A Mischief of Monumental Proportions
the next hour, he waved off advancing citizens with untold issues and
requests, and Tillman found his patience receding with each encounter,
so he decided to cut short his afternoon at the festival, and return to
the sanity of his library.
He finished his tea, and he was about to
rise from the chair, when he saw a boy approaching, from the other side
of the lawn.
Tillman could see the boys suit had
been altered from someone just a bit taller than he, and it was not a
new suit, by any means, which was in stark contrast to the crisp new suits
worn by many of the other boys. But, it was neatly pressed, and the boy
wore it with a sense of bearing he had not seen in many boys of his age,
which Tillman assumed to be about nine or ten years. It was his curiosity
about the boys determined advance, which rooted Tillman in his seat,
and he waited for the boy to draw nearer, before he frowned.
"And what is it you have come for,
lad?" he asked, employing his deepest tone of voice, to unsettle
the boy before he could begin his appeal.
Without faltering, the boy came to a stop
just a few feet away, and with a voice high but firm, he replied:
"We are gathering donations for the
orphans, sir, and it would be ever so nice if you could help them."
Tillman had to give the boy credit for bravery
under fire, and he decided to see if the boy had the mettle to press on.
Softening his tone, while maintaining his furrowed brow, he asked:
"And why should I help them?"
"Well, sir, you have been sitting alone
for an hour and orphans are all alone in the world, and can you imagine
what it must feel like to be all alone for all of your hours?" the
Tillman was silent for a few seconds, and
then nodded his head, slowly.
"Yes, boy, I can, and it would be a
very painful thing to know," he agreed, solemnly.
He then tapped the chair opposite him, with
"Sit, and tell me lad, how are the
orphans faring from your efforts, thus far?" he asked, as the boy
obeyed him, and sat on the chair, and resting his collection plate on
"Mrs. Hooley, and Mrs. Donovan gave
nicely, sir, though it wouldnt be proper to say how much and all,
and Mrs. Carmichael always gives what she can, for things such as this,"
the boy replied. "And, old Mr. Bartholomew is always willing to help
anyone, and Mrs. Honeybottom gave, as well. Shes very nice."
Tillman grunted, and then asked:
"I see. And, how are the civic-minded
men of Bradbury demonstrating their charitable side, with you?"
The boy tilted his head to the side, and
"Well, some of them give their envelopes
to their boys for Reverend Picklenose, sir, and there was an especially
nice man who walked up to me and straight away handed me an envelope.
He was very nice."
"Yes, there are those," Tillman
said, pleased to hear evidence that Braxton was doing as he had instructed.
The boy continued with his answer, by adding:
"The others turn their backs to me
and pretend to be talking to someone important, so they dont have
to see me."
In spite of himself, Tillman smiled at the
"So, how did you come to choose me?"
"Well, sir, I thought since you were
sitting down, and you seemed kind of alone, I thought maybe you might
like to have someone to talk to, and maybe you would be nice and donate
something, too," the boy replied.
Tillman tilted his head a little to the
left and frowned just enough for effect, as he asked:
"But, what if I had a black heart,
or I was a total blackguard? What then?"
"Well sir, I would say you couldnt
have a black heart, for it would not work and you would be dead, and I
couldnt talk to you," he replied, and then added, "Well,
at least I dont think so. My Auntie Agatha says that we can talk
to the dead, but I dont think I would want to talk to a dead person."
"No," Tillman agreed, shaking
his head. "I shouldnt think there would be much pleasure to
be had in such a pursuit."
"And, I dont rightly know what
a blackguard is, sir," the boy said, continuing with his answer to
Tillmans question. "So I cant say for sure if you are
or you arent. If its a good thing, then maybe I should say
you are, but if its a bad thing, then I shouldnt say anything
at all, I think."