A rap at the door and Elma was up, startled. What time was it? Moonlight poured through the slats in the window piling neatly into organized lines on the floor. Elma rarely fell asleep anywhere but her own room, let alone the front room. Little Isaac had been keeping her up, his fever would simply not diminish. This had been almost two weeks of her tending to him and its toll was worn underneath her eyes. She wondered if she would lose him before the fall. She’d lost many children, none of which were hers.
The door was struck again and snapped her out of her dismal reverie. She looked to the counter and saw that the candle had been spent. Wrapping her shoulders in a shawl, rushed to the door. Who is it? She inquired warily.
“It’s Uldric, I have a child here!
“Uldric?” her mind reeling to catch up. “Cold earth, what are you doing here at this hour?”
“A child, Elma, I found him wandering the streets. I’d have come in the morning and had him stay at my place, but the missus doesn’t trust him.”
“What nonsense are you talking about Uldric?” She hoisted the bar and opened the dark wooden door with some effort. It allowed a grizzled bartender into view. Next to him he held the hand of a small child covered in a lump of clothing. “What do you mean she doesn’t trust him?”
“That’s what I’m tellin ya Ellie! The missus and I were spooked by this little one! We were turnin down for the night when we hears this little one laughing off in the distance in the dark of night! Can you believe it? She begged me and begged me not to go, but you know me, I can’t have any of our little souls running around after the witchin’ hour. She tells me it’s a bad sign and I know it’s a bad idea, I just can’t help myself. So I grab my lantern and Lucy, just in case.”
“That old mutt couldn’t gum her way through your wife’s pastries! What good will she do you?”
“My wife makes some tough pies besides, but you mind yourself! So I heads up towards the Borodin farm and wouldn’t you know it, this mal’chik is sittin on their knotted elm, naked as night. I try not sneakin’ up on him, you know, don’t wanna scare him. But soon as I get close enough he turns and he has this big ol’ grin on ‘is face, bout takes the life out of me! Lucy liked ’im well enough, though. He liked Lucy well enough too. Doesn’t seem to talk, don’t know if he can’t or don’t wanna, but he seems bright enough. I took him back home, tell the missus what happened, and she wants nothing to do with him. Says he’s a downright bad omen. She wants me to take him to the hills, but you know I can’t have no part of that. That’s why I brought him here. Allister’s looks after the kids, just fine as far as I can tell. I hope you have room.”
“We always find room here. Don’t you worry about that. Let’s get you inside and under some covers.” She guided the child in with her hand while removing the scarf draped over his head. “Oh.”
“Yes, well, there’s that too.”
“This is an elf child, his parents can’t be from anywhere around here.”
“Yeah, it’s right strange. Can’t exactly fault the missus for thinking the way she does.”
“Well why don’t you come on in, little omen?”
The grinning child’s eyes twinkled up at her.
“Aren’t you just grim?” her eyes twinkled back.