There once was an orphanage, set back in the hills that rolled along the base of the Cascading Mountains. Distant and far off the beaten track, there were tales of travelers who had never made it that far. Oh, they were always heard from again, it wasn’t that. But they would have a quizzical look when the journey was mentioned, and were seen to roll an eye when the destination was brought up.
Now the orphanage was not the type one imagines. Not dull white with peeling paint and grubby children hanging out of windows, nor even uniformed, clean rows of unsmiling urchins on concrete steps. Not hardly. The orphanage at the foot of the mountains was a glorious affair, castle-like, with parapets and gleaming marble floors, pillars carved with golden birds, a silver basin filled with sweet, clean water in every well-appointed room. And children, of course, everywhere! All ages, with all the colors of hair and eyes and skin children are known to come in.
Unlike their fine surroundings, though, there was not the air of aristocracy or idleness about the place. No lounging in chaises with fans and barely concealed yawns, no wiling away of senseless hours. Rather, travelers coming closer noticed the trimming of hedges, picking of fruit, painting, repairing, stacking, filling. The drawing of water, swing of a hammer. The sounds of singing come over the air between the large trees all around, and in their shade rest the young ones, being held or bandaged or whispered to by smiling older children. A sense of peace envelopes, so no matter the ordeal or the length of the journey, the traveler always soaks in the beauty while making their way to the open door. The grand front entrance stood ajar always by day, and the smells of old oak and the patina of years greeted any hands that traced its smooth carving.
Deep inside, past carpeted halls, gleaming chandeliers, vaulted ceilings and stacks of volumes in the library, fine furniture and desks, the din of murmuring voices could be heard. Around a marble table in the center room, the planning room, sat ten or so adults and older children in various poses. A stack of paper had fallen to one side, and the voices were raised. Finally, a gentleman of some twenty-eight or nine years stood and rapped on the table, hard, but when this garnered not a glance, reached into a nearby wardrobe. He pulled out a small bell, that when struck, made a sound much louder and more musical than an observer would expect. In the reluctant silence that ensued, he stated clearly, “We will get no further in this way. We must proceed in a manner that respects the lord of the house. Each one will prepare a recommendation and will be given an audience. We will adjourn for today.”