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19.

Next it was the water. The well water was always sweet and clean, except when the weather had been exceptionally dry. That week it began to run brownish, like peat, and it had an odd taste to it, something bitter and burnt-tasting, as if dead leaves had been raked into the cylinder. We ignored it for a day or two, but it only seemed to get worse. Even Mother, whose bad spell was finally coming to an end, noticed it.

Perhaps somethings got into the water, she suggested.

We stared at her with our customary blankness.

Ill have to go and look, she decided.

We waited for discovery with an outward display of stoicism.

She cant prove anything, said Cassis desperately. She cant know.

Reine whimpered. She will, she will, she whined. Shell find everything and shell know-

Cassis bit his fist savagely, as if to stop himself from screaming. Why didnt you tell us there was coffee in the parcel? he moaned. Didnt you think?

I shrugged. Alone of all of us, I remained serene.

Discovery never came. Mother came back from the well with a bucketful of dead leaves and proclaimed the water clear.

Its probably sediment from the river swells, she said, almost cheerily. When the level drops, it will run clear again. Youll see.

She locked the wells wooden lid again, and took to carrying the key at her belt. We had no opportunity to check it again.

The parcel must have sunk to the bottom, decided Cassis at last. It was heavy, wasnt it? She wont even be able to see it unless the well runs dry. We all knew there was little chance of that. And by next summer, the parcels contents would be reduced to mush at the bottom of the well.

Were safe, said Cassis.


| Five Quarters of the Orange | c



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