war with at least some of the aforesaid states, in a condition of mutual embargo with others, and carries on friendy trade with only a few.

A further possibility is that the slipper is in fact not glass, but a fake of some kind. This of course would call into question the veracity of all claims made, now or in the future, by the young lady in question, as to her status, antecedents, identity and intentions. Your Highness' servant would most properly wish, at such a point, to leave the investigation to those among His Majesty's retainers whose profession best qualifies them to ascertain the complex truths underlying human motivations. As Your Highness is aware, my humble gifts render me better conversant with the remote stars and the hidden secrets of the earth than with the unknowable processes of the human heart.

A preliminary examination has convinced Your Highness' servant that the slipper in question answers to the description of glass in the following particulars: it is hard and rigid; it is cool and slick to the touch; it is transparent, indeed more so than any glass your humble servant has had the opportunity to examine heretofore; it sinks in water; it resists moderate heat; it is impermeable to both water and oil. I await Your Highness' decision whether to proceed with tests that may prove destructive, such as determining the resistance of the slipper to acids and caustic solvents, the brittleness of the slipper, and its resistance to extreme heat.

Postscript: Regarding Your Highness' question: In my opinion we may dismiss any role of the Great Science in the young lady's claim. The sacred and orderly laws of Nature will not permit that such a rarefied and pure substance as glass be created merely by the waving of a "wand", even by a worker of great power and subtlety. I leave to Your Highness to consider the likelihood of such remarkable abilities being found in the person the young lady refers to as her "godmother".

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