It’s Tell A Story Day! So Here’s Mine:
Once upon a time there was a widow with five children. The eldest was Julian, a shiftless lad more inclined to hide in the haymow than clean the stable. Clothide was fifteen and whined about her clothes and hair and their lack of wealth. Twins Roger and Ronald were eight, naughty boys behind in their schooling because they would rather fight with one another than do sums. The baby, Ella, gave her mother trouble only when soiling her nappies or teething.
The widow Jane wasn’t a widow at all but the wife of a debauched fellow that had stolen what little they had of value and abandoned the farm for London in order to gamble and chase strumpets. In the morning when she hung laundry and again in the evening when dumping ashes from the stove, she bemoaned her fate. “Fairy godmother, please incline your ear to my pleas,” she wept. “I need some help with these children and a few pounds in the bargain.”
Her tears were answered in the form of Luigi, her fairy godfather. Yes, I said godfather. As anyone worth their salt knows, dear children, the women of the Victorian Era were good for twaddle. Most of what they did was have vapors, organize picnics and attend ladies society meetings.
On the Ides of March he came through the gate midmorning and Widow Jane shaded her eyes to get a better look. It did little good. This man was the answer to no prayer. He was short and bow-legged with straggly gray hair and tobacco stains on his chin. He had a nice voice, however, and manners. Introducing himself as a teacher, he asked only food and shelter in exchange for educating her mob of young. A bargain was struck. “If you don’t mind sharing the attic room with Julian?” she asked with uncertainty.
Luigi did but bowed and smiled. “Of course not, dear lady.”
He gathered the children in the front room and, while the widow was cooking the afternoon meal, spoke to them in low tones. “Listen, you guyses,” he said. “I’m from the faraway land of Joisey and I’m here to be godfather to your mama.”
They all stared at him with gaping maws for his speech was very strange. Only the children were ever privy to this as he addressed their mother in a refined British accent. He showed them a clenched fist and warned, “If youse should ever get the idear to rat on me I’ll give you a mouthful of bloody Chiclets. Capisce?”
Stricken with fear, the children agreed; the godfather’s demeanor was fierce. At supper that night he sat between Roger and the baby in her high chair. The unruly twin kept snickering with his brother and kicking Clothide under the table. Just as he was about to make his “see food” joke with Julian, Luigi calmly pinched his neck in such a manner as to make him choke. As the lad coughed and spluttered Luigi reached up and slapped his back. Tearful, he looked up at Luigi and got such a look as to make him behave the rest of the meal.
The godfather set about to get the attic room all to himself by means which do not bear repeating here. Suffice it to say, two days after Luigi’s arrival Julian came downstairs, walking gingerly and announced he was going to London to find work. He would either send money home or never return. Recognizing a win-win situation when she saw one, Widow Jane packed a lunch and kissed him farewell.
Luigi turned his attention to the elder girl child. Clothilde was a veteran weeper. She complained about her chores, the too-tight shoes she wore and the lack of young, eligible men in the area. At breakfast she pissed and moaned so long Luigi begged leave to go to the nearby village to attend to some business.
Of course, he had no business in the village. When he reached the home of Squire William he put a spell on the man. “When you awaken, you’ll go to the house of Widow Jane and ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage,” Luigi whispered in his ear as he slumbered.
And that is exactly what the squire did. Clothilde cried loudly for the squire was thrice her age. He was capable of buying another pair of shoes and many fine gowns for her to wear. Jane figured it was someone else’s turn to put up with the silly chit. The squire settled a generous dowry on the widow, which she sensibly pocketed.
Since the twins were of a tender age, Luigi was willing to work with them. Too much spirit had they, and Luigi despaired of being able to bring them to heel. He looked into his bag of tricks and took out his tommywand and went ‘round to a neighboring land. When Farmer Grunkin woke it was to the sight of a streetsweeper pointed at his nose. Quickly he agreed to let the man have his milk cow.
Luigi returned before first light with the milk cow and danced around the fire, singing an arcane song. The widow was overjoyed to hear about the “stray” milk cow and even more so when the cow gave birth to two calves. Luigi got a good price for them after they were weaned and persuaded the widow that the gold might best be spent on Catholic boarding school for the lively boys. They came home only in summer and at Yuletide, much better behaved. Or, if you like, cowed.
With only one child left at home and a farmstead as well, the widow became quite a catch. Her neighbor died peacefully in his sleep, without assistance from Luigi, leaving behind his farm and a middle-aged son. The son had a brillant idea: to marry the widow and join their farms as one. The widow thought it quite reasonable. That is, until her husband returned.
She was sitting in the doorway mending garments when she heard a drunken voice singing: ‘Ah near to my fair one, it’s so good to be, to be!’ The lout was reeling up the road, his shoes muddy and his breeches torn. Stumbling up the walk, he crowed, throwing his arms wide, “Give us a kiss, then, luv!”
To say the widow was alarmed is to say the least. He had lost several teeth, adding to the stench of his breath. Avoiding his grasping hands, she leaped up and ran in the house and clasped Ella to her bosom. Ignoring her and the baby, he went about the kitchen until coming across the cooking sherry. He downed it and promptly passed out from drink on the floor.
Luigi promised the widow he’d take care of the problem. Patting her shoulder, he sent her upstairs and tricked the husband into coming out to the barn with him. After clouting him over the head with a shovel once! twice! he tossed him into the pigpen. Since Luigi had forgotten to feed them that morning, the pigs were grateful creatures and gobbled the husband.
Of course, he failed to show up the next morning. Luigi assured her the man would be no further trouble as he’d had a man-to-man talk with him. Joyfully, the widow married her farmer and the day of the wedding she took Luigi’s face between her hands and, in a tearful voice said, “How can I repay you for all your kindness?”
Luigi blushed and told her, “Fahgeddaboudit.” With that, he bent low over her hand, kissed it then disappeared in a puff of smoke.
And the widow, now again a wife, lived happily ever after.