The summer continued. The warm weather had certainly come to stay, and Unless began to find their work in the front yard more onerous. In an effort to keep the vines from damaging the fence some other way, Unless nailed together some lattice-work panes and put them in the path of the vines along the outside of the fence. Some weeks later, the new method seemed to be working and Unless stopped imagining the front yard filled with uncontrolled vines.
Until returned from a bartering expedition with word that some of the neighbors were putting together a party of hunters. There were wild pigs in the forest too dangerous to hunt alone. The neighbors were hoping Unless would join them, because they was known as an especially good hunter.
Unless was very happy to go, both for the hunt itself and at the prospect of their share of any meat. After a good lunch, Unless packed their gear and set off. Until waved goodbye and turned to head back toward the back garden, where the first crop was going to be coming ripe very soon. Until stopped just inside the front door, however, and looked at Carl’s painting. They thought about Carl, then was reminded of one particular story Carl and some of the other sailors had told them.
Once the vegetables started to grow, it was never too early to make preparations for canning and pickling. It was never too early to have canned and pickled vegetables ready to trade with neighbors for baking supplies or cheese. Until decided that while it was not too early, it was not exactly the right time yet, and they wanted to paint a picture. Not just a copy of a picture, they way Any had done, but a brand new picture.
Until knew that Unless would be gone for at least a day or so. They rummaged in the box Any had left there to find a canvas, which they rested on the easel in the front room. Until set up a little tray with the colors they needed on the low table and began to paint.
It was dark outside and Until was very hungry when the painting was finished. They cleared up all the supplies, put them back in Any’s box, and then prepared a light supper of broth and salad. After dinner, Until stood for a long time in front of their painting, imagining what Unless would think when they saw it and planning out how to tell the story they had remembered.
The next afternoon, Until was reorganizing the larder when Unless returned, dirty and exausted, from the hunting trip. They had a whole haunch of one of the wild pigs the party had killed, and a couple of hocks for stew. They handed these to Until, put their gear away, and went upstairs to bathe. Until started a pot of stew with everything they could think of that would cook quickly, knowing that Unless would be very hungry for supper.
Unless reappeared, damp from their bath, and stood in the kitchen, tail twitching, watching the stew and sniffing the steam.
When the stew was ready, Until shooed Unless into the dining room and served them a heaping bowl, along with a large mug of ale. Joining them at the table with another bowl of stew, Until waited while Unless ate their whole bowl full and refilled it. Then they asked, “So the hunt was successful?”
“Yes, very successful. It would have been dangerous to have too many of those pigs going wild in this forest. Things should be fine for a while. It was good to see the neighbors, too, though it is usually more fun to hunt alone.” Until finished the second bowl full of stew and considered getting more, but decided to wait.
Until decided it was time for their surprise, “Unless, I have painted a picture for us. It is in the front room on the easel.”
Unless dropped their spoon in their empty bowl and hurried to the front room. Seeing the picture, they exclaimed, “It’s marvelous! A little boat out on the sea!”
“Did you hear the stories of this boat when we were on the Mirror? Carl told me about her. A magic boat with eyes on her prow that sails to wherever her master needs her.”
Unless leaned back and studied the picture thoughtfully. “I don’t think I heard that story. Her master doesn’t sail her?”
“Sometimes he does, but when he travels some other way – Carl didn’t say how – and ends up on distant islands, his little boat comes to find him. In the story, the sails were woven out of the air itself. He was from an island of fishermen and pirates, and grew up to be a great and powerful man.”
“It would take powerfulness to make a boat like that,” remarked Unless, “It is difficult to imagine. And so small a boat, steering herself over waves as big as hills. Even with eyes it is impressive that little boat could do such a thing.
“It’s marvelous,” said Unless, “Both the story and the picture. Did you bring your ale in here with you? I want to sing you a toast.”
They both fetched their ale and returned to the front room. Unless raised their mug and sang.
The wind it may blow wherever it will
But stories they travel much farther still
And stories they tell of much stranger things
Than what we have seen that wind ever brings
Yes we have seen marvels with our own eyes
We tell our own tales and share our suprise
Some stories we tell, the ones we’ve been told,
Double the marvels the mind can behold
Unless finished their toast to Until with a cheer and then took a huge swallow of ale. Until cheered Unless's toast and thanked them profusely.
Unless said, “That picture should go in the dining room where we can see it. It is different from the painting of the tiger, but perhaps they will go together alright.”
Until was a little flustered, but agreed. They hung the new picture in the dining room behind the chair where Until usually sat. Unless was pleased because they would have a good view of it there. Unless was only able to enjoy the picture for a few minutes that evening, however, because the exhaustion of the hunting trip soon caught up with them, and they went to bed.
Until sat in Unless’s chair and looked at their picture, well satisfied with the days work. Soon, all that hard work caught up with them, too. Until rinsed the dishes, put the dishes in the sink, covered over the remains of the stew, and left the rest of the cleaning for tomorrow.