So I’m working on another wonder tale right now – “wonder tale” being another name for a fairy tale, and one that I like very much. This one is currently called “Gloaming” (titles sometimes subject to change…), and it is as full of colourful things and quirks and oddities as my first foray into wonder tales, which was “Faerie Fruit.” This came out at Christmas and is now having its first 0.99 sale, and as such it seems a good time to post a chapter from it. (Chapters from Gloaming coming up in due course!).
If you want to grab this one, the sale continues for another week or so; find all the usual links here.
Charlotte E. English
The Disappearance of Berrie-on-the-Wyn (half of it).
Towards the end of a long, hot summer, when the scents of fading flowers hung heavy upon the air, Mistress Clarimond Honeysett plighted her troth to Tobias Dwerryhouse.
The betrothal was a sedate affair, for neither was in the first flush of youth. Tobias was the publican of The Moss and Mist, the oldest inn of north Berrie-on-the-Wyn. He had whiled away his youth travelling far beyond the borders of the town, though when pressed, he would never say where he had been. ‘Far enough away, and farther still,’ replied he in his deep, calm voice, with a wink of one dark green eye, and never a word more would he speak upon the subject.
Mistress Honeysett was the widow of old Mortimer Honeysett, of Hereweald farm. Clarimond had been his second wife, and upon her husband’s death the farm passed into the hands of Edmund Honeysett, her stepson. Left in possession of Thistledown House, her own comfortable dwelling in the southern half of the town, Clarimond had lived in quiet comfort these three years past.
Upon the subject of their approaching nuptials, the citizens of Berrie were as divided as the town itself. There were those who held that Mistress Honeysett had lost her senses, for what business had she leaving the respectable comforts of widowhood for a second alliance? And to go north over the Wynspan, too! For that matter, Dwerryhouse ought rather to focus upon the business of innkeeping, being now past his fortieth year. Had he wanted to wed, he ought to have done so sooner.
Others observed that Tobias was a genial man, and well deserving of a wife. Clarimond, some distance into her thirties and of a disposition to match, was just the woman to suit him. And perhaps she would not go north over the Wynspan. Perhaps Dwerryhouse would come south over the river to her.
It did not suit the town to consider that the betrothal might be a desire of the heart, for two such souls, at a respectably sedate time of life, could have no business falling in love. Being both in comfortable circumstances, however, there was much sense in uniting their separate holdings. This must be reason enough.
Not that there was so very great a distance between them, reflected Clarimond. Standing at her parlour window one bright morning, she received a clear view over her flourishing gardens, bejewelled and fragrant with the last flurry of summer blossoms. Where her garden ended, the river began, and on the other side of that rippling span of clear water she could just see the chimney pots of the Moss-and-Mist peeping over the tops of its attendant birch trees. In the autumn, the mists for which the inn was named would come rolling off the river in great wreathing clouds, and hide the far bank from her sight. But here at the end of summer, she could still stand at her window, or wander through her gardens, and watch for Tobias from afar.
There was but one bridge over the River Wyn: the Wynspan, near on a mile away, westwards along the shore. But Tobias possessed a neat little boat with a curving prow, a craft he manned alone with admirable ease. Few dared traverse the clear waters of the Wyn, for it was tricky and prone to mischief. But nothing daunted Tobias. Every day of that long, hot summer he had rowed over the Wyn to Thistledown House and taken tea in Clarimond’s good parlour. Every morning she had stood and waited and watched for him.
Even now, a pot of moonflower tea brewed at the table behind her, a plate of her best rosewater and honey scones waiting beside. Mordaunt had laid claim to one of her elegant wing-back chairs and lay curled in sumptuous comfort, his thick white fur sleek and fresh from a vigorous grooming. His low, thrumming purr softly broke the silence of the parlour, soothing Clarimond as she stood, waiting and hoping for Tobias yet seeing no sign of his approach.
She was troubled today, for her mother lay upstairs in the back bedroom, sweating her way through a swift and brutal summer fever. Little could be done for her, for she would eat nothing, and had to be coaxed to drink anything but water. Clarimond sat with her all the day through, bathing Clover’s perspiring face in cooling waters and wishing futilely for a respite from the heat of the season. Her only absence was taken when Tobias was expected; then kind Maggie Muggwort, her maid, sat with Mrs. Waregrove abovestairs and told her stories, while Clarimond sat with Tobias below, taking heart from his presence even as she took tea from a fine porcelain cup.
The apothecary had been sent for, two days gone, and had little to offer. ‘Keep her cool, if you can,’ said he, and so Clover had been moved to Clarimond’s own bedroom at the back of the house, where the sun shone less fiercely through the day and the winds whispered soothingly through the windows at night.
‘Is there nothing more we may do?’ said Clarimond in dismay, for she had hoped for a cure.
‘Give her water,’ he replied. ‘Mix a little honey into the glass, for ‘tis the only sustenance she may presently take.’ With which words he had doffed his hat and gone on his way, leaving Clarimond with naught to do but beseech her drowsing bees for a share of their bounty.
There was, she thought, only so much waiting and watching a person could reasonably bear.
In spite of his unpromisingly minimal advice, she had thoughts of entreating Mr. Amberdrake to attend upon her mother once again, for her condition was undoubtedly growing worse. She was now too weak to rise at all, and had ceased every attempt to speak. Every day she grew thinner, her cheekbones standing sharp in her wasted face and her eyes glazed with fever.
Clarimond was frightened, for her mother had ever been frail. Could she, in her advancing age, survive a fever which had carried off many a younger and stronger soul?
If she could but see Tobias, even for a few scant minutes! He was a calm lake to her troubled waters, and nothing unsettled him. He brought peace into her quiet parlour, a peace she gratefully took into her own heart, and paid for with tea and pastries and smiles. But the morning marched on, and he did not come.
Footsteps disturbed her wistful reverie, pounding upon the back stairs in a clatter of foreboding urgency. Mordaunt woke with a start and a disgruntled yowl, settling only when Clarimond laid a soothing hand upon his head as she passed his chair. She reached the parlour door just as Maggie Muggwort appeared, pink-cheeked in the heat, her dark hair escaping from beneath the cap she wore to neaten it.
‘It’s Mrs. Waregrove, ma’am!’ said Maggie breathlessly, and paused to gasp for air.
Clarimond’s heart contracted. ‘Yes? What is it?’
‘She be talking.’ Maggie pointed upstairs, helpfully confirming that the lady in question had not abruptly bestirred herself from her sickbed and gone a-wander.
Clarimond lifted her skirts and ran, abandoning her dignity. She clattered up the same staircase which Maggie had come helter-skeltering down, her heart alight with hope.
But the woman she found upon entering the back bedroom looked sicker than ever, her skin pallid and sweating and her parched lips cracking with fever. Her hair, corn-yellow like her daughter’s, lay lank upon the pillow, and her thin breast rose and fell with shallow, too-quick breaths. She fixed protruding eyes upon her daughter and said in a weak voice, ‘When I am gone, Clarimond, you are to have all my possessions. It is important— that you—’ Here she was obliged to leave off, for her voice failed and she fell to panting.
Clarimond took the chair by her mother’s bedside and tried to take her hand as well, but Clover made no move to permit it. ‘Mother, pray do not talk so,’ she chided, trying to smile. ‘You are not to leave us yet, I make no doubt.’
‘My hour approaches,’ panted Clover Waregrove, shaking her head with feverish determination. ‘I feel it. Do not be sad, child, for you shall benefit by my passing. Only you must not waste it! So many years of work — your father’s inheritance — it is all to be yours and you must promise me.’
‘Calm, mother,’ said Clarimond softly. ‘By what means could I possibly squander it?’
‘I know your foolish heart.’ Clover’s stare turned exasperated, even baleful, as she eyed her attendant daughter. ‘You will give half of it away, with narry a thought!’
‘There are many in need, mother—’ Clarimond tried, but was interrupted.
‘They may make their own way to prosperity, as your grandfathers did! And you may do better than the landlord of a public house, besides. Wedded to a rich farmer, as you were! A landowner! And then to so throw yourself away!’
Clarimond said nothing, for the subject had been exhausted before, and nothing could reconcile Mrs. Waregrove to a Tobias Dwerryhouse.
Her mother did not appear to require a response, for she lay quietly panting for some minutes, her laboured breaths rasping loudly in the still air. ‘My dying wish,’ she said at last, and Clarimond’s heart contracted, for she knew what must come next. My dying wish is for you to give up Dwerryhouse.
But no. ‘An apple,’ said Mrs. Waregrove, and Clarimond blinked in surprise.
‘An apple, mother?’ she faltered.
‘Just one,’ whispered Clover. ‘One sweet, fresh apple, dripping with juice…’
Clarimond could almost wish that her guess had been correct, for at least that lay within the bounds of feasibility, if not desirability. ‘Mother, there are no apples hereabouts,’ she said quietly. ‘Nor anywhere nearby. There have not been for generations.’
Clover’s eyes narrowed. ‘I am dying,’ she snapped. ‘I do not have to be reasonable. An apple, Clarimond! Get one for me, and I will…’ she drifted off into rasping breaths once more, and it took her full a minute to recover air enough to finish her sentence. ‘I will give my blessing to your marriage with the publican.’
‘You need not offer such an inducement, mother,’ said Clarimond, feeling the first touches of irritation. ‘You may be sure I would seek to grant any wish of yours were it within my power, without requiring a reward. But apples! It cannot be done.’
Clover’s eyes shone with a feverish zeal which could only alarm her daughter. ‘It need not be fresh, then!’ she amended. ‘Bring me an apple, be it withered and dried! Preserved in sugar! Infused in brandy! I do not much care, only let me taste it once — just once before I die.’ She lapsed into dreamy silence, a faint smile touching her cracked lips as she fell to imagining the probable delights of the long-lost fruit. ‘I dream of them,’ she whispered.
And Clarimond was left in consternation, for not a syllable more would her mother speak. Soon afterwards she fell into a restless slumber, half-formed words tumbling incoherently from her lips. Clarimond half hoped that she had been raving when she spoke of apples, a mere delusion brought on by her sickness. But it was a faint hope, for Clover had seemed full lucid enough.
She was glad indeed to hear Tobias’s low, deep voice speak from the parlour below not five minutes later. She did not wait for Maggie to return to her station upstairs but departed at once, passing her maid on the stairs below. ‘She has talked a fair deal but now she sleeps,’ she said in a rush, her heart soaring with delight at Tobias’s near approach. ‘Do not wake her, Maggie, I beg you! And do not mind the nonsense she whispers in her dreams!’
Then she was gone into the parlour where Tobias stood, his hat set aside and his strong arms folded as he surveyed the abandoned tea spread out upon the table. ‘Here I find all the delights of the morning awaiting me, save only the best of them,’ he said, and made Clarimond a little bow. ‘Madam, no quantity of rosewater scones may make amends for your absence, as delightful as they are!’
‘But look, I have laid out extra, in hopes you would not notice.’ She gestured at the plate with a winning smile, and spread her skirts in an answering curtsey. ‘I did most faithfully await your arrival, my good sir, but I was claimed by my mother.’
Tobias’s merriment faded at once, and he kissed her hand with gratifying sympathy. ‘How does she fare?’
‘Poorly,’ said Clarimond, her joy fading too as her mind returned to her mother’s plight. ‘I fear she will not last the night, Tobias.’
Tobias took both of her hands, and squeezed them tenderly. ‘I will bring Mr. Amberdrake. He will know what to do.’
‘He has little advice to offer, I fear, but of course he must be consulted. Thank you.’ But as Tobias turned to go, she prevented him with a murmured, ‘Stay a moment.’
Tobias turned back.
‘I fear I will sound half mad to you, to pose such a question.’ Clarimond looked into his steady, loving face and hesitated.
‘I cannot know,’ replied he, ‘until you ask it.’
She sighed, softly, and spoke again. ‘In all your travels, have you ever come upon an… an apple?’
Tobias blinked and his eyebrows rose. Clarimond thought that a touch of wariness entered his expression, though why should it be so? ‘An unexpected question,’ he said. ‘Why should you ask it, my own?’
‘It is my mother’s fancy,’ said Clarimond with half a smile. ‘She dreams of them, she says, and claims it as her dying wish.’
Clarimond inclined her head. ‘In any form such a thing may be found.’ She did not share with him the rest of her mother’s request, nor the promise that came with it.
Tobias thought. ‘Once, have I encountered such a fruit,’ he said. ‘But under no circumstances that can be of use to you. ‘Twas far off, and if she suffers as you say, no urgency could bring it back in time.’
Clarimond’s hopes rose at his first words, and sank away to nothing at the rest. She tried for a smile, but her face would not form the expression. ‘Ah, well,’ she said softly. ‘If you know of no nearer source, I must abandon the hope.’
‘She is not to be satisfied with honey, or nectar? Here there are flowers and bees aplenty, more than enough to please.’
‘It will have to be enough,’ said Clarimond, though she knew it could not be so.
‘I will fetch Amberdrake,’ said Tobias again, and departed. Clarimond was left to regret the cooling pot of moonflower tea untouched upon the table, and the loss of peace and harmony it signified. Quietly she returned to her mother, there to resume waiting and watching until the apothecary should come.
Malachi Amberdrake was young for an apothecary, but his knowledge was sound. He confirmed Clarimond’s fears as gently as possible, and had naught to advise but to promote her comfort by all available means, until her end should come. He pressed Clarimond’s hand in sympathy as he departed, and she easily read his regret at being unable to assist her further.
Mrs. Waregrove lay as silent as the dead while he remained, but soon after his departure she stirred and began to mutter. Of fruits and orchards she spoke, in long, rambling sentences only half coherent; of apples above all, baked and fried and made into jam; apples eaten fresh from the tree, crisp and sweet; apples dried and stored for the winter, chewy and tart; apple sauce and sweets and delicate cakes and pastries! Her dreams ran on, inexhaustible.
‘I do not know where she can possibly have acquired such ideas,’ said Clarimond, gazing down at her mother with perplexed concern. ‘It is generations since the orchards bore any fruit. She can never have tried such delights herself.’
Tobias stood at the back of the room, listening to Clover’s ramblings with arms folded and a frown creasing his brow. His eyes flicked once to Clarimond as she spoke and then back to Mrs. Waregrove, his frown deepening. ‘Perhaps that is true,’ he said. ‘Or perhaps not.’
‘Tobias?’ said Clarimond, turning her perplexed gaze upon him. ‘What can you mean?’
Tobias did not answer. He approached his betrothed instead, took both of her hands in his own and kissed them. ‘I must leave you for today.’ He smiled upon her with his usual good cheer, and released her hands. ‘Until the morrow, my fair Clarimond.’
Then he was gone. Clarimond watched his departure, her heart growing heavier with each receding footfall. When the house was silent again, she returned to her mother’s side and took up her station once more, Tobias’s parting words preventing her from focusing on the book she had brought to amuse herself.
Mordaunt took his turn at the bedside, tucking himself into Clarimond’s lap in spite of the heat. He was to be her only company all the long afternoon and evening, for Maggie was too busy to again attend her mistress, and no one else came to Thistledown House. The golden summer light turned to silver eventide and then to darkness, and Clarimond waited still.
Clover Waregrove tossed and sweated and rambled the long hours through, her fevered mind full of nothing but apples.
That night, she was not the only resident of Thistledown to dream of fruit. Clarimond, dozing fitfully by the bedside, drifted at last into uneasy slumber. Her repose brought with it sharp, lucid dreams, rich in colour and sensations and aromas. She walked through vast orchards of young, healthy trees, the branches of each laden with a heavy harvest of fruit. Pears and peaches she saw; plums and damsons and greengages; cherries and apricots and above all, apples. The grass beneath her feet was littered with them, fresh and ripe, vibrant with jewelled colours. Clarimond gathered armfuls of fruit and ate and ate, juices running over her chin and staining her dress and hands. She ate on, heedless, growing dizzy with the sweetness until she could no longer stand.
She collapsed into the grass and lay prone beneath a bright apple tree, the light of a setting sun dappling her face as branches swayed in the winds above.
A dulcet fluting of a pipe drifted upon the breeze, each note sounding with sweet, piercing clarity. Clarimond listened, spellbound by the melody, her mind blank with surprise. So soft was the music, so half-heard, she could barely distinguish it from the rustling of the leaves. But the melody teased at her senses, taunting her; distant yet near, half-heard yet haunting…
Clarimond woke to find the room turned cool and dark. Her mind clung to her dreamsong, remembering the soft ripple of notes with wistful longing; only with a struggle could she recall her scattered thoughts to the room in which she sat. A dream, strange and rare; that was all.
She sat, numb and sleepy, and the pale moonlight shone through the window upon the silent, still figure of her mother laid upon the bed.
Clarimond stood with trembling haste, wincing as cramped limbs protested, and bent over her mother’s inert figure with pounding heart. To her relief, the faint sounds of Clover’s breathing immediately reached her ears; she was not yet gone. She slept, peacefully enough, and Clarimond’s heart eased.
Her belly tightened with hunger, and she remembered that she had tasted nothing since breakfast. She ventured downstairs. In the pantry she discovered some of the morning’s rosewater scones still uneaten and gratefully devoured one, half-remembered moments from her curious dream drifting through her mind as she licked honey from her lips. What a sad vision it had been, for the once-thriving orchards of Berrie Wynweald were ancient and withered now, and none had borne fruit in living memory.
A day’s involuntary fasting entitled her to a second scone, she decided, and ate another. The house was warm, still, from the heat of the day, and the layers of her dress felt heavy and burdensome about her. Her head ached from her long vigil. Craving a breath of cool night air, she opened the back door and peeked out into the pretty shrubbery beyond. The moon shone full, illuminating the garden; under its pale, silvery light Clarimond saw the high birch trees swaying in the winds, just as the orchard had done in her dream.
The night breeze cooled her heated skin and she stepped gratefully into the gentle wind, taking the pins from her long hair until it tumbled loose about her face. A shaft of moonlight illuminated her favourite path through the lavender bushes, turning their deep violet colour wan and ethereal. She wandered through the fragrant shrubs, breathing deeply, feeling calmer and cooler with every step.
The gardens of Thistledown House were mostly composed of flowers. Once, though, there had been an orchard of fruit trees. A cluster of wizened ancients survived still, gathered in a knot by the bank of the river, their hoary branches twisted and brittle. Clarimond gazed sadly upon them, struck by the difference between these faded trees and the flourishing, fruiting arbour of her dream.
Berrie Wynweald had once been famed for its orchards, and for the excellence of its produce. No one knew why the trees had ceased to bear fruit. It was only known that they had, a hundred years ago or more. The trees could not be coaxed into renewal, no matter by what arts they were induced, and the once abundant fruits of Berrie Wynweald faded into legend.
Clarimond thought again of her mother’s dying wish, and felt regret at her inability to grant it. ‘If only there was one,’ she said softly. ‘Just a single apple! It is all she asks. So small a thing, and yet so great a wish.’
She had wandered long enough. She ought, now, to return, and ensure that Clover slept peacefully still. Clarimond turned her back upon the dying orchard, but a glint of colour caught her eye, halting her steps. A glint of gold, vivid even in the moonlight. She turned back, wondering, her curious gaze searching the branches for its source.
Half-hidden among the leaves of a withered old tree, there hung a soft, full globe of golden-skinned fruit, dappled with green and full ripe. It hung within easy reach, fair and tempting and quite impossible. Clarimond stared, and wondered when it had come about that she had slipped back into a dream.
Her garden, though, looked as it ever had. The orchard of her imaginings had not returned; there existed but one, miraculous fruit, an apple, pure and perfect. Clarimond reached for it in wonder, and the moment her fingers touched it the apple dropped into her hand.
She carried it to her nose and inhaled its sweet, fresh scent, scarcely able to believe her luck. For the trees to bear fruit again, after so long a drought! Even were it but one, it was all that she required.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered to the tree, and hastened inside with her treasure.
Ah, to taste it! Never had a morsel of such a fruit crossed her lips, and curious was she to know its flavour. The apple was a large one; her mother could not object, surely, were she to eat a piece herself?
But no. Mother would certainly object, and she was dying. With some regret, Clarimond carried the apple upstairs intact, and woke Clover gently to receive her wish.
‘I hardly know how it has come about, mother,’ said she, ‘but I have found an apple for you. The trees of the garden have given it, to please you.’
Clover Waregrove gazed upon the apple with bright, eager eyes and reached greedily for the fruit. ‘Ahhh!’ she said with deep satisfaction. ‘You have done well, Clarimond. Now give it to me.’
Clarimond accepted both the unusual praise and the order with her customary resignation, and placed the apple into her mother’s hands. Clover carried it instantly to her lips and took a great bite, her eyes closing in bliss. It seemed a shame, Clarimond thought, to despoil such a perfectly beautiful thing, but Clover had no such reservations. She devoured the apple, bite after eager bite, until nothing was left. Then she licked the juice from her fingers, her eyes dreamy.
‘Perfect,’ she breathed, and her eyes closed. She slept.
Clarimond bent over the still figure and pressed a single, brief kiss to her cheek. ‘Rest well, mother,’ she whispered. Returning to her chair by the bedside, she composed herself to wait out the night.
She awoke to an empty bed.
‘M-mother?’ she whispered, aghast. The bed was not only empty but neatly made, with freshly laundered sheets and blankets. Maggie had already been in, of course, and set the room to rights. But no, how could that be? How had her mother been moved, without the assistance of Clarimond herself? And why?
‘Maggie!’ she called, rising from her seat. She felt rumpled and befuddled, and hastened to straighten her gown and shawl as she hurried down the stairs. ‘Maggie, where is my—’ She stopped, for Clover Waregrove herself was coming up the stairs, quick of step and bright of eye and overflowing with energy.
‘Oh, Clarimond!’ said she, with a smile full of sunlight. ‘What tender care you took of me in my illness! I am overcome with gratitude. What a dutiful daughter you have always been. I declare, I have never made enough of you before. I will make amends for it now. You have always admired my silver eardrops, have you not, and my amethysts? They are yours! I make them over to you with the greatest good will. Oh! And you shall have my pocket watch besides, which was your father’s, and the best of my porcelain.’ These extraordinary pronouncements made, she bestowed a tender salutation upon her speechless daughter and sailed on up the stairs, disappearing in a flurry of clattering footsteps.
Clarimond could only stare after her, lost for words. Here was extraordinary behaviour indeed! Not once had her mother given her a gift, and now several all together! It was unaccountable.
Moreover, not a trace of her dangerous illness remained in her face, her manner or her bearing. Her cheeks were plump with good health, her eyes bright, her figure upright and hale. She looked as though she had never known a day’s sickness in her life.
Clarimond followed her mother upstairs and watched in amazement as she bustled about, filling the back bedroom with pots and vases of flowers. Not the varieties that grew in her own garden, Clarimond noted with bemusement. ‘Now,’ said Clover, ‘I know that you gave up your own room for me but you must have it back at once!’
‘Where did you find the flowers?’ Clarimond said faintly.
‘I have but just returned from Market, where I bought them from old Ambrose Dale. How fine they are! Do you not think? I knew they would please you.’
They were very fine, and no doubt expensive, too. There were roses, butter-yellow and lavender; amber-golden poppies; sweetpeas blushing pink and white; clusters of scented honeysuckle; even a spray of crimson lilies from Farmer Dale’s coveted greenhouse.
‘They are beautiful,’ Clarimond said. ‘Mother… are you feeling quite well?’
‘Why, I have never felt better! Do I not look the very picture of health?’ Clover beamed upon her daughter and bustled out again, leaving Clarimond to reflect with wonder upon her swift recovery.
Maggie Muggwort was at work in the kitchen when at last Clarimond arrived downstairs. ‘You were prompt indeed with my mother’s room,’ Clarimond remembered to say. ‘And to contrive to tidy without waking me! It was most considerate of you.’
‘Yer welcome, madam,’ said Maggie, and bit her lip.
‘Does something trouble you?’
‘It is Mrs. Waregrove. She gave me…’ Maggie appeared unequal to completing the sentence, and merely gestured behind herself. Stacked upon a chair at the back of the kitchen was a great pile of dresses, lying in a heap of colourful fabrics.
‘Why, mother’s gowns!’ Clarimond recognised some few of the discarded garments, and could only gaze upon them in dismay. ‘How came she to do so?’
Maggie gave a helpless shrug. ‘She said as how I work so hard, I deserve a few nice things.’
A few? Clarimond counted at least six good dresses heaped upon the chair, and was obliged to sit down for a moment. What had come over Clover, for her to display such sudden and uncharacteristic largesse?
‘Do you think I ought to give ‘em back?’ said Maggie doubtfully.
‘No, I think not,’ said Clarimond. ‘They were freely given, and she is right: you certainly deserve them.’
But though she spoke composedly, her mind was awhirl with confusion. For all her finer qualities, Mrs. Waregrove had ever been miserly. What could possibly have come over her?
And how was it that, in a single night, she had risen from an acknowledged deathbed and come to exhibit a vitality she had not displayed in years?
Mrs. Waregrove’s generosity was not limited to the residents of Thistledown House. She departed soon afterwards to wander through the town, and bestowed some part of her personal possessions upon each person that she passed in the street. To Lavender Blackwood, she gave her best shawl; Nathaniel Roseberry received her second-best pocket watch, that had been her grandfather’s; Betony Summerfield walked away in proud possession of a good silver necklace; and Verity Wilkin was given a fine quill pen with an engraved nib.
She was later heard to have taken all of her savings and distributed every penny to the town’s poor. Not a word of refusal would she hear from anyone, nor did she stop until every pretty or valuable thing she owned had been bestowed elsewhere.
Clarimond could not account for it, and neither could the town. It was said at last that Clover Waregrove’s change of heart was due to her near demise, for a glimpse of death was known to take folk funny that way sometimes.
In the general puzzlement and wonder over her mother’s odd behaviour, Clarimond herself forgot about the apple.