A new development.
Following from the last section
A new chapter. Elizabeth disappears after she and Lucy found a disturbing monument in a field.
When they returned, half an hour later, Elizabeth was gone.
“She was here,” Lucy said. “Sitting there, you can see where the grass is crushed on the verge.”
Her father, Dr Grace nodded. “She may have felt better and walked home.”
“She wouldn’t. She doesn’t know the way.”
“She isn’t here Lucy, and we didn’t pass her. So either she’s vanished or she walked home.”
“I suppose you’re right, but I’m surprised. She was exhausted, had to sit. I don’t think she could make it by herself.”
Seeing his daughter’s distress he said, “We’ll look for her,” and shook the reins. Their horse walked on. He stopped at the next stile.
“Is this where that,” he paused waiting for the right words to come to mind, “abominable thing is.”
“Yes. It was awful. I think we were both scared.”
He noted the location and said, “It’s not going anywhere. Best to keep going. We might find your friend before she is lost or in other trouble.”
Elizabeth, indeed, was in trouble. She had watched Lucy run down the lane, and then examined the lacy cow-parsnip flowers among the weeds that grew on the side of the path. White, fragile, delicate, and yet robust; a weed to be reckoned with. A slithering noise in the tree above her, followed by a loud crash, and a shouted expletive interrupted her meditations. Curious, but too tired to jump up, she rose and followed the noise to the other side of the road. There, across the hedge, lay an injured young man. He wore the shredded remains of a uniform, although not the dashing red coat her cousin wore on parade, nor the khaki field clothes he wore off-duty when her family visited.
“Are you well?”
The man said something unintelligible so she repeated herself. “I said, are you well?”
“What does it look like?” The young man paused, then collected himself, “I’m sorry, yes I’m hurt. Can you help me? I’ll need to see a doctor.”
“My uncle is a doctor. Dr Standfast.”
The man looked away for a second, as if recalling a distant memory. Then he said, “Yes, that’s the doctor I want to see. Dr Sylvester Standfast?”
“That’s him. I’m staying there, with him at his farm.”
“Excellent, then you can introduce me.”
“I can? But I don’t know you.”
“I’m sorry, let me introduce myself. Henry, Henry Sharpless.”
“Miss Elizabeth James. I don’t recognize your uniform. Where are you from?”
“It’s a long story, maybe I can tell it to you on the way to your uncle.”
“You want my help?”
“It would be nice.”
“Let me find a stile or a gate and I’ll be there.”
A few minutes later she stood next to him, having found a gate to the field. She could now see the young man clearly. Whatever had shredded his uniform had also left him singed and scraped his face and hands. The grime and blood it left on him concealed his reasonably handsome appearance. He was sitting up in the field and dusting off the remains of charred fabric. Ash from the fabric coloured his light brown hair and left him with a prematurely ancient look. Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief; his sitting up was a marked improvement over lying flat on his back. She said, “Can you stand up, walk? Or do I need to find help?”
“I don’t think anything is broken, but.” He struggled to rise, then stopped. “It’s my ankle, I’ve done for it.”
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