A FAIRLY TALE
Broom in hand, I was trying to quietly steer the bluebird’s flight as it swooped around the sleeping body of Mr. Marvin. Glancing down, I noticed my employer appeared to be having a seizure. He was shaking and muttering and looked uncomfortable to boot. As his “man,” I had no choice but to wake him, without mentioning the spectacle he had been making of himself.
I was pleased to see him collect himself upon rousing. It was no seizure at all, as I knew; I’d been with him going on twenty years. His first words were, “Is that beggar still sleeping under our elm?” to which I had to admit.
“Where does he relieve himself, Chadwick?” Mr. Marvin was a little cross; it was unclear whether it was due to being awoken, the trespasser, or by the dream he had been having. Suddenly becoming aware of the bird’s flight overhead, he bellowed and threw the covers over his head.
I’d rather have coaxed the bird out an open window, but they were stuck with fresh paint. Since I feared Mr. Marvin would squash the bird in his hypnopompic state, I encouraged it into the next bedroom down the hall with my broom, and closed the door. Was a bird in the house an omen of death or was this a bluebird of happiness?
My master’s voice called from his room, “Where does he relieve himself!”
It was cheeky of me, but I shouted back, from the hall, “I don’t know. Would you like me to post a watch on him?”
“Lord no,” he grumbled as I re-entered his room and helped him on with his attire. “If you took him a breakfast tray do you think he’d be willing to scamper off?”
“I can ask him, m’lord,” whereupon he scowled at my flippancy.
“Ahem.” I cleared my throat, standing over the huddled figure still buried beneath his ragged blankets. “Have a spot of tea…and vittels?”
The blankets parted, and I had my first glimpse of the fellow who looked to be on the underfed, gaunt side. Watching his uncut dirty blond hair swing side to side as he woke up, he reminded me of a wet dog trying to shake off water. “Wha?”
“His lordship thought if we fed you breakfast you’d be willing to amble off to someone else’s…er, tree.”
The bugger made an undescribable response and extended his arms to receive the tray which contained a nourishing breakfast—a grand breakfast for one such as he. I am not bereft of pity, but what would the neighbors think?
He mumbled something that vaguely sounded like “Thanks,” and looked up at me. I noticed his eyes immediately travel behind me, and discovered Mr. Marvin who, dressed now as though for the city, was eyeballing our interloper, literally looking down upon him.
“What’s your name? Why are you trespassing on my land?” As the trespasser finished swallowing, Mr. Marvin added, “And how old are you?”
The seated figure was still leaning against our elm, and only answered the second question. “I’m looking for my bird. He flew over this way and I can’t find him.” He motioned with his arm and as he did so a round globe rolled out from under the blankets. Everyone froze for a minute, staring at the object.
“What’s that you have there, something you’ve pilfered?”
“No. It’s mine, has been in my family for years.” The trespasser tucked it back under the blanket.
Mr. Marvin smacked his lips and said “Well, well, what do we have here? A magician …”
I interrupted Mr. Marvin, “Just searching for his blue bird of happiness, m’lord.”
The beggar sat up straighter. “You found him? Is he all right?”
Mr. Marvin can be a rapscallion at times, and now he said, “What do we get in return for the bird?”
The man who was now cast into a magician’s role said, “I’m the beggar and you’re the lord and you’re trying to swindle me? You’re no better than me!”
Those had been my thoughts, exactly, until Mr. Marvin clarified. “I only want my three wishes, magician.”
I dared to interject. “Shall I fetch the bird?”
M’lord shook his head. “Not until he can prove his mettle. My three wishes?”
The magician hung his head, putting on a pitiful face, and did not respond.
“All right! Leave these premises now,” Mr. Marvin said sternly, whereupon the figure seemed to fade from sight into the tree trunk.
Mr. Marvin was speechless for once, and I spoke up again. “You have two wishes left, but he’s not here to grant them.”
The lord of the manor bellowed, “Come back here,” whereupon the trespasser—or the beggar or bird tamer or magician, whoever he was—slid back from behind the elm, one side of his lips curled into a grin—or was it a smirk? Hard to tell, since he was so in need of a washing up.
M’lord’s face turned dangerously red, and as he tried to loosen his collar his eyes rolled back and he fell to the ground; but he wasn’t suffering from a nightmare this time. Outrage was getting him. I turned to the tramp. “He has one more wish! Save him!”
The tramp looked regretful but slowly shook his head. “He has to make the wish.”
The unholy sounds from Mr. Marvin continued, but he finally croaked, “Yes!” and immediately it was as though a giant hand that had been squeezing him relaxed, and a peaceful silence followed. I looked at the trespassing magician.
“I’ll get your bird,” I said.
942 words THE END