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.She turned to her left and began to walk around the pond.Although the path was well-marked, bushes overhung it in places, and branches downed by wind and snow during the winter made walking hazardous.She paid careful attention to her footsteps, using the bright moonlight to aid her.As she got closer to the point where the path from the road fed into the one that ran around the pond, the way became easier.More people used that end of the pond, rather than fighting their way through the brush to the far end where her friends had set up camp.A scream split the air ahead of her.Florence! Alice began to run.She jumped over a log across the path and dodged around a tree, the noise of her running masking any other sounds, and ran smack into Florence, who was rushing her way at full speed.Down they went in a tangle of arms and legs.Alice’s breath whooshed out as the bigger woman landed squarely on top her.“It’s behind me!” Florence gasped, clutching at Alice.“I heard it.”“No, it’s not,” Alice said, hearing the men crashing through the brush toward them.Suddenly she realized that, like Florence, Fred and Ronald probably would not see them until they were on top of them.As if the thought had been enough to make it happen, Ronald burst out of the brush, tripped over a root and crashed down beside them.Two seconds later, Fred fell over Ronald.He landed on his back on the ground, staring up at the sky.Slowly, Fred turned his head.He surveyed the other three sprawled in various ungainly positions around him.“We were chasing you?”“It was you chasing me?” Florence sat up.“I thought it was Bigfoot,” she said in disgust.Another crashing sound came and Alice realized that Vera and Ellis also would have heard the scream and were coming to the rescue as well.“Stop!” she yelled.And just in time.The two women halted barely soon enough to avoid falling over the tangle of bodies on the ground.Both women were panting.Ellis was looking at them all with wide eyes.Vera took one look, immediately grasped the situation and began to laugh.“Which one of you was Bigfoot?” As she spoke, she extended a hand to Fred, braced herself and tugged him to his feet.He immediately did the same for Ronald.“I suppose I was,” Florence said sullenly.“But I thought they were.” She pointed at the men.Sensing a sulk coming on, Alice explained what she had seen as Fred tried to give her a helping hand.Finally, both men took Florence’s arms and hauled her upright.She immediately began brushing off her clothes with an air of wounded dignity.“A raccoon?” Ellis sounded so disappointed Alice couldn’t help grinning.“Yes,” she confirmed.“That’s all it was, a single raccoon, after our marshmallows.”Fred started to laugh.“Some Bigfoot hunters we are, making enough noise to wake the dead.If there was any kind of critter here, it’s probably halfway to Canada by now.”“Laughing all the way,” Vera added.Ronald began to chuckle and Alice felt her own lips twitch.Ellis also saw the humor in the situation, and as the five of them laughed until they were holding their sides and wiping tears, Florence finally cracked a smile and laughed a little as well.When the merriment abated, Alice said, “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had quite enough Bigfoot hunting for one night.I’m going back to sleep.”“Ditto,” said Vera.She began to walk along the path toward their campsite.“That rotten raccoon had better not have gotten into anything else while we’re out here clowning around.”“Oh, I suspect our things are safe,” Alice said.“We made so much noise I doubt there’s an animal left within a five-mile radius.”Several hours later, Jane and Louise stood in the front hallway laughing as Alice recounted the night’s adventures.Maxwell came downstairs in time to hear most of the story.“At least it wasn’t boring,” Jane said.She almost wished she had gone along, just to see the scene Alice had described.“Far from it.” Maxwell smiled.“So were Florence and Ellis very disappointed?”Alice shrugged.“I imagine so, although none of us dwelt on the fiasco.Ellis left this morning.She was eager to get back and file her report.”Jane was staring at Maxwell.“You sound terrible,” she said.“Are you coming down with something?”“I think I might be,” he confessed.“My throat feels swollen and scratchy and I am quite congested.I didn’t sleep well at all last night.”“Come into the kitchen and let me make you some special tea,” Jane offered.The young man looked surprised.“Really? Why, thank you, Jane.” He followed her to the kitchen.“Sit,” she said.“This will take a few minutes.As she efficiently began to make the tea, he asked, “What are you doing?”“I’m mixing equal parts dried linden, elder and chamomile flowers.I use three teaspoons of this mix for every ten ounces of water.” She spooned the proper measure onto a small square of finely woven linen, then secured it and set it in a mug.Then she set a spoon in the mug and poured boiling water over the linen.“There.That has to steep for ten minutes.Then you can add honey and lemon if you like.A cup in the morning and another in the evening should help until the congestion is gone.”Maxwell had a look of… almost awe on his face, Jane thought.“That is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” he told her.Jane was startled.“Good heavens, it’s just a cup of herbal tea.” She set down the honey and a plate with a wedge of lemon on the table near the steaming mug of fragrant tea.“There.I have to get Clothilda some information on the computer.Just wait ten minutes and flavor it to taste.I can make you more tonight.”“Thanks, Jane.”She left him there inhaling the warm, aromatic steam and went to the reception desk [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]