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The Cottage

There once was an audacious, enchanting gentleman named Hardy. Outspoken was he, with round, inviting features, bold attire, a clever wit, and great instincts – about the inherent nature of people as well as matters of feasting, foresight, and fanciful pursuits. Though living alongside his fellows was not always pleasant, it was the gossiping, shallow women in his village that particularly drew his ire.

For you see, there was one woman among them – a middle aged blonde woman named Karen with a loud voice, and an entourage of all too agreeable women without a single word of dissent for her. But although these passive ladies had their fuller figured, feminine leader, not all was as it seems among them.

“Her baked goods leave much to be desired” a slender, young woman named Margaret whispers to her group, “and it’s clear she doesn’t mend and stitch herself – in spite of what she might say to the contrary.”

“That might be so, my dear, but she’s the last person to listen to such critique” an older, grey-haired woman named Ethel replies. “I think it’s best that we give her the benefit of the doubt.” The other gossiping ladies nod in unison before Hardy approaches them.

“You do no favors to her, or yourself” Hardy says with a wry grin. “At some point, you’ll see what she is actually like, and regret giving such deference to someone who will never return your kindness.”

“What do you know of it?” Margaret says. “She is so well known in our village, and a perfectly fine lady.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you” Hardy retorts and waves his hand as he walks away from the chatting group.

Days passed, and the loyal group of gossiping women followed Karen wherever she went – whether it was for running errands, crafting, eating, or chatting amongst themselves.

These activities went on for some time, until one particular day, when Karen did not show up for their midday meal together at the Ethel’s cottage. All the other women gathered together and searched around the village for her. To their dismay, they saw her standing outside the house of a quite elegant lady named Mary having a lively conversation amongst themselves.

“They’ll be waiting for me at the old crone’s cottage” Karen says. “It’s not like they have anything better to do. They would be lost without me.”

The group of women watch in shock from afar as Mary replies, “They can’t measure up to your sense of style anyways. I made sure of it with the garments I made for you. It’s not like they can afford these fabrics.”

Completely dejected, the group of gossiping women return to the cottage, and after some time, Karen drops by with a few meager food supplies from the market – setting them down on the table inside the dwelling in view of the silent gaze of the other women.

“Is the food ready?” the tawny-colored Karen asks Ethel as she sits at the other side of the table.

“Yes, my dear” Ethel says meekly.

Ethel slowly makes her way to the kitchen with the younger ladies sitting around her. Just as they return to the table with food and drinks, they all hear a firm, deliberate rapping at the front door. Ethel opens the door, and to her surprise, Hardy greets her with a wave of his palm.

“What are you doing here, young sir?” Ethel says.

“I invited him” a short, black-haired lady at the table named Rosemary replies. “Come inside and sit down with us.”

Finding an empty seat at the table, Hardy glances at Karen with a mischievous smile – much to her chagrin, which makes her move uncomfortably in her seat.

“Is there something you have to say to me?” Karen says defensively.

“You have already said quite a lot on your own” Hardy replies to her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about” she replies.

“None of the ladies at this table respect you” Hardy says boldly. “They fear you, but rely on you far too much to speak ill of your behavior.”

“I am a pillar of this community” she says defiantly. “I have great renown and influence here, young sir.”

“If you are a pillar, then our community has quite shaky foundations” Hardy replies. “You rely on everyone else to provide resources, but bring nothing of your own, and have no respect for those far more skilled than you. You demand food be served to you in the house of your friend, but only bring a meager portion of stale food in return.”

“We don’t need you anymore.” Rosemary says – with the other ladies nodding in agreement. “This is a house of friendship, and you are clearly only here for yourself. We desire people with the honesty of our new friend. Your deceit and arrogance are unwarranted, and you are no longer welcome here.”

Like a spoiled daughter’s tantrum, the tawny-haired Karen storms out of the cottage – no longer the unchallenged leader of the group. As the afternoon approaches, the village women enjoy delicious tea and pastries provided by the chubby, candid Hardy.