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An Account of Six Poisonings

     When Rosalind approached me, I sought Queen Utrica’s counsel.
— Matrimony is a sacrament, said the Queen. It is your duty to restore propriety.
     The stems of powdered monk-eye picked at dawn served Rosalind well; and Fatima died in frightful agony.



My sign was the pestle and mortar. My knowledge was roots and seeds, vines and leaves, bulbs and berries. I was a grinder, a blender, a crusher, a mulcher; I was a master of tubers. I mixed the tinctures and measured the powders that might cure or kill. (A single grain may be the difference between health and death.) Mine was a calling. A position of trust. I was the court’s poisoner.
No more. My poisons are at hand but they are seldom employed. What I was I was, and what I am I am. I snore in warm corners. I slumber in a feather bed. I shuffle between here and there. If someone speaks, I cock my ear and pretend to deafness. If someone points, I squint and shake my head. My sign is a bent back, an elder stick, an idiot grin. Why do I play the ancient pantaloon? A poisoner has many enemies.
Ladies. Gentlemen. You have asked me for an account of the six poisonings. I will tell you the story, but you must know that it is a dangerous tale which never can be spoken of or shared. Have you taken my meaning? Then I will proceed.
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