The Rider of the Black Horse

I was quite content with the rider of the black horse scene until a member of my writers’ group suggested it could do with a little more tension in between the unpleasant enemy officer condemning the hero to immediate death and the timely intervention of a more principled (and historical) figure.

The scene took place near the English River Cherwell and the intervention took place beside a nearby, and imaginary, watermill. Several hours later I confessed to my husband I was having problems with the revised watermill scene. I had spent most of that time on Google, calling up photos, designs and online brochures of English watermills dating from Tudor times.

“They’re really quite simple,” he soothed. “No they’re not,” I wailed. “Where do I put the mill pond and the weir?”

“Are you writing an engineering manual or a scenic backdrop?” he asked. If he were the hero in a period drama he would have said it with a raised eyebrow, a curl of the lip or a flick of his tail coat. But this was 2020, so he grinned and went back to watching soccer on tv.

Suitably chastened, I decided the top floor of the mill could be referred to simply as “the uppermost floor” instead of spending a further half hour researching whether it was called the “bin floor” in 1644, because were they in fact using bins?Did any of this add to the tension? Probably not. And so, returning to my hero’s peril, I rewrote the scene and forgot about the weir.

Candles caused me to burn the midnight oil on other occasions (apologies). Those familiar with Jane Austen’s Emma may recall a character breathlessly extolling the virtues of a country house so luxurious that there are wax candles in the school room. Contemporary readers would have understood without explanation that inferior tallow candles were the norm for children, servants and the poorer classes.

Hours and hours of research ended with my characters trimming wicks and using snuffers and drip trays. Heady stuff! Did you know that self-trimming wicks were not invented until the 1800s? Or that “burning the candle at both ends” was literally that- setting fire to both ends of a rush light to maximise its feeble glow? My hero does this, poring over a hand drawn map of Cornwall as the roundhead cavalry make a daring midnight break for freedom.

And finally it was back to the point of that scene.

The mist clung to the fleeing horses and their riders, muffling the sounds of the 3000.

Another small victory during lock down, against the evil forces of Covid-19.

Original image by G Tozer

6 thoughts on “The Rider of the Black Horse

Add yours

  1. Nicely written AJ Lyndon.
    Who knew there was so much involved in getting the historical detail correct.
    Can’t wait to read part 2.

    Liked by 1 person

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