Loueza knew that it was a good day’s travel until they reached the nearest village. She and Cybella were going to have to do some “work” there. Someone was going to need their help. That was not only her calling but her life’s work and she loved the not knowing part. It always meant that she had these few hours to ponder.
Pondering had always been a private, alone, imagining time and she was rather selfish with it. Cybella had learned to just walk and think to herself as this time was always rather quiet. When they had no calling, the two chattered like squirrels. They made each other laugh and Loueza passed her knowledge of the old ways on to Cybella as they travelled the roads and byways of the countryside, stopping to pick one herb or another as they came across them.
Herbs were an essential part of their calling. And certain herbs only grew in certain parts of the territory. So they did plan their wanderings around the growing and gathering times of some the essential plants. Others they happened upon, much like the gooseberries of last fall near the road to the only big town in their range. Those gooseberries had lasted them for many weeks. Loueza had learned to split and dry them on the roof of the wagon, so that they had the sweet and sour fruit for longer than most berries they gathered. Cybella was especially fond of gooseberries.
Besides their new friend the donkey, they also had a chicken that had been found a few months back. The hen came in very handy for the eggs she laid. The eggs themselves were such a beautiful pale green, that sometimes it was hard to break them for food. So Cybella had begun to wash and dry them to use for tiny cups and bowls for their forest friends. Wouldn’t be long now as the weather warmed and they would see their friends again flitting in the treetops in the firelight. Oh they could see them during the day but it was much easier to enjoy the company of a faerie at night when the woman were at rest and still.
As they jangled along with pots and pans and reins sounding their arrival, they heard the voice of a young child. The child was screaming something. As the boy approached they realized he was yelling, “Jinx, my donkey!!!!” The donkey too brayed a welcome to the boy and they met in an embrace as only a human and donkey can, neck to neck. The donkey almost looked like he was weeping. Surely the boy was.
“Who are you and why do you have my father’s donkey?” He exclaimed with alarm. “Where is my Daddy?”
Cybella stooped down and put her hands on the boy’s shoulders and asked where his house was. Maylard said that he didn’t live nearby but was staying with his uncle while his father went on a business trip. But he would take them to his uncle’s farm which was just up the road.
Once again he asked about his father. At this Cybella lifted the boy by his waist, placed him on his donkey’s back and said, “We need to talk to your uncle and tell both of you at the same time. Understand?” Maylard shook his head and then put it down on the Jinx’s neck and began to talk softly to the beast.
Loueza looked at this site with a vague melancholy smile on her lips. She too had lost her father at a young age and never got to say her farewell. At least Maylard would have that chance, she would see to that. Then she realized this was her calling. The vibrations stopped when they rounded the bend and she saw the farm spread out in front of her. She was filled with a different feeling, one she had not felt in many, many years. She was feeling as though she was home. But she had never been to this farm and yet she knew she would never leave it either.
As they pulled the wagon into the hedgerow, they were met by barking dogs and honking geese. Both of these groups would have made it impossible for anyone to approach the farmhouse without detection. The house itself was modest but well kept. Shutters on all the windows, thatched roof in good repair and the funniest front door which had carvings of animals and little people and was stained a lovely red; all made this house a lovely site. Just to the right of the front door was a bench with flowers blooming in a shocking color of blue. Cybella recognized them as “Faerie Tops”. And behind them were “Goats Beard” and a particular favorite plant, a gooseberry bush. The house had completely woven its spell over both the ladies even before they met Francois, Maylard’s uncle.
The uncle made his way from the field when he heard the dogs and geese. As he approached and saw the donkey, he knew already that something had happened to his dead wife’s brother. He had had a bad feeling about Maylard’s father’s trip to the town. They had an argument about not traveling with that much silver on him but Bertram had been adamant about paying off the farm for Francois so that he and Maylard someday would inherit the farm because Francois had no children. It all seemed so pointless now.
The women were already helping themselves and the donkey to water when Francois approached. He took off his hat and took one look at the expression on Loueza’s face and burst into tears. Even without introduction, she held him and just let him cry. There was time for explanation.
After the telling of their discovery, Francois and Loueza prepared to go back in a small wagon for Bertram’s body or to bury him where he was, whichever was more practical. And Cybella, only more than a child herself was to stay behind and care for Maylard and the animals. Everyone was being stretched by the circumstances of that day.