The Wool Gatherer–Continued
Joseph couldn’t, or wouldn’t, tell Jazz and Laurie how he ended up as a toad. But he assure them that he wouldn’t make them go back. And he didn’t seem in any hurry to return to the palace, either. Laurie taught him how to spin and he started to accompany her on her daily wool gathering walks. It turned out that he was more interesting than he had first appeared. He knew a lot about the plants. He knew which ones were good to use as medicine and which ones could be used to make dyes. And he was funny. When the shepherd’s were teasing Laurie, and asking her who her “new boyfriend” was, he stood on his hands, walked over to them, rested his feet on the shoulder of the man who had spoken, and said, “I am Prince Toad. I hop wherever I will. Ribbit, ribbit.” The shepherds thought he was very strange, and certainly had no idea who he really was, even though he wore no disguise other than the clothes of a peasant. But Laurie thought it was hilarious.
But Laurie and Jazz became more and more worried about Saul. They re-read the note. What did it mean that Saul was closer than they thought? They had no idea where he was.
“Does he have any friends?” Joseph asked.
“We never met any,” said Jazz.
“But he did mention a friend once. Do you remember, Jazz? It was a woodcutter. I think her name is Alice.”
Jazz did remember. Alice lived in the woods. She liked to be near the trees. They decided to see if they could find her. An old woman and her two nephews set off for the woods. It was a half day’s walk on a lovely spring day. The trees were just beginning to bud and the whole world smelled fresh and green.
They reached the edge of the forest just at mid-day, but decided to wait to have their picnic with Alice, if they could find her.
“But he didn’t say where she lived in the forest,” said Jazz.
“It’s probably where the trees are thicker, a little way in,” said Joseph. “At least that’s where I would live if I were a woodcutter.”
They followed a path that went into the forest and then meandered off onto a side path. Just as Laurie was convinced that they were lost and would never find either the woodcutter or their way out of the forest, a house appeared. This time it was a little hut, like the one Laurie had imagined Saul would live in. There was a fire pit in front with pots and other cooking utensils lined up on a rough-hewn bench and there were piles of wood, one pile of branches and another of logs.
They heard a woman’s voice singing loudly, but with no discernible melody, “I love the forest, I love the falling trees, I love the meadows, I love the fireside when all the lights are low. Boom-de-ya-da, boom-de-ya-da. Oh.”
A woman, dressed in green leggings, a green tunic and a green triangular hat appeared from behind the house carrying an armful of logs. Her long red hair was braided in two braids and was tied at the bottom with pieces of grass.
She put the logs on the pile and ran over to them, wearing a big smile.
“Hi, how are you? It’s great to see you….whoever you are,” she added. “I’m Alice, by the way.”
Jazz, Laurie and Joseph introduced themselves. Alice shook each of their hand enthusiastically.
“And what brings you here?” Alice asked.
“You aren’t…I was expecting…Are you Saul’s friend?”
“Yes! You thought I’d be old like him?” Alice laughed like this was the funniest thing she’d ever said or heard.
“Well, yes,” said Jazz.
Then Jazz explained that Saul had been missing for a long time and they were worried and wondered if Alice might have any idea where to find him, because he had mentioned that they were friends. Joseph invited her to join them for a picnic, which they spread out behind the house by a sweet little pond.
Alice didn’t answer them for a while. She was busy stuffing herself with sandwiches filled with sheep’s milk cheese, basil and garlic along with some fried potatoes and ketchup.
“You guys are good cooks,” she said, wiping her mouth on her sleeve.
She leaned back against a rock. “As for Saul, I might be able to help you. He is closer than you think.”
“He told us that, too. But is he alright? Have you seen him?”
Alice assured them that she had seen Saul not too long ago, but she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say exactly when.
Joseph lay down on the picnic blanket and began to snore. Jazz and Laurie smiled at each other. He sounded just like he did when he was a toad.
But Alice poked him with her foot. “Hey, Joey, wake up!”
“Hunh?” he replied.
“Come help me bring out some desert. I didn’t know you were coming, but I baked a cake, anyhow. It’s inside.”
Jazz offered to help, but Alice wanted Joseph to do it. She said he needed to earn his keep.
He somersaulted to his feet and went with her. They were gone for several minutes. Jazz and Laurie wondered if they were baking the cake.
The door to the little hut opened and Alice emerged carrying a tray with thick terra-cotta plates and carved wooden forks. The cake was a beautiful two layer cake carried by—Saul! Laurie and Jazz grabbed each others hands and their mouths fell open with surprise.
“It looks really good, doesn’t it?” said Alice. “It’s chocolate with white frosting and strawberry filling. I picked the strawberries last night.”
Saul gave them a sheepish grin and put down the cake, which Alice sliced into large wedges.
Laurie held a fork in her hand, but hadn’t stopped staring at Saul. Jazz held a plate with cake hanging over the edge in the air where she had taken it from Alice.
“Were..were you here the whole time?” Laurie finally asked.
Saul took a big bite of chocolate cake, then brushed the crumbs off of his face.
“Not exactly,” he said. He pulled on his hair, which came off in his hand, along with his beard, revealing Joseph’s dark blond locks and clean shaven face underneath. Laurie took it with her fork and laid it on top of Jazz’ cake.
Alice laughed so hard that the milk she was drinking came out of her nose.
“I think you should tell them everything,” she said, taking Joseph’s wig and wiping the milk off her shirt.
Not quite the end–it’s coming next time!
If you want to read the rest of the Wool Gatherer–Here are the links:
As I was working on this, I realized that there are some inconsistencies in the story–like what time of year it is. Since these are first drafts, I decided to leave them as is for now and come back to them later. I find it’s better to get all the way to the end of the story before revising.
I don’t have much else to report this week. I’ve been doing a lot of spinning lately, like Laurie. I’ll post some photos later. Oh, and I started my new Spanish class today–beginner’s level 3. A mi me gusta mucha!
I hope you have a great week and that you had a good leap day!
Thanks for stopping by!!!