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Mr Marsden continued up the row of plants ignoring, for the most part, the conversations and antics going on around him and finally stopped at a small non-descript plant which Ayls recognised as Sweet William. She knew this plant as her Gran grew them. She had them growing along the pathway from her front gate, and Ayls loved the small and delicate flowers that bloomed each spring. Her Gran had a green thumb and whatever she turned her hand to grew lush and beautifully.
However, the Sweet Williams she was looking at looked anything but sweet. Ayls sensed an air of moroseness as she surveyed the plants huddled together in a rather large garden planter.
“These Sweet Williams,” began Mr Marsden, “have worried me ever since I sprinkled them with a charm dust potion.”
“They don’t look happy Mr Marsden,” added Ayls looking down at the plants which had a few dry spots and whose flowers lacked the usual sheen and sparkle one expected from a Sweet William.
She bent down to look closely at the plant and was surprised when it said: “Rack off hairy legs.”
Ayls was taken aback and stepped back bumping into Mr Marsden and nearly toppling him over into a lavender plant behind him.
“Watch it, Marsden,” stated the lavender, “I’m working on germination, and it’s hard enough without you landing on me and halting the whole process, now please be careful and mindful.” With that, the lavender let out a stream of aroma that Ayls found delightful.
Meanwhile, the Sweet William was muttering to itself and sounding decidedly unhappy. “Can you two go away and leave us to our misery? It’s almost morning tea time, and we want to have a good whinge if you don’t mind.”
“You’re not very charming, are you?” announced Ayls somewhat disappointed for Mr Marsden and his charm dust which she assumed should have made the plants slightly charming at least.
The Sweet William responded with a whole lot of grumbling which Ayls couldn’t make much sense of but which seemed to make the Sweet William happier.
“Have you tried other potions on it Mr Marsden?” asked Ayls her mind wondering why a charm potion would result in a grumpy plant, not a charming one.
“One of the limitations I’ve discovered is once a potion is administered a plant is locked into that potion and is resistant to any other intervention. Don’t worry I’ve tried several and all to no avail.”
It was true Ayls thought, Mr Marsden had created a monster by what seemed to her a willy-nilly method of applying potions with no thought as to how any of them might be reversed.
Mr Marsden then pointed at another plant which was growing up the wall of the container. It was a Jasmine growing contentedly against the wall of the container where Mr Marsden had installed a trellis. Ayls liked the jasmine plant as it emitted an aroma that she found alluring. As she drew closer to it, she drew in a breath and soaked her nose in the delights of the fragrance.
As she did so the plant sent out a runner that wrapped itself around Ayls’ leg. Then another that grabbed her arm and at that Ayls became alarmed.
“Mr Marsden, what’s it doing?” cried a frightened Ayls.
“Oh, it does that, I think it’s a sign of affection rather than a threat. I showered it with a cantankerous potion, one I’ve been playing with for many tears and like so many potions I put on the plants it works the opposite to what I intended. It does it to me if I get too close and if you listen closely, you’ll hear it purring like it wants to feel you and be close as opposed to being nasty and threatening.”
“It’s not a nice feeling Mr Marsden,” stated Ayls unwinding the wine from her arm and leg.
“I do understand Ayls,” said Mr Marden as he led her away from the jasmine and towards a very spikey strelitzia whose magnificent flowers turned as one as Ayls appeared.
As they drew closer, the flowers striking in their shape and colour bowed to the approaching man and young girl.
“This is one I got right,” said Mr Marsden, a sense of pride in his voice. “I wanted to see if these plants could attain some sense of aristocracy about them and they responded to my ‘airs and graces’ potion. They’ve become very chivalrous, and love putting on a show of grace and majesty don’t you think?”
Ayls was impressed by the manner in which the blooms bowed and almost dance-like as they swirled in unison from some side to the other.
“But I wouldn’t get too close,” warned Mr Marsden, “they do have a tendency to spit, and it can be most unpleasant if it lands on you.”
No sooner had he said it than Ayls saw the closest flower emit a substance that landed on her shoulder and immediately dissolved a hole in her dress.
Ayls screamed and look horrified at Mr Marsden.
“Goodness,” said Mr Marsden, “I haven’t seen that before.”