Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories (6 page)

BOOK: Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories
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Much might have been made of this by the girls, who were prone to gossip and speculation, but after three days and nights of tireless labor, sleep soon claimed all, even, mercifully, Miss Barnard. No call for their services came that next day, and so, for the first time in nearly a fortnight, the unit had no other task than that of rest and recovery. Miss Barnard remained in bed, tended to by Millicent, and appeared to be regaining lucidity. Pauline sought out Flora, determined that now they should talk, only to be told by one of the other girls that Flora had slipped out early that morning without a word to anyone.
That evening, the calm of the day gave way to merriment, as the girls gathered around the hearth of the little French farmhouse and passed around a bottle of calvados, along with many ribald remarks. Only Pauline sat apart from the others, gathering courage, for Flora had returned and, without a word to anyone, had gone to one of the upstairs rooms and shut herself in.
“Come on, Mabel, let's go up to bed, do let's,” begged Georgina as her roommate grabbed the bottle for another swig. “I won't be henpecked,” declared Mabel. But before their quarrel could become serious, Valerie took the bottle from Mabel and, pouring a glass, brought it to Pauline.
“Why so sad,
ma chérie
? Maybe you could let me try to cheer you up, no? This is something I am very good at,
tu sais
, putting a smile on a woman's face.
Laisse-moi essayer, on peut s'amuser très bien, n'est-ce pas?

Pauline hated to refuse Valerie's kindness, but she knew that only Flora could lift this heaviness from her heart. Leaving a resentful Valerie behind, Pauline stole upstairs to Flora's room. This time she didn't knock, only eased the door open a crack, expecting to find Flora in bed. But she had to smother a gasp, for Flora, a tear trickling down her cheek, knelt by the window, grasping an electric torch and slowly flashing it on, off, on, off. Unnoticed, Pauline hurriedly exited.
Pauline had not believed that Flora could be disloyal, yet the evidence was now too great to ignore, and the risk of Pauline's silence too grave. It was common knowledge that this section of the front was weakly defended. Had that been the subject of Flora's discussion with the German soldier, or perhaps the content of some coded message, just now transmitted? Pauline stumbled down the staircase, too distraught to notice where she was going, and suddenly, Valerie was there, holding her and stroking her hair.
“Ah, she has again broken your heart.
Elle est faite de la glace
. But do not worry, Valerie is here.”
At these compassionate words from her comrade, Pauline could hold back no longer. She unburdened her heart to Valerie, jumbling together her love of Emma and her feelings for Flora and, finally, relating what she had observed with the letter, the soldier, and the torch. The more she spoke, the angrier Valerie became, and when finally it was Valerie's turn to speak, Pauline was taken aback by her ferocity.

Un espion!
” hissed Valerie. “I should have known. Why else would
une femme
such as she have joined the Englishwomen Volunteers? We must go at once to Miss Barnard with this information!”
As much as it pained Pauline, she could not dispute Valérie's decision, and together they made their way to the wing of the house that served as Miss Barnard's headquarters and bedroom. But as they approached her door, there was a tremendous noise and suddenly Pauline and Valerie found themselves on the ground. Screams and chaos erupted all about them.
“A mortar! We've been hit!”
“Is anyone hurt?”
“Where's Miss Barnard?”
As if in response, a scream issued forth from Miss Barnard's room. So chilling was the effect that each woman present stood frozen in place for an awful, helpless moment, before wartime instincts took over. The girls raced to the room and found Miss Barnard standing over Millicent's still body, crying in a harsh, unfamiliar voice, “Not again—not again.” With everyone crowded around Millicent, tending feverishly to their fallen comrade, it was some minutes before the girls noticed that Miss Barnard was gone. Agatha was sent out in search of her, and not more than five minutes had passed when the door opened with a bang. Every head turned to see a panic-stricken Agatha stumble in, followed by a gust of icy rain.
“Quick, someone do something! Miss Barnard's having one of her spells and she's riding Emma as fast as ever she can, right towards the front! Oh, it's simply ghastly! Whatever shall we do?”
Now the girls milled about in excitement and distress, each suggesting a different course of action. “We should have been on the lookout for just this sort of thing,” mourned Alice.
“I'll take one of the ambulances,” said Mabel, swaying unsteadily to her feet.
“You're drunk!” said Georgina on the verge of tears.
Agatha wrung her hands, wailing, “Emma will be going across the fields, jumping fences. We won't be able to catch her in a motor!”
Where a moment before, Pauline had felt only panic and fright, suddenly she felt clearheaded and purposeful. “There's only one way to catch her, and that's on another horse,” said Pauline with decision. “I'll ride Mathieu's carthorse. Quick, Mabel, your trousers.” Pauline changed while Valerie saddled up the horse and, with little time lost, Pauline set out in pursuit of Miss Barnard.
When the girls returned from the barn to the house, they found a dazed Flora stumbling down the staircase. Having lost consciousness when hit by a chunk of debris from the blast, she had been oblivious to the excitement downstairs. Forgetting their animosity for Flora, the girls quickly related all that had happened. When they reached the part about Pauline riding after Miss Barnard, Flora turned quite pale.
“Pauline? You say Pauline went after her?” she queried in a voice so fraught with fear as to be almost unrecognizable. “She has only ridden once. Why did you send her? She has ridden but once in her life.”
The girls looked at each other, speechless, until finally Alice broke the awful silence. “I assure you, Flora, we had no idea. We should never have let her go if we had. She appeared a most accomplished rider.”
“Which way did they go?” Flora asked sharply, shaking off her despair. “I shall take one of the ambulances and go after them.” Flora pulled on her overcoat as she spoke, and was out the door before anyone had a chance to reply. She had just started the motor when Valerie jumped in the other side.

Allons-y!
Hurry, we must find them,” was all she said. Flora gunned the motor and they were off.
It was a wild night to be abroad, and the blustery winds now covered the moon with clouds, now blew them away so that the countryside was almost as bright as day in the moonlight. Valérie and Flora drove in tense silence, bouncing over the rutted roads. Then Valerie spoke.
“We drive towards the front, but do not be tempted to try any of your dirty business.” As she said this, Valerie removed her hand from her pocket to reveal a pistol.
“I must insist that you put that weapon away, Miss Burne-Jones, and you would be well advised to refrain from such wild accusations,” Flora replied sharply, never taking her eyes from the road.
Valerie glared at Flora, as if gathering strength for another attack, when they rounded a curve and Flora pointed out the window. “There!” she breathed, and they both saw the unmistakable figure of Emma streaking across the fields and bounding over the rustic fences as if she were running the Grand National, Miss Barnard perfectly balanced in the saddle. “She is like a valkyrie,” said Valerie, overcome with admiration, even though it was clear Miss Barnard was quite mad.
“And look!” There was Mathieu's heavy percheron, moving at a lumbering gallop across the fields, his path angled to intercept Miss Barnard's. They could just make out the slim figure clinging to his back, her mac glistening with rain, before a dark cloud covered the moon. “She must have taken, how you call it, a shortcut,” Valerie remarked tensely.
“But will she reach her in time?” Flora whispered hoarsely as she gunned the engine and turned into the field. They knew they were very near the front—they could now see the craters made by the recent shelling, and the barbed wire, and hear the distant crack of rifles. Death was very close now. A sudden gust of wind shredded the veil of cloud from the moon, illuminating for an instant the field. Not more than a hundred yards ahead was the form of a thrown rider, struggling to get up, a horse standing nearby with its head hanging down, breathing hard.
Flora stopped the ambulance with a jerk. Flinging herself out of the vehicle, she ran toward the fallen rider with Valerie behind her, squelching rapidly through the mud. When the two reached the fallen figure, they saw it was Pauline trying desperately to lift herself out of the mud. Flora flung her arms around the panting, bedraggled girl. “Oh, Pauline, my Pauline, thank God you're safe,” she cried, clutching the sodden head to her bosom.
“Miss Barnard and Emma,” was all Pauline managed to get out as she lifted a trembling hand and pointed. Then Flora and Valerie saw it—a few feet away, blending in with the mud and rain and desolation, were two dark mounds which seemed part of the landscape. Flora ran to the prone woman, Valerie at her side and Pauline dragging herself behind. The rain had cleaned the mud from Miss Barnard's face, and they could all see imprinted on it a faintly triumphant smile.
The girls stood a moment in despair, then Valerie wheeled around and pointed accusingly at Flora, “
Tu l'as fait!
” she cried. “You did this thing! You are an
espion
, worse than
les sales boches
!” Even Pauline understood this. The phrase “dirty German” was on everyone's lips these days, no matter the language.
“I am no spy!” said Flora so forcefully, that for a moment Pauline believed her. Then memories of Flora's iniquity rose up like a fresh misery in her mind.
“It's no good, Flora,” she shouted through the rising wind. “We know! I saw you signaling with your torch. I saw you speaking with the German yesterday, the letter to Berlin—I could not believe it of you, Flora, but when I saw you with the torch, I knew there could be no other explanation. I can't turn you in . . . just, please . . . go away. Disappear.”
“But me, I can turn you in!” said Valerie fiercely. “Or I can deal with you now, like the
chien
you are!” Drawing the pistol from her pocket, Valerie pointed it at Flora. Horrified, Pauline grabbed her arm, and the revolver went off. Flora flinched as the bullet whistled past her ear, and Valerie stood, holding her pistol, looking at it in a sort of shock.
“You fools!” said a low voice. They turned, and to their amazement they saw that Miss Barnard had risen to her full, imposing height. Her eyes flashed with the keen intelligence they remembered, and they knew her sanity had returned at last. “Have you learned nothing from the horrors of war but hate and madness and death?” And as she spoke, Emma, too, struggled to her feet, whinnying a little.
Valérie stood for a moment longer, gazing at her gun. Then, “
Qu'est-ce que j'ai fait
?
What have I done?” she wailed, and hurled the gun as far away from her as she could.
“No one has been hurt, this time,” said Miss Barnard gently, but with a warning edge. Then she turned toward Flora and asked slowly, in a level voice, “Miss Thurlow, do you have some explanation to offer?”
“I thought I was in love with Marlene,” Flora started, “and she with me.” A look of understanding grew on the faces of the other women as they listened.
“We had planned to meet in Switzerland, when I received a letter from her, breaking off our affair. But I could not forget Marlene, and I wrote her again and again, pleading with her to take me back. I knew I would go mad if I continued on in that way, so I joined the Volunteers. The letter I wrote that night was my last and for my benefit alone, for I never posted it.”
The look of pain on Pauline's face as Flora spoke of Marlene was unmistakable, and as Flora continued, she moved closer to Pauline, and put an arm around the trembling girl. “Dear Pauline, I did give some few supplies to the German you saw, but no secrets. I knew Klaus from his days as the bouncer at the Kit Kat Klub, where Marlene worked. When I saw him, it was as if the wounds were fresh again and I had to know what had become of her. I learned from him that Marlene had married the owner of the club, an abhorrent little man, but quite well connected—the kind of man who, even in wartime, could procure for Marlene the luxuries she found so indispensable. I must confess this news threw me into a turmoil, and I spent all the next day walking and going over our relationship in my mind. When I returned that night, I went to my room and played a little game that Marlene and I had shared, a child's game of shadow puppets.”
“So you were not signaling at all!” Pauline wondered that she could have been so distrustful of actions, which, in retrospect, were clearly quite innocent. But then a darker thought crossed her mind. “So . . . you are still in love with Marlene?”
“No, dear girl, I don't believe I ever was. As I played that child's game, I knew, with certainty, that I was through with Marlene and our childish relationship. I had gone downstairs to tell you just that, when I learned that you had so bravely set off after Miss Barnard.” Now Pauline took Flora in her arms, and Flora rested her golden curls on the gangly girl's shoulder.
BOOK: Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories
12.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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