The Way of Herbs

by Charlotte Clark
8th September 2021

Chapter One - A Synopsis

It was a cold and wintery day when Agnes Pressey was born. A fine flurry of snow was making its way down to greet the icy earth of the Hampshire landscape. The village of Agnes's birth lay on the edge of the South Downs, tucked away, invisible to anyone but the ones who needed to know its location, which wasn't many at all. The village lanes didn't lead anywhere, and the villagers didn't need to go any further than they needed. It was miles away, and a lifetime away, from anywhere of significance. And so was the beginning of Agnes's life; and yet may not have been, for she was not born a strong child, and that Winter was hard. She struggled to grow and gain strength, and many around her did not expect her to last long, so much so that the parish vicar was called for a quick baptism when she was but a day old. But as time moved on into Spring and the warmer days, Agnes stayed and did not disappear from life, and so all concluded that she must have been as tough-as-old-boots after all. She grew into a pleasing child and one of curiosity where life was giving her everything to be curious about. Everything was for learning and learning was what she loved. She came to be known as 'the one who asks questions', for nobody had come across anyone like her. To listen and do was the way of the people, the way their masters preferred it. And yet here was a child who would not fit that mould, almost refusing, and what would become of her then? Employers wanted quiet, obedient souls; and men wanted obedient wives. She would find life hard if she carried on in her way.

Agnes had only one sibling, an older sister who, when Agnes was ten years old, married and left with her journeyman husband to live near London, where work and life awaited. But not for Agnes, whose questions had been supplanted on her doting grandmother. Her grandmother was considered a 'wise woman' who would be visited by all in the neighbourhood to help fix their physical and mental ills. She was much respected, almost revered, for her skills, and was now passing that knowledge onto Agnes, who was showing a definite aptitude for identifying herbs and knowing their properties. There were the few in the village who did think it was almost sinful to have such a skill, for it seemed to them ungodly in its mystery – but still, it was cheaper than the physician.

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