Volume 5 Number 3


Summer 2007

The Green Mist

by Cath Smith

Every year, just about now, the green mist rolls over the fields of the Lancashire dales. No one knows where it comes from, or why it comes at all. The locals will tell you they aren't scared of the mist, but they lock themselves behind doors just the same.

See, the mist is a blessing from the fairies, they'll say. It nurtures the earth, bringing life to the land. In years when the mist doesn't come, the harvest is doomed to fail.

But like any of nature's magic, it takes, sometimes, as much as it gives.

One year, long ago, when I was just a lad, there was a girl. A beautiful girl. She was young and pretty and all the boys adored her. She was bright like a daffodil. Her golden hair danced in the winds. She brought joy to everyone she saw.

But she was a delicate flower too. And one winter, that dreadful flush came to her cheeks. We knew then that she wasn't long for the world.

I used to visit her, talk to her sometimes, back when I delivered the morning milk to the village. She loved her garden so much that she had her bed placed by the window, so she could sit and watch it. I'd often stop by her window and chat a while.

And day after day, I'd watch her grow weaker, until one day — just before the green mist came — she could barely raise her head.

Now, it happens this year that the mist caught me out. I was out on my rounds when the mist rolled in. I could smell it as I rode back toward the village from the outlying farms. And topping the crest of the hill, I could see it creeping in across the valley.

It wasn't through fear as much as caution that I knocked on the door of the next house I reached.

"The mist's coming in, Ma," I said. "I thought you'd like to know." Being true in Lancashire spirit, they quickly let me in.

I sat and I broke my fast with them, and when the first rays of sun broke through the clouds, I bade them my leave. Now, these folks, they lived over from that lass I was telling you about. And I saw, the moment I stepped out their door, that her window was open.

I raced over, thinking her dead. But her face, bright and pale, popped out of the window and nearly frightened me right away.

She bade me hello in a voice as sturdy as the stems of those flowers she loved so much.

"I made a deal with the mist," she said. "I let him in through my window, and he brought me life, as he brings life to the fields."

Now, I could hardly believe my ears, but the proof was standing there right in front of me, bright and lively as I never thought I'd see.

And she continued to grow, getting stronger with every day, until after a week she was standing all by herself.

It's no secret that I was taken with this girl. I believed her a miracle and I worshiped her just so. One morning, as I stepped through her gate, I thought to bring her a gift.

I set down my basket and picked a single yellow daffodil.

There was a howl from the house, and my lovely girl cried out to me.

"What have you done?" she cried. "What have you done?"

"I brought you a flower," I told her. "What harm is there in that?"

"What harm?" she said, snatching the flower from my grasp. "None, but that you have doomed me."

And with that she ran inside.

By the time I reached the window, my poor girl lay there on the bed. She grasped the daffodil and held it to her breast.

"I made a deal with the mist," she said, "that I should live as long as the flowers in my garden." And those were the last words she spoke on this earth.

The locals in the valley are not a-feared of the green mist, but they treat it with respect. Me? I hope never to see it again as long as I shall live.