“Too-rally, oo-rally, loo-rally, ay, I’ve got me a horse and ‘e eats golden hay, too-rally, oo-rally, loo-rally, dee, pay all my debts and I’ll give ‘im to thee.”Darby scrabbled to his feet and rubbed his eyes, trying to clear the white light from them, demanding they focus. “What’s going on?” he grouched.“Till-tummy, quill-tommy, fill grummy hack, tell me this riddle I’ll bargain him back!” The twangy voice singing the nonsensical words mocked his predicament with its very carelessness.“Who’s there?” he demanded, then yelled as a clutching hand dragged him down.“Quiet, fool!” It was Bertram’s voice and his jam-flavored hand clapped over Darby’s mouth. They fell back into a darker, cooler place, and Darby’s eyes began to see dark shapes, and then colors, and finally all five of his siblings crouched about him. They all looked just as dazed as he felt, and on the ground before them, entirely silent and no longer gleaming, lay the strange silver music box.“What in the blue blazes is going on here?” His eyes widened even as he spoke, for the bedroom was nowhere in sight, and he saw they crouched beneath a canopy of dark, glossy leaves. “Did something happen?”Of course Darby knew as well as the others that something had happened, but he could think of nothing better to say, and he did want things explained dreadfully. He couldn’t see Charlotte’s face, for her head was buried in her arms and she rocked softly, whimpering, but he bet she felt just as odd as he did. Adelaide held Eugenie tight in her arms, her face as white as the baby’s pinafore, and her mouth pinched into a pitiful question-mark. Fergus was curled up in a sort of hollow in the ground sucking his thumb, and Bertram was staring at the lot of them as if he didn’t know what to make of any of it.Darby repeated his question, a great, nameless fear scaling the ladder of his heart and threatening to break out in a boyish sob at the least provocation. “Tell me now, Bertram, what happened?”Bertram gulped and shook his head. “I don’t know where we are or what happened back there. It’s uncanny, Darby…all we did was listen to the song.”Darby plopped down on the ground as if he was a balloon and all the air had been let out in a rush. One thing was certain: that was no ordinary music box, and this was no ordinary place. He scanned Bertram’s face and tried to see any sort of sign that Bertie was joking, as he sometimes did. Darby’s hands took hold of the grass beneath him. He rolled over on his stomach and buried his nose in it, inhaling the earthy scent of soil and green things growing. It was a comforting smell and it made him feel just the tiniest bit less like panicking and more like an adventure. Where there was dirt, things could not be too terrible.When he sat up again, his chin was set in a determined line. “Listen, Bertie,” he said, “It’s no good just cowering here like a bunch of rabbits in a warren. Something did happen and we can’t help that now...but…it’s just no good. Come on!” Ever impulsive and gaining a last burst of courage from the feel of the grass under his palms, Darby crawled from underneath the leafy canopy, and rolled down a green embankment, shutting his eyes against the unknown. When he opened his eyes, he found himself cheek-to-waistcoat with a stranger.“Bless us an’ save us, what’s this we’ve got ‘ere?” A pair of nimble, gnarled fingers seized a handful of his hair and Darby felt himself hauled up. It was over now. He’d be killed and all because of a dratted plan to pounce Miss Woodruff. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the blow.“Eh? It’s a little’un, is it? And what a twinkum-dinkum costume ‘e’s wearin’. Why, ‘e looks like a puppet in a show!” The fingers tipped Darby’s chin up, and almost against his will—for curiosity strived for the upper hand—he opened one eye and looked into the bluff, cheery face of a man. The nose was as like a potato as anything Darby had seen since dinnertime on Sunday, and the eyes were so bright and black and little he wasn’t sure they weren’t beads from Mum’s best shawl. And the mouth! Darby found his own lips sliding into a smile despite the apprehension that still tugged at his mind, for the man’s mouth was one long, wide, jolly smile.“I wasn’t sure but I’d ‘ave some company this forenoon, sit thee down.” He plopped Darby down on the bank beside him, and Darby noticed a brightly colored cap with bells dangling from the points hanging on a branch as if some jack-in-the-box had been taking a bath and forgot it. In fact, this man was the spitting image of Fergus’ favorite nursery-toy, only he had legs instead of springs. The idea jerked a halting chuckle out of Darby’s throat.“Thee’s quiet for a bloke, I’ll give thee that.” The man bumped Darby with his shoulder and guffawed as if they shared some great joke. Darby managed a weak smile, but his mind was racing. Why weren’t the others following, and what sort of place had they stumbled into where jack-in-the-boxes didn’t live in boxes at all but sat on ledges and plucked…angel-harps?“Who are you?” Darby asked, thinking there was no easier way of finding out what he must know.The man twinkled his eyes, then sprang up, swiping the fool’s hat from the bough, and bending low before Darby. “I am Lad, personal fool and advisor to His Majesty, and court jester to the rest of them.”“Lad?”“Aye.” The jester slumped onto the bank and hung his hat up again. “I’ve always been called that. It’s always been ‘Lad, come hither!’ or ‘Lad, I am displeased,’ or ‘Lad, I need you!’ I think I used to have a name once, but higgity-piggity, I’ve forgot it now.”The idea of anyone forgetting their name tickled Darby so, he smiled genuinely at last, and Lad poked him in the side. “There ‘e is, smilin’ like a chap ought to. And who dost thou boast to be?”“I’m Darby Macefield, sir.”Lad wrinkled his brow and his little eyes snapped and sparkled as he thought. “No, linkle-dinkle-likkum, I’ve never met thee.”“That’s not a surprise,” Darby began to feel morose again, and his threw a pebble into the stream below their feet.“Ah, but it is a surprise, Master Macefield, for Lad knows everyone that has ever lived in Scarlettania.”Darby jumped. “Is that where we are?”Lad eyed him parrot-wise, not looking fully at him, then nodded. “That’s where thee is, Master Macefield. But beggin’ your pardon, I must ask what thee means by sayin’ ‘we’?”Darby shrugged. “There’s lots of us back there. Hey you lot, come out here and meet Lad!”There was a great rustling of leaves and then five children rolled down the embankment and nearly knocked Lad and Darby off the edge. The others sat up, holding their heads in their hands and glaring at Darby.“What do you mean by running off so?” Bertram demanded. His eyes blazed and he towered above Darby who remained seated.....
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Meet Lad :)
My heart and mind are entwined in The Scarlet-Gypsy Song and I find I can't get away from it. :P So I am afraid I will have to break my pie-crust promise and post about the newest character that I hadn't quite expected to find in Scarlettania. But there he was, lolling on the stream-bank when Darby rolled out from his hiding place, and I had to do something with him. Anyway, meet Lad.