“I thank you for the kind words ****** but I must confess I did not travel here alone.”
“Then who was your companion?”
He smiled, “I had several companions, each in turn. I left 2 days ago and on the first day I met with a sheep. A wild sheep that’s coat was tangled and full of mud and lice. He asked me to help him because he was very uncomfortable. I told him I had a message to deliver and that I could not be delayed but for a full day he walked with me begging that I help him. Finally when I was about to stop for the night, I relented. I took my knife and began to shear the sheep. He bellowed and bleeted for me to be gentle but his coat was too dirty. I told him it would take all night if I tried to be gentle. He begged me again to take care, so I did. When dawn was upon us, I was just finishing. As the sun passed the horizon, the last of the muddy knots came off and he tried to dash away but as he ran a pack of wild dogs came upon him and he was tired from being up all night with the shearing and so they caught him. So I took the wool and made this coat out of it,” He indicated his travel worn coat. Messengers would frequently move without tents for the sake of expediency, especially during mild weather. He probably slept in his coat in the dirt alongside his route, “Then later that day I was met by a beautiful bird who came and landed on my shoulder. He was golden with big white head feathers and he told me that if I took him where he wanted to go that he would give me one of his golden feathers and I could trade it for many things. He said men had traded just one of his feathers for a herd of camel. Camel as fine as these two here. I asked him where it was that he was headed. He told me he was going to the sea. No! I cannot take you to the sea. I have to deliver a message and I cannot be slowed. The sea is in another direction. Then the bird said but if you take me I will give you the feather and you can use it to fly right back here to where you have met me.”
“Why didn’t he fly to the sea?” asked **** too young to be deterred by manners.
“I’m glad you asked me that. You see this bird was very lazy. He had worked hard all his life to become very rich and then once he had very much, he no longer wanted to work. So I consented. Yes bird, I will take you to the sea but you must give me two feathers. The bird thought hard about my bargain, he put one of his claws in his beak while he considered. Alright he said you may have two of my feathers when we reach the sea. So I took off running for the sea with the bird on my shoulder. You may think that was not a difficult task for a bird does not weigh very much but I assure you that a golden bird is much heavier than your regular grouse. In addition to his weight he sang the whole time and believe me, in all his years of hard work none of the work went into practicing his songs. When after a full day we reached the sea, I stopped and breathing hard I said alright bird, here is the sea. I will have those feathers now. The bird was true to his word and gave me two feathers but only one of them was golden. When I saw the other feather was a dull gray and could not carry me back to where I had met the bird I protested but it was too late. The bird had flown and was gone, singing his awful song high in the palms. I took the golden feather and flew back to where I met the bird and when I landed the golden feather disappeared. It’s magic used up. I was left with only this,” He pulled a long gray feather from his carrying sack and the children stared. He lowered it back down to his side and he said, “And now here I am, at your camp with my message with two new lessons I have learned. From the sheep I learned that sometimes a dirty coat is better than no coat at all and from the bird I learned that I should never make a bargain with the lazy," he smiled down at ****, "Especially if it means I must endure their horrible singing in my ear.”