Ben watched Felicity run back to the house with a sad expression on his face. Dear Lissie, who loved horses more than life was now terrified of them...
He sighed and tethered the black horse's reigns to a post and headed for the house to see what he could do. As Ben came into the grand house, he bumped into Mrs. Merriman, who was watching up the stairs fretfully.
"What's happened, Ben? Lissie is not one for crying at odd hours" The kindly older woman asked. Ben shook his head.
"I'll handle it" Slowly, the lanky youth of sixteen climbed up the wood steps, crossing the landing to where Felicity's door lay, shut tightly. He knocked softly.
"Lissie?" Silence greeted him. He knocked again.
"Please, Felicity. Come out just for a moment" What happened next was quite surprising. Felicity shot out of her room, hugging Ben tightly as tears slipped down her face.
"Oh, Ben.. I-I don't know what's wrong with me" Ben patted the girl's back awkwardly, then threw caution to the winds and hugged her back.
"Don't worry, you're still recovering from your accident. 'Tis only natural to be afraid"
"B-but why did it even happen?" Felicity sobbed, tightening her grip so that her white mob cap fell off, unleashing her fiery curls. Ben took in a shallow breath as the smell of lavender and vanilla wafted to him. She had just washed her hair this morning...
"I looked Penny all over, and I can't explain it, Lissie. Maybe Penny had a pebble in her hoof that fell out later" Felicity sniffed, pulling away. Ben watched with a worried look he didn't even know graced his handsome features. A awkward silence set in, and Ben cleared his throat.
"I have an errand to run this afternoon, so I will not be here. Be sure to remind your mother" Felicity nodded.
"I will be back well before sunset, 'twould be an honor if you were waiting in the courtyard to receive me" Felicity smiled, wiping her face.
"'Twould be my honor, Benjamin Davidson"
True to her word, Felicity peered out the window periodically after three-thirty struck on the grandfather clock in the parlor.
Three-thirty crept to four-o-clock, then quarter after, half past. Five-o-clock. Felicity sighed impatiently, pacing around her room. The sun that had been shining so brightly early that morning had gone, the wind picking up. By half past five, it was raining in earnest.
Then, hoofbeats sounded on the cobbled rock. Felicity looked down to see her father striding through the rain to the door. She ran downstairs, just in time to meet him in the parlor.
"Father, where is Ben?" She asked worriedly. "He promised to be back well before sunset.." Mr. Merriman sighed and dropped heavily into an armchair.
"I just came from the store on the main road, and I saw no sign of Ben or his horse. I fear he may have gotten lost in this storm" As if in reply, the wind picked up, howling against the shutters. Felicity sat down, unable to keep on her feet anymore. She was deathly pale.
"Mayhap he stayed in a barn for the night?" She asked, hand to her nervous heart.
"'Tis a possibility, Lissie. For now we can only pray for his safety and search in the morning" Felicity's heart began beat much too fast with worry. She went back upstairs, only coming down to have supper with the family. After the meal she sat with the rest of the house as they read from the bible.
Felicity was nearly mad with worry when Marcus burst into the room, soaked from head to toe.
"Ben's horse found its way home just now, no rider" Everyone looked at each other, fearing the worst.
"We will send out searchers first thing tomorrow" Mr. Merriman said, his lips setting in a hard line.
"I can go tonight, i-" Marcus was cut off by Mr. Merriman's harsh tone.
"No, Marcus. You need to stay here, the gale is too powerful. We all love Ben, but he is a smart and resourceful lad. He will survive until we can get there"
At this point, Felicity excused herself, pleading exhaustion. Her parents let her go, and she shut herself in her bed chamber.
The red-haired maiden proceeded to pace around her small room. She had to get out of the house tonight, as soon as everyone was asleep. She had to help Ben, even if that meant riding out in the storm.
Just the mere thought of stepping foot in a saddle made Felicity's pulse race with fear. Terribly conflicted, she went between her fear and her friend.
The question was, what did she fear more? Losing Ben, or the horse?
The grandfather clock chimed midnight, and everyone in the house was asleep. Felicity slid off her bed, where she had been waiting, and pulled out Ben's breeches from her mending basket. She pulled them on, then pulled her thickest coat on and a par of old boots that went up to her knees.
Felicity slid out of the front door, almost knocked over by the gale blowing outside. The wind buffeted her every step, threatening to knock her off course. She made it to the stable though, without any mishaps, and pulled herself inside, already soaked.
She proceeded to go right to the stall where Ben's horse stood, watching her with large brown eyes. Felicity inched closer, Ben's words of comfort echoing in her head. This horse wouldn't hurt her. Hesitantly, she began to stroke Mary's nose, getting more confident by the minute.
"You love Ben, right Mary?" She murmured. "I need your help to find him, and you're the only one who knows where he is" Mary tossed her mane in reply.
Felicity saddled the black horse quickly, adding an extra saddle blanket for warmth. Swallowing her fear, she took the reigns and led Mary out into the storm.
"What are you doing?" Marcus' sudden voice scared Felicity out of her skin. She turned around to see the african-american man towering over her.
"I think you know, Marcus" With that, Marcus' brown eyes softened.
"I thought as much. Take my cloak, it will keep you warmer" He handed a heavy woolen bundle to her, and she slipped it around her shoulders.
"Thank you Marcus, i'll bring him back"
"I know you will"
Then Felicity disappeared into the night, taking the horse with her.