Chapter 2: In Which Madison Discovers a Great Truth, Which May not be True at All

Now,  on  the  day  when  we  enter  the  story—today,  obviously—it would have been like any day in their kingdom. But, it was not like any day. There are two reasons this day was special.

The first reason is that people seldom write books about normal days, days like any other day. That would be a very boring, though very kingly, book.

The second reason is that Madison had just had a visit from her third- favourite uncle, Brentonio  Dickvinci, the Duke of Southwestern Iberia, an unimportant  land  located  somewhere  near  the  Great  Sea.  Now,  while Madison’s kingdom was an entirely normal place, with only a few mystical beings like  giants, dragons and the woodfolk, Uncle Brentonio’s land was filled with all manner of faerie creatures  and magical persons. And while Madison enjoyed hearing stories from her Uncle’s land, which he told with bright blue eyes, often scratching his long, scraggly beard, he was only her third-favourite uncle  because she was never entirely certain whether the stories were true. She would giggle, and roll her eyes at his tales, suspecting the whole time they were just  part of a book  inside Uncle Brentonio’s strange head.

But something her uncle said the last time he visited had changed not only her view of her Iberian Uncle, but also her view of what her life was

supposed to be like in the castle.

They had a conversation while going on a walk. If you have ever had a conversation on a walk, you know that it is often a difficult thing to do. But in stories like this, these long, quiet walks on  gravel paths are quite common. Brentonio had just finished a tale about three moon faeries who played tricks on some clumsy soldiers, when his eyes turned serious.

“Miss Madison, how is you training going?” Instead of scratching his beard or waving his  hands  at some  distant, imaginary world, he looked intently—a word which here means seriously and  with great mystery and meaning—at her.

“You mean school? It’s fine, I guess.” Madison found Brentonio’s gaze difficult to match, almost heavy, and kicked a stone along the path to avoid looking at him.

“Ah, my dear niece,” her uncle responded, eyes sparkling again. “I don’t think you are telling the whole truth.”

“Well,” Madison began, flushing a little. “I don’t really like school.” “No,” Brentonio answered firmly. “Of course you don’t. Your training is absolutely ridiculous, and your tutors are far too serious about something profoundly silly, don’t you think?”

The Princess was shocked. She had never heard an adult speak so frankly about something everyone else thought was important. But Madison felt she could trust her uncle.

“Yes, I do think it’s pretty silly, actually,” she said, smiling shyly.

“I’m glad you do, little one. I’ve always thought you were far brighter than your teachers. I  hope  you are spending your free time doing truly important things. What do you like to do?”

“Well, I like to play with dolls,” Madison began.

“Of course,” Brentonio responded seriously. “Playing is absolutely essential.”

“And I like to walk through the woods and hills, looking for bugs and flowers  and  interesting  rocks,”  Madison  continued,  feeling a  little  more confident.

“Excellent. A knowledge of the natural world is essential for an active mind. But there is something more, isn’t there?”

“Well…” Madison hesitated, hoping her uncle wouldn’t laugh at her. “My absolute favourite thing to do is read.”

At this, her uncle Brentonio stopped walking, and crouched down to look at Madison in the eye.

“Brilliant,” he said, almost under his breath. “I had hoped you would say this.”

Madison Jayne flushed with pride.

“Now,” he continued. “I have something of utmost importance to tell you. Do you know what that means?”

Madison nodded, trying to match his gaze. She knew the phrase “of utmost importance” meant that what her uncle would tell her was something she should really listen to. It was a phrase her mother and father used with the servants from time to time.

“The things you have chosen to love—or maybe books and ideas have chosen you, who knows?—these things are going to be your great joy and delight in life. But, Miss Madison Jayne, you must disbelieve everything you hear.”

“What?” Madison exclaimed, shocked at the suggestion. Her tutors had  drilled  into  her  since  the  moment  she  was  born  the  importance  of obedience. Her parents were allowed to think for themselves, but everyone else in the castle waited for someone else to do their thinking for them.

“Absolutely,” Brentonio said, nodding. He stood up straight and took her by the hand. They walked along for a minute in silence while Madison thought about what her uncle said.

“What about my teachers?” she asked.

“Little one,” he responded kindly. “Do you believe that waving and smiling is the most important job you have?” “No,” she laughed.

“So you already disbelieve them, don’t you.”

It was true. Without knowing it, Madison had decided that most of what her tutors said was complete nonsense.

“School is important Madison, but you are going to have to work hard to learn more than you are actually being taught.”

“What about my books?” she asked.

“Of course you should doubt them,” he answered. “A book is not for giving information, but is a path to great ideas.”

“Well, what about my parents?” Madison asked.

“Madison, let me tell you something. It is something you will figure out on your own later on,  but you might as well know right now. Adults have no idea what they are talking about. Your parents are beautiful, brilliant people, and they are just doing their best—better than most parents in the whole wide world. But they are just making it up as they go along. They know most things, and you should be polite and helpful and loving, but always look for evidence.”

They walked along for a little while as Madison thought about what her uncle was suggesting. The idea rumbled around in her brain, like little rubber  bouncing  balls  boiling  in  carrot  soup,  though  I’m not  sure  why anyone would make that kind of meal. As she was thinking hard about these things, a beautiful, almost delicious idea came to her. To any other adult she would not have said it, but she trusted her uncle.

“So, if I’m supposed to doubt everything people tell me,” Madison said. “That means I’m  supposed to doubt what you are saying right now, isn’t it? It means I’m supposed to disbelieve that I should disbelieve, right?”

Madison  was  quite  proud  of  herself,  but  a  little  shy.  It  was,  she thought, the most adult thing she ever said, and she often practiced saying adult things. But she wasn’t entirely sure if she was right, or how her uncle would respond. He stopped, and looked at her with a crooked smile.

“Miss  Madison,”  he  said  in  a  way  that  sounded  much  more  like admiration than anger. “You have discovered the key to all things. You must absolutely, and in all cases, disbelieve me.”

He leaned over, kissed her on the forehead, then began to tell her a story about a Castle Imp  who kept putting itching powder in the perfume dishes, making all the ladies scratch throughout an  entire evening of the long, boring, adult speeches. They laughed and enjoyed the rest of the walk, and the Princess began to wonder if Uncle Brentonio Dickvinci was really her first-favourite uncle after all.

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

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