Dartmoor story XIV #amwriting #WIP

Adapting to Life on the Farm.

The start of the story can be found here.

Following from the last section
where Dr Standfast is listening to the music of the spheres. A new chapter where Elizabeth finds and cannot get into Dr Standfast’s laboratory. She’s just discovered a kitten in the barn, and that she’ll need to give him a better name than ‘Mimi.’



Elizabeth blushed, “I see. I shall need another name.”
“I don’t know, Miss, that cat’s know their names. Mimi, or ‘cat!’ are the same.”
“I think he’d appreciate a noble name.”
“Call him what you want, Miss James. I must get about my work. Henry! Get thee here.”

After breakfast the next day, Elizabeth helped clear up and went to feed the chickens. It was still a novel experience. Then, her chores complete, she went exploring. The kittens beckoned once more, and she played with the friendly orange and white one. “I shall need to name you. Mimi simply will not do.”

Elizabeth put the kitten who wasn’t Mimi down and continued her explorations. The same doors were locked as yesterday. She rattled the locks and knocked on the doors, but there was still no answer from inside. She shrugged, Uncle Sylvester must be out, and she’d ask him about the barns again at supper.

Or maybe not. The barns formed three sides of a large nearly square stone building. There were windows in the stable to the outside. Elizabeth walked outside of the building and started surveying the walls. Henry stared out, looking hot, tired, and exhausted, from a window on one wall. She waved at him, silently thanking him for confirming that the wall was the other side of the stables. She turned the corner to the next wall and looked up. There, high on the wall was a small window. Further down the wall, there was another window, equally high. Beyond that sat the wall and hedge that divided the field and barn from the lane to North Bovey. More importantly there was a tree. A tree that she could climb, if she were careful.

Elizabeth clambered up the tree, bracing herself between the wall and the tree. Then she peered into the small window. Down below, her uncle worked. He was doing something with a long tube, a tube with fins. She watched as he took a pot of some dark almost black molten material and carefully poured it into the tube. After a few moments he put the tube carefully in a rack, sitting upright while it cooled. Then he put the pot back onto a warming tray and picked up another tube. He was about to pour more of the material into that tube when George knocked on the outer door. “Sylvester, you have a visitor. That nosey Mrs Grace, and her daughter.”

“Dash it all, I’m at a critical juncture … I’ll just be a few moments. Stall her.”

“I will.”

“And find Elizabeth. I’m sure she’d like to talk with Miss Grace. Keep her out of trouble.”

“Who, Miss Grace or Elizabeth?”

“Elizabeth. Who else?”

He carefully, with the most delicate of care, poured the mixture into that tube. Then he set the tube in the rack. “That’ll do.”

He wiped his hands with a rag and started for the door.

It was just as well that the walls were thick. He didn’t hear the scuffling noise as Elizabeth descended, much too rapidly, from the tree. She stopped at the bottom and did her best to rapidly smooth and clean her dress. I hope Uncle Sylvester didn’t notice me.

“Elizabeth!’ It was her uncle, “Your friend Miss Grace is here.”

The wall and hedge in front of her blocked the short way around the back of the barn, so Elizabeth came the long way round.

Sylvester inspected her and clicked his tongue when she emerged, “There you are. What have you been up to?”

“Exploring.”

“I can see that. Exploring the hedges by the look of you. Find anything worthwhile?”

“Birds’ nests. A lot of rubbish.”

“Sounds interesting. Miss Grace is here and since she’s in her visiting clothes, I suggest you give the exploring a miss for the time being.”

Lucy watched this exchange with a half-smile on her face, “Dr Standfast, I could take Elizabeth for a walk down the lanes without putting my dress in harm’s way.”

“If you say so, but don’t overtire Miss James.”

“I won’t. Miss James, shall we?” Lucy nodded towards the lane.

“My pleasure,” Laughing, Elizabeth gave her friend an exaggerated curtsey.

A few minutes later as they were strolling towards the valley that led to Manaton, Lucy stopped.

“Elizabeth, I-I have a favour to ask of you.”

“You do?”

“Will you keep it quiet, even if you won’t grant it to me?”

“I’ll do my best. Is it about your Edward?”

Lucy blushed, “Yes.”

“You’d like me to post letters?”

Lucy nodded, it was a big favour to ask and one that could get Elizabeth in trouble. Assisting in a clandestine communication.

“I’d love to.”

“Oh, good.” Lucy breathed a huge gasp of relief. “Could you send this one?” She pulled a small missive from her dress.

Elizabeth took it. “It’s warm.”

“It’s been next to my heart, please don’t read it.”

“I won’t.” Then Elizabeth put it carefully into her pocket. “Anyway if it’s like other love letters, it’s full of mushy sentiment. Not something I’m all that keen on.”

“Until it’s your time to fall in love.”

Elizabeth laughed, “That will never happen.”

That evening, after they returned, and in the interval between shooing the chickens back into their coop and supper, Elizabeth wandered to the back of the barn. The tree she climbed had been cut down.

 

 


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Dartmoor story XIII #amwriting #WIP

Adapting to Life on the Farm.

The start of the story can be found here.

Following from the last section
where Dr Standfast is listening to the music of the spheres. A new chapter where Elizabeth finds and cannot get into Dr Standfast’s laboratory.


It was Elizabeth’s turn to smile at her friend. “When I’m stronger, why don’t we arrange for an expedition to see the works? Just the pair of us, I have this deep desire to explore the ancient monuments. You have kindly offered to show me the nearest ones.”
“Deep desire?”
“New found, but intense. Though I think your parents don’t need to hear how new found it is.”

Morning the next day found Elizabeth at loose ends. Lucy had warned her before leaving the day before that she would be visiting households in the parish with her mother, an inescapable consequence of being a vicar’s daughter. Since her health precluded going with her friend, Elizabeth was left to wander around Barnecourt. The house, its gardens, and even the chickens paled. They could not hold a candle to the breeze of life in London. Not quite, completely, Elizabeth played with the barn kittens under the watchful but ever suspicious eyes of their mothers.
Mary interrupted her play, “Dinner is ready Miss. Wash yourself first.” Then she went in search of her husband and Dr Standfast.
With Elizabeth, her uncle Sylvester, and Mrs Trent seated around the table, Mr George Trent began his grace, “Let us pray, for what we are about to receive.” After what seemed forever to Elizabeth, since the country air and her recovering health had given her a serious appetite, he finally said, “Amen.”
Elizabeth started in on a plate filled with a Yorkshire pudding, gravy, roast potatoes and a slice from the joint. Then, fork in mid-air with her first bite, she asked, “What about Mr Sharpless?”
“That useless lump?” George said, “Set him to cleaning tack, polishing the brass on the saddles then cleaning the leather. What a mess. Should ha’ done it myself.”
“That’s not fair, George,” Sylvester said, “Once you showed him what to do, he did a sterling job.”
“When he wasn’t scared by the cows, or,” he laughed, “should have seen him jump when that cat rubbed against his ankle.”
“Would it be rude of me to take him a plate?” Elizabeth asked, “He seemed nice enough, poor lad.”
Sylvester said, “Your concern does you well, niece, but he has plenty to eat. So you needn’t worry.”
“Still to eat alone.”
George smirked, “The animals will do for company. Let him get used to them.”
Elizabeth was not convinced, but her dinner was waiting. It smelled excellent, was getting cold and she was starving.
After watching her clean her plate, and then ask for seconds, Sylvester commented, “It looks like the fresh air agrees with you, Elizabeth.”
“Either that or Mrs Trent’s cooking.”
After they finished the meal, and Elizabeth helped, over Mrs Trent’s objections, with clearing the dishes, Elizabeth skipped out to the barn. One of the kittens, an orange and white one she had played with in the morning mewed at her. She picked it up, and it purred while she stroked it, “I wonder if you have a name. You’re certainly friendly.”
The kitten continued to purr, so she said, “I guess you don’t. I shall call you Mimi.”
The kitten didn’t object so she carried it into the barn in search of the unfortunate Mr Sharpless. She found him sitting in the back, completely exhausted from shovelling the stalls. He rose and touched his forehead in a salute, “Miss James.”
“I wondered how you were. How is that ankle?”
“Still hurts, but this brace.” He held up his foot to show a metal brace that ran from his calf to a hinge and then along, around and below his foot. “This brace that your uncle made allows me to move around.”
“I can see. You’ve been busy.”
“Not busy enough for Mr Trent. I should be shovelling and raking these stalls. Would you believe they were cleaned last week? Who would have thought horses could emit so much so quickly.”
“They are big animals. It ought to be better than elephants.”
“Elephants?” Henry paused, momentarily puzzled, “Oh elephants, yes, they are smaller and easier than them.”
Elizabeth hesitated, then she said, “Would you like to stroke my kitten? I’m going to call her Mimi.”
Henry nodded and she handed Mimi to him. Mimi still purred, even in this stranger’s hands. “One thing, Miss James. I think he’s a Tom.”
“Oh dear. I shall need another name.”
“I might be wrong, ask Mr Trent.”
“Ask Mr Trent what, you skulking devil. Get tha’ back to cleaning the stalls, and don’t talk to the quality.”
Henry handed the kitten back to Elizabeth and picked up his shovel. “Sir.” Then he started in on shovelling out the next stall.
“Good. Now Miss James, what can I do for you?”
“I was just showing a kitten I liked to Mr Sharpless. That and seeing how he is recovering from his injuries.”
“Gormless lad, leave him to me, Miss James. Which kitten?”
“That orange and white one.” She pointed. “I’m calling her Mimi.”
“That little Tom?”
“How can you tell?”
“Don’t you know about that?” There was an edge of panic in his voice. Mr Trent did not look forward to explaining mammalian biology to a young woman, “I can get Mrs Trent to explain.”

Henry chuckled in the background. Mr Trent snapped at him, “Get thee back to work, tha’ lazy lump.”
“I know what you’re hinting at. I may come from the city, but I’m not daft. Just how can you tell with a kitten, so easily?”
Mr Trent gave a sigh of relief, “Look how he holds his tail. Struts about like he owns the place, and if you look closely.”
Elizabeth blushed, “I see. I shall need another name.”
“I don’t know, Miss, that cat’s know their names. Mimi, or ‘cat!’ are the same.”
“I think he’d appreciate a noble name.”
“Call him what you want, Miss James. I must get about my work. Henry! Get thee here.”

The Story continues here.


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Dartmoor story XII #amwriting #WIP

A new development.

The start of the story can be found here.

Following from the last section
A strange man falls into Elizabeth’s life. This continues the chapter, with Dr Standfast up to something odd.


“I don’t. The last book I read was ‘Three men in a boat.” I doubt ‘Uncle Podger’ could give rise to dreams about much other than fat men running for the train or else smashing walls when hanging a picture. I did like Montemercy, could we have a dog?”
“Then Miss Grace.”
“She is a romantic soul, read me a poem by the river. It was lovely, and I’ll have to read some poetry myself.”
“Just don’t let your imagination get carried away, and no Fox-Terriers, at least not until you’re truly recovered.” He looked at the clock, “My, is that the time? An experiment awaits. On my way out I’ll see that Mary brings your supper.”

Elizabeth awoke with a start, it was the middle of the night. She turned over and tried to get some more sleep, but Morpheus while so plentiful with his gifts in the evening, had fled for greener pastures. There was no cure for it, but to rise and find something to read. She put her feet on the cold wooden floor and walked to the window. The moon was setting, but still gave enough light that she could see into the fields, just beyond the farmyard. Something strange, something strange and big, was moving out there. Something that required investigation.
She slipped into a robe and found her way downstairs. A pile of Wellington boots lay by the kitchen door and she found one pair that fit, more or less. Then she wandered outside to see what the thing was.
Once there she saw it. “Good gracious,” she cried, “this looks like nothing more than an enormous upside-down umbrella. Whatever is it?”
She jumped when her Uncle Sylvester answered, “It’s my ear.”
“Your ear? I didn’t know you were so hard of hearing. It’s enormous.”
“Let me explain, it’s for listening to the music of the spheres.”
“The music of the spheres?”
“I don’t know what else to call it. Here.” He led her underneath and put a telephone headpiece to her ear. “Listen.”
“All I hear is pops and crackling.”
“Quiet!” He turned the umbrella and as he did a low throbbing noise filled the headpiece. “Hear that?”
“I do. What is it?”
“That’s Jupiter.”
Suddenly the noise cut out. “What happened?”
“The whisker must have moved.”
“Whisker?”
“I have a small crystal of Galena and a fine wire barely scratching the surface. Following Hertz’s work. It detects waves in the ether. It only works at night, our sun is far too noisy. Very delicate and has to be just right.”
“Oh. Like me?”
“No. My dear niece, you’re tough. Still, I shall have to bring the detector down to fix it. If you’d like you can help me.”
Together they slowly lowered the device, folding it back up so that Sylvester could reach the detector. “It’s the dew, wetting it. I’m afraid we’re done listening for tonight.”
He stepped back and stared into the sky. The sun hadn’t yet risen, but the moon had finally set. The Milky Way, thousands of stars, shown brightly above them.
“Take a look Elizabeth. Isn’t it beautiful, breath-taking?”
“I’ve never seen it so bright.”
“Can’t see this through the fog and lights in London, can you?”
“No, and yes it is beautiful. Do you know the stars?”
“Many of them, especially the closer ones.”
Uncle Sylvester started to point out the summer constellations and give the stars their names when something slid across the sky. It didn’t blaze like a shooting star, but slowly glided across the sky above them, taking several minutes to cross from horizon to horizon.
“What’s that Uncle?”
“Trouble.” He stared at the sky for a few more moments and then added, “Now young lady, it’s time for you to get back into your bed.”
****
Elizabeth woke late the next morning. She rushed to the window, but no trace of the inverted umbrella was to be seen in the field. Was it a dream? Then she looked at the grass and saw that it was bent, compressed. There were tracks in the dew. She hadn’t dreamed it after all.
After throwing on a house-dress, taking her gazunder to the outhouse, and rinsing it clean under the pump, she was on her way in when she met Mary.
“You needn’t do that Miss.”
“I did it at home, and you’re busy enough, Mrs Trent.”
Mary took it from her and said, “Yes, Miss. There’s porridge on the stove and the tea, under the cosy, should still be warm. Get your breakfast.”
“Yes, Mrs Trent.” Elizabeth turned to enter the kitchen, then she stopped and added, “Mrs Trent, does my Uncle often scan the skies?”
“You saw him?”
“Last night.”
“He used to, near every night, but hasn’t for a long while. Think that Mr Sharpless’s arrival has started him up again.”
“How is he?”
“Mr Sharpless. Ah, Mr Trent says he’ll live. Don’t know that he’ll be much good. Soft hands, never done a day’s hard work in his life.”
“He said he’d shovelled up after the elephants in the circus.”
“Believe that and I have another for you. George said he was scared of the milk cows.”
“But they’re so sweet, almost pets. Mrs Trent, is there anything I can do to help you or Mr Trent around the farm? I’m not sure I’d be that skilful, but I’d like to.”
Mary smiled at her, “After you eat your breakfast, you can help me with the chickens, unless you want to help Mr Trent clean the stables.”
“Chickens.”
“I didn’t think you’d want to shovel out the stalls.” Mary chuckled.
“No, but I would like to learn more about the animals. Mother always had to stop me from petting the cart horses back home.”
“When you’re stronger. Remember what Dr Standfast said. You need to build up your strength. I’m sure it will come in time, but you’re not to exhaust yourself today. Now go get your tea before it’s cold.”
“Yes, Mrs Trent.”
After she finished a bowl of delicious and nourishing porridge, oats cooked with milk and sugar until they stuck to the spoon, the bowl, and her ribs, Mary escorted her to the chicken coop. There she was initiated in the ways of telling which hens were sitting on eggs, how much feed to scatter for them, and where to fill the water. After they let the chickens into their yard, Mary added, “We’ll need to lock them away this evening. Mr Hobbes said he’d seen a fox after meeting yesterday.”
This exciting task complete, Mary said, “Miss James, I must be about my work. Laundry day. The boiler should be hot by now.” Then she left Elizabeth in the farmyard.
Elizabeth watched her go, then turned and went into the barn. Or tried to. The closest barn was locked, locked with a Bramah lock, and short of cutting the bolt there was little she could do to open it. She thought, I suppose Uncle has his reasons, and moved on to the next section of the building. When this was locked as well, she hammered on the door.
“What is the matter?” Sylvester said from behind her.
Elizabeth jumped, “Why are the barns locked?”
“To keep the curious out and the contents safe. Miss Grace will be here shortly and you should change from that dowdy house-dress. Don’t want her to think you’re still ill, do you?”
“Lucy, here?”
“She said yesterday, she’d bring you something to read about mid-day, and I hear someone singing as they walk on the road from North Bovey. It doesn’t sound like George or one of the hands.”
Elizabeth, forgot about the barn, for the moment, and ran to the house to get changed into suitable clothes for entertaining her guest.
It was, indeed, Lucy and she brought several volumes of her favourite poetry with her. Mindful of Dr Standfast’s instructions to Elizabeth, they sat together in the front parlour, with tea and scones, having a quiet afternoon while they read together. They took turns reading aloud verses that they liked.
It was after Lucy finished one stanza that Elizabeth said, “Lucy, who’s Edward?”
“Edward! What, how?’
“There’s a letter tucked in this volume, from him.”
“You didn’t read it, did you?”
“Just the name.”
“Give it to me. Please.”
Elizabeth handed the letter to Lucy, who touched it to her lips and then tucked it into the volume she was reading.
“I guess he’s someone special. Your parents don’t approve?”
“No.” Lucy took a deep breath and explained, “We met when I was at school, and then at dances. He’s Reverend Baring-Gould’s oldest son. Promise me you won’t say anything.”
“I won’t. It’s exciting, you having a beau. I wish I did.”
Lucy blushed, “I’m sure you’ll find someone soon enough. I so wish my parents liked him.”
“Sounds as if he’s perfectly respectable, another clergyman’s child. What’s the problem?”
“My father thinks his father is too imaginative, spends too much time writing books.”
“I didn’t know that you could be too imaginative or write too many books.”
“I think they had a falling out over the Dartmoor Exploration Company.”
“What’s that? Wait, I remember, Uncle said that he’d built that pentacle for them. A Druidical monument.”
“Is that what he told you?”
“Yes, what did he tell your father?”
“That it was none of our business what was buried there. That and not to worry, it wasn’t devil worship.”
“But this Dartmoor Exploration Company. It is real?”
Lucy laughed, “Very much so. They’re excavating Neolithic and historical sites all over the moors. Edward is directing the excavations at Grimspound while he’s home from Cambridge.”
“Is that far away?”
“A couple miles, not far.”
It was Elizabeth’s turn to smile at her friend. “When I’m stronger, why don’t we arrange for an expedition to see the works? Just the pair of us, I have this deep desire to explore the ancient monuments. You have kindly offered to show me the nearest ones.”
“Deep desire?”
“New found, but intense. Though I think your parents don’t need to hear how new found it is.”


The next installment.

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Dartmoor story XI #amwriting #WIP

A new development.

The start of the story can be found here.

Following from the last section
A strange man falls into Elizabeth’s life.


“I don’t think anything is broken, but.” He struggled to rise, then stopped. “It’s my ankle, I’ve done for it.”

Elizabeth thought for a moment; it wasn’t too far to the gate and Lucy should be back with her father. “Let me help you to the road.”

Henry thought for a moment, and said, “Yes, that’s best. Please.” He looked up in the tree above, and Elizabeth followed his glance. There was a thin shinny tissue of fabric hanging from it, with straps dangling below. “Can’t leave that here, like that.” When he pressed a button on his belt, the material dissolved into the tiny threads of a spider web and then drifted off in the wind.

“What was that?”

“Oh, my descent chute. I drifted into the trees on the way down.” He intently studied her face, and to be honest, she intently studied his. Despite the dirt and grime, she liked what she saw in this young man. He smiled at her, evidently he liked what he saw as well. “That didn’t make any sense to you, did it?”

“No.”

“I’ll explain later, when I’m better. After I’ve seen Dr Standfast.”

“If you want my help, you can tell me now.”

Henry smiled at her, and said nothing.

“That’s not an answer, and my friends will be here shortly. Take you to the magistrate and see what he says.”

“I was attempting a balloon crossing of the ocean. Not the best of ideas, in retrospect. At least I had a parachute, Garnerin’s idea. Drifted into that tree on the way down and well, here I am.”

“Across the ocean, I don’t believe you. No one could do that and they’d be a fool to try.”

Henry laughed, “You’re right. Ballooned away from the circus, if you want the unvarnished and simple truth. It was either a stunt like that, or back to shovelling up after the elephants in the morning.”

“That explains your uniform. What about the burns?”

“Hot air balloon. Caught fire. It was a great show, pity no one saw it.”

Elizabeth bent down to help him stand. Then with her support, they hobbled out to the lane. Lucy hadn’t arrived. “We can wait for my friend, she’s bringing her father.”

“I think I can walk, with your help. I’d like to carry on if that’s all right with you.”

Summoning her last reserves of strength, Elizabeth said, “We can try, but I’m not that strong. Still recovering myself.”

Mr Sharpless said, “I think you’ll be surprised at what you can do.”

What they could do was to walk the quarter mile to where the lane ended and another crossed it.

“Which way?”

“I don’t know. I think to the right, because the other way is Moretonhampstead, but that could be the right way.”

“That is a dilemma.”

The dilemma, at least for the young man, suddenly became worse. Elizabeth said, “I feel faint.”

Then she collapsed against him. He was doing his best to gently lower her to the ground when he heard the noise of a Tilbury being driven hard along the road.

Dr Grace’s loud voice, trained and practised from years in the pulpit of making his sermon heard in the back of the church, boomed out. “What are you doing with Miss James? Unhand her this instant!”

The man startled and straightened, but didn’t drop Elizabeth. “She fainted. We were on our way to Dr Standfast’s” Then he continued to lower her gently to the ground.

At a nod from her father, Lucy jumped down and ran to her friend. “Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered, then as she woke she said, “Lucy, I fainted.”

“Yes, you did. My father’s here, with the cart.”

Unnoticed in the background, the man turned and tried to slip off. He took one step, putting real weight on his injured ankle. It didn’t support him. “Great Zeno’s testicles! That hurts.”

He collapsed to the lane and started crawling away. The horse, unused to such bizarre behaviour, whinnied. The man froze, “What was that!”

“A horse.”

He shook his head, “Yes, I remember, a horse. Ha, ha, silly me, a horse. Didn’t think they were so big.”

“She’s just a pony. Not a big one at that.”

With Lucy’s help Elizabeth sat and put her head between her hands, resting on her knees. “I’ll be better, in a moment. Lucy, could you help?” She stopped, “What is your name, again?”

“Henry, Henry Sharpless.”

“Lucy, could you help Mr Sharpless into the cart? He hurt his ankle.”

Lucy helped Henry to stand and supported him as he hobbled to the side of the carriage. Then Dr Grace leaned over
and gave him a hand up. After that she helped Elizabeth to stand and steadied her on her way to the trap. With both Henry and Elizabeth as passengers there wasn’t room for another, so Lucy walked beside them as they drove to Barnecourt Farm.

Dr Standfast dashed over when the precession finally reached Barnecourt. “What’s wrong, is Miss James fine?”

Lucy said, “She collapsed Dr Standfast. I think we overdid it.”

Elizabeth stirred, “I’m exhausted Uncle. There’s this man I found. He needs your help.”

“I see.” Sylvester gave Henry a quick glance, then said, “He can wait.” He shouted, “George, Mary, please come.” Then he said to both Lucy and Elizabeth, “Let’s get you inside. Miss Grace, can you help me with Elizabeth?”
Together they assisted Elizabeth inside and tucked her into a comforter on the sofa in the front parlour. She immediately fell asleep.

Her uncle was sitting in the parlour, across from her and watching when, several hours later, when she awoke.
“Feeling better?”

“Much. I hope it wasn’t too rude of me to not take my goodbyes.”

“No, I saw Miss Grace and her father off. They understood, and in any case, Mrs Grace expected them for supper. Now, you must take it easy and not overdo it.”

“Yes, Uncle.”

“Good. I don’t want any more frights. You’ll recover your strength much more quickly if you don’t tax yourself.”

Elizabeth nodded, “I’ll try.” Then she tried to remember, there was something she wanted to ask her uncle. “Uncle?”
“I suppose you are wondering about that young man, Mr Sharpless.”

“Who? Oh, yes, him. That wasn’t it, but how is he?”

“He’ll recover, tore up his ankle, and had a touch of exposure, but given a few days, he’ll be up and about.”

“Isn’t that fast, for an ankle, I mean?”

“I didn’t say it won’t hurt. He’ll limp for a while longer, but best if he gets moving. He’s in the old stable-lad’s room. I think I’ll employ him as a hand. George could use the help, none of us are getting any younger.”
Sylvester noticed that Elizabeth flashed a quick smile. “Was there something else? Otherwise I’ll have Mary bring your supper.”

“Oh, yes. In the field, there was this.” Her smile most definitely disappeared.

“You saw the pentangle?”

“Yes, is there a coven or what?”

Sylvester laughed, “No coven, this is modern England after all. No, I explained it to Dr Grace. One of my friends, connected with the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, wanted to perform an experiment.”

“Summoning the Devil?”

“No, re-creating a Druidical monument. See how it decays. He hopes it will help them interpret their diggings.” Her uncle chuckled, “Summoning the Devil. You read too many lurid romances, Elizabeth. Have to find you some more solid literature. Rein in that imagination of yours.”

“I don’t. The last book I read was ‘Three men in a boat.” I doubt ‘Uncle Podger’ could give rise to dreams about much other than fat men running for the train or else smashing walls when hanging a picture. I did like Montemercy, could we have a dog?”

“Then Miss Grace.”

“She is a romantic soul, read me a poem by the river. It was lovely, and I’ll have to read some poetry myself.”

“Just don’t let your imagination get carried away, and no Fox-Terriers, at least not until you’re truly recovered.” He looked at the clock, “My, is that the time? An experiment awaits. On my way out I’ll see that Mary brings your supper.”


The story continues.

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Dartmoor story X #amwriting #WIP

A new development.

The start of the story can be found here.

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.”


The next installment is here.

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