Her mother had gone mad.
Ele had never known her real mother though and this was directly due to the madness.
“Ran away from home, she did”, said the woman, “Dinnae keep her promises of marriage either, two there was. I hears she was offering herself up for money so it’s little wonder the demons came to her. I hears she dinnae even know which of them was your father, so what's that make you? Eh!”
The priest had told things a little more sympathetically and explained that she had Saint Anthony’s fire.
“They tried to treat her bewitchment but then she started seeing things and became violent. Her skin began to blacken and I fear she was in terrible pain when she finally passed on. Dear child, she never would have given you up if it wasn’t for the madness that possessed her so”.
Still, this was little comfort.
At times she felt sorrow and pain that she had never known her true mother. Other times she felt she was better off not knowing this disgraceful woman, sometimes she even hated her. Besides, she had been lucky enough to have a mother that cared for her and loved her, even if she was not hers by blood she had still been her family.
As the fever raged these thoughts flashed through her mind. She could occasionally hear people fussing over her and holding a wet rag to her head. Talk of herbs and priests passed her by as if a dream and the thoughts of her mother became more real than these shadows that drifted in and out.
She imagined what her real mother might have looked like. The old woman had told her that she was fair as her mother and that was how her true family had recognised her when she had been brought back. She fancied that her mother had her grey-green eyes and the same hair that had lightened ends from being out in the sun for too long, although she doubted that her mother let her hair run wild and wavy as she did.
Her mother’s face taunted her and she wanted to reach up and slap it. Her arms were too heavy though and perhaps even being held down, she wasn’t sure. Inside of her head she was screaming at her mother but in fact her body laid still and silent.