Sunday, October 14, 2012

Excerpt -- THE EARL'S ENGAGEMENT

I had some free time this weekend and decided to write some more on T.E.E. Thought I'd share a little passage with you. There are a few pages before this, but this is when Rory meets Rosamund (in disguise). Hope you like it.

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Riding out of London, Rory sat tall in the saddle and breathed in the fresh air. Yes, this was just what he needed. Time spent discussing books with men who were dedicated to the art of scholarly pursuits. Old Harry Merrit, Davingdale’s uncle, and he had spent a few nights interpreting Greek myths for Merrit’s tome. Rory’s field of expertise was the ancient city of Peloponnesus and although in the same mien, Rory was not very good at remembering the Olympians. Lord Briden’s company would be very welcome indeed. He knew all things pre-Roman civilization.
            Following Quiggins’ directions, he turned left onto Primrose Vale Road and followed it quite a distance. Behind several copses of trees, cows dotted the hillside and Rory saw no signs of the Warwickeshire establishment. Where was the house? The road abruptly ended with a fence and turnstile and Rory turned his horse around to face the direction in which he had come. A smallish trail of smoke drifted above him to the left. Just there, behind a dense growth of old oak, elm, and brush, Rory saw the outline of a large house. But how to get to it? There seemed to be no entrance.
            Rory walked the horse up and down the landscape searching for a way in. He urged his mount through a thicket of overgrown ivy where he found the neglected and forgotten drive. He wondered if he were in the right place. As there was only one way to find out, he encouraged the animal up the short hill where he came upon a rundown manor.
            The place sat overgrown with weeds, bramble, and looked as if it had been abandoned. A huge tree limb had fallen across the front portico, smashing one of the columns to the ground. Planks haphazardly nailed across the broken window to the left gave the appearance of a winking frown. Another limb held up the roof of the porch. He gazed again skyward, the smoke seeming to come from around back. Nudging his mount toward the side of the house, his horse stopped suddenly at the sight of an ancient woman dressed in a young girl’s calico gown.
            She hummed as she walked, oblivious to the sight of Rory on his horse. However, when she did see him, her face twisted into a grotesque mask of fright and she let out a keening cry.
            Arreeee! Arreeee!” She gathered up her skirts and fled to the back of the house.
            Rory followed, hoping at least to assure the old woman he meant her no harm. Certain he was in the wrong place, he only wanted to apologize and get direction to Briden’s manor.
            As he rounded the corner, a young servant girl in a dirty apron comforted the crone.
            “There now, Oona, all is well. No harm will come to you. Run inside and find a biscuit.”
            A branch snapped under his animal’s hoof and startled both women. The elder hid behind the younger as she picked up a rusty shovel. Rory noticed the hole in the ground and a beaten bush lying on its side. An old wheelbarrow filled with dirt and stone stood to the right of the hole. Had she dug that up herself?
            “Who are you? What do you do here?” The young woman held a threatening pose with the spade and stood her ground.
            “Forgive me,” Rory said and tipped the corner of his hat. “I was looking for the Earl of Warwickeshire’s home and I seem to be lost.”
            “What do you want with him?”
            The wench had a cheeky nerve demanding to know his business, but Rory knew these simple country folk looked out for each other. It was the same in Caithness when hunters crossed his land. His tenants always alerted him to their whereabouts.
            “I am an acquaintance of his, lately of Scotland, now in London for a short time. I thought to look him up before I departed.”
            The girl seemed to ease her grip on the implement’s handle. “What is your name?”
            “Gregory Scott, Earl of Bailey.”
            Rory couldn’t be sure, but he thought the girl blanched underneath the dirt smudges on her face. She placed the shovel on the dirt pile in the wheelbarrow and took the old woman’s hand as if she now needed comforting.
            “His lordship is not receiving today,” she said, her chin jutting forward. “If you leave a card, I will ensure he sees it.” She took a tentative step toward his horse dragging the old woman with her.
            “I would be much obliged.” Rory reached into his jacket and drew out a small square of vellum. Handing it to her, she snatched it like a pauper waiting for a loaf of bread.
            “Oona, Minnie, where are you, darlings?” A voice called out from behind the women.
            Oona broke free of the young girl and ran toward the sound. A middle-aged woman dressed in a light grey morning gown appeared on the edge of the terrace, Oona hiding behind her.
            “Minnie, why did you not tell me we had company?” The older woman smiled. “Good day to you, sir. I am the Countess of Warwickeshire.”
            “Gregory Scott, Earl of Bailey, mum. My cousin is Lady Olivia, Dowager Duchess of Caymore. I am an acquaintance of your husband through correspondence and thought to call upon him. Forgive me for not sending a card. I only thought to seek his company an hour ago.”
            “Lord Bailey, it is very nice to make your acquaintance. Unfortunately, my husband is not receiving today. Perhaps you will wait for an invitation when he is feeling better.”
            “Yes, of course. Forgive my impertinence. I had no wish to disturb you. Good day.” Rory tipped his hat once more and tugged the reins to bring his mount around.
            “No,” the young girl said and stepped forward. “It is easier on your horse if you follow the path through the meadow. We do not use the front drive any longer.”
            Rory looked down at her. “As you wish.”
            The girl made a half curtsey and went to stand with the two women on the terrace.
            Rory walked his mount past them and followed the small path down through the meadow. Upon entering some trees, he turned and gazed at the house. The two older women were gone, but the young girl remained on the terrace watching him. He waved once and then entered the cool shade of the oaks.
            If this was truly the Earl of Warwickshire’s home, he could only imagine what he would find when he met the Earl.

2 comments:

  1. Anne, this is fantastic. You put me right there in the description, and you caused me to ask all sorts of questions that have me disappointed that I can't read any more right now. Really well done! You are just writing this now? Let me know when you need a reader????

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  2. Liza -- I'm banging this out nearly every day. Already up to 11,500 words. I'm just in love with this story, probably because it's new. I'm really hoping to be done with it by the end of Nov. so hope to have you reading it right after that. It's moving along quickly, so maybe even before that.

    IF I get the old house finished.

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