And There Were Three: Chapter Ten
Elinor arrived at the farmhouse first. She jumped into her mother’s arms, chattering excitedly,
“Mama! Guess what? No, you’ll never guess! I was out exploring, you know? And all of a sudden this boy appeared with his dog, who started to fight with Mym. His name is Ficum, the boy I mean. Isn’t that odd? He says he is from a country called, what was it? Oh, I know,”-pronouncing the word carefully-“Myr-i-a-da. So I asked if he wanted to stay here, and he said yes. Is that all right? And do you know what else? He is thirteen years old, just like me! It’s so funny! He-”
The motherly lady put her finger on Elinor’s lips, and said gently,
“Elinor, remember your manners.” Ficum had already arrived, panting. He pulled himself together and bowed politely. Elinor’s mother smiled and nodded kindly. “You are most welcome here, my son. And I would rather that you treat me more as a mother than a stranger, for it looks like you need a mother, laddie, and I am always glad to have another young face in the house. So you may make yourself comfortable and at home while you stay here, and I shall bake you a wholesome meal. By the way, you may call me Anya.” Ficum watched her as she spoke these words in an extremely friendly, almost loving way; but also rather unaffectedly and bluntly. (Such was the manner of those country people.) He thought that she was not much like Elinor, at least in looks. Elinor’s mother had pale blond hair, braided and twisted on her head in a most becoming yet unusual way. Her face was suntanned and rough, though her grey-green eyes were beautiful and her features pleasant. Her hands were coarse also, but gentle and steady. Her simple brown dress was prettily embroidered, with a trimmed white apron tied around her waist. And a slight bulge in the middle of her apron showed the presence of a new life.
Elinor grabbed Ficum’s hand, shouting,
“I’ll introduce you to the rest of my family. We’ll be inside, Mama!” She led him quickly into the cottage. It was small, but cozy. The outside was whitewashed, with a thatched roof and a clay chimney, from which issued a column of blue-grey smoke. The door was crude but well-made, and about two feet from it was a window cut into the front of the house. Inside was a floor made of the same wood. A stone fireplace with a mantle lay directly across from the doorway. In front of it was a sanded wood table with matching benches. In one corner lay a spinning wheel; in another a churn. A partition had been added on after the original house was built; on the other side of it were the beds.
Sitting at the table were a pair of twins about two years old, a boy and a girl. Both had thin, wavy yellow hair and big blue eyes, and both were trying to get the attention of an older girl who was stirring a black pot on the fire. She was about ten years, and intent on her work. Another girl of eight was spinning yarn on the wheel, another about twelve was churning butter. All three had blond hair, which differed from dark to light, wavy to straight, thick to thin. The twelve year old had brown eyes, the ten year old blue and the eight year old green.
Elinor let go of Ficum’s hand and cried excitedly,
“Epsy! Matea! Janta! Heya! Hemi! Look who I found when I was out exploring! His name is Ficum.” The girls dropped their work and gathered around, talking all at once and asking questions, while the twins merely stared. Ficum was quite bewildered, but soon became amused. It was evident that strangers did not come often to this country.
Elinor’s mother, Anya, walked in quietly.
“Come, come, girls, stop your chattering and let the fellow in,” she said good-naturedly. “Matea, have you got that stew ready yet? Janta, your yarn looks excellent. You’re getting better. Are your arms tired, Epsy? I can churn the butter for a while. Heya and Hemi, my dear ones; have you behaved well?” With these maternal questions she walked to and fro through the cottage, patting, encouraging, and finally sweeping the twins up into her strong arms. “Come and sit by the fire, Ficum.” She indicated a circle of cut logs by the fire, clearly meant for seats. He did so, and Elinor sat down beside him.
Anya set the twins on the bench again, and sat herself down in front of Ficum. She asked him to tell her about himself. He related what he had already told Elinor, and a little more besides. He told nothing about his family or his quest, however. Anya listened attentively, and when he was done she said it was a pity for a boy so young to travel alone. She wanted to ask more, but knew it would be rude. Presently she rose, rubbed Ficum on the shoulder, and started to set the long table for dinner, calling on Elinor to help. Ficum offered his aid, as well.
They had almost finished when voices were heard in the yard, and feet tramped toward the door. In ran two boys about six and four years old. They both had light brown hair. The six year old had green eyes and the four year old hazel. They were all friendliness, and shook hands with Ficum, introducing themselves as Basso and Dectho. Soon after them strode four tall young men. They were as friendly as the younger ones. Their names were Rami, Sunio, Jantar and Foi. Their hair color differed from brown to gold, and sometimes in-between; their eyes were all green. These were the eldest of Elinor’s family, the Tremen family. (Their name, Ficum found out later, derived from their ancestors’ original name, Tree-men, named because they first came from a land completely covered in thick woods.) Finally, an equally tall, broad-shouldered man entered the house: he was Elinor’s father, Hogo.
Ficum shook hands with each of them, amazed at the strength in their grip. They liked Ficum immensely, and he had to tell his story all over again. But he didn’t mind, for he liked these people. Certainly, they lived rather plainly, and they probably weren’t very book-learned. Yet Ficum could sense their simple, unaffected wisdom, gained from experience; and he admired and felt the peace and love that reigned in the house.