Chapter 10

“Thank you,” said Dun with a slight nod.

“Thank me for what?” asked Mabel. She was elated. Dun had reappeared, and her outlook on this whole trip was better than ever.

“That I didn’t have to leave the garden to find you,” replied Dun. “It’s very uncomfortable for me.” He looked slightly nervous and fingered his moon-shaped amulet as if for reassurance.

“Well,” said Mabel, “I’ve never met a dryad…I mean dryan, before.”

“That’s a silly thing,” said Dun, matter of factly.

“What is?” asked Mabel.

“Caring whether people think you’re a girl or a boy. Only humans mind it.”

“Oh,” responded Mabel. She sat down under a tree to think for a moment about what else she should say. Dun crouched under the same tree and leaned very close to Mabel.

“They miss you,” said Dun. “Very much.”

Mabel looked at Dun, who had a tiny tear glinting in the corner of his eye. It rolled down his sloping nose, and he turned his puppy eyes to Mabel.

“It’s one of their sadnesses,” he continued, “and that makes my sisters sad, and then all of us feel it, all over.”

“Who misses me?” asked Mabel, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

“Sad that you’re their only child and they’ve never had a chance to know you,” continued Dun. “You would be too, if you couldn’t know your only child. And my sisters don’t think it’s my business to meddle, but I have to. I like to fix things, you know.”

“Dun,” began Mabel, with what patience she could muster, “my parents are here at Cochiti Spring with me, and I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Dun’s expression became lighter, and he let out a jingle-bell laugh, then stood, and peeked at Mabel from behind the tree. “This is not the only water that can heal, you know. There are many more sources, all sisters, just like my sisters and me. You must find one of the sisters…it is not so far from your home…and then they will not be sad because they will know you.”

“I need you to tell me, who are these people that you’re talking about?” repeated Mabel. “And where am I supposed to look?”

“No, no,” said Dun shaking his head. “I must not meddle any more. My sisters will already fuss at me.”

“Who are your sisters, Dun?” asked Mabel, hoping she could get more information from him if she approached the subject in a round-about way.

“Don’t you know?” asked Dun. It seemed to surprise and delight him to be able to share the knowledge with Mabel. “My sisters are all around, all over the world. And we do talk. Whenever you hear the trees whisper.”

“Dryads.” said Mabel.

Dun suddenly looked like an autumn leaf whose glow had faded. “I am tired, now. I need to return to my tree. Now I’ve shared with you.”

It took Mabel a moment to realize that she was gazing at nothing but orange trees. She looked around, but Dun was gone. There was no point in calling him either. He had accomplished what he meant to.

Mabel wandered out of the garden feeling more awake than she ever had before. There was so much to notice in the world. So much more life to everything, than she’d ever realized.

At the same time she felt deliciously confused. She was holding a puzzle which challenged her to discover its solution. When the time was right she would ask her parents. And they were her parents. She felt no doubt about that. There must be some symbolic meaning to the strange things which both Dun and Verdon Arbogast had said to her.


Niles Lampkin set his dinner plate, piled with a great mountain of food, down on the table. “So,” he began, with his usual bushy smile, “what unicorns and pixies have we been chasing today?”

Ida Prickles, who was nervously crumpling her napkin into a tiny ball, appeared to be on the verge of throwing it at him. “Professor,” she said, in a tiny voice which seemed out of step with her words, “I’m afraid that in your pursuit of facts, you must quite overlook the many life-forms around you.”

“My dear Miss Prickles,” replied Professor Lampkin, forcefully spearing a forkful of dinner, “I am more interested in this broccoli. It’s real, it’s here, and it’s tasty!” With that, the broccoli disappeared into his furry face.

“Mabel,” said Margie, “did you go back and look for Dun today?”

“I found him,” answered Mabel, “and we had an interesting conversation.” Suddenly Mabel realized that it was Margie with whom she wanted to discuss her strange encounter, even before her parents. “May I come to your office after dinner?”

“I’d love it,” replied Margie. “If it’s alright with you, Peter and Clara.”

The Crocketts nodded. Professor Lampkin excused himself to visit the dessert table, and Ida Prickles shot Mabel envious glances while molding tiny bits of napkin into logs.

Mabel left the dining room with Margie. Along the way Margie explained how the multicolored stripes on the canyon wall represented millions of years of rock being deposited, one layer at a time. And how many more millions of years it took for water to carve this bowl-shaped valley out of the rock where now the only water source was a small spring.

At the top of the stone stairway, and down a ledge to the left, Margie opened the door to her office. Like the Crocketts’ room, it was a dark and cool cave space, and Margie had filled it with a mismatched array of floor and table lamps, which cast a warm glow around the room. A wooden rocking chair sat next to a massive roll-top desk, and all the walls were filled with an assortment of artwork and bookshelves. At the deepest end of the room was a large table on which sat glass bottles in all sizes, a mortar and pestle, and a scale. It reminded Mabel of a chemistry classroom at school, or maybe Dr. Rotter’s lab and kitchen because of the plants. On several surfaces potted plants were clustered under grow-lights, while overhead, dried plants hung in neatly tied bunches.

“I’m working on a little concoction of my own devising,” said Margie, swirling a liquid around in a bottle she picked up from the work-table. “Plants and herbs have many remarkable qualities on their own, and I’ve found that using Cochiti Spring water in my formulations, I not only enhance the effectiveness of the plants, but it often puts a new and completely unexpected twist on the plants’ properties.”

Mabel stood beside Margie and looked at the spinning decoction. “What does it do?” she asked.

“Well,” said Margie, “it really surprised me. I used artichoke, jasmine, a little hawthorn, and a tiny bit of mistletoe, which would be toxic if the amount weren’t so minuscule. My intent was a tea which could help ease the pain of romantic break-up, but when I blended it with the spring water something quite interesting happened.”

“What is it,” asked Mabel, “a love potion?”

“Not quite,” said Margie. “I’m not sure I’d want to toy with fate that much. But sometimes, in a relationship, there are little lumpy obstacles that the couple just can’t quite work their way around. I’ve found this formula can help them see everything in its proper perspective, and work things out.”

“I think our office handyman, Paulo, needs some of that,” said Mabel. “I’ve been to their house. He and his wife can get pretty loud sometimes.”

“I’ll tell you what,” said Margie. She opened a drawer in the work table and took out a small glass vial which hung from a silk cord. Next she poured some of the liquid from the larger flask into the vial, and replaced the stopper. “Take some home and try it,” she said, handing the vial to Mabel. “It can’t hurt and it might help.”

“Thank you,” said Mabel. She hung the silk cord around her neck and wore the vial like a pendant. “There’s something else I wanted to ask you about. Dun said something really weird to me, and I can’t figure out what it means.”

“Well,” said Margie, “I’ve had a few conversations with Dun myself, and I’ve always found they make more sense to me later, when I’m not really trying to figure it out. But tell me if you like, and we’ll think about it together.”

Margie sat down in the rocker and Mabel continued to look around the room.

“He said there are some people who are sad and miss me, and that I’m their only child, but he didn’t seem to think it was necessary to say who they are, and he also said that I should find another spring, like Cochiti, and then I’d find the people.”

Margie momentarily slowed down her rocking, and looked at the ceiling. “At first glance that does seem even stranger than anything Dun’s shared with me,” she said thoughtfully. “But it’s important to realize that Dryads have a much more evolved way of communicating with each other than humans do. I mean, even without telephones and computers, which we’ve invented to compensate for the fact that we haven’t yet learned to communicate without them.”

“What do you mean?” asked Mabel.

“That someone, who’s connected with you in some way, knows dryads, and the dryads have spread the information on kind of a world-wide dryad network. That would be why Dun knows about it, but I think you’ll have to solve the main part of the riddle yourself.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Mabel. “And I guess I kind of want to.” Mabel continued to casually poke around the room, tilting her head to read the spines of books on the shelves. “Basic First Aid,” she said, reading aloud, “Anasazi Lore and Legend…Native American Herbology…A Compendium of Healing Plants…” She stopped and squinted at the spine of the last title. The book looked old, and consisted of an inch of pages bound in a green cover. “Wickers,” she read aloud. Quickly, Mabel pulled the book off the shelf so she could see the author’s complete name. “This was written by Colleen Wickers!”

“Yes,” said Margie, “you know of her?”

“She taught school in my town a long time ago, and she died in a fire. I’ve read newspaper stories about her. She sounds like a person I would have liked to know.”

Margie stood next to Mabel and gently turned the pages of the book. “I’ve never found a better reference volume on medicinal plants. She was one of the most highly credentialed individuals in the botanical community. Almost legendary, really. It was considered slightly peculiar that she chose to teach in a small town school. I found this book in the basement of a used bookstore. I understand she wrote a second book, as well, but I’ve never been able to find a copy.”

Mabel thumbed through the book. There were sections on gardening, preserving, formulations, and an alphabetical listing of plants and their properties. “I’d love to read this sometime, when I’m not stuck on history essays,” she said.

“This book has been out of print for many, many years,” said Margie. “I hope you will be able to come back and read it in person, but for now, how about if I copy a few sections now and then and send them to you?”

“Thank you,” replied Mabel, “I would like that.”

At night the Cochiti Spring valley was almost pitch black. A few gentle lights glowed from rooms embedded in the cliffside, but no lights bright enough to dim the glow of the sky which, from down in the salad bowl, looked like a real life planetarium. Margie saw Mabel as far as the base of the stairway to Zuni, and by the time Mabel reached the third level, she was very ready for bed.

In the morning, the Crocketts would fly home, and perhaps, Mabel thought, it was time to see what her parents could contribute to the questions percolating in her head.

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