Closing accounts, p.1
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       Closing Accounts, p.1

           E.P. Cowley
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Closing Accounts
Closing Accounts

  by E. P. Cowley

  Copyright 2015 E.P. Cowley

  Cover illustration by J. Cowley

  --Until the day dawns

  and the morning star rises . . .

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  LETTY BEGINS

  MICHAEL’S SKETCH

  THE PAINTER’S EXPOSITION

  EXTRACTS FROM THE BOOK OF TALES

  The Poor Man and His Treasure

  The Ungrateful Guests

  The Girl Who Was Robbed

  A Tale of Two Sons

  QUIETUS

  EPILOGUE

  Acknowledgements and Author Information

  LETTY BEGINS

  Far away, on the coast of a northern country, on a lonely farm beside the sea, a daughter was born to poor parents. Everything else in the world seemed old and jaded, and no one cared about the birth but the mother, the father, and a very old woman with a strangely carved staff. She was on her way home across the fields and had stopped in to get out of the cold. No one knew where she’d come from.

  “She’s a fine baby,” the old woman said, “and I give her my blessing. She’ll be one of those who see beyond.” Then the old woman left.

  “What did she mean by that?” the father said.

  “I’ve no idea,” the mother replied, and over the days and months that followed, the old woman was forgotten in the struggle to keep food on the table and fuel on the fire.

  One day, after a rainstorm, when the girl was three years old, she wandered away from the house, across the grass and over the hill. She had decided to follow the rainbow.

  After a while, the mother came out of the house and called to the father who was working in the garden, “Where’s Letty?”

  “Dunno,” Father said, “I thought she was with you.”

  “And I thought she was with you,” Mother said. “Oh dear, where could she have gotten to?”

  “Maybe she’s hiding in the house. Children do that sometimes, don’t they?” Father said, but he was really thinking of the mountain lion tracks he’d seen behind the house just that morning, and Mother was thinking of the well.

  Just then, the sun shone out and Letty came tromping over the hill, her short fair curls waving in the wind. Relieved, Mother and Father waved at her. Letty waved back with a closed fist and as she came closer, they saw she had something clenched in her hand that glittered in the sun.

  “What do you have there, Letty,” Father said.

  “Yellow,” Letty said. “Sunshine.” She grinned and opened her hand. A large gold coin flashed in the sun. “Shines,” she said, and gave it to her father. In her other hand she clutched two more coins and there were nine more stuffed in the pockets of her thin sweater.

  “A dozen gold coins!” Mother exclaimed. “Letty, wherever did you get them?”

  But being so young, she could say no more.

  The gold went a long way. There were improvements on the farm. Letty had warmer clothes, and that winter the family had more fuel for the fire.

  * * * * * * *

  The spring that Letty turned six, she took up a piece of charcoal and began to draw on the side of their whitewashed house. Instead of being angry, the father and mother were surprised and pleased. Letty’s drawings were beautiful: wistful rabbits and sly foxes, half human sea creatures, laughing faces peeking out of leafy vines, and the huge forms of gods and goddesses standing in a garden. Letty drew all these and more until the walls of the house were covered. Then, one day after a rain, the sun came out and Letty marched off in the direction of the rainbow.

  “Where are you going?” her mother called.

  “Back soon,” Letty called, and disappeared over the hill.

  She returned three hours later, tired, her pockets stuffed with golden coins. She marched into the house and dumped all the coins on the table before her startled parents.

  “Where have you been?” her father asked.

  “This is the last time. I’m getting too old,” was all the girl said.

  “This will last a lifetime, child,” her father said. Which was true. He and his wife were thrifty and wise. But, the next time Father went into the city, he came home with canvas and brushes and paints. He gave them all to Letty and said, “See what you can do with these, child.”

  So, Letty began to paint. She painted pictures of the sea and the fields, wild animals, and other strange creatures that had no name the mother or father could recall.

  One day, years later, when Letty was twelve, Father hauled in his fishing nets and found a large speckled seal entangled in the ropes. He raised his knife to cut its throat when he heard shouting behind him. Turning, he saw Letty running out of the house, waving her arms, crying, “Father! Stop! Don’t kill her!”

  “Why not?” Father said as she drew close and held back his arm. “Why not, child? We have to eat too.”

  “But Father,” Letty said. “Can’t you see she’s a great lady?”

  Father looked down at the seal’s dark eyes. The seal was gazing at Letty as if it knew the girl. “No, Letty,” Father said, “I see a wild creature, not a lady.”

  “But don’t you see? She’s the great and beautiful lady I drew on the back wall of the house years ago.”

  Father looked at Letty, then he looked at the seal. Suddenly he remembered the old woman who had appeared at Letty’s birth. “Do you see beyond, child?” he asked.

  “I see this lady. Don’t you?”

  “No, but I’ll set the creature free.”

  “Father, let me do it. It wouldn’t be proper for you to touch her.”

  So Letty took her father’s knife and cut the net to let the seal free. As the seal turned to go, Letty curtseyed and Father, taking his cue from Letty, bowed awkwardly. Then the seal splashed off and disappeared in the waves.

  Letty took the nets, sat down on a rock and began to mend the cuts and tears. Father sat down beside her staring off to sea.

  “Look, Letty!” he cried suddenly.

  A crowd of dark heads rose above the waves: seals, swimming toward the shore. One by one they flopped onto the sand, flung a large fish at Father’s feet, then splashed back into the sea. When they were done, Father said, “Letty, this is far more than my net would have held.”

  But Letty wasn’t paying attention. She was waving to a large speckled seal sitting on a rock on the other side of the cove. For a flash of time, Father saw a great lady with long dark hair, dressed in sparkling robes. Then there was the seal again and it plunged back into the sea.

  When Father told Mother the tale, she was frightened. “Husband, what if you had killed her! We must be more careful. If only we could see like Letty does.”

  “I’ll ask Letty to paint the lady, then you’ll see.”

  So Father took the fish into the city and sold them. He returned with more canvas and paint for Letty, saying, “Here, child. See what you can do with these.”
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