Scarlet Page 23

“A lady of your caliber does not sit in the back, my dear.”

Chapter Six

I walked back to the cave, feeling jittery with every step. I didn’t like looking like a girl, and without my knives—you certain can’t bring knives to church—I rather felt like a girl. If I came ’cross a guard, I wouldn’t have much of a chance. And worse, I weren’t sure if the lads would be back at the cave or off and about. Robin never went to masses since he came back from the Crusades, but he still seemed to feel like Sundays were for reckoning anyway, and he were fair hard to find come Sunday mornings. John and Much tended to go over to Worksop to go to church with Much’s father, and it were passing rare for us to be at the cave instead of the oak. I never had to risk them seeing me in a dress before, but with all the muck about the tree burning and such, I knew Robin wanted us sticking together; I just weren’t sure where they would be.

I got back to the cave and halted as I saw Much and John talking to each other. They stopped and turned to me.

Much looked confused, and John stepped forward. “Wait . . . Scar?”

My mug got hot. “Stop gawping, John. Let me pass.”

“I’ll tell you one thing, Scar—Miss Percy wouldn’t be after you in that getup.”

I scowled at him.

“Where’d you get that dress? And when’d you start filling it out?” John asked, following me into the cave.

“Bugger off,” I told him.

He didn’t; he kept coming closer. “You look good in a dress.”

“Go, John.”

He grinned at me and turned, going back out to the front of the cave. I didn’t like his eyes on me like that.

I changed quick as I could, sliding the dress back into my hiding place and going out front to the lads. I sat on the ground and tucked my legs up.

“I could get used to you in a dress,” John told me.

“Don’t.”

“You looked nice,” Much told me.

“Thanks, Much,” I said, even though I didn’t really want him thinking I looked any which way. Better him than John, though.

“So where were you going in a dress? Meeting someone?” John asked.

“Leave off, John,” I said, scowling.

“Can’t. Who were you meeting?”

I stared at him.

“Fine, maybe I’ll guess. Secret love? Lad from one of the villages?” He studied me, then shook his head. “Are you running something? Show ’em some chest and they’ll let you get away with anything, I’ll bet.”

I snorted. “Please. If it were so easy, I’d gussy up every day.”

“Trust me, I think you’re not putting enough faith in how you look in skirts. Now, who do you think Scar would actually want knowing she was a girl?” John asked Much.

I looked away. “This is why we near get pinched; you lot pay too much attention to the wrong things.”

“Like what?” Rob asked, coming down over the ridge above the mouth of the cave.

“Scar was in a dress,” John reported.

“Looked pretty, too,” Much added.

Rob didn’t look at me. “She’s right—there are more important things to discuss.”

We all looked at him.

“Someone told Gisbourne we camp at Major Oak.”

“Who?” John growled, stepping forward.

“Hey,” I interrupted. “Settle back. If someone sung, then I reckon they had real good reason.”

He shot me a look.

“She’s right, John. I’m worried that whoever it is, Gisbourne has some heavy leverage on him. Or her.” He sighed. “It also means that we can’t put that burden on the people. If no one knows where we are, how we work, Gisbourne can’t torture anyone to get to it.”

“He can torture anyone, knowing or not,” I said.

“Well, we can’t risk it either. We can’t help the people if we’re dead.” He rubbed the narrow bit of his nose. “Much, you go into town today and talk. Take John with you. I’ll go with Scarlet. No one goes anywhere alone today. We need to find out who told and if they’re all right. Meet up at nightfall at Tuck’s.”

John held out a hand to help me up. I looked at it but stood on my own. He frowned.

“You two cover Worksop; we’ll go to Edwinstowe,” Rob said. We all nodded. The lads set off, and Robin started walking in the opposite direction.

“You know who told, don’t you?” I asked him as we went.

He nodded. “I knew John would react like that, but I wanted you to come with me.”

“Why? Who is it?”

“Edward Marshal.”

That weren’t good. Edward Marshal were the marshal for Edwinstowe, a position that came with some land and money and reported to the sheriff. Edward himself had always been an ambitious man, but folk made sure they didn’t tell him nothing. I also reckoned Lady Thoresby were in the habit of protecting us, for she talked fair often to Marshal and whenever he had some misinformation that I couldn’t account for, she’d been to see him fair recent. There weren’t too much she could do as the wife of a weak lord, but I liked to think she tried best she could. Anyways, for someone to tell Marshal something meant less helpless motives. He wouldn’t torture no one, so that left a volunteer.

“What do you need me for?”

“He’s clever; I need you to cover me with those knives.”

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