I felt wretched trailing their steps. Decorated braids, velvet caps, silk ribbons or whatever else, they purchased, in the expensive Coppergate, didn't interest me. I could only smell the rotten poverty of my ragged tunic and tatty shoes. Still, I stuck close to the Becketts, for fear of being seen like a pickpocket. May be, I could have made a few shillings more with Dick Downy. But, with a dead father and four siblings, my pence and farthings couldn't risk the bars. So, I trudged. And, I groaned, under the weight of their wares, as the cobbles felt my feet. It changed the day Mrs. Beckett's loud summon came - this time for Kirkgate.
Displaying cold grandeur, the shop windows looked, as usual, familiar. Even, the clients and the displays mated with the same intimacy- fictitious yet overpowering. But then, Mrs Beckett took a turn, and, I felt, being lead by something else. A burst of sweetness mixed with delightful whiffs drew me. And, in front of me it stood, mocking everything around - except me. "Joseph Terry'- read the shop's name. As if in kind regard to the horror and humiliation of my earlier trips, I had been rewarded with this magical grace. It stood in front of me but not the whole. As my eyes, struggled, to line its contours, my gaze ran in frenzied passion to the pinks, blues, whites, greens and more in the mighty jars. Looking like the Queen; the giant, fat, glass jars with the crown lid even sat like the royalty-oblivious to the rest but sure of their own charm.
For fairy stories, never told , there were "Fairy Rocks', for the mice which ran all over my sleep, there was "Sugar Mice'; for the countless shivers and chills, there was "Winter green square'; for the squeaky clean looks, I never had, there were "Bath Pipes'; for the distant oranges in Hutchinson's farm, there was "Chocolate Orange'; for meals of bland cornmeal gruel, there was "Flavoured Sugar Almonds'; for my rags reduced state, there was "All Gold', for mother's nagging cough, there were "Mint Lozenges' and for all that I ever wished in life, there were "Fairy Kisses'.
Snail's shells, apple slices, Stuart's marbles, Mayor's cigar, tiny cobbles-shapes moulding into a drama. Each shaped and smoothened into a mystery. Each with a mischievous smile, hiding and yet, tempting. Each wanting to tell its story, patiently but privately. Be it the juicy swirl or the soft melts, they waited for their moment. With each hand dipping into the jar, they celebrated, not just for themselves but for everyone who was ready to step onto the stage. All shaped into pure joy-not the slightest envy or rancour.
It was no ordinary Sweetshop. And, I think, I knew the secret-the most important ingredient which went into everything in the shop - Sugar. Not just in the sweets, but also, in the shopkeeper. While, Mrs. Beckett directed me to wait outside, he caught my eye, and my excitement. He gave me a smile and two "Damson Drops', one extra, perhaps, for good luck.
No more errands to be run for Mrs. Beckett. I crawl up the chimney now, and clear the soot. Some more shillings, for my "Fairy Kisses'.