Come Wind, Come Weather! - Episode 19
Clarence and Dolly looked expectantly at their prospective household staff.
“Erm…” Aefelthrith began.
“Sounds brilliant!” Gwladys interrupted, between mouthfuls.
“Yes, it does” Aefelthrith agreed, without conviction, “but we’re a team and we always discuss things before we make a decision” She added, firmly.
“Do we?” Gwladys asked, with some surprise.
“Yes, we do!” Aefelthrith scowled at her.
“Yes, yes, of course. You need time to think” Clarence nodded, “why not sleep on it? Speaking of which, I thought Dolly and I and the baby might bed down in the carriage overnight?”
“Yeah, that makes sense” Gwladys nodded, “Ethel an’ me can bunk underneath the carriage. We’ll need to keep watch an’ all, no telling who might be prowlin’ about in the dark”
“Obviously, I’m happy to take a turn” Clarence offered.
“Nah, yer get some sleep, yer’ve been drivin’ all day an’ yer’ll no doubt ‘ave a broken night with young ‘enry ‘ere…”
“Clarence!” Clarence interjected, automatically.
“Yeah, right” Gwladys smiled, “any road, me and Ethel will take turns. You get yerselves some kip, yer’ll need it”
Presently, the family retired for the evening and Aefelthrith and Gwladys set to work, making a shelter with some blankets for protection and some sacking for bedding.
“I hope this carriage isn’t going to roll away in the night!” Aefelthrith grumbled, as they put the finishing touches to their work.
“I’ve checked, the wheels are all chocked, it ain’t goin’ nowhere” Gwladys snapped.
“How come we’ve got to bed down under the carriage?” Aefelthrith frowned.
“Oh come on, use yer common! Yer can’t ‘ave a new-born babby sleepin’ out in the open now, can yer?”
“You get yer ‘ead down, I’ll take first watch” Gwladys suggested.
“That’s another thing! How come my L…Clarence isn’t taking a turn keeping watch?” Aefelthrith was clearly not happy.
“Would yer trust ‘im to not fall asleep?” Gwladys asked her, hands on hips, “Me, I’d rather stay up ‘alf the night an’ be sure”
Aefelthrith crawled into their shelter, muttering darkly. Gwladys propped herself up by the cart wheel and watched the flames as they flickered in the fire. It was a still night and she was enjoying the peace and quiet. A little way away, the carriage horses grazed, peacefully.
Inside the shelter, Aefelthrith tried to find the least lumpy part of the ground on which to lie, without much success. She tried hard to fall asleep but her mind was racing and her body was decidedly less than comfortable. After tossing and turning for some time, she gave up and crawled back out of the shelter to join Gwladys.
“What’s up with you?” Gwladys asked.
“Can’t sleep” Aeflethrith grunted, “I’ve got a lot on my mind”
“This business of working for them. Are you happy with it?”
“Yeah, what’s not to be ‘appy about?” Gwladys shrugged.
“I don’t know” Aeflethrith shook her head, “it’s just…I’m not sure I want to be part of someone’s household, that’s all”
“Yer don’t wanna be bossed around by Dolly, that’s what it boils down to” Gwladys chuckled.
“Well, yes, possibly” Aefelthrith conceded. “Doesn’t it bother you?”
“Look, lovey,” Gwladys began, “I’ve been in service, one way or another, all me life. The way I look at it is, I get a roof over me ‘ead, three square meals a day, an’ some money in me pocket at the end of the week. Plus, bein’ an inn, the chance of a drink or two, now and then. What’s not to like?” Gwladys shook her head, “mind you, I can see as ‘ow it might be a bit different for you”
“I can’t say I’m happy about the idea” Aeflethrith brought her knees up under her chin and scowled at the fire for a few minutes. “Erm, have you seen the horses recently?” She asked.
“Yeah, they’re just over…’ang on, where the ‘ell ‘ave they gone?” Gwladys sat up and looked around, wildly.
“I don’t think I’ve seen them for a while now” Aefelthrith admitted.
“Well why the ‘ell didn’t yer say somethin’?” Gwladys leapt to her feet, “who tethered ‘em up?”
“My L..I mean, Clarence”
“Oh, give me strength! I’ll bet ‘e’s made a cod’s of it! Come on, we’ve got to find ‘em”
“But…but…what about the carriage?” Aefelthrith asked, as she ran after Gwladys.
“That ain’t goin’ nowhere, an’ it certainly ain’t goin’ nowhere tomorrow if we don’t find them ‘orses!”
The two women plodded along the river. Searching for two black horses in the dead of night, in unfamiliar countryside, is something of an overrated pastime, as they soon discovered. Another fact they unearthed was that horses can cover a surprising amount of distance in a relatively short time. After what seemed like a couple of miles, they found their quarry munching happily by the river bank. Quietly and carefully, they managed to get hold of their reins and begin the trudge back to their camp.
“I could throttle that bloke of yourn” Gwladys muttered.
“He’s not my ‘bloke’” Aefelthrith protested.
“Well, ‘e’s not safe to be let out!” Gwladys growled, “I knew I should ‘ave checked them ‘orses were properly tied up but I just thought, ‘ow could ‘e get summat as simple as that wrong! Well, that’s shown me an’ no mistake!”
“No harm done though, eh?” Aefelthrith suggested, hopefully.
“More by luck than judgement, that’s all I’ll say” Gwladys stomped on.
They trudged on, in a bad-tempered silence, leading the reluctant horses, who kept sporadically finding interesting sections of grass to graze.
“Shouldn’t we be back at the shelter by now?” Aefelthrith asked, eventually.
“Yeah, I would’ve thought so” Gwladys frowned, “oh, ‘ang on, ain’t that our fire, what’s left of it, any road?”
They could see a glimmer in the distance.
“I hope so, I’m worn out!” Aefelthrith yawned.
“Yeah, but, if that’s the fire…” Gwladys began.
“Then, where’s the carriage?”
They stopped and stared at the space where the carriage had been. All that was there now were a few blankets and sacking, strewn hither and thither.
“Don’t tell me it’s rolled away?” Aefelthrith groaned.
“It can’t ‘ave done! I checked and checked again. Them wheels were properly chocked.” Gwladys was staring at the ground where the carriage had been, as if expecting it to magically appear. “I didn’t want to risk bein’ crushed under that lot just ‘cause ‘e ‘adn’t made ‘em safe”
“Let’s just calm down and try and approach this logically” Aefelthrith took a deep breath, “now then, we drove in off the road here, didn’t we?” She pointed to the wheel tracks leading from the road and onto the grassy bank.
“Yeah, that’s right” Gwladys nodded.
“But look here. This is where the carriage was standing. You can see the grooves made by the carriage wheels” Aefelthrith bent over and looked at the ground, carefully, “but then, there’s another set of tracks heading out across the grass and back onto the road! Do you think they’ve driven off and left us?”
“That don’t make no sense. We’ve got the ‘orses! They couldn’t go nowhere without them” Gwladys pointed out.
“None of this makes any sense!” Aefelthrith sat down by the remains of the fire and glared at it.
“Well, we can’t just stay ‘ere. We’ve got to do summat!”
“Like what?” Aefelthrith sulked.
“Well, can you ride an ‘orse?”
“Yes, I had lessons when I was small. If one is to be part of the gentry, one needs to be able to ride”
“Well, in that case, I reckon ‘one’ needs to get on the back of one of these and we’ll see if we can track down that carriage. What d’yer reckon?”
“There’s no saddle or stirrups” Aeflethrith pointed out, eyeing the horses dubiously.
“Course there ain’t, they’re carriage ‘orses ain’t they? Set up for pulling carriages. But, right now, if we’re goin’ to catch up with that carriage of ourn, these are the only things we’ve got for ridin’ on”
Aefelthrith looked at the horses and chewed her bottom lip. ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ She thought, ‘riding a horse, that is not used to being ridden, bareback, in the middle of the night, to follow a carriage that should never have moved in the first place?’
She took a deep breath.
“Alright, let’s do it!” She agreed, through gritted teeth.
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