Ariel just kept staring at me with those eyes, blankly. She blinked a
few times, I don't think she could believe I was asking her this and in all
seriousness. For one, I had not even asked Ariel, nor Pipes, if they knew
how to read or write, I received this information from Clopin. She probably
thinks I'm crazy or some psychic maniac for just popping in and saying this,
and with confidence as if I was sure of myself, which I mostly as. The
second thing that was shocking, more to myself than her, was the fact that
me, Herlikin, had asked a favor of someone! And it's not some small 'watch
the kids' type favor, it was one that showed I actually had a flaw, a
weakness and was openly stating it. But I was determined no matter how hard it was for me to do this I would sound confident and keep my head held high because I was doing this for me. I knew inside Ariel and Pipes' visit was meant to be.
"What?" She stood up and started to slowly walk over to me.
"Well, you can read and write can't you?" She nodded, I made sure I
sounded cool and calm and determined, I didn't want her to believe I was
kneeling in front of her begging for this. I didn't let my voice crack of
get to a high helpless girl tone either. "I want you to teach me how." She
didn't say anything for a while and I started getting impatient. I did not
need her basking in the attention I was giving her and the need I was asking
of her. "Well will you or won't you?" She shook her head a little,
obviously waking up from a daze.
"Oh yes, yes of course. Come in, come in." She pulled a chair up to the
one she had been using before and invited me to sit. I was relieved she
wasn't going into the whole 'you want me to do something for you' bit, I
would've walked out right there and scolded myself for thinking she was nice enough to help me. Though if I would say that to myself I wouldn't use the
world help, it sounded too needy. Though, my ego was slowly dropping with this woman every second I sat there. I knew I had to make her know she
mustn't tell anyone about my request.
"So you want to learn to read and write eh? I do believe I can help you.
You may start your lesson today, if that fits into your schedule, and have
one everyday after this if you'd like until you've learned everything you
want." My eyes lit up.
"Yes, and you won't tell anyone about this? Not even my husband, I want
to surprise him after I learn it well enough. And also, how much will you
charge? I am willing to pay." I pulled out a few coins but she refused.
"The only things I want from you is a hard working attitude and respect.
Can you do that?" She didn't want money? It kept racing through my mind and I couldn't believe my ears. Money is not exactly handed to gypsies on silver platters and when it's offered to one we usually take it with open arms. I could not believe she refusing what could pay for a meal, a new dress, or
more decorations for her tent. Though I couldn't believe this I didn't
insist on the coins since she turned them away once. It made me happy that
she did though, saved me a lot of money. She cut into my thoughts, "Oh yes, and one more thing. I want you to trust me. I'm not a bad person and even
though we didn't exactly meet in the kindest condition I think we could start
things off on a good note and end up being to put up with each other.
Anyway, if I get these three things from you I promise once you're finished
you'll be walking down the street spelling words and wanting more books than you can get your hands on." She smiled from ear to ear. I could tell she was thrilled about the whole deal. Who wouldn't be? Not getting any lip from Herlikin Trouillefou! Quite a deal indeed.
"Oh that reminds me," I pulled out the book I had stolen yesterday from
my dress. I luckily had grabbed it before I left for Colombine's. Before
she could reply Pipes walked in. He seemed a bit down but then he looked up and saw me with Ariel and a wide, perfect smile crossed his dark skinned
face. I smiled first but Ariel spoke before I had a chance.
"Herlikin has come to learn how to read and write." Then she turned back to me, "Pipes is even better than me, you'll get a lot of lessons from him."
He winked at me but I just turned to Ariel. "Herlikin stole one of our
books." She said it in a teasing tone, I had to laugh at myself.
"I know," Pipes replied, sipping some wine he had poured for himself.
"But how did you --" I couldn't believe that someone had actually
detected and known about my robbery! And not only that, he didn't even try to stop me!
"Well, it doesn't even matter, I couldn't teach myself to read anything."
Ariel flipped through the book and began to laugh. "What is so humorous?"
She closed the book shaking her head and still laughing quietly.
"I would hope you weren't able to read this. You made you work harder
than it is. This book is written in German." She laughed again and I
laughed with her, half heartedly.
"You read German?" I actually thought about it and realized that she
must be very intelligent to know more than one language.
"Oh yes, German, French, English, all sorts of things." She brushed it
off as if it were nothing. And to think I didn't even know how to read the
language I speak everyday. I crossed my arms, pouting. Ariel turned to me.
"Now, now, we'll have none of that. You agreed you'd work hard. How far will you get if you start out with this attitude? To learn this you're going
to have to give up some time and stop sticking your nose so high it's about
to reach my ceiling. Clopin and I talked about you." My eyes went wide with surprise and protest, but before I could say anything she continued. "Don't
get that look on your face," she chuckled, "it was nothing negative I assure
you. He was just telling me about his 'lovely and talented' wife as he put
it. He just told me you were a lot like him, so I know this is very hard for
you to even step a foot inside here voluntarily. Believe it or not, I'm not
out to get you and now I'm happy to help, but we made an agreement so let's start out with the respect you promised mealright Herli?" She suddenly seemed wise and I felt like a mere child just seeing the world for the first time. Seeing as though I wasn't paying her I had no other choice but to give her the respect she asked for, but in small increments at a time.
"It's Herlikin." She looked at me pleasantly and if she heard the
irritation in my voice she didn't show it. She simply nodded and picked up
another book and handed it to me.
"Very well, this is a book. And a better one then you took," she
snickered, "this one's in French." I sighed quickly and took it.
"I know what it is." I started to flip through it but she kept talking.
"I promise that within two weeks you will be able to read this." She
pointed to the book and I gave her a look of surprise. I then replaced it
with a look of sarcasm, rolling my eyes.
"Rubbish. You sound like the street vendors I walk past offering me a
banana that should last three weeks and rots after four days." She laughed
softly again. She certainly found me amusing tonight. I tried not to let it
"Really, as long as you come everyday I'll get you reading in no time."
I flipped through the book some more and frowned seeing as though there were no pictures. "What's wrong Herlikin?" She had noticed my expression and laid a hand on mine.
"This book doesn't have any pictures in it," I said quietly, looking away
from her, especially her eyes.
"Oh, well that just gives you all the more to imagine. Now, if you'll
wait a few minutes I can get some writing utensils and we'll start you're
first lesson." She grinned and skipped over to a chest near her bed. She
dug under many clothes and various objects. While I waited I hummed to
myself and tapped my toes softly on the ground. I thought of my kids and
hoped my lesson wouldn't be too long so I could get back home. I suddenly
felt like my kids. Some of the ways Ariel talked to me it seemed as though
she was talking to someone who had just learned to walk themselves or were slow and had a hard time understanding people. And I was neither. It got me angry for a few moments but then I thought of Clopin. How proud he'll be when he sees that I'll be able to write his name, write messages to him, read the children bedtime stories to soothe them to sleep. I got out of my dreamy state when Ariel finally pulled out her tools and a medium sized black board.
Before she said anything to me she wrote different squiggly lines this way
and that on the board. Some where curvy while others consisted of connected sticks. I counted each individual character, there were twenty-six.
"These, Herlikin, are the alphabet. First, I'll say them, then we'll
learn the distinctive sound of each." Thinking there were only twenty-six
made me hope of being home in a short while. Ariel had a short stick also
and pointed to each as she said them. "A, B, C..." I repeated after her and
what seemed like forever I finally got through them all. She smiled at me.
"Very good. Now, we'll go with the sound of each and combination sounds." I listened and repeated everything, learning how two letters could sound like one such as 'ph' and how one can be silent such as 'kn' and many other ones
such as 'sh' 'cr' and so on. I made sure to listen to everything she said
and repeated it carefully, committing it to memory as well. She continued to smile at my quick progress. As she spoke and taught me I questioned her age. After not being so shy anymore she seemed much older then I thought she was when I first saw her. Perhaps she was older than I was. I dismissed the thought for now and concentrated on the sounds she was teaching me.
"This isn't as difficult as I thought it would be." She shook her head
at me smirking.
"Herlikin, this is only the beginning of what will be a long journey.
There's a lot of details and rules you must learn. Not to mention putting
all this learning to the test, being able to see if you can really read
different sets of words put in front of you, called sentences by the way.
Anyway, I'm sure you'll be fine and will be able to read that book within two
weeks." I looked in the book again and suddenly so much became more familiar to me. I identified different letters in my head and beamed as I ran through more and more pages. "Shut it Herlikin. There's a couple more things I want to teach you today." She talked on some more and I listened attentively.
After she finished Pipes heard some jingling getting closer to the tent and
looked outside, he turned back and whistled to us both.
"You're wonderful other half is on his way here Herlikin." I panicked.
"Put everything away now. I don't want him to know, not yet. Please
don't speak a word of this to him." They both nodded solemnly in agreement and Ariel hurried over to her bed, shoving all the objects she had been using
underneath it. My heart was racing as I awaited my husband's arrival.
Suppose he went home and saw the children alone and they had told Clopin how long I had been out. Or maybe he went to spend some time at Abigail's and she had mentioned my decision. Or perhaps big mouthed Tante Marie had seen me go into the tent and by now it was all over the Court that I was over here alone and Clopin had heard the rumor. I jumped up suddenly to stop myself from thinking of all the possibilities, and the negative one's at that. I knew I couldn't do anything except face his angryness for my irresponsibility.
He walked in smiling and then stopped automatically when he saw me.
"Herli, what a pleasent surprise." He went back to smiling again and kissed
my forehead. I let out the deep breath I didn't realize I had been holding
in. Clopin spoke again, "I was just coming back from my performance when I decided to stop by to see how our visitors were taking to their new
surroundings. I didn't expect to see you here though. Getting acquainted
with Ariel and Pipes?" He raised a brow in my direction and I smirked. I
actually wasn't sure what he was trying to imply but I just ignored it anyhow.
"Oh yes, Herlikin and I are becoming great friends." Ariel put on a
large grin and wrapped her arm around my shoulder. I forced a laugh and
Clopin took it as genuine and smiled in approval. Without even asking, he
just sat down to rest, which I could understand after being on his feet all
"I'm happy to report, my love, that I made excellent profit today.
Almost enough to cover yesterday's absence. Suddenly a larger audience came to watch me and of course, who could blame them?" He made a loud dignified laugh come out of his mouth and raised his large nose into the air, closing his eyes playfully, trying to sound as if he were the prize of all Paris.
Which he certainly wasn't, except to the half witted soldier who roam the
streets and they never have the chance to lay a finger on him anyway. I
rolled my eyes at him and pushed his knees laughing.
"Oh please. Could you please go home now?" Ariel and I were having a
very deep woman to woman conversation and you have interrupted it you selfish brute!" He laughed and stood up, taking my hand.
"Very well kitten, but then why is Pipes still here?" I sighed and
looked at him asking him nicely to go. " Well fine, I will leave, but I'll be
waiting for you at home, my stomach is calling for you." I took my hand back and pushed him, literally, out the door. He turned to address Pipes and
Ariel. "I cannot believe you are allowing her in your tent! Please excuse
her Indian behavior!" He laughed heartedly and I made a 'humph'! as he
started into the direction of our tent.
"Watch the kids!" I shouted after him but he simply turned around and
made a silly face at me, crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue. I
giggled and copied the gesture and then walked back into the tent shaking my head. Ariel was also laughing.
"I believe you are the only woman who has the courage to stand up to that man. Every other would lay on her knees and bow, groveling at his feet."
She said in a playful tone but I narrowed my eyes.
"Would you?" She was looking at me and I saw her eyes open a little
wider at my question but then she released them back to their original size
and cleared her throat. She walked back to the bed and pulled out the board and writing utensils she had been using before.
"There's still one more thing I'd like to teach you today." Avoiding my
question, she wrote a word on the board. It was a bit long so I didn't know
what to make of it.
"What is that? I can't even sound it out." She put on a wry smile.
"That is your name. It's how you spell it." I sat there and touched the
board. I always knew my name was Herlikin but it never crossed my mind I'd ever be able to physically see it. Lord knew I'd heard it enough. But for
it actually to be put in front of me was an odd concept to take in. I
finally laughed a little.
"Really? That's actually my name?" She handed me the board and I looked at it a little bit longer. "I think I'm going to like this reading and
writing." She smirked and took the board back.
"Well, I think that's all for now. We'll continue our learning
tomorrow." I grinned, looking forward to it and stood up.
"Yes, well thank you, good night." I walked casually out of their tent
and onto my own. As I walked I suddenly felt itchy in the top of my dress
and saw I had one more rose head left. I ate it and returned to my tent,
making sure the kids were laying in bed, talking quietly to each other. I
walked into the tent to find Clopin sitting at one of the larger chairs we
had, smoking his pipe. He had changed out of his performing garb and into a more modest dark green tunic with black hose. I smiled at
the sight of him, the outfit flattered him greatly. I quietly walked in and
he looked up to see me and grinned. I walked over and cuddled up on his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck and rubbed his cheek gently. I realized I needed to make dinner but I didn't feel like moving and I played with his goatee a little and got a soft laugh out of him.
"I'm not sure what the moon has done to you but I like it. And I'm not
sure what you and Ariel were really talking about but I think it was good."
He stroked my hair, slowly running his hands through it. I was always amazed at how every time he decided to run his fingers though my hair it never had one knot or tangle in it. It was always soft and he never failed to
I buried my face in his chest and felt the warm material of his clothes.
I moved one of my hands from his neck and held his hand. I lifted it to my
lips and kissed it.
"And I don't know why your not sure of so many things but I still love
you," I whispered to him. I smiled at him and to myself as well, thinking of
how proud he'd be of me when I'll be able to write a special note, just for