Long ago in a lovely French garden on the sunny side of a large mansion, lived a family of royal snails. The king of that snail family had a darling daughter, Suzette. She was the light of his life and more so since he had lost her mother, the queen to one of the lurking terrors who preyed upon snails by night.
The king protected Suzette in a lush, damp, nourishing kingdom garden of their own. It was filled with tiny delicate fragrant flowers and succulents for her to dine upon. Suzette had under snails that washed her daily, shined her tiny crown and kept her amused with stories of life outside her kingdom garden.
Suzette was young and possessed with a vivid imagination. She dreamed of visiting the larger parts of the garden and perhaps even seeing her image in one of the windows of the manor house, rising high above her. She also knew her father’s fears and never gave voice to these hopes.
One bright moonlit night after all in the kingdom garden were sleeping, Suzette stole away down a narrow edge along ivy-covered stones. She turned a corner and saw before her two yellow eyes gleaming in the dark. She threw her little head back in fright only to hear the owner of the eyes say to her, “What have we here, child out for a night’s stroll?” Suzette did not know what to do because she was horribly afraid of the yellow eyes. She did not reply. The voice spoke to her again, “Oh, now I have frightened you. Come closer and you will see that I am only a bird and a beautiful one at that!” The light of night shone upon the bird’s wings. They were, in fact, quite exquisite. So black that they were nearly lapis or blue and gleamed silver in the moonlight. Suzette took up her courage and said, “Pardon me, sir, but you are standing in my way. Please kindly move aside that I may pass.” At this, the bird bowed gracefully and replied, “I can see that I have offended you my Lady. It is clear from your speech that you are of royal blood.
How may I be of assistance to you?” Suzette thought now she had a servant and ally who could be of aid and help her find her way to what she wanted and replied, “No, it is I who have offended you. I misunderstood you by the look in your eyes and judged you without cause. Your manner has made me believe you to be a gentleman of worth. If this is so, I would ask your assistance in two small endeavors.” The raven bowed again and replied as graciously as he knew how, “Just say the word, My Lady. I am your humble servant.” At this response, Suzette told the bird the two dreams she had: of exploring the manor house garden and of climbing up to a second floor window so as to see her reflection in the glass. The bird, of course, agreed on bended knee to be beside her all the way as a guide and protector. Little did she know who or what she had befriended?
The raven did not gobble up Suzette then and there as his thoughts were similar to hers. Certainly there were many other tasty snails nestled away deep within the garden from whence she had come. His hunger was grave and could not be tempered by one small gastropod, even though a royal one as she may tantalize his tongue for the moment. No, he would continue the façade by pretending to grant her assistance for now.
Suzette’s tour of the manor house garden by moonlight was most wonderful indeed and everything she had hoped for. There were many tiny plants and flowers she had not seen in her father’s kingdom garden. She thought, ‘Oh, wait until I get home to tell my ladies in waiting all I have seen!’ As the sun began to rise and the dew to fall upon the leaves, it was time to begin her climb up the side of the manor house toward the second floor window. Suzette and the bird had decided that when the sun was at its highest in the sky he would meet her at the bottom of the wall of the house where they parted. Suzette felt quite safe now with him as he had conducted himself as a perfect gentleman and protector and had no doubt he would be at his post at the hour they agreed upon.
The raven had tried his best by small talk to uncover some idea of the whereabouts of Suzette’s family’s location to no avail. ‘Now, I have made a mistake!’ he thought to himself. ‘This little creature is as cunning as she is lovely. This trouble might take me all day and well into the night! What is one small snail to me? I am done with this!’ As the raven watched Suzette climbing up the manor wall and disappearing into the window box, he flew away.
Suzette was absolutely exhausted from her arduous climb up the wall and into the window box which she was not expecting to be there. Once she fell in she was glad for the softness and the tender leaves to munch on while she rested. The sweet ivy was delicious. Suzette lifted her little head and peered over the edge to see how far she had climbed and the view from the top made her very dizzy. The lightheadedness made her eyes close and before she knew it, she was curled up into her shell asleep.
As the day turned to afternoon, Suzette awoke to a strange sensation. She felt as though she was weightless and bobbling up and down. Afraid to come out of her shell, she held on for dear life and held her breath. Then she felt coldness all around her and heard a voice say, “Now, that is a perfect place for you. You can stay right there until you come out of your shell and then I will give you some food. You will be my little pet as long as mother does not see you.” Suzette was terrified and even more so when she heard loud scraping noises coming from above her! She squirmed as far into her shell as she possibly could: trembling with fright! The same voice continued saying, “These holes will allow air into your jar so that you will not suffocate. I want you to be my pet for a long, long time. You had better hurry up and come out of that shell if you want some food!”
Suzette could not think about what these words meant. What is a jar? What did suffocate mean? What is a pet? She must surely be dependent on whoever is speaking for food. Is she also a prisoner here? There was no doubt about it, she was going to have to come out of her shell and investigate her predicament. Suzette waited. She waited for a long time: until everything was dark and she could hear no noises. Someone had come into the room that had a female voice and read a story to the boy at bedtime. She knew he was a boy now, as the female, probably his mother or nanny, called him Perrin.
Perrin was asleep. Suzette could hear him breathing softly-puffing in a funny way. Innately she knew it was safe to come out of her shell. Out came her antenna feelers where her eyes are and she looked around. The only brightness was a tiny light from a glowing thing on a table near the boy’s bed. She could see the in the shadow the boy, covered up with only his hair showing. His hair was light colored. Suzette came full out of her shell now and felt the glassy cold smoothness of the jar. She looked above her and recognized the holes which were allowing air into the jar for her to breathe. Slowly she crawled up to the top of the jar and pushed against the lid to no avail. Yes, she was indeed a prisoner to this boy Perrin. ‘Why?’ she thought. ‘What does he want with me? How can I escape? I want to go home!’ Suzette began to cry for the first time in her life. She also thought of the gentleman bird. She was sure that he had not waited this long for her. Surely he was gone by now even if she was able to escape this jar. She thought of her father the King. ‘Oh, he must believe me to be dead and will send no one to search for me! I am such a willful and silly snail to think I could leave my Kingdom garden unprotected! I have brought this all upon myself and my father. I must collect my thoughts, make a plan and find my own way out.’ And so Suzette did.
All night Suzette examined her surroundings. She discovered that her jar sat on a table across the room from the boy’s bed. On the table were other toys and gadgets that Suzette did not know about but thought might be useful. There were many tiny little men with guns in their hands, a roll of string, something that looked like a net with a handle, a hat, a few bright flies with hooks in them, something else with a handle with a round glass at the end, two more open jars turned on their sides with grass and leaves stuffed inside. On the table Suzette saw books. On the cover of the book she could see were snails-all sorts and kinds of snails-ones she had never seen before. Many of them had shells quite different from her own, and more beautiful! ‘Perrin is interested in snails!’ Suzette thought. ‘That is why he has me in this jar. He wants to look at me and compare me to the snails in his books! Well, maybe at least he will not starve me or feed me to a rat! He spoke to me as though I was a person as he put me into the jar after all!’ She continued to investigate beyond the table, finding two or three long rods standing against the wall near the window box with string attached to them.
Suzette strained her eyes as much as she could to see across and around the room, but it was too dark and she was growing tired from need of food and eye strain. She curled back into her shell for warmth and went to sleep.