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The Midwife

A Tale of the French Middle Ages by Myrrh Sagrada

Text copyright Myrrh Sagrada 2004

1. Her Matted Woolen Blanket

Autumn, 1338 outskirts of Axat, southeastern France

arguerite pulled her matted woolen blanket tight around her arms and legs as she sat before the fire, exhausted and transfixed.

    In the murky dark that characterized the inside of the cottage day or night, the young girl and her blanket seemed drained of their own color, able now only to reflect the color of the flames. As she watched the growing blaze lick the blackened stones of the hearth, Marguerite imagined how the stones must have looked when freshly placed there: grey and pink with tiny jeweled rivulets, like others in the creek bed from which they'd been dragged more than a dozen years ago, the spring before her birth.

    And here the rounded stones now sat, piled neatly one on another, cemented in place with mud and years of sticky soot. Torn from their watery, languid home and made to house fiery fury, they held no memory now of their original beauty, having been dulled with wear, with work and with service. It seemed to her a fate common to hearths and people. Nearly all the laboring people she knew of in Axat were faring about as well as these stones.

    Her mother's voice broke her thoughts. "When you're warmed, you may add your blanket to the bed and climb in," Celeste said, tilting her head in the direction of the low straw pallet mother and daughter shared in the far corner of the cottage.

    Marguerite gazed dreamily at the pallet piled hand-high in skins and woolen blankets, as she listened to her mother's muted footsteps traveling to and fro across the hard-packed floor. She liked the sound. It was comforting, and made her drift even further into a sleepy daze.

    Upon their return from the orchard moments ago Celeste had lost no time in conjuring again a welcoming atmosphere in the cold cottage. Prodding beneath the apex of a tiny, hastily built cone of fractured sticks, she had poked until the flames dormant in the embers reasserted themselves, crackling and hissing and splashing a yellow warmth onto the adjacent dirt floor.

next page: A person couldn't mark the point at which the light was replaced with dark, even watching it happen...


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