The Beautiful Lady

There was once a beautiful lady — although no one knew quite why she was beautiful, or how she was beautiful, or even that she was beautiful, for she ebbed in and out of the shadow of tales. All the same, all who thought of her, or caught a wisp of her at the corner of their minds, or felt they had once been in her presence, thought her beautiful. 

    And there was once, too, a hag — although no one thought of her much, save to get their potions from her small broken house and leave as quickly as possible.

    It was only of the beautiful lady that the tales arose. The stories of her presence were passed down, from one person to the next. Most often the tale of the lady's beauty would pass from child to mother. A little girl would come home from wandering the fields and say, 'Mother, I came across a beautiful lady today. I wandered into the bog, but she picked me up and cleaned off the dirt. She kissed my forehead, mother. She was the loveliest lady I have ever seen.' Or a little boy would return from an expedition to the woods and say, 'I saw the most beautiful lady, mother. I fell into a pit, but she pulled me out and dusted me off, and sent me on my way. She squeezed my shoulder just so, mother. And she was so beautiful.' And the mother would say that, yes, she knew of the beautiful lady. She too had memories of her and her lovely ways. Only, she couldn't quite think of them just now. They were so very long ago.

    Indeed, the mothers could never quite think of the memories of the beautiful lady 'just now.' Still, the children continued to come home with their tales, and so the beautiful lady was not forgotten.

    The old hag was often forgotten, save in the briefest moment when a mother would realize a need. The children never went near the small broken house, for they had been told to avoid it at all costs. The mothers always felt unsettled there, in the shabby ugliness of bent, rotten wood and the stench of foul smelling herbs. It was no place for children, they said. 

    But every so often, a child and mother would pass by the broken house and the child would point and say, 'Look, mother! It's the beautiful lady!' And just for a minute, the mother would see the hag and remember the beautiful lady.

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