An Unexpected Turn

The white dust had not truly disappeared from the hazel leaves, and the worry was getting to me. Where did it come from? How could I get rid of it?

In the great hall, I half listened to Sir Thomas of Dartmouth, a lackluster cousin of the noble squire Perinis, recount his pilgrimage tale. He had only just returned and spoke of his success expelling Moors from Portugal before arriving in the Holy Land.

The light played hide and seek on his face, and in the rays of light I could almost see a fine mist of white, which reminded me of the coat on the hazel tree. An odd connection, I reflected. Where had this white dust come from? I wrung my hands.

The next morning I awoke early to visit the tree. I fetched a vessel of water to douse it, knowing I would not change anything but feeling frustrated. I left my earthenware container to retrieve something in the cottage, and wandered back out to the vessel. But as I poured the water onto the tree, I noticed small bubbles. Why would there be bubbles? And I stopped pouring; my heart jumped. There was lye in this water! I saw Cecily the scullery maid from a distance, walking away. She knew the hazel tree and its honeysuckle were special to me, and she had switched my vessel for hers. I sat down and cried. I did not know how much she had used and what it might do.

Over days, I watched and waited. The white dust disappeared. In fact the lye appeared to have rid whatever ailed the tree. Cecily had led me to a discovery, albeit unknown to her. Lye could protect plants from the white powder.

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