Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Twenty Three

August 18, 2006

SO.... Otto and Owain decided to spend the night at their parents' house that night.

When the younger children were all in bed, and Meg and Polly were sitting with Doris, knitting while they got ready to go to sleep, John and Anna, the twins and Gilly and Paul sat down for tea at the kitchen table.

Paul pulled the little brown bird out of his pocket and set it in the middle of the table.

He looked at the twins expectantly.

Otto and Owain shrugged and reached for the bird. Owain was quicker...

Otto laughed, "We wondered if you had found it on the mantel, Father!"

John was puzzled. "What is this about?" he asked.

"Well, when I was a child, I had a toy similar to this one. I brought it back, well hidden -- I thought -- to share with everyone. Apparently, your brothers found it the first day."

Paul turned to Owain, "And what about the rest?"

Otto blushed bright pink, but Owain kept his cool.

"We put it back, Father, thinking that you might have a purpose for it."

Otto added, "Not being sure who you were, we wanted to find out before we told Mother."

Gilly frowned, "Told Mother what, exactly?"

Anna tapped her feet unconsciously on the legs of her chair. John found her hand and patted it.

"Mother, under the cart, it looked like it was brand new. When we took out the grease bucket, we realized it had no grease in it, just a box," Owain began.

Gilly gave Paul a sideways glance. John watched his parents intently.

Anna stared at the twins.

Otto picked up the thread, "And we had found a little key under the bench, so we tried it. and it fit."

"But there was a trick latch. So we had Nan figure it out, and all kinds of stuff came out," Owain finished.

Paul's face was inscrutable, "And how many of you children knew about this?"

The twins glanced at each other, "All of us -- except John of course because he wasn't here yet."

"Well, Gilly, looks like you have taught the younger children well. I cannot imagine having kept a secret like this when I was their ages."

"Owain, go get that bucket. I assume you still have the key?"

Gilly held her tea cup pensively in her hands. She swirled the warm aromatic liquid and watched the patterns on the surface.

Otto quietly handed the little bird to John, who inspected it closely.

Paul said, "Each person who plays this bird gets a different sound. It expresses the essence of the person at that moment in time." He paused, "Try it, son."

John looked at Anna, and the loveliest sound came from the little bird: hope and joy and possibility.

He handed it to his wife, but she smiled and shook her head. "Not right now, dear, I want to hear more from Father about this toy."

Paul shrugged his shoulders and refilled the cups on the table. "What do you wish to know? I had similar toys as a child. I remember a little frog whistle that made ribbiting sounds. A small cart with a wind-up pony that could move in different patterns depending on the weather. A drum with buttons on the side that changed how the drum sounded."

Owain came back in the door with the grease bucket. Otto pulled the key out, it was on a chain worn under his shirt. They handed both to Paul.

Gilly put the teacup aside and watched intently.

Paul carefully fit the key into the lock, looked at John and winked, "If you can get it open, son, you may have the first thing you see in it."

Otto and Owain groaned. Anna gasped.

Gilly started to giggle.

Then she chortled.

Finally, she let out a guffaw, and wheezed, "Careful John, it's likely to be a worm!"

John grimaced and felt with his fingers. Surprised, he released the catch and opened the lid.

He pulled out a long, intricate and delicate chain. It glinted in the kitchen's warm light.

Anna's hand reached out involuntarily.

John handed it to her and kissed her forehead.

Then he passed the bucket to his father, who tipped it onto the table.

Even Otto and Owain, who had seen it not three days before, let out sighs of wonder.

Gilly put her hands to her face, then stood up and let Paul give her a big hug.

Paul grinned sheepishly. "I don't know what to tell you -- it's less than I saw, but more than we ever had..."

Gilly was crying now, and Anna was right behind her.

Paul looked concerned. "I brought more, but it's in my trunk -- mostly fabrics I thought you would like."

He sat down and pulled Gilly with him.

He brushed the hair back from her face and kissed her eyes. Then he kissed her cheeks, then her forehead. Finally, he kissed her mouth.

John, Anna, Otto and Owain sat silently. They were a bit embarrassed.

Gilly reached for her handkerchief and sniffed, then blew her nose. She smiled at everyone but Paul.

"I am sorry children, I am so overwhelmed by all this. It will take me some time to get it all in my head."

She glared at Paul.

"You had all this, and yet you told the Innkeeper you had nothing? What were you THINKING?"

She hit him -- hard -- on his shoulder.

Paul rubbed at it ruefully -- I was going to tell you about it sooner, but when I saw the bird on the mantel that first night it sort of threw me off."

Gilly humphed, and crossed her arms.

Gilly looked at Otto and Owain, "And you two! You could have told me SOMETHING!"

She turned to John, "At least you weren't in on this."

She glared at Paul and stood up, picking up teacups irritably.

Paul started to put things back in the bucket. He paused when he came to a small, delicate but simple ring.

He turned to Gilly and handed it to her. "This is the most valuable object in that bucket -- and it went everywhere I did, and faced all the same dangers."

Gilly looked at him.

She turned it over in her hand, and stroked it.

Then she slipped it on next to her other ring.

Gently, she pulled out a chain she had worn around her neck.

"And this," she said softly, "has been with me for the last ten years. It knows all my sorrows and worries, and the joys and triumphs as well."

She slipped it on Paul's hand and held it there.

Then she finished putting the teacups in the sink.

"It's getting late. I am going to go let Polly and Meg know they can sleep in the extra room. Owain and Otto, your old room has some extra blankets on the shelf."

Paul carefully handed the bucket and key back to the twins. "Keep them safe for us, boys, we'll talk more about this tomorrow."

Gilly kissed John and Anna, and Paul and she went upstairs to keep watch over their daughter through the night.

**end of story for tonight**