Ch. 19 —
Ezra opened the newspaper and watched the pages ruffle in the breeze. “Don’t you think it’s interesting that if not for the gnomes, who share their inventions with us, we wouldn’t have the printing press? We wouldn’t have cheap paper. We wouldn’t have books, or free education, or insufferable bores… Franklin, are you listening to me?”
His bodyguard yawned. “Yes, Sire.”
“And just look at this. Squire Duncan deeded his inn to his son and has now opened a shop called Ezra’s Clocks. The sounds of hammering and sawing can be heard every day. Clocks are ticking all over the kingdom. He’s even come up with a little clock you can carry with you in your pocket or on a chain. Isn’t that amazing? Squire Duncan says he owes everything to his favorite royal prince.”
Ezra stopped reading and grinned up at Franklin. “Do you think we could go down and see the shop? Just for an hour? Please.”
“Sorry, Sire. Your father would never allow it.”
Ezra sighed. His father had ordered a tall grandfather clock for the front hall, but he had never said a word of praise to Ezra. He slumped down on his window seat once again. He needed to invent something. Anything.
That night the clouds moved in and rain drummed on the roof overhead. Heavy mist made it impossible to see very far into the gloom. A fire-lit window across the courtyard illuminated a servant, who opened a window in the opposite wing and threw the contents of a porcelain pot over the edge and down into the courtyard. She closed the window and a curtain drew over the window, cutting off all but the palest of light.
“You humans really are quite disgusting,” said Butterfingers, who had joined him for a game of checkers.
“How do the gnomes handle this problem?” Ezra asked.
Butterfingers described the system of caves, and the special rooms with flowing water that had been designed for this purpose. “Why don’t you invent something similar? You know the gnomes would help. The royalties from your inventions are paying off our national debts, and our king is very pleased.”
Ezra grinned. “We could capture a few toves and point them in the right direction so they’ll dig the tunnels needed for the pipes.” They sat down together at the table and began to draw.
When dawn came, and Butterfingers had disappeared back into the tunnels, Ezra banged on his door.
“Franklin, I need some more supplies. I’ve just come up with a new invention. And this time my father is really going to like it.”