CREATIVE Katherine Stansfield

NWR Issue 106

Something Black Was Showing

The next day, try as I might, I could not get away from the farm to search. Without Charlotte to help with the work there was more to do and Matthew and I soon fell behind, the way we had when Mrs Peter’s shoulder was bad. I had to add John Peter’s chickens to my list of chores because he was still too ill to leave the house, so Mrs Peter said, though he had seemed well enough the previous evening. Well enough in body, at any rate. His mind – already a tender thing – had worsened since the day Charlotte had not come home. There was no doubt about that.

Matthew was keeping away from the farmhouse during the day. The questions that Mrs Peter and I put to him were wearing him out, more so with each hour that passed and there was no sign of Charlotte.

I went to the holy well that night after another difficult supper and said a protection charm for her, wherever she might be, happy or no. The low branches of the hawthorn tree were heavy with ribbons and rags that fluttered like new, colourful leaves.

I barely slept and was awake when the first of the daylight broke into my room. I planned to search early, before morning milking, to cover as much ground as I could. But when I got to the end of the path up to the moor, the scale of the task made me falter.

The moor opened before me, rising and falling and rising again, as far as I could see. To my right was the first marsh, and straight ahead Lanlary Rock, its familiar shape of moor stone breaking from the scrubby grass. Beyond that was the second marsh, then away to the right lay the ford, then beyond that Tresinney, out of sight. Up from the ford was Roughtor and on its other side were more tors – Alex Tor, Butter’s Tor – though they were dwarfed by Roughtor from where I stood. After Alex and Butter’s was the village of St Breward, and Blisland was further on still. And somewhere so far away I could only imagine were the sea and Boscastle. Charlotte could be anywhere...

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