In medieval England, a nameless, homeless girl is taken in by a sharp-tempered midwife, and in spite of obstacles and hardship, eventually gains the three things she most wants: a full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.
When animal droppings and garbage and spoiled straw are piled up in a great heap, the rotting and moiling give forth heat.
She chewed on a lock of her hair to help her think. What did people want? Blackberry pie? New shoes? A snug cottage and a bit of land? She thought all that wet afternoon and finally, as she served Magister Reese his cold-beef-and-bread supper, she cleared her throat a time or two and then sofly answered: “I know what I want. A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.”
If Beetle had known any prayers, she might have prayed for the cat. If she had known about soft sweet songs, she might have sung to him. If she had known of gentle words and cooing, she would have spoken gently to him. But all she knew was cursing: “Damn you, cat, breathe and live, you flea-bitten sod, or I'll kill you myself.”
The door opened. Alyce went in. And the cat went with her.