Still in the forest. Daytime, sunlight, resting. Could not sleep for cold and fear, so walked most of night. Hour or two before dawn, could not keep eyes open and self upright; Mr. Miller let me sleep a while, then we continued. About noon now. Hungry, tired. Hands very cold, difficult to write. Something comforting about it, though.
On we go.
Thank whatever fates led us here! I am feeling much better with a full stomach and a warm body. We have dined at an inn, and secured a room under the names Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. Over our hearty supper (watery beef stew and bitter coffee never tasted so good!), Mr. Miller communicated to me that a mute man would be memorable if Belleclaire's men came looking for us, so he pretended to be ill so that I could make the arrangements for our room. I said we were on our way to visit relatives, but had been robbed on the road on our way here, left with little but our clothes and our lives. The innkeeper didn't seem terribly interested in my lies, and I hope he will not remember our faces.
I am in our room now, and Mr. Miller has gone back downstairs to give me time to straighten up. My hair is a disaster and my lovely wool coat is filthy. If nothing can be done for my clothes, I can at least clean my body. There are two communal water closets at the end of the hall, one for men and one for women. Off I go.
Oh, my! I thought nothing of sharing a water closet at first, as I had known nothing else all my life, but a handful of nice young orphan girls treats their personal WC entirely differently than do a bunch of ill-bred, messy, strangers treat the communal water closet in an inn! What a disgrace it was! And shame on the management, for letting it remain in such a state! I hurried as much as I was able and dashed back to our room with my wet hair trailing down my back. Ugh! I am dry and dressed now, however, in my new skirt and one of my new blouses. I am not sure anything can be done for my fine clothes. The blouse and waistcoat are not in a bad way, but the bottom of the skirt is torn in several places, and filthy from tromping through the woods for a night and a day.
I shall not think of the loss, however, even if they were some of the finest things I had ever owned. I must be practical. It would not be well for a destitute traveling "newlywed" woman to wear such finery, so I must hide it away Perhaps I can make the skirt into a bag with straps, in order to carry our things in and make our travel easier. Yes, I must think of it like that. I have even got my little sewing kit with me, since I brought my carry-on case into town. And now, to continue my tale (and distract myself):
This morning when I woke very early, the sun was just rising, turning everything grey instead of black, and bringing the creeping fog. I ached all over, and my throat was painfully dry. More than anything, though, I was cold. It took me several minutes to even sit up, and then several more to stretch my agonized muscles enough to stand, with Mr. Miller's help. He did not look as though he had slept at all, and I did not ask him if he had. As we walked in silence, the sky turned gradually pink, then gold, then the usual cover of clouds was visible. Minutes seemed like hours, or hours like minutes; it varied. The first time I noticed any change was when I realized actual sunlight was striking my face, through the branches of the trees overhead. I felt a little better then, and seemed to awaken a little more.
In the middle of the afternoon, we at last reached the edge of the forest, and could see a village at the bottom of the hill we stood upon. Hope did spring up in us both, then, and we hurried as best we could, aching and stiff and still half-frozen. I probably had leaves in my hair and dirt on my face, but I didn't care. Food and fire were within our reach now!
Ahh, Mr. Miller has returned and would like the room for a while. I shall go downstairs.
Back in our room again. I was terrified of being recognized in the parlour, not knowing if there could be spies among the other guests, or really what to think at all! I sat in a dark corner too far from the fire to be comfortable, and pretended to read the first book I picked up from the meager collection on a shelf, which happened to be a collection of dreadful horror stories. Very glad to be here and safe and alone. Well, not entirely alone.
It does feel a little odd, sharing a room with Mr. Miller, but he has made a sort of nest on the floor with a blanket and his spare clothes, leaving me the bed, and there is nothing else for it. It is cheaper, for one thing, and we do not know how long we shall have to make what money we have last. (I am so glad I did not remove my spare cash from my petticoat! I have informed Mr. Miller of it, and he looked terribly relieved when he heard.)
Right now we have no plan but to get as far away from the Eastern Madison Academy as possible, and as quickly as we can. Right now, we are both so very exhausted neither of us can think straight. I think I hear Mr. Miller's breathing deepen and slow, and I should sleep as well. Goodnight, Dear Reader, and I do hope tomorrow will be a better day!