Tuesday, January 21, 2003

This story is going to turn out longer than I expected. Hope you don't mind.

Appearance never equals reality - part 2

That night the old man and the boy slept soundly – in the comfort of finding a new friendship. As the morning dawned the boy woke up to find the old man sitting and drawing lines on the sand.

“What’s your name boy?” the old man asked without looking at him.
“Dolan. Hmm.. so I can’t expect you to learn much, can I?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just this my boy. Dolan means a dull boy.”
“Oh! But I am not dull.”
“Well we shall see. Now get up. They say early bird catches the worm – and it’s no different for beggars.”
“We are going to catch worms?” the boy queried.
“Aha ha ha. No no, we are going to work.”
“But where? I have been asking everyone for a job but to no avail.”
“Don’t worry. I have been asked to join work in this manor across the fields. Maybe I could put in a word for you too.”
“Oh that would be swell sir. If you could please.”
“Alright alright, now hurry up. I don’t want to be late for my first day of work.”

The boy jumped up and quickly readied himself. They headed south, crossed the bridge and across the river was a stately home with neatly trimmed bushes marking its boundaries. Never had the boy seen such a large house and he held on to the old man’s robe as they walked closer and closer.

“Who resides here?” the boy asked.
“The landlord and his daughter. The landlord used to be the Kings collector for the area but now he is relieved of his duty. The daughter, I have heard, is a spoilt arrogant kid, but hopefully that shouldn’t bother us.”
“What does it take to become a collector?”
“You need to be well educated. And you need to know how to combat with swords and shields. And above all you need to earn the Kings trust.”
“Are you educated?” the boy quipped.
“Yes I can read and write. Maybe I could teach you too.”
“Me? But how, when...?”
“After work my boy. It’s not like we do anything in the nights. Why? Are you not interested?”
“Oh yes.... oh yes I am indeed.”
“Then it’s settled. I shall start teaching you from today.”

Presently they were near the gates of the manor. The old man spoke to the guard in charge on the purpose of his visit and he was guided to the side door. There they met a large bodied man in his middle years who was the supervisor of all the servants.

“Aye, so you are the person who put in the word for work eh?” squeaked the matron.
“Uh, yes sir, if you would be kind enough” mumbled the old man.
“Well..you are very old. You won’t be of much use inside the manor. I shall assign you to the gardens. Now who is this boy you bring along?”
“Err err.. he is mine. And I was wondering if you could...”
“No no, we can’t keep taking extra hands. And this boy won’t be of much use.”
“Oh but you could allow him to work along with me. He won’t ask for extra wages. And he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Alrite alrite... but no wages for him. I will try and put a word to see if he can get a bite or two along with the servants. It won’t be a big stomach to feed.”

Soon they were assigned to their tasks. The boy would aid the old man in every possible way and they would share everything they earned. Over the course of time the matron began to appreciate their work and would in the free time chat with them about what goes on ‘inside’ the manor. Many stories were woven on how gentle the landlord was but at the same time how haughty his daughter had turned out to be. The boy would sit wide-eyed and imagine all the splendour and curious objects that the matron described.

“I have seen the young lady. She goes for a horse ride every morning doesn’t she?” asked the boy.
“Oh yes she does. And she is mighty good at it. But take care boy never to cross her path. She wouldn’t think twice to run over you” said the matron.
“But how come the Lord never steps out of the house?”
“That is because he is bed ridden. He can barely talk let alone walk. And that puts the lady in charge de affaire. It’s a shame all right. The manor is not what it used to be.”

Days passed onto weeks, and in turn became months. Every night the boy would learn to write, to read and other skills that were needed to survive in the world. The old man seemed to know everything. Everyday the boy would press the old man to tell him about himself but the old man would avoid it. He would say I will tell you when the time comes and continue with the boy’s education.

One day while working in the garden, the old man collapsed from sheer heat and exhaustion. The boy, teary eyed, picked him up and took him to rest under the shade of a windowsill. Hardly a few moments had passed when they heard a loud shriek. The boy jumped out of his skin, while the old man stood and looked at the window.

“How dare you peek through my window... you insolent fools?” it was the lady of the manor.


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