Elizabeth’s note: Consider this an exercise for drawing thoughts to the surface when nothing seems to come. I sat down to write, but hardly knew what my subject might be. I intuited that there was something there—something in the recesses of thought, waiting to be articulated. But how to discover the nature of that thought? In a spontaneous act, I decide to persuade the thought to come forward, to coax him from his hiding-place by speaking to him—writing to him, rather—as if he were a proper creature with a body and a name. At last, I got him to speak. Here is what ensued.
Is there something that must be said? Something that should be written now? I’m racking my thoughts. Is there someone there? Hallo? Hello? Was someone knocking? Step forward and announce yourself, if you want to be heard. Otherwise we will go about our duties and we won’t open the door again till very late. Are you there? Come, come, speak your piece. There will be a cup of cocoa waiting for you inside. It’s cold today. Come in, out of the cold. You are welcome here.
No? No one there? I have a feeling someone is there, hiding in the wings. Come out! No need to be frightened. We’ll listen to you gladly. We talk about many things in this house.
Yes, yes, I saw you move! A shadow of a movement—just there, beneath the tree. A little rustle. Come nearer! We won’t hurt you; we wouldn’t harm a fly. It’s so cold outside; you’ll freeze if you don’t come in. Please, please, Elizabeth is making cocoa on the stove. It will be ready soon.
Ah, yes, there you are! Poor little thing, all shivering and fingers turned blue. Come, come, let’s bring you in. There’s a warm blanket in the hall—we’ll wrap you in it. There you are, easy does it, just like that. Let’s get you to the fire. Take the chair, there. It’s big enough for someone twice your size. Little thing, just rest a while. Here’s your chocolate. Elizabeth will put it on the table for you. Drink when you can. It will warm your bones; it’s very good. One sip at a time—we don’t want you burning your tongue.
That’s better. Now the hubbub is done, let’s hear your name. Will you venture to tell us your name? A scrap of information; but how could we not ask?
Well now, dear. Just drink your cocoa, that’s all right. You’ll tell us your name in time. You’ve warmed yourself a little; your teeth have stopped shivering, I see. The cocoa always does the trick.
Now, dear, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve some business to attend to in my study today. So I won’t be staying with you all the noon. It was my impression you had a story to tell us. Something important to say. A born storyteller, I can see you are, dear.
So go on, then. Let’s hear what you’ve got. No need for embarrassment; we’re all kindly around here. That’s a good dear. You mustn’t rise from your chair; just pipe up and we’ll all be fine.
The poor creature made his spine a little straighter and sat stiff against the back of the chair. His fingers were not so blue as when he first arrived, although they still trembled—in cold or in fear, or perhaps in both. He blew a breath, a tiny puff, as if to wake his voice from sleep. A moment’s pause, expectant silence. Another breath, another puff, an inflation of the cheeks and a compression of the lips. But no words escaped. The little fellow drooped in his chair, hanging his head to his chest under the weight of effort. It was as if he had never been taught how to form words; his mouth, bravely though it struggled, could not assume the proper shape, and no sound would come loose.
Oh, dear, what’s this? Cat got hold of your tongue? Like I said, no need to trouble yourself around us. Elizabeth, go to the poor boy. See what’s got him all tied up.
Elizabeth approached the sad little creature, all weary-looking, with a quiet step. With one hand, she took the creature’s palm; with the other, she gently raised his pointed chin. She saw a miserable look in his eyes, and her body shivered. What compassion could she show this little thing? The poor dear. Suddenly, she was lit with a thought, and letting go of the creature, fled the room.
She returned a moment later, bearing a pen and a few scraps of paper from the hall. She set them gently on the creature’s lap, along with a hard book for writing on. The creature smiled a peculiar smile—of gratitude perhaps, or of joy at being understood—and wriggled himself straight in his chair, his head hardly poking over the top rail. He took the pen into his tiny hands, and began to write: at first slowly, haltingly, and then with feverish insistence.
This is what he wrote:
(See Part Two)