5. Many would bargain with Death and the Devil
"Didn't I tell you? Didn't I warn you? Here is the proof!" Withers wailed. Others gathered around to gasp and mutter at the sight- a row of herbs cleaved straight from the ground. Wolfsbane. "They are among us!"
Would the wolfsbane save us?
We need the protection of the wolfsbane!
Where does the wolfsbane grow wild?
They are among us.
They must be stopped!
Who could it be?
They must have seen the pyre!
They heard the words!
They saw the flames and destroyed the wolfsbane!
Withers is right! Listen to her!
What are we to do?
What are we to do?
"Listen to me," Phillip called over the mob. "Do not panic." They surged towards him, desperation in their features. "I have wolfsbane." He quieted their cries with his hands. "Please, I only have a small amount."
"I'll give you five chickens!"
"Nay, I'll give you two sheep!"
Those who had nothing to bid slipped away, their hearts heavy with worry.
George knocked on the door and could hear Suzanne from the other side. The older woman sure had a voice on her, and that was saying nothing of her gossiping.
"Have you come for wolfsbane?" She asked before she saw who stood in the doorway. George and his son looked at each other.
"What?" Eric asked, his voice flat.
"Oh, it's the butchers!" Suzanne called over her shoulder. She showed them in.
Phillip met them in the sitting room. He looked invigorated.
"Hello, George. It's good to see you, Eric."
They returned the pleasantries and handed him the cuts of meat that they brought to the doctor every week. Suzanne took it from Phillip and disappeared into the back.
"Phillip, what's this I hear of wolfsbane?" George asked.
"Did you want to have some for your doorway? We have only a bit left, but-,"
"I'm surprised at you, getting caught up in this superstition." George crossed his arms and looked at the man hard. Phillip laughed.
"Don't you think it better to be prepared than to realize later that perhaps you were mistaken?"
"I'm not mistaken. There are no such things as werewolves. It's an old wives tale, and frankly I think Withers is far past her mind. Bishop was right, says me."
"Yet what do we know of Bishop? He's a shady character."
"He works hard, keeps to himself. There's nothing wrong with a man for wanting that."
Phillip shrugged. "Withers reckons herself a seer. Says she can sense the evil is right here in the village."
"Maybe," Eric said, "what she's sensing isn't the werewolves." He narrowed his eyes at the doctor and glanced to the front door, where another villager was bartering with Suzanne over a clove.
"Aye, werewolves don't exist!" George said, slapping his thigh. The doctor sighed.
"I don't want to argue with you, my friends. Thank you for the cuts." He stood and showed them out. At the door he asked, "Are you sure about the wolfsbane?"
"We're sure," Eric answered.
"I hear you, lad. But think- what was that at the pyre? We didn't imagine that, now did we?" He looked at George. "I'll be seeing you." He closed the door.
"He's quite a salesman, isn't he?" Eric asked his father.
"I can't believe he's being so foolish. Mark me, he'll make things worse before he makes them better."
"What do you think about Old Woman Withers, passing herself off as a seer?"
"I think that if she believes the tripe she's selling, she'd keep her mouth shut. I'm sure the 'werewolves' wouldn't appreciate the threat of being exposed."