The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 5

Characters from the serial, standing in front of Wychwood Manor.
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“Madam must rest now,” she said.

“See what good care she takes of me,” Aunt Flora said. “My dear, I hope you have sweet dreams tonight.”

Belle kissed her and followed Miss Manners, who glided ahead, not speaking.

Flustered by the awkward silence, Belle tried to break the ice with an apology.

“I’m sorry to give you all this trouble. Once I know my way around, I can visit Aunt Flora on my own.”

“You must not think this will be a regular occurrence,” Miss Manners said, refusing eye contact.

“Today’s excitement has probably been too much for her and will almost certainly lead to a relapse.”

Belle flushed at the thinly disguised reprimand.

You’re treating me like a child, she thought indignantly. I’m not sure I like you, Miss Manners.

The next morning Miss Manners’s gloomy prophecy was fulfilled.

Aunt Flora was so ill during the night that a period of complete bed rest was prescribed and all visits cancelled.

But it was not such a blow as it might have been for the rain had stopped and sunshine beckoned.

“I want to go riding so I’ll need my blue habit,” Belle told Lil.

“What a shame you can’t come, too. Wouldn’t you like to ride now we’re in the country, Lil?”

Lil pulled a face.

“Not me, miss. I’m happier walking on my own two legs, but I’ll come down to the stable with you.”

Lil had spent most of her life in the hubbub of city life, where horses were a luxury few could afford.

Lil stood at a safe distance while Belle visited Bess, her black mare, and Captain, her father’s bay.

Bess whinnied in welcome and Belle patted her satin neck affectionately.

“It’s Captain’s turn today, my dear, but you are not forgotten. See, I have an apple for you.”

Lil spotted Elias crossing the yard with an armful of fresh hay.

“My mistress wants to go for a ride, Elias,” she said.

“Well, ’tis a fine day for it. Are you going, too?” A glint gleamed in his eye.

“I don’t know how to ride.” Lil flushed.

“Well, if you’re going to live in the country, maybe you should learn. I can teach you if you like.”

Lil hoped he hadn’t noticed her involuntary shudder.

She felt mortified. How was it possible that she, a girl who’d fight off any thug who tried to take advantage of her, was scared of sitting astride a dumb four-legged creature?

“Horses are beautiful animals, Lil,” Elias said. “It’s just a matter of getting to know them. If you want to learn, you can trust me to look after you.”

And strangely, deep down, she knew she could.

“I’ll let you know,” she said. “But if I’m going to get up on one of those, you’d have to promise not to make it gallop.”

“Of course – at least, not till you were ready.”

Lil pretended to flounce off, but inside she was smiling.

Belle trotted briskly up the lane which Elias had told her led to the sea.

She’d expected him to come with her, but it seemed that this was another way in which the country differed from London and one of which she heartily approved.

It was glorious to be free to go wherever she wanted.

Once they reached the cliff-top, she let Captain canter until the breath-taking views demanded that she stop.

Filling her lungs with salty air, she gazed out at the blue sea stretching as far as the eye could see, but the peace was suddenly broken by Captain throwing up his head, startled by a man who seemed to have appeared from nowhere.

“Gently, boy,” the man said, reaching up to soothe him.

“Who are you?” Belle bristled. “How dare you scare my horse?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to. I need your assistance,” he said courteously.

His accent was not city or country, but something else, the way his words ran together teasingly familiar.

What worried her was that he still had hold of Captain’s reins. Did he mean her harm?

To be continued…

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