The morning brought sun as the clouds cleared. The ground was still sodden with rain. Gilles led his horse to the front of the house where Aimée stood waiting.
“Come Aimée, today you will learn how to ride,” he said as friendly as he could. She stared at him hesitantly. He took her elbow and pulled her forward. “Don’t be afraid.” He placed her hands on the saddle, murmured curt instructions on how to pull herself aboard, and gave her a leg up. She swung into the saddle and tried to straighten her skirts. The woman appeared in the doorway.
“Monsieur, perhaps it would be better for the girl to stay with us.” She took a tentative step forward. “The roads can be dangerous for such a child. We would look after her well as we have no children of our own.” She looked at Aimée and asked earnestly. “Will you stay here with me, where I can always take care of you?”
Aimée frowned. She liked the woman. She had been kind and doted on Aimée the night before much like Sister Ruth. Her husband had to firmly send his wife to bed to make her relinquish her watchful eye. Aimée had always wanted to be a part of a family, but something much stronger pulled her.
“We’re going to Paris,” she said. “My family is there.” The woman couldn’t argue with a child, although she was suspicious of the pair traveling so far alone. She forced herself to remain quiet as she blinked back her tears. Her husband had insisted that she not interfere. Gilles chuckled at Aimée’s response as he sprung up behind her.
“Farewell, Madame, many thanks for the hospitality,” Gilles said. The woman covered her mouth with a shaking hand and bolted inside before she began sobbing. Gilles gathered the reins and threaded them through Aimée’s reluctant hands. He murmured the basics as he did so and helped her turn the horse to the road.
“Now I’ll give him a little encouragement and we will be on our way.” Gilles dug his heel in the horse’s side and it started to trot away from the house. Aimée nervously clasped her hands on the mane as they lurched forward. Gilles firmly pulled her hands out of the hair and pointed to the fork in the road ahead. Aimée directed the horse with success and relaxed a bit as she settled into the horse’s stride.