Sarah was groggy that morning. Her conversation with Jason felt like a dream. It wasn’t until they started moving that she noticed Mathew wasn’t there. She looked to Jason, but there was no concern on his face and no one asked. By noon the troop had hit a road and started following it west. Mathew met them a little while later, when they paused to eat a light meal.
Mathew talked quietly with Jason for a moment before Jason turned to the group.
‘Continue on to the Shellsbye. Mathew has the lead. I will meet you this evening at the Chattering Squirrel.’ Sarah hoped that Shellsbye wasn’t far. She was feeling extra tried this morning. "Sarah." She opened her eyes to see Jason in front of her. "If you want to stay female,” he said quietly, "come with me."
Sarah nodded, still wondering if she was making the right choice. She pondered Jason as they headed over a fence and through some fields. The only reason she’d want to disguise herself as a man would be to stay with him. But she wouldn’t really be with him, not the way it had been in the Grove. Sarah stopped her deep thinking as they came in sight of a farm. A mild looking woman was hanging laundry on the line with the help of a girl.
‘Good Woman Rebecca’ Jason called out. The woman turned around and hurried toward them. Jason took Sarah’s arm and gave it a squeeze.
‘Rebecca’s a good woman, she’ll take good care of you.’
‘Oh, good day your lordship.’ Rebecca gave a bob to Jason. Sarah turned to look at him in surprise. She probably should have guessed he was nobility given his manners and some of the clothing she’d seen him in. Jason gave her a chagrined smile. ‘This must be Sarah,’ Rebecca took Sarah’s hands. ‘Goodness they have you in trousers! Well we must fix that.’ She turned her head, ‘Lizbeth!’
‘Yes Ma?’ the girl said from the billowing clothing. Rebecca led Sarah over toward the house. Jason followed.
‘Lizbeth, you take her inside and see if any of Jessica’s old clothing can be fitted for her.’
‘Yes Ma,’ the girl bobbed at Jason. ‘Afternoon Lordship.’
‘Afternoon Elizabeth,’ Jason replied. He touched Sarah’s shoulder, she turned to look at him. ‘Two months,’ he said, ‘I shouldn’t be gone for more than two months.’ He gave her shoulder a squeeze. Sarah gave him a smile, as best she could before turning to follow Elizabeth into the house.
‘Now shoo,’ Sarah heard Rebecca say as she was led into the small house. ‘Get back to your men, your Lordship, we’ll take good care of her for you.’
Rebecca led her up a steep stair and to the bedroom on the left. Sarah watched Jason finish talking to Rebecca and leave. Just before he passed through the gate he looked back. Sarah wanted to run after him; plead for him to not leave her alone here. He was all she had, and he was leaving her in the care of strangers.
‘I think his Lordship likes you,’ the girl said. Sarah turned and watched Elizabeth open a trunk. ‘He liked Jessica for a while.’ Her voice became muffled as she pulled out some clothing and Sarah couldn’t quite hear her. ‘Anyway,’ Elizabeth held up a dress, ‘these should fit.’ She set a pile of clothing on one of the beds in the room. Sarah looked at the pile bewildered.
‘Elizabeth,’ she said softly, ‘how do I put these on?’ But the girl had left, so Sarah studied the pile. She tried to think of her father’s books. She sorted through the clothing. Once spread out, it made more sense. ‘Softest on the inside right?’ she mumbled to herself as she donned the three layers and cap.
The two women were inside when Sarah came down the stairs. Elizabeth giggled when she saw Sarah. ‘Elizabeth,’ Rebecca’s stern voice quieted the girl’s mirth.
‘I put something on wrong, didn’t I?’ Sarah felt mortified.
‘You just have the cap on backwards,’ Rebecca said mildly as she came over and fixed it for her.
‘Thank you,’ Sarah mumbled. She knew it wouldn’t be the last of her fumbles, she just prayed they would all be as simple.