The next morning Sarah was awoken by the crowing of a rooster and the sound of feet above her. Martha was already in the kitchen starting breakfast. Sarah was quickly put to work scrubbing and chopping vegetables that would be used for tonight’s stew.
Boys came in and out of the house. Some with more vegetables for her. Some with eggs, some with water. It boggled Sarah how Martha could keep them all straight. By the time the sun peaked in through the window only Ryan and Ralph were left in the house. They got set the chores like chopping and stacking wood.
Sarah followed Martha as her helper. They went over to Griffon’s where they started the fire in his kitchen. Working with Martha, who seemed continually surprised by what Sarah knew, was a pleasure. If Sarah asked a question she’d answer, often with more detail than Sarah thought there was.
Even still it seemed that, for Sarah, it was one thing wrong and one thing right. Her first attempt at bread in a Dutch oven came out hard as a rock. However, the bread did make great crouton’s for the stew that night. The stew itself was a little over cooked but the flavor was fantastic.
“I hope this isn’t a family secret, because I want to know what you added,” Martha told Sarah as they were washing up.
“Just some herbs and things,” Sarah’s face flushed. She always felt self conscious when praised.
“Just herbs and things?” Martha turned to face her. “I ain’t never tasted a stew like that. What was the secret ingredient?”
“Um,” Sarah tried to remember what she put in. “Basil and Rosemary, I think”
Clearly those were not the names of herbs that Martha knew. So after the pots were washed the two women went into the herb garden. Nothing there was very familiar to Sarah and when she showed Martha the contents of her pouch, nothing there was familiar to Martha.
“Well only one thing to do,” Martha stated as they turned back into the kitchen where the youngest boys were stacking wood.
“We’ll have to go exploring and see if we can’t find those herbs of yours and get them to grow in Griffon’s garden.”
Two eager faces turned to Martha.”Exploring?” Ryan and Ralph echoed, just as the door opened to reveal Trevor and Travis.
“Yes,” Martha said, “I’ll go talk to Greg now and see if we can’t borrow his horse and cart. You mind Sarah while I’m out.”
Martha quickly took off her apron, smoothed out her skirts and headed out the front door. Night time was fast approaching, but since tonight was obviously not a bath night Sarah wasn’t sure what to do. She wasn’t even sure when bedtime was. Well there was one easy question.
“Are your chores done?” Sarah gave them each a hard stare.
“Yes,” was the resounding answer.
“Alright, march upstairs and get yourselves ready for bed.” Sarah urged them all upstairs. “I expect Travis and Trevor to help Ralph and Ryan if they need it. If you’re all ready by the time I get up there I’ll tell you a story?”
“A story?” Ryan’s head peaked around the stairwell. “What story?”
“Hm,” Sarah thought for a moment, her head cocked to one side. “How about Goldilocks and the Three Bears?” It seemed appropriate, Sarah thought, seeing as they were Sergeant Bear’s boys.
“What’s it about?” Ryan asked.
Sarah laughed. “You have to be ready for bed to find out.”
“Come On Ryan,” Travis called down. Or was it Trevor? Sarah could only tell them apart by their height and that only worked when they stood side by side.
Sarah heard their feet running across the floor. There were stomps and giggles; wails and chastising. “I’m getting ready to come up,” Sarah called out, fondly remembering her own father’s warning calls.
Feet scampered across the floor. Beds creaked as they were sat upon. Sarah walked up the stairs. As she rounded the corner she found herself in what was almost an attic bedroom. Four small beds had been squeezed into the space. Each one had a boy sitting on it, clothed only in their shirts. Sarah shook her head slightly. There was one chair in the room, so she pulled it up between the ends of the two middle beds.
“Alright, come gather ‘round.” The boys on the outer bed clambered onto the middle ones. “Now,” Sarah leaned forward, “I’ll tell you about Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
“What’s it about?” Ryan asked again.
“Listen and you’ll see.”
“Once upon a time,” Sarah began
“What time?” Ralph asked.
Sarah’s shoulders sagged. “That’s just how bed time stories start where I am from. You need to listen if I’m going to tell you a story.”
Sarah began again. This time she got two sentences out before the next question. By the time she was done Sarah was exhausted. She was surprised she made it through the story at all, having been interrupted every five seconds or so by one or the other of the boys.
They wanted to know why the girl was in the woods alone. And why the bears were eating porridge, sitting in chairs and sleeping in beds. And why didn’t the bears just gobble Goldilocks up. That last one made Sarah’s mind boggle, especially as it came from Ryan. At last they were all in bed and Sarah was able to go downstairs. She was nearly asleep when Martha finally came home.
“They weren’t any trouble were they?”
“None what so ever,” Sarah smiled. “How old is Ryan?”
“He turned four just this past summer.” Martha pondered her, “you might as well sleep there, you look like you’re about to. Greg will come by with the cart tomorrow and we’ll see if we can’t find those herbs of yours.”
Sarah nodded gratefully and lay down to sleep. Martha's chuckling as she went into the kitchen was the last thing Sarah heard before she fell asleep.