forty               

            CAW!

            Jewel whirls at the sound just in time to catch sight of outspread wings alighting.

            You again! Dat aw I needs.

            She searches for a weapon, finds a broken tree branch.

            "See dis? Iffen you don' leave off chasin' me, gonna wallopin' you wiff it. Swoop a little closer; see what happen."

            As if the raven has understood, it answers Jewel's challenges, tail feathers tucked, pinion feathers flared, dropping in a reckless dive; Jewel ducks, too startled to defend herself. She hears a WHOOSH; she flings the branch; it falls far short of her target.

            CAW!

            The bird alights once more within view but out of range.

            Nev' did see de like. Dat bir' possess by a demon, sho 'nuff. Dis fores' mus' be haunted. Fust dat dwarf try smudder me; now dis crow try buzz my head. Prob'bly in cahoots.

            Jewel's spine, at the very notion, registers a hum... as the  raven, looking on, preens its lustrous plumage in the midday glare.

            CAW!

            "What you wan'? Gwon, git! Think I followin' you again, yo' dumber dan you look."

            Jewel moves her head in hitches, testing the air, querying the elements as if they can explain why she has thought what she has thought.

            Don' make sense.

            And yet she finds, in moving on, that she is walking toward the overbearing bird—which keeps its distance... flies ahead of her... but never out of sight.

            I's lost. Cain't do no harm, I s'pose, let myse'f be led. Don' know where I's boun' fo' in de fust place. Cain't go back, no way. Not wiff...

            In a panic Jewel frisks herself for Felicia's stained chemise.

            Oh, oh!

            Though ruined, she perhaps could have made up some excuse. Losing the garment outright ensures her plight is dire. Hopelessness sets in—as the landscape turns familiar.

            Dis way lead to de Big House. Where dat crow at now?

            She scans the trees—no sign of the ravenand spies a distant flag of fabric dangling... waving in the breeze... white... evidently flimsy... delicate as lacework She approaches, stands beneath it, reaches overhead, and detaches it with care. The silk is damp; she thoroughly inspects it...

            Sho 'nuff it de Mist'ess's.

... and finds it has been laundered, cleansed of the stains, rendered absolutely spotless—thus warranting her return. Carried outside her coat—in open-air sunshinethe chemise soon will dry.