Saturday, September 17, 2005

More from Mrs. Claus

I had more contact with my beloved Nicholas in the coming weeks.

Some of that contact was in person. We exchanged pleasantries sometimes after church or when he stopped by the bakery. We also ran into each other at some of the places where I helped, and where he had begun to help.

More often, though, the contact was indirect.

I regulalry ran into Peter, making delivieries and visiting people on Master Nicholas' behalf.

I also found evidence of Nicholas' direct contact with the people of my town.

I remember one time when I went to the home of the Widow Buckner.

Her son had been running a terrible fever. I was afraid for his life.

I stopped by with some soup one morning, only to find him up and playing with a toy horse.

"It's a miracle," the widow said. "Look at my Willie."

"I am happy to see he has recovered so quickly," I said.

"It was Master Nicholas," she said. "He brought some medicine and said to give it to my Willie every two hours. I started yesterday morning, and look at him now."

I smiled at the boy, who was enjoying his horse.

"And he even gave him that toy horse," the widow said.

I looked at the horse. It was skillfully made. Even better than my brother Nicholas could make.

I asked to see the medicine. She brought it, and I sniffed. I could detect the scent of some forest plants I knew.

I began finding more and more evidence of Master Nicholas' medical skills - and toys - as I went about my own visits throughout our village over the next few days.

I was impressed. He had been in so many places where there was a need - often getting there before I could. And he was an old man!

So when I heard about the plagues in the neighboring villages, he was the first person I thought of.

I was nervous when I aproached his house.

Even though we had seen each other often in the past few weeks, we really didn't know each other.

But I needed his help. So I knocked on his door.

The door opened. He stood there, a smile blossoming on his face.

"I hope I am not disturbing you, Master Nicholas," I said.

"Not at all," he said warmly. "Come in."

I looked about his place. It was neat and clean - not like so many bachelor homes I'd seen! As he led me to the visiting room, I did see through a door one small room with a workbench in it and some partly made wooden animals on the bench.

In the visiting room, I sat in a comfortable chair.

"Would you like some tea?" he asked.

"No," I said. "Thank you. I have come for something else."

I realized how rude I must have sounded. I thought for a moment that I would change my answer and accept his offer of tea, but bfore I could say anything more he sat in a chair opposite me and said, "Yes?"

He smiled. I felt strangely at ease.

"Your servant, Peter…" I began.

"Friend, not servant," he said, stil smiling in his friendly way.

"Oh," I said, pleased to hear that. Friends. I thought even more of him.

"Your friend, Peter, has sometimes come into town with medicines. He, or you, must have great skills."

"We find some things of that sort," he said.

"There is a plague spreading through neighboring villages," I said. "I fear it will strike ours. Is there something you, or he, could make?"

He looked sad and thoughtful for a moment. Then he said, "If we know the nature of the illness, we can sometimes find something to help."

Then I felt bold.

"Will you travel with me to Rhundveld, one of the villages where the illness has struck?"

A young woman of my time did not simply travel with men she was not related to and barely knew. But the mission was important.

"You would be taking a risk, yourself," he said.

"When people need help, I must do what I can," I said.

He nodded.

"Tell you what," he said. "I will think about this, and give you an answer tomorrow."

My first thought was that he was trying to get out of doing it. But then I saw the look on his face. He was not trying to find an excuse. He meant it. He was going to think about it.

So I smiled.

"I look forward to your answer," I said.

He led me to the door, and stood watching as I walked down the path. Then he closed the door.

I walked home feeling at peace.

I was certain that he was going to help.

But at this point I still thought of him just as an old, kind-hearted man. There was no thought of romance.


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