Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chapter the Ninth: On the Nature of Fetchits

OH, I DO HOPE…that is, I do hope I didn’t frighten you.” The creature seemed to make a great effort in order to lower its voice. Jonathan appreciated the effort. Anyone who has been trapped on a train with someone whose voice goes around corners, through walls, and drills into the brains of all around will sympathize with him. Still, Jonathan was mindful of the one clue Auntie Woezzl had given him about gnords and began to sniff the air. Since gnords are known for their awful odor and flavor, God help us, the presence of no scent besides the smell of damp trees, wet leaves, and general woodsiness was most reassuring. The creature’s anxious expression prompted Jonathan to return some reassurance.

“Of course not. It’s just that I had not anticipated our encounter.”

“NOR I. But what a lovely surprise. I had been looking for some company, for a voice besides my own, for a journeying companion. Do you mind awfully if I join you, Jonathan Grubbley?”

“Frightfully sorry, I seem to have forgotten your name already. Perhaps I was more startled than I wished to admit.”

“Think nothing of it. Fulsome Fetchit’s the name.”

“Ah, that would not be the name of a gnord, I take it.”

“Good heavens, no! Whatever gave you such a peculiar notion?”

“It seems I am currently on my way to the Gardens of Isapher, there to wrest a precious object from the fearsome gnord. For a moment I feared you might be he, come to resist me. You see, I have never seen one.”

“How very exciting. But, of course, I am only a fetchit myself, though a disgrace to the name, I daresay. You will, however, permit me to journey with you and join in this singular adventure, young Grubbley?”

“I should be terribly glad of your company, Mr. Fetchit. But why should you consider yourself a disgrace to the name of fetchit? You seem so very decent.”

“That’s just it, my dear fellow. Fetchits are not supposed to be decent. they are quarrelsome, loud, brash creatures. Alas, through some flaw of breeding or traumatic childhood experience or other unfortunate cause, I turned out friendly. I wanted to like the other fetchits, and all the creatures of the Great Wood. But this marked me as a misfit and troublemaker. So I was exiled, mind you, exiled from the society of all self-respecting fetchits and sent to live as best I could among other creatures or by myself. My own parents supervised the expulsion.” At that, the great rubbery fetchit began to cry.

“Please don’t cry, Mr. Fetchit, please. I think you’re a very good creature indeed and I should be proud to claim you as my fellow.”

“You’re very kind. And do call me Fulsome.”

“Very well, Fulsome. And please call me Jonathan.”

“Oh thank you, Jonathan. You are the first friend I have had since a jolly caterpillar left me to metamorphose last spring,” the fetchit said, drying his eyes.

“Shall we be on our way , then?”

“Oh yes. Do you know your way through Wolmsley Wood?”

“No, my dear Fulsome. I am a stranger here. But I do have a lovely chart here in my pocket.” Jonathan withdrew the twice-used paper with its purple markings and unfolded it.

“What a charming map,” Fulsome observed. “Who did it for you?”

“Auntie Woezzl drew it. She is the lady who sent me on this adventure.”

“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure to meet the lady.”

Based on what he had just heard, Jonathan doubted Fulsome had been able to meet many ladies at all, but kept his counsel and replied, as though recounting the most ordinary information, “She lives in a great tree. See, it’s marked ‘Old Lady Dyrnmantle’s Castle.’ That’s a joke of some sort, since it’s only a tree, although a very snug one, and nicely furnished if a bit unkempt.”

“Old Lady Dyrnmantle, you say? It seems I have heard of her somewhere.”


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