Where was I?
Where had she been for those two weeks? That was a question she would need to find the answer to, for herself.
“Who knows of my going missing, Hetty?”
“No one outside of your family, Miss. We were careful to involve only those on the estate, and your parents and immediate family. They came up from London the moment they got my letters—just a few days after you'd gone—and then they went straight out looking for you, making enquires at the more distant estates and asking if anyone had seen your horse, Peony—they had a drawing of her—and a young lady as looked like you, riding her.
“We sent some of the lads out to scour around in other directions and alerted our own tenant farmers to keep their eyes open for you, or a rider-less horse wandering about.
“Mister Frith was looking closer in; where he’s most familiar. There are lots of places on the estate to have an accident; where a horse could break a leg and you could be lying injured, out of sight, in that underbrush.
“On top of that he is always concerned for everyone’s safety, especially where Gideon Maskell, on that next estate over is concerned. Except the old man, dropped dead a month ago now--you remember that, of course?"
"So that let him off the hook. That old man and his henchmen were not to be trusted at any time. He even drove his own son and grandson's away when they went against his wishes. I did hear they'd come back and were trying to undo the damage the old man had done. I wish them every luck. They didn't deserve a villain like that in their lives."
Hetty shook her head disapprovingly. "Not to be trusted, that family, when that old man was alive. We checked over there first thing and even a few times after that too, searching their barns just in case. I would put nothing past that old man, but the present Maskells are even helping look for you.”
Anna remembered something for herself. “I should speak to Mr. Frith about them. When I was coming back from the river, I blundered into a fence where there should not be one. I think they were tearing it down, now that I recall, but I wasn't going to stop and ask.”
The older Maskell, now diseased, had a habit of claiming land that was not his, and moving, and directing others to build fences where there should not be any.
That old villain had not been above setting fire to neighbors crops or to the barn of a neighbor,
However, that had backfired badly upon him some years earlier; landing the old man in the assizes in London, and having to pay restitution.
He’d mended his ways after that, but only because he'd been forced to, or would face Jail time or would even be deported.
Hetty was still speaking. “Mister Frith knows this estate like the back of his hand and every little slough, stream, pond, pit, and quarry; every rabbit hole and fox burrow; fallen tree and pitfall, and he could see no sign of you close-in, so they extended their search farther out to the surrounding estates, but still found no sign of you or your horse, but you say you were over the river.
“That was too far for you to go; ten miles at least. And that river is a dangerous place, with treacherous footing for a horse. They knew you would not have tried to cross that, with it being in flood after those dreadful rains we had earlier, and you on, Peony. She’s skittish enough about water as it is.”
“I had no trouble fording it when I came home, Hetty. I remember that.”
“No, you wouldn’t. Not on that other horse you wouldn’t, and after the level had dropped. But on, Peony? And after those heavy rains we had two weeks ago? Why would you want to go over there? No one would believe you had gone that far in that direction or had tried to cross that river. No wonder we couldn't find you.”
She thought of something else in her fussing.
“We should get a doctor to see to you, Miss, just in case….”
Anna rebelled at that suggestion.
“Why? I am well, and I am not injured in any way. I am just as I should be. A cup of tea, and I shall be my own self, soon enough, and ready to tackle anything.
“None of this seems real to me. I expect it might take a day or two to settle down after that. Would a doctor bring back my memory, or tell me where I had been?”
“No, miss. Not likely, but he could help in some way. He would make sure you was alright; nothing hidden that we might miss.”
“No doctor, Hetty. I do not approve of them. Those they attend, often do not recover from even the slightest of ailments after they have bled and physicked them. They are robbers and charlatans, all of them, interested only in collecting their fees for doing little or nothing but scaring a body half to death.” And sometimes, completely to death.
Hetty, was not sure she agreed with her, but Miss Anna had a mind of her own on some things.
“We puzzled over who it was riding this way when we first saw you. It was Adam who thought it might be you by the way you sat a horse, even astride it (it still bothered her), but it was not your horse you was riding, we could all see that, and that great brute of a dog with you, so we did not believe it at first, not until you rode into the yard.”
Anna noticed that she still had her hand on Samson’s head, and the affection was returned. He was leaning against her, panting after his recent exercise, and licking her hand. He was concerned by all of the people and the strangeness, surrounding him.
She looked back at the horse she had ridden in upon again, seeing all of those things that she needed to know about him, then took in more of her dress. It was heavier, warmer, and better than the one she had donned that afternoon after she had bathed.
No, not that afternoon, but, two weeks ago? It was all so difficult to believe and hard to wrap her head around.
She had a foot in each of two lives, separated by two weeks, and the only things that linked them were her clothing, the horse, and Samson.
Anna noticed other things too, about her surroundings. The loft across the yard was full of hay, but she’d already commented on that to Jarvis and had not given him chance to respond. It had been empty when she’d left, and the market garden closest to her had been cleaned out. There had been a large crop of vegetables ready to be harvested when she'd left. It would have taken days to get those up. It all made sense, unfortunately.
There were also clamps, being dug into the ground for the rest of the produce: potatoes, turnips, carrots; to be placed into storage for winter, where neither frost nor rodents could get at them. They could be opened up, from time to time, and enough of the produce taken out for sale at the winter markets. People still had to eat.
Anna could see that everything was different. A lot had changed, and it had needed days, even weeks, for those changes to have been effected, not hours.
She loosened the neck of her dress, feeling very warm now that she was not moving, noticing that her hand, had heavy rings on two of her fingers, as Hetty had noted about her.
They were heavy gold rings of ornate workmanship, and one had a large clear stone in it, bolstered on either side by emeralds. The stone looked like a diamond. Why would she have gone riding with that on her hand to risk losing it?
Hetty pointed something else out about her in the neck of her dress.
“And that necklace is nothing I’ve ever seen before either, nor that cameo broach.”
Anna lifted a necklace from the front of her dress. Her breath caught. The necklace was heavy, and seemed to be a sister to her rings. Where had they come from? She was wearing a king’s ransom, and she had been riding like that?
Why had she not left them wherever it was that they belonged. They surely did not belong to her. Except she knew that they did, but without knowing how she knew that. She could at least be fairly sure of that one thing: everything that was with her, was hers. Given to her to have, or--as in the case of Samson--to protect her. She began to feel breathless and had to fight away palpitations, and a growing feeling of panic. It had to be a dream.
What else was there about her that did not belong? Was there nothing that she had ridden out of here with?
Where had she been, and how had this happened to her, and to not remember any of it?
None of it... belonged. But her mind and her memories of the time she had set out, were intact, and with no gaps that she could recall.
‘Two weeks’, Hetty had said. And now, here she was, presumably two weeks older, but with recollection of none of it!