Filling in some gaps.
Before Anna retired that night, she walked across to the stable to see her horse, and to talk to Jarvis, as he got the animals settled for the night.
It was imperative she remembered what she could, before she became immersed again in this very demanding and distracting life. Being close to Tornado again, and feeling his comforting presence, would help them both.
The farm laborers slept above the barn, while the women and girls slept in the downstairs of the house to get an early start on laundry, and food preparation for the coming day. A careful observer would soon have become aware of other assignations taking place in the overnight hours as others, romantically inclined, crept away to meet and to continue what also went on during the day out in the fields, but in a more private setting.
Such activities, like farm work, stopped for no man; they were always either planting, harvesting, milking, feeding, getting ready for market, or were breeding the next generations of livestock, where lineages were followed much more carefully than in the human domain. With humans, such niceties of selection was not possible once hormones and opportunity-of-the-moment took over to rule the outcome.
Most horticultural plans were often interrupted by the weather, or were helped by it, at least for a while, and always changed according to the season, but those kinds of intimate liaisons between people, stopped for neither weather, or anything else short of death.
Work ended when it got too dark to go on, and picked up again at first light, though anything indoors—clothing repairs, food preparation—went on by the light of lanterns until it was done. Animals and people always needed to be fed, pampered, kept warm and appreciated. And loved.
She wanted to learn what Jarvis could tell her about this horse who was just as glad to see her as she was to see him when she walked into the barn. There was a low rumble of recognition upon him hearing her voice.
Not even Peony had ever greeted her with such a show of affection as to push into her as she reached up to greet him.
Jarvis was getting the animals settled for the night, ready to start again the next morning in his never-ending routine.
“Your brothers were in here earlier, Miss, and were proper taken aback, they was, with this horse of yours, so you’ll have to be ready for their questions before they leave in the morning if they didn’t ask you already.”
They’d said nothing over dinner, waiting to get Anna alone.
“I’ll be ready for them, but that’s one reason I came over to see you, Jarvis. You have a good eye for horses and livestock. What can you tell me about him?”
He felt flattered by that compliment and took a deep breath. What could he not tell her?
“He has a kind eye, Miss, but is very particular as to who he will trust. Three years old, as near as makes no difference. I suspect his breeding would make many of the finer lights in London jealous of his pedigree. Wherever he came from he was well looked-after, Miss, and I know he cost a pretty penny wherever he came from. Whoever had this horse did not have to worry about anything, and he was well-looked after, and well-trained. Not a mark on him. This horse has known love, and nothing else.”
He let that sink in before he continued.
“The saddle is the same kind of quality, and not like any I’ve seen around here, but I did see ones like this when I worked for Lord Sedgewick; and he had many good horses, though none that were the match of this one.”
There was a tale to be told there too, about Jarvis’s life before he had come to them, but Anna was not one to pry. He told her anyway, detecting her curiosity, feeling that she deserved an explanation.
“His lordship was a difficult man with his horses, Miss, as well as with his servants, and made their lives… difficult. I saw it work its damage to all of those around me, with good people worried about ever putting a foot wrong and fearful of his unpredictable anger. It took almost nothing to set him off. Even his own family feared him.”
Jarvis was on safe ground. Sedgewick was well-known in the city, and was universally ill-liked and shunned wherever he went.
“I was always afraid of my own future with him, so when I heard of this position, and knowing that I had at least one friend here, in Mr. Frith, I took off without any goodbyes one night, and just dropped out of sight. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, coming here.” It had been good for them, too.
Anna knew enough to remain mostly silent, now that Jarvis had got a start on talking; normally being so close mouthed.
“I prefer animals to most people outside of this estate, though I do not mean that in any awkward way, Miss.”
“Nor would I take it that way, Jarvis. All of London knows of Sedgewick. I think I prefer animals to some people too, but I have never encountered any more congenial of an atmosphere than exists here with so many good and kind people around me.
“My experiences in London were probably just as jaundiced and as disillusioning as yours were, so you can imagine my relief when I first came here and discovered I was not about to have a fight on my hands.”
He would not ask what that first word meant, though he knew what Jaundice was; from that French word Jaune, meaning, yellow; not feeling well.
“Animals is more consistent in their love, than people often are, Miss. No deception with them and no unkindness. They don’t say things to hurt each other and they don’t gossip, or find fault with a body, or try to put you down.”
Anna commiserated and agreed with him.
“I like it here, Miss. It’s peaceful; hard work, good food, good company, and we all work together well, helping each other rather than back biting all of of the time. We are our own close community here, and we know we can trust each other.”
Jarvis gradually unwound even more, and told her all she needed to know of her horse and saddle, though none of it had any real meaning to Anna until she could connect it with something else; a person or a place.
He ran his hand over the saddle, pointing out features about it, the fineness of the leather and how well it was looked after. The bridle was the same.
“There is a Holster for a pistol, on the saddle, and a pistol in it too that was not made in England, I can tell you that. It was loaded too, but it is safe now.”
She had not noticed a pistol, but she had been intent on getting home. She had been well-armed carrying that, and with another pistol in her pocket.
“Saddlebags too, with a wooden case for a smaller pistol (the one in her room) but with no pistol in it. This is a gentleman’s horse, Miss, and I’m surprised you were allowed to ride him, never mind being able to control him, but he is gentle enough for any woman, if she knows what she is doing.”
He was not sure how much more she needed to hear.
“There is not a mark on him; no scars from crop or spur and the bit he has is not at all severe.”
“No Jarvis, he does not even need a bit. He responds to knee, and foot, and voice.”
“But it takes years to learn that, miss, and Peony knew none of that, and with a mouth of iron on her.”
“I must have learned fast.”
Or she’d had a good teacher in those two weeks.
“I did not realize that I was doing exactly what was needed.”
“The horse may have shown you, Miss, with you being gentle with him, as you are with everything you touch. I notice those things.”
As did everyone else.
“I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never seen it. It takes a canny rider to bond like that with a horse, or with anyone in such a short time, and it takes a well-trained horse to do it.”
He began to see another side to miss Anna. Most of her previous uncertainty had gone, but she had always listened to what others had to say, just as she was listening now.
“It seemed the proper… and the only way to ride him, Jarvis. He responded to my voice and seemed to know what I was telling him even before I voiced it.”
Pretty much as the dog did; anticipating her.
“I’ll tell you something, Miss. Wherever this horse came from; he’s sore-missed, and they will be out looking for him, no mistaking that.”
She hoped so. They would be able to provide the answers they all needed.
“What more can you tell me, Jarvis, before I go back to the house, and let everyone get settled here? I should not keep you from your rest.”
“The saddle may once have been used in war, when I look at the slight damage here and there from what must have been sabre cuts.” He touched at some scars in the leather. “But this horse never was in any battle. The saddle may be French, but not the horse. I would hazard a guess that this is a good English-bred horse, Miss. Never left these Isles.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, I can’t be sure. But whoever bred him and raised him, is a man I would very much like to meet. I think he’d be as good and as considerate with people, as he is with horses.”
Anna needed to hear that. Was there such a man that had been in her recent life and her not able to remember it? And had he given her this horse, and Samson, and that jewelry, but had left her with no other memory of him?
“I will draw him too, Miss, or Jennifer will, and we can send out a notice, asking if anyone knows anything about him. I know he must belong to someone close by. His master… or mistress, must be missing him as much as I would.” It would not be right to keep him... unless he really had been given to Miss Anna.
His master was missing him, and he would come looking for him. And her.
Jarvis had to correct what he’d just said. “No, Miss. This was never a woman’s horse, nor was the saddle. This is a man’s horse in every way, and that saddle was used in battle, but not the horse.
“He may be a man’s horse as you say, Jarvis, but I rode him.”
“That, you did, Miss, and that surprised me no end, but…” he said nothing about her riding like a man rode, “and beggin’ your pardon Miss, but he’s still a man’s horse, and he will need to be ridden every day. There is no one around here as can ride him, or should be allowed to ride him, but you.”
Even as she had been riding him. No one here would say much, except for Miss Hetty, who was mostly set in her starchy ways, though she was slowly unbending. You couldn’t stay like that for long on a working farm, and especially with what some of the male and female workers got up to when they were thrown close together in a hay mow, or in a horse stall, or even out in the middle of a field and everyone able to see ‘em goin at it'.
“I will make the time, Jarvis. I am overdue to make visits to some of the outlying farms, and at least I will now be able to keep up with Mr. Frith on a horse that announces his presence.”
The horse did that, right enough.
She'd also make another announcement, riding astride like that, but not having much choice about it with her side-saddle going missing as it had.
“Pardon me for saying so, Miss, but he almost took your brother Martin’s arm off when he came close and was a bit familiar-like with him, but he never offered me any harm when I took him from you. Still, I have the smell of horses and livestock all over me, and I allus carries an apple or a bit of sugar or salt in my pocket. Whoever owns him, is missing him.”
There was also a lady, possibly, somewhere, missing her riding dress and her jewelry, though that woman would have Anna’s horse, and her relatively modest dress. Not a very good exchange for her.
Nothing would make any sense to Anna until she could recall something of that gap in her life, and until that happened, she would be at a complete loss with so few clues, and a two-week gap in her memory.
She went back to the house and up to bed with a jug of hot water, followed by Samson, and by Hetty.
Do you need me to help you undress, Miss?
“Thank you, Hetty, but no. I am quite capable of doing that for myself. I’ll soon settle into the routine of things again.”
Hetty left her; not wanting to, but left her door ajar. If Miss Anna or the dog, wandered, she wanted to know about it. She was in the room next to Anna’s and would leave her own door open.
Anna sat in front of her mirror and went over in her mind what she did remember of that time immediately before she’d arrived back home, and if there was something; anything, in that ride back from the river that might help her recall something.
The only thing she did not remember was actually crossing the river, but she had been on Peony, the first time she'd crossed, and had then been on Tornado, when she had returned across it, and that had been two weeks later; dressed differently and with Samson running along with them. Where the time in between those two events had gone, to achieve such a transformation, she did not know.
When she’d left on that ride, she’d been preoccupied, with many things bearing down on her; her impending meeting with Mr. Crabtree for one, though why she was occupied with that she was not sure. Mostly, they had been the concerns of any landowner who depended upon his land for his survival from one year to the next, just like any farmer.
A bad year could just as easily destroy them, as a good year could uplift them. Another concern, was about getting the hay crop in before any change in the weather could stop them and, of course, the hope that this string of good fortune continued, seeing that the season was coming to a good end, with them having had a more prosperous year than any year before it in the entire history of the estate, or so Mr. Frith had said. He was not lavish with his praise, giving it only when deserved and justified, so when he said something like that, Anna knew she could believe him.
And then she’d crossed the river without even thinking about it, and then…?
Her mind had been everywhere but where it should have been.
Where had she been? She had been looked after somewhere that had agreed with her and had allowed her to grow in some way; that, was sure. She had not suffered for lack of anything and had been well fed, and even pampered. She remembered being happy, but with none of the details. It nagged at her like a loose tooth, or worse, like a toothache; an itch that could not be scratched.
Hetty went downstairs to join Anna’s parents for a few minutes. They would expect it, and they would want to know what she had learned from Anna, before they could retire.
She had nothing to tell them that they hadn’t already heard.
Miss Anna needed time to herself, to think, and to discover what she could, and to learn what she needed to remember. With her memory the way it was, and with that big gap in it, she would be very vulnerable, struggling to grasp at straws.
Her family would get an early start in the morning to get back to London, so Hetty would make only a brief appearance before excusing herself and going to bed.