Nighttime was falling over the town of Blednock. The people who lived there were doing what they did every ordinary day. Women stood on their doorsteps talking about the harvest. Children played in the town square. No one knew it, but something special was about to happen. It all began with a humming noise. The people of Blednock lined up along Main Street and looked down the road.
The humming kept getting louder. It was like the way you would hum to yourself if you were happy.
They could see that somebody was coming down the road. People began to whisper to each other. Who was this visitor to Blednock? Visitors came from near and far, but no one had seen a person who looked like this before. And what was with the strange humming sound?
The stranger was as small as a boy, but he had a long, brown beard. He wore a long, pointed hat and tiny, curled-up shoes. He walked closer and closer, and the humming got louder and louder.
"Do you think he speaks our language?" whispered one man.
"Has he come to town to buy or sell?" wondered another.
Soon the crowd was quiet. That's when they heard what the stranger was humming: "Any work for Aiken-Drum? Any work for Aiken-Drum?"
What was Aiken-Drum? No one seemed to know. The people were more curious than ever. They gathered around the strange visitor, who kept right on humming.
Then Granny, the wisest woman in the town, had something to say. "I think Aiken-Drum is what our visitor calls himself," she announced. "I believe he is a brownie."
Granny hopped onto a stump and shook the brownie's hand. "Speak up, Brownie," said Granny. So he did.
"The ways of brownies are very different from the ways of people," explained Aiken-Drum. "In our land, we learn to do good by serving others."
The little brownie explained that he was from somewhere far away, and there was not enough work in his land. "I don't need money, clothes, or fancy living," said the brownie. "I just need a dry place to sleep and something warm to drink at bedtime." In return, Aiken-Drum promised to do any kind of work.
"I've heard brownies are the best workers," Granny told her neighbors. "If there's a town that needs a helping hand, it's Blednock," she added. Granny was right. The new church needed building. The bridge needed mending.
That is how a brownie came to live in the town of Blednock. Granny was the unofficial president of the brownie welcoming committee. All the townspeople chipped in to try and make the new visitor comfortable in his new home.
The blacksmith let Aiken-Drum sleep in a dry corner of his barn. He gave the brownie just a simple horse's blanket to keep warm at night, for that is what Aiken-Drum requested.
"We brownies don't need anything fancy. A simple blanket from the stable will do," reminded Aiken-Drum.
The blacksmith knew enough not to force any extra special treatment or fancy pillows on the brownie. The blacksmith knew that keeping his sleeping area simple was a way to show respect for Aiken-Drum's wishes. He wouldn't want to upset the little man who has come so far just to be helpful.
At the end of each day, Granny brought the brownie something warm to drink. She too remembered Aiken-Drum's simple needs.
The rest of the townspeople tried to spot Aiken-Drum working whenever they could. But it always seemed that he was hurrying to one place or another. No one really saw him do any work. In fact, Aiken-Drum seemed to do all his work at night!
Every morning, the blacksmith found only an empty mug in the barn and the horse blanket folded neatly in the corner.
On the next page, learn more about the brownie's life in Blednock.