Together We Stand – Episode 46

Henry pulled the Ford up as close as he dared to the burning cottage and jumped out, racing across the fields, followed by Tanni and Madeleine.

As they reached the front door, they saw that several of the neighbours had arrived, followed by an elderly man carrying a ladder.

“Mari’s in the bedroom,” he said breathlessly. “She’s too afraid to jump or to throw the baby down to us. Her only chance is for someone to go up and get them.”

“I’ll go,” Henry said, taking one end of the ladder and placing it against the wall next to the window where he could see Mari leaning out as far as she dared, baby Alice held out into fresh air.

“You’ll have to hurry,” one of the women called. “Mari’s saying there’s smoke coming in under the door to the room. Once it gets through . . .”

“I’ll be as quick as I can.” Henry shook the ladder to make sure it was secure, and raced up towards the trapped woman and child.

He could feel the heat coming through the stones as he climbed higher.

Halfway up, there was a shriek as part of the back of the house collapsed, sending further flames rushing into the night air.

“Take Alice,” Mari called. “Please take the baby.”

Henry took the little bundle, glancing in despair at Mari, who was clutching the window frame as the roar of the fire increased behind her. It would be minutes before she would be engulfed in flames.

“Here, I’ll take Alice,” Tanni called right behind him on the ladder.

With relief, Henry passed down the precious bundle.

“Hurry,” he called. “It looks as if the roof could collapse any moment. Tell the rest of them to stand back as far as they can.”

With Tanni safely on her way, he climbed as high as he could, helping Mari through the window and on to the ladder.

“I’ll guide you down. That’s it, slowly but surely. We’ll be down in a minute.”

They had nearly reached the ground when he felt the ladder shake, and heard Madeleine call a warning.

Henry leapt the last distance on to the ground, catching Mari in his arms as the roof above them collapsed, sending the ladder crashing into the grass.

“The sooner we get out of this the better,” he muttered, following Madeleine as they all hurried away to where the others were waiting.

“It’s all right, Mari. Your baby is safe,” Tanni assured the woman as Henry placed his burden carefully on the ground.

Mari was immediately wrapped up in blankets and hurried towards the nearest house that was a safe distance from the flames.

The buckets of water being passed from hand to hand by the neighbours were making very little difference, but the flames were already dying as the fire began to burn itself out.

“That’s too much of a coincidence,” Tanni said as people began to disperse, coughing and spluttering, back to their homes. “I spoke to Mari a few days ago, and she was going to ask her grandfather about the picture wagon.

“Someone could have seen me go in and known why I had gone to see her. This could be my fault.”

“It’s not your fault,” Madeleine said. “No-one could know this was going to happen.”

“In which case,” Tanni began, glancing to the neighbour’s cottage a short distance away where Mari and her baby were being sheltered, “I think she needs protecting.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Henry agreed. “I don’t like the idea of leaving her here, and she could be bringing danger to her neighbours and the kind people who are helping her. The only thing to do is to take her back with us.”

“Perfect,” Madeleine said. “Mari can stay with us until her husband returns and she has some kind of protection.”

“I think we should see the inspector as soon as possible,” Tanni added.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.