“Oh, I do hope we have a good, strong son,” wished a poor peddler woman as she sat in the snow at her loom, “Or perhaps a fair and beautiful daughter.”
“My darling wife, you know it wouldn’t matter in the least if we had a either one, or an imperfect child at that,” said her husband beside her, wiping sweat from his brow before swinging his black axe to cut another stump into firewood, “We shall love the child just the same, whether he is a not strong or she is not fair.”
“Indeed, we shall,” the mother agreed, but she soon added, “It may come important when the child is married. But we shall love the child the same whether he brings us only a small dowry or we must pay a large one for her.”
The two were married, as you might have guessed, and the two were very happy. But, alas, the two were poor and had only what they could make with their hands, all but Darrin’s trusted axe and Dara’s faithful loom. They were now pregnant, and so they spoke often of the coming child and what joys and pains it would bring. Dara, in her discomfort, frequented more the painful truths while Darrin looked forward brightly to his child’s birth.
“The last stump and only half a pile,” he said sadly, “I must go for another tree, my darling. Wait here and I will return soon,” he tenderly kissed his wife’s cheek, took hold of his axe, and left around the small house’s corner.
Poor Dara set again to her work, worrying still what her child would be like. Suppose it was deformed and impossible to find a husband or wife? Suppose the labour was hard and Dara died at the child’s birth? Suppose again that the child was spiteful and turned against its parents? Her husband and she had come from very poor families, though Dara was very beautiful. Her parents had not wanted their marriage for they hoped she could win a wealthy family’s son, but the two had loved each other so purely that they married without the girl’s dowry or her parents’ blessing. Now, she pondered the worst, fretted incessantly, but never had she been so prepared for the sound she now heard.
After a loud cracking, a deep, inhuman cry warbled through the quiet winter world, screeching through the woman’s ears. She closed her eyes and blocked it out but still it rang so clear that she had to follow it,
“Darling, Darrin, answer me!” she called over and over, running slowly through the snow, but still no answer came. Finally she came deep enough in the woods to find a thick tree felled. There was no sign of he husband but a trickle of red blood that spread from beneath the trunk and his black axe in the snow beside it all.
The young widow held her stomach and cried, her child seemed to kick restlessly within as if it sensed the woman’s strife.
“May you, my dear,” she spoke now to her baby, “be for us a girl with skin so white as the snow and lips so red as your father’s blood. May your hair grow black as his axe that lays here and your eyes shine blue as my heart has become this day.”
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