Chapter 4        
     

           Perdita slept through breakfast the next morning. Unless and Until ate fried potatoes. Neither spoke, although both were thinking about their guest and all the new things they were remembering about their travel. After eating, Until left a generous portion of potatoes to stay warm in the oven and went to work in the garden.
            Unless quietly cleaned up the breakfast things and returned to rummaging through the Needs Reply pile, considering whether it was really time to send a reply. Before very long, however, they were distracted by the newly placed items on the mantle and went to examine them, particularly the stone tooth. They carried the stone tooth over to the easel and stood for a long while looking from the picture to the stone and back at the picture. They heard Perdita in the hall, heading upstairs for a bath. Afterwards, she moved to join them looking at the picture, but Unless directed her to the potatoes keeping warm in the oven.
            Perdita ate her potatoes standing, looking first at the picture of the tiger in the dining room and then walking with her dish to the back hallway and the pictures of Hespera Delia. Neither Unless nor Until were present to prevent Perdita cleaning up her own breakfast. Until came in from the back garden just as she finished.
            Perdita said, “I think Unless might have an idea about the next picture. Should we go look?”
            “Oh yes,” said Until.
            When they reached the front room, Perdita said, “That must be something in the ocean, but I have never heard of a fish like that.”
            Unless and Until glanced at each other. Unless said “Everything lives in the ocean. This must be the great sea serpent.”
            Until agreed, “The sailors on the Mirror – Perdita, the ship we sailed on – told us of the great sea serpent. It is too bad Carl isn’t here to see this picture. He would be sure to know all about it.”
            “Who’s Carl?” asked Perdita. Unless and Until told Perdita about their friend, explaining that he had been a sailor on the Mirror who left the sea to wander the land. They told her that he had painted the picture in the front hall and showed her the hats he had sent. She was so interested in Carl’s picture that Unless fetched the message device from the box in the attic and played Carl’s message for her.
            “You see?” said Until, “He has had to change from a sailor to a landsman and painted a picture of how strange the land can be.”
            Perdita went back to the painting of the great sea serpent, “It looks like the sea can be awfully strange, too.”
            “Yes, it can,” agree Unless, “but it all goes together. Look at this tooth,” and he held up the tooth shaped rock. “Until, didn’t we get this from a trader who said it was from a sea serpent, but that it was found in rocks up in the mountains somewhere?”
            “Oh, how wonderful to remember. That is exactly right. He said that the mountains used to be down in the ocean, and that there were all kinds of shells and bones up in the rocks.”
            “It is hard to believe that,” said Perdita, “but I do know that there are many marvels in the world, and that could well be one of them.”
            They had all missed lunch at that point, so Until fixed tea with bread and jam, which they ate in the front room while they continued to consider the painting.
            Perdita said, “Laundry.” She rose and left the room, headed for the back garden where she and Until had hung her clothes to dry. Unless and Until continued to enjoy their tea.
            “Unless,” said Until, “Perdita will be leaving soon, and we should have a special dinner for her. How about confit?”
            “Of course. We should hang the painting first. Where should we hang it, do you think?” replied Unless.
            “It is a good painting to see, and the colors go well in here. How about over the mantle, so it will be near the tooth?” said Until.
            “That would be good.” Unless was still holding the tooth, so they put it back in its place on the mantle. They took down the mirror that hung there and re-hung it on a hook next to the door, then they hung the picture of the great sea serpent in its place.
            Perdita came in from gathering her laundry and depositing it in her room just as Unless finished hanging the picture. “Oh, it looks very good there,” she said, “I must leave soon, you know. I am going to pack,” and she turned and left.
            Unless headed off to the kitchen. Until remained by the mantle, toying with the stone tooth and studying the picture, whistling a strange melody that had come into their head when Unless had remembered getting the tooth from the trader. They stopped in the kitchen with Unless to propose a plan for singing it. Unless agreed.
            When dinner was ready and they were all gathered in the dining room, Until announced, “In honor of Perdita, who thinks toasts come all the way before supper, and in honor of the great sea serpent, here is the trader’s song that we heard when we got the stone tooth.

            Come near, good folk, you must come near
            to see the treasures I have here
            From North and South and East and West
            the treasures here, only the best

            The treasures here now on display
            I carried here from far away
            in creaking carts and swaying packs
            on broken roads and winding tracks
            Treasures here from olden times
            from distant folks in different climes

            From North and South and East and West
            the treasures here, only the best
            Come near, good folk, you must come near
            to see the treasures I have here



           *** click here for the Trader's Song ***


           Unless served Until and Perdita and joined them at the table. Unless and Perdita praised Until’s song, but they put the praise aside. “It is wonderful to remember more of our traveling. When Until remembered how we got the tooth of the great sea serpent from that trader, the song just came to me. Amazing. After all this time.”
            They ate and chatted pleasantly until dinner was over, when they all remembered that Perdita had said she would be leaving soon. She gave both Unless and Until a long look, hugged them one by one, said “Good night,” and went to her room.
            Unless and Until were quiet for several minutes, then cleaned up the dinner things and the kitchen and went to bed.



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Image: Julie Püttgen, Cloudmapping: Sea Serpent. Gouache, watercolor, and pencil, 12x16", 2008.
Text & Lyrics: JS van Buskirk
Music: James R. Carlson
Animation: Matt Gilbert

 
 
 
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