Until cleaned the kitchen before cooking breakfast the next morning. After breakfast, they began cleaning the breakfast things and thinking about what needed to be done before harvesting any more vegetables from the garden.
Unless looked at the front yard and felt bored. They needed a different activity today. They went to look at all the pictures, one by one, particularly the ones of the ocean. They looked back and forth between the picture of Hespera Delia’s growing birds and the picture of Hespera Delia with the OSV mirror for quite a long time.
Until was busy in the garden, gathering the first crop in a basket. Unless found a canvas in the box of painting supplies, set it on the easel, and began to paint. At lunchtime, Until called them to the dining room for a salad. They both ate quickly, preoccupied by their separate projects. Until told Unless to leave the lunch things for later, because they needed to steam jars for their first round of canning and there shouldn’t be dirty plates in the kitchen until after that was done.
Unless returned to their painting and made steady progress throughout the afternoon. Until put the steamed jars upside down in pans of steaming water and washed up the dinner things. Just as they finished, Unless called from the front room, “Come see!”
Until hurried in, rushing straight to the picture on the easel. After admiring it for a minute, they said, “Unless, you have made a wonderful picture! And intriguing. Did you remember this from our travels?”
Unless looked down at the floor. “Not really. Carl did tell a story, though, when he was here visiting us and helping clean up the kitchen. The man in the sea. An ancestor of Hespera Delia. He set her and his other descendants to looking after the many things that live in the ocean. Even if it is just a story, and not something anybody could ever really see, it is a good story.”
“A good story,” agreed Until, “and a good picture! It is all there. The wondrous birds perch on him. Even though he is made of water! And the fishfolk bringing him a wondrous egg from the sea floor – I remember Carl and the other sailors telling us of the fishfolk. Perhaps the man in the sea is commanding the fishfolk to take the egg to Hespera Delia.”
“Exactly!” said Unless, “He could also be telling those two birds to guide them, or to fly to Hespera Delia and tell her to expect him.”
“He could have everything in the ocean come to him, or do what he says – he certainly looks like a commanding character. But it could just as easily be that he is making a bargain with the wondrous birds and the other creatures, agreeing with them how things shall be managed.” Until looked at the painting again, “He is so commanding, but he is letting that bird sit in a nest on his shoulder, which looks very friendly, at least to birds. And the fishfolk is holding the egg forward so proudly, not as if they were commanded to do something with it.”
“Yes,” said Unless, “Some kind of bargain makes more sense. It would be easier to manage so many things if everyone agrees. Whichever it is, the man in the sea does make a good story, and he seemed a good thing to paint.” They considered saying more, but stayed silent after that, hoping that Until would propose a place to hang the picture.
“It would be good to see this picture and think about it often,” said Until, and Unless pricked their ears happily. Until went on “Could we hang it in the dining room behind your seat?”
“That would be wonderful,” said Unless, “close to to the little boat with eyes. She has probably seen the man in the sea.”
They both laughed and took the new painting into the dining room and hung it behind Unless’s chair, which was exactly where Unless had been hoping Until would suggest.
Unless wandered back to the front room. It was a hot day and the kitchen was even hotter. They fingered the tooth-shaped rock and wondered if the Great Sea Serpent did what the man in the sea commanded, or if they had any kind of agreement at all. After musing on this and other matters for a bit, they cleaned up the painting supplies and looked at the empty easel. Perhaps Until would paint another picture. Perhaps they would paint another picture. Perhaps more would arrive. If more did arrive, hopefully it would be before Until’s cousin Any came to take the box of painting supplies away.
In the meantime, there would be plenty to do, Unless thought. Soon Until would call for help separating out seeds to dry for next Spring, more hunting trips as the forest animals grew fat on the Summer’s growth. Unless went back to the kitchen to help Until with the vegetables.
For supper there was roast pheasant and steamed green beans. The evening was very fine, the hot afternoon had cooled at last. Until opened the windows to let some breezes through and, hopefully, cool off the kitchen. They each spoke admiringly of the picture the other had painted and then talked about the back garden and all the things that would need doing during the coming weeks. After supper, Until poured them each a small glass of yellow wine and informed Unless that their new picture deserved a toast.
The man in the sea might learn to regret
what his former subjects will not soon forget
that all is a bargain, fair to both sides
no matter the winds and no matter the tides
For he likes to announce and condemn and command
all the things that come under his watery hand
but now he is bound by his own solemn words,
bound to the fishfolk, the sea and the birds
Unless praised the toast, and then they and Until turned to raise their glasses to the man in the sea, who abided by his vows even though he was obviously powerful enough to do almost anything. The evening breeze was so pleasant and the mood was so happy that Unless and Until both decided to have another glass of wine before going to bed.