He sighed and rubbed his shoulder, which worried Sunday.
Storyless days happened, when the weather was foul or the
work had been troublesome. Most days, however, he brought
her a little something: a tale or a trinket. His eyes would get
bright, and there would be mischief and laughter in his voice.
For that brief moment, Papa was happy, and he was all hers.
Not that anything could dim the happiness that still shone inside
her from making a new friend, but a story from Papa would
have been the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Papa sat back and rested his hands on the table. He looked
at Sunday thoughtfully, for a long time. And then he smiled.
Sunday caught it and grinned right back at him, for in that smile
was a story.
"We went deep into the Wood today." He leaned forward
to whisper the words to her, as if they were a secret between
the two of them. "Deep into the Wood, where the trees are so
tall and the leaves are so thick that no sunlight touches the dark
"Were you scared?" Sunday whispered back.
"A little," he admitted. "I told Peter and Saturday to stay at
the edge of the Wood."
"You told Saturday to do something and she obeyed?" The
only orders Sunday had ever seen her sister obey were Mama's.
Everyone always did what Mama said. Every time.
"Well, no," admitted Papa. "I gave her a very large task and
told her she could join me when she'd finished."
"Did she finish?"
"Not yet. It was a very, very large task."
"You are a clever Papa."
"I am a Papa with much experience keeping his mischievous
children out of harm's way," he said. "The edge is the safest,
but deep in the Wood is where one finds the best trees. The
old trees. I never take more than one at a time, and I always
wait several moons before I take another one. The lumber from
that tree will always fetch the highest price. It will be the most
beautiful, and it will last forever. No mortal fire can burn
"Did you take an Elder Wood tree today?"
"I did. I asked the gods' permission and begged the tree's
forgiveness before I forced it to give its life. And since no one
was around, I did not yell 'timber' before its fall."
Sunday gasped. Anyone who had ever lived near the Wood
knew the importance of yelling to announce a treefall. Silence
had dangerous consequences.
"The tree came down with a spectacular crash! And when
the Wood became silent again, I heard a yelping."
"Did you hurt someone?" She was afraid to know the answer.
It was clear that Mama wasn't worried; she continued to busy
herself in the kitchen as if she hadn't heard a word of Papa's tale.
"Very nearly. It took me a long time to get to the other
side of the tree. When I did, I found a leprechaun hopping
"A leprechaun? Wasn't that lucky," Sunday remarked skeptically.
"Luckier for him! He was still alive to be hopping around,"
Papa said. "Trapped by his beard, he was, and mighty put out
about it, too." Sunday laughed.
"I hope you asked for his gold," Mama's voice echoed from
inside the oven as she retrieved the bread.
"Of course I did, woman! What kind of man do you take
"A fool, most days," Mama murmured. She wiped her
hands on her apron and picked up a knife to cut the loaf. "Go
on, "finish your story."
" Thank you, wife." Papa leaned forward again and took up
his storytelling tone once more. "The leprechaun pleaded with
me to set him free."
"And did you?"
"I asked for his gold first." Papa glanced at Mama, but she
did not show that she had heard his comment. "He promised it
all to me. Told me if I used my ax to chop him free he would
lead me to it." Mama clucked her tongue. She was listening. "Of
course I didn't believe him," Papa said loudly. "I said I wanted
proof. He told me he had three gold coins in his pocket. He
would give them to me as a down payment, so if he ran away, I
wouldn't be left with nothing for my trouble."
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...