As a rule, there are a million and one things that a witch can do for the common villager, from curing almost any illness, to helping the crops grow, staving off foxes and wolves, warding off floods and hail, helping build houses and dig wells and even ditches for irrigation, all simple things that require simple spells and potions. As a rule, there is only one thing that any villager will ever ask for: the impossible. Toadmila was starting to get used to that. She didn't even bat an eyelash at the request.
“That would be costly,” she said.
The old woman sighed.
“I know. And I came prepared for it. I'll give you in return my greatest treasure: my immortal soul.”
“That won't be necessary,” Toadmila said quickly. “I work for money.”
The old woman's eye grew larger.
“But I don't have any money,” she said.
“Then how are you planning on raising a child?” Toadmila snapped. “A child needs food, and clothes, and books, and they all cost money.”
The old woman shook her head.
“I have a cow,” she said. “A cow that gives milk. And land, where I let her graze. There's only grass now, but when the child grows, he can plant whatever he wants, and we'll have enough to eat. And I have my brother's old clothes, God rest his soul, and they're good enough for any boy.”
The old woman nodded to herself, proud of her plan, and stopped. Toadmila was staring at her, her green eyes almost bulging out of their sockets. Maggie squirmed uncomfortably under her gaze.
“I don't know about books,” the old woman added. “I never learned to read. Folk around here do fine without reading. We have our land, and our crops, and cows and chicken. There's always work to be done, and no time for books.”
She nodded again, fully satisfied with the way she'd dismissed the witch's concerns. Toadmila was still staring at her.
“You say you have a cow that gives milk?” Toadmila asked, taking a step closer.
“Gives really good milk, too,” Maggie answered with a nod. “And I have chicken that lay eggs. I've never gone hungry, and the child won't go hungry either.”
“I'll require one jug of milk for payment,” Toadmila said sternly. “And five eggs.”
The old woman gave her a long look.
“I'll give you two jugs of milk and ten eggs,” she said, spreading out her gnarly fingers to indicate the amount. “You look like you need them.”
“Good,” Toadmila said, trying to sound professional. “I know an orphanage.”