The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 7

Characters from the serial, Belle on a horse and Jean guiding it.
Listen to this story


For a moment, Belle thought she would faint. She stared at the rocky outcrop, in her mind seeing the woman in black fall again and again in an endless loop.

Her father had always said that when something bad happened you had to grasp your courage in both hands, but Belle felt weak, and there was a sour taste of blood in her mouth where she’d bitten her lip.

Ignore your feelings and think, Belle, she told herself sternly. Was there any chance the woman could survive such a fall?

It seemed unlikely, but what if the woman was lying injured on a ledge?

She had to go and look.

She was concentrating so hard that it wasn’t until she heard the sound of hoofbeats that she remembered the man who had taken her horse and promised to return it.

What did a horse matter now? A wild laugh rose in her throat, frightening her. She sounded like a crazy woman.

“Belle, wait!” the man shouted. “Where are you going in such a hurry?”

At first, she was tempted to ignore him, but she stopped and waited, staring at a clump of heather by her foot as if it was the most important thing in the world.

She jumped when she felt the warm breath of Captain, her father’s horse, on her arm, but didn’t look up even though she could feel the man staring at her.

The silence hung heavy, and Belle knew he was waiting for her to say or do something.

She heard him dismount and come closer.

“Belle,” he said, his voice gentle and soothing as if she were a nervy horse. “What’s wrong?”

She tried to answer, but the words got stuck in her throat. Instead, she started to sob, tears streaming down her face.

His arms went around her, strong and protecting, and she buried her face in his chest and cried till her eyes felt swollen and sore.

“You can let go of me now,” she said, her cheeks hot with embarrassment, not least because part of her would have liked to stay where she was.

“You’re sure?” Jean said. “Something has upset you badly. Do you want to tell me about it?”

Belle swallowed hard, trying to calm herself.

“There was a woman in black,” she began, and immediately noticed a scowl darken Jean’s face.

Stumbling over the words, Belle told Jean what she’d seen, but his response was mystifying.

She sensed a barely controlled anger which frightened her, even though she knew it wasn’t directed at her.

She touched his arm hesitantly, wanting to break his black mood.


For a moment he stared at her as if he’d forgotten who she was, but then his face cleared, and he looked at her with such undisguised admiration that Belle’s cheeks flamed.

“And you were on your way to help this poor woman if you could? Bravo, Belle.” He took her hand, his clasp warm and comforting.

“What do you say we go and look for her together?”

Belle nodded, not daring to speak in case her voice trembled and gave away how terrified she was.

Jean mounted first and pulled her up to sit in front of him.

His encircling arm unnerved her and she tried to sit so there was as little contact as possible. Jean laughed softly.

“This will not do. It just makes it harder for the horse. Lean back against me. I promise I will not harm you.”

She let herself rest against his chest, glad he could not see her blushes.

They soon reached Castle Rock and left Captain to graze before taking the steep track to the summit, but Belle could not appreciate the beautiful far-reaching views.

All she could think of was how high it was, and how dangerous.

As they approached the spot where the woman had been standing, a wave of nausea rushed over Belle.

Jean looked back.

“Wait here while I look.”

Belle shook her head, pushing the dizziness away.

“No, I must see for myself.” She followed Jean to the edge where jutting rocks formed a natural battlement and forced herself to look down.

Below her lay a half-moon of silvery sand, but the broken body she’d expected to see was not there. She held on to the rocks and leaned over, scanning the cliffside.

Jean pulled her back.

“Careful, Belle. Perhaps we should step back – there’s no sign of a body.”

Belle started to tremble.

“But I saw her,” she said, desperation rising in her voice. “It wasn’t my imagination, Jean. She was there.”

She felt crushed. Why should Jean believe her rather than the evidence of his own eyes?

Thinking he would now dismiss her as just another hysterical woman, to her surprise, his gaze held no hint of mockery.

“I do not doubt it, Belle,” he said. “For then I would have to doubt you. I’ve known you only a short while, but long enough to see that you are brave and tender-hearted.”

He put his hands on her shoulders, warm and steadying.

“Don’t let what’s happened today make you doubt yourself.” His expression darkened.

“Things are not always what they seem, Belle.

“Be on your guard at Wychwood. It’s a strange place with a bad reputation and has destroyed too many lives already. Don’t let it destroy yours.”

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.