GoodHearts Wood
By: Lore Petrov

Hector Marmaduke Goedhart was a gentleman. He knew this to be true. His father was a gentleman, and his grandfather before him, and although he hadn't much solid or specific information on the generations before that, he assumed that the long line of them could only have come from gentlemen stock.

In the late autumn of 1888, Hector found his title of "Gentleman" challenged.

It had been a long week at the bank in the town where Hector worked. He readjusted his spectacles and twirled his mustache as he contemplated how grateful he felt to be headed for some rest in his house in the woods.

It was raining mercilessly, and the pounding of the drops on the coach sounded like persistent knocking to be let in. The road was bumpy along the last bit of the journey, and although he felt for the horses and the man who drove them, it was cold inside the coach and he was beginning to feel uncomfortable himself.

He was proud of the home he had built, with it's four bedrooms upstairs and its long dining room table behind heavy sliding doors downstairs, and its modern kitchen in the back. His favourite room, however, was the large great room that looked out over the forest. It had high ceilings, and pristine wooden floors. It had heavy curtains and sturdy dark wooden bookshelves lined with his collections of works. There were a number of soft furniture pieces for him to choose from if he wanted to sit and read, and there was a sturdy desk should he need to take out quill and ink. The floors were decorated with rugs that he had had imported to keep the place warm, and the crackling fire place that was a constant comfort in the cold.

The rain was still coming down hard upon his arrival home. Hector offered the man and his horses shelter in the carriage house, but the man refused politely, took his payment, and headed back to town. Hector was aware of the local superstitions about the forest that bordered onto his home, and was a part of his property. But Hector was a reasonable man who had gotten the property for a reasonable deal, and he was reasonably happy with being left alone to enjoy it.

When Hector entered the front foyer of his home, he could hear the crackling of the fireplace from the great room through the door that was slightly ajar. The man he had hired to help him keep house from time to time must have foreseen he would be home and made the house ready to receive him. Although he noted that his hired man was not at the front door to greet him. He took off his coat and hung it himself. He wiped the rain from his spectacles and placed them back on his nose. Hector thought to call out, but a gentleman wouldn't do such a thing, and so he quietly hung his top hat himself, and shook the rain off his neat suit pants as best he could.

He changed from his outside shoes, into his tidy house shoes.

Hector walked into his great room and paused. Something was terribly amiss.

"My Word." He said to the scene before him.

The fire was indeed lit, but his cozy chairs had been haphazardly moved out of the way, and sitting far too close to the fireplace, was his chaise lounge. It had been dragged from across the room, and left a trail of scratches on his wooden floor. Draped over the chaise lounge was one of his Persian rugs, as if it were a heavy and ungainly quilt.

This was all very startling to Hector, but even more so was that something moved under there.

Hector stood still, while his rational mind tried to process what to do. He quickly decided that it must be a vagabond, approached the chaise lounge from behind, and removed the carpet.

Underneath the rug, and on top of his chaise lounge, was a beautiful woman, curled up into herself and sleeping.

She was completely nude.

"Well, I never!" exclaimed Hector, as he really had never seen a woman naked before.

She continued to sleep soundly. He momentarily forgot what it meant to be a gentleman, and with the heavy carpet still gripped in his hands and pouring into the floor, he looked.

She lay on her side facing the fireplace. Her hair was a tangle of brown, and her rose lips were gently parted in sleep. Her pale knees were tucked into her chest. She had long graceful fingers and toes. She looked yellow and orange in the flickering firelight.

The dark hair on the delicate folds and smoothness of her skin stood on end with the chill in the air. Her brow furrowed, and her eyes opened. Only then did Hector recover himself, and avert his eyes.

"Miss." Hector cleared his throat. "What is the meaning of this?"

From the corner of his eye, he saw her sit up. He raised the heavy rug to cover her nudity from his sight, so he could only see her face.

"I got lost." She said. "I was cold."

Her voice was a melodic echo in the room and in Hectors head.

"You have scratched my wood flooring." He stated.

"I can make it better." She said.

Hector frowned. His arms were getting tired from holding the heavy rug in front of him.

"Where are your clothes." Hector cleared his throat. "Why are you… nude."

"My shift was wet. I was cold." She stood up, and into his line of sight.

With the rug still raised, but not raised quite high enough, he watched her gather a filmy green shift from over the fireplace. She slipped into it, arms through holes and over head.

Hector put the rug down.

Her shift did very little to cover her up. She was all curves and nipples and he could see the firelight right through it. Hector began to feel heated and flushed. He took off his warmed suit jacket.

"Please, put this on." He said. He shoved the suit jacket in her direction, and concentrated on eye contact.

The look on her face changed, but Hector couldn't quite place how, exactly. He had very little experience speaking with women. She took the jacket, and slowly slipped her arms into it, all the while keeping eye contact with him. It made Hector feel very nervous.

"It's warm. Thank you." She said quietly.

Hector returned the rug to its position across the room, lamenting over the large scratches in his floor. Unseemly.

Hector looked up to see the half naked woman watching him from in front of the fireplace. Although his jacket covered her arms and chest, her entire legs were exposed. Unseemly.

The rain poured on, with the occasional rumble of thunder.

"I will find you some more clothing. And then we will work out what to do." Hector said. "Kindly wait here." He left the room.

Hector returned to the great room with his arms full of clothing. They were pieces he gathered from his own closet, as there was nothing else to choose from. A pair of clean pyjamas, and a robe. But when he entered the great room, she was no longer there. He frowned, and his curled moustache frowned with him. Peculiar.

The chaise lounge was back in its place on the other side of the room. His two comfy chairs that normally sit in front of the fireplace were back. He looked down expecting more scratches on the floor, but to his surprise there were no scratches at all. Peculiar.

He thought to call out, but he reminded himself that he was a gentleman, despite having looked at the nude woman.

The rain poured on, with the occasional rumble of thunder. He had a moment where he wondered if he had hallucinated the whole scene. Then there was a clatter in the kitchen, and so with his arms full of clothing, he headed towards the commotion.

When Hector entered the kitchen, he was both relieved and distressed to find her there. She had opened up all the metal doors on the range oven, and all the wooden doors of the Hoosier cabinet, and there were several tins taken down from the shelves and scattered onto the large prep counter that sat in the centre of the room. She herself, sat on the edge of the prep counter, struggling to open one of the tins with a wooden spoon.

"Well, I never!" He said aloud, as he had indeed never sat his bottom on the prep counter, especially when not wearing pants.

She looked up from her concentrated task. "I am hungry."

"You've made a mess in my kitchen." He said.

"I can make it better." She replied

Hector pulled a wooden chair from against the wall, and loaded it up with the clothing he was carrying.

"I've brought you some pants. Please put those on, and I will feed you. But please, sit on the chair."

Again, the woman got a look on her face that Hector just couldn't place. With her eyes wide and watching him, she slowly slipped from her perch on the counter.

Hector took the bread from the bread box, the jam from the cupboard, the knife from its drawer, and took them all to the cutting board at the counter. He cut two thick pieces of bread and spread the jam thinly on top.

He looked over to see that she had slipped on the pajama bottoms, and she sat in them, on the chair, although the bottoms were clearly too big.

Hector pulled another chair towards her and sat himself. He handed the woman a slice of jammed bread. And there was that look again. Was it wonder? Was it hesitancy? He just didn't know. Women were mysterious.

She took the bread gently, all the while looking him in the eyes. As she nibbled, she cooed and "mmm'd" and then when she was finished, remarked, "I am full. Thank you."

"Now we should figure out what to do with you." Hector stood up from his chair.

The woman stood up from her chair and the too-large pajama bottoms fell down.

"My Word!" Hector exclaimed at the sight of her bare legs again, shocked anew. He looked away once more.

"Miss. You will have to tie a knot into the string at the waist," Hector cleared his throat. "So that the bottoms… stay up."

"Will you do it?" Her voice was a melodic echo in the room and in Hectors head.

Hector found himself kneeling in front of the half nude woman. With his head bowed, he took the pants around her ankles, and slowly shifted them up her legs, over her pale knees. He tried to keep his eyes averted, but when she held her shift up to her waist under his suit jacket and his fingers brushed her thigh, he looked.

He looked.

And the rain poured on with the occasional rumble of thunder.

Hector began to feel heated and flushed. He fumbled and found the tie at the waist of the pyjama bottoms, and as he tied the knot, he whispered "I am a gentleman."

He looked up at her eyes. She looked down at him and smiled.

"Will you give me your name?" She said.

He stood up before her and proudly pronounced it.

"Certainly, Miss. Hector Marmaduke Goedhart, Miss."

At that moment, the room wobbled a little for Hector, and the woman's appearance changed slightly right in front of his eyes. Her hair smoothed out and her skin seemed to glow.

"Hector Marmaduke Goedhart," she said, "You have clothed me. You have fed me. You have tied a knot in my clothing and bound me. And you have given me your name."

With that, she waved her hands around the room, and the tins all put themselves back on the shelves, and the doors and cupboards closed, and the room was put back to rights.

"I am the fairy of the woods that you live in. I am the protector of this wood, and now I will be the protector of you. You have clothed me and fed me and bound me and given me your name. I will live as your wife, and bring you much prosperity and ease."

Hector sat back down in the chair, took off his spectacles and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had been happy to live alone as gentlemen will. He was happy to work at the bank in town and spend his time here in the country studying and reading and writing. He already felt he had a life of ease.

He thought one day he might get a dog, or maybe two. But never a wife.

He wasn't really sure if he wanted a wife. He'd never thought of even looking for one. And to take a fairy as a wife? Wouldn't that be unreasonable? Hector was a reasonable man, with a reasonable life, and had always just wanted to be left alone to enjoy it.

Hector felt his glasses being removed from his hand. He opened his eyes to see that she had removed his suit jacket from her shoulders. She slid her bottom onto his lap, and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

"My Word." He whispered.

She was warm and smelled of jam and damp earth.

She nudged her nose around his ear, along his jawline, and then poking under his moustache, she kissed him on the mouth.

"Well, I never." He said, as he had truly never been kissed by woman or fairy, with all their mysteries.

Hector was definitely heated and flushed.

And the rain poured on with the occasional rumble of thunder.

"You are challenging my ability to remain a gentleman." Hector said to her.

The fairy whispered into Hectors ear

"I can make it better."

That day in the late autumn of 1888, Hector realized there was no contest.

He was a gentleman.

And he wanted to look.

"My Granddaddy told me the story about how his daddy used to mind that house. And now all that's left is a haunted wood, because the house disappeared and the carriage house disappeared and Hector Marmaduke Goedhart, he disappeared too. It's been over a hundred years since he disappeared, but folks around these parts still call it "GoodHearts Woods." But no one'll go near it. They're all afraid to disappear, gettin' taken into fairy land, too. My Granddaddy said no one ever thought Mr. Goedhart would get into any trouble with those fairies, because he was a gentleman who never was bothered to look at ladies in the first place. But he must have given one of them his name freely. And every body knows, once you give one of 'em your name, they take everything.

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