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THE YORKSHIRE MOORS, 1780
Thomas Braithwaite, Coachman
I didn’t see the man at first, in the dark and the rain. It was only when he stepped out into the road, a mere few yards in front of the coach, that I saw him at all. I yelled, “Whoa!” and yanked on the reins to slow the horses down. He must have heard me, because he looked up and tried to jump out of the way, but I felt a thud, and heard a cry of pain.
I pulled the horses to a halt and stepped down from the box seat. That was when the carriage lamp lit up his face, and I got a better look at him.
It was not a comforting sight. He was lying on the ground and his arm was bleeding. He had no coat, his hair and clothes were soaking wet, and the eyes which were staring up at me displayed a wild light which gave him the appearance of a man possessed.
“Is anything the matter, sir?” I ventured to ask – although I knew the answer to this question almost before it had left my lips. Even without the injury to his arm, I could tell that there was clearly something very much the matter. No man in his right mind would be wandering across the moors, coatless and hatless, on a wet and blustery night such as this.
He stared at me and staggered to his feet, all the while muttering under his breath. As he drew nearer I could hear that he was making the same sound over and over again. But it made no sense. It sounded like “Degrade… degrade… degrade…”
I walked towards him, extending my hand.
“Sir, you are injured, and it is not good to be out in this foul weather. Please, will you allow me to transport you to your home?”
“Home?” he snarled, baring his teeth. “I have no home. Not now.”
I was anxious to know what had brought him hither, in a temper which so strongly matched the tempest around us – but this was neither the time nor the place to ask. Instead, I hastily tied my kerchief around the wound in his arm, then gestured towards the coach and offered to transport him to the nearby inn which was to be the coach’s destination for the night.
He appeared to consider this for a moment, then shrugged his thick-set shoulders and gave a barely perceptible nod.
I opened the coach door and motioned him to climb aboard. As he entered, I heard various words from the other passengers within, but could not make out what was being said. I closed the door behind him, climbed back into the box seat and tugged on the reins. The horses broke into a canter as we covered the remaining few miles to the inn.
I was troubled. Who was this mysterious stranger, and what was he fleeing from?
About the Author
Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent to her two sons. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.
In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat Publishing, Sue is the author of four novels: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don’t, The Unkindest Cut of All and Never on Saturday.Her fifth novel, Heathcliff, will be published on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë.
Sue speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.She is also very interested in Family History.Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.
Sue lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.