Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-Nine



The Sheriff was silent for a few minutes and we rode on.  "Did you recognize your attacker?"

"Excuse me?"

"Recognize him."

"Oh ... well I wasn't really given much of an opportunity as I do not make it my habit to identify men by the set of their britches."

The Sheriff made an odd noise, as did the two closest Guards.  The Sheriff glared at them and they fell back a few horse lengths.  He turned to me and said, "Really.  That mouth ..."

I looked at him and then realized I'd managed to embarrass him.  "Oh dear.  I do beg your pardon.  I was simply trying to answer your question as honestly and directly as possible."

"Humph.  Why you assume I would think you were ... er ... identifying men ... uh ..."

"Cease Sheriff before you tangle your brain, and allow this to be one more example of how I am not some frail Miss like you would have grown up knowing at your status.  I may be the Widow Linder but I was the daughter of a Woodsman for much longer."

A tad angrily he said, "So you shocked me on purpose."

"No.  I did not mean to shock you at all I was simply being myself, something I thought I could be around you but ..."

"No!  Er ... don't start whatever bit of logic you are trying to play on me.  April does that and it is damned uncomfortable.  Be yourself ... simply ... er ... do it when there are not other men about.  It makes you ... too approachable.  No need to give them ideas."

"And what precisely is that supposed to mean?" I asked him becoming irritated.

"It means ... damnation ... it means Leeda that you set my wits to begging.  I've never met anyone like you.  And blasted you are only sixteen, the same age as Nancee and I'd kill any slack jawed idiot that treated her the way you've been treated.  What, by all the martyrs, am I supposed to do with you?"

"Nothing."

"I ..."  he stopped.  "Excuse me?"

"You aren't supposed to do anything with me Sheriff.  I am not your responsibility.  You fulfilled your duty when you fetched me at your brother's request.  Now ... now I would hope what time we spend in each other's company is not out of duty but out of  ... uh ... er ..."

He grinned and I felt like ordering Nanny to kick him out of the saddle.

"Out of what Leeda?"

Refusing to be drawn into making a fool of myself before he made one of himself I asked, "And that's the other thing.  You called me Widow just fine this morning."

"Yes I did and now I'm calling you Leeda and not because my status allows it.  I am not going to just stand around acting like it means nothing when some idiot with a clothes fetish or some demon in hides tries to snatch you right from under my nose."

His irritation could be taken in multiple ways and I wasn't sure if I wanted to take the chance in reading into it what I might wish to hear.  Instead I told him, "First of all, I believe it was rather obvious what I thought of the posey young man with the puce colored face - he really shouldn't wear corsets in this heat - and ..."

The Sheriff glared at the Guardsmen again for making that same strange strangling noise then told them, "Ride to the front."

"Begging your pardon Sheriff but The Guardian bid us stay even if you ordered us to Himself Down Below."

The Sheriff snapped, "Damnation!"

Shaking my head I remonstrated, "Oh do stop.  It is too warm to make such a fuss.  I've said nothing that isn't true and honest and I'm sure they'll behave accordingly if they are asked to report what we spoke of."

The Sheriff just glowered and continued to do so for the remainder of our silent ride back to Linderhall.  We got to the stables and were surrounded by those wanting to know the facts of what had transpired.

Feeling a bit pinched by the Sheriff's irritation I told the crowd, "The day was over warm.  The crowds were awful.  The prices were shameful.  Then several young men of ill-repute did what young men of ill-repute generally do causing unnecessary ruckus and property damage.  The Woodsmen Guild helped to save Little Linderton by bringing down one of the town's water towers.  And some of us ladies were finally able to finish our shopping in relative peace which is where you need to pick up.  Jode, Jude ... you and the other young men need to fetch and carry these packages for your mother and put them where she tells you to, don't just pile them in the staff dining hall for people to paw through.  This will get the small packages out of the wagons so that the men can take the barrels and boxes to Mrs. Cooksey for the pantry or wherever else they are destined for."

"But Widow ... we heard you were kidnapped."

Shaking my head at some people's need to turn the day into more of a drama than it already had been I asked, "Do I look kidnapped?  I am standing right here."

"But ..."

"If you are referring to the brute with the bad manners then I assure you the Sheriff and the Guard have the matter fully in hand.  You don't really think such behavior would be allowed to go unanswered do you?  This is Little Linderton, not the wilds of the Borderlands regardless of what some smelly, ill-tempered savages might think.  Now enough questions, let's get this finished before the bugs come out and supper is late."

I made my escape while the Sheriff and the Guardsmen that the Linder had set on us were swamped by concerned staff members.  I took my bags from Nanny and then allowed her to be led away by one of the stable boys that was enamored of her.  I could hear him saying, "There now Lovey.  Let ol' Brett get you fixed up and brushed down.  That's my girl."

Nanny was casting loving mule eyes the boy's way so I knew she was in good hands and started my walk to the Dower House.

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