The guard had nodded to two fellow militia, who to Martha’s eye, seemed to be moving to surround the tinker and keep him from running off with the money. The charlatan must have noticed them as well as he stopped edging toward the alley behind him and turned back to his wooden duck. The crowd was growing restless and calling for the proof.
“Fine, fine, settle down. Proof you shall have.”
The tinker bent down, crushed the crust in his hand, and began laying a line of bread crumbs before the duck. He kept peering over his shoulder as he did so. However, when he had no more bread, and the militia had made it evident he wouldn’t be escaping the consequences of his boast, he straightened up and cleared his throat.
“Duck. I say to you, live!”
On the last word, the ducks eyelids parted, revealing glass disks patterned after the actors own. It’s head swivelled to the right and then the left, as if examining the crowd. There was a collective gasp as the wings and tail began to flap and wave. It’s movement looked much like that of the marionettes Martha had seen in the South, with the notable exception of the lack of strings. Franklin remained unmoved however.
“So far I’ve only seen one of three claims met.”
The duck centred its head, lowered its neck and parted its beak. It pushed itself forward with it’s legs, scraping bread and dirt into its bill, snapping it shut and then raising it’s neck to ‘swallow’. When it lowered its neck for a second scoop the previous mouthful was gone. The crowd backed away, many clinging to pendants hanging from their necks, as it repeated the wonder over and over again. The street urchin rushed forward while it was still half way to its creator. He seemed determined to expose the fraud before the tinker could disappear with the coins.
The ducks eyes opened even wider in astonishment. It’s wings and tail shot straight up and a stream of pellets shot out from under the tail and spattered the soldier’s boot to the delight of the crowd. Then it’s bill dropped open with a strangled quack, its ticking stopped and it fell over on its side.
“He’s killed my duck! Get the boy, he’ll spend the rest of his miserable life as a drudge for this!”