A handsome gentleman in splendid formal dress strolled down a snow blanketed street one late autumn afternoon, and happened upon an unfortunate begging urchin he had met once before somewhere. He tried to think of her name. “Ha, wait, don’t tell me… er… Margaret, is it not? No—wait!”
The young girl frowned slightly. “It’s—“
“Not Margaret, where is my head? You go by Maggie. Maggie.” Count Bologna smiled, seemingly rather pleased with himself.
“No,” said the girl. “It’s Myrtil. My name is Myrtil.”
The gentleman’s smile melted. “Myrtil? No, no… that’s not right.”
She stamped her foot in the snow. “Yes it is! I know my own name.”
He canted his head slightly, stroking his pointed beard. “Is it? Is it really?” he asked. “Hits the ear wrong. Have you considered changing it?”
Myrtil rolled her eyes.
He continued: “I mean, you’re an urchin… there probably aren’t even any official records. Just make something up and stick with it. How about Patricia? That’s a nice name. Especially if you pronounce it a little funny. Pah-tree-see-uh. See? How about that?”
“There are official records, Count, I’ll have you know. I had parents before I was an urchin.”
“So,” said the Count. “Patricia… or do you prefer Patty? Or maybe Trish? That has a ring.”
“My name is Myrtil!”
“See? still hits the ear a little tinny. Is it even a name? I’ve never heard it before. Sounds like some sort of amphibious flower. You certain you didn’t mis-hear them at the orphanage when you were a wee one? Children are notoriously stupid.”
Myrtil stared at the man. “Smile at me.” she said.
Bologna smiled at her, showing two rows of huge pearly whites.
“How has nobody punched out all your teeth yet?” she asked.
His smile faded again. “Wha?” he asked, seemingly taken aback.
“I was five when I went to the orphanage! I already knew my name by then.” she said, slapping her hip for emphasis.
“Oh.” he said. “How odd. Are you certain?”
“Yes.” she growled.
He thought for a moment. “Were your parents bohemians?”
“No!” she exploded. “My father was an inventor and airship pilot, and my mother was a scientist studying biology! They died in an airship accident, with my brother.”
“Tut tut.” he said, shaking his head. “And they didn’t set up a trust fund for you in advance. Or… airship accident you say? That takes some scratch. Perhaps they did!” He stroked his goatee again. “We should look into that! We could be rich!”
Myrtil folded her arms. “ ‘We’?” she asked.
He shrugged slightly. “Well, you would need some sort of legal guardian, yes? At least for appearances.”
Myrtil puckered her lips slightly. “Well. I suppose.”
The count smiled. “And I would require only the smallest of stipends as remuneration.”
“Yes I see.” she said evenly.
He stroked his goatee. “Yes yes, I will speak to Underby, he’s a bigwig in City Hall now, he owes me a few favors.”
“Unfortunately,” Myrtil said. “my cousin and aunt already tried for that, they—”
He waved her objection away. “They were very likely morons, whereas on the other hand I, dear Trish, am a certified genius.”
“Besides,” she said. “I don’t trust Mr Underby.”
He scoffed. “Nobody does. That doesn’t mean he is without use.”
“I suppose so.” she said. “Look into it if you want, but I doubt you find anything… but that does give me an idea.”
His eyes lit up greedily. “Oh yes? What’s that? I adore ideas, especially good ones.”
Myrtil grinned. “Well, perhaps we could come to an arrangement, work toward our mutual betterment. You, and we urchins.”
He nodded. “Go on. I’m listening.”
“Well some things we can’t do, because we’re kids.”
“Goes without saying.”
“We may need a grown-up to look respectable, see?”
He nodded. “An excellent idea. An agent of the urchins, so to speak. You would need someone trustworthy, like Mr Lighthouse perhaps. Or that odd squire bartender of his.”
Myrtil slapped her forehead. “I meant you!”
The count blinked. “Oh ME. Why yes of course. That makes much more conversational sense. How clever. Never let anyone tell you that you aren’t clever, Maggie.” he said.
She sighed. “I will need to speak to the other urchins about it, however. Then perhaps we can call you in for an interview.”
“Of course.” he nodded. “You can leave a note for me at the Merryman Pub. You know it?”
Myrtil laughed. “Yes, of course.” she said. “See you soon.”
“Excelsior!” he cried to her as she wandered off to disappear into the falling snow. “King of the urchins.” he mumbled under his breath.