The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 27

Characters from the serial playing a game.

Want to listen to this instalment of our Daily Serial? Click the play button of our official audio player below:

Lil heard footsteps behind on her heels as she climbed the stairs with an armful of freshly pressed garments. It was Charley, carrying a pair of Master Gerard’s boots.

Lil looked at his smug expression with misgiving.

“Hadn’t you better hurry up and take those to your master?” she said sharply.

“After all the spit you’ve used getting ’em to shine, it must be a poor reward for your pains to see such an ugly mug staring back at you.”

“You little vixen,” Charley said. “If I wasn’t holding these boots, I’d teach you some manners.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Ever been to the East End, Charley?

“We don’t fight by the rules there. I may be a girl, but I know how to use my fists.”

Charley sneered.

“No doubt you do. You ain’t no proper lady’s maid, that’s for sure. Where’d she get you? Out of the gutter?

“Sort of thing she would do, for the way she behaves ain’t like no lady, either.”

A red mist swept over Lil. How dare he insult Miss Belle?

“You take those words back right now or I’ll make you,” Lil said.

Her scowl was so fierce that Charley retreated a step, but his eyes narrowed with spite.

“Why don’t you ask your mistress what she got up to last night when we were all a-dancing? I’m sure she’ll spin you a fine story.”

Lil stared at him.

“Are you mad, Charley Biggs? I can tell you exactly where Miss Belle was last night. Sound asleep in bed.”

Charley Biggs tapped the side of his nose.

“Well, I give you the lie of that. She was followed, so ain’t no good saying it wasn’t her.

“There’s witnesses to swear to what she’s done.”

“And I say you’re out of your mind, Charley Biggs, ’cause my mistress hasn’t done anything. I’d be the first to know if she had.”

“How are you going to know anything, Lil?

“As I recall, you were too busy arguing with lover boy. Elias is well shot of you.” Charley smiled insolently.

“Here at Wychwood we’ve got long memories. Cross us and you’ll pay for it, sooner or later.”

He pushed past, knocking Lil’s elbow against the wall so hard that she almost dropped the clean laundry.

Lil stared after him, fuming with anger. What did he mean, accusing Miss Belle like that?

She didn’t trust Charley, but as she put the clean clothes away, she kept glancing at her mistress, troubled by his insinuations.

“What is it?” Belle said self-consciously. “Have I got a pimple?”

“Not you, miss – your skin’s as fresh as a daisy.

“I knew that Charley couldn’t be telling the truth when he said you was out and about last night.”

“Of course, I wasn’t, but . . .”

Belle stopped mid-sentence.

Lil looked at her in surprise. What wasn’t Miss Belle telling her?

Well into the third week without sight of Jean, Belle sent Elias with a note to the vicarage, and received a woefully short reply.

Doubt chipped away at Belle’s confidence. If Jean was back and cared for her, why hadn’t he come to see her?

Restless and dispirited, she finally decided to take matters into her own hands.

When Lil found out Belle was planning to meet Jean on her own, she was outraged.

“Don’t do it, miss. Or, if you do, take me with you.

“We might not be in London, but you can’t break the rules.

“You’re a young lady, miss, and what will happen if anyone finds out? Do you want to give the gossips a field day?”

But Belle, normally so sweet-natured, would not listen, and a meeting was arranged through another exchange of notes so cold and formal that Belle consigned them to the fire.

Riding out to meet Jean at Castle Rock, she was on edge with nerves, but it was a fine day and her hopes rose as she cantered towards the spot where they’d first met, with all its sweet memories.

Jean was already there and helped her dismount, but his hands did not linger on her waist as on other occasions.

Belle bit her lip. She looked deep into Jean’s eyes, seeking a response to the love shining out of her own, and desolation swept through her.

She had given her heart to this man. Who was this stranger?

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.