Gods and spirits preserve you, oh exulted reader! May your Yuletide be sweet and bright, and may this humble and inadequate tale provide you with some small measure of amusement, for that is all it was created for.
Now, when we last saw Abu Ali and Silver Bud they were, of course, happy and in love and surrounded by all their friends. This is exactly how matters should be and how all the very best stories end.
They also happened to be in Samarkand, which is a little way away from China and which is usually quite a trek. It is certainly further away than you or I would wish to travel, dear reader, without a change or two of clothes and at least one substantial packed lunch.
But, what is this! Abu Ali and Silver Bud have their great friend the Magician and his marvellous Land of Green Ginger to take them back home and in the end it takes only one pleasant day’s journey till they land back in front of the Imperial Palace of the City of Peking and Abu Ali and his new bride-to-be are greeted with great delight by his loving parents.
(Abdul could, of course, have taken them there in an instant, a mere twinkling I assure you, but as it happened he was called urgently home back into the lamp to deal with a small difficulty his son Boomalakka Wee had got himself into involving some rope, a melon, and a particularly recalcitrant donkey. The Mouse, when she heard this, looked rather horribly smug. Deserts, she was heard to mutter in a non-too quiet voice, had been served – which puzzled some of those near by as they hadn’t seen even the first course of supper yet)
So. Several days later, after Abu Ali and Silver Bud had been married with great ceremony and many magnificent fireworks in celebration, and after they had been whisked away on the Land of Green Ginger to enjoy some time alone, the Master of the Horse was –
…I’m sorry, gentle reader, you look surprised. Did I give you the impression that this tale would be more of the adventures of Abu Ali and Silver Bud? If so I must apologise most sincerely for apart from this first brief mention they do not appear again in my tale.
No, this story is about the Master of the Horse, who as well as being good and kind to his most esteemed and elderly fellow Lords of the Court (and always willing to lend them a pencil) was also a person who did much of the work in the Court. This was because he worked quietly and well and without fuss, and people would see how nicely he did his work and decide this meant what he would like above all else in the world was a whole lot more of it.
He had just spent the day carefully arranging the most pleasing and tactful placement for the decorative statues that Abu Ali and Silver Bud had brought back with them from Samarkand. And as the statues had been Sulkpot Ben Nagnag, Wicked Prince Tintac Ping Foo, and Prince Rubdub Ben Thud before they became statues and were therefore ornamental in name only the most pleasing position for them turned out to be in a room at the top of a tower that no-one really went to very often.
So the Master of the Horse had been supervising the moving of statues all day and it had been a very long day and he was rather tired and a little dusty and gritty but he was now hurrying along the streets of the City because he was also resolved not to miss the Extra Special and Very Lovely Kite Flying Ceremony that was being held that evening in the Palace Park.
He was even more determined to attend as after the Imperial wedding he had missed the fireworks (which he had so been looking forward to) because the Grand Vizier and the Lord Chamberlain had got into a difference, which developed into a disagreement, devolved into a dispute and then become and out and out brawl. Names were called, dear reader, which I shall protect your delicate ears from and not repeat. Beards, I am sorry to say, were pulled and in the end many people who were old enough to know better twice over had to be sent off to their rooms.
The Master of the Horse had helped to separate the combatants and clear up the mess that had been made and by the time everything was neat and in its place again the fireworks were quite over. He didn’t even get to see one or to hear one bang from a firecracker, even though his Friend had tried to save one for him (which the Master of the Fireworks had found and scolded the Friend of the Master of the Horse for soundly. People who were not Masters didn’t get to let them off, he said).
So he was in a hurry and a rush and possibly even a dash, and it was not until the Master of the Horse got to the Palace Park and arrived, panting slightly, next to his Friend that he realised he had forgotten something rather important.
Because what is the point of a Kite Flying Ceremony, dear reader? Why of course! It is to fly your kite! And the kite of the Master of the Horse – a particularly lovely one of blue and silver in the shape of a large bird – was not under his arm where it should be if he wanted to fly it. No, it was back in his rooms, on the small little table by the door!
“Bother” said the Master of the Horse. (Actually, he said something that was a little ruder than ‘bother’ but ‘bother’ is what I’m sure he would have said if he’d known that young and perhaps impressionable people may have been reading this)
“Why, friend” said the Friend of the Master of the Horse solicitously “Whatever is the matter?”
The Master of the Horse turned a downcast face to him and said very sadly “I have no kite with me. It is back in my rooms (on the small little table just by the door) and by the time I go back to get it (from the small little table just by the door) and come back it will be quite dark and I won’t be able to fly it!”
Then the Friend of the Master of the Horse (whose name I’m afraid we do not learn in this tale) showed what a very good friend he was, for he merely smiled sweetly at the Master of the Horse and silently passed over the bamboo handle to his own kite.
Well, gentle reader, I do not mind telling you that a tear sprang to the eye of the Master of the Horse at this selfless and kind act. That his Friend would give up his very own kite like that! Particularly when he happened to know that it was one his Friend had purchased especially for today. It was more than his soft heart would allow and he said “No, no! I couldn’t” in a choking voice and pressed the handle back into his Friend’s hand.
But his Friend just smiled that sweet and loving smile again and gently pulled the arm of the Master of the Horse through his and lightly pressed the Master of the Horse’s fingers around the handle again, his own fingers strong and warm on top. He said quietly “Yes. Yes, you can”
The wind blew and lifted the kite up easily, tugging at their joined hands, and as it climbed up to the heavens the Master of the Horse felt like his heart was growing lighter and lifting up there with it. He sighed, and he smiled at his Friend.
And there, sweet reader, is where we leave them. Standing shoulder to shoulder, leaning against one another tenderly, with a beautiful red and gold horse shaped kite prancing on air in the sky above them. We will not follow them after this, as they are just going straight home and straight to bed and who would wish to hear about something as uninteresting as that?
So what shall I tell you of next, gentle reader? Shall I speak of the Sulkpot’s guard and why he was so mean-spirited as to steal the banana that day, even though it was a fruit he particularly disliked? Or will I tell you of the Mouse’s gentleman friend and what happened to him after he ran away to sea – of the dread and terrible pirate he was captured by?
Ah, but I see your attention is wandering, my too-polite student. You have indulged me and my poor tale enough this night and there is a world of other mythical treasure out there waiting for you to pick through so I will bid you adieu.
My blessings and wishes go with you, dear one, unworthy as they are. Your graceful attention was most appreciated and I will carry the sweet memory of it with me in my heart. May comfort and joy fill your life and may you always take heed to watch out for button-nosed tortoises, which are sometimes more than they appear.