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A Woodman's Tale
by Roberto Stampini

A long, long, time ago, even before this story begins, there was a young boy a bit like you were once. He lived alone in a little log cabin in the forest with his father, the wood cutter. Sadly, his mother had died a few years before he was born. Life was hard, there were so few trees in the forest that his father sometimes had to walk a day or more just to find a few sticks. With so little wood to sell there was no money to send the young man to the village school, but although he wasn’t wise in book-learning he was a professor of woodland craft. Before his tenth birthday he knew the names of all the flowers that grew in the forest. "What’s that flower called boy?" his father would ask. "Rosemary" he would proudly reply, or "Linda" or "Susan", all depending on the plant in question.

One day, his father had gone into the village to see if anyone knew anything about any new trees moving into the district. The boy was left by himself on the front porch, carefully carving delicate pieces of saw dust to sell in the market. He was so absorbed in this intricate work that he didn’t even notice the stranger approach. "Have you a drink of water for a traveller?" a mysterious voice asked. Startled the boy looked up and beheld a lady, more beautiful than he had ever seen, dressed in a cloak of darkest white and boots of the finest Alaskan leather.

"We have no water miss" replied the boy "We are so poor that we have to drink rain which we collect from the river"

"Then bring me a cup of rain young sir" commanded the fine lady.

"I’m sorry miss but we have no cups, we are so poor that we have to drink from vessels of mud that we shape, paint and bake in our special hot oven" explained the boy

"Well bring me some rain in one of your vessels of mud, young squire" said the lady in a tone that was beginning to sound a little vexed.

"I would miss" said the boy "But father says that there are vagabonds abroad in the woods and who would keep this fine sawdust safe while I went to fetch your rain?"

"I could guard the sawdust" suggested the lady.

"I could not ask that of you. If you were set upon by vagabonds I would not be able to live with my guilt" the boy rejoined.

"What if I were to buy your damned sawdust?" inquired the lady

"Well I suppose that would be in order" said the boy with some hesitation.

"Well take this shilling then and bring me the water before I die of thirst" said the fine lady, finally exasperated.

Later that evening the fine lady was talking to her host at the little country Inn where she was staying. "I met the most extraordinary young man today when I took my walk"

"Oh yes milady" replied the Inn keeper

"In a little log cabin, some way from the village"

"Oh yes milady"

"Yes quite extraordinary"

The inn keeper looked up from the pewter tankard he was gently burnishing, "Didn’t by any chance sell you some sawdust did he?"