Daily Words

by Friday Jones

Friday in a pink beret and a blue dress, cartoon version.

The Knight Librarian

[A Kingdom Story]

There she is, surveying her domain. The King had explained what was to happen to the old Librarian, Mrs Childs.

“It’s called ‘retirement’ and it’s paid, and it gives the elders a chance to have a little time with the grandchildren, pursue some hobbies, relax in the knowledge of a job well done.”

“It seems very strange, Sir.” Said the younger Librarian. “Money for nothing.”

“That is because you’re raised to believe in fealty and the fealty of your labour with minimum return. It’s not going to work like that anymore. You’re going to see to that. And the education of the children.”

“Yes, sir,” Millie said, formally. “You said there would be University for everyone.”

“Not university, not at first, ‘School’.” She looked puzzled. he explained a little more. “School is where the children learn to read and write and do numbers.”

“You realise that most children aren’t concerned with that. Most education is in apprenticeships, and the Masters don’t like their apprentices too clever you know.” She looked concerned. The King looked stern.

“They’ll have to get over it. Quickly. I intend to keep the peace and an educated population is part of that.”

“So there’s more?” asked the small girl. She looked almost child-like stood in front of the large man. He’d given up wearing the rapier around the palace, it seemed, aha, pointless anyhow, and he was trying to encourage a more peaceful view of the world. All the courtiers had followed suit. Especially Lord Percy. Anyway, the girl, the young woman, was speaking to him again. “Out with it, Sir, you’ve got something big in mind.” He reflected on her tone, so shy a few weeks ago, but now precise and commanding. The birthday had gone by a few weeks ago and his wife, Marjorie, had not let the Librarian’s coming of age go by with a whimper but had seen off her childhood with a bang. She had also spent a great deal of time in the library since then, and as far as the King could work out, more or less worked for this slip of a young g… woman now.

“I’ve got to get some international trade going.” He said.

“Ah!” Millie exclaimed. “International trade makes it harder to invade your neighbours because you’re co-dependent.” She tapped her fingers on her lips thoughtfully. “You realise that you have to increase cultural differentiation to make that work right? Each country is based on cottage industries, so we’re all more or less self-sufficient. If you reduce self-sufficiency you make everyone more vulnerable, right?”

“So if everyone is more vulnerable, they’ll always standoff because they’ll all have something to lose, and so will we.”


What had been unexpected was Mrs Childs’ reaction to her retirement package. It was enough to live on, certainly, and she was offered a cottage of her own, rather than being cramped up with her extended family.

“I’ll have you know, Sir, that I am still in my prime.” She said in a clipped, measured tone looking over glasses at the King. “I have served in this Library, albeit in secret at times, for forty years, and I daresay I have many left!”

“Yes, madame,” the King had replied, “You may think of this as an extended holiday. It’s a very generous package.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what ‘package’ you’re talking about, but am I to cast out on my ear just because I am aged?” The King looked helpless. Millie held up her hand. They looked at her.

“Perhaps I could suggest something.” The King opened his mouth, but Mrs Childs spoke first.

“Why, yes, child, you’ve always been wise beyond your years. What have you to say?” she intoned kindly.

“I think you should become Consulting Head Librarian at Large. That way your time is your own, but I will write reports for you each week, letting you know all the relevant details for your inspection, and then you can come and go as you please, and make adjustments to any new working practices I might, uh, try to introduce.” Suggested Millie.

“So, you’re my replacement.” Said Mrs Childs, sounding severe.

“Yes, Mrs Childs, if you consent to it.” The older lady looked at the King. “Well I’m sure I serve at the pleasure of Your Majesty,” she said, looking from the King to Millie, “as long as your wife approves.” Millie blushed and opened her mouth to reply, but for once the King got in first.

“She suggested it actually.” the King said firmly.

“How progressive.” Said Mrs Childs. “Well, if you’re set on this course then I have some things to see to if Your Majesty will excuse me.”

“You’re excused, Mrs Childs.” Said the King heavily. “You’re excused.”

“That could have gone better.” Said Millie, looking unhappy. She looked up at the King. “We need to work on your diplomacy skills.” She continued, with a straight face.

“My diplomacy skills…?”


Mrs Childs turned out to be useful. Instead of picking up on minutiae, she guided Millie in the broader operation of the library and the hierarchy of staff from the view at the top of the pyramid.

“Mr Cuthbert and Mr Pracely look after the girls answering research queries and filing respectively. Since the King advertised the research service we’ve had bags full of scrolls in a day from all sorts of messengers. We’ve had to train up more girls.”

This was true, more mail had been arriving daily, and the research staff could barely keep up.


“It’s a drain on the treasury,” said the King over what had become a customary breakfast with staff. It was more like a business meeting than ever now, and Carruthers had organised a staff to attend to it so that participants wouldn’t get too distracted. So that the King would be content, the staff doing the serving were breakfasted first.

Those in attendance quickly got used to the parsimonious fare they were offered compared to the days of the old Emperor. Some waistlines had visibly shrunk due to the lack of say, three guinea fowl, first thing in the morning, every morning.

“Aren’t you paying rather too much to the servants, Sir?” Asked the current, and in the King’s mind temporary, treasurer. “You’ve doubled their stipend and yet they’re hardly any more productive. it’s not like they answer more scrolls.” He spooned more boiled egg, his fourth, the King noted mentally, into his mouth.

“My Lord Lancomb, how can we expect these people to live reasonably when they don’t have enough money to buy bread.” Said the King reasonably.

“Seems to me that the bread seller ought to lower their prices if it’s such a concern.” Said Lancomb. “Outrageous what bread sells for these days.” Another of the gentlemen chimed in.

“And the cost of rent for the populace, terrible these days.” Said Lord Gerrold. Millie fixed him a look after glancing at Marjorie, who put her hand over her mouth just in time to conceal a smile.

“I believe, Lord Gerrold,” said Millie, shuffling some papers and putting on a pair of glasses, which she used to look over at him, “that you own a good deal of the, ah, ‘Poor Quarter’ and that as recently as last week you put up the rent by,” she looked down again, “twenty per cent. That’s right, isn’t it?” He looked a little discomfited at being quizzed by the King’s young favourite.

“Yes, well chap’s got to make a living you know, price of bread going up and all that.” He managed. Her voice was like treacle in reply.

“What is the current price of bread, currently, Ser Gerrold?”

“Well, ah, don’t quite recall, er, quite at the moment, you know, servants…”

“Employees.” Interjected the King.

“Well, yes, of course, chaps, sort of buy it et cetera.”

“So you don’t know.” Snapped Millie. The object of her ire had enough decency to look sheepish.

“Not as such, no.” He replied, mastering as much aplomb as could be managed. Which wasn’t much.

“I’ll tell you,” and she kept her gaze carefully on him as she recited the list.

“…and last of all there is the plainest white bread, sixpence, and the plainest brown bread, fivepence. An urchin on the street cannot find a penny on the ground and buy a loaf to fill a starving belly.”

“Yer feed ’em all out of the palace kitchen these days anyway.”

The king rose out of his seat like an explosion and slammed his fists on the table upsetting some of the cruets on the polished surface, but drew in his breath and let it out explosively before sitting again and carefully righting the nearest upset cruets.

“His Majesty feels,” continued Millie, “that you’re gobbling up the benefits to the common work as fast as he can repair the situation, and thus the major drain on the treasure is you My Lord and those like you.”

“I haven’t come to the King’s Breakfast just to be castigated by the likes of you, young miss, King’s Favourite or not, begging your pardon Queen Marjorie. But you must see what is going on here.” Millie blushed, as she did every time the suggestion came.

“My Lord,” said Marjorie, “you must see that whatever you think is ‘going on’ here has my approval, and is quite frankly, none of your business. It is between Millie and My Husband and I. If you imply again what I infer from your remark, I will ask my husband to gain satisfaction on my behalf, as I am unskilled in the manly arts of war, and he is my champion. Is that utterly clear?”

“Yes My Queen, but…”

“Not another word, My Lord.” She turned to the King. “I seem to recall that by tradition of the crown ennoblement is preferred by the consort of the crown. Is that right?” The King looked at Millie.

“I’d have to check.” She said and glanced around at her assistant, who leaned forward and murmured in her ear. “Bella says that’s right.” She looked at Bella. “Credit where credit is due, please speak up next time.” The young woman, who was older than Millie, nodded and returned to her clipboard.

“Millie, come here please.” Said Queen Marjorie. Millie arrived before her as she turned her chair and held her hand out to the King, without looking at him. He leaned over and whispered in a voice that could be heard in the next room,

“It’s in the armoury.” Then she looked at him without moving her arm one inch.

“Then you’d better fetch it, dear, hadn’t you?” he nodded and marched off to the armoury. The rest of the room remained silent and still apart from the pouring of hot tea by the still bustling servers. After a minute it became apparent that the matter was going to take some time, and one of the servers came with tea for Millie held low so she could replace the cup easily. The Lords and Ladies at the table remained wisely silent.

At length, the King returned, not in great humour by the look on his face, and the grease. The sword was shiny and looked very heavy. It was known that it took two of any normal mortal man to lift it, and now here was the King about to hand it to his slightly built wife. He knew better than to hesitate though, and simply plonked the handle in her hand by the expedient of grasping it by the blade. Her arm didn’t move an inch. She motioned with her other hand that Millie should kneel.

“I dub thee Ser Millie, Knight of the Realm, with the all the rights and responsibilities therein, in recognition of your fealty to the Crown and the service you have thus far provided, in the hope that the Crown will continue to benefit from your wisdom, loyalty and service for the foreseeable future. What say you?”

“I dedicate my life to the service of the Crown, and accept this ennoblement with the utmost humility and fealty to His Majesty and His Household, should it cost me my life or my very soul.” Millie intoned, in the traditional response.

“Now, Sir Millie, we can’t have a knight with no income and no responsibilities, so I’d like you to take over those of Sir Gerrold, since he feels that they don’t meet his current needs.” There was a great spluttering from the seating place of Sir Gerrold and those around him, with cries of “Outrageous!” and “Preposterous!” Queen Marjorie waited a moment while Millie’s assistant and her husband’s assistant scribbled everything down. “And if the gentlemen shouting over the table just now feel that their responsibilities are similarly a burden, I shall be pleased to lighten their load too.” She said pointing the sword at them.

“Any questions?” Published January 2022


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