In this story a preacher feels he should help an old woman, but he’ll have to walk in the cold to get to her house. He goes anyway andÂ meets a fairy on the road who is bent on stopping him.
A Short Story by Manelle Oliphant
A light snow had fallen on that early December night. Not enough to wrap the world in a blanket of white, only enough to give the air a biting edge. Iâ€™d settled in for the night next to my toasty fire when I got the impression I needed to visit widow Miller to bring her some wood. Iâ€™ve found impressions such as this come to me often in my line of workÂ and itâ€™s best to heed them, even if one didnâ€™t want to. The reception Iâ€™d receive from the widow Miller would be unkind, but service carries its own rewards.
I dawned my coat and ventured out into the frozen night with a bundle of logs. It was a fair walk from my house to the widowâ€™s. Sometimes I wished these tasks could fall to someone else.
I hadnâ€™t walked for long before I met a tiny man. Despite his great beard, he was only the height of a small child. He wore no cloak but the cold didnâ€™t seem to bother him. Beside him walked a ferret tied to a lead.
I suspected his faerie origins and knew unkindness was a bad idea. I nodded down at him. "Good evening Sir.â€
He squinted through the dark at me. "Eveninâ€™ Churchman. Where are you headed on this cold night?â€
I pointed to the firewood I held. "I thought to bring the widow Miller some firewood.â€
The faerie looked it over. "Fool thing to do on a night like this for an ungrateful person like her. You wonâ€™t get much for your trouble.â€
"Maybe,â€ I said, "but if the widow needs wood, I can provide it.â€
The faerie scoffed at my words. "Youâ€™re a fool to be out on a night such as this based on an impression.â€
I started at his words. "How do you know my reasons for venturing out tonight?â€
Service carries its own rewards.
"I have my ways. You will get naught from the widow for your trouble. It would be best to turn back now.â€
Part of me did want to turn back, but the faerieâ€™s presence alone urged me forward. "Iâ€™d better press on.â€
The faerie flicked his finger. As he did so, a great wind blew down the street and flapped my robes against my ankles. The frozen snow blew off the ground and into my eyes. I pressed forward ignoring the faerie trick.
After a time the wind stopped. Snow covered me. The Faerie still walked beside me, a smile on his lips. The wind hadnâ€™t touched him.
I shook off the snow. My toes froze in my boots and my fingers stuck around the logs they held. A gloom settled around my heart. The loss of Widow Millerâ€™s husband and sons to disease had left her bitter. She never had a kind word to say to anyone. The most I could expect from her would be a hard word and a slammed door. Perhaps I should turn back like the faerie suggested.
I looked back. The road looked cheerful as if it wanted me to walk on it. I could still see the silhouette of my home. The fire was probably still glowing. If I turned back now, I could be home before it went out. I turned toward the widowâ€™s house. The view was desolate. There were no stars, and the darkness pushed me away.
I was about to return home when I looked down at my short companion. He grinned in a most mischievous way, and an evil light glinted in his eye. My mind came back to itself. The call home had been a faerie trick. I closed my eyes and stepped forward.
The Faerie sprang in front of me. "Stop it. Stop it! Where are you going?â€
I pressed forward. "To give the widow Miller some wood.â€
He stomped his feet. "No. No! NO! You must go home.â€
I walked around him. "I know you are trying to deceive me for some reason of your own.â€
The faerieâ€™s face twisted into a grotesque image of fury. He flopped down and rolled about, getting under my feet. The ferret hissed at my boots, but I kept going and arrived.
Iâ€™d thought the Widowâ€™s cabin was still two miles off. Another faerie trick no doubt. I moved up to the house before the faerie could stop me and knocked.
I waited. Through a small window a candlelight burned. I knocked again.
"Whoâ€™s there?â€ said the widowâ€™s craggy voice from behind the door.
"Itâ€™s Father Simpson.â€
"What do you want?â€
"The night is bitter cold, and Iâ€™ve brought you some wood.â€
The widow opened her door. She pointed at the floor. "Put it there.â€
I did as she bid me. The room was freezing, and her fire had gone out.
She crowded me back outside. "This donâ€™t mean Iâ€™m coming to watch you preach,â€ and slammed the door.
I waited. Soon the warm glow of a fire could be seen through the window. I smiled, warm inside despite the bleak surroundings, and started home.
The faerie met me on the road. "I knew youâ€™d get nothing for your pains.â€
I studied the faerie. "You are wrong. I got much for my efforts.â€
"Humans!â€ The faerie snorted as he disappeared.
My walk home seemed much shorter than what it had taken me to get there and when I arrived my fire was still warm.
I donâ€™t know why the faerie was so determined to stop me, and Iâ€™ve never seen another faerie before or since.
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