Eidi: The Children of Crow Coveby Bodil Bredsdorff, Kathryn Mahaffy
Some years have passed since the Crow-Girl set off on a journey, met Eidi and her mother, Foula, along with a few others, and persuaded them to come live near the little cove where a brook runs out to the sea. But when Foula has another baby, Eidi feels there's no longer room for her in the settlement. So she leaves Crow Cove to make her own way in the world,
Some years have passed since the Crow-Girl set off on a journey, met Eidi and her mother, Foula, along with a few others, and persuaded them to come live near the little cove where a brook runs out to the sea. But when Foula has another baby, Eidi feels there's no longer room for her in the settlement. So she leaves Crow Cove to make her own way in the world, hoping to help her old friend Rossan with his wool out on the heath. Fate, however, brings her to a harbor town where she must find work, and she takes a position as a weaver in the household of a wealthy merchant. In town, Eidi faces disturbing reminders of her past. She also meets a neglected boy named Tink and soon makes a decision that changes the course of both of their futures.
The second book in the Children of Crow Cove series is beautifully written in Bodil Bredsdorff's spare style and will deeply satisfy fans of The Crow-Girl and new readers alike.
Read an Excerpt
The Children of Crow Cove Series
By Bodil Bredsdorff, Kathryn Mahaffy
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 1993 Bodil Bredsdorff
All rights reserved.
The four children had been sitting there waiting for a long time. But there was still nothing to be heard except the gurgling of the brook and the scouring of the pebbles on the shore as they were washed out to sea by the waters of the brook, then back to the shore by the waves.
A shrill cry rang out high above their heads, and they all looked up. An eagle was hovering over the sea on widespread wings.
The cry had set the heart of one of the girls beating wildly, and she laid her hand over it as if to calm it. Her light-brown eyes followed the eagle until it disappeared in the rays of the sun, which were slanting low over the face of the sea.
Her hair was plaited in a red-gold braid that ended in a curl in the middle of her back. A small scar showed white in one of her eyebrows.
She was tired of waiting. It shouldn't take this long, she thought. But it could.
The girl sitting beside her was a couple of years older. Her hair was dark and straight, her nose large and curved. She was holding a little boy on her lap; he was asleep. His mouth was open, and his head rested on her shoulder. A thin trail of drool had trickled from his mouth down her dark-blue dress.
At the older girl's feet lay a wire-haired black mongrel. The dog had cocked one ear at the eagle's cry without opening her eyes, as if she knew that it wasn't the kind of sound she had to attend to.
The last of the lot was a big boy, almost a young man, the oldest of them all. He had bright blue eyes and rather long dark hair, which was constantly falling in his eyes so that he had to keep brushing it aside. He sat whittling on a stick, and he'd been at it so long that there was quite a heap of shavings between his feet.
The children were sitting on the rocks above a cove in which there were three whitewashed houses. Thick smoke rose from one of the chimneys, though it had been a warm summer day. A flock of chickens were pecking around in front of the house, and on the grassy slope behind it various-colored sheep — black and gray, white and brown — could be seen.
A shout was heard from the cove below. A man had come to the doorway and stood there, calling, "Eidi! Ravnar! Myna! Doup!"
The children got to their feet and scrambled down the steep, rocky slope. First came Myna with Doup in her arms, though he was getting much too big to be carried around, and with the dog at her heels. After her came Ravnar, with his knife dangling from one hand and his stick in the other. Then came Eidi with lagging steps. Her leg had gone to sleep, and she was afraid she might stumble.
She was the last one to step through the door.
So that was what a newborn baby looked like. Little, red, and wrinkled, with small, half-dried blood clots in the fair hairs on its head. With white fat like congealed tallow in all its folds and creases. It lay there at Foula's breast like a pale little frog. It was wailing hoarsely, all four limbs sprawling.
They were allowed just one quick look at the naked baby. Then Foula tucked it under the blanket and gathered it close in to her. Her eyes shone up at Frid.
"Does it hurt, Mother?" asked Eidi. She had seen the ewes lambing.
Foula smiled at her and stroked her cheek with the back of her hand.
"Not anymore," she said. "And besides, what does it matter if it hurts a bit, when we've got such a lovely little boy."
"A boy!" exclaimed Eidi in surprise. "I thought it would be a girl, like me!"
"A little baby," marveled Doup, looking up at Myna, who nodded and smiled at him.
"Would you like to see him again?" asked Frid.
Doup nodded, and his father lifted him up so he could get a better view of his new half brother.
Ravnar, Frid's other son, stroked the little cheek gingerly with one finger, and Myna was allowed to hold the baby in her shawl for a moment. She stood quite still, gazing down into a pair of deep-blue eyes.
"It's like looking into the sky," she said.
Eidi turned away and walked out of the room and out of the house. She went right down to the edge of the sea and stood there staring over the water at the setting sun until black specks began to dance before her eyes and she had to look away from the glowing light.
She walked barefoot along the shore's edge over the small, round pebbles and felt how the water cooled her feet and the tears cooled her burning cheeks.
At last she came to where a big, flat rock jutted up in the shallow water near the shore. She waded out and climbed onto it. The waves lapped around the rock and sucked back with a sigh as they left the deep crannies in its sides. Little terns with pointed wings drew sharp angles across the orange sky. The sea smelled of salt and seaweed.
Eidi caught a tear on the tip of her tongue. It tasted of seawater. Then she wiped her eyes and her cheeks with the back of her hand, drew a deep breath, and stopped crying.
Now she could feel that she wasn't only sad but also relieved and glad. It had all gone well. Her mother was lying there smiling in her bed with a living child in her arms, and that was what counted.
* * *
The sun had gone down. It stayed hidden for a short while, only to appear again like a red full moon above the crest of the eastern hills, with a little star for company.
The evening was mild. All the same, there was a fire blazing on the hearth when she stepped into the main room. Foula was sitting on the settle bed with the new baby in her arms. The others were at the table having their supper.
The fire crackled, and Foula hummed bits of a melody now and again. The baby boy made small noises.
When they had eaten, Myna rose and got ready to go home to her own house. Doup wanted to go with her, and Ravnar went along to see them home. Eidi brought a chair and sat down by the settle bed. The baby boy had fallen asleep. He lay quite still, with his tiny hand clutching the edge of the blanket. His fingernails were so small that Eidi could hardly see them in the dim light.
"May I hold him?" she asked.
"I think you'd better wait a bit," said Foula. "He's sleeping now."
It was as though this new little creature gradually calmed everything in the room. Even the fire had ceased crackling, and let its flames lick soundlessly along the logs.
Foula had stopped humming; Frid sat very still at the table, looking at her and the child.
It was Foula who broke the silence.
"What shall we call him?"
"Cam," Eidi said after a while, "because everything goes calm and quiet around him."
"Cam," said Foula, considering.
The baby let go of the blanket and moved his arms; he seemed to be swimming up from the depths of sleep toward waking life before he opened his eyes.
He looked at Eidi, and she looked back at him, feeling that she was being regarded from another world.
"Cam," she called quietly.
And he answered her with a little squeak.
"Cam. It's a good name," she heard Frid say.
Foula nodded, and that was his name from then on.CHAPTER 2
Eidi had brought out the basket of cloth scraps. It held little pieces that had been left over from when they had sewn jackets, trousers, dresses, and skirts from the cloth they had woven last winter.
She sat down at the table by the window in order to see the different colors and patterns in a better light. Then she cut squares from each piece of cloth and laid them out side by side.
The rain beat on the windowpanes. Someone rattled the door latch. It was Myna coming over from her house. She came into the room with Doup at her heels. She had pulled her big gray shawl over her head, and now she took it off and shook it over the floor out in the passage.
"Such weather!" came Foula's voice from the hearth. "Did you see anything of Frid and Ravnar?"
"Are they out hunting?" Myna asked.
"I didn't see them," said Myna, and sat down at the table across from Eidi.
Doup climbed onto Myna's lap. She helped him out of his wet jacket.
"Oof, how wet we are."
Doup nodded. "It's raining," he said.
Foula brought a towel and gave it to Myna, who began to rub Doup's wet hair.
Foula stood by the table looking at Eidi's cloth squares.
"Are you making a better-luck-next-time?"
"What is that?" asked Myna, startled.
"Don't you know?" asked Foula. "They're also called try-your-lucks. It's a kind of shawl girls make for themselves when they want to find work. They use them to show how skillful they are at weaving, and how many different patterns they know."
Cam whimpered in his cradle, and Foula went back to him.
"Are you looking for work?" Myna asked Eidi, who shook her head.
"Ah no," she said. "I just felt like making one of those shawls."
Eidi worked on the shawl for several days. She crocheted all the squares together with dark-brown yarn. She trimmed the edges to make it three-cornered, and finished it off with a broad crocheted border all the way around. It had become a shawl with the colors of rocks and seafoam, of clouds and earth and the wet autumn heath.
She laid the shawl away under the seat of her settle bed, and then she began to knit a head scarf. This was also divided into squares showing all the different stitches she knew.
"That's a good idea," said Foula. "Not that you have any need to show your skills, but it makes a handsome scarf."
Eidi nodded, trying to thread the needle to tuck in the yarn ends. It was hard to see, even though she was sitting by the window. The panes were misted with vapor, and the air was hot and muggy from all the wash hanging on a line in front of the fire. The baby's knitted pants and undershirts and diaper cloths were ever present, hung up on the line and then taken down again as soon as they were dry to make room for the next clean, wet batch that was always waiting.
Summer was over, and the weather was often rainy. The harvest was gathered in, and they wouldn't be going hungry. The house, which Frid and Ravnar had repaired and lived in before Frid and Foula agreed to set up housekeeping there together, was full to bulging with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and sacks of oats. The kale stalks stood in long ranks in the field behind the stone wall, where the sheep couldn't get at them. The hens had hatched out lots of chicks, and Myna's dog, Glennie, had kept the foxes off them, so most had survived.
And there were still mussels in the sea and sea kale along the shore, as there had been when Myna lived alone in Crow Cove with her grandmother. It was when her grandmother died that Myna had set off on her own, met all the others in her travels, and persuaded them to move here.
All except for the shepherd Rossan. He had stayed in his little house on the heath with his sheep and his dogs.
Finally Eidi had fastened the last yarn end. The scarf was finished, and she laid it away in the settle bed with the shawl.
Eidi woke before sunrise. She sat up in the slategray twilight that was seeping through the windows and listened for what had woken her.
It couldn't have been Cam, because he and Frid and Foula slept in the room at the other end of the house, separated from this living room by the staircase up to the loft. Ravnar slept up there beside the warm chimney in a fishnet hammock.
Neither could it have been the logs on the fire crackling, because the embers had been banked with ashes to last the night, and the fireplace was only a black square in a dark-gray wall.
The mice hadn't begun to invade the house yet; they were still busy with the few remaining oats out in the fields.
Then she heard the sea. It couldn't be a storm, because there was no wind to be heard, but it did sound like swells beating on the shore. Or maybe it was just that waves sound louder in the last stillness of the night before the dawn.
Eidi got out of her settle bed and put on her clothes. When she stepped outside, she could see everything plainly in the dawn twilight, but it was all gray. The houses were light gray, the roofs dark gray, the sky overcast, without a star. It was a world where color didn't exist. She sat down on the stone steps and waited, without knowing what she was waiting for.
Then suddenly the slope behind Myna's house began to take on a greenish tinge, and the whitewashed walls grew lighter and lighter until they were blindingly white against the green grass.
Eidi turned her head and saw that the sun, which was just peeping over the crest of the hill, had found a hole in the ceiling of cloud. Through this hole it was sending a cone of light over Crow Cove, bringing color back to the world.
Then all at once it was over. The clouds closed again, and when the others in the house got up, it was an ordinary gray day with muted colors, like any other. But not for Eidi.
* * *
That evening she told Foula and Frid that she had decided to go back to Rossan and ask him if he needed help with the wool from all his sheep. If he did, then she would stay the winter there and card and spin it for him, in readiness for the big spring market.
"You're too young to make your own way in the world," said Foula.
Eidi shook her head. "I've already been out in the world," she said.
"Yes, but you had me with you."
"Ravnar could go with me," Eidi suggested.
So that was how it was.CHAPTER 3
Eidi turned at the top of the hill and looked back one last time at the cove.
She hadn't been this far along the inland path since the first time she and Foula had walked here with Doup and Myna. She had forgotten how small the houses looked from up here. Little white building blocks around a thread of a brook so small that she could barely make it out. Though she knew it was really so deep that you got your legs wet above the knees if you waded across instead of crossing on the bridge.
"You're in an awful hurry," said Ravnar, catching up with her at last.
Eidi smiled at him.
"Sorry. I didn't know I could walk faster than you."
They followed the path for several hours, over stony ridges and down into damp hollows where their shoes got soaked and every step made a slurping sound.
When at last they reached the big stone by the high road, it was Ravnar who had to wait for Eidi.
When she caught up with him, they sat down with their backs to the stone and opened the bag of provisions Foula had given them.
The sun had come out. It warmed the stone they were leaning against. They carefully peeled off the ashy gray skins of the baked potatoes and ate them with slices of smoked mutton.
"Why do you want to leave?" asked Ravnar after a while.
Eidi shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "There didn't seem to be enough room."
"There are houses enough there," Ravnar objected.
"That's not the way I meant."
"I guess I know what you mean," Ravnar said. "Something about Frid and Foula having enough in each other and their little Cam, with no room for anyone else."
The last bite of potato seemed to swell up in Eidi's mouth. She swallowed it with difficulty and nodded. Ravnar hastily wiped his knife on a wisp of grass and stuck it in his belt. Then he got to his feet and slung the haversack onto his shoulder. Eidi picked up her bundle, and they went on together.
For several days they walked in the still, cool air, seeing no movement other than the traveling wedges of migrating birds above their heads.
Although summer was over, the grass was still green. But the sky was no longer deep blue. It was as if the chilly air had washed nearly all the color out of it, and ragged white mists did their best to veil what little color was left.
Eidi shivered beneath her shawl, though there was no breath of wind. It was as if the world was waiting with bated breath. The sound of their footsteps was distinct on the stony road. Every once in a while she started to sing, only to fall silent after a few verses. Her voice sounded so little in such a wide world that it seemed better to keep still.
Once, the toe of her shoe caught a stone and sent it skimming down the road, and she started violently in fear. At that she defied the silence and burst into song at the top of her voice. But no matter how loud she sang, the stillness drained her voice away and made it as thin as the pale blue of the sky.
Then, as they came around a bend in the road, there lay Rossan's house out on the heath. Light-gray smoke was curling up from the chimney in neat spirals.
Excerpted from Eidi by Bodil Bredsdorff, Kathryn Mahaffy. Copyright © 1993 Bodil Bredsdorff. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
BODIL BREDSDORFF is a popular Danish children's book author. In addition to being named a Mildred L. Batchelder Honor Book, The Crow-Girl was selected as an ALA Notable Book, a Booklist Editors' Choice, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Ms. Bredsdorff lives in Hundested, Denmark.
Bodil Bredsdorff is a popular Danish children’s book author. She is the author of many books for children, including the Children of Crow Cove Series: The Crow-Girl, a Mildred L. Batchelder Honor Book, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and an ALA Notable; Eidi, a Mildred L. Batchelder Honor Book; Tink; and Alek. Bodil Bredsdorff lives in Hundested, Denmark.
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