The path to her house was strewn on either side with moldy bread and orange peels, and the house itself half-sunk into the tall grass, with a sloping roof covered with moss that went straight to the ground, so of a spring day it was not strange to see her cow or one of her three goats had wandered up on top of it. There was always tea in that house, though it was not proper tea, but made from roots or tree bark that she knew the names too, and more often than not she’d pour a measure from the corn-still in there as well, so that you couldn’t put any milk in it or it would curdle right up.
A man came to her with his complaint, and he was a forthright man for he gave no excuses and did not dither about but told her what was the matter. So she set the tea and fetched a bit of bread with some mold on it from out the house, and under her gaze he ate and drank and she told the story.
For there had been a young man some decades gone and three villages over who lived on a far farm, and before his fifteenth birthday his parents were both in the ground, and for some time then he lived alone. Now he was not a bad-looking young man, but he lived on a small farm far away and seldom went into town, and there were no others about. So it was he took to his husbandry, and was content in his lot, and none knew of it to tell him if he sinned or did not.
Yet in time he hankered for other things, and on one trip in town he stopped for ale which was better than he could make himself, and heard the talk as the boys and men in taverns talk. He was a clever enough lad and asked no questions nor joined in on their laughter, but stared into his cups and paid close attention. Then when they were done he settled his bill, and sought out a certain house with a blue door with a red scarf on the sill, where lived a wise young girl. He was very earnest in his talk, and she was very glad of it, for even as young as she was she might weary at games, and this would not be the first time she was to school a young man. So money changed hands, and they spoke the language of sweat and tears, and quite content he returned home.
In time the cows came sick, and then the pigs, and even the goats. Now he was not the cleverest man, but he was clever enough, and he noticed one day when all was not as well about himself as it should be. He bethought himself ill, and through his actions he had spread the illness to his farm. Yet he did not grow wroth with himself, but resolved on a course of action, and so walked back to that town, for the poor horse had come ill as well. There he once more sought out the house with the blue door and the red scarf. She was not displeased to see him again, but grew concerned as he relayed the symptoms that had befallen his animals and himself, and as the gloaming came out she lit a candle and told him the tale.
“But for that,” said the woman in the half-sunken house, where the cow had wandered onto the roof and lowed a little, “You must come back tomorrow, and I will make you some more tea and give you some more bread, and as you eat and drink I will continue the tale.”
The man with the complaint had been lost in the story, which while not his own was not unlike his own in parts, and he knew well the reputation of the woman in the house and the power of her stories. As he left he thought of how her door was a faded blue, and how there was a threadbare scarf in the corner of that house that might have been red, and wondered what she might have looked like those years ago and three villages away, and what healing tomorrow’s tale would bring.