Where Daffodils Grow Wild
Chapter 5 – JUDGEMENT CALL
“My Lord?” Proberta gaped at Phillip as if she had been duped. “And your most humble abode?” Proberta put her hands on her hips, waiting for an explanation. Phillip looked sheepish.
“Well, you never actually asked, now did you?”
“So, what exactly are you,” Proberta probed. “Duke, Earl, Prince? I know you’re not King.” This time he laughed, and she couldn’t refrain from smiling a little herself.
“Viscount, if you must, and this quaint hamlet,” he issued forth the soil on which they all stood, “is part of my viscounty.”
“Go on,” she urged.
“I reign over this region, and was just out for an afternoon ride to check up on my people and their land. This is one of the many responsibilities that go with the title.”
Proberta had to admit, she was impressed, as well as pleasantly surprised. She liked that he referred to it as their land, and immediately felt even more at ease, and attracted to this man who, she felt, had a big heart as well as being deliciously hunky.
“So, why haven’t I ever seen you at the local charity balls and other such functions? Madam Edith Hornbrook herself is often host to events of this caliber. Surely our paths would have crossed at some point.”
“You are of course correct, My Lady,” he said.
“Ooh, di’ ya ‘ear? ‘E called ‘er M’lady. All dis time we’ve ‘ad a Lady in our presence. Always knew dere was somethin’ ‘bout ‘er.” Crow bowed his head in awe. Phillip continued.
“However, it is common knowledge that I am not one to enjoy such activities. I never have. My work is accomplished when riding through my district, visiting the good folks in West Yorkshire and the Humber, and even popping round to the borough of Morley now and again. But I rarely, if ever, attend social events or parties.” He paused. “You see, I’m not very good at mingling with the social elite.” He looked around, at the surrounding trees, the darkening evening sky, the first few stars faintly twinkling from the deepening canopy above them. “In all honesty, I’d rather ride Sidewinder out here in the hills and through the woods. It gives me a clear head for all I have to do, the legislative decisions, the choices that have to be made.”
Proberta’s heart sank. She had always loved parties, to dress-up, dance, drink, flirt. Looking around her at the faces of the poor simpletons who were now her people, the quaint living quarters where they carved out an existence, the state of the compound, Proberta realized those carefree party days were over. This blunt reality hit her like a ton of bricks. Was she ready for this? Had she ever considered that this new life might be for ever, that she might never return to her home in Leeds, or frolic at the Hornbrook estate again? Was this the sort of choice that Henley had also made? No, she reasoned, because his choice was made for love.
Proberta felt as if she’d been living in a dreamworld and had just been jolted awake. Sure, she had grown to be happy enough here in the compound, to accept all her new friends, this way of life. But everything had happened so quickly. Had she really put enough thought into the outcome of all this? Although she felt certain she would never give up trying to find her friends, she did find it unusual how easily she had adapted to this vastly different way of life, but could she honestly give up all else? She of all people, the snob, the bitch, the slut. Her ears stung from the very mention of that name, her head spun with the many unanswered questions, as she tried to sort out her feelings.
“My Lady? Remember your fragile state,” Phillip continued noting her vulnerability. “I really advise you to take to bed. I’m sure Raven will bring you some hot broth and her magic sleep tea for you to drink.” He winked at Raven, who blushed and looked down at her scruffy shoes.
“You know these people?” Proberta asked, completely unhinged. Phillip only smiled.
“Remember, Wisteria did say ‘your humble abode’, and I did say I ride around my territory visiting boroughs, towns, villages, hamlets, and even squatters communities. Of course I know the people who live in them.”
Feeling embarrassed at her feeble mindedness, Proberta curtsied. “Of course you do, My Lord,” she said somewhat sarcastically. “I apologize. It’s been a very busy day to say the least.” Her voice and gaze took on an aloof quality as she grappled with her mixed emotions. “As you can imagine,” she continued. “My ankle is sore and swelling, and my head aches. If you will excuse me, I will take your suggestions and retire to my simple quarters. Raven always takes wonderful care of me.” Proberta smiled sincerely at Raven, who smiled in return, yet lowered her face modestly in respect. “Lord Mossgrove,” Proberta said, extending her hand to him. “I cannot thank you enough for saving my life this afternoon, and for your help returning me to my-my-friends here in the compound.” She did not let her eyes stay on his, even though he tried to hold them. Although confused by this sudden change of direction Proberta was taking with him, he nonetheless nodded obligingly. When he gently took her hand to kiss it, rather than allow his kiss to linger like she had in the forest grove, she pulled it away as soon as his lips touched her skin. Then she nodded with her eyes lowered, and swiftly turned toward the room she shared with Raven, and was gone. Phillip was left standing among the others looking dumped and baffled, but not for long. Raven, who of course had a sixth sense not just about herbs and healing, but about people, stepped up.
“Please Sir, fergive our young Prober’a. She tires so, which cause ‘er ‘ead ta ache wit confusin toughts. She needs rest. Ta morrow she be righ’ as rain.” Raven took his hand. “M’lord, please ‘llow me ta ‘scort yer ta supper. I ‘magine Twark an Sneed ‘ave been busy preparin’ all tings good and ‘ealthy fer us.”
A smile stretched easily across Phillip’s face. “I’d be honored, Lady Raven.” He accepted her hand and together they walked into the cook shack that was now filled with noisy, hungry people.
* * *
The next morning Proberta awoke to rain pattering against the thatched roof of their small hut, tiny pebbles falling from the sky. She sat up and looked around. Her head had stopped aching and she felt amazingly refreshed, then she remembered drinking Raven’s delicious vegetable soup broth, and sipping her specially concocted sleep tea, confirming Raven’s exquisite powers to heal.
The floor wobbled as she stood up, but Proberta realized it was her vision that set the room askew and her equilibrium off kilter. She closed her eyes, and when she reopened them, everything had settled down. Remembering her concussion, she reminded herself to take things slow. Proberta shook the dust and dirt from one of two dresses she had to choose from. Pulling it over her head, she tied the threadbare laces that secured the bodice around her waist. The laces were so worn it was a wonder they still held her dress together. The lace along the collar and cuffs was tattered, but was still attached securely, the color of the gown, once a vibrant rose, was now a muted beige. Proberta grabbed the ragged looking shawl that Margo, one of the women in the compound had given her, and threw it over her shoulders. Then she stepped outside into the glaring morning light, the rain had ceased.
Oddly, no one was around. Looking up in the sky, she estimated the time to be late-morning. Yes, she had slept in far longer than usual, but judging from her earlier dizziness, she needed the rest. In the distance voices could be heard, so Proberta walked in the direction of the murmurings. Thoughts of Phillip swam in the forefront of her mind. Would he be there? Was he still angry with her? Then she remembered it was her that had been upset with him, and her pace quickened, suddenly desperate to see him, to set things straight. What had he thought of her? She was embarrassed to think of her behavior last evening. What had made her revert back to her spoiled, childish ways? How could she have done that in front of him, of all people. Then she thought of the kindly folks of the compound that were also there, and she felt a flush of morose. Surely they must think her a fool. Nobody there would behave the way she had.
Rounding a corner in the walkway, she came upon a group of people busily picking berries, filling both their baskets and their mouths. Phillip was not among them, nor was Raven. She smiled, and everyone stopped and nodded their heads as she passed. Were they acknowledging her poor behavior or addressing her politely? Knowing she had missed the morning meal, Proberta hurried back toward the tent where the herbs were set to dry. Surely Raven would be there, mixing brews for tinctures or mixing dried herbs. When she arrived, all was quiet. Inside the tent, dried flowers were laid out on the long wooden table in preparation for mixing into medicinal remedies. She could smell fragrant combinations; wild rose, chamomile, columbine. These were likely going to be made into sachets to help with sleep or calming nerves, as she knew columbine could be lethal if too much was ingested. Next to the flowers were bunches of dried greenery ready to be powdered and blended into assorted mixtures for healing. Proberta noticed the kettle hanging above the coals in the hearth and knew Raven was boiling water to be used for concocting tinctures. Raven had recently been there, and would not have gone far. As she lifted the tent flap to leave, she nearly bumped right into Raven in a rush to get back to work. She looked flustered and agitated.
“Oh, ‘scuse me Ma’am, I din’t see yer.”
“That’s okay, Raven. I wasn’t watching where I was going.” Proberta waited for Raven to say something, but she just hurried past her into the room and began to busy herself with the tasks at hand.
“Do you know where Phillip is, Raven? I-I owe him an apology. I wasn’t very civil to him last evening.” Raven looked up at her. Proberta tried to appear relaxed but knew she looked far from it. They looked at each other for what seemed like forever when Raven finally turned back to her work. Proberta thought it very strange she did not answer her question so she asked again. This time, Raven’s response was not at all what Proberta expected.
“E’s gone, Ma’am. Rode on back ta the big ‘ouse where ‘e come from. Aint comin back fer a while neit’er, tats what he says, Ma’am. Got some kinda bizness tend to.” Raven looked a bit sad, even shaken. Proberta turned and ran from the tent.