Friday, 30 December 2011
The Loving Mother
A long time ago there was a woman who had three daughters whom she loved greatly. Each of them became fine needlewomen. The eldest, Daisy was an excellent weaver, the middle one Holly was a superb dressmaker and tailor; the youngest Rose was fabulous at embroidery. They became better at all the crafts of needlework until they were known for being the finest in Sussex where they lived.
Now it happened that one day an old man arrived at their workshop and told them that their services were wanted. The girls wondered if they had time to do the work for they were in the middle of a great deal of work already. Sadly they told him they would have to decline. The man shrugged and went away shaking his head and sighing.
Soon after, their mother sickened and took to her bed. She was no fool, she knew that there was a dark magic at work, but she called her daughters to her and told them to bring her three horseshoes. This was done and the sickness weakened in her, but still it persisted. She asked for salt and scattered it around her bed, but it was too late and she died.
Her daughters were struck deep with grief for they had loved their mother as sky loves sun and cats love fish. They wept until the old man returned to their workshop with a tall and imperious woman.
"You mother is gone and will never return unless you know her well," the woman told them.
She had hair as black as a raven's wing, eyes as green as spring leaves, skin pale and slightly green and lips as red as holly berries. When she smiled there was something dangerous about her. When she frowned it was as if a storm was gathering.
"There are ten trees in the Public Park, if you can guess which one is your mother she shall be returned to you. If not then I shall turn the three of you into a Daisy a Holly bush and a Rose bush. If I return your mother to you, I shall expect you to make the dress, veil, and shoes and the underwear I demand," the woman told them.
Then with a flick of her black hair she left them, the old man following her shaking his head and sighing. The young women were furious and upset. Daisy went to the Park and walked among the trees. They were all oaks, but below one of them she noticed a small clump of daisies. She looked up at the tree, curtsied and said softly,
"Come back to us well, mama," she said.
Then she went home and as she went a storm seemed to be gathering. The next day, Holly went to the Park and walked among the trees weeping. She sighed and thought of her mother until she noticed a small holly bush below one of the trees. She curtsied and said softly,
"I love you mama, come back to us soon."
She went home and a storm gathered over the Park. Clouds darkened the sky and a wind blew her hair about. The following day, Rose went to the Park and walked among the trees. She caressed all the trees and below one of them she saw a beautiful pink-orange rose growing. She stepped back from the tree and curtsied before saying,
"Come mama, let us go home together."
The clouds gathered and blackened. The wind picked up and suddenly it began to rain heavily. The oak seemed to shrink it's branches and and slowly became a woman. It was the mother of the three young women. Rose handed her mother her coat and kissed her. They went home together and the young women now set to work to make the faery's clothes. But with their mother's advice and help they sewed into all of the clothes, fine small pieces of iron.
The dress was of the finest silk, the shoes of velvet, the veil of fine gauze and the underwear of brushed cotton, finely embroidered. Anyone would have loved these clothes.
On the fourth day, the faery arrived with the old man. The young women had placed the clothes in the back bedroom where the faery might try them on in peace. Over the window was a horseshoe. The faery went into the room and shut the door. The young women heard her retch, then gasp. A painful thin hiss was followed by a scream. The bedroom door suddenly flew open and the faery staggered from the room her hand on her chest where her heart would have been if she'd had one. The old man stared at the faery then sighed. He turned and walked away, shaking his head and shaking his head in despair.
Suddenly, the faery let out a howling screech and vanished. She was never seen again and the clothes were burned. The ashes were scattered around the roots of the trees in the Park.