Ch. 47.5 — Mr. Dumfries paced back and forth in his living room. Pale gray light filtered in along the edges of the closed curtains. The gingerbread he had eaten for breakfast had filled him with strength and energy. He had bathed, trimmed his scraggly beard, and dressed in his best uniform. He now had his mailbag on his shoulder, stuffed with food, and his trusty sword at his side. He was ready.
Mr. Dumfries peeked out the front window. Thick gray clouds threatened rain and possibly more snow. This was the coldest spring he’d seen in many a year. Perhaps it would be to their advantage in the coming battle. Then again, perhaps not.
The clock on the mantle ticked on, and Mr. Dumfries kept pacing.
Then came a soft knock at the door. He rushed over and opened it. A gnome ushered in a couple of women wearing gray cloaks, with hoods that hid their faces.
The gnome looked up at Mr. Dumfries. “Take good care of them.”
“I will. Thank you.”
The gnome nodded and closed the door.
Mr. Dumfries turned to the women. “Ladies, welcome to my humble home.”
One of the women clasped his hand. “I can’t thank you enough for your help.”
Mr. Dumfries recognized her voice. He squeezed her hand and gave her a small bow. “It is my honor to do so, your Majesty.”
He owed Ezra so much. Of course he would help Ezra’s mother, the Queen. He wished circumstances were different, that he could have invited them to sit by the fire while he served them cake and tea, and entertained them with stories of his youth. But this was no ordinary day, and in an ordinary time they might never have met each other.
He glanced over at the other woman, but she stayed silent and still, as if hoping to not draw attention to herself. She was small and slender, and looked if a strong wind would blow her away. He hadn’t been told anything about her, and his curiosity bubbled.
“Right, then. Follow me.” He flung his long, dark gray cloak around himself and led them through the house to the kitchen door, and then out to the back yard. He glanced both ways, but his neighbors were still asleep. He stopped to lock the back door. Sadness stabbed through his heart. Maybe he’d never see his little home again. Maybe the trolls would burn the town.
They hurried across the dew-drenched grass. He opened the shed door and greeted Bernie, who put back his ears and hissed at him. The donkey had been hitched to the mail cart for almost an hour.
“Sorry, old boy,” he whispered. “Didn’t mean to make you wait so long. Ladies, if you’ll climb in the back? I’m sorry I can’t make it more comfortable.”
The two women climbed into the cart and sat on the hard wooden floor, with their knees up and backs to the wall. Mr. Dumfries piled large stuffed mailbags in front of them, plus a bag of oats, and then covered the entire cart with a waterproof cloth, which he tied down. It would be cramped and uncomfortable for them, but safer than any other way out of the city.
He led Bernie outside, and then closed the shed door. They headed down the street, trying not to walk too fast. It was important that his actions look like those he took every day.