Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chapter 4 of Cecelia

For your delectation and enjoyment.

There have been changes to the first three, but nothing worthy of a repost. This is the first complete version of chapter 4.

4. Raglan Horse Fair.

Mr. and Mrs. Landor arrived in his gig early the next morning. Ionie was tethered to the back of it and making it clear that she did not enjoy leaving her stall. If it was needed, her side-saddle was in the gig. Cecelia came trotting out before he could dismount and knock. “Thank goodness you're here. I don't think I can take much more of this.”
“Much more of what, Miss Wood?”
“This continued sniping. Jane, Miss Arnold is still upset from yesterday. I like and admire the Captain, but he is affianced to her. I would never come between them. Somehow it seems I have.”
Julia called her over, “Cecelia come and talk with me. Walter, would you make sure that they are getting ready to go. I'd like to get to Raglan while there are still some decent horses still for sale.”
“Yes, my love. I hear and obey.”
Cecelia mounted the gig and sat beside Mrs. Landor. Julia started the conversation, “Cecelia, I had a long talk with Jane yesterday. You must understand that she's not sure of herself.”
“Not sure of herself. What do you mean by that?”
“It's simple, remember when you rode Ionie and I couldn't?”
“Yes, you just have to show the horse who is in charge.”
“Which means you have to be confident that you can control the horse. You are, and I'm not. That's why I can ride a sweetheart like Awyr and not a difficult mare like Ionie.”
Cecelia thought for a moment, and said, “You mean she's not sure she can ride George? That doesn't make sense to me. He's not a horse is he?”
“She's not sure she can run a household like Penyclawdd and keep George happy. It scares her.”
“Oh. Is she scared of me too?”
“That's silly.”
“No it's not. If she gets snappy with you or George it's because she's worried.”
“I hadn't thought of it like that. Perhaps you have a point.”
They might have gone further with this discussion, but Mr. Landor and Miss Arnold came out and haled them. “George is bringing around their gig. I was wondering if you would prefer to ride with Jane and George instead of me?”
“What happens if Ionie is upset? You can't handle her, but Miss Wood can.”
Jane added her voice, “And, Julia, we hadn't finished when the message came about the Captain being in distress. I'd so much like to continue our conversation.”
Julia shrugged, and then whispered to Cecelia, “Think about what I've said.” Then she dismounted and walked over to Miss Arnold. “It would be my pleasure to get to know both you and your fiancée much better.”
Mr. Landor drove his gig off first, with Cecelia beside him and Ionie trotting on her lead behind. They reached the main road to Abergavenny before either said much to each other.
“Mr. Landor?”
“Yes, Cecelia?”
“There's one thing I don't understand.”
“Only one thing, Egeria?”
“Who?” Mr. Landor started on a description of the various Goddesses and Muses of Wisdom. Egeria was the Muse who instructed the early Romans on ritual and religion. He hadn't gone very far into the subject when Cecelia interrupted him. “Please stop with my classics lesson, I have a serious question for you.”
“Ask away.”
“Why are you suddenly so helpful? I hardly saw you or Mrs. Landor before Captain Wood and Miss Arnold arrived.”
“There are several reasons, Miss Wood.”
“First, your father asked me to keep an eye on you. As long as it was just you running the estate, I didn't have much to do.”
“You're a better manager than I am.”
“No, that can't be true.”
“Penyclawdd makes money, doesn't it?”
“Llanthony has been nothing but hole in my wallet. If my books didn't sell, I'd be starving.”
“Do you want my help?”
“That takes me to my second reason. You know I've tried to get the local farmers to adopt modern and more profitable methods.”
“Now that's hard. They're so stubborn, especially when you're an outsider. You really should let me talk to them first.”
“I'm applying the same charity to you. Help you find a mate or at least somewhere to live once the Captain tires of your company.” The thought that George might tire of her company made Cecelia's chest tighten.
“Is that all?”
“No. I like you and George. You're pleasant company.”
“And Jane?”
He paused, “Her too. At least when she's on her good behavior. Finally, I need you to pick out a good horse for Julia.”

Once the two parties arrived at the Raglan fair, they found stabling for their horses and headed for the horse sales. Cecelia's initial impression of the livestock on offer was not high. “Jane, I'm not sure I've seen any horses here that I would want you to ride. Certainly none I would ride given the choice.” Mr. Landor caught her attention, “Miss Wood, how about this mare?”
It was a brown and white horse. Cecelia looked at it, and commented, “She's a long-legged curby backed brute. How much are they asking?”
“Ten pounds.” Cecelia mentally calculated a bargaining price. Then she said, “Maybe we can bargain, but only if I think the horse is otherwise sound. Let me look at her mouth.” After she spent a few moments looking at the teeth, she said, “Have you been plowing with this horse? Her bite is ruined for riding.”
Together they moved on to look for another horse.
Lord Charles Somerset found Mr. Landor in the crush and asked him, “I'm looking for a hunter as a wedding present for my daughter Elizabeth, and I've heard that you have a fine full-blooded one for sale.”
“My Lord, if you would follow me. Ionie is over here.”
When Lord Charles examined Ionie, he said, “She's a fine mare, but clearly ill-mannered. Can she be ridden by a lady?”
“Miss Cecelia Wood rides her. Would you like to see Ionie put through her paces?”
“Yes, if you could.”
“Miss Wood, would you be willing to demonstrate?”
Cecelia looked at Ionie, who was showing signs of distress at the crowding and bustle. “I don't see why not. She's a bit upset with the noise of the fair, but it's nothing that getting her out and exercised won't fix.”
The side-saddle was brought from the gig and mounted on Ionie. While this was happening Captain Wood attracted Cecelia's attention. “Miss Wood, please don't. You are not completely recovered from your fall and that horse has a wild look in her eyes.”
“Captain Wood, the only reason she threw me that evening was my lack of preparedness. I'll be fine.”
“Still, please humor me. That horse is not worth the risk to you.”
“What risk? There isn't a horse I'm scared of.” Cecelia was unpersuaded, and short of restraining her by force there was nothing else he could do.
George watched in trepidation as Cecelia mounted Ionie and trotted her around the field. All went well until there was a loud crash from one of the stalls at the fair. Ionie put her ears back and bolted for freedom. Cecelia pulled back as hard as she could on the reins but the horse kept going. They jumped the first hedge and shot off across country.
George saw someone leading a saddled horse out to demonstrate its paces to a prospective customer. “That's what I need.” He ran to them, closely followed by Mr. Landor. George pushed the men aside and took the horse, “Sorry, but this is an emergency.” He galloped off in pursuit of Miss Wood.
“Who was that?”
Mr. Landor replied, “That was Captain George Wood, of Penyclawdd. I wouldn't worry about your horse, he's a responsible sort of chap.”
“That's my horse! He stole my horse.”
“I wouldn't worry about it, if he hurts it he'll pay for it.” He paused to watch George clear the first hedge, “Damn he's a fine rider. Didn't think your horse had the ability to jump like that in him.”
The man looked at Mr. Landor in disbelief, “That was a twenty pound horse and saddle. I'll call the bailiffs.”
“Don't, twenty pounds you say?”
“Worth every last brass farthing.”
Landor pulled a ten-pound bank note out of his coat. “I don't feel like haggling with you. Will this do?” It did, the man would have settled for five. It was to his everlasting regret that he hadn't asked for forty pounds first.
George found Cecelia several fields and a half-mile away. She had finally pulled Ionie's head to one side, forcing her to circle in the field. That forced her to settle down and stop running. When George finally arrived, Ionie was calmly eating grass in the field, while Cecelia was struggling with the tattered remains of her dress. She used her one free hand to try to keep the top of her dress up. “That horse dragged me through a hedge.”
“I see.”
“You're seeing more than is proper, Captain Wood.”
“I appreciate your problem, Did anyone ever tell you that you have nice shoulders?” He thought some lucky man would get to appreciate what was hidden beneath her folded arm.
“No, but thank you. I'd rather not show them off. Let alone flaunt what would show if my arm slips.”
George gave her dilemma careful consideration and replied, “An idea, Miss Wood. I'll give you my jacket and then you'll be at least notionally decent.”
He removed his jacket, nudged his horse next to hers and exchanged his jacket for her reins. While he looked away, regretfully, Cecelia put his jacket on over the shreds of her dress and buttoned it up. “Captain Wood, you can look now.”
“I must say it becomes you. You'll set a new fashion for fair equestrians.”
“No I won't. It feels indecent.”
“It isn't. It's lovely, like you.” Cecelia blushed. He continued, “Let's get back to Raglan.”
They returned. Ionie, having had her run, behaved well.
Lord Charles admired Cecelia's horsemanship, but said, “That is a fine horse, but not for my daughter to ride. Your horse is better suited for racing. Let me see what my steward thinks of her.”
In the meantime Captain Wood attracted Jane and Julia's attention. “Miss Wood needs help with her dress. Can you fix it?” The two women led Cecelia off to see what could be salvaged, or failing that to see what could be assembled by purchase in Raglan.
As he left to find his steward and to see if he could use another racing horse, Lord Charles noticed George. “I say, aren't you Captain George Wood, lately returned from Spain?”
“Yes, my Lord”
“I thought so, my brother Fitzroy wrote me to look out for you. Seems you had a rough time of it.”
“My division was nearly destroyed at Badajoz. I'm sorry to say that I was shattered as well, and I'm back home to recover.”
“Then you'll appreciate the news, Lord Wellington's siege has taken the city.”
“They tried again?”
“This time his excellency supervised it himself. Fitzroy says it was bloody, but it succeeded.” George could hear the distant guns thundering in his mind. The color drained from his face. “My Lord if you'll excuse me.” He trotted off, found Landor and said, “Walter I have to go, now. Would you pay for this horse?”
“George are you well?”
“Just heard about the second siege of Badajoz. I need some space and time by myself. I'll ride to Penyclawdd.”
“I understand. We'll settle up later. Enjoy your new horse.”
“Thank you, please see that Jane and Cecelia get home safely.”
“Don't worry about it. If need be Cecelia can drive one of the gigs.”
George laughed at the thought, “Yes, she does have good hands and a light touch.” Then he rode off to find solace in the solitude of the mountains.
Jane and Julia led Cecelia back to the fair. Their efforts, combined with a bodice from the village seamstress, restored Cecelia to a presentable state of dress. Cecelia asked Mr. Landor, “Where is Captain Wood? I'd like to thank him for lending me his jacket. For that matter I'd like to give it back to him.”
Mr. Landor was staring off into the distance, verses coursing through his head, and didn't hear her. Julia, familiar with her husband's peculiarities, waited a moment, then pinched him. He jumped, “What?”
“Sorry, my love, but where is the Captain?”
“Halfway to Penyclawdd, given the way he was riding. Unless he stopped to climb Holy mountain. Probably didn't.”
Disappointment showed itself on Cecelia's expression, “I so wanted to thank him for my rescue.”
“The way my dress was parted, I'd have inspired you to write a poem about the Amazons.”
This brought a laugh from the Landors but not from Jane. Cecelia noticed Jane's discomfort, and told her “Captain Wood was a perfect gentleman. He lent me his jacket because my dress was so badly ripped that I was nearly indecent. Then he turned his back while I put it on. You're very lucky to be engaged to him.”
“I am, aren't I?”
“Jane, please don't worry about my cousin and me. We're just friends. I'd like to be one of your bridesmaids if you'd have me.”
Jane seemed mollified, and smiled at Cecelia, “You aren't trying to take him from me?”
“Me? Lord no. Why would you ever think that?”
“It's just. Let's say once burned is twice shy.”
Mr. Landor inserted himself into the conversation. “Ladies, this is a horse fair. Neither Miss Arnold, nor Mrs. Landor has even looked at horses today.”
Cecelia remembered the purpose of their expedition, “Come, let's see if I can't find you a good mount.”
They hadn't gone very far into the crush when they bumped into Lord Charles and his daughter the Honorable Mary Georgiana Somerset. He condescended to notice them. “Is this young woman the one who rode that horse?”
Cecelia curtsied to them. “I am, my lord.”
“And your name?”
“Miss Cecelia Wood.”
“Miss Wood? I've heard of you. Sir Giles Wood's daughter aren't you? Quite a horsewoman, one of the best in Monmouth county.”
Cecelia blushed with embarrassment, “I'm sure my reputation is overblown.”
“I watched you ride that shrew of a horse. My steward wasn't sure that our jockeys could handle her as well as you did.”
“Ionie is just a bit unmannered. I've ridden worse.”
Jane was quietly simmering in the background. This commoner was getting all the attention. She interrupted, “My Lord Somerset, don't you remember me?”
“I'm sorry Miss, but I don't.”
“I'm the Honorable Jane Arnold, daughter of Lord Andover. We met in Westminster last year.”
Lord Charles frowned, then recognized her, “Jane. I'm sorry. What are you doing in this forsaken place?”
“I'm affianced to Captain Wood, Miss Wood's cousin. He's inherited Penyclawdd House.”
“Captain Wood? Oh yes, we talked earlier today. A quiet, but distinguished looking young man.”
“I think so. He's been ever so attentive to me.”
“Wasn't he mentioned in dispatches from the first siege of Badajoz?”
“He was.”
“I gather that battle undid him. Shame. He was a good officer and bound for better things. With luck he'll recover some of his poise.” Lord Charles paused for a moment's consideration and then to Jane's immense annoyance asked Cecelia, “Miss Wood, I've been trying to find suitable mounts for my daughters. Could you help?”
“It would be my pleasure. How well do they ride?”
The Honorable Mary spoke up, “Nothing like you, Miss Wood. Just up and down in Hyde park.”
“Hyde park, I've never been there. Is it difficult terrain?”
Jane nudged Cecelia, “It's in London.”
“So all on the flat with no jumps. How boring.”
This brought laughter to most of the company, and confusion to Cecelia. “I'm sorry, I don't understand.”
“You've never been to London, have you?”
“Bath, once, when I was a little girl, but London, never.”
Mary described Hyde Park for her. “It's just a big flat open area next to the city. You walk your horse up and down it while talking to other fashionable people.”
Cecelia dug herself into a deeper hole by replying. “That doesn't sound like fun at all. No wonder you and Miss Arnold can't ride properly. I'd be very happy to help you pick out a horse, but you have to promise me not to condemn the poor creature to such a miserable existence.”
“Any horse worth riding likes to run occasionally.”
Lord Charles did the unforgivable, at least in Miss Arnold's eyes. He laughed and said, “Miss Wood, it sounds to me like my daughter could use some instruction in equitation. Would you be willing to help her learn?”
“My Lord, it would be my pleasure. I'm due to go to Bath in a couple of weeks with Miss Arnold and her fiancée, but until then I'm available.”
“Bath, you say. Mary weren't you planning to stay there with your Aunt next month?”
“Yes, father, as you well know.”
“Miss Wood, why don't you accompany us to Raglan House this afternoon? You can spend a couple days tutoring Miss Somerset, and then maybe she can help introduce you to Bath society. That would be a fair exchange, wouldn't it?”
“More than fair, I'd be happy to accept. Can I make sure that my friends can get home safely without my help before I accept your offer.”
Mr. Landor intervened immediately. “Don't worry about us. Julia's a fair whip and we have only the two gigs. Especially if someone purchases Ionie.”
Sir Charles laughed again, “Landor, you really do want to get rid of that horse, don't you?”
“She's not a suitable ride for Mrs. Landor, and she eats like a pig. So yes I'd even give her away to get rid of her.”
“How's twenty-five pounds?”
“Done. Even if you don't race her, she's good breeding stock.”

Jane managed, with difficulty, to keep her opinions to herself until she and Julia were part-way back to Abergavenny. Eventually they boiled up and erupted.
“I thought the idea for this trip was to find mounts for us, not introduce that puffed up ignorant little girl to society.”
“Is your nose out of joint that she was invited to the Somerset's and you weren't?”
“No, well yes it is. My family has known them for years, and she's a nobody. A little countrified nobody. Just because she can ride well, she gets to visit them.”
“That's not quite fair, Jane.”
“I'll tell you what isn't fair. We're riding home in this gig, without horses. That's what's not fair.”
“There weren't many mares for sale at this fair. None that were any good.”
“George bought a horse.”
“Only because he needed to get away from the crush in a hurry. Something upset him.”
“Still I should have been invited to stay at Raglan too. I'm almost family.”
“But you aren't are you?”
“Yes I am, my mother's second cousin once removed is Sir Charles' great-uncle.”
“I suppose that's close enough to be called family.”
“It certainly is. I consider myself snubbed.”
“Do you want Cecelia to live with you and Captain Wood once you're married?”
“Good God No!”
“Then she has to find her way into society. Sir Charles is doing her a great favor by introducing her to his daughter.”
“It should be me too. Cecelia should teach me to ride.”
“I'm sure she will when she has the chance.”
Eventually Jane's grumblings reached the point where Julia felt the need to stop them. She pulled the reins and stopped the gig. She turned to her passenger and bluntly told her, “Jane, when you twit at Cecelia like that, you only make yourself look awful. It's one of your less appealing traits.”
“Would you like to walk the rest of the way to Penyclawdd? Miss Wood is my friend as well as you. I'm happy that she's making some acquaintance with a larger society. You should be as well.”
Jane paused, it was never pleasant to have one's character flaws pointed out. After a few moments thought she replied, “I'm sorry Julia. You're right. I'm just so worried.”
“Why? Captain Wood certainly seems to love you. He is getting better with time, and you have friends here who like you. In spite of your occasional snappy comments.”
“I don't know. There's just something off. I can't just be happy anymore.”
“I can't solve that for you. You have to make up your own mind to enjoy your life.”
“Doesn't make it easy, does it?”
“No it doesn't.” Julia paused and then continued, “I know it's not quite as much fun as riding, but can you drive?”
“A little, I've done a few passes up and down in Hyde park.”
“Time for a lesson, then.” She passed Jane the reins and they swapped places in the gig so that Jane could reach the brake. “If you're ready, give the reins a shake and tell the horse to 'walk on'.”

Jane was moving along the Hereford road in decent style and showing that she had a good eye and a decent touch on the reins when a lone horseman crashed out of the brush ahead of them. Their horse reared in surprise and backed the gig into the hedge before the two women could get it back under control.
“George! What are you doing? You startled our horse.”
“I'm sorry. I didn't see you.”
“You should have looked.”
“I was just up enjoying the air and the view on Holy Mountain. Thought I'd come back to see how the search for a horse was going.”
Jane sulked, “Not well. We didn't find any. But Miss Wood is going to tutor that Somerset girl.”
“One of Lord Charles' daughters. Good for her.”
“I wasn't invited.”
“Oh that's a shame. I guess we'll have Penyclawdd to ourselves for a few days. That should be amusing.”
“Is that what it will be like when we're married?”
“I suppose so, except when we invite company.”
“We'll have company often, won't we?”
“I'd expect so. Jane, I'm sure we have a horse you can ride if you want. I'm no mean bit myself. It would be my pleasure to tutor you.”
Julia interjected with a smile, “I didn't know you could ride side-saddle Captain Wood.”
“I suppose I could, but I don't. Horses are horses, however you ride them. I'm sure I can teach riding even if I use a different saddle.”
“See Jane? These things have a way of working out. You'll get your riding lessons after all, and Captain Wood is a skilled horseman.”
“As long as he's sober.”
“Even when I'm drunk, but I'm staying sober now. Mr. Landor is right that getting drunk doesn't help with the memories. They just come back harder with the morning head.”