Patience knew the thought of leaving Woolcote Farm couldn’t be put off for much longer. Soon she’d have to go, but how it would break her heart when the time came. Since last October, after Tom had arrived, she’d never been too concerned about living in the farmhouse with him, but now with Isaac gone, it changed everything. Although it didn’t bother her too much she knew it would her parents.
Oh! She loved her life here, but sensed it could well change and she’d have no choice but to return home to Besforth. She didn’t need telling, it wasn’t right for her and Tom to live under the same roof. Of course, it’d been different when there had been just her and Isaac. He’d been like a father to her, but Tom …
But, it seemed as if fate had stepped in preventing her from leaving Woolcote Farm. At first there’d been Isaac who needed caring for. His wake, two days later had to be arranged. Then, heavy snow came on Christmas day and there’d been little respite from the heavy snow showers since, until they stopped two days ago. Being snowed in put paid to her leaving and then a deep thaw had set in, causing widespread flooding as melted snow came down from the hills onto the lower pasture making the track leading to and from the farm impassable.
‘I’ve been doing some thinking lately,’ Tom said that evening, after they’d taken the last of the sheep up to higher ground. ‘As soon as lambing season gets underway, I’ll be getting extra men in. I plan to expand the stock you see, I was hoping you’d be able to help out as well.’ Tom shrugged. ‘I take it you still want to stay?’
Patience slowly nodded and allowed him to go on.
‘I’ll be getting a young lass to help around the house and she’ll live in, of course. I don’t want tongues wagging, you know what I mean?’ He raised his eyebrows and then said triumphantly, ‘So, what do you think, does that suit you?’
Her smile broadened in approval at his plans and it took Patience all her time not to fling her arms about his neck and give him a hug. ‘I’m speechless,’ she said, shrugging her shoulders and then wiping a stray tear from her eye, then replying again, ‘I’m just speechless.’
At first light the next morning, Tom went to check on the road and came back minutes later satisfied that the track was fairly passable now with only a little flooding in places. Soon after nine o’clock, the five-year-old chestnut mare had been hitched up to the cart.
Besforth, a small town, sat just inside of the Nottinghamshire border and Woolcote Farm could be found on the outskirts of it. It was a small town and was adequate for all Tom’s business needs. Provisions had grown seriously low over the past weeks and he knew the journey couldn’t be delayed any longer.
‘Why not come along with me. I can allus drop you off at your ma and pa’s. They’ll be right chuffed to see you and anyway, you must be sick of looking at me these past weeks.’
Patience smiled at his kindness and declined his offer, saying she’d prefer to have a hot meal ready waiting for him for when he returned later that day. ‘Give it a few days and then you can take me, then,’ she agreed. ‘As you say, no doubt they’ll be wondering how I am, but I’m sure they can wait a few more days at least.’
With that Tom gave her a bright smile and set on his way.
She stood by the door feeling slightly guilty she ought to have gone with him. Leaning down, she stroked the top of Bess’s head.
Her time with Tom these past weeks had been enjoyable to say the least. Although they both missed Isaac terribly, as Tom said, “life goes on”. They spent time together planning and predicting how well the farm would flourish a year on from now, and how Isaac would be proud of them both. But, more so, Patience relished in the attention Tom gave her. She’d almost forgotten to feel what it was like to be with people her own age. His company was pleasant and she warmed to his charm in the winter evenings. Each night, they’d sit by the flickering firelight, sharing their own personal memories of Isaac and Annie and it’d been those cosy tête-à-têtes that’d drawn her more to the man who was now her employer. He was so much like his father, she thought as she’d watched him leave. Although Isaac had been short in stature, compared to Tom, they both portrayed the Baker mop of sandy hair. Tom was a likable man and already it seemed as if she’d known him years. It was then certain feelings stirred and she rebuked herself for behaving like a schoolgirl.
But even now as she stood on the doorstep, waving him off, these feelings refused to go away.
Patience remained for some time by the door, her shoulder pressed against its frame. A sharp breeze blew down from the hillside, causing the standing water to ripple. She listened to distant bleating coming from the three lame ewes in the barn. They could smell the greenness in the air, but until their health improved, they’d just have to stay put.
It was soon after four o’clock that Patience heard the sound of the cart pulling up by the door. Setting down her sewing, she got up to meet him, but no sooner had she reached the door to the kitchen, did he come bursting through the door. A bundle of post was in one hand and an opened letter in the other.
Unable to contain his excitement, he crossed the room, his beaming smile revealing white even teeth. ‘She’s only said, Yes! Maggie’s only going to be my wife.’ So caught up in his happiness, Tom didn’t see the smile slip from Patience’s lips.