Drewin worked his anger off by giving the feed bin a hard kick on his way by. Grabbing a pitchfork, he bent his back to the hard task of cleaning out the horse stalls while muttering under his breath. It was not the farmer he was angry with this time; but instead a man he had never seen but decided to hate—Sir Larkin.
“Why doesn’t he come for me? Doesn’t he know that it is getting more dangerous for me every day now that so many know I am here?” The boy’s angry words caused the horse to whinny loudly.
“Boy,” the farmer called quietly from behind him. “You may want to get into the ‘ayloft as quickly as you can. We ‘ave visitors.”
He dropped his pitchfork and meekly scrambled up the ladder; but his anger had grown significantly, especially when he bumped his head on the low roof and had to sit there rubbing it a moment. The sound of voices in the stalls below caused him to quickly push away a patch of hay and lay his ear against a crack in the floor.
“Does your boy hire out for work?” were the first words that drifted up to him. Why was he always the main topic of conversation especially when he didn’t want to be?
“Naw, ‘e’s a good one, but I’m not too ready to let ‘im away from this farm yet. Too much work to do ‘ere of late,” the farmer said truthfully.
“How many fields do you have sowed of wheat, neighbor?” The voices drifted away as they walked out of the barn to tour another part of the farm.
Drewin sat up quickly. He had to get away now! The farmer was doing his best to hide him from the eyes of the world, but soon prying neighbors would ask why they never saw him. If he left, the farmer could truthfully tell them that the boy had run away and there was nothing to see here. Yes, it was the best way.
He hurried to the house after making sure the visitors were in the fields and burst into the kitchen.
“Why, Drewin! Aren’t you supposed to be in the ‘ayloft?” the farmwife said turning around in surprise to look at the tall boy.
He shook his head carelessly. “I’ve made up my mind to leave this place. Since you have always been kind to me, I thought I would ask you for help. Please do not tell the farmer a word of this.”
“It is out of kindness that I remind you your father wanted you to never leave ‘is care until ‘e sent that knight,” the farmwife replied, beginning to look a little worried.
“The knight he was to send for me is not coming. It is time I started out on my own. You can help me by giving me my lunch for the field early,” Drewin said, fully convinced that his plan really was the best way.
“I cannot do that, you know full well.” She shook her head with wide eyes.
“Then I had best go without it,” he said, looking at her with an angry glint in his eyes, then left the room before she could say another word. He didn’t look behind him, but he could tell that she wasn’t following. Apparently, he had convinced her well enough that he had made up his mind.
“Do not leave his care unless I come for you or send Sir Larkin.” His father’s instructions pounded in his mind with every stealthy step he took towards the woods that would give him the best shelter. It was too late to go back now, he decided. Sir Larkin wouldn’t mind not finding him, and he could make this journey better on his own. Reaching the woods, he broke into a full out run and soon left the farm and safety far behind him.
Ryla stared at the buildings of the village, as she followed Sister Phoebe and Chasity down the narrow streets to the marketplace. Everything reminded her in many ways of the town she had grown up near, but the people were much different. Their eyes were lighter, and their hair too, than those she was accustomed to seeing. She was glad that her own hair was covered by a veil, and her eyes were not the deep brown of her brother’s. It would not do to stand out in a crowd of these northern people.
“Angelique,” Chasity spoke from beside her.
“I’m sorry. Too caught up in thinking, I guess.” She gave her friend a sheepish smile.
Chasity’s face dimpled. “Or not thinking, perhaps?”
Ryla laughed and shook her head.
The crowd thinned a little as the street widened and the marketplace stalls came into view. Sister Phoebe led the way up to the first one, and began to look over the contents of the bins with a critical eye. They would trade the things they could make for those they could not, and the girls’ baskets would soon be full with other things than the ones they carried.
Ryla looked absently around the market square as she waited for Sister Phoebe to make her final decisions. Another row of stalls faced this one, and many people crowded around them blocking her complete view of them. Suddenly, the crowd shifted, and she caught a glimpse of someone she thought she recognized.
He also was looking at the crowd, but not at her she realized with relief. Was he one of her father’s young knights sent to care for Drewin? Maybe her brother was closer than she had originally thought. She couldn’t remember where she had seen this man or whether he was someone to be feared or not.
She was glad that her clothes and status were so altered. He hadn’t recognized her, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Sister Phoebe moved to the next stall, and she patiently followed Chasity once more.
“This is the boring part of the day first, and then we get our reward,” Chasity whispered, almost into her veil.
“How many children does John’s family have?” Ryla whispered back, letting her eyes flick over to where the young knight had stood. He was gone.
“Four, all a good bit younger than us, but pleasant just the same.”
Ryla nodded. It would be good to see children, little or not.
Sister Phoebe took her time in choosing their purchases; but when she was finished, she walked so swiftly towards her intended’s house that it was all the girls could do to make a path through the crowd after her. Ryla tried to glance about at the people and buildings around her as she had done before, but she forgot to look where she was going and walked into someone.
“I’m very sorry,” she said, gathering up the goods that had spilled from her basket.
The villager grunted and moved on.
Chasity stooped to help and took the chance to whisper, “Are you all right, Angelique?”
“I’m finding that I’m just a little nervous in public,” Ryla said with burning cheeks.
“Just trust God. Trust the mother.”
Ryla nodded and breathed a prayer. She would be very glad when they had escaped the jostling crowd and met the children. Moments later, both she and Chasity found themselves telling story after story to the little children. It would be all right.
Copyright 2015 Kate Willis
What do you think of Drewin now? What about the farmer’s accent? Too much, too little, or just perfect? Would you be nervous if you were Ryla? Let me know in the comments!
And thank you all for your questions, encouragement, and suggestions so far!