Once upon a time there was a very small boy whose parents had died in a terrible accident. A carriage had bolted along the country road and squashed them under its wheels. But he wasn’t an orphan for long because a carpenter and his wife adopted him. From the first day, though, it was clear why. They needed a worker to help with their business. And this carpenter had seen the boy’s size as extremely useful to his purposes because he was in the business of building elaborate wardrobes, mostly for wealthy landowners and even royalty.
Now everybody has secrets and such people as his customers had more to lose if those secrets ever came out. So they needed wardrobes with secret drawers that no other carpenter could ever figure out or especially anyone who would know about such things and expose or blackmail these customers of good fortune.
So the carpenter taught the boy the basics of his trade and the boy’s small hands were nimble and as good at detailed work as the carpenter suspected. Also the carpenter would make a box for the boy to get into and practice woodworking in that box for however long it took to finish a particular task. Then, the carpenter would make another box, but smaller. And they did this until the boy could fit into a box of the dimension that the carpenter needed for him to be able to not only fit into but work in as well.
One day, the boy was ready. The carpenter had him climb into a wardrobe. In there he traveled from drawer to drawer until he had found a drawer the size of that smallest box and he contorted himself to fit in it and built a secret drawer from within that no carpenter could build in the normal way. When he finished, the carpenter inspected it and was astonished at how secretive it was.
When the first wealthy customer arrived, it was imperative that the boy hide from sight and so he put him in a box. He had already told the boy that the wealthy people could not know how the secret compartment was made so they could never know that he existed. Knowing that he’d have to hide in the box, the boy had already made a few peepholes that looked more like pinholes to an average sized person.
He peeped on the wealthy customer and heard the carpenter mention his name and title. He was a duke from the north who was amazed at the woodwork but astonished at the secret compartment. When the carpenter took all the credit, the boy felt the box shrink on him. This box was much bigger than the one in the wardrobe that he worked in. But now this box felt much smaller. Unbearable. It hurt so bad to have his legs and arms so confined that they yearned to flail out but somehow he managed to stay contorted until the duke left with the wardrobe.
Busy counting his money, the carpenter forgot to tell the boy to come out of the box. The boy slipped out of the box and grabbed a few of his things and snuck outside where the Duke’s carriage was about to leave. He managed to slip himself under the carriage and between the axles. And he rode this way for the entire day until they reached the duke’s castle.
At the castle, the duke had his wardrobe placed in his bedroom. The boy found it remarkably easy to slip into the castle. There were hiding spots for him in every room. He could easily contort himself to fit into any space and so he found his way to the duke’s bedroom and watched the duke place his most precious secret in the secret drawer that he had made. When his wife came in, she had asked him about the Queen’s jewel that they had stolen and if the compartment was secret enough so he showed it to her. That night the boy snuck into the kitchen and nibbled on some bread and cheese. Then he found a comfy spot inside a cabinet so full of bedsheets that it was like sleeping on a bed itself. In the morning, when the duke and his wife left to go hunting in the forest, the boy slipped into the wardrobe and retrieved the Queen’s jewel from the secret drawer. He pocketed it and left the castle.
It took him a few days to get back to the carpenter’s house. The carpenter and his wife yelled at the boy for having disappeared. They were very upset. They had given him room and board and all he had to do was some little work in exchange. They said they would not be able to forgive him and that he’d have to be locked up from now on. So she made a bed for him in the closet and that became his bedroom.
The boy made a secret drawer in his new bedroom and put the Queen’s jewel in there for safe keeping. For weeks the carpenter set to work on a new wardrobe for another wealthy customer and the boy waited until his work was needed. But one day, the duke returned with some guards and accused the carpenter of having stolen his precious secret item which was so secret that he could not say what it was but he said that the carpenter knew exactly what he was talking about. The carpenter was confused and apologized. The boy had never seen a man grovel like the carpenter did. He kissed the feet of the duke as he begged for trust.
The duke did not believe him and he had him and his wife arrested for theft. Lucky for the boy he had his carpentry tools hidden in his bedroom and he was able to carve his way out of the locked door. The boy found the jail and slipped into the cell with ease.
The boy asked the carpenter if he could agree that if he got him out of jail and cleared him of the crime would he and his wife give him back his proper bedroom and let him work on the wardrobes for not only room and board but for a proper profit. The carpenter eagerly agreed because he wanted this nightmare to just go away. He knew nothing else but carpentry. He cared for nothing but his business.
So the boy rode from carriage to carriage and found his way to the queen’s castle. He slipped into the queen’s study and startled her with his voice. He bowed and told his story to the Queen as honestly as he could. The queen heard true remorse in the boy’s voice and saw his tears of regret for having put the carpenter, who might not be the best father to him but did give him a roof and meals and work, in jail. The queen mulled it over until her eyes lit up with the glimmer of an opportunity.
She took back her precious stone and had her staff prepare a bedroom for the boy. She had the carpenter and his wife taken from the jail to her court. And she had the duke and his wife executed tout de suite.
At a lavish dinner, the queen instructed the carpenter and his wife that he would be exonerated from the accusation of theft, and the boy too of course, if and only if they would make her the grandest wardrobe with multiple secret drawers. They all agreed eagerly with wide smiles of joyful fear at the powerful presence of the queen. But, she told them, the wardrobe had to be built in the castle and only after that would they be able to return to their home.
And so the carpenter, his wife, and the boy built the wardrobe of wardrobes. Absolutely ornate in detail and a labyrinth of drawers with several secret drawers that would defy anyone’s sense who did not know exactly where the secret drawers were beforehand. The queen inspected the wardrobe with absolute approval and told them that she would deliver the payment to their house, but that the she had one more request that the boy stay with her for another week because she had enjoyed having a boy around ever since she had lost hers to a hunting accident. The carpenter and his wife agreed without a second thought and revealed to the queen a lack of genuine concern for the boy.
A carriage took them away from the castle but took a detour into the woods where they were executed and buried. And their home and workshop were bequeathed to one of the queen’s subjects who had been a loyal servant and an aspiring carpenter.
The queen told the boy that the carpenter and his wife had given her sole custody of him and that she hoped that he would accept her as his suitable guardian if not mother. The boy kissed her hand and she hugged him. And this is how the boy became the queen’s son and spy.