Once in fall, a young woman sat in the window overlooking an apple orchard that belonged to an old wizard. She and her husband had in vain longed for a child. The forest looks so pretty in all its colors; I pray that I had a child as pale as the fall sky, as red as the apples, and as yellow as the leaves.
Each day she sat and fiddled with her wooden humpback whale, craving apples more each day. As the days grew colder, she stopped eating altogether and became too weak to get out of bed.
“What is wrong?” her husband finally asked.
“I crave an apple,” she said. “And I don’t think I can make it much longer without one.” He thought to himself, Surely the old wizard wouldn’t mind. It’s only one apple. He climbed down towards the orchard. He went to the closet apple tree he could find and picked the lowest hanging fruit.
As he began back to the house, imps flew around his feet and knocked him over. The man fell hard but still hand apple in hand. He ran as fast as he could. He made it home and handed his wife the apple who ate half and gave the other half to her husband. The next day, not satisfied, she requested a bushel of apples.
“But, dear, the wizard would not be happy if took a bushel of their apples,” the man said.
The woman pleaded.
Begrudgingly, he took one of the baskets his wife had made down to the orchard in the dark. He made it to the same tree as the day before. As he reached up, he saw that there sat the old wizard sitting on a branch.
“You dare steal from me again?” the wizard asked.
“It’s my wife,” the man said. “She needs more apples or surely she will die.”
The wizard asked, “What will you give me in return?”
“I am a poor man and cannot give much—”
The wizard raised his hand. “You can have a bushel of apples, but in return, I want your first born.”
The man pondered this for a moment and then agreed.
The wizard climbed down from the tree, allowing the man to pick apples without incident that lasted his wife several months in which time she bore a daughter as pale as the fall sky, as red as Lady Williams, and as yellow as autumn leaves.
They were overjoyed until the old wizard appeared before them.
“I came for what I was promised,” he said. The woman replied that they had promised him nothing. “He did,” the wizard said. “I was promised your first born.” The woman turned to her husband in horror who confirmed that he had promised such.
Before the wizard took their daughter, the woman went to the window and grabbed the wooden whale that had found a home. She placed it in her daughter’s blanket and whispered, “This is to protect you.”
The wizard took her away to a cabin in the middle of the apple orchard and raised her like his own. The wizard had kept her isolated from the world and made her pick apples for her keep. She sang with the imps as she worked in the trees.
One day a knight came upon the orchard. He knew it belonged to the old wizard so he made to go around, but he heard the girl singing. He stopped, looked around but saw no one. This must be a trick, he thought, but he kept hearing it. He wandered a little into the orchard, and the music grew louder and louder and then it began to fade. He retraced his steps.
He sat there where he heard the music the loudest.
He grew hungry so he looked up for the best apple. His eyes landed on a woman with blonde hair, red lips, and pale skin.
“Forgive me but what is your name?”
“Lady Williams,” she replied and kept singing.
“My Lady, if you wouldn’t mind, send me down an apple or two. One for one for my horse and me.”
She smiled. “Though I would love to, I can’t. These aren’t my apples to give.” She continued to sing and pick apples. The man reached for an apple. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Lady Williams. He took an apple and bit into it, upon which he was attacked by imps who knocked him over and ran out of the orchard.
The next day he returned. “My Lady, come down, won’t you?”
“I have work to be done,” and she continued to pick her apples. This continued for a week, but the wizard knew nothing of this until Lady Williams said, “That knight is persistent.”
The next day, the old wizard told Lady Williams to take the day off. He concealed himself in Lady Williams’ clothes and went to pick apples. The knight returns and calls up to Lady Williams, “I cannot continue my quest without you by my side.”
The old wizard looked down with a smile and said, “You dare dote upon my Lady Williams?” He sent an army of imps after the knight who didn’t have time to get on his horse.
The knight ran past the house that Lady Williams lived. The horse wasn’t far behind. She grabbed her wooden whale, ran outside and hailed the horse. She galloped up to the knight who had been cornered and was being tortured by imps. She pulled him onto the horse and took him just outside of the orchard.
“Thank you,” he said. “Come with me?”
She looked back at the orchard and smiled. She said, “No, I am okay where I am.” She hopped off the horse and said, “I already have my knight in shining armor,” as she rubbed her wooden whale and slapped the horse on its rear. She went back to her home in the orchard and lived happily ever after.