I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind
It had been a long day and Father Ignatius had travelled to the city and driven back all on the same day; something which he hated to do, especially when he had to navigate his way through heavy city traffic.
He was a little tired so he settled down in his armchair next to the fireplace and put on his favourite classical record.
A few minutes later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, came in and interrupted the orchestra in mid-flow. She was carrying a large tray with tea and biscuits.
“I’ve made you a lovely pot of tea Father,” she said, “and you favourite ginger biscuits.”
“Ginger biscuits?” he replied turning the volume down on the record player, “but it’s not Friday …”
“I know Father … but I thought you deserved a treat today. What with your long journey and what’s been happening at the Convent?”
The priest raised his eyebrows, “I don’t understand …” he said.
“Oh … no one has told you … have they?” she continued as she poured two cups of tea and sat down, “Sister Martha rang me earlier on and gave me the news …
“Well earlier this afternoon … at about four o’clock it was … I’m sure that’s what she said … anyway, earlier this afternoon they found a baby on the doorstep of the Convent.”
“A baby,” said Father Ignatius helping himself to another biscuit.
“Yes … a wee little mite … about a week old they say … a little boy. Mother Superior found him just by the statue of St Joseph and the Baby Jesus … you know the one … the statue outdoors by the main entrance to the Convent.”
“Yes … yes … I know …” said Father Ignatius, “what happened then?”
“Well the wee baby was crying so Mother Superior took him in … he needed changing … and probably hungry too I shouldn’t wonder. Sister Martha called the police and they took him away to the hospital to check he’s all right.”
“Dear Lord,” mumbled Father Ignatius as he said a quick silent prayer under his breath.
“What kind of person would do such a thing?” said Mrs Davenport angrily as she poured two more cups of tea, “to abandon one’s own flesh and blood like that …”
“A desperate person,” replied the priest gently, “we can only wonder what led her to such an extreme act.”
“But she’s his mother …” interrupted Mrs Davenport, “how could she … she's supposed to love him.”
“Giving birth in itself does not make a person a loving mother,” replied Father Ignatius, “normally there is a strong unbreakable bond between the mother and child from the moment the baby is born; if not well before.
“That bond of love I believe has been created by God for our own protection from the moment we enter this world. God knows we are born totally defenceless and vulnerable so He created that special protection which is a mother’s love.
“Now I’m not saying this bond of love did not exist in this baby’s case … most probably it does … so can you imagine the terrible circumstances which led this poor desperate woman to abandon her child … as you put it.
“In fact … she did not abandon him … she could have left him anywhere and walked off … that’s abandonment … but she carefully selected the most appropriate place where he would have been found and cared for.
“No doubt she hid behind some bushes in the Convent gardens and waited for the baby to be found.”
“What … like Moses?” said Mrs Davenport, “I thought he was left floating in a basket in the river … not at a Convent!”
Father Ignatius smiled.
“Did they have Convents in Moses time?” she continued innocently.
“I don’t think so,” answered the priest as he got up to remove the record from the turntable.
“Do you think she’s Catholic … the mother that is … is that why she left him at the Convent?” went on Mrs Davenport.
“I really wouldn’t know … no doubt all will come to light sooner or later,” replied Father Ignatius patiently, “in the meantime I suggest we say a little prayer for the little child and his mother.”
At this point Father Donald entered the room.
“Did you hear the terrible news …” he asked gravely.
“Yes … I was telling Father Ignatius about it …” piped up Mrs Davenport, “they found a baby abandoned at the Convent.”
“Well … there have been further developments …” said Father Donald, “I met Sister Martha just now and she told me … they found the body of a teenage girl at the far end of the park behind some bushes … an overdose … all indications are that she’s the mother of the child … she was clutching a letter to her parents in her hand …”
“Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m so sorry I left home. I couldn’t take any more arguments and shouting. I went to stay with a school friend.
Sometime later I met a man at a party and we became friends. I went to live with him and I got pregnant. He wanted me to get rid of it. I said no and he asked me to leave his apartment. I went back to my school friend. She helped me all this time I was pregnant and I had a baby boy in secret. She took me to a house of a friend where I had the baby three days ago.
I left him at the Convent and saw a nun take him in. Then I saw a police car at the Convent. I think they are looking for me. I am frightened and don’t know what to do. Louise.”
Father Ignatius stopped reading the newspaper. It seems the police had no choice but to publish the letter in order to try to identify who the dead teenager found in the park was.
The priest left the
room and went to his church to offer Mass for the repose of her soul.
King Arthur was encouraged and elated to have taken the walking stick out of the concrete slab, because it confirmed that he would be a good King of Camelot and rule it wisely.
He pressed on into the forest in search for the unicorn with the golden tail with the ability to heal people through magic. His intention was to allow the unicorn to roam free throughout Camelot and to use his magic for the good of one and all.
And the unicorn would say “Neigh neigh …” but that would be an opportunity for me to sneak in a cheap horse joke into what is a serious subject.
“What is good magic and bad magic?” asked the King of his Knights.
“Is this another riddle?” asked Sir Stupid, “I like riddles …”
“No it is not a riddle,” said Arthur growing wise by the day, “I have a dilemma. Who is to decide what is good and what is bad magic? Let us suppose for instance, my servant Merlin here is a wizard, or warlock or some sort or sorcerer …”
The Knights laughed. Merlin frowned and forced a smile fearing he had been found out.
“No … seriously …” laughed Arthur, “suppose Merlin was a magical wizard of some sort. And the farmers in the valley of Camelot are starving because there has been no rain, and the crops are dying and there will be a famine. Suppose Merlin makes it rain; and the farmers are happy, but the people in the villages down by the coast are flooded and many perish and drown and die. Has Merlin performed good or bad magic?”
“Is the answer umbrella?” asked Sir Stupid.
“May Heavens help me,” said Arthur, “one of these days I will hit you so hard with my shield I’ll knock that stupidity out of you!”
“Let Merlin make him wise!” laughed Sir Laugh-a-lot.
Merlin winced again. This was getting too close for comfort. Had someone discovered that he’d been pouring wisdom potion in King Arthur’s drink?
“You can see why my father, King Uther, banned all magic from Camelot,” continued Arthur, “perhaps he went too far by banning it all altogether. And also, in his days there were a lot of evil sorcerers and witches using magic to spread evil and suffering throughout the land. As a result, all these people, whether good or bad magicians, have gone into hiding or been banished from Camelot. They did not cease to exist. Banning them did not make them cease to exist!”
Merlin smiled at the King’s wisdom.
“All that’s happened is that they are around us, and we don’t know them,” continued Arthur, “if I were now to declare that they, and the unicorn, and that chameleon I had stuck to my groin, and the flying dragon in the dungeons of Camelot … if I were to declare that they are all legal by royal decree and they can perform their magic at will. I am being kind to Camelot and its people, or am I condemning them to a worse fate than what they have now?”
For once, all the Knights remained silent. Even Sir Stupid.
“You’ve said nothing, Merlin,” remarked the King, “what is your point of view on this?”
Merlin approached the group sitting on the ground in a circle meekly and said, “I think, Sire, you are being too hard on yourself. You are taking on too much personal responsibility on what people might do and how they are to behave.
“As a good and wise King, which you are, your role is first to protect your people from enemies of the Kingdom, and from starvation and illnesses. You do this by having your noble Knights and armies to defend the city, and by allowing your people to flourish, to learn and to have the freedom, within the law, to develop and to grow and to help one another.
“You cannot dictate how each individual will think or will behave. That is their personal freedom of choice. Most in society will work for the good of themselves, their families and their fellow man. It’s what natural for people to do.
“Some others, perhaps a minority, will be greedy and will resort to evil practices to succeed through cheating and evil doing.
“Your role, Sire,” continued Merlin hesitantly, “your role is to maintain a balance between good and evil in your Kingdom. If you were to allow magic again in Camelot, no doubt some bad sorcerers will use evil to flourish. But let good flourish too, and in the end, be confident and assured that good will conquer evil. It always does … in the end!”
There was total silence throughout the group. The King was amazed at the wisdom of his servant. Merlin withdrew quietly at a distance and sat under a tree as he always did.
And the moral of this story, (so far), is: Well, I’ll leave you to work it out.
The next morning was like a new dawn had dawned on the now wise King Arthur who was growing wiser by the day.
He reflected on what Merlin, his loyal friend and faithful servant had said the previous day.
His role as King was
to protect the people of Camelot from enemies of the Kingdom; and to allow the
citizens to flourish in freedom and without fear of persecution for their
beliefs. As long as they lived peacefully and did good to each other, and did
not do wrong or evil to each other, they would be safe from his authority and
He called his Knights of the Round Table and asked them to sit on the ground because there was no table in the forest to sit around. He also invited Merlin to sit with them as an equal.
“I want you all to go out to the villages in Camelot and throughout my Kingdom,” he said, “I want you to go dressed like ordinary people. Don’t let them know you are Knights. Speak to them. Ask them what, do they think of me as King? What is right and what is wrong about the Kingdom? What could be done better to improve their lives and their lot? What do they fear? What stories, tales and legends have they heard or been passed on to them from their parents and grand-parents?
“This will help me to prioritise what I, and you, need to do to help our people and to get them to flourish and better their lives.
“You have a week to do all this. Then let us meet in Camelot.
“Merlin and I are going there right now. Let us forget about the unicorn with the golden tail. If he exists, and he does good for sick people, then why am I wasting time in search for him? Let him be the first to flourish under my new rules!
Sir Stupid raised his hand.
“Can we get up now,” he said, “my bottom is getting wet in this damp grass!”
A week later, the King and all his Knights, met in the great hall in Camelot Castle. There were so many of them, including the ones who had remained in the Castle whilst the King was roaming the forest, that the Round Table was not big enough for all of them to sit round it.
The King sat on his throne with Merlin beside him to take notes. Botox the old warlock was there too.
“Now tell me,” said King Arthur, “what stories, tales and legends have you heard from my people?”
Sir Tainty, who was always accurate in his research, was first to speak, “Sire,” he said, “there are indeed many legends regarding the performance of magic and sorcery in the land. Both good and evil. And the populous agree with you, that magic should be allowed throughout the Kingdom as long as it is for the good of the people; like healing diseases and illnesses with potions and poultices. However, any evil intent should be prohibited and stopped. We need to test each case on its merit and judge it likewise!”
“Anything else?” asked the King.
“Sire,” said Sir Vox Populi, “I heard that people believe that deep in the North, in the land of the lakes called Scotland, there is a monster that lives in a lake. Some say they have seen it. It has a long neck and long tail.”
“I also heard that there is a baker who uses sand instead of flour to make his bread!” reported Sir Cookbook, Camelot’s culinary expert and feeder of the dogs.
“Sand instead of flour?” asked Sir Lancelot, “what does the bread taste like?”
“We don’t know,” said Cookbook, “no one has ever eaten the bread. Not even the baker who bakes it … or his dogs!”
“Indeed Sire,” confirmed Sir Tefied, “I heard the same thing. I was also told that there is in the forest a female monster with wings and her hair is made or many serpents moving to and fro ready to bite people!”
“Sounds like my wife!” said Sir Fearful.
“Does your wife have wings?” asked Sir Galahad.
“She wishes she had,” replied Fearful, “ever since she was stopped by the guards for flying under the influence of drink, they’ve taken her broomstick and she’s grounded!”
The Knights laughed.
“I also heard other similar tales,” added Sir Vetude meekly, “I was told there is a sea monster with many heads. If you cut one head, the monster still lives and grows another one. You need to cut all of them with one stroke of your sword. Which is difficult because it keeps moving its heads.”
“I was told there are creatures which are half human and half something else,” reported another Knight, “like the top half is a man able to fight with swords and bows and arrows, yet the lower half is like an elephant, or a hippopotamus. Also in the sea there are women with the top half human and naked and you can see there womanly bits, yet the lower half is a fish. There are similar smaller ones with the lower half a sardine.”
“I heard a worse story,” hesitated another Knight, “there is a big wolf in the forest with at least three heads. Some say it has as many as seven heads. And a big bottom. His bottom is bigger than the whole of Camelot. In fact, it is bigger than the whole wide world. The Universe even. So you don’t know which to attack first because you can be defeated by either end … especially if he has had beans, Sire!”
“I heard there is a box deep in the caves,” another Knight claimed, “I don’t know its size. Some say it is small, others say it is bigger, others say it is humongous so big it is. Bigger than all the mountains in the world. And if you open it all sorts of bad things come out. Like broccoli, and flat tires, and split ends in your hair, and piano lessons and … I don’t know … all sorts of bad things people don’t like.”
“Enough …” said the King calmly raising his hands, “you have done well. You have brought me news of all the things people believe and fear. Some may be real whilst others may be just stories, figments of peoples’ imaginations. You have also brought me news of what is good and right in the Kingdom of Camelot. And this gladdens my heart for it encourages me for the future.
“By the power vested in me I declare Merlin Knight Emeritus. He will be in charge of the King’s Depository of Knowledge. I said Depository … not suppository. You will all report to him your findings and he will decide which are to be investigated further.
“Meanwhile, all magic will be allowed in Camelot as long as it can be proven to be for the good of the people. All magicians, sorcerers, warlocks, wizards and witches will be allowed to go freely as long as they do no harm.”
“Including dragons?” asked Fly-by-Night, the dragon who had been imprisoned in the dungeons by King Uther, Arthur’s father.
“Yes, including dragons,” declared Arthur.
“How about chameleons?” asked a chameleon’s voice from somewhere unseen.
“Including chameleons,” said the King, “as long as you keep off my leg!”
And they lived happily ever after.