The Fleethaven Trilogy

Read The Fleethaven Trilogy for Free Online

Book: Read The Fleethaven Trilogy for Free Online
Authors: Margaret Dickinson
Tags: Fiction, Classics, Sagas
stern-looking woman, her black dress buttoned to the neck, her dark hair parted in the centre and drawn back severely behind her head.
    In the corner, diagonally opposite where Esther had entered, was another door leading further into the house. She moved slowly past the table, letting her fingers feel the soft fabric of the tablecloth, but it was sticky with dust. She opened the door and stepped into a small hallway. To her left was the front door which she knew would lead out into the garden and orchard and to her right the stairs climbed steeply to the floor above. Opposite was another door leading to what she presumed on entering to be the ‘best parlour’.
    The huge fireplace was ornate and bordered by a brass fender, sadly dull. Dusty velvet festooned the mantel-piece and to one side stood an embroidered fire-screen. In one corner was an organ and in front of the fireplace were chairs, a work-box and a footstool. A tall grandfather clock stood in one corner, its hands set permanently at ten to two. On a round table in front of the window lay a huge family Bible and as Esther glanced round the room it seemed that every surface was cluttered with ornaments and pictures.
    She was quite impressed by the size of the farmhouse; to have a living room
a best parlour was richness indeed. And yet, Esther felt a sadness sweep over her. It was obvious that this house had once been inhabited by a loving family. Poor Sam, she thought, these neglected rooms echoed his loneliness.
    For some reason she could not quite explain, she found herself tiptoeing up the stairs and quietly lifting the latch of a door to her left at the top of the stairs. It was Sam Brumby’s bedroom. Her heart pounded in her chest with nervousness. It was one thing to arrive at the farm and worm her way into a job and a place in a dusty attic; it was quite another to prowl about Sam Brumby’s home and go into his bedroom to search for his personal washing. Even Esther, for all her boldness, felt this might be going just a little too far.
    The room was surprisingly tidy, though dusty. Sam’s Sunday best suit stood on a hanger in the corner, and two faded photographs in silver frames stood on the chest of drawers. Esther bent closer. One was of a man and woman; the woman seated, stiff and straight-backed, her face stern and serious. It was the same face that stared out of the larger picture hanging in the living room. The man, his hand on the back of her chair, had the likeness of Sam about him. Yet it was not Sam. In the other photograph was a solemn little boy, his arm protectively round a smaller girl with a sweet face surrounded by a mass of dark curls.
    Esther straightened up and went to the bed. The covers were pulled straight, though the patchwork quilt needed washing. She pulled back the top coverlet and saw that there were no sheets on the bed, only a rough blanket that smelled a little sour. There was no pillow-case on the rough ticking of the pillow either. Her fingers hesitated over a heavy oak chest standing at the foot of the bed. She had no wish to pry into Sam’s belongings, but if she were to care for him properly she needed to find fresh bedlinen. Taking a deep breath, she lifted the lid. Inside were sheets and pillow-cases, yellow with age, but neatly folded. She pulled out two of each and bundled them under her arm. The lid dropped with a dull thud and as she was going out of the room she noticed a shirt on the floor behind the door. She scooped that up too. At that moment she heard the back door bang and she scuttled down the stairs without stopping to look at the other upstairs rooms.
    Sam was in the kitchen. ‘Now what are ya up to, wench?’ His words followed her as she rushed past him out to the wash-house.
    ‘Weshing, mester,’ she called back over her shoulder. ‘Just a bit o’ weshing.’
    When the sheets, pillow-cases and shirt were bubbling in the copper, Esther went into the barn to search for a length of line to string

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