They called her Nanny Bee, although as far as anyone knew she had never been a wife or a mother, let alone a grandmother. But she was popularly believed to be a witch – so Nanny it was. She lived in a pink-walled thatched cottage that crouched between the village green and the vicarage. The Reverend Alphonso Scoggins (a person of peculiarly mixed heritage and a fondness for large dinners) joked that between him and Nanny they could see the villagers from birth to burial.
Nanny’s garden was the most verdant and productive little patch you could ever imagine, and she could be found pottering in its walled prettiness from dawn to dusk almost every day. People came to visit and were given advice, or medicine, or other potions in tiny bottles or scraps of paper – but they always had the sneaking suspicion they were getting in the way of the gardening.
But there again, digging is second nature to gnomes.
It was one of those winter evenings when your own fireside is the best place to be when Nanny’s dream of bee-loud summer was interrupted by a quiet tap on the door. It was the vicar’s housekeeper. She dropped a small curtesy and Nanny wondered why her prickles didn’t tear holes in her flowered gown.
“The vicar asks if you could spare him a few moments ma’am.”
“What? Right now?”
“If you please.”
Nanny shoved her feet into her bright red rubber boots and wrapped herself in a cloak of fine combed wool.
“Lead the way, Tiggywinkle.”
In the vicar’s study, the formidable bosom of the village’s premier gossip was accompanied by her daughter – who didn’t look too happy to be there.
“Ah. Bee. I’m being asked to call out Farmer Greengrass in church as an adulterer and the father of the baby Amelia here is carrying.”
“I’m not asking Reverend, I demand that you put my daughter in place of that man’s barren wife.”
Nanny sniffed. “Adulterer he may well be. But the child ain’t his.”
“Are you calling my daughter a liar?”
“Egg it how you please. The babe ain’t his.”
The bosom loomed.
“How dare you?”
Nanny grinned. “It ent his wife what’s barren.”
Then she went home.
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