Rae didn't see an end to the scolding of her parents, even when they'd learnt of Mrs Gallow's death. Their anger was a mixture of two reasons: one that this Costell Gallow who was apparently the deceased woman's son could have been deceitful, and the other that the stew they were expecting to eat at lunch was cold and unfit to eat because of their daughter's untimely departure. They were mostly incensed at the latter.
"After a hard morning's work, we come to a kitchen where a fire is left burning unattended and a good stew is wasted."
"A male stranger you didn't know! Heavens, what kind of stupid girl agrees to go with a man she doesn't know? You could have been taken advantage of!"
It was three days later, at lunchtime when the family was sitting down to a stew that had not been left to the care of Rae, when the front door was once again knocked on. The girl had a good idea of who it was. Her father sighed irritably and went to answer it.
"Afternoon, sir. Mr Gilding, isn't it?" A familiar voice could be heard by the inhabitants of the kitchen.
"Why…yes. You are?"
Rae had no doubt that her father was at this moment scanning the poorly hidden grandeur of Costell Gallow's appearance, suggesting several theories within his mind, all involving money.
"Costell Gallow. Son of the late Mrs Gallow."
"Oh." The disappointment was obvious.
"May I talk with you?"
"Is it a private matter?"
"A financial matter." 'Financial matter' could either mean good or bad.
"Very well. Please, come in."
The two men trundled down the hall and entered the kitchen. Rae's mother rose from her seat and came forward to shake the visitor's hand.
"Mr Gallow? We're terribly sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." He answered in a dismissive tone. He had no time for neighbours who feigned their sympathy.
He noticed Rae at that moment, and smiled more warmly than before. "I've already had the pleasure of meeting your daughter. I apologise if I seemed rather abrupt to bring her to my mother's house last Tuesday."
"Oh no, it's quite alright." Alise flustered, most probably inspecting Costell Gallow's appearance as her husband would have done. "My daughter and I ought to be gone-we've plenty of jobs to be doing."
The man nodded as Alise left the kitchen, her daughter trailing after. Once the back door was shut firmly behind the pair, and they had picked up the buckets needed to fetch water with, Alise proceeded to gossip about their visitor.
"He's quite well off, it seems."
"Yes." Rae replied dully, kicking at a stone in the dust.
"I needn't have been worried about you riding off with him. He must be a respectable man, wherever it is that he comes from."
"He's got a magnificent horse-"
"No rings on his fingers either. Rather marriageable, I'd say." The girl had just been preparing to nudge back into the conversation, but this last comment shocked her. "Heavens, mother, don't talk of things like that!"
"Why not? Any girl would jump at a chance like him. He must be in his late twenties, which considering your age isn't a bad match."
"I refuse to have anything to do with this topic."
"Rae, when you're old and lonely and poor, you're going to regret all of this." Her mother said darkly.
"You can't threaten me." The girl spat back, speeding ahead so that by the time her mother reached the water pump, her bucket was already half full.
"You will understand in time, child."
"And you will never understand." Rae gave the pump handle a final heave. She hurried away with the bucket sloshing its contents dangerously close to the edge of its top. She was so angry at her mother, to imply such a thought as that! Must every man a young girl befriends be seen only as a suitable offer of the opposite sex?
Fuming inside, she almost collided with Costell Gallow who had been shown out of the back door, instead of the way he had come.
"Oh…sorry, Mr Gallow."
"No need to address me that way. Call me Costell." The man held a hand up. "Very well then…Costell. I apologise if my father has been hostile towards you. I suppose you came about the payments owed to Mrs Gallow?"
"He hates to part with money. Don't take it personally."
At that point, Rae's father peered around the door, scrutinizing their conversation. Costell saw this. "Well," He stated, clearing his throat, "I'd best be off."
"Will you be leaving Runner as soon as Mrs Gallow's affairs are sorted?" The girl asked as he was about to turn and leave. Costell turned around and smiled. "No. My profession is horse trainer and trader. Where I used to live had good routes and plenty of business, but I have looked into Runner's suitability, and I've decided to set up here."
Rae breathed silent relief. She didn't know why she was so glad that this Costell would not be leaving, at least not for now, but all the same it was better that he would stay.
"Wait!" She called as he began to walk away. "Horse trainer?"
"Bring a horse you need breaking or a horse that needs disciplining to me. I have quite a reputation where I come from." And with that, he continued on his way.
"Quite a shady character, I'd say." The girl's father muttered, joining her side. "A money grabber for sure."
But Rae did not listen to her father's unappreciative words. Only the words 'horse trainer' rang in her head, and the first strands of an idea, a hope, were born. But they were hindered by the simple reason of a secret that could not be shown to anyone, even if a key was in sight. The temptation was great, but an old woman's words remained fixed in their strength. The Sky Stallion would stay a secret, for now.