Elizabeth heard the music before she saw anything. It was bouncy music that wiggled in her tummy and made her want to tap her toes. One minute she was yawning, but the next her eyes were wide open and her feet were ready to dance. When she finally reached the top of the hill, she saw big stones set in a big circle and all sorts of people and creatures enjoying the dance. The musicians, imps or gnomes or dwarfs, or whatever they were, had guitars, mandolins, fiddles, pipes and plenty of drums. The dancers included elves, all sorts of dwarfs, fawns, sprites, one big centaur who stood back and clapped, and people of so many different kinds, Elizabeth could not name them all, even if she knew what all of them were. Best of all, there were fairies dancing in the circle, and Elizabeth wanted to run to meet them.
She did not have to run. Two fairy girls zoomed up when they saw Elizabeth and asked if she wanted to dance with them. Elizabeth wanted to shout, “Yes!” but she looked up at Mister Putterwig first. “May I?” She asked very sweetly. Mister Putterwig smiled, after a fashion, as it seemed even he was not immune to the music.
“For a little bit,” he said, and then he looked down at her and tried to look serious. “But then to bed young lady.”
“Yes sir,” Elizabeth said, and both fairy girls got big right in front of Elizabeth’s astonished eyes. The one who introduced herself as Sage looked to be Jake’s age of about sixteen. The one that Sage introduced as Thyme looked more like she was twelve or thirteen. They each took one of Elizabeth’s hands and entered the circle with her. In a few short minutes, they were six feet off the ground, giggling and laughing, Elizabeth right there with them, holding on, dancing on thin air and circling around the heads of the others.
Mary Procter was trying to explain and Jake and Jessica were trying hard to understand. “Time and space don’t always work the same here as on Earth. Three or four days can pass here, while on earth it is still the same day. You might be here six or eight hours and find only an hour or hour and a half passed back home. Then again, Six or eight hours here might be several days back home. It varies. It changes. It doesn’t make normal kind of sense.”
“How long have you been here?” Jessica asked, and Jake understood it was a gentle way of asking the witch how old she was.
“I was born in 1669, and my brother Thorndike was born in 1672. That was the year my mother died. Father left me with foster parents when he moved to Salem and started over. He kept saying he would come for me, but he never did. He remarried, had other children, and then the trouble all started. I was twenty-three, and not married when the trouble came. Everyone knew I was a Procter. It was no secret. But when father got arrested in Salem Town, my foster family became afraid for me, especially since they knew I could do some things that were not exactly normal. We moved to the wilds of New Hampshire, but the word followed us. I would have been taken for sure and condemned if Lady Alice had not brought me here.”
“Yeah, who is this Lady Alice we keep hearing about?” Jake hated to interrupt, but he had to ask.
“She runs this place and oversees all who are here. I say she is as like to a Heavenly Angel as flesh and blood can be. Sometimes she calls this place her loony bin, but the truth is she loves every blessed creature here, even the nasty spiders. She says everyone deserves a chance to live.”
“So, you are three hundred and fifty years old?” Jessica had been counting.
“Witches do live longer than non-magic folk, but not that much longer. I am around ninety seven, give or take, but I think I still have a few more years in me. That was what I was trying to explain about time. Time here and on earth don’t move at the same rate. To be sure, I might just as easily have lived to ninety seven while on earth it might have been seven or eight years later, like 1700 instead of two thousand and whatever year you say it is.”
Someone knocked on the door. “Knock, knock.” Jack-o-lantern shouted.
“Who’s there?” Mary asked, like it was a well-worn game.
“Cinnamon.” Cinnamon answered for herself.
“Cinnamon who?” Mary asked, but she was already getting up to answer the door.
“Cinn-a-min, can I come in?”
“Of course,” Mary opened the door. Cinnamon squirted in and went straight to the table where she stopped, threw he hands to her hips and tapped her foot in the air. Jake and Jessica looked down and to the side where they did not have to see the glare in Cinnamon’s eyes.
“Waiting right there, huh?” Jake and Jessica held their tongues and took their scolding gracefully.
“It’s all right,” Mary said. “The spiders found them and I thought it might be safer in here. We have just been having some tea and stories. Would you like some chamomile?”
“No.” Cinnamon softened at the word, spiders. “I found Eliza-BETH,” she said, and grinned at Jessica.
“Where?” Jake stood. He ignored the jibe.
“She is safe. She is fine. My two daughters have her by the hand and are dancing with her, now that they got over being scolded. They are supposed to be sleeping you know, but they couldn’t sleep with you making all that noise.”
“I’m sorry. You are right. I’m to blame. I am sure your daughters are good girls,” Jake confessed.
“I was with you until that last part,” Cinnamon responded.
“Posh. She is joking,” Mary got her shawl. “Sage and Thyme are wonderful girls.”
“Are we going there?” Jessica asked. “What are they doing with Elizabeth?”
“Dancing. It is the Halloween celebration. I don’t really mind the girls being up tonight. This night only comes once a year. We can join the fun, if you like, and we can go anytime you are ready.”
Jake looked at Jessica. Jessica stood to say she was ready. “Now would be fine,” he said.
“Wait, wait,” Mary raised her voice. “Let me find my broom. I can’t walk up that old hill like I used to.”