The Wood-witch And The Bog-nuts
from Things To See In Springtime
Once upon a time there was a rich boy, who knew all about the city, and nothing about the woods. He went for an outing into the wilderness, and got lost. He wandered all day until he was very tired and hungry. The sun was low when he came to a little pathway. He followed it, and it led to a small log cabin. When he knocked, an old woman opened the door. He said, "Please, Ma'am, I am lost and very hungry, will you give me something to eat?"
The Wood-witch and the Bog-nuts
The old woman looked sharply at his clothes, and knew that he was rich, so she said: "Poor people are wise, they can take care of themselves in the woods. They don't get lost. But you rich people are fools, and I wish you would go away."
"I will, if you'll give me something to eat," he answered.
Then the old woman said: "Listen, foolish rich boy, in the woods beside you right now is a friend who feeds the poor people, maybe she will feed you. She is tall and slim, her eyes are brownish purple and her hair is green, and by this you may know her—she has five fingers on one hand and seven on the other. Her house is in the brier thicket; she climbs to the roof and stands there all day waving her hands, and shouting out in wood-talk, 'There are cocoanuts in my cellar.'
"Now go and find her, maybe she will feed you. She always feeds us poor folks," and the witch slammed the door.
The boy was puzzled. As he stood in doubt, there was a loud noise, and his friends arrived. They brought him the food and comfort that he needed.
Then he said: "I wish to know what that old wood-witch meant by the lady with the purple eyes and green hair." So he went again to the log cabin and knocked.
When the old woman came, and saw a lot of people about, she was frightened for she knew she had been unkind. But the boy said: "Now Granny, you needn't be afraid, I want you to show me the friend that has seven fingers and a cellar full of cocoanuts."
"I'll show you, if you promise to do me no harm," she answered.
"Of course, I'll promise," replied the boy.
Then Granny Wood-witch went hobbling to the nearest thicket and cackled out loud, as she pointed out a trailing vine that had sometimes five leaflets on a stalk and sometimes seven. "See, see, that's the lady. See seven fingers on that hand and five on this. Now follow her feet down and dig in the ground."
They dug and found strings of lovely brown nuts as big as walnuts.
"See, see," chuckled the wood-witch. "See the cocoanuts in the cellar."
Go forth and look for it, ye Woodcrafters. You will find it throughout Eastern America on the edge of every wood. Its flower is like a purple-brown sweet-pea, and is in bloom all summer long. Follow down its vine, dig out a few of the potatoes or nuts, and try them, raw, boiled, or if ye wish to eat them as Indian Cake, clean them, cut them in slices, dry till hard, pound them up into meal, and make a cake the same as you would of oatmeal.
The wild things love them, the Indians love them, and this was the bread of the wood-witch. The books call it Bog Potato and Ground Nuts. It is the third secret of the woods.
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