Jack felt like crying again. These new feelings were very odd and worrying.
Mother bent over Lucy's fair head. "You must finish your soup," she whispered.
"I don't like the bottom part. It's sandy," said Lucy.
"Washing cockles takes away the taste," said Mother, but she finished the dregs herself and gave Lucy an oatcake.
"Thrashing is good for boys," Giles Crookleg said. "Why, I was smacked six ways to Sunday by my father, and it made me the man I am today."
Then, because it was Sunday, Father told them a story about the holy saints. Father couldn't read, nor could anyone in the village except the Bard. To Giles Crookleg, writing was a kind of magic. When the Bard marked letters on a scrap of parchment, Father always crossed himself to avert a spell.
But he had memorized dozens of stories from the monks of the Holy Isle. Tonight's tale was of Saint Lawrence, martyred by pagans. "He was roasted over a slow fire," said Father to Lucy's horrified gasp. "They stuck garlic cloves between his toes and basted him all over like a chicken. When he was about to die and be taken into Heaven, Saint Lawrence said, 'I think I'm done. You may eat me when you will.' The pagans were so impressed, they fell on their knees and begged to become Christians."
Trolls eat people, thought Jack. They would come over the sea and stick garlic cloves between everyone's toes. He put his head down and thought about green hills and puffy clouds instead. He must not be afraid. Jotuns followed fear like a trail.
Later Lucy wanted to hear her own story of how she had lived in a palace.
"This will come to grief," said Mother. "She can't tell the difference between fact and fancy."
Father ignored her. Jack knew he looked forward to the tales as much as Lucy did. The boy understood -- how had he changed so much in a few weeks? -- that these, too, were a comfort to his father. Giles Crookleg might grumble like a crow, but he lost himself like a bird in the clouds of his own imaginings. He no longer had to set foot on the earth or know that he was doomed to creep upon it.
"Once upon a time," said Father, "the queen dropped a honey cake on the ground."
"My other mother," prompted Lucy.
Mother sniffed. She had long since stopped explaining that Lucy couldn't have two sets of parents.
"It put down roots and grew," said Father.
"Until it was as tall as the oak by the blacksmith's shed," Lucy said.
"Every branch was covered with honey cakes. Invisible servants flew through the air to fetch them."
"Invisible servants! I'd like that," said Mother.
"You had a little dog with a green collar with silver bells sewn on it. You could hear it running through the house."
"Castle," Lucy corrected.
"Yes, of course. Castle. And it could talk. It told you everything that went on in the kingdom, but alas, it was very naughty. The dog ran away, and the nurse ran after it."
"With me in her arms," said Lucy.
"Yes. She got lost in the woods. She sat down to weep and tear her hair."
"She laid me under a rosebush first," said Lucy.
"A bear came out of the woods and gobbled her up, but he didn't find you, dearest."
"And that was how I got lost," crowed Lucy, not at all concerned about the fate of the nurse.
Jack fell asleep listening to the north wind fussing with the thatch over his head.
Copyright © 2004 by Nancy Farmer
The Holy Isle
The destruction of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on June 8, 793, shocked
the Anglo-Saxons in the same way 9/11 shocked Americans. It was a completely
unexpected blow from a completely unexpected direction. The Saxons believed
the sea protected them. They also believed that no one would attack a
peaceful, trusting group of monks. They were wrong.
Copyright © 2004 by Nancy Farmer
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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