By John Pilling
A long time ago, so long in fact that no one can remember it, there was a poor stone carver called Continuity Hodson who lived with his wife in a cosy cottage.
In truth, they weren’t poor at all. Continuity had saved up ninety seven gold coins but he and his wife were frightened of robbers so they always said they were very poor and hid the coins in a bag under their bed .They would have been quite content but for one thing, they had no children and this made them very sad, particularly the wife. Often she would give a big sigh and say.
“Oh dear, I do wish we had a little daughter for me to chat to.” Then she would sigh again and feel very miserable.
One day, the stone carver had an idea. I know what I’ll do he thought I’ll carve a little girl and maybe that will be company for us. Straightaway he set to work and soon had a lovely little girl statue which he carried into the house to show his wife, but she was furious with him.
“You stupid man,” she cried, “how can that stone thing be company for us? It can’t talk or do anything, take it away this instant,” and she burst into tears.
Continuity carried the statue back to his workshop wondering what on earth to do. Then he had another idea, I’ll go and see the witch in the wood, maybe she can help us.
Now the witch in the wood was a particularly nasty specimen whose speciality was turning people into little pigs and eating them. Fortunately, she had just had a good meal and was sitting outside her cottage picking her teeth when Continuity approached.
“Mr Hodson, the poor stone carver,” she said with a grin. “Whatever brings you here?”
Now the witch, as well as eating her neighbours, was very given to spying on them and she knew all about the stone carver’s troubles and the ninety seven gold coins under his bed. Nevertheless she pretended to listen to his story, and then said:
“I can help you, but it will cost five gold coins.”
Continuity was so used to pretending to be poor that before he could stop himself he said.
“Oh dear, I am so very poor, I have only managed to save one.”
The witch stopped smiling and her eyes grew red with blood and she hissed at him like a cat, showing her long yellow teeth.
“You dare lie to me,” she spat.
She stretched out her arm which grew longer and longer until it disappeared into the trees. After a few moments her arm grew shorter and shorter until it was back with the witch and in her hand was the bag of gold coins from under his bed.
“One gold coin indeed,” the witch said glaring at him. “Well, I shall take five as my fee and keep the rest as your punishment for lying to me.” Carrying the bag she went into her cottage and shortly reappeared with a small black box.
“Rub the ointment on the statue’s eyes,” she snarled, throwing it to him. “Go, if I see you again I’ll eat you.”
Continuity was terrified, he grabbed the box and ran all the way home. Back in his workshop he opened the box and looked inside, it was full of a reddish ointment and on the lid was written Eyes Alive. Shaking with excitement, he dipped his finger into the pot and smeared some of the ointment onto the statue’s eyes. After a moment the eyes opened and a little gravelly voice said, “Hello.”
Continuity was delighted and, taking the statue by the hand, led her into the house and called his wife.
“Oh Continuity,” she cried, “what a lovely little girl, how clever you are.”
But…oh dear… the witch had put her own greedy nature into the ointment and the little girl statue turned out to be very unpleasant person indeed. She had a horrible temper and cried and complained all day long but worst of all, she grew. Every day she ate all their food and got bigger and bigger, she also grew long thin arms that rummaged all over the cottage looking for more food. She grew so big that one day she burst up through the ceiling into the bedroom and down into the kitchen and there she stuck yelling and screaming.
Continuity and his wife went and sat in his workshop in despair.
“What are we to do?” his wife sobbed. “We’ve lost all our money and we’ll be stuck with this monster for ever after, if only we’d been content with what we had.”
“It’s all my fault,” Continuity said sadly picking up the ointment. He was about to throw the box away when he noticed more writing on the base, To reverse use twice, it read.
Struck by a sudden thought he ran back into the house and up the stairs to the bedroom where the yelling head poked through the floor.
Bending down he smeared some ointment on the eyes and watched in joy as the huge figure turned back into stone.
What a relief, Continuity got his biggest chisel and he cut off the head of the statue, then he carved the body into a new fireplace and the first thing he burned there, was the box of ointment.