Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Nine

August 3, 2006; not available in archives, written directly to web

Adam and Ava's family had lived in this village and it's environs for as long as stories could remember. In one way or another, they were related by blood or marriage to all but the newest families.

It was said that Adam's ancestor, Owain the Obscure, had come to this spot on the mountain before the trees were bigger than horses. Ava's great-grandmother had said that _her_ ancestor, Otto the Obtuse, had been here before the trees were bigger than dogs... but that was an old joke.

It was certain that the earliest name on the Town Hall's record book was "Thomas the Traveler" who was ancestral to both. He was the first merchant to leave the village and return richer than he started out. It was he who built the hall when he was old and tired of wandering.

Thomas's three sons were not skilled as merchants, however they were smart and hard-working. So before the family's fortunes failed entirely, they settled on the land outside the village and became farmers. Thomas's two daughters each married and stayed in the village itself, one became an innkeeper's wife, the other the baker's.

Every few generations, some of the children would move away - merchants, scholars, soldiers or tradesmen - and most generations a few children stayed home to help first their parents and then their siblings with the many tasks farmers faced.

The family were not inclined to be leaders directly, but their steadiness and common sense, and lack of aversion to hard work, gave their opinions weight at every town meeting. A few of the children had become teachers or librarians, positions that held high esteem among the honest, simple folk who made up the village.

Of course, not all the children in each generation did well. A few were scoundrels. One, just a generation before Adam and Ava had been an outright thief... and some few just didn't seem to understand the connection between hard work and success.

And, as in every family, there were sorrows. Children caught mysterious wasting illnesses and slowly faded away before they grew up. Young men did foolish things and came home lame or crippled. Young girls just learning to cook forgot how close they stood to a fire and were burned.

Now, the villagers were close-knit, reserved around strangers, but kind to people unless circumstances required otherwise. Still, there were festive gatherings held regularly -- some at the tavern, some at the inn, most at the school or town hall.

Music would fill the air, aromas from dozens of fancy sweet and savory dishes would waft around groups of people dancing or talking, and bright lights and paper decorations would dance on the breeze.

Poetry would be recited, songs sung -- tales (and jokes) told. The young people would look shyly at each other under the watchful gaze of their elders, children raced about underfoot, older people sat comfortably in corners and snoozed.

It had been at one of these festivals that Paul had first appeared -- a small, thin child of maybe six or seven years. He just wandered in from the dark and stood in the doorway, looking hungrily at the people inside, searching their faces intently.

Ava had noticed him first, as she tried to spot Cathy who was with a circle of friends.

Carefully, she caught Adam's eye and motioned toward the door with a plate. Quietly, Adam shifted around the room without drawing attention to himself, and caught up to the boy as he turned to leave.

Holding out his hand, Adam invited Paul in. And by then, Cathy had wandered up, protectively putting an arm around the little boy.

Children did not just appear in the village -- so naturally Paul attracted a great deal of attention and consternation...

The hubbub was immediate and intense, but the child was buffered by Adam and Ava, who insisted that he would stay with them until his parents were found...

And in all this time, the little boy had said nothing, just looked with large eyes at the people and hid behind Cathy.

It would be several weeks before he spoke, and by that time Adam and Ava had given him a name. He didn't seem to want a different one, so Paul he stayed. He could -- or would -- never say anything about how he came to the village. And he couldn't or wouldn't talk about his family.

Paul worked hard at every task he was given, and soon learned to read and cipher as well as Cathy, whose shadow he had become. He was eager to please, and relentless in finishing anything he started. When he first arrived he was a solemn child, and he would wander to the edge of the village and look out across the plain toward the sea. But once he began speaking and Ava had assured him he would stay, that stopped.

When he had been at school for several years, he chose to work around the farm at Adam's side. As he grew and his voice began to change, he began to laugh and his singing could be heard long before he came into view. The eldest boys were glad to have his help, and sometimes brought difficult mechanical projects for his help. He was clever with machines and gadgets.

He took a special interest in the younger children, who had accepted him immediately. He would sit and read or play games, or make toys with and for any of them every chance he got. And when Cathy fell from a tree retrieving a kite, he sat and slept by her bed for weeks, being her legs until she was able to get around again.

He was clever, he was handsome enough, and he was strong and hard-working. And in no time at all, Adam and Ava and their family had taken him to their hearts as one of their own.

But the people of the village never quite got over his strange introduction, and most were relieved when he and Gilly were engaged to be married.