Often a picture shows the end of a story but in this case, the picture is the start of a story. Andreal, the artist who is the mainspring of this exhibition, was travelling in the villages north and east of Port Naain and came upon a goose girl working in the fields. He painted her and as he committed her likeness to canvas, they talked. Something he said sparked a determination in her to better her lot and to travel to Port Naain.
Yet, ironically, I would not have known the story had it not been for Mutt. One afternoon Mutt arrived in the barge with a fine goose, plucked and dressed and ready for the oven. Valerin and Nail, Mutt’s equally juvenile followers arrived with him. Nail was carrying a bag of vegetables, whilst Valerin produced two bottles of wine from under her somewhat tattered coat. Shena looked firmly at Mutt who wilted a little before rallying. “I were given it.”
Shena shifted her stare to Nail who seemed to visibly sag and tried to hide behind Valerin. Given that the girl is at least a head shorter than he is, it was a tactic that was never going to work. Finally Valerin spoke up. “It was given us because we worked with the goose girl.” It has to be admitted that her diction has improved immensely since she started training as a temple dancer.
“Yeah, she were proper pleased wi’ us.” Mutt added.
Even Nail produced an uncertain, “Yeah,” to show his solidarity with the rest of the team.
At this point I decided to step in. I’ve always held that Mutt is, by his own lights, honest.
A gentleman of business
Cannot afford prissiness
So to gather his laurels
He must pawn his morals
When beyond the pale
He cannot quail
The case is clear cut
He’s less honest than Mutt
Hence I addressed our young hero. “I suggest that as we prepare an excellent meal for the five of us, you take the opportunity to tell the tale of the goose girl and how you came to work for her.”
Obviously since then I have checked out sundry details and have even met and talked to some of the protagonists, but still, this tale is largely the same one that Mutt told us. Admittedly I’ve taken liberties with the language and have perhaps looked more deeply into the motivations of some of the protagonists, but still, I feel that Mutt would not disagree too much with my interpretation.
With her ambitions inadvertently fanned by Andreal’s conversation, Falia the goose girl made her plans to move to Port Naain. She reasoned that she might as well be a goose girl in the big city as in some forgotten village. So with her geese she set off.
She was lucky in that one of the first people she met was Mutt. Now I have noticed over the years that young women rarely take much notice of small boys. Given that should they ever have children there is a good chance that they will be small boys, this attitude strikes me as short sighted.
Still, Falia was wiser than her contemporaries and sat and talked with Mutt at the side of the road as her geese grazed what grass they could find on the verge.
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