THE MAGIC PENCIL
Annabelle struggled eating her supper as the beautiful last rays of the sun seemed to tuck the crests of the mountain tops in for the night. Her mind was everywhere except where it needed to be.
“Nell, you haven't touched nearly a bite this evening, “her mother said.” I understand what it is like to be chasing a dream or some other fantasy that you may be having, but right now you need to eat. We have much work to do in the gardens tomorrow and we dare not be late. You know how Sarah's mother is concerning those weeds. "
“But, I am tired of working in those gardens every day. The other kids of the palace don't have to work in the gardens, "Nell murmured.
“Young lady, if it wasn't the fact that your father had been a hero in the battle with the city of Ash, then we would not even be on the palace grounds in the first place. We have to work for our keep. We were not born into royalty. We are just common folk. We all have to do our duty and use our skills the best way we know how. I know gardening and so do you. Nell, you are a budding good artist I must say. However, the King has his court of painters, and drawers and you happen not to be one of those yet. You know your father loved the way you would sit and draw in the evening by the big window with the candles lit. He said it reminded him of me when I was younger.
“I know mother, but I would like to play with my friends more I guess.”
“Come on now, quit your fussing and finish up your supper. There is many a child in this city who would love to have a nice supper this evening. "
The two sat in silence each in their own little world as each searching for the same fulfilling in life, yet in a much different way. With supper done, Nell cleared the table and their wooden plates and sighed softy as she thought about the affairs of the King's Festival coming the next week. Even though she was from a common family, she never once quit thinking about what it would be like to be a princess like Sarah and to have fine, pretty dresses to wear all the time and to have someone always combing your hair.
“Hmm, that would be nice indeed, “she thought as the last rays of sunlight raced over the mountain.
It was these quit times at dusk that made her dream all the more. Her mother was busy with plans for the festival. She often didn't understand why she was so important in the palace. The King surely did love her father and her mother's gardens were the talk of the whole kingdom. She sat in front of that big window and realized that her mother was right about it being a privilege that they were on the palace grounds. Lots of servants stayed on the grounds. It took many people to make the palace work properly so she should do as her mother asked.
“Mother, I would like to read before bed if that is alright.”
“Come here Nell and I will read you something.”
Even at just twelve years of age, Nell still likes to be close to her mother. She liked her mother's touch and it gave her comfort. Even though she was growing into a beautiful young woman, she was still her mother's little girl.
“Mother, you are always reading gardening stories about flowers and all kinds of plants, " Nell complained.
“Honey, there are many things you have not yet learned about gardening that perhaps you might enjoy. You enjoy drawing the mountains and you are always drawing your friends’ silly pictures. You never know what you might learn from nature itself. "
Those words kind of got lost in Nell's mind as her mother sometimes spoke like that and she never really understood it much.
“You really love that book don't you mother? “
“I surely do. It is one of most treasured things on this earth. “Her mother smiled.
“Well who wrote those words in all those stories and poems?” Nell asked.
“That is not important right now and sometimes authors like to be kept secret anyway. Now come here and listen to this simple little story. "
The morning sun broke free from the chains of night and raced over the mountain to warm the beauty that lay below. Those thousands of spring blooms closed up at night just waiting for the morning light began to stretch forth their buds. A light to warm and bring them to life. For their beauty in the spring washes away all strife. The creamy, soft petals, the radiant colors cascading all over the valley fills the air with a wondrous scent that lifts high into the sky. Each one of those blooms brought delight to the sun. Each one warmed and bathed in its light. What a beautiful picture those gardens have drawn. What magic exists in your blooms, in your scent, in your life? People walk past your rows of color and never notice who you are. People just see your beauty from afar. But I see you in all detail. Each aspect of your life painted perfect on a canvas of light. Magic touches you in the spring and I am happy that you bask in the warmth that I bring. Quickly now, show off your pedals of light. For very soon, morning will be night.
“Mother, do you believe in magic and all of that stuff?”
“Nell, I believe that there are magical like things in this life. My flowers are magical I think. Only God knows the true beauty of each one of them. He is the one who draws such beauty and places it on this earth for each one of us to enjoy. So if that is what magic is, then I guess I surely believe because every day that I go into my gardens I am a different person. A different person indeed. "
Nell could tell her mother was deep in thought. She kind of felt like that when she was trying to draw something important. It was easy for her to draw silly things for her friends and for her to laugh at, but sometimes it was hard for her to draw what she was looking at.
“Maybe if I had some magic I would be able to draw mother's flowers for her. Nell thought quietly. Maybe I could win the contest at the festival this year and be on the king's art council and be trained by the best artists in the kingdom. "
“Now to bed young lady the morning will be here before you know it. Take your book with you and don't forget to blow out your candle either. I will be in later to check on you. So go now. Nell, as long as you always do your best and be happy for all of those who are trying to win at the festival, then you'll have learned a great lesson in life. "
She bent over and kissed Nell on the forehead and gave her a hug. She wanted so much for her to understand that not all things are as they seem. There are many things that she needs to know before she grows up. She needs to learn that the little things in life mean the most and that she needs to take time to try and understand what each means.
“Magic, sure I once believed in magic, “she thought as she made her way to bed.
For both of them, sleep came easy and sure. Annabelle fell fast asleep looking at the blank canvas that was beside her bed.
“If I only had art teachers like the royals of the palace then I would be able to draw better she thought. Maybe I should have magic and then my drawings would be the very best in the kingdom. That is just what I need something magical. A magic pencil is what I need. Just a magic pencil for one week is all I could ever hope for; “were her last thoughts as her eyes viewed the beauty of the moon shining on the snow covered mountain tops and closed tightly in sleep.
Her dream world came quickly once again. Soon she was covered in a garden of vibrant colors and aromas that filled all her senses with joy. “This can only be the best place in the whole world. I have never looked at a garden so beautiful. "
In amongst the tulips was her mother busy planting bulbs and plants that will bloom for the summer months once the spring blooms fade. “Nell, Nell, come quickly she heard her mother say. I have found something in this garden that I think you would like. "
Annabelle ran toward her mother who was holding a golden box still covered in the blackened dirt of the garden. “Open it mother, oh please let me open the box. We have found a treasure chest for sure. Maybe it is filled with gold or precious stones. We would be able to live like the royals in the palace. We would have our own servants, “she thought as she opened the box.
The box was filled with the finest kept rose pedals that they had ever laid eyes on and in the midst of the pedals was a golden pencil made from the finest charcoal that could be. Nell was so excited that she snatched up the pencil with one quick motion before her mother had read the inscription on the inside of the box.
“Nell, put that down at once. It is no good. “Her mother said. That pencil comes with a very stern warning. "
“It is just a golden pencil. It’s probably the best in the whole kingdom. Surely this pencil is magical and I will be able to have the best drawing and be voted into the council of artists for the king at the festival. I must hurry home. Thank you for finding that pencil for me, “she said as she raced home.
Rachael held the box close to her heart. She looked up into brilliant sky and prayed that Nell would learn what it is just too always do her best and be happy for the others who were putting their best drawings up for the King. Tears etched her face as her mind raced back those dozen years ago in the King's rose gardens. She had forgotten about this box that was given to her years ago and forever buried with her memories.
Rachael woke suddenly breathless as she got out of bed to check on Annabelle. “Mercy me what a dream I had. That was so real, “she thought as she kissed her baby on the cheek. “You will do your best Nell at the festival and you will always be a princess my love. Rachael went back to bed not knowing if she wanted to enter those old memories every again. Rachael knew what she would find in the garden tomorrow. She didn't want to wake up. Maybe she could find something else for Annabelle to do instead of gardening.
The morning broke fast and the roosters bellowed out their cockadoodles with restless energy.
Nell woke as the first rays of the sun began to poke her in the eyes. As her mind began to put away the night and enter into the day, she remembered her dream. “What a dream, what a sorry dream to have liked that, “as she stared at her empty canvas.
“Nell, are you up? I thought I heard you in here scurrying around. Let's get our work done early for it is going to be a great, beautiful day. Maybe we will go down to the stream and try our luck at catching our supper. "
Nell loved to go fishing with her friends. The king's daughter Sarah liked to fish. She liked to do everything that Nell like. She was a young artist like herself. Nell knew that she would have to draw better than Sarah to win the art context next week. Rachael and Nell ate their boiled oats and cakes of fine milled corn and washed it down with a cup of cider as they got ready to go to work. Nell had to work fast this morning if she wanted to go fishing. She also had her studies to do when she got home.
“Seems like I never have time for just me anymore," Nell murmured to herself. “As she walked out of the house and looked across the valley toward the ridge, the wild ponies had returned and were running in the new spring meadows.” What a grand site is that to see all those ponies running amongst the beauty of those flowers. That’s it! That’s what I will draw for the contest next week. Nell was so excited she almost forgot her favorite garden tools as her mother was making her way down the path to the king's road.
“Mother, Mother, wait up for a minute! I did it. I figured out what I am going to draw. Look down in the meadow at the ponies. They are early this year and it is a wonderful site to see them in the green of the valley with the blooms of spring all around. "
“That will make for a grand drawing my dear. It surely will. Just don't forget that what your eyes see your mind draws already for you. So you only need to put the drawing from your mind onto your canvas. "
The long walk to the courtyards was easier than normal this morning for some reason. Rachael never forgot how real her dream was. She knew it wasn't just a dream either.
Many of the royals were already out for their morning stroll and tea. They seem to relish the beauty of the gardens. The colors flowed easy one to the other. The different types, sizes, and colors of each flower complimented another nearby. Rachael was a gifted master gardener and the King's court was always grateful for her work.
“Nell, I will be with the daffodils this morning. You make sure there are no weeds in those morning tulips. Those are the king's favorites and they are almost in bloom. A few more days and they will put on a great show. "
The work going on around them in preparation for the festival consumed Rachael for a few minutes. She loved festival time. It was a grand time for everyone. All people of the kingdom came and none was treated any different than another.
“Madame Rachael, your gardens are as lovely as ever, “Rachael heard as she turned around and saw Princess Sarah coming down the rows of daffodils. She was a beautiful child. She was the same age as Nell and Nell's best friend in the palace. “Well thank you Sarah, I do try and work hard to make our kingdom the best in all the land. Annabelle is over in the morning tulips Sarah, but she has to get her work done. Maybe if it is alright, you can come with Nell and me for a little fishing down by the big pool in the river. "
“Sounds like fun Madame Rachael I would indeed like that very much. I will say hi to Sarah before I have to help Mother with the linens for the festival. Bye for now. "
Rachael loved that child very much and she has watched her grow just as if she were her own.
As Sarah rounded the corner, the sun was revealed in the passing of a cloud. Annabelle stood silhouetted in the sun amongst the growing buds of the garden with the King's rose gardens in the background.
“What a beautiful picture. That is what I want to draw my best friend and her mother standing against the sun in all its beauty situated in such a beautiful and magical place. "
“Hey Nell, just thought I would stop by and say hi and maybe help you once I get finished with mother. I was talking with your mother and she said to hurry and that maybe we could go down to the pool and fish. That would be wonderful. I haven't caught a fish in a long time. “Sarah said, as she admired the budding tulips.
“These are your father's favorite flower gardens. For some reason he likes these beds of tulips in the spring more than any other. The buds smell wonderful. Kind of like those flowers in the meadow. Hey, did you see the ponies this morning. The whole heard is back early this year. "
“Young lady, aren't you supposed to be helping your mother with the linens?” Spoke a gruff yet gentle voice.
“Yes, father I just stopped to see Nell and say hi. I will go now. See ya in a little while Nell. Hey by the way did you start your drawings yet for the festival? "
“Run along little princess and get your work done. There will be plenty of time to talk afterwards. "
The King gentle brushed a kissed on his daughter's check and ruffled her hair as she skipped off towards the hustle and bustle of the growing festival activities.
“Well now young Nell, how is it that you find yourself in my favorite place in this courtyard? I have come here every day in the spring to catch a glimpse of this beautiful deep purple buds and every year I am not disappointed. I remember your mother's first time in this garden. You look just like her sitting here. You've become quit the gardener little one. Your mother says that you are learning much; much more than simple gardening. I wish I had time to sit and be in such a magical place as this. "
“But King Bruce, you are the King and you can do whatever you wish. If I was a King I would do what I wished and that is for sure. "
“Being a King is much more than that young Nell, much more indeed. You must enjoy these little gardens and the splendor that they bring to your heart and your mind. It is as we teach in class, the little things in life that bring out the true beauty in all living things. Always be true to the little things and they will grow forever into things bigger and more beautiful than we can imagine. "
King Bruce of the Bishops squatted and was silent as his own words rang deep in him. He yearned for the simple things in life, just as these flowers. “Some say it is good to be the King. If only they knew, if only they knew. "
“Are you getting ready for the festival Madame Nell?” I know you will do your very best just like last year. "
“I did my best last year and still did not win.” I will do my best this year also, yet I do not think I can win this year either. "
“Annabelle, if only you do your very best it doesn't matter what others see or how you are judged. They only see the canvas that you draw on. They don't see the daily struggle that you have with your pen and colors. They don't see what thoughts you have and how many times you have started your project over. They only see the results of your work and that is what you are judged on. So if that is your best, then you will be successful even if you don't win the prize.
“But King Bruce, I just have to win the prize this year for my mother works and works hard in these gardens and I don't want to see her work so hard all the time.”
“Nell did you know that your mother was a very good artist and her drawings once hung in the great hall? Oh, young Nell if only we all could see things like you from time to time, this world would surely be a better and magical place. Your mother toils in these gardens because it is her place to grow and be who she is supposed to be. Her special place is here. For she sees all the good that her hard works does. She sees the smiles on young and old alike as they walk amongst her creations. Even if she just brought peace, joy, and happiness to only one, she would work just as hard. This is her purpose. This is her way of serving. This is her way of teaching you. She is a wonderful woman with a very special purpose in life. She is magical in her gardens. No one can take the little things from her that makes her a woman. However, just as it is in life, if these plants are not properly taken care of by meeting their needs of water and nourishment, then they will truly die. I believe your mother would not be who she is if she didn't have these gardens. "
Nell sat spellbound by the King's words for her mother. She had never heard him speak of her that way nor of His gardens in that manner. Even the fact that her mother could draw and even had drawings in the great hall escaped her.
“King Bruce, do you believe in magic if I may ask?”
The King chuckled at the innocence of that question and as his mind raced to put together a Kingly answer a reply already was there.
“Nell, magic exists only if you believe it does. There are many magical things in life. Life itself is magical. Our festival is magical because it brings our entire Kingdom together to celebrate the beauty of spring and of our lives here in the Kingdom. We are all made the same, yet we are all so very different. Take these tulips. Each one of them is of the same plant, yet each one is a little different from the other. It is those differences that make it special. These plants can't grow amongst the thorns. For the thorns will truly choke the life from them and they will be no more. The weeds will grow in the rows and take the water and nutrients from the soil from the plants and they will wither and not fully grow to their own beauty. That is why your mother works so hard Nell. She doesn't want to see the thorns and weeds grow in her garden for this is her place of beauty and someday it will be yours. So it is alright to believe in magic if you choose too. "
As the King stood up, Nell was losing the soil around one of the plants and hit something hard.
“Rocks in the garden what would mother think of that?” She chuckled.
As the King started to walk away, Annabelle let out a cry of joy.
“King Bruce it is as my dream came true . This is the golden box that was in my dream last night a golden box with a golden magical pencil inside. I know it is true now. I just know it as Nell opened the box to reveal a beautiful golden pencil.
The great wise and old King stood as a child with tears in his eyes as joy flooded over Nell. As he turned away he looked to see her mother watching them as she worked to remove the weeds from the bed of daffodils. The old King's joy was alive and he no longer feared.
“Young Nell, it must be as you say it is.” Great treasures have you found. I pray that your work will be wonderful with your new pencil, but remember- magic is only what you make it to be. No matter what young lady magic is only what you make it to be. Nothing more, nothing less. We have some fine artists show their works in the great hall this year. "
The King patted Nell on the head and thanked her for the hard work that she was doing as he moved along in his gardens deep in thought
Nell finished up her work and was eager to get her drawing finished with her new pencil. She ran all the way home and began to work at once. It seemed like the pencil itself was drawing and moving her hand and for some reason Nell didn’t like that. She let the pencil draw what was in her mind. In no time at all her drawing was finished. The lines were perfect and in balance. All she needed to do now was add her color. She put the pencil down and just looked at it. It was so beautiful and magical. This drawing would have taken her several days to work on with a normal pencil. She was busy getting her colors ready as her mother came in from the garden with a basket of vegetables for dinner.
“Mother, I am almost finished. This pencil is truly magical. It really and truly is. Maybe now I will be among those who can show their work in the great hall. I have to get the rest of my painting done in the next couple days so the colors and cure and set. I hope Annabelle gets her work done also.”
Rachael stood as she listened to her daughter talk away. She was concerned some about what her daughter was learning with using this magic pencil but she didn’t say anything.
“This is something she must learn on her own,” she thought as she peeled the potatoes for dinner.
The two had a quick dinner and Rachael sat in her favorite chair and read as Nell continued to paint away. She was proud of her daughter for her hard work and devotion. She just hoped that she was doing the right thing. In just a few days the council of artists will be to evaluate the paintings and select who would attend the arts council next.
The next day Nell didn’t have to work the gardens as she was finishing up her painting. The canvas was alive as the drawing jumped to life once the colors were added. She was so proud of her-self as she looked at her finished work. She knew it would be judged well and she was happy for that. The painting was just as magical as the pencil. As she was cleaning up her drawing corner, as knock came at the door. Her best friend Annabelle had stopped over to see how she was doing.
“Hey Nell are you finished yet? I bet you have a great painting this year. I sure hope you make it in the council. You are a better drawer anyway than anyone else in the Kingdom I bet.”
“Thanks Sarah I hope so too. I worked hard this year,” Nell said as her eyes slid to see the golden pencil on the table.
“I am finished my painting also and it came out wonderful too. I brought it with me to show you. I know we are not supposed to do that, but I wanted to know what you thought.”
Sarah brought the canvas and held it up for Nell to see. Nell felt tears well up in her eyes as she stood and looked at herself and her mother toiling in her father’s gardens.
“It is the most perfect and beautiful painting I have ever looked at Sarah. That is the best one you have done yet.”
“I worked on the drawing for over six months and once I painted it in my mind the rest was easy. It was almost like I have magic and the canvas came alive. Tomorrow we all have to meet to present our work to the council and I will see you there.”
“Alright Sarah, I will see you at the council in the morning.”
Nell sat in the corner and watched Sarah and her escorts walk down the path to the castle. She could not stop the tears that came and seemed destined not to stop. She looked at the magic pencil and knew that she made a mistake by using it. She looked at the lovely painting sitting on the easel and she thought of the painting that Sarah had finished. It was better and told more of a story about the Kingdom and hers did.
The evening was silent as Rachael came home late and Nell was already in bed. Even though it was odd for her to go to sleep early, Rachael knew that she must have work hard on her painting. Rachael sat in her corner and decided to take a peek at the final painting that Nell had finished. When she lifted the cover off the easel she stood and looked at a blank canvas staring back at her. The pencil that was so magical was the table wrapped in the cloth that it came in. Rachael stood with tears in her eyes and her heart proud that she realized that her young daughter found the answers to questions many adults never find. She knew that Nell realized that not doing your own work and relying on something or someone else to do it for you is not the right way to make it in this world. She put the cover back on the easel and slept a wonderful sleep.
The morning was abuzz with vendors and merchants filling the courtyard square. The morning was beautiful and the sun was already warming the festival as Nell brought her canvas to present to the council. As Nell and Rachael walked down the trail pulling the small wagon with them, Nell just looked at her mother and smiled.
“Thank you for helping me to realize that I need to just do my best at everything and not rely on the easy way.”
Rachael just hugged her daughter and kissed her head and told her how proud of her she was. Nell smiled in return as they entered the artists square. Nell made her way to her easel and placed her canvas. Sarah was next to her as her painting was being analyzed by the council. Nell stood proud at her canvas as the council came next with pen and pad to grade her work. The council members stood in shock at the blank canvas and what it could possibly mean. King Bruce look on also wondering what young Nell was up too. The lead council was angry at what he thought was a rude attempt to trick the council or embarrass them.
“Young lady, I sure hope you have a good explanation for this. You will be removed from the young artist’s assembly for this.”
“Lord Ambrose, I did finish a painting that I did not bring with me. I had help with the drawing and did not do the work myself. It was the best that I have ever done, yet I realized it would not be fair for me to enter into the festival something that was not entirely mine. I am very sorry and I will accept whatever punishment that is given to me.”
The council members gathered and discussed the issue. They had never had to deal with something like this at all. As they talked away from Nell, the pencil in her pocket began to draw her toward the canvas. As she reached into her apron, she didn’t pull out the golden pencil, but a worn out stick of charcoal. She began to draw what was in her heart and mind and put it on the canvas. Some members of the council stopped talking and watched the young artist work. Others walked to the next participant and ignored what Nell was doing. The King was proud that Nell had told the truth and that she was now doing her own work. He wondered about that golden pencil that he was sure she had with her. He remembered it from long ago in the hands of another. The council finished up with their evaluations and presented them to the King. There was only room for two new students to the council. Sarah’s painting was not selected the winner, but she would be second. Nell stood as they came to her easel and looked at a scared young lady who had just grown up so much.
“Lady Nell, after much discussion and debate over the merits of our festival and our own rules, we deem it prudent to make an exception to this year’s allowance. Instead of just two new artists, we shall accept three. Lady Nell, we congratulate you for being selected and hope you understand the great honor and responsibility that will be required of you.” The council moved on to present the findings to the King. He was more than pleased with the selections. He made his way over to his daughter as she was hugging Nell. He stopped for a moment as he looked at Rachael and smiled. Surely, that golden pencil buried so many years ago was magical after all.