Why the House Creaks and Groans

(After the Brazilian tale “Why the Sea Moans”)

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A girl was born into a large house that sat on a high hill. It had once been a beautiful mansion, but her family’s wealth had been lost long ago and now the house was decaying, and most of the wings were boarded up, and the girl and her mother and father lived in the heart of the house, at its center. They lit only a single fire and cooked and slept in the same room. The girl’s parents, ashamed of how far they had fallen, rarely left the house and the little girl wasn’t allowed to leave either. She was very lonely, but sometimes at night, or when the wind was strong and the house creaked and groaned she swore it was saying her name.

One day there was a terrible storm and the wind howled and moaned through the house and the girl’s parents busied themselves sealing broken windows and nailing old doors closed, and the girl, alone with the fire, heard the house say her name more clearly and distinctly than ever. She gazed into the fire intently and in the flames saw a kind and beautiful face. “

In the garden,” the flames whispered, “when the storm is over, you will find a tree that grows rubies instead of fruit and your family will be saved.”

The girl was overjoyed and thanked the face in the flames over and over. The face said it was the spirit of the house, and was happy to help.

“You must promise that when your family’s wealthy is restored you will repair me and return me to my former glory,” and the girl promised.

Soon her parents returned and she told them there was a tree in the garden that grew rubies instead of fruit and that it would save them. Her parents laughed, but after the storm they went into the garden and there was the tree, shining with red light.

They picked the rubies and took them into town and traded them for fine clothes and delicious food, and were merry. Then the girl said, “come mother and father, we must return home and repair the house, for I have promised.”

But they said, “why repair what has been so badly damaged when we can buy a new house?” So they found a new home closer to town, and the girl had lovely clothes and a room of her own, and soon she forgot about her former home.

The old house sat alone on its hill, falling every day into greater disrepair. It creaked and groaned, but no one was left to hear it.

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