we are a little different this year:
some contributions are exclusive stories, others are excerpts
from the authors' novels,
but all have our traditional format of...
Read the Story - Guess the Song
Here's a clue to the song title
Excerpt from THE GREEN RIBBONS
|Buy link: mybook.to/greenribbons
On entering the dining room, she saw Thomas was waiting in position, holding a chair for her before slipping into the seat beside hers at the opposite end of the table to the squire, whose face resembled an angry dog’s. As they all took their places, Thomas whispered to her that he had moved the place cards.
‘Where was I meant to sit?’ she asked him, smiling, taking advantage of the murmur around the table as everyone greeted whoever was next to them.
‘Beside my father, of course, so I was duty-bound to rescue you.’
Postponing the continuation of their conversation, Heppie turned to greet her other neighbour and found that it was Merritt Nightingale. The squire, at the head of the table, was flanked by the rotund Mrs Desmond and the imperious Mrs Bellamy. He looked as though he had been forced to suck a lemon. Miss Pickering sat on Thomas’s left, beside Dr Desmond.
For the first ten minutes or so Thomas monopolised Heppie, asking her what she thought of life in Nettlestock, whether she had explored the extensive grounds and what she thought of Ottilie. He appeared to be fond of his adopted sister and praised the little girl’s advanced riding skills.
‘She’s a natural horsewoman, that girl. Mind you, my father gave her her first lesson in the saddle before she knew how to walk. If it were up to her, she’d spend all day riding. Do you find it hard to keep her attention on her lessons?’
‘Not at all. Ottilie is an intelligent girl and takes a lot of interest in her lessons. She’s full of curiosity and is a joy to teach. She’s perhaps not so keen on practising her pianoforte scales, but otherwise she’s an exemplary pupil.’
Merritt interjected from the other side of Heppie. ‘Helped no doubt by having an exemplary teacher.’
Heppie thought she saw a flash of irritation in Thomas’s eyes but rather than respond to the clergyman or include him in the conversation, he changed tack, still addressing his attention to Heppie.
‘Do you ride, Miss Wildman?’
When she told him she did not, Thomas immediately offered to teach her. Heppie felt herself blushing and said, ‘I couldn’t possibly presume upon your time, Mr Egdon. And my own time is dedicated to preparing for and giving Ottilie her lessons.
|© Kathy Hollick-Blee
‘As the parson has pointed out, you are an exemplary teacher and as such I’m sure a little space can be found in your timetable for some riding lessons. Ottilie will be delighted and, once you are proficient, you and she can ride together. You’ll be able to see more of the estate and the countryside around the village. You don’t want to be stuck here in the house all day.’
Merritt inserted himself into the conversation again. ‘Miss Wildman is certainly not to be accused of being stuck in the house. She is out and about in all weathers and I am sure has already become familiar with many of the interesting sights in walking distance. She has been kind enough to accompany me on several of my regular walks.’
‘Yes, Reverend Nightingale has been a most informative guide. He’s taught me so much about the history of the area. Did you know that Nettlestock was once a Roman settlement?’ She turned to direct the question at Thomas, including Miss Pickering.
Thomas narrowed his eyes slightly, then laughed. ‘I think I have heard that, but I find that history is a bit of a bore. I’m more interested in the here and now.’ He smiled at Heppie and his face was illuminated by the smile.
Heppie looked at him, aware that her blush was intensifying. His blue eyes locked on hers, forcing her to hold his gaze. She opened her mouth to speak but the words wouldn’t come out. Meanwhile, Miss Pickering’s slightly squeaky voice responded to the parson, engaging him in a discussion of the Roman occupation of the area and the various examples of evidence of it.
Thomas eased his chair back and to the side, moving it closer to Heppie’s, leaning towards her and away from Miss Pickering, thus drawing Heppie into a more intimate pairing and separating them from the discussion of Roman Nettlestock.
‘I mean it, you know. I’d love to teach you to ride.’
‘I’ve never been near a horse, sir, and I intend to keep it that way.’
He studied her intently. ‘You can’t live in the countryside and not ride, Miss Wildman. We’ll soon have you jumping tree trunks and streams. And hunting next season. Ottilie will be very happy at that. Father won’t allow her to ride out with the hunt, but with you to accompany her I think he’d have to relent. And she’ll be eleven by then. I started hunting when I was seven.’
Heppie had never felt the slightest desire to ride a horse, much less ride out behind a bunch of baying hounds, chasing foxes across the countryside. But the thought of riding beside Thomas Egdon was not a distasteful prospect.
|© Kathy Hollick-Blee
Merritt was still deep in discourse with Miss Pickering, discussing Roman pottery shards and mosaics. Heppie glanced in his direction and immediately the parson switched his attention back to her and said, ‘I will take you to the ruins of the Roman bathhouse, Miss Wildman. It’s just five miles away from here. On a fine day, perhaps in the spring, we might walk over there together.’
Thomas said, ‘By the spring Miss Wildman will be a horsewoman. No need for her to tramp all the way there. I can ride over with her and show her the ruins.’
Merritt frowned. ‘But you have no interest in history, Mr Egdon. And Miss Wildman would, I am sure, like to understand about the Roman settlements in the area, wouldn’t you?’
Heppie looked from one to the other, then said to Thomas Egdon, ‘Perhaps we could all make an expedition of it, in the spring or summer, with Ottilie, Reverend Merritt – and I hope you too, Miss Pickering?’
The schoolmistress clasped her hands together, her face a mixture of delight and anguish. ‘That would be so wonderful, but I’m afraid I don’t ride and I have a fear of horses. What a pity as I would have loved to join you.’
Thomas leaned past Heppie and said to Merritt, ‘You could accompany Miss Pickering on foot and meet us there. That way you two can tell each other all about the Romans.’ He smiled at Merritt, his head tilted on one side.
‘Then it’s settled!’ said Heppie. ‘Now we all have something to look forward to – assuming Mr Egdon can manage to teach me how to stay on the back of a horse.’ She realised Merritt was frowning. Had she put her foot in it? Was he uncomfortable at the idea of accompanying Miss Pickering? She looked across at the young woman, who was still beaming and clasping her hands together. It dawned on Heppie that Miss Pickering was probably in love with the parson. A good match, she thought – both of them educated lovers of history and books. They were of a similar age – perhaps Miss Pickering was slightly older. Heppie made a mental note to find out more about the teacher and to sound out Merritt on whether he might like her. Yes, it would make a most suitable match.
Merritt was speaking again, this time addressing Egdon. ‘Tell me, Mr Egdon, is it true that you are spending most of your time in London these days? If so, you’ll be hard pressed to find time to teach Miss Wildman to ride.’
Egdon smiled and said, ‘I plan to be here more frequently. I have a pair of colts stabled nearby and I’ll be spending a lot of time watching their progress on the gallops.’ He turned his attention to Heppie. ‘Did I tell you, Miss Wildman, that I own racehorses? It’s my passion. I will bring you to watch them in training – Ottilie too – if you can tear yourselves away from your lessons.’ He glanced dismissively at the Reverend Merritt, before adding, ‘Have you ever seen racehorses training, Miss Wildman?’
Heppie told him she hadn’t and that she would like nothing better.
The rest of the meal continued with Thomas Egdon doing his best to engage her exclusively in conversation. Heppie was too delighted to notice the growing coldness between him and the parson, who did his best to draw them both into a wider discussion but was compelled to settle for Miss Pickering or Mrs Desmond. At the other end of the table Sir Richard was holding forth about politics and the ludicrous idea that the two seats Keir Hardie’s Labour Representation Committee had won in the election were anything but a temporary blip.
When Heppie went to bed that night she felt she was walking on air. Thomas Egdon had offered to teach her to ride and to take her on some trips – he had added the suggestion of a trip with her and Ottilie to the horse fair in a nearby town. Surely, if he was suggesting spending so much time with her he must like her a little. Then she reminded herself of him kissing Abigail Cake. It was pointless to hope.
Song: The Black Horse and the Cherry Tree
by: KT Tunstall
Clare Flynn is the award-winning author of thirteen historical novels (eleven indie and two published by Canelo) and a collection of short stories. A former International Marketing Director and strategic management consultant, she is now a full-time writer.
Having lived and worked in London, Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney, home is now on the coast, in Sussex, England, where she can gaze at the sea from her windows. An avid traveler, her books are often set in exotic locations.
Clare is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of The Society of Authors, ALLi, and the Romantic Novelists Association. When not writing, she loves to read, quilt, paint and play the piano.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/clarefly
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authorclareflynn
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Clare-Flynn/e/B008O4T2LC/
|read our reviews
The Chalky Sea The Gamekeeper's Wife
Kurinji Flowers Storms Gather Between Us
The Pearl of Penang Prisoner From Penang
A Painter In Penang
Sisters At War
photos: Kathy Hollick Blee riding Shinglehall Casino
images via: Pixabay unless otherwise stated
Note: it is illegal to copy lyrics but there is no © for ideas!
our stories or excerpts to enjoy
1st Deborah Swift - an excerpt from Pleasing Mr Pepys
2nd Graham Brack - The Clock Struck One
3rd Cindy Vallar - Rumble the Dragon
4th Barbara Gaskell Denvil - The Great Forest
5th Nicky Galliers - Two Stories
6th Annie Whitehead - excerpt from To Be A Queen
7th Judith Arnopp - an excerpt from The Winchester Goose
8th Paul Marriner - First Love
9th Loretta Livingstone - Labour of Love
10th Marian L. Thorpe - excerpt from Empire’s Heir
11th J G Harlond - excerpt from A Turning Wind
12th Amy Maroney - excerpt from Island of Gold
13th Richard Tearle - excerpt from the North Finchley Writer's Group
14th Inge H Borg - Excerpt from After the Cataclysm
15th Juhi Ray - the movie Jodha Akbar
16th Clare Flynn - Excerpt from The Green Ribbons
17th Anna Belfrage - A Light So Bright
18th Elizabeth St John - excerpt from Written in Their Stars
19th Nicky Galliers - Duty
20th Erica Lainé - La Belle Russe
21st Anna Belfrage - Excerpt from A Rip In The Veil
22nd Kathryn Gauci - Excerpt from The Poseidon Network
23rd Cryssa Bazos - Excerpt from Rebel's Knot
24th Debbie Young - The Secret Ministry Of Frost
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you might also enjoy books by Helen Hollick
Amazon Author Page: https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick
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The Jan Christopher Cosy Mysteries
set in the 1970s
THE SAXON SERIES
the events that led to 1066
the Battle of Hastings
|1066 - the events that led to the
Battle of Hastings
Harold the King
I Am The Chosen King (US/Canada edition)
1066 Turned Upside Down -
an anthology of alternative stories
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