“Good day, my children,” Sherrod bellowed as he threw open the door and stomped the snow from his tattered boots.
“Papa!” the children yelled, running to greet him. He pushed his way into the humble cottage, threw off his heavy fur and wrapped his children around him. As the boys and girls nuzzled and kissed him, he noticed Rhoswen sitting quietly at her spinning wheel. She took her foot off the pedal and the wheel slowed to a halt. He smiled at her, and although she smiled back he felt something was amiss.
“All right, all of you,” he shouted. “Leave me be for a moment.”
The children dropped from him like fruit from a gnarled old apple tree. The younger ones scurried into the corners, giggling. William joined Rhoswen at the spinning wheel.
Sherrod raised his eyebrows. Yes, he thought, something is definitely amiss. “What is it?” he asked Rhoswen after kissing the top of her head. “What are you and fair William here scheming?”
“Sherrod, my darling,” his wife said. “The trees have spoken to us.”
“The tr-trees?” He turned to William. “To you as well?”
“Yes, Papa,” William answered. “To Mother, Ella and me. We have heard their love, their guidance and their pleas. The trees have tongues, like in the old stories, but they told us you are no longer listening … because of your heart. It no longer trusts.”
Sherrod took a step back. “My heart?” He pressed a hand against his chest. “Is that true?”
Rhoswen stood and embraced her husband. William grasped his hand. The other children rushed forward and held onto his legs.
“Yes, my darling,” Rhoswen said. “The trees have spoken with love and gentleness, as they always have. They know the depth of your despair and the measures to which you have gone to provide for us. And they have asked that you no longer violate the ancient edict by harvesting the living. All will be well, as it has always been. The trees requested you return to them with a trusting heart so they may again speak to you and guide you. They have much to say, as the stories have proven.”
As his wife’s words rang true, Sherrod hung his head and sighed deeply. “Very well,” he said. “I shall.” He picked up his coat and flung it over his shoulders. His wife and children did likewise and followed him into the calm woods.
With tears of remorse he opened up his heart. And began to hear their voices again.
“But that is what they told me, Aldyth,” Wymas, the ancient cobbler, squawked to his shriveled wife. He pounded the wagon’s sideboard, startling the horse, which sped up from a slow meander to an unhurried amble. “They said they heard the trees talk. And if Sherrod said it, I for one believe it.”
“Well, Wymas, I will not believe it until I hear it for myself,” the wrinkled old woman grumbled. “’Tis all a farce to convince us to part ways with our coinage. I am not going to be misled by such trickery.”
“Bah!” the cobbler croaked. “Who said anything about coinage? I have made them all a pair of nice shoes. Seven pairs in all, one for the woodcutter, one for his wife and five pairs for their children who need them most desperately.”
“You fool,” the cobbler’s wife hissed. “All for what? Shall we die from starvation as well? You have killed us, Wymas. Doomed us to an early grave just so you can hear the trees babble on about nothing.”
“Alack!” the cobbler spit. “The only thing that will drive me to the grave is your rasping tongue.” He glared at Aldyth. “Perhaps we would all do well to listen more closely to the tongues of trees rather than to the tongues of men.”
Copyright ©2015 by David C. Hughes