A Saddle, A Hammer, and a Wooden Nail

Oh, she was a brave one for walking. “Esme,” her mother would say, and look around and the door just swinging shut behind her. For hours she walked, and though she had eyes and was interested as anyone might be in the secret lives of the animals, it wasn’t for love of nature that she went about so out-of-doors.

There was a river about five miles from her house. On Tuesday there was an old man standing there looking longingly at the other side.

“There’s a bridge about a mile that way,” Esme offered. She kept her voice gentle, for the old man looked like he was about to cry.

“I couldn’t make it that far.” He had a voice like a spider’s web.

“Well, it’s pretty shallow here, if you don’t mind getting a little wet. The current’s not very fast,” she added, when he looked alarmed.

“You could carry me across. You’re strong and young.”

Esme sighed. Well, and what could she do? “Up you go,” she said. The old man clapped his hands and sprang on to her back. “Across we go.”

He cackled. “Ah, no, my girl, for now I ride and now you go, and the Devil take the first who cries ‘too far!'”