The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 13

Characters from the serial in front of a stormy sea.

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Belle shut her eyes as the towering wave hit Jean.

It was a silly thing to do – did she think she could make it all go away if she didn’t look?

She could feel the crash of the surf pounding the beach in every fibre of her body while her ears filled with the wailing of women fearful for their men’s lives.

Belle’s imagination was running wild.

Had Jean been knocked out by the powerful wave?

Would he drown?

Belle found she was struggling to breathe, a situation aggravated by her constricting stays.

It felt as if all the air was being squashed out of her lungs, like she was the one drowning.

Someone put an arm around her, but Belle dared not look up in case Jean had gone to a watery grave. The person gave her an impatient shake.

“For pity’s sake, get a grip on yourself. Your Jean hasn’t drowned.” It was Miss Manners – Josephine, as Dr Long had called her.

Josephine’s voice carried such conviction that Belle believed her, but the scene that met her eyes was baffling.

The villagers who’d been at the front of the line were now waist-deep in the sea.

As the anchor team began to straggle back up the beach, their clothes streaming water, Belle was mystified by the look of triumph on their wet faces.

It was only when she saw the rope still held tightly by their hands that she understood.

Despite battling the full force of the waves, the villagers had not let go and Belle’s heart leapt as she saw the team of rescuers still fighting their way towards the stricken ship.

Belle counted the bobbing heads twice to make sure, but the tally remained the same. She could have cried with relief.

Not a single volunteer had been lost. Jean was safe.

The rope was thick and coarse and Lil was grateful for the stout leather gloves she’d been loaned.

She held on as tight as she could, but the rope seemed to have a life of its own, slipping through her grasp or tangling around her legs, dragging her into the sea.

She was shivering with cold and fatigue.

Lil knew she must look a sight – her hair snaking in damp rats’ tails dripping down her back, her face streaked with mud and her clothes probably ruined, but she didn’t care.

For the first time, Lil no longer felt like an outsider.

The fierce battle against the elements had made her one of them.

Being part of the anchor chain was a bit like a rough game with no rules, for the waves had no mercy, sending her cannoning into the woman in front one minute and thudding into Elias’s chest the next.

Several times she would have fallen if Elias hadn’t caught her.

Once, a huge wave knocked them both off balance so they fell in a tangle and had to pull each other to their feet.

It would have been funny if it hadn’t been for the heart-breaking cries from the ship, a constant reminder that this was no game but a grim battle between life and death.

It was a sweet moment when Lil saw the first survivors emerge from the sea, holding tight to the rope so the waves couldn’t snatch them away.

It was a family – a man with a little boy on his shoulders, his wife carrying a baby bound tightly to her in a knotted shawl.

Lil forgot that she was bruised and battered and soaked to the skin.

She felt a lump in her throat as she watched willing hands reach to help them out of the boiling surf – four lives saved.

Elated, she turned to Elias and it seemed natural that they should hug each other, though Lil couldn’t explain why she then went on to kiss him.

It just happened, but who would ever believe that?

Certainly not Ellen, whom an evil fate brought down to the shore at just that moment with refreshments from the big house.

With a sinking heart, Lil remembered how she’d sworn to Ellen that she had absolutely no interest in Elias.

After what she’d just done, how could she blame Ellen for jumping to the wrong conclusion?

Although the raging wind was too strong for Lil to hear everything Ellen was saying, Lil had no difficulty catching the venom behind the single word which rose above the wind.


To be continued…

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