The Bowman’s Tutorage
Jake, the dog, was the first to see Rob and Linnaeus as they entered the village, whilst they tethered their horses at the Inn. Jake greeted Linnaeus and Rob with several loud barks and tail wagging furiously. The greeting was not without confusion as Jake then looked around for Jack. Rob ruffled his head saying, “Don’t worry, Jake. He won’t be long.”
Rob’s father, Alfred Miller, came out of the arched stone doorway to take the horses to the stables.
“Good journey?” he enquired.
“Yes!” replied Linnaeus, “The mirror worked well.”
As he took off his saddlebags and walked inside he said, “I’m glad to be here,” looking up at the sky, “I think Jack and Jenkins are in for a thorough drenching.”
Thunder clouds, dark and forbidding, were gathering overhead as Jack and Jenkins rode towards Marlton. They still had a good twelve miles to go, and they too were looking at the darkening sky when they heard the first distant peel of thunder.
Jenkins reached into his saddle bags and pulled out two oil skin cloaks, handing one to Jack.
“Pull up the hood if it rains heavy,” Jenkins said.
The storm began in earnest when they still had ten miles to go. There was a flash of lightening followed quickly by a crash of thunder that prompted a torrential downpour. Both of the horses side-stepped nervously as the sky darkened further, after another dreadful crash of thunder, lightning now directly overhead, the horses rapidly becoming distressed and threatened to dismount their riders, so Jenkins and Jack dismounted and calmed them.
They walked on and seeing no obvious shelter, they decided to carry on to Marlton village. The road quickly filled with puddles and became slippery under foot; as they trudged on, a grinning Jenkins turned to Jack and said, “Aye Jack this is what makes it green.”
The oilskin cloaks were not entirely waterproof, and Jack was getting soaked right through as they waded across a couple of steams that hours before they could have ridden across. The rain fell almost vertically and was ice cold. Soaked through, they carried on at a snail’s pace on the steeper parts of the road. The storm seemed to be keeping pace with them, with no let-up in sight. Another hour they walked, side by side, conversation impossible over the drenching rain. Three hours later, and still six miles from Marlton, at last the rains began to thin, and they could see the road to the last hill top before Marlton. The dying storm gave one last bright flash of lightening that illuminated a hooded rider in silhouette on the crest of the hill. Oddly, the stranger was not head down trudging home as Jenkins and Jack were, the silhouette was mounted and side on to the road as though he was looking back towards them.
“Did you see him, Jack?” said Jenkins
“Yes, just for a second.”
“Odd that…” continued Jenkins, rain streaming down his nose, “Looks like he is heading north, not by any of the usual ways though.”
The village of Marlton was illuminated in shafts of evening sunlight, shining through gaps in the cloud as the storm faded away into the east. The air cleared and their nostrils caught the wonderful fresh smell that comes after heavy rain. Jake, sensible as ever, was inside the inn and out of the rain with Linnaeus and Rob, when his ears pricked up, he was up in an instant and barking at the door.
“That will be them now,” said Rob, as he opened the door.
Jake was off like an arrow racing up the hill to meet Jack. Shortly afterwards, all three arrived. Two soaked right through and one dry dog.