The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 6

Characters from the serial, standing in front of Wychwood Manor.
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Belle’s hand tightened on her whip.

“You don’t look like you need help,” she said.

“Oh, it’s not for me,” he said with a smile so warm she involuntarily smiled back. “Would you let me borrow your horse?

“My friend has slipped and hurt his leg, and I was just wondering how to get him to a doctor when the angels sent you.”

Belle hesitated. The man puzzled her.

He wasn’t wearing a gentleman’s clothes, but he didn’t seem like a servant.

She saw a glint of amusement in his eyes and suddenly realised she was staring. Blushing, she turned her head away.

How dare he laugh at her? Of course she wasn’t going to lend him her horse. The whole idea was preposterous; he could be a thief.

But to her astonishment what came out was a simple, “Yes.”

“Marvellous,” he said, the lilting way he pronounced it prodding her memory.

“You’re French,” she said.

“Very perceptive, mademoiselle. But not very complimentary, as I believed my English was near-perfect.

“I was actually born here so I’m not French through and through.” He chuckled.

“But isn’t it time we were introduced? My name is Jean Foucault.”

“I’m Belle Fortescue.”

“Fortescue? Like Gerard Fortescue at Wychwood?” The warmth had gone out of his eyes.

“Yes, he’s my uncle,” Belle explained, feeling awkward.

Jean shrugged.

“I suppose we can’t choose our relatives, but I would never have guessed you had Fortescue blood.”

Was that an insult? Belle dimpled at the thought.

Jean helped her dismount, the pressure of his firm hands either side of her waist causing her to blush again.

“Come and meet poor Mark,” he said.

Belle followed Jean, leading Captain, until they arrived at a grassy hollow where a young man lay.

He had a bloodied bandage strapped across his right leg.

For a moment he looked terrified, until he recognised Jean.

Belle saw Jean shake his head slightly. He’s warning him about something, she thought.

Jean asked her to hold Captain steady while he helped Mark into the saddle, leaping lightly up behind to support the boy.

“Will you be all right?” he asked.

“Perfectly,” Belle replied. “I’ll walk up to that rocky outcrop, the one that looks like a tower with smaller rocks sticking out like
small battlements.”

“That’s Castle Rock,” Jean said. “You’ll get some fine views from there, but don’t climb on to the parapet as the rock gets slippery after rain.”

“Thank you for the warning, but I wasn’t planning to do any such thing,” Belle said.

“My mistake.” Jean grinned. “I can see you’re perfectly capable of looking after yourself.

“I shall return your horse after my friend is in safe hands.”

He urged Captain into a gentle trot and Belle watched him go, half of her wondering if she’d been an idiot and would ever get her horse back.

The path climbed steeply and Belle stopped to catch her breath at the top of the ridge, shading her eyes to see if there was any sign of Jean yet, but the clifftop ride was empty.

But as she turned back to face Castle Rock, a shiver ran down her spine.

On the rocky summit stood a figure clothed all in black, facing out to sea.

It was the woman Belle had seen in the thunderstorm the first evening she arrived.

She’s standing far too close to the edge, Belle thought.

At the same moment, with a clutch of the heart, she remembered Jean’s warning about how slippery the rocks were.

“Get back from the edge!” she screamed. “Get back!”

Gorse clutched at Belle’s riding habit as she began to run, ignoring the black dots dancing in front of her eyes as she pushed herself to the limit.

“Just stay there!” she implored.

But, as Belle watched, the woman lurched forwards and toppled over the rocky parapet.

To be continued…

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