When I finally got down to the Danner after playing in the grass on top of the cliff until everyone went home, it was early this afternoon. I drank and drank the cool water where it bubbles up from a spring, and then I munched some watercress that was bobbing about. I put some in my pocket, which turns out to be a good thing.
I decided I was not going to spend another night in that damp, dark cave. Where I live, everyone tells you what to do all of the time, and if you play when you are supposed to be doing a chore, Mother or Lizbet or somebody's aunt or granny always sets you right. But there hadn't been anyone around to tell me not to play with a gorgeous brown snail all afternoon, making a nice house for it out of leaves and then letting it go on its way again, and that's what I did until I began to wonder why Lizbet had never come back, like she said she would.
Lizbet is one person who always does what she says she's going to do, so it had to be my fault for staying away from the cave so she couldn't find me. I felt full of badness when I realized that I had been playing again, the very same way I'd been thinking about the potsy and not watching out like I'd promised Mother. I began to feel so full of evil for disobeying both Mother and now Lizbet that I was beginning to wonder if I deserved everything that was happening to me. Maybe I really was a changeling, not a real human being after all.
I had to find Mother and ask her what to do. I knew the way through Twist to the minister's cow barn but couldn't risk going that way because everyone must still be after me. I decided to work my way around by the forest verge. The days are drawing out now, and I figured I could get there before night, but the forest was full of bramble patches and tangled underbrush and it was very slow going. I didn't get to the wheat field until dusk, and then I had a dreadful shock: it had been mowed, and was all in stubble. My cloak was the same color of the sod, though, so I decided to take my chances.
I creeped along the furrows and got to the last row of stubble when a soldier came around the corner of the barn. I lay flat on my face and my heart pounded so hard I was afraid he would hear it. But he just relieved himself against the wall and went back in. I saw a clump of waist high grass the mowers had skipped and got it between me and the barn wall. I put my ear to a crack and listened. I couldn't hear anything for a while so I felt along until I came to a loose board, and widened its crack a little. There was only greyish light in there, but something stirried and whimpered.
I put my eye right up to the board. Some blurs moved slightly. I thought it was the women and their daughters who were captured with Mother. My eyes got better and I could see a girl who was chained to the wall by her waist. She was rocking herself, and humming one of those tunes we sing when the grownups are talking and we want to play. What you do is whisper-sing and when you get someone's attention you toss a bean bag. It goes back and forth, one toss a line, and if you figure your snatch right you can win the came by catching it on the last line. This girl had something like a bag and she was tossing it back and forth between her hands.
I didn't have a bag, but I had a pocket. There was some watercress and the last of my jerky in it. So I ripped out my pocket, put some pebbles in for weight, and worked my arm through the crack. There wasn't room to swing, so I widened the crack with a rock. When I could swing enough to throw I began to sing, then threw my pocket as hard as I could. I heard a soft plop, people talking, and, I thought, the sound of munching.
I had just sat back, very pleased with my cleverness, when I heard hoof beats. I lay on my face in the grass. The lock clanked and the door slammed and the girl cried out as the soldiers dragged everyone out the door.
"On to Breck," they jeered horridly, "an all night walk up the drove will make you look even sorrier, if that's possible. The ministers intend to shame you as a warning about what happens to healers!"
I waited just until the sound of the wagon wheels faded, then I ran along the furrows next to the drove. I just had to keep Mother in sight or I'd lose her for good so I ran and ran but my tum hurt and I was thirsty again and I just fell down the the road crying and I am to weak to get up.