One Who Will Constant Be - Episode 18
The carriage trundled on. Inside, Dolly stared moodily out of the window at the passing scenery. Aefelthrith, who seemed to have had the care of the baby foisted on her, was watching her charge, warily.
“Would you like to nurse the baby for a bit?” She asked Dolly, hopefully.
Dolly continued to stare outside.
“Dolly!” Aefelthrith prompted.
“What?” Dolly snapped back into the present.
“I said, would you like to nurse the baby for a bit?”
“Who?” She looked confused for a moment, “Oh, no, you’re alright, ta!”
Dolly went back to her inspection of the scenery.
“Have you decided on a name for him yet?” Aefelthrith decided she might as well appear to show some interest.
“Hmmm?” Dolly pulled herself back from her musing, reluctantly, “what, the baby?”
“Well, yes!” Aefelthrith scowled.
“Er, no, not yet.” Dolly shook her head, “he wants him named after himself” She nodded in the direction of the ‘Parson’ driving.
“Oh, well I suppose that is quite traditional” Aefelthrith conceded, “what name would that be then?”
“Don’t you know? I thought you and her knew him of old?”
“I…I don’t know his name” Aefelthrith admitted, with a slight blush.
“Don’t yer?” Dolly’s eyebrows shot up, “well, it’s Clarence. Fancy calling a kid ‘Clarence’!” She said, contemptuously, “I quite like the sound of Henry, got a bit of class to it has ‘Henry’, what do you reckon?”
“I couldn’t say” Aefelthrith eyed the sleeping infant in an effort to see if he was a likely Clarence or Henry.
“How do you come to know him, anyroad?”
“Who?” Aefelthrith asked, innocently.
“My bloke. Clarence. How do you come to know him?” Dolly fixed Aefelthrith with a piercing glare.
“I think it would be better if you asked him that question” Aefelthrith demurred.
“Right, I’ll do that then!” Dolly snapped, “Oi, Clarence, pull up, I’m swapping with Glad out there!” She shouted out of the window.
The carriage came to a halt and Dolly clambered out.
“What about the baby?” Aefelthrith pleaded, unsuccessfully.
The carriage bounced about a bit as the personnel moved around. Eventually, the door opened and Gwladys climbed in.
“What’s got ‘er knickers in a tangle then?” She asked.
“She was asking me how I knew the ‘Parson’. I said she should ask him” Aefelthrith explained, with a blush.
“Oh right. That makes sense. I reckon ‘e’s got some explainin’ to do, there” Gwladys chuckled.
The baby decided to wake up and start crying. Aefelthrith held it at arm’s length and regarded it, dubiously.
“I really don’t see why anyone would want one of these” She said, frowning, “it seems to me that it’s just non-stop crying and sleeping. When they are awake, it’s just a mess from either end, or both!”
“Give it ‘ere” Gwladys shook her head, “yer look like yer expectin’ it to explode any minute!”
Aefelthrith gladly handed over her charge, who settled contentedly in Gwladys’s arms.
“I don’t think it likes me” Aefelthrith sniffed.
“It’s a babby! They don’t ‘ave likes and dislikes. They just want to be fed, watered, cleaned and left to sleep”
“Humph!” Aefelthrith stared at the infant, suspiciously, “well, it sort of glares at me”
“It doesn’t, it’s just a babby. Half the time they ain’t got any idea what they’re lookin’ at” Gwladys stroked the child’s chin, “ave yer, sweetie?”
“If you say so. The light’s beginning to fade” Aefelthrith observed, changing the subject.
“Yeah, we’ve been on the road a few hours, now” Gwladys nodded.
“Do you know where we’re going?”
“Not a clue, an’ I don’t reckon ‘e ‘as either” Gwladys replied, “mind you, as long as it’s as far away from the Watch as we can be, I don’t really care”
Shortly afterward, the carriage pulled to a halt. They were beside a stream, with a wide, grassy bank. The ‘Parson’, aka Clarence, jumped down and came to the window.
“It’s getting dark” He explained, “it will soon be unsafe to travel. Also, the horses need to rest and graze, so I thought this was as good a spot as any. We’ve got fresh water to hand, which is the main thing”
“Right, we’d best get a fire goin’” Gwladys observed, “I’ll go an’ get some wood”
“I’ll come with you. It’s not safe for a woman to be out alone in the wild” Clarence volunteered, chivalrously.
“I can fend for meself, ta” Gwladys drew her length of wood from her skirts.
“I’m sure you can” Clarence nodded, “but I’d feel happier if we went together”
Clarence and Gwladys set out for the trees beyond. Dolly jumped down from the carriage and came around to Aefelthrith.
“He’s told me everything” She said, “I didn’t know you and him were…”
“Betrothed?” Aefelthrith suggested.
“Well, yeah!” Dolly nodded, “If I’d known…”
“There was nothing to know. It was all a long time ago” Aefelthrith said, quietly.
“Yeah, but he should have said! I’ve told him, it wasn’t right to just dump you like that”
“Well, he didn’t. Not really” Aefelthrith looked down at the sleeping baby in her arms, “he thought that I was dead…and I thought he was. No-one’s to blame”
“Well, I’m sorry, any road” Dolly reached for her son and heir. “Eh, but what about him being from the nobility, eh? That’s a turn up, innit? Means he’ll have a title, I reckon” She nodded toward her son.
“Erm, possibly” Aeflethrith agreed, “unfortunately, a title is about all he will have” She added, quietly.
Gwladys and Clarence reappeared, carrying armfuls of sticks and branches. Clarence was limping and leaning heavily on Gwladys.
“Oh gawd! What happened?” Dolly ran over to him.
“’An owl flew past ‘im, ‘e jumped an’ stepped in a rabbit ‘ole, twisted ‘is ankle” Gwladys explained, “an’ ‘e reckons I’m the one not safe to be out in the dark!”
“I’m fine. It’s just a little discomfort” Clarence winced.
“I was just sayin’ to Ethel here, I didn’t know he was a nob!” Dolly announced, nodding toward the stricken Clarence.
“Oh, I reckon we’ve always ‘ad that idea” Gwladys winked at Aefelthrith, who grinned.
Once the fire was lit, Clarence dragged a hamper down from the rear of the carriage and produced a good selection of rather high-class food items.
“This is a bit of alright” Gwladys said, approvingly, tucking in to some cold roast pheasant.
“It is as I’ve said before,” Clarence explained, “no-one expects you, as a gentleman, to pay for anything at the time of purchase. All you need to be, is as far away as possible when the bill arrives!” He grinned.
“I’m not sure that is a particularly seemly manner in which to make one’s way in life” Aefelthrith sniffed.
“Nah, you’re right Ethel, it ain’t the way to be” Dolly nodded her agreement, “and I don’t want my son, Henry…”
“Clarence!” Clarence interjected.
“Henry!” Dolly said, firmly, “I don’t want him growing up thinking this is how you should go on. It’s been a bit of a lark, these past few months, and no mistake, but you can’t carry on like that forever. I want him to have a proper upbringing”
“To that end, Dolly and I have been having a discussion, both about the past…”
“Yeah, we’ve made our peace about that” Dolly smiled at Aefelthrith.
“…and the future.”
“What yer got in mind, then?” Gwladys asked, between mouthfuls of pheasant.
“Well, as you know, Dolly’s parents have an inn. It is exceptionally well positioned, on a busy crossroads, but it could be a lot more than it is” Clarence began.
“He’s got big plans for it. Wants to build some stabling, do some livery, perhaps build on some extra rooms” Dolly explained.
“What would your parents think about that?” Aefelthrith asked.
“Dolly’s parents are not as young as they were” Clarence butted in, “they would not want the bother of making all of these changes. That’s why we’re proposing that we should take over the running of the business”
“Really?” Aefelthrith looked dubious.
“We’re going to have to go an see them anyroad, ‘cause they’ll want to see young Henry here” Dolly beamed at her son.
“Clarence” muttered Clarence.
“So, he’s going to put it to them, then” Dolly continued, ignoring him.
“Actually, we’re only about half a day’s ride from their inn, from here. If you have no objection, we thought we would head there tomorrow” Clarence suggested, enthusiastically.
“No skin off our nose” Gwladys observed, still chewing happily.
“There’s summat else, an’ all” Dolly added, and looked pointedly at Clarence.
“Oh yes” Clarence nodded, “you see, if our plans do come to fruition, then we’ll need some staff. Dolly and I would be fully occupied running the inn and arranging for the extra work to be carried out. We thought, at the very least, we would need a maid and a nanny…”
“And we wondered if you fancied it?” Dolly grinned.
To get up to speed with the story so far, you'll need all of the other episodes, which you'll find in: