Madam Pantoflae

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“Ah yes, Madam Pantoflae.  She of the delicate foot.  Have you heard?  A witch placed a curse upon her feet, and the curse can only be counteracted by the wearing of enchanted boots.”

Katherine Lovelace sighed a long and long-suffering sigh at the girl who’d spoken.  They two, and the several other children gathered at the Baker house for the first party on the cusp of winter, were gathered around the small fireplace in the receiving room.

In the few months since the new resident had settled into town, the infamous Madam Pantoflae had been the subject of many rumors.  She had been an important leader in the last place she’d lived, a large town in the west, but was disgraced when everyone found out about her secret, something to do with her feet.

One of the few consistent rumors was that Madam Pantoflae never let anyone see her naked feet.  She always wore boots that covered her whole foot and leg all the way up to the knee, even in warm weather, when everyone else was walking about in sandals and dipping their bare feet and ankles in the lake.  She did not hide herself away.  Madam Pantoflae came out to all the little town’s events, where she would greet acquaintances warmly and laugh and make merry.  She did not dance, but none expected her to, for though she appeared still young, she use a cane.  She was by all accounts a typical member of their society except for that one thing.  Her feet.

Katherine began to observe all the other people in town, particularly the women, to see if any other had the same habit of hiding her feet.  Perhaps it was a custom.  Or perhaps a result of vanity.  Some had said the reason Madam Pantoflae hid her feet was that they were truly hideous, horned and warty, and sporting clawed toes.

“She doesn’t have feet,” a boy said.  “She has hooves, like a goat’s, and her legs are covered in hair.  That she can shave, but the hooves, no way to hide those, save for in those boots.”

“That’s not it at all.  She’s no demon.  She’s a hero.  She lost her feet in a great battle, and a friend of hers, a sorcerer, grew them back for her.  But he wasn’t the most skilled of sorcerers, and feet are tricky to grow, so—“

“Poppycock and drivel!  That’s not it at all.  Can’t you all see that she isn’t like the rest of us?  You’re so focused on her feet that you haven’t see how her eyes glow at twilight, like a cat’s or a dog’s, and her ears are different.  She always keeps them covered too, but I saw them once, when she bent to pick up an apple she’d dropped at market.  One ear peaked out from under her hair, and I swear to you, friends…it was pointed.”

Katherine set down the cup of punch she’d been holding and let her thoughts drift away from the chatter of the children.

How could they just sit there whispering and huddling, she wondered, when the very character who was playing upon their imaginations was among them?  It was indeed her arrival, and the glimpse of her that they’d caught in the hallway just outside of the receiving room, that had triggered their current bout of gossiping.  (Before Madam Pantoflae arrived, the children had all been speaking of Mister Bartlett, the curmudgeonly widower who lived in the last house on Shay Street, and whom Jonathan claimed to have seen attempting to summon the dead on All Hallow’s Eve).

When first she’d heard the rumors about Madam Pantoflae, Katherine had listened with keen interest, noting contradictions, asking questions, and gasping and giggling at scandalous details.   But by now, she had heard all the same rumors a dozen times over.  She wondered how the rest could be satisfied with going no further when the subject of their gossip was under the same roof with them.   Ever since she’d glimpsed the woman arriving, unable to see below knee-level because of the six or seven dogs who came to greet her and a few other guests who arrived at same time, Katherine had been unable to keep her thoughts from wandering to wherever the lady might be.

So, reaching the limit of her fidgeting at last, Katherine retired from the circle of children gossipers, and made her way to the kitchens under the pretense of helping with the tea and hot nosh services.

She was given a tray steaming chicken skewers and spinach-and-cheese pastries, at which she had smiled.  She would not have worry about spilling the food as she would have worried about spilling the tea.  She could focus on her aim on her singular mission, to find Madam Pantoflae, perhaps even speak with her.

***

Katherine made her way through the many rooms of the sizable Baker house before she reached the back patio area, where she found the subject of her mission at last.

Madam Pantoflae was seated in a lawn chair beside the veranda railing, across from a lady about town whose face Katherine recognized, but whose name escaped her.

Katherine stood at some distance, observing at first.  Madam Pantoflae had short cropped hair that just brushed the underside of her chin, and it was styled in small tidy waves.  Her skirt reached the middle of her calf, and as expected, she was wearing boots, simple black boots, but set with silvery studs to make them sparkle appropriately for an evening at a party.

Upon her head was a gray velvet cap with a simple decoration that looked like a sword-shaped letter opener jutting up from the band of the cap.

Katherine approached and offered the tray to the two ladies.  Madam Pantoflae was so engrossed in her conversation that she absently picked up a pastry and placed it on her empty plate.

She did not look at Katherine when she said, “Thank you, dear.”

Katherine bowed her head.  “Katherine,” she said.  “Lovelace.  At your service, madam.”

Madam Pantoflae glanced up then and met her gaze.

“Thank you, Katherine.”

***

“What did she say?”

“Did you see her feet?”

“Did you ask her to take her boots off?”

“Was it dim enough for you to see the glowing of her eyes?”

Such were the questions that bombarded Katherine when she returned to her circle with the startling news of her daring quest to go see the mysterious madam for herself.

Though any of the other children could have done as she had done, none of them did.  Perhaps old customs that separated the children from the adults at such gatherings were too strong for most of their wills to break.  Or perhaps, in the case of Madam Pantoflae, such customs afforded a protection from facing such a daunting figure.  They closed ranks around Katherine and made her tell them every detail.

Katherine had few to share.  She teased about the lady having golden eyes (they were somewhat hazel), and she described the particular boots she was sporting that night.  And she relayed the few details of their routine exchange.

“You gave her your name!”  Jonathan sucked his breath in through his teeth.

“If she’s a witch, she now has power over you,” another boy said.

“She’s not a witch,” Katherine said, dismissing the thought with a wave of her hand.

“What is she then?”

“I hardly spoke with her.  I don’t know.”

Katherine had considered making up some tale about a long conversation she’d had with Madam Pantoflae.  But she’d chosen to tell the truth instead, what little there was of it.  And strangely, that had confounded and intrigued her fellows, even more than any tall tale about catching sight of a pointed ear or overhearing a conversation about potions.

They wanted more.  And they did not believe her when she said she had no more.

And that was when Katherine decided how she would appease them.

“I have no more to tell, for tonight.  But as I chased after the madam tonight, I shall do so henceforth until I find the truth that we seek,” Katherine said, pointing a finger up.  “The truth about her feet, or whatever mystery surrounds our good Madam Pantoflae.”

“Here, here,” someone said, raising a cup of punch to her.

Others did the same, and Katherine basked in their awe and approval.  And with that decided, they moved to other conversation until they were called to dinner, and after dinner, forced apart as their respective parents and guardians introduced them to friends and visitors.  And so it was that Katherine was not the only child to meet Madam Pantoflae that night.

So she did not think the declaration of her quest, would be remembered past that night.

But she was wrong.

For she was the only child to have gone up to Madam Pantoflae on her own, absent the shield of another adult to stand behind.

***

When next the children all met, in the schoolyard, shivering from the effects of the first frost, the few who had met the madam spoke of her “severe stare” boring through their very souls.

Katherine once again listened to the chatter of her circle—absent a few children who were home sick with the first of the winter flus.

“When she spoke my name after my mother introduced me, I felt a shiver down my spine, did you?” one girl asked another.

“I felt the life drain from me as my father told her more and more about me.  It was as if she were draining me with her very gaze,” a boy standing beside Katherine said.

“It’s quite troubling that.  We had little news before, but now many of us have met her.  We cannot all be imagining these signs.”

“She must be then.  We only suspected it before, but she must be a witch.  And a wicked one at that.”

“We cannot abide an evil witch in our midst.”

“She’s not a witch,” Katherine said, “evil or otherwise.”  She wasn’t sure why she was defending a stranger.  But she had felt none of the eerie intuitions that the others had.  And while rumor and gossip were one thing, accusations—even when brought by children—were another.

“Brave Katherine, your spirit must have been immune to her powers,” one of Katherine’s closest friends said.  “But now that she knows it is so, she will find a way to affect you too.”

“If Katherine isn’t convinced, our parents surely would not be.  We must find a way.”

“What if Katherine truly is immune?

“She’s not, she was wearing her birth amulet that night.  That must be why she was not affected.”

“Should we all start wearing our birth amulets?”

“It could not harm for us to, and perhaps do good.”

“And then, what of the witch?”

“I will find out the truth,” Katherine said, and the circle went silent.

“How?” someone asked at last.

Katherine shrugged.  “I will go to her house and I will ask her.”

Several of the children gasped.

“No, Katherine, she will trap you with her spells,” her friend said.

But Katherine could see from the looks on a few silent faces that she was not the only one who disbelieved the notion that Madam Pantoflae was a wicked witch.  Their faces showed only curiosity.  A keen curiosity like her own.  As for those who truly feared a witch among their midst, she did not desire to begrudge or belittle them, but to ease their fears.

“Then I will sneak into her house and spy her out.”  Katherine felt her stomach lurch.  “Perhaps I can catch her with her feet exposed.”

“You must bring back some proof,” Jonathan said.

“Yes, so that we know that you were in her house.  That you’re not just making up tales.”

Katherine frowned.  “I could have made up a tale at the Bakers’ party.  I didn’t.”

“Be that as it may.  Every quest requires that the quester bring back some souvenir, some reward, some token to show that the quest was done.”

“What would you have me bring back?”

There was a pause as the group considered the question.

“What else?” Jonathan said.  “A boot.”

“Yes, a boot.  Well done, Jonathan.”

Katherine frowned, wondering what exactly Jonathan had done.  She was the quester after all.

So it was decided.  Katherine would sneak into Madam Pantoflae’s house.  Two among the circle volunteered to go with her as far as the boundary of the house’s grounds, to ensure that Katherine went inside when Madam Pantoflae was home.  And to run for help should Katherine fail to come out after an agreed-upon span of time.  Katherine would spy upon the woman, try to see her without her boots on, and make note of any other detail she could glean—potions brewing in black cauldrons on the kitchen stove, and that sort of thing.

Then, she would take one and only one of the many pairs of boots that the lady owned.

She was warned by the witch-believers to break up the pair, for if she took a pair, they might be enchanted and walk back to the witch, or cast other mischief in her life.  But by breaking up the pair, she would break whatever enchantment—if any—there was on the boots.

This particular superstition was one that Katherine happily abided by.  Her favorite bedtime story as a small child was a tale about a woman who found her true love after walking near to the ends of the earth, compelled by a pair of enchanted slippers.  Though the ending was happy, the middle of the story, when the woman was unable to remove the slippers or entreat them or stop walking, always terrified Katherine.

***

And so it was that Katherine found herself in the house of Madam Pantoflae a few nights later, after observing her comings and goings to gauge the best time for the spying.  Two of Katherine’s friends waited just outside the grounds.  The moon was nearly full and cast abundant light on the grounds and through the windows, one of which was left open despite the chill night, for there were two pies cooling by the sill.  It would have been the housekeeper who made those pies.  Katherine peered through the window at every visible corner of the kitchen before moving the pies aside and sliding the window further up so she could climb through.

Madam Pantoflae had no pets whose attention might perk up at the scent of an intruder.  (No apparent familiars therefore, according to the witch-believers.)  Katherine had chosen that hour of the evening in the hopes that it was late enough that Madam Pantoflae would be at ease, already wearing night-clothes perhaps, or at least having cast off all outerwear for the day, including her boots.  And yet it was not so late that Madam Pantoflae could be expected to have retired to bed already.  That might have seemed a more opportune time for thieving, but the main part of Katherine’s quest was not to steal a boot, but to see Madam Pantoflae’s feet, clearly enough to describe them.

She hoped that there were no unexpected servants walking about as she lurked through the hallways as quietly as she could manage, having strapped cloth to her shoes to silence their heels, and having worn her quietest pair of pantaloons, so the sweeping sounds of the fabric would not give her away.

She searched the rooms on the bottom floor and it was not long before she glimpsed Madam Pantoflae in the living room, sitting in a chair beside a steady burning fire with a book on her lap, a lap that was draped in layers upon layers of blankets.  Katherine could not see the woman’s feet under all the blankets.  Her gaze shifted around the room and found a pair of boots beside the opposite door, the one that led into the room from the kitchens.

Katherine watched Madam Pantoflae for a few moments, but she began to feel strange about doing so.  And she feared that the housekeeper might still be about though she usually left before that time.  Frustrated by how close she had come to witnessing Madam Pantoflae’s secret, Katherine was overcome with a sudden recklessness.  She returned to the kitchens and snuck toward that opposite door that led to the other side of the living room.  From the door on that side, Madam Pantoflae would have seen Katherine if she looked up from her.  But Katherine did it anyway.  She had seen no other pairs of boots in the few parts of the house through which she had lurked.

Or perhaps she had, and her brash mind had forgotten them.

Katherine sidled up to the door, lowered herself to the ground, peeked around the doorway to see that Madam Pantoflae was still reading, still covered in blankets that belied nothing, and she reached around the doorframe and quickly but steadily snatched one of the boots.  She held her breath, but heard no stirring from Madam Pantoflae.

And then she sidled back to the kitchen.  She glanced around again and saw that the room was clear.

She was at the windowsill, struck by the scent of toasted sugar and blueberries, when the sound of a squeak froze her in place.

“And where might you be going with my boot?”

Katherine gulped.  She knew she must turn around, but she found she could not.

“You are lucky you’re so loud and clumsy, so obviously a bumbler and not a serious thief, or else I might have accidentally hurt you in an attempt to defend myself.”

Katherine heard that squeak again, and soft thumps.

“If you’re contemplating hurling yourself through that window before I can catch you, do set the pies aside first.  I would not have them ruined before I can taste them.  Miss Markowitz makes the most marvelous pies.  I’ve told her she should quit my employ and set up her own pie shop.”

This was followed by another squeak and thumps, and another squeak, coming closer.  Katherine wondered how badly she might hurt herself if she did indeed hurl herself through the window.

“Or you can have a slice over some tea, and tell me why you’re trying to steal a single boot.”

Katherine frowned in confusion even as she glanced over at the pies.  Again the sweet scent of blueberry wafted past her.  She felt her limbs relax just a bit, but they seized up again at the sound of another squeak.

“Perhaps you were planning on securing that one first, then coming back for the other?”

Katherine released a long breath.  She turned, slowly, holding the boot out.  She found a sight she did not expect.

Madam Pantoflae it was, but she was sitting in a chair, a wheeled chair.

***

Memories of her friends’ admonitions about not letting the “witch” ensnare her mind with spoken spells spilled into the forefront of Katherine’s thoughts.  Doubt warred with curiosity, and both were overcome with a sheepish shame as she held aloft the stolen boot.

Katherine could not help but to drop her gaze to the floor in front of Madam Pantoflae, whose lap, legs, and feet were still covered in blankets.

She glanced back up as Madam Pantoflae rolled the chair back, producing that peculiar squeak in one of the wheels, and redirected it toward the stove, upon which sat a kettle.

“Care for some tea?” she asked.

“Yes, Madam,” Katherine found herself saying as she set the boot on the ground and reached for a chair at the table.

“Bring the pies to the table, if you will.  They should be cool enough now.”

Katherine obeyed.  The bottoms of the pies were still warm, and touching them made her realize how cold her hands felt.

“I like two kinds of folk best,” Madam Pantoflae said, as she pulled a tea service tray from the countertop onto her lap and rolled toward the kitchen table.  “The most daring and reckless.  And the most quiet and humble.”  She set the tray on the kitchen table and peered at Katherine.  “You seem a bit of both.”

Katherine said nothing, thinking of the two friends who were waiting outside.  She wondered how long they would wait before they would run to get help.

“Tell me about yourself, Katherine.”

Katherine’s shoulders flinched at the sound of her name.

Madam Pantoflae smiled.  “I remember you from the party.  At the Bakers?”

“Yes,” Katherine breathed out.

“And so?”

Katherine blinked.  “What would you like to know?”

Madam Pantoflae narrowed her eyes.  “I believe you can guess at that.”

“I came to see you,” Katherine blurted.

“Most folks knock at the front door.  And strangely enough I am known to answer.”

The irony of it was that such had been Katherine’s plan, before she was convinced to do otherwise.  She tried to gather herself, to remember what she would have said and asked if she had followed her original plan.

“Madam Pantoflae, do you know of your…reputation about town?”

Madam Pantoflae said nothing.  She rolled her chair closer to the table, set her elbows on the table, folded her hands, and rested her chin upon them.

Katherine felt the hairs on her arm and neck prickle as she prepared to speak.

“Your feet, she said.  “They are a great mystery.  And in the absence of knowledge, and the…presence of curiosity, it is natural for there to be…guesses, and for those guesses to become…fanciful, and to…become…well, rumors.”

Madam Pantoflae still said nothing.  She still peered at Katherine.

“I came to find out…the truth.  To set minds at ease.”

At this, Madam Pantoflae chuckled.  “Not my mind, certainly, by the way you were stalking about in the dark.”

“I’m sorry…I thought…”  Katherine decided then, that she would tell Madam Pantoflae the truth.  If the woman before her was wicked, then Katherine might buy herself some time before help arrived.  But if the woman was just an ordinary woman with perhaps extraordinary secrets, then she would either refuse to reveal those secrets and send Katherine home—likely with promises to call on her parents in the morning—or she would answer Katherine’s questions and put many rumors to rest.

Katherine drew herself up and straightened her shoulders.  “I sought to find out the truth about you without your knowing that I was seeking.  Because I thought you might be a danger.”

Madam Pantoflae’s brows rose and then furrowed, and she cocked her head as she sat back.

The tea kettle began to whistle.

***

“It is not strange that there should be such curiosity about my feet,” Madam Pantoflae said as she poured out the tea.  “Though I have tried my best to hide that they are different from anyone else’s.”

Katherine pulled the cup and saucer toward herself.  Her mother would have disapproved, reminding her that civilized folk did not drag things toward themselves, but lifted and placed.

Katherine exhaled a sigh.

Madam Pantoflae poured her own cup and set the kettle aside.  “Sugar?”

Katherine nodded.

Madam Pantoflae glanced about the tray, searching for the spoon to the sugar pot.  Katherine tilted her head and searched as well, and seeing that there was no spoon, glanced up at her host, ready to offer to fetch one.  But as she did, her host reached for the sugar pot and gripped the handle of the spoon that seemed to suddenly appear.  Madam Pantoflae smiled at Katherine and spooned three lumps into her tea.  Katherine was unable to resist gulping as she wondered how she might avoid drinking it without seeming impolite (or worse, angering her host).

She expected that Madam Pantoflae would ask after the health of her parents and the status of her schooling and so on, until Katherine would have to remind her what she had asked.  But when her host again spoke, she started with her answer to Katherine’s curiosity.

“The reason for my hiding my feet is an accident that happened in my old town and that took the life of one, and changed the lives of two.  I was one of those two whose life was changed.”

She rolled her chair back and rolled around to where Katherine could see.  She pulled up the blankets as she continued her story.

“The accident took my feet,” she said, as she revealed the bandaged stumps of her ankles.  “I almost did not survive save for the skill of my surgeons.  And I almost could not bear to go on, save for the craftsmanship of the one who built me this chair, and then later, the metal feet upon which I stand and walk when I go about the town.”  She reached under the seat of her chair and pulled out one of those metal feet.  It was crafted finely, every toe, even the vein atop the foot, and a part of the ankle with a steeply curved top, so the stumps could sit within it.

“There’s no shame in using the chair, especially since walking on these metal feet is…painful, even with the clever braces that the craftsman designed for me to wear, to distribute my weight to other muscles, and to the cane I use.”  She shook her head.  “But there is something to be said about the strength that folk ascribe to one who can stand upon their own two feet.”

She smiled a wistful smile then and took a sip of her tea.  And Katherine found herself sipping as well.

“Before the accident, I was mayor of my town,” Madam Pantoflae continued.  “But there is a rule in the records of that town.  It is an old rule, one of those types of rules that most no longer follow.  But in my case, it was brought to bear after my injury.  You see, according to the rule of the town founders, you may not lead if you cannot stand upon your own two feet.  But when that rule was made, there was much warring in those lands.  To defend the town—which then would have been just a settlement—it was necessary for the leader of the people to be able of body as well as mind.  And if that leader were to be unable to defend, either because of grave injury or death, then a new leader need by chosen.”

Katherine frowned.  “But that region is not at war.”

“I argued as much, but my word was dismissed.  And so I asked my friend, the one who built me this chair, if he could build me two feet, so that I may stand before the town and show that I can follow the ancient rules.”  Madam Pantoflae grinned.  “And so I did.”

Katherine tried to imagine what it would feel like to press the weight of her whole body upon the stumps of her ankles.  She winced.  “Did it hurt much?”

“Much?  No…’much’ is too gentle a word for the fierceness of the agony I felt.”  Madam Pantoflae raised her chin.  “But I did it.  I stood on my feet.  I stood before them.  But they claimed these were not my own two feet.  And so, I was no longer fit to lead.”

“Cowards!”  Katherine gasped, surprised at her own sudden outburst.

Madam Pantoflae threw back her head and laughed.  “I am flattered at your defense of me.  All the moreso because I said something much the same when I returned home after that day of pain and humiliation.”

“Is that why you keep your feet a secret?  In case the folk of our town—or any other town—treat you as unjustly as your old townsfolk did?”

Madam Pantoflae bowed her head.  “And so I am developing a new trade, or rather, an old one.”  She pulled a coin from a sleeve pocket and tossed it on the table.  The coin skipped once and then landed with a thud.  Madam Pantoflae raised her right hand and wiggled her fingers.  The coin suddenly stood on its end and began to spin around.

Katherine watched, her eyes wide, her mouth agape.

Madam Pantoflae began to chuckle and pulled her other hand up from under the table.  The coin wobbled and fell.  In her left hand, she held a chunk of metal.

“It’s just a magnet,” she explained.  She pointed to the coin.  “My lover taught me that.”

“Your husband, you mean,” Katherine said, glancing down from the sudden shock of modesty she felt.

“I have never been married.  I wanted to be, once upon a time.  But then I lost interest.  I might be regaining it, come to think of it.  But the feeling is mild.  It’s too late now, anyway.”

Katherine thought it wise not ask after this “lover.”

But she did not have to, for Madam Pantoflae began to speak of him.

“We were quite the tricksters before I became mayor,” she said, as she poured Katherine another cup of tea, tilting her head to the cup to draw Katherine’s attention there.

The honey-colored liquid rose to the top of the cup, and once the ripples of the pouring settled, a bloom of dark violet swirled from the center of the liquid, and spread, until the cup was filled with a violet-colored tea that smelled of lavender and rose.

“Just tricks,” Madam Pantoflae said when Katherine looked up at her with wide eyes.  “Tricks of the light and of the sight.  Our senses are strange, and prone to being fooled when the setting is right.”

She explained how she and the man she’d met and partnered with, first in love, and then in business, had taught each other a great many such tricks.  Madam Pantoflae had learned hers when she learned the trade of the apothecary as a young woman.  She later changed her mind regarding the herbal arts and became a leader in her town.  Her…partner had learned his tricks as a woodsmith and blacksmith.

He was the craftsman who made her chair and then her feet.  He spoke to defend her, as did many friends, when the town’s council removed her as mayor.  But when she decided to leave the town, to travel all the way to the opposite side of their country, he chose not follow.  He entreated her to stay and fight for her rightful place.  But Madam Pantoflae had grown tired.  And she wished to go somewhere that no one knew of her.

But as no one else in Katherine’s town knew of Madam Pantoflae’s secret, not even her housekeeper, she had no one to confide in about how she missed simple things that she had never thought about before.  Running and jumping, and even balancing.

“Do you know what I miss wearing most of all?” she mused.  “Slippers.  I still remember how it felt when I slid my sore feet into the most luxurious silken slippers you’d ever seen.  My lover bought them for me on my birthday.”

Katherine smiled.  She didn’t even wince at the word “lover.”  She was getting used to it and felt rather rebelliously proud that she was getting used to it.

Madam Pantoflae glanced at Katherine’s cup and noted that it was empty, as was the plate of pie that she had placed before Katherine.

“It is time for you to go,” Madam Pantoflae said.  “Before it grows too late and your parents begin to worry.  I don’t mind keeping you for the night, but I take it you have assured that if you do not leave this house after some time, the authorities will be contacted.”

Katherine gave a sheepish smile.

Madam Pantoflae glanced at the floor.  “Take the boot, Katherine.  Tell you friends that I am a witch.  But…a harmless one that will cause them no trouble, so long as they cause me no trouble.”

Katherine rose.  “I am sorry that you lost your feet.  And sorrier still that you lost your rightful place as mayor.”

Madom Pantoflae met her gaze.  “It is gracious of you to say so.”

“I will not take your boot,” Katherine said.  “And I will not reveal the truth that is not mine to reveal.  Though I should hope the folk of my town are…are more grown than the folk of yours.”

“Then what will you tell your friends when they huddle around you and ask what you saw tonight?”

“I will tell them that you are an ordinary citizen of our town, like them, like me.”

“And if they don’t believe you?”

Katherine smiled.  “I will tell them you are far more dangerous than a witch…at least dangerous to their pocket money.”

Madam Pantoflae frowned in confusion.

“I will tell them you are a magician.”

In response, Madam Pantoflae palmed the coin on the kitchen table and flicked it toward Katherine.

Katherine caught the coin and wrapped her fist around it.  She bowed to Madam Pantoflae and allowed herself to be escorted to the front door, for a proper exit.

“If you ever come back, Miss Lovelace.  Please, come through this way,” Madam Pantoflae jested.

Katherine bowed again and waved.  As she started down the steps of the front porch, and heard the door close behind her, she realized something.  She grinned and gripped the coin in her hand tighter.  When she showed it to her friends the next day, some would fear some danger from it and warn her to be rid of it.  But she would remind them that they had sent her to fetch it.

For that coin was the reward, the souvenir, the token that would show that she had completed her quest.

 

Copyright © 2018  Nila L. Patel

 

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