Cussn Cat and Dirty Dog


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As the villagers sat down to their dinners the next day, Wat with the runnynose hurried down the road, calling, 'I have seen him, a hairy demon withhorns and claws and a great thrashing tail.

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He is on the road to the manor;looking for souls to take to Hell. There was no sign of the Devil on the manor road or in the woods on eitherside. Finally the villagers started home, and there near Roger Mustard'scottage were the Devil's prints, marching down the road, past Dick's granny'scottage, around Waiter Smith's barn, and up to the door of William theReeve's cottage. Again the villagers flung open the door and again found theDevil had been at work, for there was Wat finishing off William Reeve's leg-of-mutton dinner. The priest decided that Wat's gluttony and deceit were the fault of theDevil and not of the boy, so Wat's face was not branded, but William peeve'sbad-tempered pigs were in his care from that day on.

The next morning it was a larger group of villagers who followed thehoofprints to the woods where the broken-toothed Jack and his friends wereclearing brush from Roger Mustard's field. Likely the Devil had tricked theboys into laziness, for they were found asleep and given a sound beating. Two days went by with no sign of the Devil. The villagers grew calmer,thinking themselves fortunate not to have been tempted by the Devil andthen found out in so public a fashion.

Then, on a misty morning, the Devil walked the village again. By this timeno one expected to catch him, but they were eager to see whom they wouldfind in what sin, so all the village followed the prints, except for themidwife, who was called to the manor at the last minute, and Alyce, whowas elsewhere. The parade of villagers laughed and gossiped out of the village and alongthe Old North Road.

As they followed the prints through a field, they grewquiet. The prints stopped near a large tree and so did the villagers. Frombehind the tree came the call, 'Is that you, Jane, my dove' and out leaped thebaker, holding a bunch of Michaelmas daisies and a basket of bread beforehim. All was quiet. The baker's wife stepped forward and took the flowers asthe villagers turned and walked away, leaving her to sort out what was theDevil's work and what the baker's. After the departing villagers passed the river, at a spot where the water ranswift and deep, Alyce stepped out of the woods.

She took something fromunder her skirt, threw it into the river, and followed the crowd home. And soit was that all except the fortunate midwife who had taunted or tormentedAlyce were punished for their secret sine. After this, the Devil was neverseen in the village again, and no one but Alyce knew why.

Several days later, in a village where the river meets the sea, there washedup on the banks two blocks of wood carved in the shape of the hoofs ofsome unknown beast. No one could figure what they were or where they hadcome from, so eventually Annie Broadbeam threw them into her cookingfire and enjoyed a hot rabbit stew on a cool autumn night.

The Twins. There being few babies born that September Alyce and the midwife spenttheir days making soap and brewing cider and wine. The first occupationstank up the air for miles around, what with goose grease and mutton fatboiling away in the kettle, so that Roger Mustard in the manor fields and themiller at his wheel near the river sniffed the air and said, 'Someone bemaking soap today.

Alyce was greatly relieved when enough soap was made to wash all thelinen in England, and brewing could begin. First they cooked parsnips with sugar and spices and yeast and poured thisinto casks, where the fermenting mixture sang loud and sweet as it turnedinto wine.

And the same they did with turnips. Then Alyce, with baskets tied to each end of a pole, walked with the cat tothe abbey gardens to gather fallen fruit. There, lying on the ground as ifscattered by God just for Alyce, were apples, red and yellow, large andsmall, sweet and tart, firm and juicy. She tried a few, but unable to saywhether she liked best the crisp, white-fleshed Cackagees, the small, sourFox-whelps, or the mellow, sweet Rusticoats and Rubystripes, she tried afew more. The cat, not finding that apples were good to eat, batted the smallones across the yard, imagining they had ears and tails and other parts thatmade things worth chasing.

Returning to the village late in the day, with her baskets and belly full ofapples, Alyce cut through the manor field, near where the villagers had dug apit for the quarrying of gravel. From inside the pit came the cries of somefearsome thing - a beast or a witch or a demon - so she crossed herself andhurried her steps. The demon was calling, 'Come here to me, here to me. Then stopped. The demon sounded mighty like Will, the boy with tad hairwho used to torment her and now did not so much. Cautiously she crept to the edge and looked over It was redheaded lout,and with him his cow.


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  • THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE.

Tansy has fallen into the pit and I cannot get herto climb out, for she is about to have her calf and will not move. Come andhelp me. This is Tansy's first calf but not mine. Alyce could not bear to leave her like that, so she put down her baskets ofapples and slid into the pit. Will grinned at her. Here, hold her head. Keep herquiet. Sing some- thing soft. Just make sweet noises. And perhaps the cat, who lay above, where Alyce hadleft him, carefully licking the soft pink pads of his feet.

Rub her head and belly. If we can but calm her, God willtell her and the calf what to do. Alyce sang and rubbed, calling the cow Sweetheart and Good Old Girl asshe heard Will do, and the boy pushed and pulled and worked as hard as thecow. Several times they near gave up, but Alyce always found one moresong or one more rub inside her; and Will loved Tansy like she was his babeand not his cow, and so the tired pair kept on. Finally, as day darkened into evening, there came the feet of a calf. Thenmore feet. And more. Once Alyce and Will took the calves upon their shoulders and scrambledfrom the pit, so too did Tansy, not willing to stay alone in that hard, dark and.

Like a holy procession they returned to the village, the boyand the girl and the newborn twins and the cow and the cat. Will, so happy with twice the bounty he expected from Tansy, made sureto tell everyone of his luck and of the great help Alyce had been to him, andAlyce felt her skin prickling with delight, although she got in a muck oftrouble for being so long about apple gathering and then losing the basketsas well as the fruit, for in the excitement of the twin calves they were forgot-ten and left behind and never seen again.

As September turned to October and October to November, through allthose days, Alyce grew in knowledge and skills. The midwife, busy with herown importance, did not notice. Alyce, grown accustomed to herself, did notnotice. But the villagers noticed, and as October turned to November and theghosts walked on All Hallows' Eve, they began to ask her how and why andwhat can I.

Sometimes for her help or advice someone would pay her aribbon or an egg or a loaf of cheese or bread, which she always gave to themidwife, as if Alyce herself were just the midwife's hand or arm, doing thework and receiving the pay but taking no credit for the task. One morning as they sat under the old oak tree eating their breakfast bread,Alyce told the cat again about the birth of Tansy's twins.

I did not even know them, but I loved them somuch. This sounded to her like a song, so she made singing sounds as shehad that day in the gravel pit, and then sang her words to the tune: All shiny they were, And sticky to touch. I did not even know them, But I loved them so much. And so it was that Alyce learned about singing and making songs. Hersong brightened the cold grey day so that a cowbird thought it was springand began to sing in the old oak tree.

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The Bailiff's Wife's Baby A good nut year means a good baby year' the midwife said as she sentAlyce and her nutting basket to the woods to see what kind of a year itwould be. All day Alyce shook the young trees, climbed into the old ones,and gathered the hard-shelled bounty that fell. Hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts,almonds mounded in her basket and stirred her hunger with thoughts of hotroasted nuts on cold winter nights.

That was the limit of her imaginings, fornever had she heard of almond cream, pickled walnuts, or eels in chestnutsauce, such as they ate at the manor or the homes of rich merchants inLondon and York. Coming back from the woods, she saw the boys teasing the cat. She took ahandful of nuts, the biggest and hardest and heaviest in her basket, andheaved them at the boys.

The boys were toostartled by her out- burst to move. And so purr the cat escaped and Alycereached the midwife's cottage unharmed, and until they were quite old theboys in the dark of night sometimes were afraid that the midwife's bottleactually had the power to make them into women. It was fortunate that theboys never tested Alyce's magic, for the bottle she shook so fiercely at themwas naught but blackberry cordial she was to deliver to Old Anna on herway home from nutting in the woods, and although it would have made theboys purple and sticky, no harm would have befallen them and never wouldthey have been able so give birth like a woman.

That night Joan the bailiff's wife sent for the midwife. Alyce lighted Jane'sway through the gloomy night with a rushlight that hissed and sputtered inthe mist. The midwife chased Joan's husband, her young son, two pigs and apigeon out of the cottage, bade Alyce wait for her in the yard, and slammedthe cottage door. Alyce dozed there in the wet through the long hours of the night. Shortlyafter dawn, when the sky turned not rosy and welcoming as it does insummer but merely a lighter shade of grey, the midwife kicked her awake.

By theFourteen Holy Helpers, Joan will have to sneeze this baby out! You goin and wipe Joan's face and I will be back as soon as I can. Lady Agnes atthe manor has started her labour and wishes me to attend her. They will payme in silver, and the bailiff in chickens and beans. God and the babieswilling, I will have it all. Do not leaveme. Do not leave her. Alyce was silenced with a sharp slap. It will die unborn, and I willtake it dead from her when I return. Let her labour while I see to the LadyAgnes. I will come back, do what must be done, and collect both fees. Alyce snuffled into her sleeve, leaving her nose dirty and red and no drierthan it was.

Do nothing and say nothing! Alyce turned back to thedark, cold, nearly empty cottage, took a deep breath and went in. She couldn't see the figure on the bed at first for ah the smoke, and thenrealised that the writhing mound was Joan, the bailiff's proud wife whowashed her linen each week and never let herself be seen without shoes evenin summer, and there she was, a moaning mewling mound on a straw bed.

Alyce covered her mouth and her eyes and turned to go. She could tell themidwife she had waited with Joan. Who was to know if she sat on the stoopuntil she heard the crinkle of the midwife's starched wimple? By the bones of Saint Mildred, let me die. Or help me to die. To Alyce it sounded allthe more frightening and strange, as if a goose had spoken, or an egg, or thedung heap in the yard. She will be back soon, and then yourbabe will be born. I know this babe is stuck and will never be bornand we will both die soon and why not now! Surely the midwife hassomething in her basket to help us along!

Then, as thehot pains invaded her body, she shouted and thrashed and flailed, shriekingand kicking. Alyce betook herself to the cottage door ready to run from this horror. Butthe memory of the proud, frightened Joan of a moment ago kept her inside. And she asked herself, What would the midwife do were she here! What hadAlyce seen her do from cottage windows all this year when the babe wouldnot come and the mother looked to scream and thrash herself to death? Whathad Will done in that gravel pit to help Tansy with the calves who would notbe born?

Alyce took another deep breath and returned to Joan's side. She gave hermugwort in warm ale to drink and spoke soothingly, called her Sweetheartand Good Old Girl. She warmed oil over the fire and rubbed her head andbelly, as she had the cow's.

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She did not know the spells or the magic, sogave Joan all she had of care and courtesy and hard work. So it was in the middle of the night, when the monks were rising from theirbeds for midnight prayers, and in the towns revellers were returning homefull of beef and wine, and at the manor the midwife was delivering LadyAgnes of her first son, so it was that a calmer, more rested Joan, with thekind attention of the midwife's apprentice, brought forth a daughter, feet firstbut perfectly formed, whom she called Alyce Little.

Alyce had washed Alyce Little and wrapped her in clean linen and laid herin her father's arms before Jane the Midwife bustled up the path and into thecottage.

Cuss'n Cat and Dirty Dog

Jane made some remarks, which no one believed, about having leftfor just an instant, and stuck her hand out for her fee. The bailiff said, 'We have no need of you, Jane. Your helper has taken careof us with her two strong hands and her good common sense. Facing the midwife's jealous anger, she went back to theircottage, ate some cold soup and hard bread, lay down on her straw mat bythe fire, and had a dream about her mother, which upon waking she couldnot remember.

The Boy After this, when the midwife was summoned to attend a mother, Alycetook to stealing her way inside the woman's cottage, hiding in the shadowsso as not to be noticed, watching closely to see what the midwife did andhow and why. She took and stored in her brain and her heart what she heardthe midwife say and do about babies and birthing and easing pain.

She discovered that an eggshell full of the juice of leeks and mallows willmake a labour quicker, that rubbing the mother's belly with the blood of acrane can make it easier; that birthwort roots and flowers can strengthencontractions in a reluctant mother and that, if all else fails, the midwife canshout into the birth passage, 'Infant, come forward! Christ calls you to thelight!

She learned that newborn infants are readily seized by fairies unless salt isput in their mouths and their cradles, that a baby born in the morning will. Alyce thought the midwife had more skills with herbs and syrups andspells than Will Russet, but Will delivered babies just as well and was muchkinder to the mother. Alyce thought if she needed a midwife, she wouldrather someone like Will than Jane Sharp, for all her spells and syrups.

Early one cold November day, before the pale, watery sun could light upthe morning sky, Alyce left the midwife's cottage and hurried to the cowshedto see Tansy's twins, now called Baldred and Billfrith after the saintly localhermits; and give them some parsnip tops to munch. There, huddled as closeto Tansy as her calves, lay a sleeping boy, blue in his lips, frost in his hairand tears frozen on his thin dirty cheeks.

Her coming startled him awake andhe jumped to his feet. I hurt nothing. I be going. I mean you no harm. Who are you! Want some breakfast? She watched him as he ate.

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Six, he was. Maybe a little older, for all he wasso small and thin. He looked a little like her; now she thought about it. I'll go fetch some. You stay here. The boy was running down the road towards her, pursued by several muchbigger boys shouting and threatening with their pitchforks and rakes. And you, Jack Snaggletooth, I still have that bottle ofrat's blood! We were but wagging him since you are no sport nomore.

When Alyce and the boy, who said his name was Bunt, got back to themidwife's cottage, Jane was out seeing to Kate the weaver's daughter, whowas having trouble with her milk. Alyce brought the boy into the yard,cleaned his face with her skirt, and combed the straw from his hair, all thewhile telling him that Bunt might be a good name for a small pig but neverfor such a likely-looking boy as he, and that she would help him find a placeto sleep and some- thing regular to eat but he would have to have a realname, for she was not taking anywhere anyone named Bunt.

Alyce nodded. She could see the midwife coming in the distance, so Alyce spat on herfingers and rubbed a bit of stubborn dirt off Edward's cheek. They are hiring boys to help with the threshing. Tell them Jane the Midwife sent you and bid them remember the good jobshe did delivering Lady Agnes' stubborn son. Now go. Edward shook his head and grabbed a piece of her skirt in his fist, but sheput him off. So he straightened his tunic and went, looking back once tothrow a brave, shaky grin at Alyce. The returning midwife, angry at Alyce for ignoring her earlier, set her todo all the least pleasant chores: roasting frogs' livers, boiling snails into jelly,stripping the thorns from dog- berry roses.

But Alyce minded little, for she thought not of her tasks but of Edward'sface and the abundance of bread and cheese up at the manor looking for ahungry boy's belly to fill. The Leaving Alyce was sitting by the fire one cool November morning, tying up birchtwigs for a broom, when a pounding came at the door. Jane opened the doorto Matthew Blunt, whose mother was about to have another baby andwanted Alyce to come and help.

The boy jerked his head towards Alyce. Yer apprentice. My mumsaid Alyce helped her sister Joan, the bailiff's wife, when no one else could,and so she will have no one but Alyce. The dung beetle! The midwife looked a bit like a mad dog as she spat and spluttered andtried to get words out past all the anger in her mouth. Such treachery!

Such thievery! Eating my bread and stealing my mothers! When she began to throw cooking pots their way, Alyce and the boy lit outand ran all the way to Adam Blunt's cottage. Alyce stood outside for aminute, surprised at having been asked for and not knowing whether to bepleased, until the boy nudged and pushed her to the door. She wiped her hairfrom her eyes, licked her lips, and went in.

The cottage was warm and Emma Blunt even warmer, what with herefforts to have this baby and be done with it. Alyce rubbed and crooned andfussed, as she had with the bailiff's wife. She fed Emma on raspberry leaf teaand comfrey wine. She built up the fire, closed all the windows, and threetimes called the baby forth. Then she sent Matthew to search for birthwortroot, put out the fire, and opened all the windows. But the baby would notcome, as if he were holding tight to his mother, reluctant to be separate andalone, and Alyce, although able to ease a willing baby into the world, had noidea how to encourage a reluctant one.

So as the day passed from morning to midday and Emma tossed on hertumbled linen and still there was no sign of a baby, Alyce, doubtful anduncertain without the midwife or at least Will Russet to tell her what to doand unwilling to get herself or Emma into trouble, stood back from the bedand said, 'I cannot do She washed Emma's face, smoothed her wet hair, took a deep breath, andsent Matthew back to the cottage for the midwife. Emma and the unborn baby tested from the morning's struggle, so all wasquiet until the midwife roared in, like wind before rain, blasting everyoneout of her way as she set about attending to mother and babe.

She insulted and encouraged, pushed and poked, brewed and stewed andremedied. Anointing her hands with cornmeal and oil, she rubbed andkneaded, pulled and tugged, and turned that baby from both the inside and. Then she slappedEmma's great bulge of a belly, lifted her from behind by her shoulders, andgave her a good shake. All was chaos, noise and heat and blood, until finally over the tumultAlyce could hear the cries of a baby, the moans of a tired mother, and thelaughter of the triumphant midwife. Alyce backed out of the cottage, then turned and ran up the path to theroad, she didn't know why or where.

Behind her in the cottage wasdisappointment and failure. The midwife had used no magic.

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She haddelivered that baby with work and skill, not magic spells, and Alyce shouldhave been able to do it but could not. She had failed. Strange sensationstickled her throat, but she did not cry, for she did not know how, and a heavyweight sat in her chest, but she did not moan or wail, for she had neverlearned to give voice to what was inside her. She knew only to run away. So it was that on a crisp, sunny Martinmas afternoon, while the villagersslaughtered their cattle and pigs for winter meat, while Meggy Miller stirreda sheep's blood pudding for supper, while Will Russet and Dick gatheredbeech and oak and ash and chestnut for winter fires, while Alnoth the Saxoncleaned the manor privies and cursed God for making him a peasant and nota lord, while the boy Edward ate a bowl of herring soup and thought of thewarm corner of the manor kitchen that was to be his, while Emma, thebailiff's wife's sister, kissed her new son on his tiny red nose and fell asleepwith him at her breast, while the life of the village went on, Alyce turned herback on all that she, knew and that had come to be dear to her and headed upthe road from the village to she knew not where.

And the cat went with her. The Inn. The cat was hungry. He pushed at the lumpish weight that was holdinghim down, spitting and scratching until Alyce shifted and he could crawl outto see what creatures there were about that were both good to eat and easy tocatch. His exertions woke Alyce and she sat up and looked about her.


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  8. At first she made to stretch and smile and face a fine new day; then sheremembered. It was afternoon, she was a failure, and she had run away. Itwas beginning to rain and she faced a night outside alone in the wet. Shecurled up again into a wet soggy ball. I belong nowhere. I am too stupid to be a midwife'sapprentice and too tired to wander again. I should just lie here in the rainuntil I die.

    But the next morning her young body, now used to a roof and warm foodon cold mornings, pricked and pained her until she awoke. It was stillraining and she was still a homeless failure. She stood up, picked some ofthe leaves from her hair, wiped her drippy nose on her sleeve, and lookedaround. She knew where she was. We will get them to the donation spot in Florida! Here is what she said: There is a team of vets at the Humane Society in the Bahamas today.

    They are prepping the animals with shots, evaluations and health certificates. Evacuations are set to start early next week. They will spend days Once quarantine is satisfied, the animals will be moved to registered c3 rescue groups. This group of animals are only the ones currently at the Humane Society. After this group gets evacuated, then focus will turn to the homeless street dogs and cats and lost pets.

    So, the is just a start. Here is the immediate need:. HALO will need volunteers for the days of quarantine, once the animals arrive. If you are interested in volunteering, please go to www. They are hoping to have an online sign up calendar, where volunteers can go in and plug in the dates and times they can commit to volunteering. We are still collecting supplies for them. Unfortunately, she said that a plane bringing supplies over landed on the runway this past week and were held at gun point.

    All the supplies were stolen but the pilot and staff were not injured. Safety is a major issue right now. So, they are looking for secure places to drop supplies in the Bahamas and will be sending them over as needed. If you are an animal lover and are looking for a verified fundraiser to donate to, to help the animals in the Bahamas, this site is verified! Does anyone know what rescue groups took in dogs from the Bahamas before the storm?

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