It was just as well that she did. The cart pulled up outside a very long building which ran along the street for at least the length of six or seven of the old houses. At the further end, she recognised the old blacksmith’s smithy, but the front wall continued along the street until it was pierced by an archway large enough to drive a whole horse and cart under. To the right of this, the wall ran on for the length of another three houses before stopping.
A sign hung from this part of the building, telling the traveller that this was ‘The Carter’s Rest’ and that it had clean rooms and good food for all, at reasonable prices. Jennifer Jane got down just outside the door and waved to the driver as he drove his cart through the archway, before she went into the pub.
The inside didn’t seem to have changed very much, but then she supposed that pubs everywhere looked and smelt much the same.
“Can I have a ginger beer please?” she asked the barman as he looked at her enquiringly.
“Two shillings,” he said with a smile.
“But I only wanted half a pint!”
“That is the price of half a pint, take it or leave it!”
She rooted around in the depths of her pockets and at last found a shilling, a sixpenny piece and a few coppers. That was just about all the money she had left, perhaps she could borrow something from the witches, when she got back to the Home. The barman took her money with a sigh, then looked at it very carefully indeed.
“Where ever did you find this miss?” he asked. He didn’t appear too upset about it, so she just told him that it was the last of the change she had received in another village before coming here.
He gave her all her money back again, except for one penny piece. “You’re in luck my girl. These coins are ever so old and very valuable, if I wasn’t so honest I’d keep them to sell and make a tidy profit I can tell you!”
She took her drink and sat down at the nearest table. There were no other customers in the pub and she was surprised when the barman said “Hello George” as someone came through the doorway. She looked round and saw her driver walking up to the bar. She was still wondering how to go about solving the witches’ problem, when a second cart rattled past the window and a few minutes later another driver came into the pub.
“Hello George,” exclaimed both the barman and the first driver.
Jennifer Jane thought this was a rather strange coincidence, but as she had just come to the conclusion that her only plan was to continue exploring the area using a horse for transport, she didn’t think any more about it. She emptied her glass and took it across to the bar.
“Is there anyone here who rents out horses?” she asked.
“Just turn right out of the door and go through the archway. There are stables in the yard, and it’s possible they’ll have something suitable for you.”
Several people were working in the yard as she went in. Two of the red and white carts were neatly parked in one corner, while the horses were being rubbed down and lead into their stables for a well earned feed. One of the stable lads pointed through the back entrance to the smithy in answer to her question.
“He keeps a few hacks out in a field,” he said. “I hope he’s got a pony or two as well,” he smaned quietly to his mate, as Jennifer Jane left the Inn.
Like all smiths, the big burly man in a leather apron was easily recognised. He smiled as she approached and asked if she could hire a horse.
“Well now missy, I reckon a pony is more your size, don’t you? It so happens that we’ve got a good one out to pasture just now, but I don’t know whether he’s feeling up to working at the moment. He’s a lazy beggar and if he doesn’t like your looks he won’t go!”
Picking up a carrot from a bucketful by the door, he led the way into the field where Sir George’s horse always used to graze. It was one of the few familiar sights she’d seen since entering the village. He waved the carrot in the air and shouted, “Here, come on boy.” The pony took one look and deliberately turned his back.
“See I told you so!”
“Can I go into the field and have a go myself?”