Chapter 2: Ale To The Chief

Toting her basket of wet wash, Lila headed home to her parents’ cottage, a modest dwelling made of wood, thatch and tin. A dirt lane ran north from the fork in the road to a dense grove of green, leafy acacia trees. On the far side of the grove, the lane skirted the perimeter of the village's wheat, barley and rye fields now ripe for haying. A bank of cottages formed a semi-circular enclosure around the village well where families came to draw water in tubby clay jugs and long-necked urns. Behind the cottages were the sheds and byres which housed the families' tools and livestock.

Lila crossed the mown fields and approached the garden gate where she waved a friendly greeting at Mikonos, the drayer, who’d pulled up in his wagon and was hauling a keg of ale into the pantry. Then Lila lugged the wash basket to the swooping length of clothesline that was strung between the gate post and the corner of the byre. Though she was soft and round where Gabrielle was tight and wiry, Lila had grown accustomed to shouldering the weighty load of wet wash. Tying a parti-colored scarf around her long, dark hair to keep the light wind from sweeping the stray strands into her eyes, Lila began to hang the wash on the line as she sang:

A brisk young lass by her garden gate,
spied a nice, young, gentle, carefree boy;
"Won't you tell me, lad, where you're bound so late."
"I’m away to the bloody fields of Troy."
"If you survive the archer's dart,
escape the perils of the sea;
and another sweet lass don’t steal your heart,
’twere sure I’d like to wed with thee...

As Lila hoisted her mom's blouses and pinned her dad's shirts...

Whack fol the laddie, tura laddie,
whack fol the tura lura lay;
whack fol the laddie, tura laddie,
whack fol the dear old, dear old day...

The breeze blew crisply through the lines of flapping clothes. The sun shone brightly, neither hazy nor hot in the late, northern Aegean summer. Birds chirped in the bushes. The garden gate yawned on its hinges. Mickey tipped his cap, then flicked the reins of old Flossie's tack. The willing beast began to tug the loaded wagon at a slow clop down the lane. Lila looked up at a sky so clear she could almost see, in its flat, blue radiance, a reflection of her pretty, sweet-eyed face. Life was good. Even for a maid – if, at times, a lonely and uncertain maid – armed, for the present, with a clothespin for a sword and a washbasket for a shield.

Continued - Chapter 3

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