Believing Is Seeing

Believing Is Seeing by Diana Wynne Jones

Book: Believing Is Seeing by Diana Wynne Jones Read Free Book Online
Authors: Diana Wynne Jones
“I would love you according to your nature, human woman.”
    â€œThen I make a bargain with you,” said Phega. “I will stop pretending and you will love me.”
    â€œIf that is what you want,” said the sun, and went on his way.
    Phega shook her head free of branches and her feet from the ground and sat up, brooding, with her chin on her hands. That was how her mother’s servants found her and watched her warily from among the apple trees. She sat there for hours. She had bargained with the sun as a person might bargain for her very life, out of the desperation of her love, and she needed to work out a plan to back her bargain with. It gave her slight shame that she was trying to trap such a being as the sun, but she knew that was not going to stop her. She was beyond shame.
    There is no point imitating something that already exists, she said to herself, because that is pretending to be that thing. I will have to be some kind that is totally new.
    Phega came down from the hill and studied trees again. Because of the hope her bargain had given her, she studied in a new way, with passion and depth, all the time her father was away. She ranged far afield to the forests in the valleys beyond the manor, where she spent days among the trees, standing still as a tree, but in human shape—which puzzled her mother’s servants exceedingly—listening to the creak of their growth and every rustle of every leaf, until she knew them as trees knew other trees and comprehended the abiding restless stillness of them. The entire shape of a tree against the sky became open to her, and she came to know all their properties. Trees had power. Willows had pithy centers and grew fast; they caused sleep. Elder was pithy, too; it could give powerful protection but had a touchy nature and should be treated politely. But the oak and the ash, the giant trees that held their branches closest to the sun’s love, had the greatest power of all. Oak was constancy, and ash was change. Phega studied these two longest and most respectfully.
    â€œI need the properties of both these,” she said.
    She carried away branches of leafing twigs to study as she walked home, noting the join of twig to twig and the way the leaves were fastened on. Evergreens impressed her by the way they kept leaves for the sun even in winter, but she was soon sure they did it out of primitive parsimony. Oaks, on the other hand, had their leaves tightly knotted on by reason of their strength.
    â€œI shall need the same kind of strength,” Phega said.
    As autumn drew on, the fruiting trees preoccupied her, since it was clear that it was growth and fruition the sun seemed most to love. They all, she saw, partook of the natures of both oaks and elders, even hawthorn, rowan, and hazel. Indeed, many of them were related to the lowlier bushes and fruiting plants, but the giant trees that the sun most loved were more exclusive in their pedigrees.
    â€œThen I shall be like the oak,” Phega said, “but bear better fruit.”
    Winter approached, and trees were felled for firewood. Phega was there, where the foresters were working, anxiously inspecting the rings of the sawn trunk and interrogating the very sawdust. This mystified the servants who were following her. They asked the foresters if they had any idea what Phega was doing.
    The foresters shook their heads and said, “She is not quite sane, but we know she is very wise.”
    The servants had to be content with this. At least after that they had an easier time, for Phega was mostly at home in the manor examining the texture of the logs for the fires. She studied the bark on the outside and then the longwise grains and the roundwise rings of the interior, and she came to an important conclusion: an animal stopped growing when it had attained a certain shape, but a tree did not.
    â€œI see now,” she said, “that I have by no means finished growing.” And

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