Chapter XLI

Despite its disastrous beginnings, Beatrix’s supper turned out edible. Just about.

At least, everyone ate it and made encouraging remarks. But she didn’t offer to cook again, and she was never asked to. And from then on, she appreciated much more the cooking skills of her fellow women out here. How they could make something remotely tasty from a few unlikely looking grey mushrooms, she would never know.

It may not have been the feasts she was used to, but it was food, and it tasted good.
She was pleased to find that she learnt to do the chores quickly, and while she was not the best there, being so unused to the work, she at least managed to bite her tongue and bend her head, and put her foot to the wheel, and her best shoulder forwards.

No, wait...

Anyway, however she expressed it, she enjoyed the sense of being some use. No longer was she a parasite, a useless girl who wouldn’t even show her feelings. And although she wasn’t yet totally human, she was halfway there. At least she recognised her failings.

And for the first time, she was trying to eliminate them.

As she’d come to accept herself, and the people surrounding her, so she had come to accept her place in this strange world. And now she saw the clearing with different eyes to the ones that had so slandered it that first day.

The clearing smelt of earth and tree-blood and rain. The green of the leaves was so bright she could almost taste it. The grass was dotted with wild purple flowers such as she’d never seen before - delicate and beautiful, but sturdy to survive in such a place. Moss crept up on gnarled tree roots and stumps, bracken as high as her waist covered the ground in a patchy carpet. When she climbed gratefully off her horse, the earth felt springy beneath her step.

Primitive and unclean it may have been, but beautiful it certainly was.

I belong here, Beatrix suddenly realised. Much more than I ever belonged at court. Why should that be?

The End

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