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Milly and the Giants rewrite Ch 3

by Issy 

Posted: 13 June 2011
Word Count: 1813
Summary: This has been toned down extensively - so much that I am thinking there is nothing much left. Is it still scary? I am also wanting Milly to begin to be thinking for herself, although it doesn't end like this.
Related Works: Milly and the Giants rewrite Ch 1 • Milly and the Giants rewrite Ch 2 • 

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The Weed

When Milly woke the next morning she climbed on the stool to look out at the window as she always did, forgetting. It wasn’t until she had checked that the green cow was the same size as yesterday and that the bell was chinking quietly, that she noticed the gleam of the mother of pearl slide. The other events of yesterday came flooding back to her.
“ I’m not going with them,” she said, as she climbed slowly down from the stool. “No-one can make me, and that’s that.” She went over the letter again in her mind and remembered Ulna’s face. So, Ulna didn’t want her to go. That was very clear and she couldn’t hurt Ulna by going.
Then she thought again. “Margaret knows more,” she said to herself. “I’m going to find it all out.”
She clamboured down the steep stairs. Old Margaret was sat in her dark corner as always.
“What’s going to happen, Margaret?” she asked, standing up as straight as she could and putting her hands on her hips.
Old Margaret threaded her needle holding it up to catch the window from the light so that she could see through the eye and direct the thread.
“More,” said Old Margaret.
“More what?”
“Signs, messages.”
“What do they mean?” asked Milly, realising that Old Margaret wasn’t talking about her parents but the strange events on the farm.
“No good,” said Old Margaret.
“So what’s going to happen?”
“Wait and see,” said Old Margaret.
Milly held her breath. How frustrating Old Margaret was! She breathed out slowly.“Can we stop these things?”
“What are the signs and messages for?”
“They are for you.”
“Me!” Milly’s body jolted. It was like sparks went through her. “What’s it got to do with me?”
“It’s to do with your coming here, and why. It’s all connected.” Old Margaret bent over her work, refusing to look down at Milly.
“Margaret, please tell me,” said Milly, standing up straight again, “What am I supposed to do?”
“You’ll have to reply, sooner or later. There isn’t much we can do, not now, not at this moment, because it’s not yet clear.”
“Margaret,” whispered Milly, all her bravado disappearing. “I’m scared.”
Old Margaret missed the eye of the needle with the thread. The thread fell to the floor. It was like rope to Milly, but she got the end and pulling hard held it up for Old Margaret.
“I thought my eyes were still sharp,” said Old Margaret. “Or is it getting dark?”
It was certainly dark early for a spring day. The light was dull, as if the blinds were down. Milly looked at the window. Something was covering the window.
Milly ran to the cottage door. Bindweed stretched itself over the window and the side of the cottage. The weed had huge green many pointed leaves and red stems.
Milly had always thought it was pretty, but that was when Ulna kept it cut down. Now it was growing and growing, clutching at the walls, moving outward and upward, even as she watched it.
Ulna came to the door and Old Margaret hobbled up behind her. Then Milly heard the screech of a crow. She ducked down behind a sack of potatoes, as the green crow flew out of the bindweed, and disappeared into the sky.
“Help me, Margaret,” said Ulna, getting her scythe from the shed. “Milly, you keep away, this is dangerous work.” Ulna and Old Margaret lashed the bindweed down until it lay in heaps.
Still some tendrils grew and Ulna got out her spade and dug and dug until the long roots came out of the earth. There was a mass of foliage and roots in the farmyard now.
Milly watched the mountain of cut down bindweed pile up, lifeless, in the middle of the yard. The hens clucked round it and scratched in and out, and seemed to be having a good time, but Bull-the-cockerel stood away and crowed.
“Margaret, this is ridiculous. There’s so much here, the pile will fill the yard at this rate,” said Ulna.
“Burn it,” said Old Margaret. She shooed the hens away from the mountain of leaves and roots, and struck a light with a tinder box.
“Keep Milly safe from the fire,” said Ulna.
Old Margaret snatched Milly up and put her safely under the rim of her hat.
From high up, she could watch the flames leap about and burn the bindweed. It was from up here that she saw a tendril of living bindweed that had somehow escaped the digging, growing down to the duck pond, as if fleeing the fire, but the flames caught it and . The tendril caught and smouldered down its length as if it were burning rope.
Jasper and Frog-the-sheepdog came running down the hill.
Smoke got in Milly’s eyes and she felt herself coughing. Old Margaret hobbled towards the duck pond. The line of bindweed was growing faster than the fire was burning it. The bindweed slushed into the pond, sending the ducks and geese squawking and cackling to safety. The flames followed and went out with a hiss. A plume of smoke went up and the line of fire died to a blackened string.
But the weed was still growing, choking and clogging the pond and the waterlily. It climbed out of the pond and started growing in a ring round the pond, then shooting across from side to side until there was a wall of bindweed, and the beginnings of a roof over the top.
Milly and Old Margaret stood and looked on silently. Jasper and Ulna came. Frog-the-sheepdog reared up on his legs and barked angrily.
“Well,” said Ulna, “what do we do now? It will smother the pond if it keeps growing.”
Milly felt herself tremble. It was all out of hand. The weed was horrid because there was so much of it. She remembered Old Margaret’s words. It was to do with her. So what should she do? Her heart seemed to sink inside her, right down to her toes, for she had no idea.
Then she did have an idea. Bean. Though how Bean could help was difficult to imagine. She only knew that she wanted Bean, here and now.
From her vantage point, high up and protected by the rim of Old Margaret’s hat, she looked up the hill to find Bean, hear her bell. The ducks and Moo-the-goose were making so much noise she couldn’t hear the bell, and she felt panic rise inside her.
Then she saw Bean. She was looking for her in the wrong place. The half-size Bean had ambled down the hill and was nudging at the gate that led to the path to the pond. She heard Bean moo long and loud, above the clatter of the ducks, and as she mooed she stretched her neck and pointed her nose into the sky.
A stray end of weed grew towards the gate and she lowered her head, leant over and snatched it into her mouth.
“Look!” cried Milly, “Bean’s eating it!”
The cow was tugging at the weed. It stretched out tight to the pond as she chewed on it.
Old Margaret hobbled across and opened the gate and Bean came through, the end of the weed still in her mouth, chomping as she went.
Bean stood by the pond and chewed and chewed, and chewed some more. The weed was unwinding as she chewed and it was as if the pond was whirling round, but Milly knew that wasn’t so, and that it was the wall of bindweed which was being pulled into Bean’s mouth.
“I don’t think bindweed is good for cows,” said Jasper. “Not our cows anyway.” The curious patched cows had followed Bean. He shooed them back into the field, and closed the gate.
“What do we know about green cows?” said Ulna. “We’ve had Bean for nine years and still we know next to nothing about her.”
And as the day went on, it got brighter - clouds were lifting and the sun was coming through. Bean chewed as if she was having a feast, and there was no end to how much she could eat. Milly and the giants stood and watched her and the fire in the distance, in the yard, sending cheerful flames up.
Something odd was happening as Bean ate. At first Milly didn’t notice it, but for a moment, she looked away at the fire then back at Bean. Yes, Bean was growing. Bean was getting bigger. Milly pointed and felt a giggle climb up her throat.
“Well, I never,” said Jasper.
“What is this, Margaret?” said Ulna, sharply.
“Good and bad,” said Old Margaret. “Who knows which it is.”
The odd thing was that Bean didn’t stop growing, so she got bigger than the patched cows, until she became a monster cow, but she still looked down at Milly with her soft green eyes, and made Milly feel safe again.
Bean didn’t stop growing bigger until all the bindweed had gone.
By evening the pond was clear. The ducks and geese went for a swim and the water lily, unharmed, opened its petals a little.
Milly reached over to touch Bean on the head. She was still on Margaret’s hat and she could easily reach the green cow’s head. She stroked it and with quiet moos, turned back to nudge the gate and be let into the field with the other cows.
It was then that she noticed the green bell had grown too.
The fire had died away by the time they walked back up to the yard. Ulna and Jasper cleared up the cinders, charred bits and debris in the yard.
“Be good for my vegetables,” said Old Margaret, pointing her stick to the other side of the cottage where her peas and turnips were growing. “Take the embers round there. I shall be planting again soon.”
“What will you plant?” asked Ulna.
“Wait and see,” said Old Margaret tartly and she stomped into the kitchen, Milly still in her hat. Jasper and Ulna did as she asked, and whilst they were busy, Old Margaret made supper of potatoes and cheese with cherry jam and slightly green cream for afterwards.
That night, Milly heard the strong clear sound of Bean’s monster bell from the field on the hill. She looked out and saw the enormous green cow amongst the others, and twice as high. So the bell had grown too. Milly couldn’t work it out. It was nearly funny but that night she didn’t want to sleep alone in her room and she curled up warm beside Ulna in her big bedroom.

“Sleep tight our Milly, don’t be afraid, not of giants, not of anything,” sang Ulna to her, and she felt safe again.

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