Elizabeth, Peter, Mary, and Arnold stood around the banister of the great house, peering through the rails at Mrs. Guernsey and the other adult boarders congregated in the dining room for Christmas dinner.
“You’d think they could have let us eat together,” said Peter, with a sniff. “At least we could have sat in the kitchen.”
The others huddled around, their stomachs grumbling. You can eat with the servants, after the guests’ meal, Mrs. Guernsey had instructed them sternly.
“Mum will be jiffed when she finds out,” said Arnold. “She hates late mealtimes.”
“She’s not likely to care when she and Dad are off gallivanting in the West Indies, now, is she,” said Mary, with a toss of her yellow hair.
“Come on,” said Elizabeth, the eldest. “If they’re going to eat without us, let’s go explore the house. No one will be looking.” The others got up, slightly cheered by the idea of peeking into guest rooms. A few minutes later, they were in Mrs. Guernsey’s very own chambers, exploring the private bath. Elizabeth and Mary were in the midst of smelling the housekeeper’s soap, when they heard Arnold’s voice from the hallway.
“Someone’s coming!” The others tripped over each other in their haste to reach the hallway, only to find Arnold by himself, doubled over with laughter. After delivering his younger brother a swift kick in the backside, Peter led them to the forbidden west wing, where several prior occupants were said to have met their untimely end. They climbed the long winding stairs up to the bell-tower room, overlooking the fields and forests of Houndsten Heath. There, at the front of the room, was a door – a building error, apparently, opening up to air and the outside of the stone tower, ten stories above the ground. Nevertheless, Arnold traipsed over and started jiggling the lock.
“Better stop that,” warned Peter. Before any of the kids knew what was happening, the door sprang open and Arnold disappeared. Shrieking, Elizabeth and Peter ran to the edge, only to suddenly disappear as well. Besides herself, Mary ran to the door and suddenly felt herself sucked over the threshold by a force too strong to withstand. She landed with a thump and opened her clenched eyes to find herself in a thicket of maple trees, next to her brothers and sister.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“We must have fallen into the park…somehow,” said Peter, not sounding entirely convinced.
“Come on,” said Elizabeth. “Let’s look around, while we’re here.” The children began to wander through the woods. The trees were slender and young, and a bright winter sun shone through them.
“Brrr,” said Mary. “It’s freezing. It feels cold enough to snow.”
“Strange,” said Peter. “It wasn’t that cold out earlier when we were playing in the carriage house.”
“Look!” said Elizabeth. “What’s that over there?” She pointed at a clearing, at the far side of which was a circular hut made out of bent branches and tree bark.
“Let’s go look,” said Arnold.
They arrived at the edge of the clearing and immediately their feet sunk into a watery bog. Bending down to try to free themselves, they suddenly found their feet surrounded by a multitude of floating red berries.
“What are these?” asked Mary, scooping up a handful.
The others shook their heads, looking unsure. Peter tried one gingerly. “Ooh, sour,” he said. “But not bad. Come on, let’s fill our pockets.”
Quickly the children began scooping up more of the berries. Their pockets were full to bursting when Mary suddenly gave a piercing yelp. Looking up, they saw a figure standing by the wooden hut, shirtless, wearing beads around his neck and carrying a small axe.
“Whoa,” said Arnold. “Do you think he’s one of those vagabonds Mrs. Guernsey was warning us about?”
The man shook his axe at them and began speaking in a strange, unfamiliar language.
“He sounds angry. Come on, let’s get out of here,” said Peter. The children ran back into the woods.
“In here!” said Elizabeth, pointing to a dark cave. They darted in to hide, but all of a sudden found themselves blinking in the light of the downstairs hall outside the servants’ quarters.
“Did that just—”
Peter shook his head. “We must have fallen asleep. Strange dreams in this house.”
The other three looked skeptical. “I don’t know,” said Elizabeth. “We all saw him, right? Why would we all have the same dream?”
Mary stuck her hands in her pockets and suddenly gave a little yelp. She pulled out a handful of bright red berries.
“Oh…hmm—” said Peter.
“Shh,” said Elizabeth. “Let’s not talk about it here.”
“Let’s go back to the west tower!” suggested Arnold.
“Tomorrow,” said Elizabeth firmly. “In the meantime, what do we do with these?” She pointed at the berries.
“Give ‘em to Cook. Just don’t tell her where we got them.”
A few hours later, it was teatime and the children found the luscious berries folded into Cook’s excellent scones. There they seemed to fit, making the children wonder if they hadn’t come from Houndsten Park after all. But there would be no way to know for certain, until they went back to the bell-tower…
[To be continued…]
- 1.25 c cassava flour
- ¾ c tigernut flour
- 1.5 tsp grassfed gelatin (omit or sub agar agar for V)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon, optional (omit for a lighter color)
- zest of 1 large lemon or 2 limes
- 3 tb honey or 4 tb maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tb frozen fat (I used 3 tb leaf lard and 3 tb ghee (non-AIP/re-intro); use coconut oil for V)
- 1.5 cups of fresh cranberries
- ½ c - 1.25 c coconut milk
- 2 tsps fresh lemon/lime juice or apple cider vinegar
- Tapioca or arrowroot starch for dusting
- For the full recipe, check out Best of Flash Fiction Kitchen, available here.
This post has been shared on Phoenix Helix’s Paleo-AIP Roundtable.