I Ain’t Afraid of No Black Bird, Part IV: Tea Time

At a Piccadilly café the raven discovered a love for cherries, which Millie indulged by buying several fruit-topped cupcakes. As he hopped around inside the cake tray and dusted himself with coloured icing, there was a chuffed and bubbly monkey-chatter to his chirp.

Large corseted bosoms in that season’s colours bobbed on opposite currents across the picture of the two having tea; Millie pinky up, the bird claw on anything crumbly and edible. Their happy indifference to the side-to-side swaying and weighing-up of the London crowd couldn’t last long, though here one might easily forget the feeling that one is always being watched.

A buoy-shaped man with gold buttons along his stomach sniffed and muttered, but was left thus unsatisfied. In the midst of a crumb fight with a feathery comrade a lady is more apt to giggling and picking sponge cake out of her hat than anything else. But his resolve was as firm and as starched as his undershirt.

He cleared his throat assertively: “Did you know, young Miss, that the corvus corax is indeed a poor man’s brown, and not a magnificent blue-black as it is wont to make us believe?”

At first the raven paused bemusedly. After that he began to rasp and grumble behind the frosting and cream still caking his beak. Like an old man making a point around a room, he defiantly waddled through the largest clumps of jam and sweet debris. His one eye rolled up at the man as he did so.

“Well, Father”, for so she supposed was the man’s title given his collar, “a girl is well worth looking at be she shod in brown and clad in blue, or clad in brown and shod in blue, for a colour is a perfect match, as well as true, when a perfect match it makes.”

A smirk broke his plaster mask. “And is being looked at your only concern then, young Miss?” The neighbouring middle-aged woman and her frail mother – who had been unable to consume their daily tea till then! – butted their heads and tutted in matronly agreement. The raven hopped straight around and rasped, to which the old woman averted her eyes and trembled through her weak blend.

“By the right eyes I would have myself looked upon from the highest mountain in India, but so would I look upon those well worth looking at!” At that her eyes flew to the raven, who, standing proudly despite the pink icing, looked like he was ready to leave.

Meanwhile, Millie’s moral victory might have been thwarted by further banter had it not been for the fleeting glimpse of a figure which she had come to know from afar. A brown cape, and a stride too long to follow had the hat not been about two inches above the current fashion, allowed her eye to latch onto the determined man’s direction.

Millie offered the raven her arm and gathered her skirts, causing the priest to pirouette as she shot past and brought her hand forth to signal for a coach.

“To the University!