A Young Heart in Spring The Cow and the Beanstalk The Quarantine at Alexander Abrahamâ€™s
Letter from the Editor This magazine, Azure Valley, has been trying to find its identity. We have tried both romance and fun, but neither felt like the true essence of Azure Valley. We continued searching, but not finding, until we realized that our search was Azure Valley. Longing, selfexploration, discovery. We neednâ€™t look further than our need to look. The joy of discovering who we truly are, of achieving what we have longed for; the despair of not knowing who you really are, of failing after doing all you can do. The tone of the stories will vary.
Whether happy or sad, funny or straightforward, every story will feature longing for emotional progress, within one’s self or with another person. I hope you enjoy the journey as Azure Valley continues to grow and discover itself. The first story in the issue of Azure Valley Magazine is “A Young Heart in Spring, with Gravestones.” This love story is an ironically realistic recounting of Phillip, a young necromancer, and his pursuit of his lady-love. “The Cow and the Beanstalk” follows as the second short story. We enter during a fight of the unfaithful Gordon and his wife, Mary. Without much pause, Mary gets turned into a cow and kills her sister. Gordon must then exit his comfort zone in order to first find Mary, and then turn her back into a human. The last story in this issue is a classic by L. M. Montgomery, “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s.” If you have ever wondered what would happen if a self-described man-hater and a misogynist get stuck in close quarters, or if you are now wondering that, this story is for you. In Montgomery’s distinct style, she sets these two opposites in a situation where they will both have to swallow a little pride or make their lives much more difficult. I hope that you thoroughly enjoy this issue of Azure Valley Magazine. I am excited with the new direction we are taking this magazine in, and I hope that you will all read the future issues as well as this one. Thank you, and good reading.
Sam Butler - Managing Editor - Azure Valley
Contributors Authors Jeff Stehman Julie Frost L. M. Montgomery Managing Editor Sam Butler Layout Design Chris Taney Editors Andrea Jakeman Daniel Friend Savannah Woods Special Thanks Brett Peterson
Cover art by lovingyourwork.com; Letter from the Editor art by linh.ngan, and Luz Adriana Villa A. Creative Commons license, some rights reserved. Flickr.com: lovingyourwork.com, linh.ngan, and Luz Adriana Villa A.
Table of Contents
The Quarantine at
The Cow and the Beanstalk
For the sake of Mr. Riley.
A Young Heart In Spring
First order of business, get past the huge red dragon chained up in the foyer.
I did have quite the touch with the ladies.
A Young Heart in Spring,
Wit h Gravestones Jeff Stehman
young man, dressed as dark as the night, perched atop a gravestone, his arms hanging between his knees. A pack of ghouls loped through the cemetery. They spotted him and veered toward him as one. As they drew close, he glared at them. The first ghoul dug in its heels, piling up earth, and the others piled up behind the first. They stared up at the man for a moment or two, looked at one another, and decided to find their evening meal elsewhere. A ghost, resplendent in an earlier century’s finery, approached. “You seem in a foul mood, Philip. Whatever is the matter?” “None of your business, Gregory.” “So it’s a woman, then?” Philip glared at the ghost as he had the ghouls, but to less effect. “Not just a woman. Isabel.” He returned to staring into the night. “She is fair and slender and regal . . .” Philip sighed. “Yes, well, ‘tis the season,” Gregory said. “So you are courting her, then?” Philip shook his head. “She says I look like a scarecrow and smell of carrion. She has eyes for some Robert fellow.” “Well, black is slimming, and you are already rather lean. As for the smell, my young necromancer . . .” Philip sighed again. “Would you like me to curse her?” Gregory said. Azure valley - 7
A Young Heart in Spring, With Gravestones Philip’s hand shot into the ghost’s chest and clenched into a fist. Gregory’s back arched and his mouth opened in a silent scream. “I love her!” Philip said. He released the ghost. “Of course you do. I didn’t mean to offend.” Gregory brushed at his incorporeal lapels. “But perhaps I could
Philip glared from atop a gravestone. “No luck?” Gregory said. “Plenty. All bad. Robert was there. He said my blue doublet and yellow trousers made me look like a buffoon, and I smelled of something suspiciously edible. Isabel laughed at his jest.” Philip’s gaze drifted away. “Such a musical laugh.”
“Perhaps I could help in another way. I did have quite the touch with the ladies.” help in another way. I did have quite the touch with the ladies.” “What do you have in mind?” “A new wardrobe to start. Something vibrant. And a scented bath on the day you go calling.” “You think that would work?” “Certainly! Show her you are a man for all occasions, be that death or romance.” •
8 - April 2013
“Perhaps we’re going about this the wrong way. We need to play to your strengths.” “What do you have in mind?” “A woman loves a little fear if there’s a man there to rescue her. Perhaps you could arrange some danger, then swoop in to save her.” Philip grinned from ear to ear. After a moment’s thought, he pointed at a mausoleum and waggled a long finger. A black tendril
Jeff Stehman grew from his fingertip, snaked its way to the building, and wriggled under the door. Philip dropped to the ground and yanked the tendril tight. A wraith burst through the door, clawing at the tendril wrapped around its ethereal throat. “If you’ll excuse me, Gregory, I’ve a heart to win.” Philip strode off through the night, dragging the reluctant wraith behind him. •
“It failed?” “Not at all.” Philip’s hands hid his face. “She leapt right into the arms of the man who saved her. By the great horn spoon! I never would have figured Robert for a light mage.” “Oh, my.” Gregory went through the motion of scratching his chin. “This is going to be a tough nut to crack. We may have to get serious. How is your penmanship?” “What do you have in mind?” •
“She did not swoon.”
“Damn,” Gregory said. “That was my finest sonnet.” “It made her laugh.” Philip’s gaze drifted again, but then he hardened. “Robert said it sounded like it had been written by someone 200 years old.” “Now that’s just rude. Well, persistence will sometimes win out when no one plan succeeds.” •
“So did you—” “No.” “But Robert—” “Yes.” “That’s an ugly bruise.” •
Philip lay in the stone arms of an angel, fingers laced behind his head, smiling up at the moon and humming. “Philip, my boy! Things appear to have taken a turn for the better. Have you finally won fair Isabel’s heart?” “Who? Oh, no.” “What, then?” “Isabel introduced me to her cousin Matilda.” “Aha! Persistence! Is she fair?” Azure valley - 9
A Young Heart in Spring, With Gravestones “No, quite dark.” “Slender then?” “Rather the opposite.” “Regal?” “I’d go with sly.” “She sounds . . . um . . .” Gregory brightened, his eyes a little too wide. “Tell me more!”
10 - April 2013
Philip rolled over in the stone arms to face Gregory. “She has a macabre sense of humor, and her laugh . . .” Philip closed his eyes and sighed. “Musical?” “Maniacal. She’s eager to meet you.”
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The Cow and the Beanstalk Julie Frost
nce upon a time, I was unfaithful to my fiancée. That went . . . aye, about as well as you’d expect. “You traitorous varlet!” Mary screamed at me. “Please, beloved! This isn’t what it looks like—” I dodged the chamberpot she flung at my head. Fortunately, it was empty. Unfortunately, this was, in fact, exactly what it looked like. “With my own sister?” Katherine, the sister in question, waved a languid hand. “You should be pleased with how long it took me to wear him down. Quite noble, your young man, ‘struth. I finally had to bespell him before he’d give in, and even that wasn’t easy.” Mary growled, a noise I’d never heard her make before. “You’ve always hated me, witch, and tried to steal every bit of happiness away that you could. I should have killed you in your cradle.” She leaped on top of the bed and aimed her nails at Katherine’s eyes, while I struggled off the other side and fell to the floor, fumbling with my clothes. Katherine caught Mary’s wrists and flung her backwards. She seemed rather amused by the whole thing. “You silly cow,” she said, leaning out of the way when Mary came back with a wild swing of a delicate fist. “Mmm, yes.” She flicked her fingers, and suddenly a whitish-cream, doeeyed Jersey cow stood on the bed where Mary had. “Much more suitable, I think,” Katherine said. Azure valley - 13
The Cow and the Beanstalk The bed wasn’t designed for the sudden burden of a fullsized cow standing on it, and it collapsed abruptly to the floor. The cow that Mary had become bellowed, staggered, and fell down. Right on top of Katherine. Katherine wasn’t designed for the burden of a fullsized cow either, and she was crushed beneath seven hundredweight of bovine muscle and bone. Mary scrambled to her feet and off the bed. Katherine’s mouth moved, but no sound came out, and her hands flapped uselessly at her sides. She died with a most surprised expression on her face, and I’m ashamed to say that I cowered against the wall and did nothing to try to help her. Not much I could have done in any case, but in retrospect, I’d have been a better human being had I at least made an attempt. Mary eyed me balefully for a second, and I entertained a terrifying vision of her impaling me on those long, sharp horns, one of which curled up 14 - April 2013
at a wild angle. But she just flitted her tail and trotted out the door, shaking her head. •
“I’ve made a right hash of things, Thomas,” I said muzzily into my beer that night. “She’ll never come back to me now.” “Cheer up, Gordon,” he said. We’d been friends since childhood, always getting into mischief together. Now we were grown, the mischief had mellowed, but the friendship hadn’t. “Just talk to her. Katherine set out to seduce you; it’s not like you were looking for it. Mary will understand.” “She won’t understand, you nit.” I slammed my mug down on the table, making the other patrons in the pub jump. “She’s a cow. I told you that.” “Aye, well, you got quite the head start on drinking tonight. I thought you were being metaphorical and all.” He lifted an eyebrow. “A cow? Horns, tail, gives four gallons a day? Moo?”
Julie Frost “Moo,” I confirmed, more gloomy than ever. The memory of the horns and what they could have done to me was still giving me waking nightmares, and Mary had disappeared into the forest. No one in the village had seen an ownerless cow wandering about. Not only that, but some enterprising soul had burned Katherine’s cottage to the ground, with her body still in
“Are you?” He lifted his hands defensively at my glare. “All I’m saying is that Mary getting transformed into a cow is too fantastic for words, and you, my friend, are very, very intoxicated.” I buried my face in my arms. “Oh, gods, you don’t believe me. Nobody believes me.” “Well, everyone believes something happened. Katherine wasn’t exactly known for her discretion.” He
“She’s a cow. I told you that.” it, and hysteria over witchcraft was at a fever pitch. People were looking at me out of the corners of their eyes and muttering and making the sign against evil behind their backs. Thomas was the only one who’d wanted to sit with me tonight. “What will you do?” He eyed me over his pint. “Try to find her, I suppose. I can’t leave her as she is.” “That would be tragic.” I felt my nostrils flare. “Are you having me on?”
patted my back. “But maybe she bewitched you into seeing something you didn’t actually see.” “Did she bewitch the hoofmarks on her own chest, too? And the collapsed bed, was that an illusion?” I drained my pint and stumbled to my feet. “I’m going to look for Mary. If you won’t help me, then you can just take a bloody hike.” “Now, now, don’t be that way. Course I’ll help. Just . . .” He paused. “It’s midnight, aye? Azure valley - 15
The Cow and the Beanstalk Hard to find an animal in the dark what doesn’t want found.” “First thing in the morning, then.” The beer mists swirled around inside my head. I was barely lucid enough to realize that he was right. “You’ll help me find her?” Thomas slung my arm over his shoulder and helped me out the door. “I surely will.” •
The next morning, the pounding headache made me regret all that beer. More so when Thomas burst into my cottage far too early, full of loud, good cheer and enthusiasm. “Up and at ‘em, boyo. We’re going to find Mary today.” Except we didn’t. Not that day, nor the next, nor the next. The week flew by, and no one had seen either her or a strange cow wandering about. It was as though she’d disappeared into thin air. Considering the circumstances, I thought it might be a possibility. 16 - April 2013
On the seventh night after a day of fruitless searching, Thomas and I sat in the pub. “You know,” I said, spinning my pint around on the table, “magic got me into this mess. Maybe magic can get me out.” Thomas eyed me warily. “What’re you on about, then?” “The Wise Woman in the forest. I wonder if she can help.” “No, no, no. You don’t want to do that.” He made the sign against evil and took a deep gulp of his beer. “She’ll want some sort of price you won’t be willing to pay, and then she’ll exact some sort of vengeance on you when you refuse. Plus, I heard she eats babies.” “Don’t be ridiculous, Thomas, of course she doesn’t eat babies. And she finds things that other people can’t.” I stared pensively at a stain on the ceiling. “I have a lock of Mary’s hair. I think we should pay her a visit tomorrow.” “You can pay her a visit tomorrow, mate. I’m not going anywhere near her.” “Oh, I get it. You’ll look for a girl who’s been magicked
Julie Frost into a cow with me, but when it comes to talking with someone magic who might be able to help, you turn tail.” I punched him lightly on the arm. “Come on, Thomas, you’re afraid of a little old lady? I’ve seen you face down charging boars in the hunt.” “A boar can’t turn me into a toad if I make it angry.”
“Fair enough.” I stepped forward and rapped on the door. If I’d expected a warty, stooped old hag dressed all in black and sporting a tall, pointed hat, I’d have been disappointed. She wasn’t young, but she wasn’t ancient, either, and the brown eyes that peered at me were lively and intelligent. She nodded as
“Don’t be ridiculous, Thomas, of course she doesn’t eat babies.” “Then let’s not make her angry, eh?” •
The little cottage in the forest looked innocuous enough, whitewashed with a thatched roof and a trickle of smoke trailing from the chimney. I dismounted and handed my reins to Thomas, who stayed mounted to be able to make a quick getaway if necessary. “She starts waving her hands around and chanting, I’m out and you’re on your own, Gordon.”
if she’d been expecting me. “Come in, come in.” “Gordon?” Thomas’s expression was alarmed. “No worries.” I waved at him, although I wasn’t quite as sanguine as I appeared as I followed her into the cottage. “Sit, sit,” she said. “Tea?” “Er. Sure,” I said, taking a seat in an overstuffed chair. “Thank you.” The room was filled with comfortable furniture and dust-collecting bric-a-brac that served no useful purpose I could see. Of course, I wasn’t a witch. Azure valley - 17
She poured for both of us and sat on the sofa. “Your young lady is in quite a bit of difficulty.” “Aye.” I sipped the tea, which was the exact sweetness I liked, and wondered how she knew. “Can you help us?” “‘Can’ is such a broad word.” She lifted her eyebrow. “The 18 - April 2013
question really is, are you willing to do what’s required—no matter the consequences?” “I suppose,” I said carefully, “that depends on what’s required and what the consequences are.” “You’re cautious. That’s good. Many of the people coming here make wild protestations that they’ll do
The Cow and the Beanstalk
Julie Frost handed it over to her, and she swirled it around, muttering and squinting. Finally, she set it aside with a sigh. “You’re not going to like it.” “I don’t like it that my fiancée was turned into a cow,” I said, rather sharply. “What could possibly be worse than that?” “Getting eaten by a giant?” Her own voice was sharp, and I conceded the point. “You’ve got a long road ahead of you with no guarantee of success at the end. I can start you on it, but where it will end is . . . murky.” “All journeys start with a single step,” I said. “What do I have to do?” anything, yes, anything, to get their love back, right off the mark. They then get terribly embarrassed if they find out that the cost is more than they’re willing to bear.” She held her hand out. “Give me the cup, let’s see what it says.” I’d finished the tea, and some leaves still swam in the residue at the bottom. I
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Thomas said later that afternoon, as we stood in a clearing in the forest waiting for . . . “A gnome? Really? I told you going to see the witch was a bad idea.” “A gnome. Really,” said a voice at our feet. We looked down to see a tiny, manlike Azure valley - 19
The Cow and the Beanstalk creature sitting on a toadstool, glaring up at us with his arms crossed and his pointed ears quivering. “Trudy said you could help us,” I said to him politely. I’d gotten the Wise Woman’s name, finally, right before she’d sent us here. “’elp you what?” “Get his fiancée back. She’s been turned into a cow,” said Thomas. “Oh, that one.” The gnome rolled his eyes. “Aye, I can help you wivvat. But I need you to help me wiv somethin’ first. A bit o’ quid pro quo, see.” “We’ll do our best, certainly,” I said. He knew about Mary, which was more useful than anyone else had been. “What do you need help with?” “See this ‘ere beanstalk?” He gestured at a huge, multistemmed vine growing straight up into the clouds with no visible means of support. “Aye,” Thomas said with a wary expression. “Giant lives up there. ‘e stoled my family, ‘e did.” The 20 - April 2013
gnome raised a finger. “Get ‘em back for me, and I’ll give you somethin’ that’ll ‘elp you get the little woman back. Er, cow. She’s a cow now, aye?” “You want us to get your family back from a giant.” Thomas’s expression had gone flat. “Coupla sharp lads like yourselves, shouldn’t be much trouble.” The gnome shrugged. “I’d do it meself, but the giant knows what I look like, eh, and ‘e’s eager to add me to ‘is little collection o’ oddities.” Thomas started backing away. “Gordon . . .” I caught him by the arm. “Mary’s a cow, Thomas.” “Oh, bloody hell.” Trudy chose that moment to show up. “Have you and Gnorman come to an agreement?” she asked. She didn’t actually pronounce the “g” in the name, but I could hear it anyway, clear as a bell. “He’s said what he wants,” I told her. “But he hasn’t said what he can do for us in return.”
Julie Frost “It’ll be worth it,” Gnorman said. “You ‘ave my guarantee on ‘at.” “Never doubt the word of a gnome,” said Trudy. “So. Are we going?” “We?” Thomas stared. “What’s this ‘we’ stuff?” “I’m coming with you, of course. The giant has something I want as well.”
“This should ‘elp.” He handed me a walnut-sized stone that looked utterly ordinary, and I stuck it in my pocket and chased after Trudy. We never did catch her, and she met us at the top with a grin. Only— “Good gods, what’s happened to your face, then?” Thomas asked.
“Giant lives up there. ‘e stoled my family, ‘e did.” “Now just a sodding minute—” “Thomas,” I said. “What’s it going to hurt?” “She’s a little old lady. She’ll slow us down.” “Oh, odds bodkins,” she muttered, and began shinnying her way up the beanstalk, spry as a twelve-year-old boy. Twenty feet high, she glanced down. “Are you coming?” I shrugged. “Nothing else for it, I guess. Let’s go, Thomas. That slow, little, old lady is showing us up.” “’ere, wait,” Gnorman said.
Her eyes shifted about, although she tried to hide her unease. “Is there something wrong with my face?” “It’s . . . youthened,” I said. “Quite a bit. You look about, what, nineteen?” “Well, flay me alive,” she said. “I guess the glamour doesn’t work up here.” “Glamour?” Thomas asked, crossing his arms. “Look at me. No one takes a young Wise Woman seriously, right?” She crossed her own arms. “So, I age myself, everyone sees what they expect, and Azure valley - 21
The Cow and the Beanstalk I can run my business.” She shrugged, embarrassed. “I’m not even the original Wise Woman. I’m subletting while Agnes takes a sabbatical.” “Sub—” I did some quick calculations. “You know, the baby-eating rumors did seem to appear rather suddenly.” “I started them myself. When those two brats broke in and tried to shove me into my own oven, I thought I should throw a bit of a scare into the local populace.” She gestured off into the distance, where a castle stood waiting. “Shall we?” Distances were deceptive here, and we came up on the castle much sooner than I expected to. It loomed above us, dark and forbidding and appropriately creepy. Thorny vines grew across the mossy stones, rooting in the gaps between them. Melancholy harp music emanated from a window lost in the clouds. The portcullis was at least thirty feet high, and cawing crows wheeled overhead. 22 - April 2013
Thomas rubbed his arms. “Gnorman wasn’t kidding when he said ‘giant,’ was he?” “What are you after, Trudy?” I asked. “What’s a giant got that’s so interesting to a witch?” “I’m not a witch,” she corrected. “Oh, no, of course not,” Thomas muttered.
Julie Frost Below: Flickr.com/Bert Kaufmann
“Witches get burned at the stake or drowned. Wise women are just harmless old ladies in the woods who know a little helpful herbal lore.” She glared at him. “I’ll thank you to remember that. I’m partial to staying un-roasted. Anyway. He’s got a grimoire in there that would be quite valuable to my studies.”
“Grimoire. That’s not witchy at all.” Thomas rolled his eyes. “So. All we have to do is find Gnorman’s family, get them out, steal this grimoire of yours, and then we can go, right?” I asked. “‘Steal’ is such a judgmental word. I prefer ‘appropriate,’” said Trudy primly.
Azure valley - 23
The Cow and the Beanstalk “Whichever.” Now it was my turn to roll my eyes. “Can I presume you know where he keeps it?” “Not precisely, but it shouldn’t be that hard to find.” I gazed at the castle, which was at least twice the size of our entire village. “No, not at all.” “It emanates magick.” Again, I could hear the “k” at the end of the word, and I wondered how she did that. “Follow my nose, and it should lead us right to it.” “And Gnorman’s family? Where would they be?” She scratched her jaw. “Either the dungeon or the tower, I’m thinking.” “Yes, very useful.” I hitched up my trousers. “Well. Shall we?” The first order of business, naturally, was to get past the huge, red dragon chained up in the foyer. It slept coiled up in a ball, with smoke curling from its nose. And it seemed— “Is it just me, or does it sound like it’s sick?” Thomas said, his voice pitched low. 24 - April 2013
The dragon chose that moment to rear up, sneeze out a damp flame, and flop its head miserably back on the floor. Its eyes were gummed with mucus, and its nostrils dribbled green snot onto the floor in long strings. “Oh, he looks so sad, poor creature,” said Trudy. She reached into the pouch at her belt, and Thomas grabbed her wrist. “What are you doing?” he whispered furiously. “That thing hasn’t noticed us yet, probably because it’s got a cold, which is damned lucky for us. Leave it.” Trudy made a whining noise down in her throat but saw the wisdom. We managed to sneak past the wretched dragon and into the castle proper. Trudy glanced over her shoulder at the creature several times, and I hoped she wasn’t planning on doing anything silly. We found ourselves in a room with hallways and stairways branching up, down, and sideways. “Oh, this is just fantastic,” Thomas said. “Now what?”
Julie Frost Trudy turned in a circle, sniffing and fluttering her hands. “What—” I started. “Shh,” she said, eyes closed. “It’s . . . this way.” She pointed at a stairway leading down that looked like every other stairway. Guttering torches lined the walls, smearing them with smoky residue. The steps themselves were huge, two feet long and a foot and a
deposited us into an ill-lit corridor. A squeaking rat the size of a sheepdog ran over my foot, and I jumped, shuddering. “Eugh. Nasty things.” “They probably think the same of you,” Trudy said acerbically. “Here we are, down this way, and . . . right through this door.” I stopped her before she did something stupid. “Don’t
The first order of business, naturally, was to get past the huge, red dragon chained up in the foyer. half tall, on average, and made of irregular paving stones. “The grimoire or Gnorman’s family?” I asked. “Oh, um, the grimoire.” She went slightly sheepish. “I think it can help us find Gnorman’s family; there’s sure to be a locator spell in there we can use.” “No, not a witch, not at all,” Thomas muttered. I elbowed him, and we followed Trudy down the stairs which
just open it! Are you crazy? There could be all kinds of traps on that door. At least check it before you go barging in there.” She waved her hand in front of it a few times and peeked through the keyhole. “I’m getting a bookish feeling, all right? And I’m not detecting any traps.” “Fine. In you go, then.” Thomas wasn’t shy about letting her go first. Azure valley - 25
The Cow and the Beanstalk “Aren’t you a brave one?” she muttered. She turned the knob and opened the door. We stood there for two terrified seconds before she slammed it shut again. The thing inside banged against it an instant later. Thomas collapsed in giggles against the opposite wall. His laughter had a hysterical edge. “A bookish feeling. Yes, indeed. I can see where you’d get that.” So could I, because inside that room had been a tenfoot long, animated, leatherbound tome. With teeth. “Something like that really puts the ‘grim’ in ‘grimoire,’” I said. “Yes, you two, very funny,” Trudy huffed. “You should put a minstrel act together.” “Now what?” Thomas asked. “Obviously, that wasn’t your book.” “Actually, it was.” He gaped at her. “You’re having me on. Please tell me you’re having me on.” “I’m afraid not.” She looked thoughtful. “Someone didn’t 26 - April 2013
want ordinary people to be able to get hold of it. That’s quite the protection spell it’s got going.” “Can you break it?” I said with morbid curiosity. “And can we watch?” “I should be able to,” she answered. “With a bit of luck and the right incantation.”
Julie Frost Below: Flickr.com/Vincent_AF
“Not sure I like relying on luck for something like this.” “Eh, luck is where you make it.” She twitched her skirt round her ankles and reached into her bag, rummaging through some smaller pouches. “A bit of this, and a pinch of that, and a handful of . . . ooo, yes. All right, you two, stand back.”
“No worries,” Thomas said. I ranged myself beside him. Didn’t seem right, somehow, to let her go into this battle by herself, but neither of us were schooled in magic, so nothing else for it. She took a deep breath, flung the door open, shouted an incantation, and tossed
Azure valley - 27
The Cow and the Beanstalk her handful of ingredients at the thing. Then she squeaked, “Oh, bollocks,” and slammed the door shut again. “What happened?” Thomas asked. “Er. It doubled in size and grew more fangs.” She rummaged through her pouches again. “Oh, no wonder. I need a handful of this and a pinch of that. Whoops.”
decades. Thankfully, it was only about two feet long now, and the teeth were gone. I breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s it? Can we go get Gnorman’s family now?” Before she could answer, we were interrupted by a booming female voice. “Well, aren’t you the cutest little thing?” A large bare foot landed on the floor
“It doubled in size and grew more fangs.” Thomas rested his head back against the wall with his arm over his eyes. “We’re doomed.” “Once more into the breach!” she said, undaunted. She repeated her previous actions and, this time, gave a “hah!” of satisfaction. Stepping into the cell, she emerged with the book, which was still leather-bound, but now it was strapped round with brass doodads covered in verdigris. It looked like it hadn’t been opened in 28 - April 2013
beside Thomas, and a hand reached down, picked him up, and carried him away upstairs before we quite knew what had happened. I gasped. “What the hell was that?” Trudy blinked several times. “I believe that was the giant’s wife.” “She’s . . . big.” I felt utterly stupid. I knew that storming a giant’s castle would involve confronting an actual giant, I just hadn’t realized that he’d be married.
Julie Frost “Yes, that would be the operative definition of ‘giant.’” Trudy snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Come on, we have to rescue Thomas. Who knows what she’s going to do to him?” “Rescue him from that? How?” “I assume you know how to use that pigsticker you’re wearing,” Trudy said, pointing at my sword, which I’d forgotten I had. “It’s not just for decoration, is it?” “I can’t kill a lady, even if she is a giantess,” I objected. “No, but you can threaten and distract her while I get Thomas out of his pickle, right?” “Oh, gods.” We crept up the stairs and peeked around the corner. No one was anywhere in sight, although we could hear the dragon sneezing in the foyer. Trudy sniffed the air. “This way,” she whispered. “How do you know?” I drew my sword and followed her anyway. “Because cooking smells emanate from a kitchen, and
that’s generally where you find wives at mealtime.” I stopped, appalled. “You don’t think she’s going to eat him?” “I have no idea,” she said impatiently. “But she might if we don’t get there in time, so I suggest we hurry so we can suss out the lay of the land and make sure she’s not chucked him into the stewpot already.” I swore and dashed down the hall, but Trudy caught me by the back of the tunic before I could run into the kitchen and do something truly brainless. “It won’t do for us to be captured as well,” she said, which was quite reasonable when I stopped to think about it. We came to the doorway of the kitchen and peeked around it inside. The giant lady stood at the stove, stirring something in a cookpot and humming to herself. A playpen with a lid on it was situated in the corner of the room, and Thomas, looking halfway between disgruntled and terrified, sat crosslegged inside it. I leaned against the wall with my arm Azure valley - 29
The Cow and the Beanstalk over my eyes. “So not only is there a giant wife, there’s a giant baby as well. This day just keeps getting better and better.” “Remember why you’re here,” Trudy said. “Mary’s a cow. Mary’s a cow. Mary’s a cow,” I chanted. “Right then.” I looked again. “You know, she seems quite occupied. I’m thinking I could go in there and cut him out before she noticed and then we could nip down the stairs over there.”
My sword made short work of the playpen mesh, and Thomas had just about crawled through, when the giant lady turned around and saw what we were up to. “Here!” she shouted. I yanked Thomas out bodily, and the three of us scampered out the door and down the flight of stairs, finding ourselves in a root cellar with carrots and potatoes half our size. We hid behind some barrels after tripping
“Remember why you’re here,” Trudy said. “Mary’s a cow. Mary’s a cow. Mary’s a cow.” “I’ll keep watch and distract her if need be.” Trudy nodded decisively. “Let’s go.” We crept in, using the table and chairs for the dubious cover they provided. Thomas saw us, and I put a finger to my lips before he forgot himself and cried out. He clamped his mouth shut and nodded. 30 - April 2013
over gods-knew-what in the dark, and the giantess cursed but couldn’t see us. She’d neglected to bring a torch, and stomped back upstairs. We followed, treading softly, and slipped down a different hallway and then up a flight of steps. We peeked around the corner to see that she’d armed herself with a
Julie Frost torch and a fireplace poker and was sallying down to the root cellar to do battle with us. Happy to have evaded her, we continued up another flight of stairs before stopping to take a breather in a hallway. “Bloody hell,” Thomas said. “Thank you. I was afraid she was going to gut me, right there, and toss me in the stew.” “So were we,” I told him. “Let’s none of us get caught that way again, aye?” “Aye,” he agreed fervently. “Now what?” Trudy gave him a sunny smile. “Let’s find Gnorman’s family and then we can all go home.” The corridor stretched out in front and behind us, far in both directions. Stairs went up, and stairs went down, and doorways and corridors leading who knew where opened every which way. “So . . . where to?” I asked. “Because, good grief.” “You’re asking me?” Trudy said, eyes wide. “You seem to think you know what you’re doing, so aye,”
Thomas told her. “Didn’t you say you could find them once you had this book of yours?” She clutched the tome to her chest. “In a manner of speaking. I might need some ingredients.” “So we should go back to the kitchen?” I said. “Not on your bloody life.” Thomas crossed his arms. “You know she was going to eat me. How hard could casting a spell to find a family of gnomes in a place like this be? It’s not like they’d be thick on the ground here.” “It’s not so simple as that.” Trudy glared at him. “Cor, some witch—excuse me, wise woman, you are. Can you find them or can’t you?” I remembered the stone Gnorman had given me. “How about this?” I asked, fishing it out of my pocket. “It’s a rock,” Thomas said unnecessarily. Trudy’s eyes went wide. “Did Gnorman give you that?” “Aye. He said it would help.” “You could have said something sooner,” she huffed. Azure valley - 31
The Cow and the Beanstalk “Well, between the coughing dragon, the carnivorous book, and the cannibalistic giantess, I’m afraid it slipped my mind. So sorry.” I gave it to her. “What’s it for?” “It’s a gnome stone. It glows whenever the proper incantation is applied and there’s a gnome anywhere about.” “Och, aye, very useful then.” Thomas grinned with all his teeth. “Let’s have the proper incantation, and Bob’s your uncle. We’ll be home by sunset.” She held the stone in her fist and muttered a few words. A few seconds later, it shone so brightly we could see the bones in her hand. She opened her palm, and the stone was glowing on one side. “This way,” Trudy said, pointing in the direction on the glowy side. “Now we’re getting somewhere.” Thomas clapped me on the back. “Follow the stone.” It led us down the corridor and up six flights of stairs into a tower. A ladder ascended from the end of the stairs to a 32 - April 2013
trapdoor in the ceiling. “Can it be this easy?” Thomas said. “Surely not.” “One way to find out,” Trudy said. “Gordon, would you like to do the honors?” The rungs of the ladder were nearly three feet apart and bloody awkward to climb. I checked the door,
Julie Frost Below: Flickr.com/quinn.anya
but didn’t find anything. This giant fellow seemed awfully secure for someone with a castle full of oddities, but I supposed he didn’t have many visitors. Hooking an arm round the top rung, I pushed the trapdoor open and cautiously peeked into the room.
“Gah!” Six tiny, naked, blue creatures leaped at my face. I ducked back down and slammed the door, but not before one of them tangled himself in my hair and began tugging it with all his might and screeching like an owl. “Gerritoff and shut it up!” I shouted, slapping at it. I slid down the ladder and tumbled to the floor. “It’ll have the whole place down round our heads.” “Och, hold still,” Thomas said. “It hurts! Ow!” I flapped my arms wildly. Had it fastened its teeth in my ear? Thomas finally clouted my head hard enough to dislodge the creature. Unfortunately, he also killed it in the process, and he caught it before it fell to the floor. It lay, sad and broken, in his hand. Pointed ears, big hands and feet, and lower fangs that protruded from its jaw told me that this was no gnome. “This is a goblin,” I said. “Trudy . . .” “Um. Oops?” She looked abashed. “I may have Azure valley - 33
The Cow and the Beanstalk transposed a word. Let me try again.” “Oh, bloody hell,” Thomas muttered. “You’re not very good at this, are you?” “What? Gnomes and goblins are about the same size, they’re related, and they both start with ‘g.’ I’d like to see you do better.” The last sentence was said under her breath. “Leave it, Thomas,” I said, and he subsided, with ill grace.
moment to awaken—it meant she’d be occupied for a fair bit. I held my hand up at the bottom of the stairs, winded and sweating. “Let’s have a break for a minute,” I wheezed, wiping my brow with my sleeve. I would need a bath by the time this was over. “I didn’t plan to travel this much today.” We caught our breath in the glow of the stone. “Are you sure it’s right this time?”
“You’re not very good at this, are you?” Trudy repeated her incantation, and I couldn’t honestly tell if it was the same one or not. But the opposite side of the stone glowed, and none of us had any better ideas, so we followed it back down. This time it led us to the dungeon. We had to dodge the giant’s wife on the way down, but she singlemindedly went into a room from which giantsized baby cries were emitting, so we felt almost fortunate that the child had chosen that 34 - April 2013
Thomas said. “Because that was a nasty surprise. Bad enough to have one in a tower. Down here?” He gestured around the damp, musty dungeon. “This is an evil place to be trapped.” Trudy was a bit uneasy. “Well, I don’t see any other way to find them. If this doesn’t work, I’ll consult the grimoire, but that’s a dodgy proposition, too, because I haven’t studied it. They all have their own little quirks, you know.”
Julie Frost “No, I don’t know. I tend to stay away from the oogabooga stuff.” He crossed his arms. “Messing about with forces we don’t know a blessed thing about, not for me. Give me my fire and my forge, any day.” “Oh, right, messing about with things that can burn you horribly is so much better.” “Better than being turned into a toad if you make the wrong elemental angry with you, aye?” I was growing weary of the bickering. “All right, you two. Shall we go on?” We heaved ourselves to our feet and followed the glow of the stone around a couple more corners. At the end of the corridor, a barred door squatted, and the entire stone burst into light. “Now that’s something like,” Trudy said. “They must be in there.” Thomas walked over and looked between the bars. And thumped his head, once, on the door. “Well. You could say that.”
“Oh, gods, what now?” I said. I looked in and saw that the cell had at least ten bird cages inside, hanging from hooks and sitting on tables. And each of those cages held a family of gnomes. They saw us and began gesticulating and shouting in their tiny voices. “That complicates matters,” Trudy said. “D’you think?” Thomas said, sarcasm dripping from his tone. “I would never have guessed.” “We’ll have to take them all.” “Och, I don’t fancy that,” he objected. “How’re we going to do that and get out of here unseen?” “Pockets, of course. Hush, darlings,” she said to the gnomes. “We’ll have you out in a tick, and you wouldn’t want to bring the giant down by all that noise.” “’urry, missus,” one of them said. “’e’s going to be ‘ere soon for to clean and feed us.” The door to the cell was unlocked, and we scrambled inside and loaded them into Azure valley - 35
The Cow and the Beanstalk our pockets to muffled cries of “ow, gerroff!” and “your foot’s in my face” and “well, your elbow’s in my ear.” “We’re looking particularly for Gnancy, Gnewton, and Gnelly,” Trudy said. “Are they here?” “’ere, missus,” said a voice from my pocket. “All three.” That was something, anyway. Now all we had to do was get out. We’d made it around the corner and halfway down the hallway when we stopped in our tracks at the sound of a booming voice ahead of us. “Fee, fie, foe, fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman! Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread. And the Englishwoman’s bones, too.” Thomas said a bad word and looked wildly around, but we were trapped unless we wanted to hide in one of the cells. From the noises coming out of some of them, the consequences of that might be worse than facing the giant. 36 - April 2013
“Open to suggestions, here,” I said frantically. The giant was still out of sight around a corner, but wouldn’t be for long. “Straight at him,” said Trudy. “He won’t be expecting that.” “Och, no, because that’s stupid,” said Thomas. “Well, where else are we to go? Clearly, he can smell us wherever we are. Our only recourse is to confront him directly and bull our way through. Gordon, your sword.” I drew it with a clang. I hadn’t told her that I wasn’t actually very good with it, but Thomas knew. He gave a doubtful shrug, because it was better than nothing, but his expression told me that he thought we were all going to die. I wasn’t sure he was wrong. We charged, yelling for all we were worth, and pelted ‘round the corner to see the giant lumbering in our direction. Trudy stopped short and flung the gnome stone at the giant’s head. It bounced off his cheek but didn’t do any damage—and probably wouldn’t have even had she managed
Julie Frost to hit him directly in the eye with it, because he was just that big. Twenty feet tall, by my judgement. Not that I got out a measuring stick. Thomas turned tail and ran back, although where he thought he was going I had no clue. The answer came
The giant had a distinct limp now, but the manticore was shaking its head, halfstunned. While they were occupied with one another, we attempted to sidle past. The giant aimed a kick at the manticore that sent it crashing against the opposite
“Fee, fie, foe, fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman! a moment later when he shouted, “Flatten yourselves against the wall!” A loud and angry snort sounded behind us, and a manticore charged past. About eight feet tall, it smashed the giant above the right knee with a resounding crack and the driving force of a stampeding bull. One of its horns left a long and bleeding slash at the joint. Thomas came up behind us, panting. “Saw that in one of the cells,” he said, as the manticore and the giant squared off. “I bet it’s not too happy with our large friend there.”
wall. It slid down in a dazed and winded heap, and our only ally was out of the fight. The giant scooped Thomas up as he ran by. “Aren’t you a clever one?” he boomed. “Not feeling very clever right now, no, sir,” Thomas choked. Trudy waved her hand and muttered something, and a green miasma swirled around us for a second before swooping up and engulfing the giant’s face. At the same time, I suddenly felt cleaner and drier than I had since we’d had to make our first run for it. The giant coughed, gagged, and fell to his knees. Thomas Azure valley - 37
scrambled loose from his hand and leaped free, the gnomes in his pocket crying out in terror. I stabbed the giant in the left foot for good measure, and we scurried down the corridor again, found the stairs, and beat it for all we were worth up them. The giant roared behind us, but I’d apparently hit him in 38 - April 2013
a good spot, and he couldn’t follow very well. The wife had come running, hearing all the noise, but she had an armful of baby and couldn’t do much but try to kick at us as we went by. We dodged nimbly and were almost free— Until we collided with the dragon chained up in the foyer.
The Cow and the Beanstalk
Its head reared up, and it snorked a gob of mucus onto the floor as we fell on our collective behinds, winded from the impact. “We’re going to die,” Thomas said, decisively. “No, we’re not,” Trudy said, just as decisively. “Who’s a pretty boy?” she crooned at the dragon. “Don’t feel too well,
d’you?” It moaned at her. “I can help you with that, if you promise not to set us on fire.” It flopped its head back on the floor with a gusty sigh that blew a spray of snot all over us. No flame, thankfully, but the snot was unpleasant enough. Trudy reached into the bag at her belt. She rummaged through a series of smaller pouches until she found the one she wanted. “Here, inhale this,” she said, sprinkling some sort of powder over the dragon’s nostrils. “Three times, there’s a good fellow.” Thomas and I, meanwhile, had commenced edging around the creature toward the front door. “Hurry, Trudy,” I said between my teeth. “The giant isn’t going to take forever to get here, you know.” The dragon did as she told it and immediately looked happier. The slime dripping from its nostrils decreased by about half, and its breathing eased. It nuzzled her chest, almost knocking her over, and she planted a kiss on its large and scaly forehead. Her mouth turned down Azure valley - 39
The Cow and the Beanstalk at the corners as she contemplated the metal shackle around its neck, but we couldn’t do anything about it. “You poor thing. You’ll cover our escape, though, right?” she asked it, stroking its throat. It made a noise of agreement and settled itself facing the inner part of the castle. “There we are, then,” Trudy said, while Thomas gazed at her with new respect. “Let’s go.” Gnorman was happy to see his family, although less happy
How are these things going to help me get Mary back?” “If you plant ‘em, they grow overnight. And then you can climb ‘em to get to the giant’s realm.” “And why in bloody hell would anyone sane want to do that?” Thomas demanded. “The giant’s got treasure up there. You saw, no doubt.” “We were too busy trying to stay alive to go peeking in his cupboards,” I said frostily. “Trust me.”
The dragon did as she told it and immediately looked happier. to see some of the other gnomes we’d liberated. Turned out they were clan rivals or some such. I didn’t care about gnome politics; I just wanted him to give me what he’d promised. “’ere you go,” he said. He gave me a handful of— “Beans?” “Magic beans,” he clarified. “Y’ see that ‘re beanstalk you just come down?” “Aye, can’t exactly miss it. 40 - April 2013
Grouchy, I shoved the beans into my pocket, feeling no closer to finding Mary than when we’d started the whole mad adventure. All that for bloody magic beans. . . . “Come over for tea,” Trudy said. “I made fresh scones this morning.” “I should get back to my forge,” Thomas said. “Strawberry jam,” she countered, and that settled it.
Julie Frost She sat us down in her parlor with a plate of scones between us while she put the kettle on to boil. “She’s a bit of all right,” Thomas mumbled around a mouthful of bread. “What happened to ‘she’ll turn me into a toad if I look at her wrong’?” I asked. “Did you see how she made the dragon an ally? That’s a smart woman, that is. Could use someone with her brains about the place.” Thomas, twitterpated. This was new. And all I needed. “Focus, Thomas,” I said. “How am I going to find Mary? Who is, might I remind you, a cow.” “My grimoire might be able to help you with that,” Trudy said, coming in with a tray. “I’ll need to study it for a bit, though.” I felt as if the exploit at the castle had been a monumental waste of time, and said so. “You’ve got a grimoire you can’t use, and I’ve got”— I snorted—“magic beans. Although Thomas got taken down a peg, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.”
“Here, now,” he said goodnaturedly as Trudy poured him a cuppa. “What was that green cloud thing you did back there, Trudy? Threw our giant for a loop, it did.” She looked smug. “I gathered up the body odor we’d accumulated running about the castle and used it as poison gas.” “Bloody brilliant.” She curtseyed in her seat. “Why, thank you, sirrah.” Dimpling, she said, “Turning the manticore loose was a fantastic idea.” Good gods, they were both going gooey-eyed. My head hurt, and I was suddenly tired. I stood up. “I think I’m going home. Maybe things will look clearer in the morning.” “Here, Gordon, are you all right, old chap?” Thomas said. I shrugged and headed toward the door. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, you two.” •
Over the next week or so, I continued my fruitless search for Mary, while Azure valley - 41
The Cow and the Beanstalk Thomas commenced romancing Trudy. “I never want you to twit me about mooning about over love ever again,” I told him sourly, in the pub one night. He’d spent the day searching out herbs in the forest for her. No more signs against evil in her clearing, either. He was head over heels and no mistake. “Och, she’s a keeper, she is.” He grinned. “She’s been studying that there magic book, trying to figure out a way to find Mary. What’d she say the other day . . .” He sat up straighter. “Oh, aye, didn’t you say you had a lock of Mary’s hair? She can use that. We should take it to her tomorrow.” “You just want an excuse to go see her again,” I grumbled. “But it’s not like I’ve got any better ideas.” Next morning, I shooed my cat out of the dresser drawer and retrieved Mary’s lock of hair from under my socks. After I collected Thomas, we went to see Trudy. She smiled and pecked Thomas on the cheek, and I rolled my eyes. 42 - April 2013
Didn’t take magic to see a wedding in their future. I showed her the hair. “I hope you don’t need all of it,” I said. She twisted her mouth to one side, contemplating it. “Probably not.” She opened the grimoire and ran her finger down the page. “Here we are. Looks like I’ll need about half of it, Gordon.” It was an acceptable risk. She gathered some herbs and ground them in a pestle. After that, she burned them with the hair, in a crucible, while chanting something or other. A bit of light poofed out and made a thrice-wise circle before zooming out the door. “Wait!” Trudy cried, and it zipped back in, bouncing in the air. If a piece of light could look impatient, it did. We leaped up, and it went back out. We followed as best we could, and it acted like a sheepdog, getting a set distance ahead before coming back to us, making the circle again, and then going ahead. It flitted through the woods, headed through the village,
Julie Frost and went straight through my front door as if it wasn’t there. “Wait, what?” I objected. “Mary’s not in my house. I couldn’t miss a cow, for gods’ sake.” “Maybe she’s changed back into a girl and she’s come home?” Thomas said as we opened the door.
the cat resting in the center of my bed. “Well, how did that happen?” I smacked my forehead. “I keep the lock of hair in my dresser. And that’s where the cat sleeps when I forget to close the drawer.” “Contaminated sample,” Thomas said. “You don’t even
A bit of light poofed out and made a thrice-wise circle before zooming out the door. The light floated in the center of the room. As soon as we came in, it nipped up the ladder to my sleeping chamber. We exchanged glances, and I climbed the ladder. “Mary? . . . Oh.” A few seconds of disappointed staring and I climbed back down. “Unless Mary’s turned into a large orange tomcat, your spell didn’t work,” I told Trudy. “Large . . . orange . . . what?” Trudy went up to have a look for herself, and came back down after confirming that the light hovered above
want that in blacksmithing. Can’t imagine what it’d do with a magic spell.” “Probably lucky it didn’t turn me into a cat,” I grumbled. “Och, a simple locator spell wouldn’t do anything so drastic,” Trudy said. “We can do it again and make sure there’s nothing odd this time.” I balked. “That last bit of hair is all I have left of her.” “But once we find her you can have all the hair you like,” Thomas pointed out. “The spell did all right with the cat. We’ll have Mary back in half a tick.” Azure valley - 43
The Cow and the Beanstalk
44 - April 2013
“That’s just bloody fantastic.” I rose heavily to my feet. “I’m going to the pub.” Thomas and Trudy exchanged glances. “You shouldn’t be alone. I’ll come with,” Thomas said. “Just so you know, I’m planning on getting very, very drunk.” And I did. It didn’t make me feel any better. •
Weeks passed. I attempted to enlist the aid of pixies, elves, and sprites, to no avail. A troll up on the mountain provided a nearly fatal experience without getting me any closer to finding Mary. And Thomas and Trudy continued to make googly eyes at each other. It was sickening. Eventually, I had to confine my quest to evenings and weekends. My leatherworking business was suffering as a result of my obsession, and I had to eat. Practical considerations nibbled away at my guilt. After all, if Mary wanted to be found, she could trot
“Still the matter of turning her back into a girl. All right,” I said. “I’m still uneasy about this, though.” We sorted through the lock of hair and removed all the cat fur, which apparently got everywhere. Trudy repeated the spell, and a little glow of light erupted from the crucible. It spun around three times, hesitated, then spun in tighter and tighter circles, throwing off embers. We all backed away from it. “Trudy?” Thomas said. The word came out as a squeak. “That doesn’t look right,” she admitted, as the light finally disappeared in an explosion of red and green sparks. “Oh, bugger.” She consulted the grimoire again. I sat down with my face in my hands. “I’m never going to find her.” “Oh,” Trudy said. “Now I get it.” “What?” I asked. “Well, we used hair from when she was a girl. She’s a cow now. It confused the spell.”
Azure valley - 45
The Cow and the Beanstalk out of the woods and make herself known, aye? At last, Market Day arrived. I was heading home at dusk after setting up a stall at the grounds when I came around a corner of the path and nearly collided with a young man leading a cow on a string. My heart soared and my breath caught in my throat when I realized that it was Mary—I’d recognize that wildly angled horn and that glint in her eye when she looked at me anywhere. I tried to dampen my enthusiasm. “Hello, lad. Off to the market with this fine-looking cow?” “Aye, me mam and I are poor, and her milk’s stopped, so I’m to sell her. I don’t much fancy spending the night at the fairgrounds, though, and I haven’t money for a room at the inn.” He seemed woebegone at the prospect. I needed to buy her, very badly. If I let her get away after being this close, I’d never forgive myself, and I couldn’t chance anyone else seeing her first on the morrow and buying her out from under me. 46 - April 2013
And of course, I wasn’t carrying any money with me. The road was full of strangers and brigands who’d be only too happy to relieve me of any worldly goods and my life’s blood as well. All I had in my pockets were the beans that the gnome had given me all those weeks ago. But I had to try. “See here, boy, I’ll buy her from you, and then you can just turn around and go straight home.” “Aye?” He was pathetically eager. “How much’ll you give me, then?” I reached into my pocket. “I’ve got something better than money here—” And I took my hand out again. I’d have to be careful about reeling this one in. “But I doubt you’d be interested. Never mind, lad, you can just go on to the market, and I’ll see you there in the morning.” “Come on, do us a favor.” He craned his neck. “What’ve you got?” Feigning reluctance, I pulled the beans out of my
Julie Frost pocket and showed him. “Magic beans.” “Magic? Really?” He was all gullible curiosity, but Mary, I could swear, rolled her eyes at me. “Aye. Plant them, and they grow overnight straight up to the sky. And there’s a giant’s castle with all sorts of treasure in it at the top.” I went to put them back. “But, as I said—”
string into my hand. “You’ve got yourself a deal, mister.” “If you’re sure . . .” “Certain sure.” I gave him the beans, and he turned and headed back down the path, whistling a happy tune. I looked at Mary, and Mary looked at me. “’Tis good to see you again, Mary. Can you ever forgive me?”
All I had in my pockets were the beans that the gnome had given me. “You’re not having me on?” He wanted to believe, I could tell. “Been there myself, barely escaped with the breath in my lungs. More than it’s worth for me to go back, but a resourceful lad like you, I bet you could come down with the kinds of plunder’d make your good mum proud. Bring the glow back to her cheek, aye?” “It’s been hard on her since me dad died.” He nodded decisively and pressed the
She snorted and flitted her tail and nudged me in the stomach with her nose. I took that as an affirmative. “Thomas and Trudy will be happy to see you. They’ve been helping me look, all this time. You’d be shocked, the adventures we’ve had.” I led her back toward my cottage. “And to think, all I had to do was wait and hang about on the market road and you’d have come straight to me. Funny old world, innit?” She lowed softly. I didn’t Azure valley - 47
The Cow and the Beanstalk want to be caught on the road after dark, but I’d certainly take her to Trudy’s in the morning. •
“So this is her,” Trudy said, examining Mary in my front yard. “Aye.” I twisted my fingers together. “Can you change her back?” Thomas shook his finger in Mary’s face. “Do you know the trouble we’ve had, finding you? You’ve been a very troublesome girl.”
I’ve been studying the transmogrification spells in it. I knew we’d find her soon.” “Have you actually tried any of them?” I asked, stroking Mary with a nervous hand. “What if it goes horribly wrong?” “No worries.” Aye, I worried anyway. It was my experience that when someone said something like that, worrying was suitable. We all walked over to Trudy’s cottage, and she set about gathering ingredients. She even clipped some hair
“And to think, all I had to do was wait . . . and you’d have come straight to me.” She blew a gob of snot on him and didn’t seem contrite at all. “Leave be, Thomas,” Trudy said. “I’m sure her life as a cow wasn’t all strawberries and cream. And yes, Gordon, I should be able to change her back. That grimoire that you thought we wasted our time liberating will be quite useful. 48 - April 2013
from the end of Mary’s tail. “Don’t we need to do this at the dark of the moon in a fairy ring or something?” Thomas asked, as Trudy set about drawing a circle and lighting candles in a bare patch of soil behind her house. “Och, no,” she said. “Mary wasn’t turned into a cow at the
Julie Frost dark of the moon in a fairy ring, was she?” “Bright afternoon in a bedroom,” I said, shuddering at the memory. “Well then. Come, Mary, right to the center. There we are.” Mary stood in the middle of the circle in the dirt, tossing her tail and shaking her horns. Trudy shook her ground-up ingredients into a crucible and chanted something while she dropped a match into it. A bolt of lightning shot out, hit Thomas, and turned him into a toad. “Oh! Oh, dear!” Trudy cried. She looked down at her circle. “Well, that was bloody careless of me—I didn’t close the thing.” She ran over to him and fished him out of his clothing, which had ended up in a heap on the ground. “Thomas, darling, are you all right?” He croaked at her. It was a miserable sound. “You really aren’t very good at this, are you?” I said. “Well, I’ve not been doing it long, and I’m self-taught,” she said, carrying Thomas into
the circle with her and setting him down beside Mary. This time, she made sure her circle was closed. “All right.” She repeated the burning and the chanting, and this time the lightning flicked out, struck Mary and Thomas both— And suddenly they were crouched, naked but human, inside the circle. They yelped and tried to cover themselves with their hands. Trudy leaped across to Thomas’s clothes and handed him the trousers and Mary the tunic, which they quickly donned. “There we are,” Trudy said with satisfaction. “Come on, Mary, I’ve got a dress you can borrow.” Mary and Thomas patted themselves all over, breathing in little panicked gasps. Thomas stopped and glared at Trudy. “I don’t ever want to go through anything like that ever again. Ugh, slimy.” He gave a tremendous shiver and rubbed his arms. “Cor, Trudy, a bit more careful, aye? What if you couldn’t change me back?” “Och, toad-turning is basic, anyone can do that. Come Azure valley - 49
The Cow and the Beanstalk on, all, let’s go inside and have a nice cuppa.” She hustled us into her cottage and whistled up a dress—literally—for Mary. While Mary changed, Trudy made a pot of tea, and we settled in to collect ourselves from what had been an unsettling experience. We caught Mary up on what had happened in the village since she’d run off into the woods. The tale was long in the telling, and night had fallen before we were done. Thomas wrapped it up for us. “So Gordon was worried sick about you, he was,” he said. “And he fought a giant and a troll, trying to get you back. Made wee leather jerkins for pixies.” “Laying it on a bit thick, Thomas,” I protested. “You were there, too.” “Aye, but you were the determined one.” Thomas waved his teacup. “He was a wonder, Mary. He nearly died.”
“You did all that for me?” Mary said. “Well . . . aye. I love you, pet, and I wanted you back.” I suddenly found the tea leaves in the bottom of my cup mesmerizing. “Course, whether you’ll have me is quite another matter, I’m aware of that, circumstances being what they were with Katherine—” She grasped my hands. “Was it true? What she said about bespelling you?” I still couldn’t look at her. “Aye. I should’ve been stronger, though, and I don’t—” I nearly dropped the cup when she pinned me to the sofa with a fervent kiss. “You’re forgiven,” she said, when she let me up for air. “Oh.” I blinked. “That’s a bit of all right, then.” And we all of us lived happily ever after. Well. Other than Mary’s propensity for wanting to sleep in the barn, and Thomas’s sudden fascination with flies.
But other than that, we lived happily ever after. 50 - April 2013
Azure valley - 51
The Quarantine at Alexander Abrahamâ€™s L. M. Montgomery
refused to take that class in Sunday School the first time I was asked. It was not that I objected to teaching in the Sunday School. On the contrary I rather liked the idea; but it was the Rev. Mr. Allan who asked me, and it had always been a matter of principle with me never to do anything a man asked me to do if I could help it. I was noted for that. It saves a great deal of trouble and it simplifies everything beautifully. I had always disliked men. It must have been born in me, because, as far back as I can remember, an antipathy to men and dogs was one of my strongest characteristics. I was noted for that. My experiences through life only served to deepen it. The more I saw of men, the more I liked cats. So, of course, when the Rev. Allan asked me if I would consent to take a class in Sunday School, I said no in a fashion calculated to chasten him wholesomely. If he had sent his wife the first time, as he did the second, it would have been wiser. People generally do what Mrs. Allan asks them to do because they know it saves time. Mrs. Allan talked smoothly for half an hour before she mentioned the Sunday School, and paid me several compliments. Mrs. Allan is famous for her tact. Tact is a faculty for meandering around to a given point instead of making a bee-line. I have no tact. I am noted for that. As soon as Mrs. Allanâ€™s conversation came in sight of the Sunday School, I, who knew all along Azure valley - 53
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s whither it was tending, said, straight out, “What class do you want me to teach?” Mrs. Allan was so surprised that she forgot to be tactful, and answered plainly for once in her life, “There are two classes— one of boys and one of girls—needing a teacher. I have been teaching the girls’ class, but I shall have to give it up for a little time on account of the baby’s health. You may have your choice, Miss MacPherson.” “Then I shall take the boys,” I said decidedly. I am noted for my decision. “Since they have to grow up to be men it’s well to train them properly betimes. Nuisances they are bound to become under any circumstances; but if they are taken in hand young enough they may not grow up to be such nuisances as they otherwise would and that will be some unfortunate woman’s gain.” Mrs. Allan looked dubious. I knew she had expected me to choose the girls. 54 - April 2013
“They are a very wild set of boys,” she said. “I never knew boys who weren’t,” I retorted. “I—I—think perhaps you would like the girls best,” said Mrs. Allan hesitatingly. If it had not been for one thing— which I would never in this world have admitted to Mrs. Allan—I might have liked the girls’ class best myself. But the truth was, Anne Shirley was in that class; and Anne Shirley was the one living human being that I was afraid of. Not that I disliked her. But she had such a habit of asking weird, unexpected questions, which a Philadelphia lawyer couldn’t answer. Miss Rogerson had that class once and Anne routed her, horse, foot and artillery. I wasn’t going to undertake a class with a walking interrogation point in it like that. Besides, I thought Mrs. Allan required a slight snub. Ministers’ wives are rather apt to think they can run everything and everybody, if they are not wholesomely corrected now and again.
L. M. Montgomery “It is not what I like best that must be considered, Mrs. Allan,” I said rebukingly. “It is what is best for those boys. I feel that I shall be best for THEM.” “Oh, I’ve no doubt of that, Miss MacPherson,” said Mrs. Allan amiably. It was a fib for her, minister’s wife though she was. She HAD doubt. She thought I would be a dismal failure as teacher of a boys’ class.
hater should have managed it, but his face betrayed him. “Where does Jimmy Spencer live?” I asked him crisply. “He came one Sunday three weeks ago and hasn’t been back since. I mean to find out why.” Mr. Allan coughed. “I believe he is hired as handy boy with Alexander Abraham Bennett, out on the White Sands road,” he said. “Then I am going out to Alexander Abraham Bennett’s
She thought I would be a dismal failure as teacher of a boys’ class. But I was not. I am not often a dismal failure when I make up my mind to do a thing. I am noted for that. “It is wonderful what a reformation you have worked in that class, Miss MacPherson—wonderful,” said the Rev. Mr. Allan some weeks later. He didn’t mean to show how amazing a thing he thought it that an old maid noted for being a man
on the White Sands road to see why Jimmy Spencer doesn’t come to Sunday school,” I said firmly. Mr. Allan’s eyes twinkled ever so slightly. I have always insisted that if that man were not a minister he would have a sense of humour. “Possibly Mr. Bennett will not appreciate your kind interest! He has—ah—a singular Azure valley - 55
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s aversion to your sex, I understand. No woman has ever been known to get inside of Mr. Bennett’s house since his sister died twenty years ago.” “Oh, he is the one, is he?” I said, remembering. “He is the woman hater who threatens that if a woman comes into his yard he’ll chase her out with a pitch-fork. Well, he will not chase ME out!” Mr. Allan gave a chuckle— a ministerial chuckle, but still a chuckle. It irritated me slightly, because it seemed to imply that he thought Alexander Abraham Bennett would be one too many for me. But I did not show Mr. Allan that he annoyed me. It is always a great mistake to let a man see that he can vex you. The next afternoon I harnessed my sorrel pony to the buggy and drove down to Alexander Abraham Bennett’s. As usual, I took William Adolphus with me for company. William Adolphus is my favourite among my six cats. He is black, with a white dicky and beautiful white paws. He 56 - April 2013
sat up on the seat beside me and looked far more like a gentleman than many a man I’ve seen in a similar position. Alexander Abraham’s place was about three miles along the White Sands road. I knew the house as soon as I came to it by its neglected appearance. It needed paint badly; the blinds were crooked and torn; weeds grew up to the very door. Plainly, there was no woman about THAT place. Still, it was a nice house, and the barns were splendid. My father always said that when a man’s barns were bigger than his house it was a sign that his income exceeded his expenditure. So it was all right that they should be bigger; but it was all wrong that they should be trimmer and better painted. Still, thought I, what else could you expect of a woman hater? “But Alexander Abraham evidently knows how to run a farm, even it he is a woman hater,” I remarked to William Adolphus as I got out and tied the pony to the railing.
L. M. Montgomery I had driven up to the house from the back way and now I was opposite a side door opening on the veranda. I thought I might as well go to it, so I tucked William Adolphus under my arm and marched up the path. Just as I was half-way up, a dog swooped around the front corner and made straight for me. He was the ugliest dog I
corner of the house. I reached it in time and no more. First thrusting William Adolphus on to a limb above my head, I scrambled up into that blessed tree without stopping to think how it might look to Alexander Abraham if he happened to be watching. My time for reflection came when I found myself perched half way up the tree with
But I did not show Mr. Allan that he annoyed me. It is always a great mistake to let a man see that he can vex you. had ever seen; and he didn’t even bark—just came silently and speedily on, with a business-like eye. I never stop to argue matters with a dog that doesn’t bark. I know when discretion is the better part of valour. Firmly clasping William Adolphus, I ran—not to the door, because the dog was between me and it, but to a big, low-branching cherry tree at the back
William Adolphus beside me. William Adolphus was quite calm and unruffled. I can hardly say with truthfulness what I was. On the contrary, I admit that I felt considerably upset. The dog was sitting on his haunches on the ground below, watching us, and it was quite plain to be seen, from his leisurely manner, that it was not his busy day. He Azure valley - 57
bared his teeth and growled when he caught my eye. “You LOOK like a woman hater’s dog,” I told him. I meant it for an insult; but the beast took it for a compliment. Then I set myself to solving the question, “How am I to get out of this predicament?” It did not seem easy to solve it. 58 - April 2013
“Shall I scream, William Adolphus?” I demanded of that intelligent animal. William Adolphus shook his head. This is a fact. And I agreed with him. “No, I shall not scream, William Adolphus,” I said. “There is probably no one to hear me except Alexander Abraham, and I have my
Above: Flickr.com/Evil Erin
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s
L. M. Montgomery
painful doubts about his tender mercies. Now, it is impossible to go down. Is it, then, William Adolphus, possible to go up?” I looked up. Just above my head was an open window with a tolerably stout branch extending right across it. “Shall we try that way, William Adolphus?” I asked.
William Adolphus, wasting no words, began to climb the tree. I followed his example. The dog ran in circles about the tree and looked things not lawful to be uttered. It probably would have been a relief to him to bark if it hadn’t been so against his principles. I got in by the window easily enough, and found myself in a bedroom the like of which for disorder and dust and general awfulness I had never seen in all my life. But I did not pause to take in details. With William Adolphus under my arm I marched downstairs, fervently hoping I should meet no one on the way. I did not. The hall below was empty and dusty. I opened the first door I came to and walked boldly in. A man was sitting by the window, looking moodily out. I should have known him for Alexander Abraham anywhere. He had just the same uncared-for, ragged appearance that the house had; and yet, like the house, it seemed that he would not be bad looking if he were trimmed Azure valley - 59
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s up a little. His hair looked as if it had never been combed, and his whiskers were wild in the extreme. He looked at me with blank amazement in his countenance. “Where is Jimmy Spencer?” I demanded. “I have come to see him.” “How did he ever let you in?” asked the man, staring at me. “He didn’t let me in,” I retorted. “He chased me all over the lawn, and I only saved myself from being torn piecemeal by scrambling up a tree. You ought to be prosecuted for keeping such a dog! Where is Jimmy?” Instead of answering Alexander Abraham began to laugh in a most unpleasant fashion.
“Oh, I wasn’t particular about getting into your house, Mr. Bennett,” I said calmly. “I had but little choice in the matter. It was get in lest a worse fate befall me. It was not you or your house I wanted to see—although I admit that it is worth seeing if a person is anxious to find out how dirty a place CAN be. It was Jimmy. For the third and last time— where is Jimmy?” “Jimmy is not here,” said Mr. Bennett gruffly—but not quite so assuredly. “He left last week and hired with a man over at Newbridge.” “In that case,” I said, picking up William Adolphus, who had been exploring the room with a disdainful air, “I
“Trust a woman for getting into a man’s house.” “Trust a woman for getting into a man’s house if she has made up her mind to,” he said disagreeably. Seeing that it was his intention to vex me I remained cool and collected. 60 - April 2013
won’t disturb you any longer. I shall go.” “Yes, I think it would be the wisest thing,” said Alexander Abraham—not disagreeably this time, but reflectively, as if there was some doubt
L. M. Montgomery about the matter. “I’ll let you out by the back door. Then the—ahem!—the dog will not interfere with you. Please go away quietly and quickly.” I wondered if Alexander Abraham thought I would go away with a whoop. But I said nothing, thinking this the most dignified course of conduct, and I followed him out to the kitchen as quickly and quietly as he could have wished. Such a kitchen! Alexander Abraham opened the door—which was locked— just as a buggy containing two men drove into the yard. “Too late!” he exclaimed in a tragic tone. I understood that something dreadful must have happened, but I did not care, since, as I fondly supposed, it did not concern me. I pushed out past Alexander Abraham— who was looking as guilty as if he had been caught burglarizing—and came face to face with the man who had sprung from the buggy. It was old Dr. Blair, from Carmody, and he was
looking at me as if he had found me shoplifting. “My dear Peter,” he said gravely, “I am VERY sorry to see you here—very sorry indeed.” I admit that this exasperated me. Besides, no man on earth, not even my own family doctor, has any right to “My dear Peter” me! “There is no loud call for sorrow, doctor,” I said loftily. “If a woman, forty-eight years of age, a member of the Presbyterian church in good and regular standing, cannot call upon one of her Sunday School scholars without wrecking all the proprieties, how old must she be before she can?” The doctor did not answer my question. Instead, he looked reproachfully at Alexander Abraham. “Is this how you keep your word, Mr. Bennett?” he said. “I thought that you promised me that you would not let anyone into the house.” “I didn’t let her in,” growled Mr. Bennett. “Good heavens, man, she climbed in at an Azure valley - 61
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s upstairs window, despite the presence on my grounds of a policeman and a dog! What is to be done with a woman like that?” “I do not understand what all this means,” I said addressing myself to the doctor and ignoring Alexander Abraham entirely, “but if my presence here is so extremely inconvenient to all concerned, you can soon be relieved of it. I am going at once.” “I am very sorry, my dear Peter,” said the doctor impressively, “but that is just what I cannot allow you to do. This house is under quarantine for smallpox. You will have to stay here.”
you it was too late to tell you. I thought the kindest thing I could do was to hold my tongue and let you get away in happy ignorance. This will teach you to take a man’s house by storm, madam!” “Now, now, don’t quarrel, my good people,” interposed the doctor seriously—but I saw a twinkle in his eye. “You’ll have to spend some time together under the same roof and you won’t improve the situation by disagreeing. You see, Peter, it was this way. Mr. Bennett was in town yesterday—where, as you are aware, there is a bad outbreak of smallpox—and took dinner
This will teach you to take a man’s house by storm, madam!” Smallpox! For the first and last time in my life, I openly lost my temper with a man. I wheeled furiously upon Alexander Abraham. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I cried. “Tell you!” he said, glaring at me. “When I first saw 62 - April 2013
in a boarding-house where one of the maids was ill. Last night she developed unmistakable symptoms of smallpox. The Board of Health at once got after all the people who were in the house yesterday, so far as they could locate them, and put them
L. M. Montgomery under quarantine. I came down here this morning and explained the matter to Mr. Bennett. I brought Jeremiah Jeffries to guard the front of the house and Mr. Bennett gave me his word of honour that he would not let anyone in by the back way while I went to get another policeman and make all the necessary arrangements. I have brought Thomas Wright and have secured the services of another man to attend to Mr. Bennett’s barn work and bring provisions to the house. Jacob Green and Cleophas Lee will watch at night. I don’t think there is much danger of Mr. Bennett’s taking the smallpox, but until we are sure you must remain here, Peter.” While listening to the doctor I had been thinking. It was the most distressing predicament I had ever got into in my life, but there was no sense in making it worse. “Very well, doctor,” I said calmly. “Yes, I was vaccinated a month ago, when the news of the smallpox first came.
When you go back through Avonlea kindly go to Sarah Pye and ask her to live in my house during my absence and look after things, especially the cats. Tell her to give them new milk twice a day and a square inch of butter apiece once a week. Get her to put my two dark print wrappers, some aprons, and some changes of underclothing in my third best valise and have it sent down to me. My pony is tied out there to the fence. Please take him home. That is all, I think.” “No, it isn’t all,” said Alexander Abraham grumpily. “Send that cat home, too. I won’t have a cat around the place—I’d rather have smallpox.” I looked Alexander Abraham over gradually, in a way I have, beginning at his feet and traveling up to his head. I took my time over it; and then I said, very quietly. “You may have both. Anyway, you’ll have to have William Adolphus. He is under quarantine as well as you and I. Do Azure valley - 63
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s you suppose I am going to have my cat ranging at large through Avonlea, scattering smallpox germs among innocent people? I’ll have to put up with that dog of yours. You will have to endure William Adolphus.” Alexander Abraham groaned, but I could see that the way I had looked him over had chastened him considerably.
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The doctor drove away, and I went into the house, not choosing to linger outside and be grinned at by Thomas Wright. I hung my coat up in the hall and laid my bonnet carefully on the sitting-room table, having first dusted a clean place for it with my handkerchief. I longed to fall upon that house at once and
L. M. Montgomery Below: Flickr.com/fluffisch
clean it up, but I had to wait until the doctor came back with my wrapper. I could not clean house in my new suit and a silk shirtwaist. Alexander Abraham was sitting on a chair looking at me. Presently he said, “I am NOT curious—but will you kindly tell me why the doctor called you Peter?”
“Because that is my name, I suppose,” I answered, shaking up a cushion for William Adolphus and thereby disturbing the dust of years. Alexander Abraham coughed gently. “Isn’t that—ahem!—rather a peculiar name for a woman?” “It is,” I said, wondering how much soap, if any, there was in the house. “I am NOT curious,” said Alexander Abraham, “but would you mind telling me how you came to be called Peter?” “If I had been a boy my parents intended to call me Peter in honour of a rich uncle. When I—fortunately— turned out to be a girl my mother insisted that I should be called Angelina. They gave me both names and called me Angelina, but as soon as I grew old enough I decided to be called Peter. It was bad enough, but not so bad as Angelina.” “I should say it was more appropriate,” said Alexander Abraham, intending, as I perceived, to be disagreeable. Azure valley - 65
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s “Precisely,” I agreed calmly. “My last name is MacPherson, and I live in Avonlea. As you are NOT curious, that will be all the information you will need about me.” “Oh!” Alexander Abraham looked as if a light had broken in on him. “I’ve heard of you. You—ah—pretend to dislike men.” Pretend! Goodness only knows what would have happened to Alexander Abraham just then if a diversion had not taken place. But the door opened and a dog came in—THE dog. I suppose he had got tired waiting under the cherry tree for William Adolphus and me to come down. He was even uglier indoors than out. “Oh, Mr. Riley, Mr. Riley, see what you have let me in for,” said Alexander Abraham reproachfully. But Mr. Riley—since that was the brute’s name—paid no attention to Alexander Abraham. He had caught sight of William Adolphus curled up on the cushion, and he started across the room 66 - April 2013
to investigate him. William Adolphus sat up and began to take notice. “Call off that dog,” I said warningly to Alexander Abraham. “Call him off yourself,” he retorted. “Since you’ve brought that cat here you can protect him.” “Oh, it wasn’t for William Adolphus’ sake I spoke,” I said pleasantly. “William Adolphus can protect himself.” William Adolphus could and did. He humped his back, flattened his ears, swore once, and then made a flying leap for Mr. Riley. William Adolphus landed squarely on Mr. Riley’s brindled back and promptly took fast hold, spitting and clawing and caterwauling. You never saw a more astonished dog than Mr. Riley. With a yell of terror he bolted out to the kitchen, out of the kitchen into the hall, through the hall into the room, and so into the kitchen and round again. With each circuit he went faster and faster, until he looked like a brindled streak with a dash
L. M. Montgomery of black and white on top. Such a racket and commotion I never heard, and I laughed until the tears came into my eyes. Mr. Riley flew around and around, and William Adolphus held on grimly and clawed. Alexander Abraham turned purple with rage. “Woman, call off that infernal cat before he kills my dog,” he shouted above the din of yelps and yowls.
crash. I ran to help him up, which only seemed to enrage him further. “Woman,” he spluttered viciously, “I wish you and your fiend of a cat were in—in—” “In Avonlea,” I finished quickly, to save Alexander Abraham from committing profanity. “So do I, Mr. Bennett, with all my heart. But since we are not, let us make the best of it like sensi-
“Woman, call off that infernal cat before he kills my dog.” “Oh, he won’t kill him,” I said reassuringly, “and he’s going too fast to hear me if I did call him. If you can stop the dog, Mr. Bennett, I’ll guarantee to make William Adolphus listen to reason, but there’s no use trying to argue with a lightning flash.” Alexander Abraham made a frantic lunge at the brindled streak as it whirled past him, with the result that he overbalanced himself and went sprawling on the floor with a
ble people. And in future you will kindly remember that my name is Miss MacPherson, NOT Woman!” With this the end came and I was thankful, for the noise those two animals made was so terrific that I expected the policeman would be rushing in, smallpox or no smallpox, to see if Alexander Abraham and I were trying to murder each other. Mr. Riley suddenly veered in his mad career and bolted into a dark corner Azure valley - 67
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s between the stove and the wood-box, William Adolphus let go just in time. There never was any more trouble with Mr. Riley after that. A meeker, more thoroughly chastened dog you could not find. William Adolphus had the best of it and he kept it. Seeing that things had calmed down and that it was five o’clock I decided to get tea. I told Alexander Abraham that I would prepare it, if he would show me where the eatables were. “You needn’t mind,” said Alexander Abraham. “I’ve been in the habit of getting my own tea for twenty years.” “I daresay. But you haven’t been in the habit of getting mine,” I said firmly. “I wouldn’t eat anything you cooked if I starved to death. If you want some occupation, you’d better get some salve and anoint the scratches on that poor dog’s back.” Alexander Abraham said something that I prudently did not hear. Seeing that he 68 - April 2013
had no information to hand out I went on an exploring expedition into the pantry. The place was awful beyond description, and for the first time a vague sentiment of pity for Alexander Abraham glimmered in my breast. When a man had to live in such surroundings the wonder was, not that he hated women, but that he didn’t hate the whole human race. But I got up a supper somehow. I am noted for getting up suppers. The bread was from the Carmody bakery and I made good tea and excellent toast; besides, I found a can of peaches in the pantry which, as they were bought, I wasn’t afraid to eat. That tea and toast mellowed Alexander Abraham in spite of himself. He ate the last crust, and didn’t growl when I gave William Adolphus all the cream that was left. Mr. Riley did not seem to want anything. He had no appetite. By this time the doctor’s boy had arrived with my valise. Alexander Abraham gave me
L. M. Montgomery quite civilly to understand that there was a spare room across the hall and that I might take possession of it. I went to it and put on a wrapper. There was a set of fine furniture in the room, and a comfortable bed. But the dust! William Adolphus had followed me in and his paws left marks everywhere he walked. “Now,” I said briskly, returning to the kitchen, “I’m going
trouble,” I said pleasantly. “If I could leave it I shouldn’t be here for a minute. Since I can’t, it simply has to be cleaned. I can tolerate men and dogs when I am compelled to, but I cannot and will not tolerate dirt and disorder. Go into the sitting-room.” Alexander Abraham went. As he closed the door, I heard him say, in capitals, “WHAT AN AWFUL WOMAN!”
I can tolerate men and dogs when I am compelled to, but I cannot and will not tolerate dirt and disorder. to clean up and I shall begin with this kitchen. You’d better betake yourself to the sittingroom, Mr. Bennett, so as to be out of the way.” Alexander Abraham glared at me. “I’m not going to have my house meddled with,” he snapped. “It suits me. If you don’t like it you can leave it.” “No, I can’t. That is just the
I cleared that kitchen and the pantry adjoining. It was ten o’clock when I got through, and Alexander Abraham had gone to bed without deigning further speech. I locked Mr. Riley in one room and William Adolphus in another and went to bed, too. I had never felt so dead tired in my life before. It had been a hard day. Azure valley - 69
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s But I got up bright and early the next morning and got a tiptop breakfast, which Alexander Abraham condescended to eat. When the provision man came into the yard I called to him from the window to bring me a box of soap in the afternoon, and then I tackled the sitting-room.
his vaccination had taken and his arm was real sore; and I cooked elegant meals, not having much else to do, once I had got things scoured up. The house was full of provisions— Alexander Abraham wasn’t mean about such things, I will say that for him. Altogether, I was more comfortable than
I got a tiptop breakfast, which Alexander Abraham condescended to eat. It took me the best part of a week to get that house in order, but I did it thoroughly. I am noted for doing things thoroughly. At the end of the time it was clean from garret to cellar. Alexander Abraham made no comments on my operations, though he groaned loud and often, and said caustic things to poor Mr. Riley, who hadn’t the spirit to answer back after his drubbing by William Adolphus. I made allowances for Alexander Abraham because 70 - April 2013
I had expected to be. When Alexander Abraham wouldn’t talk I let him alone; and when he would I just said as sarcastic things as he did, only I said them smiling and pleasant. I could see he had a wholesome awe for me. But now and then he seemed to forget his disposition and talked like a human being. We had one or two real interesting conversations. Alexander Abraham was an intelligent man, though he had got terribly warped. I told him once I thought he must
L. M. Montgomery have been nice when he was a boy. One day he astonished me by appearing at the dinner table with his hair brushed and a white collar on. We had a tiptop dinner that day, and I had made a pudding that was far too good for a woman hater. When Alexander Abraham had disposed of two large platefuls of it, he sighed and said, “You can certainly cook. It’s a pity you are such a detestable crank in other respects.” “It’s kind of convenient being a crank,” I said. “People are careful how they meddle with you. Haven’t you found that out in your own experience?” “I am NOT a crank,” growled Alexander Abraham resentfully. “All I ask is to be let alone.” “That’s the very crankiest kind of crank,” I said. “A person who wants to be let alone flies in the face of Providence, who decreed that folks for their own good were not to be let alone. But cheer up, Mr.
Bennett. The quarantine will be up on Tuesday and then you’ll certainly be let alone for the rest of your natural life, as far as William Adolphus and I are concerned. You may then return to your wallowing in the mire and be as dirty and comfortable as of yore.” Alexander Abraham growled again. The prospect didn’t seem to cheer him up as much as I should have expected. Then he did an amazing thing. He poured some cream into a saucer and set it down before William Adolphus. William Adolphus lapped it up, keeping one eye on Alexander Abraham lest the latter should change his mind. Not to be outdone, I handed Mr. Riley a bone. Neither Alexander Abraham nor I had worried much about the smallpox. We didn’t believe he would take it, for he hadn’t even seen the girl who was sick. But the very next morning I heard him calling me from the upstairs landing. “Miss MacPherson,” he said in a voice so uncommonly Azure valley - 71
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s mild that it gave me an uncanny feeling, “what are the symptoms of smallpox?” “Chills and flushes, pain in the limbs and back, nausea and vomiting,” I answered promptly, for I had been reading them up in a patent medicine almanac. “I’ve got them all,” said Alexander Abraham hollowly. I didn’t feel as much scared as I should have expected. After enduring a woman hater and a brindled dog and the early disorder of that house— and coming off best with all three—smallpox seemed rather insignificant. I went to the window and called to Thomas Wright to send for the doctor. The doctor came down from Alexander Abraham’s room looking grave. “It’s impossible to pronounce on the disease yet,” he said. “There is no certainty until the eruption appears. But, of course, there is every likelihood that it is the smallpox. It is very unfortunate. I am afraid that it will be 72 - April 2013
difficult to get a nurse. All the nurses in town who will take smallpox cases are overbusy now, for the epidemic is still raging there. However, I’ll go into town to-night and do my best. Meanwhile, at present, you must not go near him, Peter.” I wasn’t going to take orders from any man, and
L. M. Montgomery Below: Flickr.com/Alex E. Proimos
as soon as the doctor had gone I marched straight up to Alexander Abraham’s room with some dinner for him on a tray. There was a lemon cream I thought he could eat even if he had the smallpox. “You shouldn’t come near me,” he growled. “You are risking your life.”
“I am not going to see a fellow creature starve to death, even if he is a man,” I retorted. “The worst of it all,” groaned Alexander Abraham, between mouthfuls of lemon cream, “is that the doctor says I’ve got to have a nurse. I’ve got so kind of used to you being in the house that I don’t mind you, but the thought of another
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The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s woman coming here is too much. Did you give my poor dog anything to eat?” “He has had a better dinner than many a Christian,” I said severely. Alexander Abraham need not have worried about another woman coming in. The doctor came back that night with care on his brow. “I don’t know what is to be done,” he said. “I can’t get a soul to come here.” “I shall nurse Mr. Bennett,” I said with dignity. “It is my duty and I never shirk my
I nursed Alexander Abraham through the smallpox, and I didn’t mind it much. He was much more amiable sick than well, and he had the disease in a very mild form. Below stairs I reigned supreme and Mr. Riley and William Adolphus lay down together like the lion and the lamb. I fed Mr. Riley regularly, and once, seeing him looking lonesome, I patted him gingerly. It was nicer than I thought it would be. Mr. Riley lifted his head and looked at me with an expression in his eyes which
“I shall nurse Mr. Bennett,” I said with dignity. “It is my duty.” duty. I am noted for that. He is a man, and he has smallpox, and he keeps a vile dog; but I am not going to see him die for lack of care for all that.” “You’re a good soul, Peter,” said the doctor, looking relieved, manlike, as soon as he found a woman to shoulder the responsibility. 74 - April 2013
cured me of wondering why on earth Alexander Abraham was so fond of the beast. When Alexander Abraham was able to sit up, he began to make up for the time he’d lost being pleasant. Anything more sarcastic than that man in his convalescence you couldn’t imagine. I just laughed at him, having
L. M. Montgomery found out that that could be depended on to irritate him. To irritate him still further I cleaned the house all over again. But what vexed him most of all was that Mr. Riley took to following me about and wagging what he had of a tail at me. “It wasn’t enough that you should come into my peaceful home and turn it upside down, but you have to alienate the affections of my dog,” complained Alexander Abraham. “He’ll get fond of you again when I go home,” I said comfortingly. “Dogs aren’t very particular that way. What they want is bones. Cats now, they love disinterestedly. William Adolphus has never swerved in his allegiance to me, although you do give him cream in the pantry on the sly.” Alexander Abraham looked foolish. He hadn’t thought I knew that. I didn’t take the smallpox and in another week the doctor came out and sent the
policeman home. I was disinfected and William Adolphus was fumigated, and then we were free to go. “Good-bye, Mr. Bennett,” I said, offering to shake hands in a forgiving spirit. “I’ve no doubt that you are glad to be rid of me, but you are no gladder than I am to go. I suppose this house will be dirtier than ever in a month’s time, and Mr. Riley will have discarded the little polish his manners have taken on. Reformation with men and dogs never goes very deep.” With this Parthian shaft I walked out of the house, supposing that I had seen the last of it and Alexander Abraham. I was glad to get back home, of course; but it did seem queer and lonesome. The cats hardly knew me, and William Adolphus roamed about forlornly and appeared to feel like an exile. I didn’t take as much pleasure in cooking as usual, for it seemed kind of foolish to be fussing over oneself. The sight of a bone made me think of poor Azure valley - 75
The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s Mr. Riley. The neighbours avoided me pointedly, for they couldn’t get rid of the fear that I might erupt into smallpox at any moment. My Sunday School class had been given to another woman, and altogether I felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere. I had existed like this for a fortnight when Alexander Abraham suddenly appeared. He walked in one evening at dusk, but at first sight I didn’t know him he was so spruced and barbered up. But William Adolphus knew him. Will you believe it, William Adolphus, my own
“My name is Peter,” I said coldly, although I was feeling ridiculously glad about something. “It isn’t,” said Alexander Abraham stubbornly. “It is Angelina for me, and always will be. I shall never call you Peter. Angelina just suits you exactly; and Angelina Bennett would suit you still better. You must come back, Angelina. Mr. Riley is moping for you, and I can’t get along without somebody to appreciate my sarcasms, now that you have accustomed me to the luxury.” “What about the other five cats?” I demanded.
William Adolphus rubbed up against that man’s trouser leg with an undisguised purr of satisfaction. William Adolphus, rubbed up against that man’s trouser leg with an undisguised purr of satisfaction. “I had to come, Angelina,” said Alexander Abraham. “I couldn’t stand it any longer.” 76 - April 2013
Alexander Abraham sighed. “I suppose they’ll have to come too,” he sighed, “though no doubt they’ll chase poor Mr. Riley clean off the premises. But I can live without him, and I can’t without you.
L. M. Montgomery How soon can you be ready to marry me?” “I haven’t said that I was going to marry you at all, have I?” I said tartly, just to be consistent. For I wasn’t feeling tart. “No, but you will, won’t you?” said Alexander Abraham anxiously. “Because if you won’t, I wish you’d let me die of the
smallpox. Do, dear Angelina.” To think that a man should dare to call me his “dear Angelina!” And to think that I shouldn’t mind! “Where I go, William Adolphus goes,” I said, “but I shall give away the other five cats for—
“for the sake of Mr. Riley.”
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