The story so far….
“Trouble has been brewing down at Cowgrove ever since Ricardo Abbott (also known as John) stayed out late after ploughing his furlong. He claimed to have been innocently doing a good deed – helping the widow Alicia Payntere to fix her roof to avoid having to pay further heriots (taxes) to the Lord of the Manor. Alicia’s husband Pedro died a year ago leaving her with seven children, and, as is the custom, a large heriot to pay in order to stay on in the house.
While he was doing the necessary repairs, Ricardo claimed he was afflicted with a terrible headache. Now it just happened that Alicia knew a bit about strange ailments – indeed, some, Ricardo amongst them, claim she is a Wise Woman in a long tradition stretching back to her Celtic ancestors. So when Ricardo got the headache, Alicia prepared a special potion. She took a dried snake skin from her medicine chest and sewed it carefully into the back of Ricardo’s hat.
Now unfortunately young Bethit, the youngest of Ricardo’s four children, happened to witness this curious bit of healing at a time when she should have been off bird-scaring. She dutifully reported to her mother, Agnesse Abbott, that she had seen her father with the widow woman bending over him doing something to his hat.
Nothing was said for some time but things went from bad to worse for Alicia. In spite of Ricardo’s help, she failed to get the house repaired in time and found herself out on the streets, living in the woods with her seven children. No one yet knows why the Tithing Man who should have helped her, failed to do so (unless, of course, Ricardo is the Tithing Man??)
Her children were cold and starving. In desperation she started to beg and found her way to the door of Agnesse Abbott’s house. She asked politely for milk. Her own cow had dried up and there was nothing she could do about it. We assume she had already tried some of her own herbal remedies on it.
Agnesse Abbott, because of her own feelings of jealousy towards Alicia, refused her. It must be said that it was a bad day for her. She had been thinking about her baby who had recently died and was feeling sad and tense. Added to that her children had been disturbing her – the boys rushing around climbing trees and shouting and the little girl running in and out of the house, letting the dust fly in and disturbing the fire. By midday she had had enough. But there was her arch-rival Alicia with her vast brood asking for milk. Never!
Alicia waited outside and may have left. But her children began to cry and complain at the means of their reception. Alicia persisted and tried again to no avail. As her children cried even louder, Alicia muttered something under her breath and left.
Did she really curse Agnesse’s children and animals? Agnesse was sure she had. Within the week the girl grew sick. Then Ricardo arrived home and reported that one of the oxen had gone lame. In the morning it was dead. The curse had worked!
Agnesse began walking all around the village, talking to neighbours and canvassing their views on Alicia. But they were not sure…..”