Saturday, October 5, 2013

Seventieth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

         The next morning they set out for Salthouse, arriving a day ahead of schedule. On settling back into their lodgings, Gwilym stopped Fred for a minute. “I’ve been so concerned about myself I forgot to ask about you. How is Heilin?”
         Fred gave a broad smile. “Pregnant. Huge with child. I’m to be a father in th’spring!”
         “That’s wonderful, Fred! Congratulations! This will be a new life for you! You are going to be the greatest father! I’ve seen you with my boys. Let me buy you a drink to celebrate.”
They walked into the inn where half the crew was assembled. “Join me for a drink to the newest father on our crew! Fred will have a child in the spring!”
         The men cheered and took turns slapping his back, shaking his hand and telling various funny and scary stories about being a father.
         When the men had settled down, Gwilym asked Fred for details. “Did you buy a farm with your money?”
         “Aye. I bought old Fane’s land now that his mind is gone and he’s livin’ with his daughter. Got a fair price for it too. We’re using some of th’money to fix up th’old farmhouse. It needs a new thatch and another layer of mud on th’walls. Heilin loves it. She’s fixing it up now for th’wain.”
         “That’s great Fred. You’ll make a success of it I’m sure. What will you plant this spring?”
“I’m plantin’ wheat. But I’ll get some cows and sheep too, for milk and wool. Heilin’s always busy so I’ll dig her a vegetable garden to tend. Umm… Gwilym…I’ve been meanin’ to ask you…”
         “If you can go home in time for the baby, and to plant your crops?”
         “No Fred.”
         Fred’s face dropped. “All right.”
         Gwilym smiled and waited for Fred to raise his eyes to look at him. “Why are tha smilin’, Gwilym?” His expression was that of a beaten cur.
         “Can you not think of why you’re obligated to stay until the end of the project?”
         “No. I thought it were goin’ pretty well. We are ahead of schedule. You got money for th’mosaic so we’re under budget. Everythin’ is bein’ built just th’way we planned. Tha don’t need me anymore.”
         “Did you forget what you asked me on the day you arrived in Salthouse?”
         Fred’s brow furrowed. Then his face cleared and a smile broke out to match Gwilym’s. “I owe you some of my pay! I took out th’whole season’s pay to buy th’fields. Aye! Here you go, Gwilym.”
Fred fished out a pouch and counted out a large sum of money. He handed this to Gwilym. “That’s too much, Fred. You only owe me wages from March to May. You’ve given me six month’s salary.”
         “Aye. But I tripled my money so it’s only fair you get back triple.”
         “No, Fred. The books won’t work out if you do that. I’ll take back only two months of your pay. Use the rest to buy something nice for your baby.”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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