The moment the oxwagon had stopped there was a forward surge of inquisitive soldier bodies.
“Good day, Gentlemen!” the transporter greeted, taking off his hat. He motioned for his driver and the other helpers to stay put. “I’ve just come to drop off the lady and we’ll be on our way.”
Before anyone could reply to this, the said lady climbed from the back of the wagon, holding her skirts in the one hand to prevent herself from tripping over it, and immediately there was tension in the air.
“Awe, gad!” Jeremy exclaimed as his eyes fell on this vision of loveliness, for surely that was what she was. Pure beauty even with the blonde hair fairly disheveled and her general outfit quite crinkled.
Wolf whistling followed by a great amount of good and crude remarks could be heard.
She stood still for a moment while surveying the crowd with cool blue eyes before her glance started searching around for her husband.
“Captain Peter Holden – is he around, please?” she questioned politely.
This evoked more comments which were quickly smothered by the approach of both Peter and James as they came striding from the wooden quarters at the back and on the border of the main camp.
“Marion!” Peter was a near comical mixture of emotions the way his face was working. Joy, ecstasy, relief, fear, concern, and anger. As he reached the side of his wife, gave her a peck on the cheek and held her to him by the shoulders, his eyes swept over his fellow soldiers.
“Lay off, will you!” he warned straightaway, his fear overriding all other emotions. He then turned to look at the face of the woman he had longed for so long. “Love, you cannot stay. But wait a minute.” He pinned his eyes on the transporter with great appeal. “Mister, I cannot thank you enough for having brought my wife safely thus far, but I have to beg of you, and I’ll pay you handsomely for such a favour, to please take her away with you to the nearest town inland and set her up at an inn. I will arrange for special leave…” he looked at Marion then, “…and meet up with you there? Will you do that?” His voice dropped to a whisper. “It is not safe here, Marion.”
“I’m not leaving, Peter. I have come thus far, crossed the ocean, nearly got tossed overboard on the ship during a storm, had to organize a hundred things since I arrived at port in Lorenzo Marques, had to fight off some bandits alongside Mister Lancet here, and…No! I am staying!”
Lancet pulled a face. “You two want some time to sort this out? I want to be on my way in no more than an hour, still have to find a place to outspan before nightfall…”
“No time needed,” said Peter. “Mrs. Holden will go on with you if you are willing.”
“I’m staying here!” demanded Mrs. Holden firmly. “I shall leave with the next available transportation that comes along!”
“But there is no transport!” protested her husband. “Just some military carts and such coming and going from time to time and you cannot..!”
“We’ll make a plan!” She stood her ground.
That was the end of it.
The honourable Mr. Lancet climbed onto the bench with the driver and they were seen bumping along towards the west minutes later with much whistling, shouting and the clap of whips from the helpers as they guided the oxen along.
Thoroughly flustered and dismayed Peter introduced Marion to James and the three of them walked off to the sleeping quarters which some of the officers occupied.
All eyes followed them.
“Not fair. Not sporty at all!”
There was something Jeremy noticed though which seemed to have escaped everybody’s attention.
In the “protective” James’ glance, in his quiet demeanour and astonishment, there was more awareness of the woman, and more lust, than in any other man present.
To be continued.