Harsh rapping on the door cut Gervais’s sentence about meeting Yvette in half. Joan jumped up, her gaze leaping around the room. She pulled Gervais’s to his feet and shoved him in the direction of the fireplace, flinging her damp cloak into his arms.
“Lay down!” she hissed. “And don’t speak!”
Gervais did as he was told.
The knocking continued. Joan rung out her hair and threw a shawl over it, clutching the ends at her chest. She lumbered towards the door.
“Coming, coming!” she croaked, throwing open the door.
Apparently, it smashed into someone’s face. Cursing came from behind it, and then it wrenched away, towering over Joan.
“Filth, are you hiding or abetting horse thieves?”
“Eh?” Joan asked.
The man shouted it again, grabbing one of her shoulders. He pulled it away. “You’re wet,” he said, his voice sly.
“Me stupid boy decided to run off in this ‘ere rainstorm, ‘e did,” Joan said, gesturing towards him.
The man squinted his way, and Gervais closed his eyes.
“Get up, boy!” Joan shouted at him. “He can’t see ya there.”
Gervais stood, conscious all of a sudden of his height. The man stared at him, face unreadable in the dim light.
“Closer, idiot,” Joan said, and Gervais crept closer like he was afraid of her. As soon as he was close enough, she whirled around and gave him another stinging slap across the face, and he fell groveling.
“Now,” she said, turning back to the man.
Gervais let out a pitiful moan. She turned back around and kicked him in the side.
Gritting his teeth, he moaned louder. She lifted her foot high and back, almost into the man’s stomach, and ploughed it into his stomach.
Gervais decided, show or no show, to stop groaning.
Again, she turned back to the man. “What did you say about house-thieves? Who’d steal houses? How’d they steal ‘em?”
The man growled and slammed the door in her face.
Gervais heard his feet slapping against the mud, growing further and further away.
Joan lit the candle again, looking down where he still lay on the floor. “Hurt much, boy?” she said in the same crazy-lady accent.
Laughing and wincing, Gervais stood. “Not much.”
Joan flashed him a smile. “All right then. Let’s go find your friends, eh?”