Mr. Smallbone peered at him through his round glasses. “Humph. You’re letting the cold in. Close the door behind you. And leave your boots by the door. I can’t have you tracking up the floor.”
That was how Nick came to be the Evil Wizard’s new apprentice.
At first he just thought he was doing some chores in return for food and a night’s shelter. But next morning, after a breakfast of oatmeal and maple syrup, Mr. Smallbone handed him a broom and a feather duster.
“Clean the front room,” he said. “Floor and books and shelves. Every speck of dirt, mind, and every trace of dust.”
Nick gave it his best, but sweep as he might, the front room was no cleaner by the end of the day than it was when he started.
“That won’t do at all,” said the Wizard. “You’ll have to try again tomorrow. You’d best cook supper—there’s the makings for scrapple in the icebox.”
Since the snow had given way to a breath-freezing cold snap, Nick wasn’t too unhappy with this turn of events. Mr. Smallbone might be an Evil Wizard, ugly as home-made sin, and vinegar-tongued. But a bed is a bed and food is food. If things got bad, he could always run away.