The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 37

Allison Hay © Characters from the serial standing in front of the sea.

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“Very pretty,” Jocasta said, her eyes narrowing. “But remember your promise.”

Belle gently pushed Jean away.

Gerard stepped in front of her and Belle expected a reprimand, but his words brought tears to her eyes.

“Belle, my dear,” he said, “It was a blessed day when you came to Wychwood.

“You are a true Fortescue and I couldn’t be more proud of you.

“I will even, though it pains me to confess it, admit I’ve been mistaken about your Jean.” He held out his hand.

“Let me take the ruby to her, Belle. You’ve done enough.”

Belle shook her head.

“Thank you, uncle, but I must do this.”

She walked up to Jocasta and held out the jewel.

“Thank you, child,” Jocasta said. “Now comes your reward. Seize them!”

A tussle ensued. Jean and Gerard fought side by side, doing their best to protect the others, but were soon overcome by sheer weight of numbers.

Further away, Elias went down, the crack of his skull reverberating around the clearing as a heavy cudgel struck him.

Pearse forced Belle to kneel in front of Jocasta, but Belle would not be humbled, glaring at her aunt with defiance.

“Is this how you honour your promise?” she said.

“I made no promise.” Jocasta sneered.

“You little fool; did you think you could bargain with me?

“The jewel belongs to Gerard as the oldest son. It was never yours to give.”

Jocasta looked at Gerard, her eyes full of contempt.

“Maybe if you beg me nicely, I’ll let you live, dear husband, but the rest of you shall die. Jocasta has decreed it.”

The mob’s fierce shouts almost deafened Belle.

“Jocasta! Jocasta!”

Drunk with power, Jocasta climbed to the top of Castle Rock.

Wild-faced, her black hair streaming out behind her, she held her hands up to the gulls, the ruby glowing in her right hand.

Maybe the gull was attracted by its brightness, or thought Jocasta was holding something to eat.

Belle could only guess as it darted towards Jocasta’s hand, its strong yellow beak snatching at the jewel.

Jocasta let out a shriek of dismay, her arms wheeling frantically, and then she was falling, her black cloak billowing out.

“Flora!” It was Gerard who cried out, but his voice was drowned by the long wailing scream of Jocasta as she plunged to the beach below.

Jocasta’s followers scattered, and Belle and her companions were left in peace to make their weary way back to Wychwood.

A bed was made up for Elias in a storeroom and Lil watched over him as Josephine expertly bandaged his head.

“He’s all yours,” she said to Lil with a smile.

Lil moistened a cloth and gently wiped Elias’s face.

“I love you, Elias – don’t you dare leave me.”

His eyes suddenly opened, bright with fever.

Lil flushed as red as a poppy. She’d thought he was still unconscious.

“What . . . did you . . .”

Never let ’em know or they’ll get power over you. That was the creed she’d lived by, but she was ready to call it quits.

She couldn’t fight Elias any more.

“I said I love you, Elias,” she whispered.

Elias squeezed her hand feebly. His smile said everything.

Belle and Jean walked across to the stables, hand in hand.

“What are you smiling at?” Jean asked.

“I was thinking of the first time I met you, what chance it was,” Belle said.

“Ah, that was not chance, that was destiny.” Jean kissed her.

“I must go or your uncle will return to his bad opinion of me.”

She watched him canter up the lane, feeling her heart might burst.

“Well, it’s obvious which way the wind’s blowing,” Lil said to her later.

“And what way’s that, you little minx?” Belle smiled.

“Why, the marriage way, of course.

“Listen, can’t you hear them marriage bells?”

“Oh, Lil,” Belle said, her blush deepening. “He hasn’t even asked me yet.”

“Oh, but he will,” Lil said. “Trust me, he will.”

The End.


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