This is the start of the next chapter. Still draft, but not bad.
3. A Horse.
True to Mr. Landor's promise, Mrs. Landor showed up at Penyclawdd house early the next morning in her gig, with a groom in tow to look after the horses while they looked after themselves. She waited inside, chatting with Jane until Cecelia slowly descended from her bedroom and took up a position of state on a sofa in the front parlor. Heulwen lay at her side and accepted her due share of attention. Julia asked, “Cecelia, how are you today? Mr. Landor said you were alive, but frail yesterday.”
“Better, but my head still aches, and I feel dreadfully tired.”
Jane asked, “Will you be fine alone?”
“Captain Wood will read to me while you're gone, and Heulwen will keep me company. I won't be alone.”
George reassured them that he would look after his cousin, and since there were a couple of maids, anything feminine would be dealt with in perfect propriety. Besides, his valet Meadows was a stalwart fellow and should any emergency arise be up to the challenge of it. Cecelia, herself, had the last word of a convincing argument, “Jane, go to Abergavenny. You've hardly stirred from the house since you arrived, and must be terribly bored.”
“If you're sure that you'll be fine.”
“Of course I will. Go enjoy yourself in the big city.”
It was late in the afternoon when the gig pulled up outside of Penyclawdd house. Jane and Julia were chattering happily away when the noise of Heulwen barking disturbed them. George called “Heulwen, Shh!” and the dog quieted. Captain Wood came to the door and met both his wife and Mrs. Landor. “Please be quiet, Miss Wood is asleep in the parlor.”
“No, I read most of 'Count Julian' to her. Sometime about three fourths of the way through she started snooring.”
“Mr. Landor will not be amused that his book sent Miss Wood to sleep.”
“I doubt he'll mind that it helped a good friend get through a fretful stage of her recovery.”
Jane added, “Nice recovery, my dear. I see you're finally learning to be tactful. How is Cecelia?”
“As I said, sound asleep. She was a bit twittery and restless all morning, didn't want to drink that potion the apothecary left. Then when I read to her she lay still and eventually went to sleep. If you're quiet, I can offer you some tea in the dinning room, and you can tell me how you found Abergavenny.”
Julia replied that she was not sure she should stay, but Jane insisted that she take some refreshment before proceeding up Cwm Bwlch to Llanthony. “It's at least we can do since you were so helpful to me.”
Their attempts at silence were put to flight by the noisy arrival of Mr. Landor on horseback. He cried, “Captain Wood, the weather bodes well for a shooting party tomorrow. Are you interested?”
Julia added, “Why Mr. Landor what a good idea. Perhaps Miss Arnold would care to visit Llanthony and keep me company while you shoot.”
Jane hesitated, “Someone should remain with Miss Wood. At least until she's clearly on the mend.” A scrambled, barking noise, coupled with a clear command of “Quiet!” presaged the invalid's arrival. Cecelia stood in the doorway. Still pale and a bit shaky she asked what they were discussing.
“Captain Wood, if you feel up to it, shooting with Mr. Landor and the local huntsmen is an excellent idea.”
Jane reiterated her concern, “But my dear, will you be well without us?”
“My head feels much better, and I won't be alone. Meadows and my maid will be here. I might need to send for you to keep them from cosseting me too much. Did I hear someone mention tea, or was I dreaming?”
\\ Jane and George are off with the Landors. This gives Cecelia a chance to grill Meadows about George's history, and fill in the backstory. Meadows, of course, will be discretion itself and not tell everything. Just enough to sow some doubts.
The next morning, after Miss Arnold and Captain Wood set out together in the gig for Llanthony, Cecelia found Meadows.
“Mr. Meadows,” she began, “I'd so much like to know more about Captain Wood.” She paused, then hastily added, “and Miss Arnold, of course.”
“It's simply Meadows, Miss Wood.” He paused, then carefully chose his words, “I valeted for the Captain before he left for Spain, his father in between, and so naturally when he returned I resumed his employment.”
“Meadows, that's not what I was asking about.”
“Miss? I must be discrete about my employer's interests. Otherwise, I'd be a very untrustworthy valet.”
“Oh, I suppose you know what you're about. It's just I'd like to know my cousin, and, I suppose Miss Arnold better.”
“An admirable objective Miss Wood. I'll endeavor to comply with your interrogations.”
“Where did they meet and how long have they been engaged?”
“The captain returned from Spain in March. They met at an 'at home' in London and were engaged almost at once.”
“He seems a bit shy around women, at least he was around me at first. I'm surprised he was such a fast worker.”
“Miss Arnold isn't shy, Miss.”
“She is rather forthright in her opinions, isn't she?”
Meadows nodded, but replied, “That's not for me to say, Miss Wood. Do you have any other questions?”
“It sounds like she scooped him up before he even found his bearings.”
Meadows simply looked like a stuffed frog.
“I see, that is a bit over the line.”
“I would appreciate it, Miss if you don't pursue that line of questioning any further.” Cecelia noticed that he didn't say 'no'. Clearly Meadows had his misgivings about his master's helpmate-in-waiting.
“He mentioned that he has other estates, and might sell Penyclawdd. Would he?”
“His father is still living, but the estate in Berkshire is heavily mortgaged, and not as well managed as this one.”
“Thank you, I've managed this estate ever since my father first fell ill.”
“You have? I'm sorry to say that I don't know what he will do to it.”
“Oh.” Cecelia's worries about Penyclawdd, the place she loved more than any other were writ plainly on her face. “I suppose there are other places I could learn to love.”
“Have you traveled anywhere else?”
“Not really. We traveled to Bath for a few days when my uncle took orders, but I was a little girl then.”
“Then, miss, I suggest you see some more of the world.”
“I'm going with the Captain and Miss Arnold to Bath.”
“That's a start, miss. Bath, however elegant, is hardly the chief city of England.”
Their discussion was broken by a commotion at the front entrance to the house. Meadows and Cecelia went to see what was happening. Captain Wood found the shooting too much for his nerves and was escorted back to Penycladd by one of the beaters. Cecelia immediately took charge. “Mr. Meadows, would you take the Captain to the front parlor, while I deal with this young gentleman.”
“Miss,” Meadows bowed in salute and helped George to a seat in the parlor. In the meantime Cecelia rewarded the beater with a couple of shillings. This would make up for the time and payment he lost escorting Captain Wood home. The beater pocketed the money then said, “Miss Wood, that Captain he was shaking from the noise, not very brave at all.”
Restraining her impulse to clump the little blighter on the head, Cecelia replied, “Alwyn, Captain Wood fought the French in Spain for our good King George.”
“What did they fight with? Sticks? He shook because of the noise of guns.”
Cecelia's hand twitched to clump the boy again, yet somehow she restrained herself to reply in a lady-like manner. “Guns and cannon. The Captains division was destroyed at Badajoz, and he was badly wounded.”
“Doesn't show. Where's his limp. Does he have a scar? My brother had a big scar.”
“It's inside him. Now get back to the other beaters before I clump you.”
Since Alwyn knew Miss Wood's threat was rhetorical, although he wouldn't have used such a word to describe it, he grinned at her and then ran back towards Hatterrall hill and the grouse shooting. There were still tips to be had.