A Touch of Magic
They talk about their mother all the time, but sometimes Mary swears Dickon sprung up full-formed from the moor that might as well have given him birth. The animals swarm him with delighted sounds, gentle as though they were tame, and plants grow under his fingers as though his blood sings with magic.
“Like snake charmers in India,” she tells Colin.
He’s charmed her, contrary and sullen before he opened her heart and gentled her wildness as surely as he did his animals.
“What is it, Miss Mary?” he asks her, when he catches her staring.
She shakes her head.
Martha’s fingers seem like magic some mornings when she sets gentle hands to Mary’s stays and ties, then playfully tugs at scarf or hat or wrap. “Good morning to you too, Miss Mary,” she says with her cheerful smile that warms everyone’s heart, even Mrs. Medlock’s, though that’s a tougher nut to crack.
She always has time for Mary when Mrs. Medlock isn’t in a bad mood, household chores ticked off with a speed and ease other servants don’t have.
It was a favor to her mother, she says, that she was given work upstairs. But Mary keeps on wondering.
“Mother wonders when we’re coming home,” Martha murmurs, a half-furtive sensation buried in the words, but there’s nothing really surprising about a servant and a gardener discussing a visit home.
Dickon blinks then shakes his head and goes back to gently rubbing over a fawn’s flank. “Too much to do here. There’s time.”
“Mother won’t see it that way,” Martha answers smartly, no one but her brother noticing quite how easily she starches the linens. “Unless you want to bring a girl home?” It’s almost hopeful. She loves Mary too.
“Wee late for a changeling. Besides, she loves the garden.”
Mary loves the garden, almost faelike in her love, faelike in her tempestuous moods. Dickon loves the way she lifts her smiles to the rain and wanders barefoot through tall grasses. The moor loves her like she was born there, and the garden is her domain.
Dickon doesn’t tell her that though, she could have been a changeling in another life, had she been born here in England and not India. He might have been tempted to steal her himself.
“She’s like a queen,” Colin comments from halfway up a tree.
“And you’re king?”
Colin crinkles his nose. “We are.”
“Come, Dickon, show us magic,” Colin demands imperiously.
“What do you mean?” Dickon counters, smiling fit to split his face. “Magic’s everywhere, all around you.”
Magic in the roses, the dirt between Dickon’s fingers, the soft whistle calling the crow, shooting along Colin’s spine until he could walk on his own. Magic in Ben’s old fingers that lasted from his own paths over mounds, perhaps under them. Magic kept the garden well, found Mary and drew her here, and made the garden beautiful again.
But Dickon is easy. He dances to the tune of his own pipe, calling with magic.
“How do you do it?” the other servants ask Martha when their mistress has passed through in a fit of temper and Martha has soothed the girl to calm once more. “How do you handle her? She’s so wild.”
“Oh, it’s nothing but a bit of love,” Martha says with a smile, humming as she washes grass stains and mud from white garments, turning them pristine again. A spot of domestic magic, nothing special in human eyes or fae, but enough to keep Mary looking like an upstanding young lady to anyone who hasn’t seen her out in the gardens.
“You are magic, aren’t you?” Colin demands. He’s never been one to let things lie.
Mary looks between the two of them with sharp eyes, and Dickon just smiles because that’s always been his way.
“You’re magic, Colin. And Mary.” It still happens sometimes, humans with a spark that draws the fae to touch it and taste it and want it, magic that makes him stay as surely as his own magic draws them to come out and see him every day they can. “It’s in the garden.”
It’s not an answer but it’s true.
Somewhere, the fairy queen waits.0