Rebecca didn't hear about the mystery crop in the creek bottoms until it was too late.
It was Sunday. She and Miranda and Willyum were leaving for church. Her new Sunday dress was exactly the same as her other Sunday dress, only it was longer and a lot looser because Rebecca had been growing. It even had the same lace resewn on it. Willyum wore a new shirt cut down from her old dress.
She stroked her new dress. This was not a cotton that could be exchanged for cheese, vegetables or woven rugs. It would have cost real money to buy cotton this fine.
"It's a lovely dress," she said. "Thank you Miranda."
"It cost a silver coin for the material."
"Where did you get a silver coin?"
"I don't remember," Miranda said.
"A man gave her a silver coin for use of the creek bottoms to grow potatoes," Golly the house goblin said. "Why has she forgotten?"
"Pretty sickly plants," Billy the other house goblin said. "A moon ago they were sown."
"I notice everything that goes on around here because I am the house goblin," Golly argued. "But I didn't see them being planted."
"Just be thankful that I am around at night," replied the white owl, who was Rebecca's guard, Lord Be Thankful.
"So what did you see?" Golly asked.
"Nothing and no one, because the ground was turned over and the seed potatoes planted by magic," Lord Be Thankful said.
"Magic," Billy stuttered. "Why would anyone use magic for farming?"
Miranda picked up Willyum. "Come on Rebecca, we don't want to be late for church." She never ever heard anything that the house goblins or the owl said.
There was a knock on the door. Miranda opened it. A man started to walk in without waiting for an invitation. Billy hissed and moved forward to drop a live ember on his foot from the fire. It flung back and Billy said "Ouch!" as it hit him.
Golly blew clouds of smoke from the banked down fire. The man blinked and the smoke poured back into the cottage. The man only then stepped back from the open doorway.
Rebecca stared at him more closely. He was dressed in ordinary looking clothes, neither expensive or worn or ragged. Did he have brown hair or was he bald? Were his eyes grey or were they blue, or black? Why was he so hard to see?
"It's a wizard," Lord Be Thankful warned, huddling further down on her shoulder. "Don't attract its attention."
"Dear me," the man said to Miranda in a gentle voice. "I only dropped by to remind you that we are harvesting today, and we will leave you a bag as thanks for the use of your creek bottoms."
Miranda stared at him. "You gave me a silver coin for that use," she said slowly.
"And we are very happy with our harvest," the man said. He turned and left.
Sally the horse waited harnessed to the old cart. Rebecca followed Miranda out. George was away somewhere working at a mine so Rebecca was very proud of herself at being able to put Sally into the harness. Billy tucked himself into the cart with them.
"I'm staying put," Golly said. "I want to see this harvest."
"Come on Sally," Miranda said.
Sally twitched her ears and started pulling the cart along the narrow lane that led to the school room that was used as a church on Sundays.
"Be careful," Lord Be Thankful whispered to Rebecca. "He is still listening."
Rebecca stayed silent. Her eyes were nearly as round as her owl's. Something nasty was going on. What sort of potatoes would only take a month from seed to harvest? Why did the wizard think he could walk into their cottage without an invitation? At least the goblins knew what he was and tried to keep him out.
What had he done to Miranda to cause her to forget about letting him use the creek bottoms? More importantly, why did she need to forget? What was the secrecy for? Also, since when did a wizard go in for farming?
After we get home I will have to look at the creek bottoms, Rebecca decided. Something odd was going on.
"You're very quiet, Rebecca," Miranda said. "Are you all right?"
"Just thinking how nice my new dress is," Rebecca said.
Rebecca knew it was safe when Billy and Lord Be Thankful started talking. She stared at Sally's twitching ears, which meant that Sally was listening as well.
"No proper farmer would harvest on a Sunday," Lord be Thankful said.
"I kept him out of the cottage with that hot coal," Billy bragged. "I won't let any of that sort into our cottage."
"But he managed to get to Miranda and the smoke blew back from him," Lord Be Thankful said.
"I never leave Willyum and Miranda is always around Willyum and I didn't see him when he came the last time," Billy said.
"It is a very smart evil wizard," Lord Be Thankful warned.
"Yeah, he was wearing that nasty veil of illusion," Billy said. "That stuff always makes me feel like throwing up."
So this was why I couldn't see the wizard properly, Rebecca thought. She had heard about veil of illusion, but had never been taught a spell like that when she was a fairy.
"And you landed the coal right on his proper foot," the owl said. "Good work, young Billy."
"I will always defend my family," Billy said proudly.
"Be thankful he didn't zap you," the owl warned. "That is one powerful creature."
"He was in a good mood," Billy said. "I felt it right through his foot. He was too busy gloating to be bothered zapping me."
"Something to do with the harvest," the owl said.
"What potatoes only take a month between being sown and then harvested?" Rebecca mused.
"Only mushrooms could grow that quickly," Miranda replied.
"Mushrooms!" Rebecca repeated.
"Mushrooms!" the owl and Billy chorused in horror.
"What if they are magic mushrooms?" the owl groaned. "What if..."
"I knew the nasty creature was up to something evil by the way it was gloating," Billy said.
"Potatoes take a season to grow." Miranda couldn't hear the house goblin or the owl and was answering Rebecca.
Rebecca sneaked a look at her mother. Miranda had again completely forgotten about the mysterious crop in the creek bottoms. It was very worrying.