The ride from the orphanage was long, quiet, and astounding.
The dim sun faded behind the dark clouds when they reached the edge of Brackenburg. The carriage shook as the large horse pulled its burden along the dusty road that slowly became graveled, and then cobbled as they entered Brackenburg proper. The sound of the iron horseshoes clopping on the stone echoed in the carriage like a clock, rhythmic and somehow soothing. Edmund pressed his nose to the carriage’s windows, peering through the thin gray film of soot that collected in the corners of the glass like burnt frost.
At first it was difficult to see anything but dark shadows flickering in the distance, outlined by the dim glow of the faintly pulsing yellowed gaslights that lined the streets. Gradually, however, he began to see the shapes in the milky darkness and the forms of men, women, and children moving about on the cobblestone streets.
Shops and houses passed by the window as dark clothed men in top hats quickly strode past, their heads bowed. Women gripped tightly onto children’s hands as they stared straight ahead, lips tight. Men were sometimes arguing, sometimes shaking hands in the street. He saw a man and a woman kiss and then part, tears cleaning bright streaks of pink down the woman’s cheeks. A fat man was whistling as he swung his cane back across his arm, nearly clipping a young boy on the head. Several dirty children were playing in the street, and Edmund thought he recognized two of them from the orphanage. A street vendor shouted out his wares, selling fruit and vegetables from under a thin blanket. A few people seemed to notice the carriage and stared as it passed them. Edmund tried waving hello, but they must not have been able to see inside as no one waved back.
Around the shifting populous, the buildings of Brackenburg rose like brick topiary. Squat black buildings crouched like bitter gargoyles, dour and imposing. Twisted iron chimneys poked up like dark toadstools from the black slate roofs, leaking sooty smoke into the sky. Dim yellow light filtered through milky windows, small beacons of warmth in the middle of the shadowy city.
As the carriage moved through Brackenburg, the buildings grew taller and thinner. Doors became so slim they would never be able to allow entrance to someone like Mrs. Mapleberry. Swinging cranes stretched out like gallows from the tops of buildings, and here and there a small tree peaked through the dim light.
After a while, everything outside the carriage began to look the same, so Edmund sat back and waited until they reached their destination.