Maggie had arranged the table just-so and now listened as the entire family started to settle into the seats, waiting to bring out the goose and present it to Odnar’s father and mother, which was what Odnar had said was the proper thing to do. She was all nerves as she checked the goose again and again, not that it made any difference. Maggie cooked a fine goose, and this one was no exception: the skin was golden brown, the potatoes perfectly cooked, and the gravy, which she had ladled carefully around the spuds, was, in her own opinion, fantastic.
She’d double-checked every dish before she left it, afraid that something would happen before everyone was sat. She thought that with this one meal she might sway the rest of the family toward liking her. She noticed that Tenk had been watching the dishes closely, too, which had made her feel both better and worse.
She hadn’t even changed her dress yet for dinner, she’d been so busy making sure everything was just so. The door opened and she smiled expecting Odnar, but saw, instead, one of the sisters, Petronella, who smiled widely at her.
“Grandmother thought you might like to change before dinner.”
“Oh, I would like that very much! It won’t take me long, if’n you don’t mind?” She smiled broadly.
Petronella waved her hands at her, “Go, go! and be quick!”
Maggie dashed to the little room she’d been sleeping in and shed her stained working dress and changed into her nicer dress, the one she sometimes wore to country dances when she was shepherding in the summers. She brushed her hair and braided it and pinched her cheeks. She took her hat in her hands and, with a furtive glance around the room as if she expected to find a spy, pressed it between her hands and twisted it and did something peculiar and when she settled it on her head it was no longer a large top hat but, instead a wreath of holly and ivy.
She hurried back to the kitchen, calling out an apology for taking so long even as she entered but discovered it was empty. The oven had been re-kindled and was burning so hot it was nearly cherry red. She hurried over to it to dampen the fire down, her sense of economy briefly overwhelming a feeling of dread. When she straightened up she noticed that the goose was gone.
She ran to the dining room and pushed through the door just in time to hear Solveig say, “I thought we were having Geese-a-laying? That looks more like a Swan-a-Swimming to me.”
Maggie’s beautiful goose was no longer golden brown but instead a deep black-ish brown and it was in a deep cooking pan up to its wings in gravy. The potatoes floated past it as Odnar’s father tried to push the knife through the blackened carcass.
Maggie lifted her hands to her mouth, her eyes wide.
“That’s not…” Odnar started, but stopped when he spotted Maggie in the door.
Maggie, as any reasonable girl would, turned and fled from the room.