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  THE WISE GOODWIFE


         "Gramma, I feel hot." 
         "Lands, child, on a cool fall day like this?  Come here and let me 
     feel of your forehead.  Tsk!  Feels like fever.  Off to bed with you!" 
         "Gramma, I don't feel good." 
         "I know, child, I know.  I reckon it's time to ask Goody Hawkins 
     to help us." 
         "Who's Goody Hawkins?" 
         "Hush, now, try to sleep.  I'll come back soon." 
         "Gramma, where did you go?" 
         "Out into the woods back of the farm, child." 
         "Why, Gramma?" 
         "To get Goody Hawkins' help." 
         "Who's Goody Hawkins?" 
         "Well, that's a long story." 
         "Tell me a story, Gramma." 

         Well, you know 'bout the pilgrim days, Thanksgiving and all. 
     Those people way back then, that first time, were giving thanks that 
     they'd lived a whole year in a whole new country, without too many of 
     'em dyin'. 
         Lotta times you see pictures, drawings, with lots of Indians 
     standin' there to welcome them folks.  Well, 'taint so.  Weren't 
     nobody there when they got off that boat, not but one Indian, all 
     alone.  Hist'ry books say it was him, Squanto, as taught them first 
     folks how to live through one of our winters -- ice 'n sleet 'n snow 
     'n all, not like they had back in England, where they come from.  But 
     that ain't rightly so, neither.  Squanto, and a few other friendly 
     Indians as wandered in later, they taught the menfolk.  But the women, 
     those days, well, they weren't s'posed to be important, even though 
     they did most o' the work, so we don't hear 'bout them much. 
         Well, a woman come off'n that boat, not quite yet old as your 
     mamma, and her name was Grace Hawkins, but ever' one called her Goody 
     Hawkins.  "Goody" is short for "good wife", and it's like callin' a 
     lady "Missus" today. 
         Goody Hawkins was young and pretty, though you couldn't tell that 
     very well, 'cause in those days the womenfolk wore long skirts and 
     long sleeves and bonnets to tuck in and hide their hair.  So Goody 
     Hawkins had beautiful long brown hair, though you couldn't see it, and 
     skin soft as the skin of a peach.  But she had a nice young husband 
     who loved her very much, and he knew how pretty she was. 
         And Goody Hawkins was one more thing that made her very special: 
     she was a wise woman, who knew plants and herbs and roots and barks to 
     make sick people feel better.  They didn't have doctors like we do 
     now, just a lot of men who figured if you were sick your blood was bad 
     and so they'd make you bleed.  That got people sicker, more often than 
     not.  They thought they were real smart, them old doctors, and maybe 
     they were smart about gettin' money from folks.  But they weren't 
     smart 'bout the folks themselves, mostly 'cause they were too busy 
     listening to each other talking 'bout high-falutin' doctor things in 
     big words than listening to the sick bodies of the sick people. 

         But Goody Hawkins was different.  She listened to the people 
     talking 'bout what hurt them, and she felt of their heads and wrists 
     and looked into their eyes and ears and mouths.  And sometimes she 
     didn't seem to look at them at all.  She just closed her eyes and 
     looked at them with her heart.  And then she'd go into big clay pots 
     and little wooden boxes in her house, and pick out just the thing a 
     sick person needed.  And do you know how she knew just the right 
     thing, how Goody Hawkins could see with her heart and not just her 
     eyes? 
         Goody Hawkins was a witch. 
         No, not like you dress up at Halloween.  A real witch, a real wise 
     woman.  No warts, no wire hair, remember I told you she was pretty. 
     And no flying broom, neither.  She didn't need to fly, 'cause she 
     could see ev'rything. 
         Well, no, she didn't have a crystal ball.  But they way my granny 
     told me, and her granny told her, was that she had a big silver bowl, 
     a real treasure.  And she'd pour clear rainwater in that bowl, and 
     look into it in the nighttime, with just a candle for light.  And they 
     say she could see miles away, and even years away.  Into yesterday, 
     say, or last year, or ten years ago.  And sometimes, she could see 
     tomorrow. 
         A cauldron?  Why of course she had a cauldron.  Ever'one did, 
     those days, just like we have pots and pans today.  But she only had a 
     little one at first--remember, they were poor in them first few years 
     in America, and iron costed a lot of money.  Goody Hawkins had just 
     the little cauldron she brought with her from home, only as big as my 
     big soup pot. 
         What did she boil up in her cauldron?  Well, not babies, I can 
     tell you that!  It was herbs, mostly, tree bark and roots and such. 
     Anise and coltsfoot, simmered with a little sugar or honey, as good a 
     cough syrup as you can find nowadays, and even better than some. 
     That's a recipe my granny's granny knew, and likely Goody Hawkins as 
     well.  Goody Hawkins made ointments from herbs and grease, she made 
     soaps for fleas and lice, she brewed teas, she made mashes for cuts 
     and bad hurts to make them heal clean and fast. 
         But I haven't told you the best part: Goody Hawkins could do 
     magic.  Not like making scarves disappear in her fist or pulling 
     quarters out of your ear.  I mean spells, oh yes, and special little 
     bundles of things in little bags to keep in your pocket or put under 
     your pillow.  These had herbs in 'em, yes, and besides that she could 
     put in a special rock, maybe, or a little short twig from a certain 
     tree, or a piece of paper with secrets written on it, or any such 
     small thing.  You could wear one for good luck, sleep on one to have 
     good dreams. 
         In the nighttime, often, you could see a light shining in Goody 
     Hawkins' cottage, warm and bright, and if you listened real hard, you 
     might hear words, strong and beautiful, or singing so soft and sweet 
     it might have come out of a fairy hill. 
         And in the daytime, oh, the smells that came out of that cottage! 
     You could tell what was brewing by the smells of the herbs in the 
     breeze.  Rosemary, mint, clove and cinnamon, lemon-leaf, basil, 
     horehound and lavender. 
         And hanging from the ceiling in one corner of the cottage were 
     always bunches of drying herbs, filling the whole room with spicyness 
     and sweetness.  She brought the little boxes special from her home in 
     England, but the rest she got right here, from the meadows and 
     forests. 

         One day she was in the forest, gathering plants for medicines. 
     Some of the plants were just like at home, she knew them right away. 
     Others she didn't know, and them she would look at, and smell, and 
     taste of--it was right dangerous, that, but weren't no other way to 
     find out about 'em.  This spring day, after their first long hard, 
     winter had passed, Goody Hawkins went to pluck a leaf off'n a plant, 
     to taste it. 
         Suddenly, she heard a crashing in the bushes and a woman's voice 
     crying out to her.  She turned around and who should she see but an 
     Indian woman, near her own age, come runnin' toward her, talkin' words 
     she couldn't understand.  This Indian woman, she snatched that leaf 
     from Goody Hawkins and shooed her away from that plant quick as she 
     could.  The Indian woman pulled out a thin stick, rounded at one end, 
     and waved it so that Goody Hawkins thought the other woman might hit 
     her with it, so she backed up, afraid. 
         But the Indian woman turned to the plant and commenced to digging 
     it out of the ground with her stick, digging up the roots.  The Indian 
     woman pulled off the roots and pushed them into Goody Hawkins' hands, 
     keeping some for herself.  She put the roots into a deerskin bag, and 
     'twas then that Goody Hawkins saw other herbs and things in that bag, 
     and figured out that t'other woman was in the woods for just the same 
     job as herself, namely, getting herbs. 
         Even though they didn't speak each other's language, by 
     pantomiming and pointing they could understand each other, and Goody 
     Hawkins learned that the leaf she'd been about to eat was deadly 
     poison.  But the roots were good eating, roasted or boiled just like a 
     potato.  How 'bout that!  Plants are funny that way. 
         Goody Hawkins realized she owed her life to the Indian woman, for 
     warnin' her off'n them leaves.  But she didn't know just how to thank 
     her new friend.  Still, they spent the rest of the day walkin' in the 
     woods, an' Goody Hawkins learned more about the new world's plants in 
     one day than she could've in weeks if she'd had to figure things out 
     for herself. 
         And by the end of the day, Goody Hawkins knew some Algonquin, and 
     the Indian woman, Namequa, knew some words in English.  Namequa saw 
     Goody Hawkins back to the little town and then faded into the trees 
     almost like magic. 
         Well, the seasons came and went, and Goody Hawkins had her hands 
     full trying to keep people well, what with the snakes and unfriendly 
     Indians and poisonous plants all around.  The folks couldn't get none 
     of the plants they brought with 'em to grow very well, 'cause the 
     weather was so different from England's.  That mean that folks weren't 
     eatin' right, and 'specially with the children that was bad.  But 
     Namequa showed Goody Hawkins plants that were good eating, and Goody 
     Hawkins showed the other womenfolk, and for a time the folks there 
     lived like Indians, what with the menfolk learnin' to hunt and fish 
     from Squanto and the women learnin' to gather wild plants to eat from 
     Goody Hawkins and Namequa. 
         That first thanksgiving feast, they didn't eat just the corn and 
     squash and beans that Squanto showed the men how to grow, they also 
     had roasted-seed mush and lamb's-quarters gathered by the women.  All 
     those, and the deer the neighboring Indians brought, well, that was 
     some dinner! 

         Well, little by little, them folks got settled.  Other ships came, 
     with more people, and, later, with cows and other stock.  And then 
     Goody Hawkins was busier than ever, 'cause she was s'posed to take 
     care of sick animals, too.  Back then, if a cow didn't give milk, 
     folks were apt to think the fairies had stolen the milk in the night, 
     so 'twas only natural they should ask their wise woman for help. 
         Before long, there were babies, too, human and animal, and mothers 
     needed Goody Hawkins' help to bring 'em into the world.  Somehow, 
     though, through all of this, Goody Hawkins kept time to visit with her 
     good friend, and to keep learning, and to look into her silver bowl 
     every now and again. 
         Well, the years went on, and ever'body got older, and some folks 
     just died from getting old.  Goody Hawkins' husband died too, and they 
     hadn't any children, so Goody Hawkins should have been alone in the 
     world.  But she had her friend Namequa, and every little child in the 
     town called her "Aunt Grace"--she wasn't their real aunt, you know, but 
     they loved her like she was, 'cause she made them things, like 
     sweet-scented pillows, and spicy cookies, and she always listened to 
     them when they told her things.  Goody Hawkins had learned a lot from 
     Namequa's tribe, and now that she had no husband to take care of, she 
     spent more time visiting with her Indian friends, and they learned 
     from her too. 
         Indian magic is full of drums and dreaming.  Goody Hawkins' magic 
     was full of words and wishing.  But she was careful not to let the 
     rest of the folks know she was learnin' and teachin' magic.  Why not? 
     Well, folks don't like what they don't understand, is all.  People 
     were afraid of lots of things in them days, 'specially in a strange 
     new place. 
         And as more o' them Puritan preachers come over from England, the 
     folks would be more secret 'bout visiting Goody Hawkins, not wanting 
     the preachers to know they was holding to the old ways.  And the 
     preachers, 'specially one Pastor Langford,  looked sidewise and never 
     straight on at Goody Hawkins, bein' afraid she might hex 'em or some 
     such nonsense.  Well, Pastor Langford thought she was workin' for the 
     devil, but he didn't want to say it outright, 'cause folks liked her. 
         But even that was changing as Goody Hawkins spent more time with 
     Namequa's tribe, and folk got to whispering about it.  There was a 
     number of men interested in marryin' to her, after her husband died, 
     saying it wasn't right for a woman to live alone, but she didn't care 
     'bout any of 'em.  She said no to all of 'em, and some of 'em went 
     away mad.  And folk got to saying things outright. 
         One lady said she seen Goody Hawkins dancing naked with all them 
     Indians.  Another said there was a demon keeping Goody Hawkins 
     company, which was why she wasn't wanting to marry again.  Somebody 
     else said that it was that demon that killed Goody Hawkins' husband. 
     All round town words buzzed like stinging wasps.  Now, when a cow 
     wasn't giving milk, it was Goody Hawkins, not the fairies, who they 
     thought had stolen it.  Folks began to keep their children away from 
     her.  And Pastor Langford came right out and made fiery sermons about 
     witches and the devil and sin and punishment. 
         Goody Hawkins saw and heard all of this, but what could she do? 
     It was her word against the words of respectable folk, and nobody was 
     going to believe her.  So she kept silent, kept to herself, and 
     waited. 

         She didn't have to wait long.  One evening, she came home from a 
     visit to her Indian friends and found her cottage in ruins.  Jars were 
     smashed, boxes thrown all over.  The herb-bunches had been torn down 
     from the ceiling, her cauldron overturned, Bible verses scrawled all 
     over the walls with charcoal from her fireplace.  "Thou shalt not 
     suffer a witch to live", they said, and Goody Hawkins felt cold in her 
     heart because she knew that the people wanted to kill her. 
         And worst of all, her beautiful silver bowl was all bent and 
     crushed, like someone had hit it with a hammer.  Goody Hawkins sat 
     down at the table in the midst of the mess, and cried. 
         She felt helpless and angry.  She wished she really could turn 
     people into toads.  She made half-hearted tries at cleaning up, but 
     gave it up.  Her heart burned with wanting to hurt the people who'd 
     done it, and froze with knowing her life wasn't worth a straw to 'em. 
         My granny said, that in that hour the devil did come to her, 
     offerin' to kill the townsfolk for her, if she'd give up her soul to 
     him, but Goody Hawkins chased him out with her broom.  I think more 
     likely, she thought about putting poison in the well-water, but knew 
     that not only would that poison the townsfolk, it'd poison the water 
     and the earth, and the water and earth hadn't hurt her.  And she knew 
     that killing all those folks would poison her soul, too, forever, make 
     her sour and angry as a real wicked witch. 
         So instead, she gathered all her power to her, all her love and 
     strength; she threw down her hiding bonnet, and shook out her hair, 
     which was getting grey by now, and walked proud and tall out into the 
     town square.  The folks began to gather round, saying hateful things. 
     But Goody Hawkins lifted up her arms and began to sing, strong and 
     sweet, in the old tongue that nobody but wise folk could speak 
     anymore.  And when the folks saw that their words couldn't hurt her, 
     they commenced to pick up stones to throw at her. 
         But before they could throw their stones, the preachers came and 
     said she'd have to have a proper trial.  So soldiers took Goody 
     Hawkins away with them, away from the shouting people, and she was 
     still singing as they locked her up. 
         They tried to get her to tell them things, like was she partners 
     with the devil, and had she hexed people and animals, and did she have 
     a demon helper, and did she change into a cat to steal milk, but she 
     never did nothing but close her eyes and sing softly, smiling like she 
     saw something beautiful.  So finally they gave up and took her to the 
     courthouse. 
         There all kinds of people told stories about Goody Hawkins and 
     things she'd never really done.  And all through it, Goody Hawkins 
     stood tall, and looked straight in the faces of the folks as was doing 
     the telling.  When ever'one was through with their lyin', the judge 
     asked Goody Hawkins had she anything to say. 
         Goody Hawkins looked round at the folks, looking like your momma 
     when she's gonna scold you, and began tellin' each one what she'd done 
     for them.  This one wouldn't be alive if Goody Hawkins hadn't helped 
     his mother with the birthing.  That one's daughter was deathly sick 
     with fever, and Goody Hawkins cured her.  The other one's cows were 
     dropping down dead before Goody Hawkins found out they were eating 
     poisonous leaves.  There wasn't one person in that courtroom Goody 
     Hawkins hadn't helped somehow over the years.  And folks were looking 
     like you do when you're getting a scolding and you know you've been 
     wrong. 

         But Pastor Langford butted in and said that Goody Hawkins must 
     have led the cows to the poison leaves, she must have made the little 
     girl sick, she must have put a hex on the mother so her baby had 
     trouble being born.  And even though some folks still looked 
     uncertain, the rest of 'em started howling for Goody Hawkins to die, 
     and that was that. 
         They took her out to the town square where there was a big oak 
     tree, to hang her onto it.  Some soldiers held the crowd back, while 
     two of the others tied Goody Hawkins up, tied a rope around her neck, 
     and threw the other end over one of the branches of the tree.  Goody 
     Hawkins wasn't scared to die, but she was scared of the pain, though 
     she didn't let the people see that.  She looked out at them and 
     smiled, and was glad to see some people quit their shouting and look 
     worried. 
         Pastor Langford come up, looking nervous, and said, "Do you wish 
     to confess your sins?  You may yet be forgiven and reach Heaven." 
         Goody Hawkins just smiled and said, "I have nothing to confess or 
     be forgiven for, nothing I am ashamed of.  I want no part of your 
     heaven." 
         The preacher fairly threw a fit right there, choking and
     stuttering, he wanted so bad to cuss and swear at her but couldn't in 
     front of the townsfolk.  So he just pointed to the soldier holding the 
     end of the rope, and he commenced to hauling on it. 
         Goody Hawkins felt the rope tighten and her ears started to ring, 
     and she took what she was sure was her last breath.  But suddenly 
     there was a scream, and the rope went loose.  Her head cleared, she 
     looked around, and saw the soldier who'd been pulling her up holding 
     onto his arm, where there was an arrow sticking out of it. 
         Folks was shouting and running all over the place, and Goody 
     Hawkins saw that a whole tribe of Indians had come out of the woods 
     like magic with bows and arrows and spears and all.  The soldiers 
     couldn't get a clear shot at none of the Indians, what with folks 
     running round like ants when their hill gets kicked over.  And in the 
     middle of all that hollerin' and confusion, Goody Hawkins felt a sharp 
     blade between her wrists, cutting the ropes that tied her. 
         There was two Indians there, a big young man and Goody Hawkins' 
     friend Namequa who held a finger to her lips to shush her.  The young 
     man scooped Goody Hawkins up in his arms, and ran into the woods 
     carrying her. 
         All of a sudden, the Indians disappeared like morning mist, and 
     when the folks looked round, Goody Hawkins was gone too. 
         The folks never saw her again, and Namequa's tribe were never as 
     friendly to them.  Goody Hawkins' cottage was just left to fall down 
     and rot, and nothing in it was ever touched.  But some folks was sorry 
     Goody Hawkins was gone, 'specially when they got sick, or their 
     children or animals.  And one day a mother whose little baby was sick 
     as could be and nobody could help her, she went into the woods by 
     herself, carrying an iron pot.  She walked into a clearing, and 
     waited, listening.  The woods got quiet, like they were listening too, 
     and the lady commenced to talking about the baby's problem and asking 
     for help of whoever was listening. 
         She put the pot down, turned around, and walked out of the woods 
     without looking back.  The next day, she came back, and where she'd 
     left the pot, there was a little bundle of herbs, wrapped up in a soft 
     deerskin.  She ran home with it, and made it into tea for her baby, 
     and the baby got better. 
         Well, word of the cure got round among the womenfolk.  Real quiet 
     like, it got round, not like the lies 'bout Goody Hawkins had gotten 
     round before.  They kept it a secret from the preachers, and after a 
     while the preachers forgot about Goody Hawkins. 
         And ever' once in a while, a woman would slip away from the town, 
     out into the woods, carrying some small thing, that she thought Goody 
     Hawkins might be able to use, knowing that Goody Hawkins was out there 
     somewhere, and would hear them.  And always there would be an herb 
     packet there the next day, or a little charm, or some such. 
         As the years went by, the herb packets stopped appearing, but the 
     woman who turned back would see a shaft of light fall on some plant, 
     and would take of that back home with her.  And finally, even that 
     stopped, but somehow the help always came, somebody got better.  There 
     was a song, too.  My granny's granny taught her this song, and my 
     granny taught it to me, to sing to Goody Hawkins when we needed help: 
 

         With heavy heart I come and stand 
                     The oak and bonny ivy, 
                A gift to offer in my hand. 
                        The hazel, ash and bay tree. 

             How can I hope for any good 
                       The oak and bonny ivy, 
                By standing in the empty wood? 
                     The hazel, ash and bay tree. 

             But I will trust and dry my tears, 
                     The oak and bonny ivy, 
                And know that the Wise Goodwife hears. 
                     The hazel, ash, and bay tree. 

     Tsk!  Asleep already.  Good. 
 

         "Child, what are you doing out of bed?" 
         "I feel better, gramma!" 
         "Let me feel of your forehead.  Well, that's fine." 
         "Gramma, can I have my coat?" 
         "Where are you going, child?" 
         "Out to the woods, gramma." 
         "What's that you have there?" 
         "It's a picture, gramma, look." 
         "Well, that's right nice.  I think I can guess who that is.  And I 
     see you've given her back her silver bowl!  She'll be happy.  Off you 
     go, then." 
         "Bye, gramma.  I'll come back soon." 
 

     (c)copyright 1986, Leigh Ann Hussey.  Used with permission.