What made the strange physician easy to track was his lack of interest in fellow human beings. Of late his immediate vicinity had taken on the look of a sea already parted – the torrent of force in his step drove its way through a crowd with effortless authority, while any path he chose became murky and irrelevant at the edges. She could tell where he would be headed (his eyes so fixed and glazed even under furrowed brows, as though a black and buzzing monolith – forever flashing behind his cornea – were the true dictator of his demeanour!).
Millie kept her eye on the top hat, and trained her ear to the tapping copper end of his cane, the thrust of which hushed the occasional gossiping gaggles huddled between each other’s parcels and hat boxes. She had motioned for the coachman to let her down some time ago, assuming that she would probably have better luck following her stiff and flitting target on foot. Despite an unfailing rigidity of step and the near-corsetted straightness of his back, the physician weaved and brushed through the dense London crowds with Mephistopelian agility, though from what Millie could tell, there was more blind determination than devilish charm to his will.
She had almost forgotten about the raven. He had been quiet, only ruffling his feathers to make a brief paper-like sound whenever her pace pushed him off her shoulder. Now that she recalled her friend, he tried to stare back at her with one eye, straining to bend his head at the uncomfortable angle. But the physician had turned the corner and Millie darted, leaving the raven squawking behind her. Without any of the familiar blue fabric to cling to, he fluttered about like a burnt moth and was flung between the full skirts and umbrellas to much shrieking and ruckus. The bird made batting sounds and clung to many an accidental and unhappy host, whose handsome companion was always all too happy to rid such poppy-flushed cheeks of fear by beating him off.
In a little whirlwind of feathers, he eventually flapped his way out of the gutter level of the street where the shoes and large leather bags travelling against each other were too much for one eye to keep up with. The raven sought a nook in which to hide, and Millie’s white heels pitter-pattered ever-faster, for she had almost caught up with the strange physician…