October 22, 2010

Chapter 2 cont.

Next morning, she opened the door to let in the warm sunlight and was startled to see a haunch of venison hanging from a tree near the house. Jumping in surprise, she closed the door partway and peeked around the jamb to take another look. There wasn't anyone around but the venison was accompanied by another bouquet of wild flowers. This one tied with a silk ribbon and a note which read, “Thank you for your tender care of my hand after I carelessly fell into the fire. Your attentions were greatly appreciated. Please accept this venison as payment for the services you rendered me and for your care of Dynny. Philip”

She smiled and looked around the forest for a glimpse of her benefactor but found none.

Still smiling, Gweneth took the meat down and went inside to prepare it for storage. She found herself singing as she cut the meat into strips for drying and built up the fire to cook a pot of stew with the tubers she'd dug in the forest, a few wild carrots and some leeks. As the aroma filled the cottage, she pulled out some bread that had been rising in the cupboard and opened the door to the stone oven above the fireplace. After testing the temperature by sticking her hand inside quickly, she thought it warm enough to bake.  Placing the loaves inside, she quickly closed the door and began to prepare the pie crust. This would be a meal fit for a king!

 In return for the help she'd given her friends, they'd left a bit of honey, a basket of eggs, a bag of flour, a large piece of suet and a pitcher of milk.  My, what she could do with all this bounty!  Since some of these things were not easily found, she wanted to preserve them for use in the winter when the snow would limit her foraging and travel.

 But in the crisp morning air of this fine autumn day, she felt like celebrating.  The forest was full of end of the season berries, and there were a few old apple trees near the other end of the clearing where the village had stood.  She could dry them to use later.  There were more tubers to dig and wood to gather for the fire so she'd work up quite an appetite by the time she was ready to eat all the wonderful food that was filling her little cottage with mouth watering smells.  

The stew was simmering, the bread was baking and the pie was cooling on the window sill. Fresh water from the spring was steeping in the sun with mint leaves picked along the edge of the woods. She hadn't had this much food in a long time. Feeling rather selfish to have prepared so much for only herself, she longed for company. There was just enough time to stop by the nearest farm to invite the mother and two small children to come for dinner. Knowing the farmer to be away from home for a few days, she started out the door. As she turned the corner, she came face to face with the mama bear and saw the cubs standing on their hind legs trying to reach the pie on the sill. Slowly, she backed away but the bear could smell the delicious food and followed her. Running quickly in the door and closing it behind her with a bang, she let out a sigh of relief. Remembering the pie in the open window, she ran to save it from the marauding bears and closed the panes. She could see their little faces looking up at her from just below the window. Their expressions were priceless and she couldn't help laughing.

Her laughter was short lived, however. She could hear the mama bear scratching and thumping against the wooden door. The house was old and in need of some repair. She wasn't sure how much of an attack it could stand. Suddenly she heard shouting and the drumming of horses hooves outside. There weren't any windows on that side of the house and being afraid to open the door, she could only wonder what was happening.

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