A youthful trespasser.
A few days after that, Hetty and Anna saw Jarvis carrying a young person across the yard to the house in his arms as Samson bounded along behind, weaving from one side to the other, following close, almost tripping Jarvis up in his eagerness to sniff at the bundle, yelping excitedly and bouncing up to smell.
Both women left the house to see what the problem was.
“I noticed Samson was going crazy to get into the box-stall with Tornado, Miss, and when I checked what was going on, I found this lad in that same box, asleep; but he doesn’t seem right.”
The women checked him over as Jarvis held him. He was reasonably well-dressed.
“He’s nobbut a lad; no more than fourteen or fifteen I would say. He was curled up in the hay under the hay rack, risking his very life with that big horse.
“I had difficulty waking him up. I couldn’t make out a word he said. He wasn’t there when I checked last night as I fed and watered the horses before I turned in, and how he didn’t wake me up, I don’t know.”
“Bring him into the scullery, Jarvis, and we’ll have a look at him where it’s warmer.”
“There’s another horse in there too. It must be his. Or maybe not, even though he must have ridden in on it. He seems to be feverish and even lost. Nothing on him to say who he is, but his pockets is well occupied, and his clothing suggests he comes from a respectable family, if they’re his.”
They fitted him well-enough to suggest that they had been made for him.
“I saw no injuries on him.”
Anna checked his temperature by placing her hand on his brow.
“He’s burning up, poor lad. He must have got wet in that rain we had, and found his way into the barn last night, but how did he get here? He was fortunate to wind up in there. Once that rain cleared, we got a touch of frost last night.”
“He must be a runaway, Miss.”
He didn’t look like a runaway.
“It’s warm in the kitchen and we can look after him in there. Put him in that chair by the stove, and we’ll see what we can do for him.”
“Aye, Miss, but be careful, some of these lads has no respect for property and cannot always be trusted. He had these in his pocket too.”
Jarvis laid a knife and a small pistol on the table, along with the remains of a stale sandwich wrapped up in a neckerchief.
They stripped off his coat and checked the pockets further for any identifying marks as Samson watched them, before he returned to lick the boy’s hands.
He had a monogrammed handkerchief with the initials DB, sewn across a corner, and some sovereigns tied up in it.
“More money than I would see in a six-month, Miss; even in a year. Never saw a lad that age with that kind of money, nor a monogrammed handkerchief afore, nor on a horse like that. A well-bred horse too. He must’a stole them. Lads like him usually walk. His shoes is good enough quality too. Maybe he stole them too.”
“Or maybe not.” Anna was coming to his defense already.
“One should always strive to see the best in people. He may be just what his clothes suggest, and he is from a good family, and lost his way.”
Jarvis had said what he thought, and decided to go back to his work in the stable until Anna stopped him with another comment.
“What kind of a horse, Jarvis?”
“A well-bred horse, Miss, and more than a lad like him might normally know about. One, a bit like that other one in the stable. He probably stole that too.”
Samson was busy licking his face and his tail was wagging furiously. The dog seemed to know him. She trusted Samson’s judgement. Everything about the boy, was what it seemed.
‘A horse that looked to be from as good a breeding stock as Tornado.’
Faint alarm bells were going off in Anna’s mind. She would need to see that horse.
“I’ll come and see that horse later, Jarvis.”
“Be careful with that lad. Miss. He might not be what he seems.”
She stroked the hair back from his brow. She was prepared to bet that he was exactly what he seemed.
“He has an honest face, and as you say, his clothes and shoes suggest that he might be from a good family, and he did eat recently, though not much, if the age of this sandwich is any indication, so he can’t be that far from home.”
He would be hungry too. Boys this age were always hungry.
“I’ll get back to what I was doing, Miss. If you need anything just let out a holler.”
“We'll be careful, Jarvis. We have Samson to guard us.” Except Samson was licking his hands and face.
She turned to Hetty. “He’s damp, from that fever, poor lad, but he is reasonably well-dressed. We should get him out of these damp clothes and get them washed and dried, and we might be able to find out who he is from them. A reputable tailor will place a label inside a coat of this quality. If not, we’ll have to wait until he wakes up.
“We should do that now before he comes around. He wouldn’t want to find two women he didn’t know, undressing him and going through his pockets and examining his clothes. We have enough nightshirts in the laundry, for one to fit him, but we will need to wash him while he’s not with us—you know what lads are like for being shy, and then we’ll find out more about what his pockets tell us.”
“I can do that, Miss.” Molly had already organized a bowl of warm water, soap and towels. “I have young brothers of my own (though her brothers were much younger than this youth) and I can see to him fast enough and get his clothes into the wash.”
They left her to do it, and watched.
“We should get in touch with his parents too, Miss. They will be worried for him.”
They co-operated to take off his shoes and his damp socks, then moved the large chair closer to the stove, where he would be able to feel the heat, and so that Molly could get the rest of his clothes off, to bathe him.
“Leave him here for the moment where we can keep an eye on him when he comes too, and well get some blankets over him. He shouldn’t be allowed to get cold, even if he is burning with fever. But for this illness he might have gone again before we ever knew he was here.”
“This lad’s not going anywhere with a fever like this.”
“If you can keep an eye on him, Molly, and get started on him, I shall go and see his horse and learn what I can from that.”
She was surprised to find that Samson was not with her this time, but had opted to stay behind. There, was another story to be told.
Her horse, and the new one (well looked-after and recently brushed, but not by anyone here), were nuzzling each other over the side of the box.
They knew each other, just like Samson knew the lad.
Anna felt as though another prayer had been answered. The youth had not wound up here by accident, but she would have to wait and question him, to find out.
Jarvis had been right about the quality of the animal. There were now two such horses in the stable! She was getting closer to answers at last.
Anna examined the saddle, bridle, and the saddle blanket. All were of the highest quality and had cost a pretty penny, as Jarvis was quick to point out when he joined her, and better than anything that was hanging up along the wall.
The lad was a conundrum, just like most other things she was trying to remember.
Anna recounted what she had learned, to Hetty when she got back to the kitchen, and listened to what Hetty had to say in turn.
“The mystery deepens. He’s not too far from home, or he’d be showing more signs of wear and tear. When he comes too, he can tell us who he is and how to get him home. We’ll send for his parents. They must be worried for him. I would be.”
“Or, I’ll take him home, Hetty in the dog cart. Did Molly find anything else in his pockets?”
“Nothing that tells us much about him at all, but he did have plenty of coinage on him.”
Anna sighed. “Then we’ll have to see what he has to say for himself when he comes around. His main need seems to be for food and warmth.”
Hetty knew better than to suggest a doctor.
“The strangest thing, Hetty, is that I feel as if I should know him from somewhere.” There was something about him that haunted her, and that pistol he had, was the twin of the one Anna had carried with her in one of her dress pockets.
She was getting closer.
Molly had found out more about him too, than she would say at this moment. He was no, ‘lad’, that was sure, with more hair on that part of him there than a mere ‘boy’ would have, and nothing like her brothers there, but she didn’t need to say anything. He was at least sixteen years old, in her opinion, and as Miss Anna had said; there was something about him that caught her attention too.
He might even be recovering slowly. Molly watched both women leave her alone with him as they prepared the table in the other room for the next meal, so she closely inspected his body while he was unconscious and could not complain about her curiosity about him. Especially, 'there'. He was nothing like her younger brothers, but they were only five and seven, to her eighteen.
He was compact and well-muscled for a youth, and seemed to be generously gifted where it counted. She wouldn't have known that, except she'd watched some of the not-well-hidden antics between like-minded men and women when they'd thought they were alone, or not caring who would see them. She had seen far more than she'd expected, and it had looked interesting.
He was coming to life there with the fresh air getting to it, or maybe with her breathing on it. She knew how to find out how awake he was; if she dared. If she had courage. She played a variation of this game with her brothers, but she would change it for this young man.
She took hold of his little toe as she watched his expression and spoke so that only he would be able to hear her if he was coming around, as she leaned over him. His eyes were closed, but his lashes had fluttered.
‘This little piggy went to market’. She moved to the next toe.
’This little piggy stayed home.
He did not respond.
This little piggy had roast beef,
But this little piggy had none.’
He was out-of-it, right enough, not responding to anything she did.
She blew gently on him, where he was growing and coming to life in a way her own little brothers didn't. Of course she was curious. What woman would not have been?
He didn't seem to detect it and open his eyes, so she might be safe to do more and learn about this interesting item that was said to be the downfall of many women. Where she found the courage, she didn't know.
She slowly moved her hand up to tentatively touch, and then to delicately hold that male item of his, cushioning, and lifting under his testicles with her other hand, as he showed some more signs of coming to life with her touch. She took a firmer hold of him as she continued reciting, almost breathlessly; careful to listen for others returning to serve the meal in a distant room. He was turned away from the door, so no one could see her.
She whispered, as she watched his face.
‘And this much bigger piggy wiggy, went wee, wee, weeing, all the way home’. Just as her brothers did as they walked along the road too, sprinkling everything, as they aired out their little pickles.
She'd never seen one of these, so close up on anyone but her brothers before, and she needed to know. She'd seen another of the girls from the scullery do even more, to one of the stable hands when they'd met by the side of the barn, and he hadn't objected to her doing this to him, but had encouraged her, seeming to like her doing that. A lot more had happened after that too as she'd watched, wide-eyed and breathless until they'd finished with each other, laughing and kissing.
She'd envied them such obvious happiness, but everything they had done with each other had been shocking for her to see. They hadn't been shy to touch each other anywhere.
She slowly pulled the skin back down on him as that girl had done, seeing how proud he became with her touching him more firmly there. She began to panic. It had too much life in it! He must be awake!
About then, was when her brothers were screaming with laughter and throwing themselves around as she grabbed their big toes, but this lad wasn’t laughing, and she wasn’t holding his big toe, either, but something that had suddenly become alive in her hand, and with a life of its own.
His eyes were wide open too, and he was looking at her, thinking he had never seen anything so beautiful as this young woman touching him so familiarly, and he was holding her arms, holding her still, as she continued to touch and hold him, not letting her pull away, no matter how much she needed to, in her shyness.
He was... wide awake! He'd caught her and had felt what she'd been doing to him!
She blushed furiously, and tried to retreat, but he wouldn't let her, holding her hands there.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have.... It was wrong of me. If you will let me go... please, sir." But he didn't want her to go.
His hand rose to the side of her face, almost as though he was not aware of what she was doing for him.
"You are very beautiful. I think I must be in heaven. Is that where I am? Where we are?"
She recovered her hands and tried to recover her poise, hoping that he was still confused and unaware of what she had done to him.
"I think I remember you bathing me and talking to me. Thank you. May I know your name?" He said nothing about the other thing she had been doing for him.
"I am, Molly, sir. I got you undressed and bathed you."
It was only then that he became aware that he was entirely naked, and felt this other thing about himself; becoming shy and confused with her so close to him, and him like this.
She quickly dropped a nightshirt over his head before he noticed or said anything more, and pulled it down around him to hide him away before anyone else saw him like that, standing to attention from her touch, and commented upon it or blamed her for it, though they wouldn't have done.
She covered him with a light blanket.
He began to recollect more of what she had done for him, but he couldn't be sure, except he had the biggest and most insistent hard-on that he'd experienced for a very long time, and she'd had something to do with that. He suspected what she'd done in her natural curiosity about him, but he wasn't going to say anything until he knew more.
He was in a state of shock after what she’d done to him, leaving him tingling and breathless. She'd been holding him there, and she was now embarrassed that he'd recovered and felt it.
She was blushing and in shock too, at just how much he’d changed so quickly, and had come to life in her hand in just those few seconds, taking her by surprise. He must know what she'd done.
She'd never recover from that, except he was looking at her in a way she'd never been looked at before as his eyes followed her everywhere. And he'd told her that she was beautiful; words that a girl would always want to hear from a young man like him. He said nothing to tell her off about the other she had been doing.
She had just fallen in love! Her mother would box her ears for being so stupid if she found out anything about this!