Old Lady High

Old Lady High was a rich landlady who lived just across the street in a grand manor. She was not known to be vain as she was pompous, nor was she called arrogant as she was righteous. Barely a few men in the town knew her first name, Mary; apart from the priest, her ancient butler, the postman and Roger the undertaker (who happened to know everyone in the town by their first names. “Them folk don’t greet me when they are alive, so I know ’em by them names to greet ’em when they die,” he says.) It was rumoured that the undertaker got his information from the barber, who got his from maids, who got theirs from the meddling kids, and so on. Yet none of those tributaries knew Old Lady High’s first name, and it was a mystery to the masses as to how the undertaker knew.

Turns out Old Lady High’s husband was a forager, and his search for firewood to keep carnivorous beasts away during his long trips led him to someone who knew which wood burns best. Roger proposed a small man’s deal, promising to give away the best firewood of the forest in the exchange of Lord High’s wife’s name. But big men don’t like dealing with small men, and in his haught the Lord ended up slighting Roger, and Roger directed him to the firewood beside the wolves’ den.

Lord High left Lady High riches and desolation in aplenty. To find a way to curb the forlorn reaches of her old age, Old Lady High took to horse tending, then to croquet, and apples seemed to be her latest fancy. She had the best apple trees brought to her yard from the world, which bore fruit sweeter than nectar. She had the biggest tree planted closest to her tea table in the yard, and had also installed a ladder to get up and choose the biggest, reddest, and juiciest apples for tea.

One fine day, brave Old Lady High climbed the ladder herself, but all the nearby apples had been plucked. She kept on climbing higher and higher, but her desire wasn’t fulfilled by what she saw. She decided to climb onto a thick branch as she saw a couple of apples, agile as ever, but as she stretched to reach the apples her leg slipped, hit the ladder, which hit all the way down. Old Lady High was stuck, but was too posh to scream out for help.

As a happenstance, Mr. Löwe, a special guest and a friend of Lord High’s, arrived at the scene. Mr Löwe, short of sight and low on hearing.

Having waited for Old Lady High for a while, he wondered if the butler had lied, and his host my not be in the yard at all. He called out,

“Mary High?”

Old Lady High had no idea who called her, but still called back.

“It’s not the best time for greetings I’m afraid,”

Mr Lowe always could only hear half of what she said. Befuddled, he tried again.

“Where are you?”

“I’m high up here!”

Mr Lowe, again, only seemed to her half of what she said,

“I know you’re a High, M’Lady. But where are you?”

“Low, are you? I’m here!”

“I am Löwe. Where are you?”

“Up High, Löwe!”

“High or low?”

“High, Löwe!”

“I believe you said it isn’t a good time for pleasantries, Lady High. Now, where are you again?”

“I’m high up here!”

“You’re high on what? Oh Lady High, what venial sin has got hold of you!”

“Above your head Löwe! I’m above your head!”

“M’Lady, your stature was always above my head!”

Old Lady High was so frustrated, she could have thrown a couple of apples at the deaf man. But the apples were outstanding, and throwing things wasn’t very ladylike. It didn’t suit the Lady of High Manor. She tried again.

“Raise your head, Löwe!”

“I can only raise my head high, my Lady. You seem to be mistaken.”

Exasperated, Old Lady High let herself go.

“You are a low life, you, Ragnald Löwe!”

“I am aware that I am a Löwe, as you’re High,” Mr. Löwe replied.

“Löwe! Move your neck high!” Old Lady High bellowed.

“Move my neck high or low, Lady High?”

“Pray, I ask you look high!”

“I’ll definitely pray for you, but when did this happen!? Are you speaking from heaven?”

“Löwe, pray, save me, I’m high up here!” she begged.

“I’ll surely pray to the Lord to save you, Lady High. In fact, I must let the word spread, so the entire town can pray for you.”

He left to share the news the Old Lady High was high in the heavens, taken by her own beloved apple trees.

Imagine the weeping butler’s shock when she fell, tired and asleep from the branch!

Imagine the doctor’s shock to find a dead lady alive!

Imagine the folk’s scare when they heard Old Lady High was back from the dead!

Old Lady High may not be sure how a doctor keeps the highs in, but she had solid proof how apples keep the Löws away.


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