Chapter Thirteen: Putting a Face to a name

Sothwik had written a letter on Dingley Dell Museum headed paper. (Narrators note: he also wrote the headed paper but using a different coloured pen). He was not a great one for letter writing.

He wrote the following,

Dear Sir/Madam, 

My name is Sothwik Sloth. I am the curator of Dingley Dell Museum. I have heard that you have a painting of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins. I wondered if we might be able to have a loan of this painting or if you know anyone who might be able to make a copy of it. I have an exhibition room dedicated to the great captain but I do not have any pictures of him. I would really appreciate any help you could offer. Thanking you in advance,

Yours sincerely 

Sothwik Sloth.

Sothwik folded the letter and put it in an envelope. On the front he wrote, “To the person in charge, Metrotown Docks Cargo Office, Metrotown, OFFERSLAND”.

He then went to the Town Hall entrance to wait for the post. As he approached the door he heard a clutter of hooves and the familiar cry of “POST!”…except this time it was not so familiar. It was a female cry of “POST!”. Sothwik opened the door. Before him stood the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. She was simultaneously gorgeous, magnificent, amazing, lovely, elegant and ….Sothwik’s vocabulary ran out of words. She was a Postal Unicorn. She was looking at him. She was waiting for some sort of response from him. Sothwik’s brain seemed to have fused.

“Flaming Ada” he said (accidentally out loud). 

“Flaming Yula actually”, she replied. “But the ‘Flaming’ is optional. So just Yula”.

“Em, er,  post”, he muttered, “please”. His brain caught up with events. He handed her the letter with trembling hand. She took the letter and popped it into her post bag.

She was still looking at him. Waiting for something. Sothwik’s brain had turned to mush. 

“Em, th..thank you” Sothwik managed to stutter.

Yula still stood there looking at him a few minutes longer.

“Thank you” Sothwik repeated.

“OK, I’ll take that” she replied smiling. With that she galloped off to the next house on her round.

Sothwik stood on the Town Hall doorstep softly banging his head on the door post. “Idiot” he said to himself. He went in and closed the door.

A short while later, Yula had deposited her post bag at the Sorting Office and Mrs Twinkle was sorting the Mail into “LOCAL” and “OVERSEAS”. Almost all of it was OVERSEAS as local post could simply be delivered by the sender. When she came across Sothwik’s letter she ran her finger over the words “To the person in charge” and it changed to “To Superintendent Reginald Rhino”. While she would not dream of reading the senders private letter, the “Dear Sir/Madam,” changed to “Dear Sir,” and “have a loan of” changed to “borrow”.

Later that day the OVERSEAS letters would be collected and taken to the Port by Marshal Unicorn. 

Upon arrival at the Metrotown Docks all the overseas post was taken to the Metrotown Sorting Office. There it was sorted into LOCAL and OVERSEAS again. This time most of the post was local. Sothwik’s letter was carried by an OFFERSLAND Postal Unicorn back to the docks where in finally ended its journey in the in-tray of Reggie Rhino. 

Reggie read the letter and looked up, straight into the face of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins. (Narrators note: Not the actual face of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins, but the painting of him on the wall opposite his desk). Reggie was great admirer of Captain Cribbins. Reggie took out his pen and wrote a reply.

The very next day Sothwik arrived at the Sorting Office door and knocked. The door was opened by trainee Postal Unicorn, Morris.

“I forgot to give this to Yula when she collected my letter”, he said, “it’s a box of sugar cubes”.

A few days later Sothwik heard hoof beats outside and the cry of “POST!”. He dashed to the Town Hall door. This time she was not alone. Yula and Derrick were carrying a very large parcel between them. They carefully put in down in front of Sothwik. Yula then took out a letter and passed it to him. 

“Its all PostPaid”, she said, “and thank you for the Sugar cubes”.

“You are welcome”, said Sothwik, instantly wishing he had something cool to have said. 

The Postal Unicorns went on their way.

Sothwik carefully carried the huge parcel inside. He started to tear open the wrapping. The more he removed the faster he unwrapped. It was a painting. It was a painting of a very distinguished looking Zebra in full regalia. 

He opened the letter. It was from Reginald Rhino of the cargo office in Metrotown. It read: 

“Dear Sothwik Sloth,

Thank you so much for your letter. It is such a pleasure to know someone else who appreciates our fine Captain Cribbins. I have sent you these two paintings of the great captain. We have several such paintings and we are more than pleased to donate these to your Museum. I must visit in person one day.

I also have a further surprise for you. We have been restoring the Captain’s ship, “The Explorer” and it will shortly be going on its sea trials. While we cannot let you keep it, we have added the DINGLAND Port to its itinerary so once a month it will be calling in, if you would like to come on board and see it. We will send you its sailing dates nearer the time so you can invite locals who might like to see it too.

Yours Cordially,

Reggie.

Sothwik said out loud, “Wow!”

Then suddenly it registered what the letter had said. “Two paintings”. Sothwik removed the final wrappings of the parcel. There were two paintings. One was the Captain in uniform. The other was in much plainer attire standing in a bedroom with a huge window alongside him. Through the window you could see the sea and his ship, “the Explorer”. Behind him was a bed and a table with the the strange disk thing. The painting clearly showed a beam of sunlight hitting the disk and reflecting onto the bed.

Sothwik grabbed the painting and was about to rush over to show Mrs Donkey, but he stopped. He should wait until 12, school dinner time. He also had an important job to do. He had a painting to hang.

Just after the clock struck 12, Sothwik arrived at the schoolhouse with the other painting. Mrs Donkey was in her office sipping tea when he knocked on her door.

“Come in”, she called.

“Hello Mrs Donkey”, said Sothwik. “I have been sent a painting of Captain Cribbins. It came from Reginald Rhino in OFFERSLAND. Here, take a look”,

Mrs Donkey looked at the painting.

“Where would this room be?”, asked Sothwik. “It must be somewhere near the sea”, he added.

“Oh, not necessarily” replied Mrs Donkey, “Its artistic license. The painting is made to show the things that were important to Captain Cribbins”.

A moment later, put on her reading glasses. She leaned in closer to it.

“Oh my, Oh my”, she said. “Goodness gracious me. Well I never did”. She moved towards the door.

“One minute Sothwik”, she added. She rushed out of the office and Sothwik heard her hooves clutter up the stairs. She returned shortly afterwards. 

“There!”, she exclaimed and she handed Sothwik a teddy bear. 

“This bear has been in our soft toys play box since the school first  opened” she said. 

“I don’t think I follow you” Sothwik said. “What’s this bear got to do with this?”.

Mrs Donkey pointed to the bed in the painting behind Captain Cribbins. 

“Look here”,

Sothwik looked closely and there it was. On the bed was a small but clearly painted Teddy Bear. It was quite a unique looking bear and clearly was the one Sothwik was now holding.

“There is another donation for your museum”, said Mrs Donkey. “Captain Cribbin’s Teddy Bear. A great day for your collection”.

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