New Friends

Arthur was relieved to find that Tomer had been telling the truth when he said that his home was not far away. In fact, they had only been walking a brief time when they came to a stone bridge over the river. On the other side, a pretty cottage nestled in a lush meadow. Tomer pointed to the smoke curling up from the chimney.

“It looks like we have arrived just in time for supper. Gwen has a thing about being late for meals. Come, let’s hurry.

Arthur followed him over the bridge and along the narrow path that led up to the door. When they reached the porch, Tomer took off his walking boots and instructed Arthur to remove his trainers.

“Gwen is very house-proud,” he explained. “She gives me an awful tongue lashing if I make a mess.”

By now, Arthur was getting quite worried about meeting this Gwen. She sounded like quite a Tartar. His own mother could be strict at times, but usually, it was for his own good. Gwen seemed altogether different. In the event, his concern proved to be unfounded, for as the door opened, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, greeted him with a generous smile.

Gwen was young, about the same age as Tomer, but had long black hair and deep green eyes that smiled merrily as they regarded him. When Tomer had told her Arthur’s story, she gave him a great big hug and told him not to worry.

“We will look after you,” she said. “At least until we can get you back to your family. In the meantime, you just make yourself comfortable while I get you some supper. I expect you are starving by now after the adventures you have had today. I know what little boys are like. I have had to look after my brother since he was a boy no taller than you. Left to him, this farm would go to wreck and ruin, and I’m sure he would forget to eat if I weren’t here to remind him.

As she spoke, Tomer stood silent, with an affectionate grin on his face. Arthur realised that Tomer had only been teasing him when he spoke of Gwen and her awful tongue lashings. Indeed, she reminded him of his Mum, and at the thought, he became homesick and started to shake again.

“There, there,” Gwen comforted him, putting her arms around his shoulders in a gentle hug. “Don’t despair, child. I promise everything will turn out all right in the end. Now calm yourself, sit down, and eat your supper. You will feel much better with a bit of food inside and then we can discuss what we are going to do with you.

Arthur did as he was told. To his surprise found that he did feel much better after he had finished the meal that Gwen put before him. She was an excellent cook, and he even found himself asking for a second helping which Gwen happily dished up.

When everyone had eaten their fill, Arthur helped Gwen with the dishes while Tomer went outside to gather wood for the open fire. After chores, the three of them sat down in front of the fireplace to sip cups of hot chocolate.

Arthur told his story again, and Gwen questioned him closely about his home and how he had come to this land. At last, she seemed satisfied that she had gleaned every bit of information there was to be had from the boy and her brother. Now she shook her head, a puzzled look upon her lovely brow.

“Well, I’ve never heard of such a thing,” she said. “Climbed up a rainbow, you say?” She waved her hand to show that this was a rhetorical question. “This scarecrow fellow seems to be the key. After all, it was him that put you up to it. But was it for good or evil? I’m sure I don’t know. Still, the important thing now is to get you home to your parents. They must be worried sick by now.” She scratched her head. “The problem is, how do we find your home?”

Gwen made her decision, turned to her brother, and said in a tone that told him that she would tolerate no argument.

“Tome, we simply do not have the knowledge to help Arthur. Tomorrow after he has had a good night’s sleep, you must take him to see the old woman in the hills. She will know what to do if anyone will.

Tomer did, in fact, start to argue, saying that he was busy in the fields, but a look from Gwen reminded him that the matter was not up for discussion. He shrugged his shoulders.

“Very well Gwen, but you know that it will take at least two days for us to get there and back. What if Arthur’s parents come looking for him in the meantime?”

“Simple,” she replied. “They will stay here and wait for you both to return. Arthur’s mother sounds lovely, and I would be pleased to meet her.

It was settled. Arthur felt a little miffed that he was not consulted on the decision. But then again, he was only a little boy and, truth be known, he was secretly glad that the adults had made up his mind for him. That night he slept very well in a soft bed in Tomer’s room.

The next morning, Gwen made sure that they had a hearty breakfast before the two of them set off for the cave in the hills where the old woman lived.

Arthur was a little anxious as they walked up the path away from the cottage and the river. In answer to his question about why she might be able to help, Gwen had implied that the old woman was some kind of witch!