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CHAPTER 5:
ELSEWHERE

Daisy Watson stood from her stool, dusting her hands off and picking up the milk bucket. The cow had given a little less milk than usual today, something she would need to remember to tell her father. She noticed that she had spilled a small amount on her trousers, but not enough to account for the difference between the cow's regular output and what she had given today.

How strange, she thought, poor thing must not be feeling well today.

The other animals moved restlessly in the barn, shuffling back and forth with a nervous energy that Daisy wasn't used to seeing from them. Sometimes they got restless from bad weather, sure, but never like this. It was a clear and sunny day, and while the wind was blowing, it certainly shouldn't be upsetting the animals. It must be something else.

Exiting the barn, Daisy noticed the old woman. She wasn't sure how long she had been standing there, but she definitely stood out amongst the brightly colored barn and the farming equipment. The old woman was dressed in heavy black robes, her old, nearly skeletal face worn with age. She carried with her a bundle of sticks, which she excitedly waved when Daisy noticed her.

"Hello, sweet dear," the old woman said. "I've brought kindling for the fire!"

"Who are you," said Daisy suspiciously. She didn't recognize the old woman, and she knew most everyone who had business on the Watson Farm. "We have no need for kindling."

"No need for kindling," the old woman cackled, "of course there's need for kindling! The young, strong branches sometimes need to be cut down to keep the fire going, don't you agree?" The old woman laughed to herself, and Daisy decided immediately that she did not trust her.

"Like I said, we have no need for kindling, and my animals are in need of care. Unless you have business with my father, I suggest you leave." Daisy wiped the sweat from her brow with one arm and tightened her grip on the milk pail in the other.

"Oh, so headstrong, such is the blessing of youth," the old woman said. "I've come such a far way to bring you this kindling, and now you refuse it so casually. Since I've come so far to do you a favor, do you think I could have a single cup of tea before I go? Something to restore strength to my old bones before I leave?"

Daisy was very clever, and knew that she wanted nothing to do with this strange old woman. But her parents had raised her to be as courteous as possible to strangers and, in the off chance that this old woman was someone who did know her family, she thought it important to at least humor her request for a cup of tea.

"I suppose that's all right," Daisy said hesitantly, "but you'll need to drink it out here. My parents are off to the market and wouldn't like company in the house without them being here."

"Oh ho ho, that's all right, child," the old woman said. "I'm perfectly happy right here. Now go fetch me some tea."

 

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