augusti 20, 2003

A fall and a fire

Her husband stumbled over another stone: once more the baby nearly slipped from his arms. "Give me the child! You'll fall with it." she called. "No: I'll be careful enough."

Just then, he stumbled for the third time. He grabbed for a branch with both hands and the child fell. His wife was walking right behind him, and even though she had just told herself that it would be best to lose the changeling, she stuck out her hand, caught a patch of the troll child's clothes, and pulled him back onto the path.

Her husband turned to her then. His face was hideous now, completely changed. "You weren't so agile when you let our own child drop in the forest", he said angrily.

She could not speak. She was so crushed by the discovery that his kindliness had all been assumed that she started to cry. "Why are you snivelling?" he asked. "It wouldn't have been a catastrophe if I had let the changeling fall. Come on. We'll be late otherwise."
"I don't want to go to the market any more."
"No. Me neither", said the man, and they turned back, in silent agreement.

Walking home, he asked himself how much longer he could stand his wife. If he were now to use his greater strength and rip the child away from her, everything might start to get better, he thought. He was just ready to take the stride that would bring him close enough when he saw how she was looking at him, troubled and fearful. He mastered himself once more, for her sake, and the moment passed.

Two more years passed: then, on a summer's night the farmstead burst into flames. The main room and the sleeping quarters were full of smoke, and the attic was a sea of flame before everyone was fully awake. There was no time to think of fighting the fire; no time to rescue anything. There was only a moment to rush outside before being burned to death.

One of the first out was the farmer, who stood in the yard, watching his house burn. "There's just one thing I'd like to know", he said: "I'd love to know who has brought this disaster on my head".
"Who else but the changeling?" asked a farmhand. "He's been playing with sticks and straw and lighting little fires, inside and outside now, for months."
"Yesterday he built a pyre of dry twigs in the attic" said a maid, "and he was just about to set light to them when I caught him at it."
"He'll have lit it this evening instead" said the farmhand. "you can be sure that he is the man to thank for all this."

"If only he's burned alive inside there," said the farmer, "It would be worth it to see my farm go up in flames." Just as he said this, his wife ran from the flames, dragging the child behind her. At this, he ran up to them, snatched the changeling away, held him high up for a moment, and then pitched him back into the burning building.
Posted by andrewb at augusti 20, 2003 02:27 EM