Time passed, and the days grew shorter and colder. The school had set the end of term exams, and all of Davina’s class mates were studying hard at home. Of course, there was not much you could do about subjects like arithmetic, other than have your Mum or Dad set you questions, if they had time; and for Davina dictation also could be a problem, as Dad in particular tended to read quite quickly, making it almost impossible to keep up with him! But there were still plenty of books in the house which Davina had still not read, and she decided to spend time on these.
One in particular was entitled “Christmas – an Advent Scene with a Difference!” That should be good! So, one afternoon once homework was done and the dinner still not ready, Davina settled on her bed to read. At first, it was the usual stuff you get in almost any book – you know, the “Once Upon a Time……” start, but once she got more into the book, it became more and more interesting! This is where the story seemed to be going……………………
“Once upon a time (I know, I know, you already knew that bit, but I am quoting from the actual book!) there lived a very very old lady in a house which was just inside a deep, dark wood! The house itself looked ready to fall down if anyone simply touched it, and the old lady herself was a typical old hag! It appeared that she only had one tooth, and her chin and nose were trying to meet up with each other! Her eyes were odd too – one green, and one brown, and both huge and staring!” At this point, Davina’s imagination came into play, and she pictured a horrible old hag, with long pointy fingers which were in constant motion as though she were mixing up a spell in a huge caldron! The story continued…….
“One day, a young man wandered into the wood in search of firewood for his home. It was bitterly cold, and starting to snow. As he gathered wood, he also found a few vegetables still growing there, even though they were much smaller than they once had been. So, he picked these too, and put them in his pockets for safety. Then, he heard a shuffling sound, and turning round, saw the old hag following the path he had made through the fallen branches. She was muttering to herself, and hanging on to a branch which she was using like a walking stick. The young chap, being a very gallant young man, found a much better branch which was long, and straight, and picked it up, pulled off the dead leaves, and offered it to the old lady. She looked at him through her staring green and brown eyes, as though wondering whether there was some trick in the offer, then held out her haggard (yes, you will hear that word quite a few times!) old hand and grasped the stick.
“She smiled when she felt the much stronger stick enabling her to straighten up – oh just a wee bit, but more upright than she had been! At first, the young man felt himself repelled by just her face, let alone the rest of her, in her ragged clothes, and her long dirty fingernails, but then he felt truly sorry for her, and digging into his pockets, offered her the vegetables he had found still growing in the ground. Again the old hag seemed to think about this, then she reached out and grasped the vegetables, scratching the young man’s hand as she did so. “Ow!” he thought, and at first was going to suck his fingers, the way you usually do when you hurt your hand, then saw how dirty his hands were, and simply wiped them on his jumper.
“Being back where he started – you know, no firewood, no food etc. – and as it was getting quite dark, he searched frantically for replacements, but there was hardly anything to be seen, let alone found, that would do! Then the old hag grasped his arm in a very strong grip, and he found himself being dragged backwards, his heels scraping on the ground………………………………….”
“Oh bother!” said Davina, as she turned the book over and over in her hands, as the last few pages of the book were missing! She would never know how that story ended! “Well,” she thought, “maybe I could use this as the basis for a chapter in my first book!” and she settled back down on her bed, this time with pencil and paper, and wrote the following – this time, in rhyme!!
“Once upon a time, there lived a hag in Bluebell Wood!
Her face and hands were scarred with scraping on the ground for food!
Her chin hooked up, her nose hooked down, her nails were black as pitch
Her back was bent, her clothing torn, she looked just like a witch!
She held a stick, all bent and scraped, with which she found her way
And muttered in a scratchy voice as she walked round each day.
And then, there came a time when into her dark world forlorn
A prince came by – a very handsome lad since he’d been born.
She smiled her witchy smile and towards him stretched a horny claw
But just before it reached him, knees gave way, and she did fa’
Down down into a miry ditch - she gave a witchy scream
As squelchy mud enclosed her in a muddy moving stream
At first, on seeing this old hag, he’d gasped, then looked away
Perhaps a bit afraid that she had seen him as her prey!
So, when she’d fallen, he had sighed with very great relief
No longer frightened any more, no longer filled with grief!
He’d wondered if she’d catch him, boil him up to have for lunch!
Then pity entered his kind soul; he had a kind of hunch
That he could do much better things to help this horrid being
And he reached down, with eyes closed tight, to help her without seeing
The grimy, ragged crone, her tattered clothes and her odd features
And thought how he’d been taught how he should help all of God’s creatures.
The very feel of her at first made him feel awfully sick
Then gradually all that changed, it seemed just in a tick……
That feeling in his hand, it changed, and soft it had become
As gentle and as lovely as the touch of his kind Mum
He pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled – you’ll know what he was doing
And slowly from the ditch…..with just a tiny bit of rue-ing
He yanked that horrid hook-nosed thing to terra firma back
(That’s Latin for “firm ground” – some education I don’t lack!)
He plonked his burden on the ground and looked round for a hose
To wash mud right off the hag from pointed hat to toes
Imagine, once he’d done this deed, how much he was surprised
When such a lovely form there lay before his very eyes!
A beauteous maid, with golden hair, and eyes of brightest blue
The kind of colour of a nodding bluebell – yes, that hue!
She smiled a beauteous smile, and held a hand out to her saviour
As he his hand held out to her – back to princely behaviour
And there they stood, prince and a maid as shone the sun above
And no-one there could ever doubt that pair – they were in love!!
Davina read over her poem, and decided that it could be a whole Chapter of the book she had already been thinking of writing, more or less about a Prince and Princess (the princess having been turned into an old hag by a wicked witch……….the usual sort of thing) and all the good deeds they went on to do.
That would now be Plan A for the Christmas holidays, so quite happy with having planned that, when Mum called her down for dinner, she trotted down the stairs with a smile on her face.