The Henstridge Estate
After that mortifying beginning to her day, and under the curious stares of the passengers, who could now give free rein to their delicious gossiping about seeing the two of them together after what they had overheard, Caroline had gone with Wyatt, across to the store boat holding the cattle and their handler, and saw all their trunks carried over.
She was aware of what those behind them might be discussing, as she defiantly and smilingly waved to them, as though unconcerned or not aware of what they thought, seeing them wave back. Let them think what they would. She would not fuel anything unpleasant but would let them see that she was still her own person no matter what they might think they knew. She saw that they were already tied up under the Mississippi side of the shore and in a place where the water was quite deep, so there had been no need to set the store boat free to be pulled ashore to offload it. The gangway of the Caroline had been carried over and laid out to shore. It did not fully get there, but the water was only a foot or two deep where it ended. With the second gangway added onto the first, everyone could cross to the shore with some dignity, with the cattle being the first to leave, led by their handler and members of the crew. They were obviously curious about encountering dry land for the first time in more than four weeks.
The handler seemed to have accepted that master Henstridge was no longer with them and that the one he would be taking orders from would be the young woman, his sister, whom he remembered from the Osprey and numerous conversations with him. He did not mind the change; he had not liked what he had seen or heard of her brother, but he liked her. He knew better than to ask any questions. He would find out soon enough and keep his eyes open. The surroundings were not what he was used to, but it was a case of Hobson’s choice with him. His former position was no longer in existence when he had shipped out with those cattle, and he had no ties back there. Perhaps he might settle here, if they would have him.
Even as they had come ashore, they saw a youth riding off bareback and with only a rope halter on the horse, to hasten the carriage that should already have been waiting for them. He had recognized Miss Henstridge with some surprise and pleasure. He had been warned to watch out for the boat, those cattle and master Henstridge with them. Her brother was not with her, though another man was.
They sat in the shade under a tree on their trunks and watched the Caroline start out once more once the wooden gangways were lifted back onto the boat.
The herdsman was told which direction to take to get up to the Henstridge estate, some three miles off; and he intended to take it carefully, leading the bull. He had allowed him to sniff at the cows, if they allowed him close, so that he would know that they were not of any interest at the present moment to him, with all of them being pregnant already, except for the one, nursing. The cattle had been standing and eating the food provided for them for almost two weeks and would need to be walked slowly and allowed to graze by the side of the track. It was to be hoped they knew enough to keep away from whatever vegetation might harm them, but being as English as he was, and unfamiliar with the entire countryside, he and they would have a lot to learn. He had been assured that others would soon appear from the nearby fields to help him, having heard the steamboat pull in, and sound its whistle. It looked to be very rich farmland, and everyone was working at getting the harvest of whatever it was, collected and seen to.
It was almost always harvest time for something with the later crops coming in and the last of others being harvested. They had diversified after the war, more with an eye to continued self-survival rather than being focused upon just one major crop for which a market might be uncertain, as they once had done. The sections had been planted sequentially to ensure a continuous crop that could be handled and dealt with, and with limited labor, rather than having it all ripen at once or all spoil at once. It was still very dependent upon there being enough workers to see to it all.
Her brother had supervised none of that. Josh and the others knew what they needed to do and had done it. She found that suddenly she was needed in a way she had not anticipated and liked that feeling that she had forgotten. She could see that there was a lot to do, with workers in the fields gathering up the produce to either market; to process; or to put into storage.