In a city that was, relatively recently, stolen by giant bats, a young man wakes up in a holding cell. There's a guard standing watch, though a rather scrawny one.
"Let's say I'm at least strongly considering it."
"Well, I don't know off the top of my head where you might find one, you understand - but I know who might. A Morbid Under-Secretary, at the Palace, collects the fangs of various beasts, and I've heard tell he's been crowing about how he's going to have a Vake-tooth soon. I'd suggest that you pay him a visit."
"I can do that! By the way, what if anything do mandrakes eat? I like mine and I want to take good care of him."
"I'm pleased to hear it. They'll eat just about anything - don't give him anything that had blood in it, though, or he'll go wild. And don't try giving him ten bottles of wine again, it's only good the once. And, here-"
He hands his visitor a second jar, filled with thick black mud. "For him to sleep in. I forgot to give this to you last time."
"Oh good!" He accepts the jar. "Thank you."
And off he goes. He tries to think of some food he has encountered that definitely never had any blood in it, rules out meat pies and sausages and skewered rat, isn't sure either way about the Rubbery Lumps, and finally ends up feeding the mandrake bits of broken-off pie crust double-checked for lack of filling.
"What a sweet little creature," he says, setting its pot down safe and sound next to his bed. "Pets have names, don't they? I think I'll call you Edward."
And that is perhaps enough things for today.
In the morning - well, actually, in the morning he should first of all apologize to the Widow for ruining the clothes she let him borrow.
He changes clothes, has a meat pie for breakfast, feeds his mandrake the crusts, and shows up at the Singer's place to drop it off for its next lesson.
"That I am!" He presents her with a clean jar of well-fed mandrake. "Enjoy!"
"You're probably right," he says, with a slightly surprised smile. "Thanks."
Pretty!!! He gazes delightedly at the painting as he finds somewhere to sit.
The Sardonic Music-Hall Singer sits at the piano and begins the lesson. First she gauges how much of the previous lesson stuck with Edward. Satisfied with his retention, she begins teaching him a cantata.
Her method is gentle, but firm. If Edward stops imitating her, she turns from the piano and frowns exaggeratedly at him; when he finishes a line without mistakes, she beams and feeds him a button mushroom. By this method she guides him through two cantatas and La Donna è Mobile.
"That one's always been a favorite of mine," she confides once Edward has learned it and can sing it without error. "Being a fickle woman myself."
"I like how you teach him," he says. "Seems like you're both having fun."
"Told you which? Or both? I guess it makes sense that I'm not the first person to come through here looking for someone to teach a mandrake to sing."
"There can't be that many giant man-eating bats in the world, can there? I thought you might have just heard of it somewhere. But this makes sense too."
"Mostly I just knew you had a mandrake."
She resumes teaching Edward for the remainder of the lesson time. She's got him singing, but she wants to improve his intonation - it's no good if he's singing operetta like it's a funeral march, or vice versa.
Finally the end of the lesson arrives, as marked by the bells of St. Dunstan's Cathedral. "Alright, little man," she says to the plant, "we're done for now."