Ah, benevolence! It warms one’s heart enough to see it flitting about like one of the blue fairies, blessing the poorer souls that surround us. When it landed on me, however, my heart sang with rapturous humility.
It began late this past winter in the Great Hall, shortly after classes commenced and the Students began to find and form their familiar habits that come as they settle into the new period.
The Great Hall is my favorite on campus. With its vaulted black ceilings, its intricately wrought sconces and chandeliers, and its hollow tap stone floor, it reminds me of the Cathedral where I spent my youth; though to be honest, I have not seen it since then. Even the lectern stage looks like a chancel, but without the choir. Instead of pews in the sanctuary there are wooden chairs for all of the Students.
I was never welcome there, truthfully, but I couldn’t quite stay away. The Professor, though usually occupied, would compel me to leave the room if he happened to notice me. Yet I would slink back inside after all the Students had left.
One day, during one of those clandestine trips, I found placed neatly side by side, two perfectly good cacao beans next to a chair. I took them! Now, you may think that odd. You may not be in the habit of snatching morsels from the floor beneath you; but for one such as I, these discoveries are positive treasures. In my state, one relies on the kindness and excess of others more than any well-fed onlooker can comprehend. Hey, the Good Lord helps those who help themselves, right? I just help myself to whatever is available.
The first time this happened was exhilarating! The second time was only slightly less so. When it started occurring every day after class, I began to wonder who my Benefactor was. For these were surely meant for me! No?
Look, did you ever find that a certain turn of the wind was construed just for your favor? Did a timely rainbow or a fortuitous cloud ever make you feel more than just a little bit lucky? It was like that. Each time, there were two perfectly whole beans without blemish, placed like an offering at the base of a chair. They were never by the same chair, but seemed to be randomly placed all around the Great Hall. Still, I could not escape the compelling notion that they were meant for me and me alone. That, of course, led to another conclusion.
My Benefactor had seen me, had noticed me, had given thought to my situation. I’ve never been the sort of which anyone took active notice. Yet my Benefactor had beheld me and seen fit to bless me with two cacao beans every day. What satisfaction they must have derived from such generosity, I could not fully imagine; nor did it ever occur to me, as it must to you, what an absurdly symbiotic arrangement this was.
I determined therefore to discover this Person’s identity.
Braving expulsion from the room should I be discovered, I crept in before class started and positioned myself well behind the lectern where I could watch the Students and still avoid detection. Then I waited for class to start. I searched their faces carefully, analyzing each Student’s behavior and habit.
It went like this: Goggled Dark One picked his nose enthusiastically and so only left detestable offerings on the floor. Flaxen Hair with Black Lips never opened her bag once. Tall Gangly One with boots didn’t even bring a bag. Balloon Shaped One was constantly eating throughout the hour, but never cacao beans. So was Blue Hair Girl, but always it was celery. I detest celery, contrary to rumors.
On and on it went! There were many dozens of them. After a few days, though, a thought occurred to me that truly highlighted what a little brain I have: Why were the beans always in a different location? The Students were creatures of habit like any others. My Benefactor must be one of the last ones to arrive, after the Hall was full.
With this new intuition, I was able to spot her. Her hair was the red of hard cinnamon wrappers. Is that even possible? Her face was a soft oval with steel blue eyes set widely apart from a sharply pointed nose. Beautiful, as far as Students go. I instantly felt a deep bond with her, she who had seen me and felt compassion toward me, a stranger. As class ended, I watched her reach into her brown leather bag and removed a small white pouch. She drew out two beans and arranged them carefully on the hard floor. She looked about. Then she ambled away, a contented smile on her face.
At last I knew. I don’t know when she had noticed me, or what had moved her to be kind to me. But she did, and she was.
Sadly, one day as I rushed over to where she had been sitting, I discovered not beans, but a small pile of grains. I sniffed them. Cacao powder?
What on earth? Had she gone mad? Did she think I ate them right then and there? Golden pieces of providence like those could not be devoured as if I were starving. I had taken them home each day to be savored, nibbled bit by bit throughout the day. No, this would not do.
I left the powder there and trudged home after a bit of reflection. As I entered our home, my wife’s round ears perked up.
“Where have you been, Leaf?” she said playfully, nuzzling her whiskers next to mine.
“Oh…going to and fro about the earth, seeking what I may devour,” I answered. “Alas, it seems our fortunes have turned. There will be no more beans.”
Her tail drooped a bit.
“What a pity.”