“The freckled pig has escaped again, Miss!” shouted Irish Molly.
Miss Catforth tutted, and continued planting her violets. “Well go and catch her,” she called back.
But she knew the request was in vain. The girl was a powerful force in the kitchen, no denying it – an excellent cook – but she had no way with animals at all, unless they were about to be put on a plate. She was afraid of the pig, and it would get up to no good, left alone.
“Oh, Miss! The piglets are all out, now, too!”
Motherhood had rendered the pig wilful, and it had learned to lift the latch on its pen. No number of ingenious fastenings could keep the creature inside these days. And now she had taught the piglets to do it, too.
“Miss, Miss! They are all in the turnip store now.”
This was too much. Miss Catforth set down her trowel, stood up, and called, “Molly, go and fetch Rodney to help. Go now!”
It was very inconvenient, what with Lord Plunket due to visit that afternoon. Bad enough, she thought, that she had to plant her own violets, without having to chase pigs, too. So unladylike! What would his lordship think if he heard of it? It would seem she was in charge of a most incompetent and chaotic household. But times were hard for Miss Catforth. She needed and desired Lord Plunket’s patronage and support, or the whole farm would go to rack and ruin. She had nothing much left but the land and her good name.
In the meantime, she must get those pigs out of the turnips. In the distance she could hear Irish Molly bawling for Rodney to come out of the fields and catch the pigs, if he pleased. Useless girl.
The freckled pig, its mouth full of turnip, looked up at her with a defiant and beady eye. Miss Catforth clapped her hands and shooed. The pig continued eating, the half-grown piglets scurrying round about and squealing.
“To the devil with you!” she shouted in frustration and turned to find herself nose to nose with Lord Plunket himself.
“Oh, sir!” she said, regarding his smart visiting clothes, and her own grubby gardening smock. “I had thought you were arriving later.”
“Evidently,” said his lordship, kindly. “Now, may I be of assistance? I have some experience of pigs. Tricky blighters…”
And together they rounded up the freckled pig and all the piglets, and retreated indoors muddied, but arm in arm for tea. Perhaps, thought Miss Catforth, an escapologist pig is not such a bad thing for a single woman to possess!
The pig herself, mindful of her next exit, already had her nose under the latch.