How the Old Man's Life Changed

By Jovita C.

Long ago there lived an old man. He was really too old to do anything, but for his survival, he had to cut firewood and sell it day after day to the villagers. He had no friends, no one to look into his hut and see if he was well or ill. Even the neighbours were too busy to bother about an old man who lived next door. He had become an insignificant little symbol in the village where no one bothered about him. But he was a kindly old man. He would like to know if anything was bothering Mrs. Crayton, next door or Mr. Halliwell across the street. Unfortunately, the villagers, rude as always, did not like the old man interfering in their business or problems. "What does he care?" they said, "Why does he have to be so inquisitive?" So soon he had to stop being kindly on account of their criticism. This separated him entirely from society.

One bright morning when the old man woke up he had a funny feeling. He couldn't quite put his finger on it though. As he set out to fetch some wood the neighbours were their usual selves and ignored his, 'Good morning!' as usual, but he still had that funny feeling. When he came back from the woods to sell the wood it was still there! "Why do I feel so strange today?" he thought. He made his most amount of money that day - 2 gold pieces. "That must be it," he thought, "I must have somehow felt I'd do well today." So content with his explanation he headed for home. On his way he heard Mr. Baker telling Mr. Peterson, "...I suppose they will soon though. Strange she just appeared in our village, but it must be what she usually does. Appear and disappear." The old man didn't take much of this, but as he walked on he heard more about the 'she' doing something and that the entire village was looking for her. He made nothing of this of course. The villagers wouldn't explain anything to him and anyway it didn't make any sense at all.

He reached his little hut and turned on the little lamp. Suddenly he felt as though he was not alone in his hut. He looked around, but he didn't see anything different. "Part of old age probably," he thought. He entered the room, but he didn't have to turn on the lamp there. A little girl in proper clothes was sitting on his only chair. There was a little candle burning brightly on the table. She was startled when she saw him. She had dark red hair and deep blue eyes. She must've been around nine or ten.

"Who are you?" she asked. She had a soft voice with a note of apprehension in it. "Do... do you live here?" she continued.

"Yes" he didn't know what else to say to her. He was so shocked to find her there. Suddenly he found his voice and said, "Are you 'she'?"

To his surprise she laughed. It was a sweet gentle sort of laughter. "Are you scared of me?" she asked. Her question was more surprising than her behaviour so far!

"Scared? Why should I be scared of you?"

"It's because... uh... don't you know?" she said uncertainly.

"Know what?" he asked.

"I-I know magic," she said.

"You do, do you?" he asked.

"I can see you don't believe me. It's funny! When I lied to the others they immediately thought I might know magic, and here when I'm telling you the truth you don't believe me!"

"Why are the villagers after you? Did you do something wrong?"

"No! But one funny looking man saw me and immediately asked where I'd come from. I supposed he knew everyone around this village well or he'd have thought I was just the milkman's daughter or something. But I tried anyway. I told him I was the milkman's niece. I was right in my supposition. He didn't believe me and spread the rumour that I'm a witch," she said.

"Are you really a witch? Or are you playing along the rumour?" he asked eyeing her carefully.

"Of course I'm a witch. It's strange how that man came to the right conclusion! For all he knows I could be a lost girl from another village or a thief, even!" she retorted. Then she said, "I'm really very tired Sir. I know you wouldn't turn me over to them. I knew from the first time I saw you. That's why I didn't mind telling you the truth. Please could I stay here just for the night? I would be ever so grateful!"

It took a while for the old man to answer. No one had called him 'sir'. At least not in his old age. He made a quick look-over. He noticed that she was a no-nonsense girl, sweet, adorable but straightforward. Not the type who would lie. "Alright. You can sleep here. If you need anything I will be outside." He turned then stopped and said, "If you really know magic, why can't you magic yourself out of this problem?"

"I'm not allowed to do magic to help myself. Only to help... uh... nothing. I can't help myself with my magic," she said.

So the old man went outside thinking about the little girl. She was bold and intelligent; finally he came to the conclusion that she was indeed a no-nonsense girl. Maybe it was this that he had felt funny about, the old man thought distinctly as he drifted off into a pleasant sleep.

The next morning the old man woke up early as usual. He went in the room to see the girl, but she wasn't there. He looked everywhere in his little hut but she wasn't anywhere. Just when he was coming to the conclusion that he had dreamt about her she appeared into the room. "Where were you little one? I was getting a little worried!" he inquired of her as soon as he remembered she could do funny things like appear and disappear.

"I'm sorry, Sir. I went out to see if people were still looking for me," she explained.

"Do you want some breakfast? I have a little pancake powder. I can make some for you, if you would like some," he said.

"Oh! That would be wonderful!"

After a while he brought a plate with two pancakes and a half-filled glass of milk. "Here, dear," he said handing it to her. He then sat there watching her eat.

Suddenly she looked up and asked, "Sir, have you finished having your breakfast?"

"No child. Go on eat. Don't worry about me! I am used to going for days without my meals," he said.

She shook her head and said, "I'll have nothing of the sort!" Then she pointed her finger at the table and said some really funny words. The old man also looked at the table and saw a large plate filled with pancakes and syrup with a little butter on top. Next to that was a large tumbler of milk. The old man stared open-mouthed. "Eat it quickly or it will become cold," she said gently. The old man went in the kitchen to get a knife and fork and gulped the wonderful food and milk obediently. He wouldn't have accepted it but he was so very hungry he couldn't control himself.

And so it went on like this. The little girl always provided him with scrumptious rich meals (which he shared with her). One morning though, after two weeks of the little girl's stay, she disappeared again. But this time she wasn't coming back. She left a small bag and a note behind. The old man took the note first and read it:

Dear Sir

Thank-you so much for giving me shelter, but I must go now for the villagers have forgotten about me. I will though, explain a few things. I belong to a Kind Deed School in which students are sent to different places, and they have to do good deeds. Unfortunately, in your village no one let me do my project. As soon as I entered I was regarded a witch, and they nearly burnt me like they did some time back. I never knew anyone lived in your little hut. That was why I was very surprised, but then I knew. You must be my project. I was sent to do good to you Sir.
Thus I am leaving a bag of gold so you may buy yourself proper meals and clothes. And I also have a surprise for you, which you will soon discover.
I will truly miss you kind Sir.

Thank-you again,

Yours sincerely, Gail

(That's my name by the way!)

The old man cried a little for he had grown fond of the little girl. Just then there was a knock on his door. His neighbour Mrs. Crayton was there. She came to invite him to her house for dinner. He was very surprised, but then he realized that this was the surprise for his neighbours to be good to him.

From that day on everything changed for the better, and the old man died happily and was remembered by his neighbours for a long time afterward.