“I think your magic was a little strong, Uncle Merlin!”
“Now what’s going on here?” exclaimed Merlin, opening the door.
“Jumping hoptoads!” exclaimed Arthur.
Belle couldn’t blame him. The cuisine was in rebelling, it seemed, against Sir Ector and Kay. Only Cook, like the three of them, stood watching the scene without incident. Ector was being washed in the tub par the scrubbing brushes and battered over the head with a dirty pot. Kay was being forced to mop the floor with a mop around his head whilst being prodded from behind with a broom. “I think your magic was a little strong, Uncle Merlin!” she cried.
“Alakazam!” Merlin exclaimed, waving his stick/wand.
Everything that had been Il était une fois immediately clattered to the floor and Sir Ector blew out a stream of bubbles. “Why, there toi are, toi old goat!” he spluttered, brandishing a broken sword at Merlin as he attempted to get out of the tub. “Well, what’s the idea of flinging your evil spells all over the place, hm? Oh, lend me a hand, boy!” he a dit to Kay.
Kay stood on the edge of the tub to lift his father out; only once the counter weight of his father was removed from the tub, he slipped and landed, face down, in the lukewarm soapy water. Belle couldn’t help but laugh.
Ector strode right up to Merlin. “What have toi got to say for yourself, hm?” he demanded.
“You call washing dishes and sweeping floors a work of evil?” Merlin replied, coolly.
“I’ll decide what’s right ou wrong around here!” Ector snapped. “Besides, that’s the Wart’s job, one of his duties!” He shook the broken sword at Arthur. “Now look here, boy, if toi want to make that trip to London, you’d better tow the mark!”
“Leave him alone!” Belle snapped. “This isn’t Arthur’s fault!”
“We know whose fault it is!” snapped Cook, striding up to Merlin. “You old goat! If I ever catch either of toi in my cuisine again, I’ll...”
“Madame,” replied Merlin, “You won’t!”
And, with a soft POP he and Belle vanished from sight.
“Oh, dear,” exclaimed Cook, surprised. “He’s gone.”
“Well, par Jove,” muttered Sir Ector.
“We ought to run the pair of them right out of the castle,” Kay said.
“Oh, no, no, no, boy!” Ector said. “They might cast an evil spell on the lot of us; turn us all to stone! No, there’s no telling what that old devil might do!”
“He’s not an old devil!” Arthur snapped, finally losing it, and then added nervously, “He’s good, and his magic is good too! And so’s Belle! If you’d just leave them alone-!”
“Now, look boy,” hissed Ector, “that’s three plus demerits!”
“Box his ears, Dad!” Kay crowed.
“Just because toi can’t understand something,” Arthur went on, boldly, “it doesn’t mean it’s wrong!”
“Ten plus demerits!”
“You make all the rules and nobody else can say anything!”
“You just a dit a-plenty, boy!” snarled Ector. “All that popping off just cooked your goose! Kay, from now on, young Hobbs will be your squire!” Kay grinned in delight. “You hear that, Wart? Hobbs is going to be Kay’s squire!”
“Yes, sir,” replied Arthur, stifling tears.
“And that’ll teach toi to pop off, toi little pipsqueak!” Kay added, smartly slicing a balai, genêt à balais in half as they left the kitchen.
Invisible, Belle covered her mouth with her hands as she watched Arthur pick up the pieces of the broken broom. “Oh, no,” she murmured, and then she felt herself slowly become visible again. Quickly she hurried over to Arthur, bent down beside him and gave him a hug. “I’m sorry, Arthur.”
“So am I,” Merlin added, materialising on an upturned pot. “I know that trip to Londres meant a great deal to you.”
“Oh, it's not your fault,” Arthur replied, bravely. “I shouldn't have popped off. Now I'm really done for.”
“Oh, Arthur, don’t say that,” Belle said, sitting down opposite him.
“She’s right,” Merlin insisted. “You're in a great spot, boy. toi can't go down now, it can only be up from here.”
Arthur managed a smile. “I'd like to know how.”
“Use your head, and education, lad.” Merlin tapped Arthur on the head with his stick/wand.
“What good would that do?” asked Arthur.
“Get it first, and who knows?” Merlin smiled. “Are toi willing to try?”
Belle gave him an encouraging smile and Arthur shrugged. “Well, what have I got to lose?”
“That's the spirit! We'll start tomorrow!” Merlin patted him enthusiastically on the back. “We'll montrer 'em, won't we, boy?”
“We sure will,” Arthur replied.
So, the very suivant day, the four of them – Merlin, Belle, Arthur and Archimedes – sat up in the guest tower, ready for Arthur’s lesson. “Now, the first thing we need to do is to get all of these medieval ideas out of your head,” Merlin told him.
“Huh!” snapped Archimedes. “If the boy goes about saying the world is round, people'll take him for a lunatic!”
“The world is round?” Arthur asked.
Belle smiled. “Yes.”
“And it also goes a-round.” Merlin added, spinning the globe that Archimedes was perched on. Archimedes immediately got dizzy and fell over.
“You mean it'll be round someday.” Arthur said.
“No, no, no, it's round now,” Merlin said. “Man will discover this in centuries to come. And he will also find that the world is merely a tiny speck in the universe.”
“Universe?” Arthur repeated, confused.
“Well,” began Belle, “that’s-”
“You're only confusing the boy,” Archimedes interrupted, much to Merlin’s chagrin. “Before you're through, he'll be so mixed up, he'll... he'll be wearing his shoes on his head!”
“Archie,” began Belle, sensing her uncle was getting plus and plus irritated. But Archimedes continued his rant until Merlin snapped “Alright! You’re in charge, Archimedes! You’re the headmaster! So from now on, he’s your pupil!”
And with that, Merlin promptly marched into his old armchair, with a grumpy expression fixed on his face. Archimedes puffed himself up, proudly. “So, from now on, boy, toi do as I tell you.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Arthur.
“Now, to start off, I want toi to read these books.” Archimedes pointed to the mountain of them piled up behind Arthur.
“All of those?” Belle repeated. “Archie, that’s a little hard, isn’t it?”
“It’s a mountain of knowledge!” Archimedes puffed.
“But I can’t read!” Arthur cried.
Belle promptly dropped her book in surprise. “You can’t?”
“Then I don’t suppose toi know how to write?” Archimedes demanded.
“Well, what do toi know?” asked Archimedes, wings on hips.
“Oh, never mind, never mind, we’ll start at the beginning; the ABC.”
Arthur looked uneasily at Belle, who smiled at him and got to her feet. “It’s alright, Arthur, we’ll help you. It’s easy.”
“Belle, would toi kindly write the alphabet on the blackboard, please?” Archimedes asked.
Belle did so, écriture in very elegant curly writing. “Now toi try,” she told Arthur, montrer him how to hold the chalk.
“First the A,” instructed Archimedes, “and now the B, loop and round and there’s the C!”
“Merlin, look!” exclaimed Arthur, looking over at Merlin, who was busy rotting through some boxes. “I can write!”
“Oh, yes,” smiled Merlin, distractedly. “That’s very good, boy!”
“Pinfeathers,” sighed Archimedes. “Now, come along. D, E, F, and now the G, toi see it’s as easy as...no, no, no, boy!” he exclaimed as Arthur accidently wrote the G the wrong way around. “Now, use your head, use your head!” he snapped, stamping on Arthur’s scalp with one claw. “How do toi ever expect to amount to anything!”
“Archie, don’t be mean!” Belle reprimanded him, wiping out the backwards letter. Then, with a mother’s gentleness and patience, she put her hand over Arthur’s and showed him how to do it. “See? Like this.”
“Pinfeathers!” Archimedes grunted.
“Archimedes,” a dit Merlin, turning to them. “Have toi seen that flying machine model?”
“I have nothing to do with your futuristic fiddle-faddle, toi know that.”
Belle grinned. “Try above your head, Uncle Merlin.”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, of course. Here we are.” Merlin took down the model plane.
“Do toi mean man will fly in one of those someday?” Arthur asked.
Archimedes scoffed. “Hmph! If man were meant to fly, he'd been born with wings!”
“I am about to prove otherwise, Archimedes, if toi care to watch,” replied Merlin, winding up the blades of the plane, and then running towards the window. “Here she goes!” He tossed it out, but his beard had become Raiponce in the propellers, and, as it unraveled, it soared downwards. “No, no, no!” Merlin exclaimed.
“Ho ho!” laughed Archimedes, as the three of them ran to Merlin’s side to watch. “Man will fly, alright. Just like a rock!”
The plane hit the bottom of the moat, bobbed in bits, and then sank again. Archimedes continued to chortle.
“It would have worked if... if it weren't for this infernal beard!” Merlin snapped, stalking back to his armchair. Archimedes laughed like he had never laughed before; in fact he laughed himself hoarse.
“Archie, you’re going to make yourself ill,” Belle told him.
“Man will fly someday, I tell you!” Merlin told him. “I have been there. I have seen it.”
“Oh, I hope so,” replied Arthur, who’s imagination had been magnified par this turn of events. “I’ve always dreamed about flying; that I was a bird and I could fly all over land and sea.” Belle looked up to see Merlin waving his stick/wand. He muttered some words, and then, in place of Arthur, a tiny orange sparrow was perched on the windowsill. “It was my favourite dream,” Arthur continued. “But then I guess everyone dreams about flying.” Then, seeing what had happened to him, he cried out, joyfully, “I’m a bird, I’m a bird, I’m a bird!”
Chuckling, Merlin caught him before he could fly out of the window. “Now, hold toi horses, Wart. First I’d better explain about the mechanics of a bird’s wings. Now, these large feathers here are called the primaries and-”
“And since when did toi know all about bird’s wings?” snapped Archimedes.
“I happen to have done an extensive study of birds in flight-!”
“And in case toi hadn’t noticed, I happen to be a bird!”
“Alright!” snapped Merlin. “Mr Fussy! He’s your pupil!”
“Ouch!” exclaimed Arthur as Merlin plonked him back on the windowsill.
“Now, boy,” a dit Archimedes, and Belle leaned on her elbows to listen in, “flying is not some crude mechanical process. It is a delicate art. Now, since we’re so high up, we’ll start with a glide. Spread your wings out, way out, way out, that’s it. Now fan your tail. Tippity-toe, tippity-toe, and off we go!”
Together they both soared from the window. “Be careful!” Belle called after them. “Archie, look after him!”
“Huh!” Merlin muttered, slouching in his armchair. “Delicate art, my left foot!”
“Well, he is the expert, Uncle Merlin,” Belle pointed out, and then, to pacify his mood, she skipped off to make them both a well-earned cup of tea.
“I’m sorry, Arthur.”
“Archie, you’re going to make yourself ill.”
“I’ve always dreamed about flying."