The Midwife's Apprentice

by Karen Cushman

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What did Alyce throw in the river in The Midwife's Apprentice?

Alyce throws a couple of blocks of wood into the river in The Midwife's Apprentice. They'd been carved into the shape of the hooves of some mysterious beast. Alyce had used them as part of a prank to make the villagers think that the Devil had been visiting the village.

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Alyce is fed up with being treated like dirt by the villagers, so she sets out to teach them a valuable lesson in respect by playing an elaborate prank upon them.

She does this by carving hoof prints into two blocks of wood, which she then stomps into the ground leading up to the houses of all the villagers who've treated her so badly. Alyce knows that these people are so superstitious that they'll think that the hoof-marks have been left by the Devil, and that he's been lurking around the village looking for the souls of sinners.

Alyce's prank causes a fair amount of mischief. One night, the baker's wife is out and about with the parish priest, hoping to see if they can see the Devil for themselves. They closely follow the hoof-marks left by Alyce, and which lead into the depths of the forest. Once there, they discover the baker getting ready for an amorous tryst with Jane the midwife. How very embarrassing!

Once Alyce has made her point, she has no further need for the blocks of wood, which she throws into the river. A few days later, the woodblocks wash up on the river bank. No one knows what they are or where they might have come from. In any case, Annie Broadbeam throws them onto a fire on which she cooks a nice hot rabbit stew.

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