Wednesday, 26 August 2009
The Faery Godmother
A long time ago, my distant relative, Nicholas Hilliard, a painter of portrait miniatures in the days of Good Queen Bess was given a quilt. It is said that the quilt was given by a faery to protect him and all his family. In any case, that quilt was handed down and slowly became worn out. But because it was such a special quilt, it was stitched to other pieces of fabric to keep at least a part of it within the overall quilt.
It happened that I, Mary Brandon fell in love with a man who was more full of promises than truths. He might have promised me the moon and stars and so full of love was I that I would have believed him. It is not a new tale; once he had taken advantage of me, he left me pregnant and with only the clothes I stood up in and the quilt I had been kept in all my life. I was turned out of my home and never saw him again. I had nowhere to go and no work to keep me or my child fed. With this in mind, I walked out of the small town of Farwood and into the deep forest where I hoped I might at least find some way to make a poor home for myself and my child. I had finished with weeping for my folly and my naivete. I told myself then that I had finished also with love - that it was no more than a delusion and a snare. What good had it done me?
Heavily pregnant, I gathered what I could from the forest to make a rude shelter and brought heather for my bed from the moor beyond the forest. There was little food to be had and I was no huntress, nor had I experience of finding food for myself in Nature's estate. I lived on the few berries I knew would not poison me, tho' I had moments of such despair that I would cheerfully have taken poison. I grew silent in the the months that followed. Silent and deeply miserable. The thought of bringing a child into such a world as had as it seemed, conspired to crush me, made me only more unhappy.
In one such moment, being out of favour with the world and men's eyes, I all alone wept for my outcast state. I wished in my misery that the faery who had protected my relative had protected me, but there was none to hear me. Or so I thought. I fell asleep with the quilt over me and my stomach growling for want of food.
When I awoke, I found a wooden platter filled with blackberries, hazelnuts and apples. There was a loaf of bread and a small dish of honey too. I sat up and thanked whomsoever had brought this bounty to save me, tho' being in such a state I did not thank any god. I ate and almost instantly began to feel my strength returning. With strength in my body again, I arose and cleared a patch of earth around my crude shelter. I would plant a hazelnut bush and apple trees. I would make a kitchen garden of sorts, or at least this was my plan. After a little while I was tired again and lay down to rest. I heard nothing to suggest any industry outside my shelter, but when I awoke a little later and stepped out, there was a garden all planted and once again, on my doorstep the wooden platter was full of food once more.
I thanked my saviour and wished I could do more to thank them whoever they were. Through the trees a tall young woman in a long green dress and a blaze of red hair approached me carrying something. I stood in awe at her beauty and her nobility for I thought her an angel, so fine and beauteous was she. In a voice like a stream trickling over stones, like the soft breeze in summer, like the sweet call of the swallow who announces spring, this magnificent being spoke my most mundane name.
"Mary Brandon, I have waited for you to call me. Here in the wood shall you dwell in safety and wellbeing. All that I ask of you is that you take this quilt in return for the one you have. Your old quilt is powerless now, or it would have protected you from your former lover's lies. I have made you a new quilt to keep you from harm and the cold. You are motherless now my child, but I shall be mother to you as you will be mother to your little girl when she comes," this noble being said to me.
"I am grateful to you mistress," I answered, "But this old quilt was handed down through my family from my distant relative Nicholas Hilliard and was given to him by a faery."
The creature smiled and blinked eyes like green flames.
"I know my love, it was I who gave it to him," she said simply.
I could barely speak to answer her. She did not seem any older than a young maiden and yet, looking upon her somehow I could well believe it. There was something unreal about her, something more than mere natural about her. I reached into the shelter and handed her the old quilt. She took it and handed me the new one with a fresh scent of herbs and earth in it.
The air about her seemed to shimmer and she dissolved into the air. I took the quilt and entered my shelter. Upon the quilt were words that I idly read aloud, hearing their sounds in the air. At the centre was a small scrap of fabric with one word upon it - 'Celebrate'. As I read it, I felt sleep wash over me and I slept deeply and dreamed.
A delicate music seemed to fill the air and gentle hands caressed my swollen belly briefly before being drawn away quickly. Tiny lights like motes of dust lit by sunlight swirled about me and I felt somehow so deeply loved that I wept. When I awoke, my crude little shelter was no more. Instead, a small wooden cottage woven with the living ivy and brambles stood in the clearing. I had a broad box bed and the most finely wrought cradle ready for my baby when she should come. I had a kitchen of stone and wood with a large open fireplace with a stone hearth and surround. I had in other words, all that I should need.
Outside in my small garden were beehives and around the edge of the garden was a hazelnut hedge with apple trees like living fence posts. I had awoken feeling refreshed and strong, now I felt renewed as if I could do anything I put my mind to. I cultivated my garden well while I could and when I could not, it was cultivated by my Lady's friends whom I never saw, but thanked for their work with all my heart.
When my child was born, my Lady attended me and bid me not fear that she would be taken from me. My little girl grew strong and together we slept beneath the faery quilt until she went away and returned with a farmer's son whom she loved. I saw in his face all that I had missed in my former lover's face and bid her sleep beside him beneath the quilt one night without lovemaking. He agreed, fool that he was and in the morning she sternly bid him go and would not speak of him again.
When he tried to come back with friends, it seems they became lost in the woods. It was said they were pixie-led until eventually they came to their homes again, full of fear. They would not come back again to the trees. Yet, tho' I had given up on love, a gentle man came to us and would wed me. I would not at first, but one night while he slept I placed the quilt over him and saw his heart as true as English oak. When he awoke I agreed to wed him. Some months later, my daughter also married - but that is not my tale to tell.