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Damaris went to breakfast the next morning embarrassed by how promptly she had fallen to sleep and expecting to be teased, but her cousins and uncle were deep in talk of the sheep-shearing and the likely price of wool this season. They gave her smiles and nods as she joined them but nothing else. Damaris supposed they might be trying to be kind, but she thought resentfully they could have done that better by letting her go to the bonfire last night.
Aunt Elspeth was not there, and Damaris asked Betty, coming in with a plate of fresh-baked muffins, where she was.
“Already gone out to the garden,” Betty said, setting the muffins closer to Damaris than to her cousins, giving her first chance before their quick hands. “Says you’re to come out when you’re done, Miss.”
With nothing to say about sheep or wool and refusing to ask about last night – especially whether Nevin or Kellan had danced with Virna – Damaris ate in silence, left the men still talking sheep, and went out to the garden that was now in the full-leaved richness of late June, the flowers of high summer blooming in their scarlets and yellows and a few blues among the varied greens of other plants that had finished their year’s glories or were still to come to them. Aunt Elspeth, in the far corner from the gate, looked around as Damaris entered and raised a dirtied hand in greeting.
Damaris joined her, scooped her skirts around herself, and sat down on the grass. She thought maybe her aunt would say something about last night, but rather than that and as if yesterday hadn’t happened at all, Aunt Elspeth began to talk about the herbs she was weeding, just as usual. Damaris still felt wronged, but being wronged did not lessen her pleasure in learning; she leaned close and listened.
“You see how it spreads by its root along the surface,” Aunt Elspeth said, holding aside the spear-pointed leaves of a thick-grown bed of lily of the valley. “It grows abundantly, given the chance, and is useful…” She paused and looked at Damaris.
Pleased she remembered what her aunt had told her in the spring when the plants were flowering, Damaris said, “It’s useful against inflammation of the eyes, palsy, and apoplexy. It comforts the heart and vital spirits, and in quieting disorders of the head and nerves. It need be used in only very small amounts for any of those.”
“Do you know why?”
Damaris paused, then shook her head. “Why what?”
“Do you know why it should be used in only very small amounts?”
“Oh. Because that’s all that’s needed and enough is better than too much. Waste not, want not.”
Damaris stated that with assurance. It was something her mother had often said about almost everything, from a serving of dessert to rising early rather than late in the morning.
“Yes,” Aunt Elspeth agreed, but then added, “And also because the entire plant is deadly poison if too much is taken.” Read more »