Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Love Potion


Old Margrete did not truly sell little Jenny Weaver a love potion to ensnare Will Carpenter on the eve of the Maying moon. The very idea of the flaxen-haired, apple-cheeked, green-eyed Jennivere of the Loom needing such a thing, when anyone could see Will’s infatuation with her, set Old Margrete’s raspy throat to bitter laughter. All shy Jenny ever needed was to smile at Will once, and he would be hers, and to that end, when Jenny stumbled, weepy-eyed, into Old Margrete’s cottage at the edge of the woods, Old Margrete gave her the potion she needed.

That is, a hearty draft of strong ale, mixed with chamomile and ginger root to disguise the taste.

“A love potion true?” Jenny had asked. “And ‘twill turn Will’s eyes to mine?”

“Never fret thee,” Old Margrete assured her, “but hie to the commons and catch thy beloved’s gaze. The potion be not all; for the spell to take, he must look upon thy face, and thee upon his.”

“For how long?”

Old Margrete tucked the yellow hair behind little Jenny’s ear. “For as long as is needful.”

And sure enough, two days later the banns were cried and shortly thereafter the wedding of Jenny and Will was celebrated. Old Margrete did not attend, for folk did not care to see her warty face on happy occasions, and Old Margrete did not, for the most part, care to see the townspeople who came to her under cover of darkness, begging for remedies, or the clever hands of the midwife, but made the sign of the evil eye against her should they meet in the light.

So all would have been well, had not the churchman, as he did once a year, perhaps, begin his speechifying against evil, quoting, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and casting meaningful glances in the direction of her cottage. And still and all, nothing would have come of it, save that Jenny, made bold in her nuptial joy, began to tell around town that, witch though she may be, Old Margrete was a good witch, a kind and loving and helpful witch.

Sides were taken. Eduard Atwater, the alchemist, who also served as village apothecary, had much dealing with Old Margrete, and paid a good price for her herbs. He named those whose mothers had called upon Old Margrete during complicated labors. “Many of us would not be here to today to speak against evil were it not for Old Margrete’s skill,” he said. “Her knowledge of medicinal herbs rivals mine, and comes through experience. She is no more witch than I.”

“Reject the devil in all his forms!” the churchman countered. Sent from the city when the old churchman passed, he had not been raised among them in the village and had no sense of the usefulness of a village witch. “Be not seduced by the fair face of evil.”

“Hardly a fair face,” muttered those who had seen Old Margrete in daylight, but the churchman was young, with a powerful voice that projected across the square, across the commons. It could not be shut out. The more words were spoken in Old Margrete’s defense, the more insistent was he that the old woman had seduced those souls rightly belonging to him, and that she must be put in her place.

“’Tis all my doing!” Jenny wailed, having crept to Old Margrete’s window late at night. It was the eve before the harvest moon, so there was light enough that she had no fear, and besides, little Jenny was with child already, and came also for the tea of fennel and peppermint that Old Margrete mixed so well.

But truly, she came to warn. “There’s talk of cleansing by fire!” Jenny wept. “They’ll burn thee, Margrete, and whether thee be witch or no, thee hast never harmed the merest hair on any mortal’s head.”

“Worry thy thoughts no longer, but get thee home safe to thy husband’s arms,” Old Margrete crooned, again tucking a strand of yellow hair behind the girl’s ear. “Old Margrete’s lived through witch hunts a-plenty.”

“How shall thee find succor?” Jenny sobbed. “Where in the wide world is shelter for thy good old bones?”

“Old Margrete shall stay,” she promised. “There be remedy for all life’s ills here in my pots and jars.” And she sent Little Jenny on her way with the loose tea, along with a bit of licorice to soothe her gravid belly.

Then she went among her herbs and began to mumble to herself as she mixed. “There be love potions and love potions,” she cackled. “And if it’s love that be lacking here, soon there shalt be love a-plenty, even for one with a face such as Old Margrete’s.”

And she mixed something stronger than ale, and sweeter than chamomile, and sharper than ginger, a barrel of it, and said words that were best not to speak, then corked the barrel, hooked a dipper in her belt, and rolled herself and her concoction down the lane. As she went through the moon-dark town, she ladled a dipper of this medicine into every water jug and barrel she came across, with a triple dose for the churchman’s morning ablutions, until she came at last to the village well.

With some straining, for her old joints were sore and her back long since bent under by the weight of the things she knew, Old Margrete hefted the barrel and poured its contents into the water supply, where one and all would draw their drink when the sun rose. “Oh, they’ll see a love potion now, won’t they ever,” Old Margrete muttered.

She slept very late into the afternoon, and when she hobbled out into the day, her front path was strewn with asters and chrysanthemums, her shutters hung with fresh pine wreaths, and three strong young men, the churchman chief among them, were thatching her roof with sweet heather.

4 comments:

security equipment said...

I like the design of your blog very much. It looks like a page from fairy tale. I’m really impressed!

Dragon said...

I just grab images from WikiCommons...

Thanks, though.

Expat said...

I love the way this was written. You made the language in the dialogue sound so authentic, which, in my opinion, is no easy feat.

I loved the story, more so because I feared a bad ending was in store for Margrete. It was wonderful to see her goodness triumph over the bad intentions.

Dragon said...

Thanks! I do love an anti-hero.