“Ho, boy! ‘ere’s anuther.” These unwelcome words summoned him to the bottom of the ladder where the farmer handed him another heavy sheepskin. “Place i’ wi’ the others.”
He nodded grimly and hurried up the ladder. The smell of fresh soap and lanolin still lingered in the fluffy mantle, but he took no time to notice this. If he wanted to have any time of rest after supper, he would have to more than keep up with the sheepshearers.
The day was hot, and the sweat of exertion caused his hair to cling to his forehead. Pushing it aside and pausing to take a breath, he was maddened to hear the farmer calling, “Boy!”
“I’m just pausing for a breath,” he mumbled in a surly tone as he strolled over to the ladder. Conscience pricked him by calling to mind the words of his father “Trust the farmer and follow his words to the letter. You must never leave his care unless I come for you or send Sir Larkin.” He hurried down the ladder.
“’Tis the last one, Boy. You’ve dun a good work,” the farmer said, giving him a rare approving nod.
The farmer was not so bad, the boy decided as he hurried to wash up for dinner. He would try to remember not to grumble at the hard work. The farmer and his family had taken him in, and his own father had told him to trust them.
“Ho, Drewin. You must ‘urry if you want to ‘ave some supper ‘fore it gets cold,” the farmer’s wife said. “Your father warned us not to let you get too spindly.” She had a twinkle in her eyes when she said this, for they all knew he was a sturdy boy and ate like a horse.
“Thank you, kindly, Good Mother,” he said, smiling up at her. He chided himself for letting laziness and pride get in his way of this adventure.
The kitchen was warm with the heat of the day and the fireplace where the farmwife had cooked the evening meal, but a cool breeze often blew through the half open door. The sheep dog lay on a mat near its opening, sleeping peacefully after his hard day of work.
Drewin followed the farmer to the table; and they sat down on the rough benches waiting expectantly for the farmwife to serve out the lamb stew. Two fair haired children who very near in age to each other sat on the bench opposite of him. All throughout the meal they could hardly tear their large blue eyes from his face.
“What, have they never seen a person eat?” he finally asked the farmer, smiling around his piece of bread.
The farmer laughed in his hearty roar and shook his head. “Not the way you do.”
Drewin had to chuckle at this. A rest from his work and a good dinner did help to brighten one’s outlook. The dog whined and sat up on his haunches, causing the farmer to glance out the door.
“Visitor,” he mumbled and stumbled towards the door, stepping carefully over the dog that then followed him outside.
Drewin stiffened and half rose. He had thought that no one ever visited these parts. The farmwife laid a gentle, but firm hand on his arm. “Boy, you must be calm.”
Yes, he must be or the visitor would recognize that something was up. He forced himself to eat the moist, thick bread that tasted as dry to him as gravel. A few moments later, the farmer returned and sat down quietly at his place again. All eyes were fixed on him in that moment, even the round blue ones that had seemed forever fixed on Drewin.
“Well?” the farmwife said anxiously. Drewin had not known that she was capable of anything but cheerfulness.
“Well, ‘e were rich for sure and were asking a li’l about the place. Wanted ta know iffn it was fer sell. I told ‘im my same answer—it were Father’s, and I’ll never sale. I told ‘im it would be fer my l’il boy when ‘e were grown,” the farmer began. His accent always seemed to thicken when he was excited.
His wife’s eyes sparkled with pride.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “’e then asked, ses ‘e, ‘what about the one that is already grown?’ I ‘ad to come with an answer right then and there seeing ‘e ‘ad those sort of eyes that see right through a man. I told ‘im, ses I, ‘’e’s not my own really, but the son of my brother. Stayin’ ‘ere for the season. Well, that put ‘im to quiet real quick, and ‘e left soon after. What I can’t ‘elp but wonder at is ‘ow ‘e knew you was even ‘ere, boy.”
These last words were addressed to Drewin who he shook his head nervously.
“Whate’er that means, I woudn’t be surprise iffn’ we saw that Sir Larkin arrive sooner than later,” the farmer said, comfortably pushing the matter aside.
It stayed in Drewin’s mind the rest of the day and into the night as he lay on his bed in the hayloft. The moonlight filtered in through a few large cracks in the ceiling, making shadows on the floor around him. An uneasy feeling ruled in his mind that he could not seem to push away.
“What do I have to fear?” he chided himself. “If there is any real trouble, I’m sure Sir Larkin will come.”
Rolling over in his bed of hay and pulling the blanket tighter around him, he yawned, “How could they find me here?”
Copyright 2015 Kate Willis
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