or the purposes of the story, I never had a name. I was always just the daughter of a miller, and then later the Queen - meaning Mrs King. But we millers' daughters have names, like everyone else, though the archetype-makers would have you think differently, even in a story such as this, where naming names is the name of the game. Well, I bloody well had a name andhave one still - excuse the language, not suited to a queen, I know, but once a miller's daughter, always a fuckjng miller's daughter,! say. My name, I can reveal, was, and still is, Claraminda Griselda. The first confabulation of a name being an indication of the florid hopes my father had for his own flesh and blood to raise him up above his natural station in life (a hope rather surprisinglygranted now that he's been elevated, as the father of a queen must be, to an earldom); the second name my father once heard in a tale told in the local inn by some accountant fellow called Chaser, or Chooser, or Chancer, or something, who fancied himself as more than just an ordinary customs and excise man. My father, the recently elevated earl, told me he had liked the sound of Griselda, and thatthe story the taxrnan told had held out great promise for the bearer of that name, who, though she had her troubles, came out well settled in the end. However, not wishing to antagonise the rest of the village children (my father had already alienated us from our neighbours, on account of his comical fantasies and highfalutin ways), I called myself the rather simpler Clary, and even now, though theKing has all the pretensions of a miller and insists on having my full name on documents of state, I think of myself as plain Queen Clary. I spent my childhood in a miasma of flour dust. No matter how my mother wiped and washed while she lived, it was always possible to write my name with my finger in the film on every surface. Naturally, or rather, unnaturally, my father insisted I went to thevillage school to learn to read. So while most of my contemporaries were productive elements
T H E VANISHING PRINCESS
SHlT AND GOLD
of their household - carrying water, carding wool, pumping bellows - I sat in school, alone, except for the children of better families than ours, who would not talk to a mere miller's daughter, learning my letters, and what to do with them. I could notsee what such an excess of learning would achieve, apart from being able to write my name on stools and tables and windowsills. Of course, the price of his flour reflected the extraordinary expense my father had in the raising of a mere daughter, so we weren't very popular on that account, either. There were plenty of people who passed through our village with tales of the cost of a sack of flourjust a few miles away. I say a few miles, but each one of them might have been a continent for most of the villagers with their broken-down nags and rickety carts. Even then, they would only complete the journey if fortune smiled on them and the brigands kept away. It goes to show - me saying a fav miles - the way you get used to a new station in life. What would a dozen miles be to me, with allthe resources of the stables and a choice of exquisitely crafted carriages at my disposal? If I ever used them, that is. As for brigands: I should be so lucky. So I grew up in a flour-pale house where even our eyelashes were dusted with pulverised wheat and rye, and learned, in readiness for the future in my pompous father's head, to read. Even now, in my mind's ear, I can hear his bellowingbaritone carrying through the air from the mill beside our cottage.
I care for nobody No, not I And nobody cares for me.
They were the truest words that ever came from a man's lips. So we weren't a very popular little family, and I spent a good deal of time on my own. Often, I'd sit in a corner watching my father at work. Not from any admiration of him, but with fascination at the process he...