God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
“Father! Oh, Father! May we have a bed-time story?” said Charles as he sat upon his bed. His older, Bob, and younger brother, Alfred, rushed into the bedroom and joined the entreaty.
“Oh please! Our chores are complete and we have washed and prepared for bed.” they said as they dashed to their own beds.
Tired, but amused by their enthusiasm, John lit his pipe and sat in an old but comfortable chair beside the fireplace across from his sons. He took a long draw from his pipe and smiled a yellow-brown smile.
“What tale shall I tell to-nite, my lads?” he said. “How about the Tale of the Brothers Three?”
“The Tale of the Brothers Three?” said Charles. He glanced to each side to see the blank expressions on his brothers’ faces. Of all the bed-time stories his father had told, this one was unknown. He cast a curious eye toward his father. On occasion, he was known to make up a tale that didn’t exist in books and this seemed one of those times.
Quite some time ago, in a land very similar to ours, lived three young men, brothers no older than 18 and no younger than 13. Their parents had long since passed away and so they lived together, in the very house in which they were born, and worked the surrounding land. For years their livestock and harvests were plentiful and fortune smiled upon them such that they never wanted for anything.
Then one day a cloaked traveller appeared a short distance away as they tended their fields. As he approached, they noticed a bulge at his shoulders beneath his cloak and an empty scabbard upon his hip. Whispering amongst themselves, they considered he might be lame and in need of assistance.
“Good afternoon, young gentlemen.” said the traveller.
“And to you,” said the eldest brother, “are you in need of assistance Mister…”
“Morningstar.” said the traveller as he removed his hood. “You may call me Mr. Morningstar. I have been travelling all day and I fear I’m terribly lost. Might I trouble you for some of your fruits or vegetables? I would be eternally grateful.”
“Of course!” said the eldest brother. “We would be delighted to share.”
With that, the two younger brothers left. The youngest brother was much slower than the middle one as he had a terrible limp afflicting his right leg. In time, they fetched a sack and filled it with as much food as would fit, enough for several more days travel if the need occurred. Upon returning, they handed the sack to Mr. Morningstar who was gracious in his acceptance.
“You have shown such kindness and I shall not forget this.” said Mr. Morningstar.
“It was no bother and we have plenty. If we had only a larger sack, we could spare more.” said the middle brother.
“Safe travels!” said the youngest brother.
Mr. Morningstar pulled the hood from his cloak back over his head and departed.
Charles yawned which caused Bob to yawn and then Alfred. John paused a moment to see his sons’ reactions and took a draw from his pipe. When he exhaled, he released several rings that floated and stretched as they crossed the room. The scent of cherry filled the air. He continued.
One week later, Mr. Morningstar again appeared upon the three brothers’ land. As the brothers approached him, he again removed his hood.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Morningstar.” said the eldest brother.
“And to you, young gentlemen!” said Mr. Morningstar. “I have come to return the sack you so graciously filled and to offer you something in return. You seem to have everything you could want here. But is that the truth? Might there be anything else you desire?”
“Meaning no offense to you Mr. Morningstar, but we’re quite happy and don’t know what you could do to improve our lot.” said the eldest brother.
“There’s nothing you could imagine? Nothing in your wildest dreams?” said Mr. Morningstar. With that he removed his cloak and large, black wings spread out behind him.
The three brothers gasped and gaped as they viewed Mr. Morningstar in all his majesty.
“Are you an…” said the middle brother.
“An angel? Yes.” said Mr. Morningstar. “Are you sure there’s nothing I could provide for any of you in your wildest imagination?
The brothers noticed his gaze fall to the youngest brother.
“The local doctor says he doesn’t know how to fix my leg. No one seems to know what’s wrong with it. I guess if I were to use my imagination, I would like to go into the future to a time where an ailment like this is but a trifle to those practicing medicine and then return whole to my brothers.” said the youngest brother.
“I can do that.” said Mr. Morningstar as he turned to the middle brother.
“We certainly don’t need anything because we toil in the fields every day. If I was to search my imagination, I think it would be wonderful to have riches like a king so I could move my family to a place where we didn’t have to work so hard.” said the middle brother.
“I can do that.” said Mr. Morningstar as he turned to the eldest brother.
“Mr. Morningstar, these are all wildly imaginative dreams, but I don’t see how you can accomplish them. I especially don’t think you can help with what I envision.” said the eldest brother.
“Please, tell me what you desire. I assure you I can accommodate you.” said Mr. Morningstar.
“A few years past I met a beautiful woman. Neither her generosity, kindness, nor her beauty had an equal. We grew to love one another, but she fell ill and died in my arms before I could ask for her hand. If I could have one more day with her to show her the depths of my heart, I would be eternally grateful.
“I can do that.” said Mr. Morningstar and, with a snap of his fingers the three brothers disappeared.
Charles gasped. His brothers, however, had long since fallen asleep. His father simply smiled, drew another pull from his pipe and exhaled.
The eldest brother found himself in the stables where the woman he once loved resided. Cradling her in his arms, it reminded him of the moment she passed away. How could this be he thought. That occurred years ago, but here she was in his arms once more.
“My love, what troubles you?” she said.
The eldest brother said, “Nothing my love. You were gone, but now you’ve returned. All is right again. We can be together for the rest of our days if you’ll have me.”
“I don’t understand. I was gone?” she said.
The eldest brother detailed his exchange with Mr. Morningstar and, as he did, a darkness crossed her face. As quickly as the darkness came, however, it faded.
“It matters little,” he said, “now we can be together once more and I shall never be without you.”
She nodded in agreement. They left the stables and secreted away to find a priest in the nearby town. They married that same night beneath an ancient oak tree that stood beside a lake. The fullness of the moon reflected its light across the lake and sparkled in waves as ripples spread from the rings of jumping fish and frogs.
Returning to the stables the next day, they opened a bottle of wine to celebrate and prepared how to approach her family regarding the marriage that occurred the night before. Her parents would be incredulous, but that mattered little to her. She poured a glass for each of them, they toasted their coming life together, and, as they gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, they drained their glasses.
The eldest brother sensed something was odd about the wine when he started feeling weak and brain-addled.
“My love, I believe there is something wrong with the wine.” he said.
“Yes,” she said, “I have poisoned both glasses, for you see, that man, Mr. Morningstar was not who he seemed. I had left this world and now I am back. I am an abomination against God and man and, although I love you dearly for what you have given me, the price was too steep for the reward. You asked for a day and that is all he afforded us. I could tell from the moment I appeared in your arms again, I was still dying. Now I have poisoned us both so that we might be together in the after-life.”
The eldest brother opened his mouth to protest, but it was too late. They both perished in each other’s arms.
Tears welled in Charles’ eyes, but his father pressed on.
The middle brother found himself behind his home. He could neither hear nor see either brother or Mr. Morningstar inside the house. What he did see was three chests sitting before him. As he opened each chest, golden coins and jewels spilled into an enormous pile on the ground. He laughed as he threw himself onto the pile. He fetched a mule from the barn and affixed a cart to her. Once he had the contents of all three chests inside the home, he returned the mule to the barn and dozed off satisfied.
The next morning he once again fetched his mule, loaded the cart up, placed a blanket over the chests to hide them, and headed into town. A home, no matter how far off the road, was no place for riches such as these. He needed a bank. As he led his mule into town, he rounded a curve and approached an overturned cart on the road. Stopping to see if anyone was injured or needed assistance, he called out. When no reply came, he left his mule and cart to examine the accident. The horse attached to this cart stamped his feet as though signalling someone. Finding no one, the middle brother returned to his own cart.
“You really shouldn’t leave your cart unattended on these roads.” said a low voice behind him.
The middle brother felt a sharp point poking into his back and heard the blankets being pulled away exposing the three chests. As he tensed to turn and face his attacker, he felt the blade pierce his back and his lungs could no longer draw breath. The middle brother’s last sight was his cart being led away by a man he couldn’t recognize.
Tears spilled from the corner of Charles’ eyes.
“Are you sure you want me to continue?” said his father.
Charles wiped the tears from his eyes and slowly nodded.
The youngest brother found himself standing suddenly amidst a crowd of people dressed quite differently than he. The surrounding buildings looked strange, but he recognized enough to realize a new building stood where his home once stood.
“Pardon me,” said the youngest brother to anyone who would listen, “could you tell me where I might find a doctor?”
After awhile, a kindly elderly woman said, “There’s a clinic up the street three lights and one block to the right.
“Excuse me?” said the youngest brother. “Three lights? One block?”
“Yes,” said the elderly woman, “three lights and then you cross the road to your right and go to the next street.” She pointed to the traffic signals and motioned to the right.
The youngest brother grasped her hand tightly, thanked her, and limped off in the direction he was given. He followed the crowd through the three lights just as the kind woman directed. Everything was so bright and so loud that he was often distracted and bumped into those walking nearby. Upon reaching the third light, he immediately turned right and headed toward the building where he could find a doctor. That was when the metal beast struck him.
“A metal beast!” said Charles. The shrillness of his voice awakened his two siblings. They looked around, heard nothing further, and returned their heads to their pillows. Charles’ father placed his finger to his lips to shush his son.
Blood spread everywhere as both men and women shrieked with surprise and horror. An ambulance arrived in the form of another metal beast. It had flashing lights, a loud siren, and it moved swiftly through the streets to a nearby hospital. The youngest brother could scarce recall what had happened when speaking to the doctor regarding his leg. He passed away that day. Since no one had experienced the affliction that affected his leg in hundreds of years, no one had been vaccinated. His disease spread throughout Europe wiping out nearly everyone before it could be contained.
“That’s a horrible story,” said Charles. “Why would you tell me such a tale?”
“My dear boy, don’t you see? All gifts come at a cost and those more selfishly motivated, suffer the worst. Whether you look to the past, the present, or that which is yet to come, focus on how you can better your fellow man rather than yourself. That is a lesson to remember in your older, wiser days.”
As he tucked Charles into bed, John softly sang.
God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.
Inspired by Barenaked Ladies (and many others) – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen