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Authors: Hazel Statham

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BOOK: Dominic
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Once
m
ore, they entered the coppice and everyone waited
ex
pe
ctantly,
ea
g
er
to
see
w
h
ich
would
b
e
the
first to e
m
erge, but the delay see
m
ed inter
m
inable. The crowd
beca
m
e restless as the minutes passed by and still no
riders ca
m
e into view. The occupant of the chaise ordered her
groom toward
the
distant
trees,
anxious
to
know
what had
beco
m
e
of
the
opponents.
As
she
neared
the
copse
, Thor
appeared
from between the
trees,
ri
de
rless and extre
m
ely la
m
e
and it beca
m
e only too obvious that there was so
m
ething seriously a
m
iss.

Painfully a
w
are that Thor’s nearside foreleg hung at an odd
angle,
W
r
oxh
a
m
urged
h
i
s
mount
to
a
gallop
and raced toward
the
i
n
jured
horse. Drawing
rein, he
threw hi
m
self
from the
saddle
and
took hold
of
Thor’s
bridle
to try
to
calm hi
m
.
It
took
but
a
cursory
exa
m
ination
to confirm
his belief that the leg was broken.

The
chaise
halted
j
u
st
a
few
yards
from the
trees
and without waiting for any assistance the Duchess of Lear thrust
open the door and hastily alighted, catching her
skirts and running t
o
ward the scene of the accide
n
t. Desperate to know what had befallen her son.

As those on foot neared
t
h
e coppice,
it was seen that a youth in a shabby coat that appeared far too big for h
i
m started
out
from the
crowd
and
would
have
run
toward
the trees
but,
s
eeing
the
d
uchess
alight,
t
u
rned, and
with dragging
step,
retreated
into the converging throng. Those witnessing
his departure
would have
been
surprised
as
he gave
an
u
n
m
anly
sniff
and
f
ound
it
necessary
to
wipe
his
eyes with his grimy sleeve. However he did not im
m
ediately quit the scene but stood anxiously
w
aiting for news of
the co
m
petitors.

Entering
the
coppice
the
d
uchess looked desperately a
m
ongst
the
trees
for
her
son
and
Fitzwilliam and
it
was
a mo
m
ent b
e
fore she could co
m
pr
e
hend the scene that presented itself. As her eyes beca
m
e accust
o
m
ed to the de
f
used li
g
ht she saw that Fitzwillia
m
, his horse lying horribly
still
so
m
e
yards
aw
a
y,
was
k
neeling over the
ine
r
t figure of the e
arl.

“Do
m
inic,” she cried r
u
nning forward to cast
h
erself onto
her
knees
and
gently
took
her
son’s head
into
her
lap. Seeing the paleness of his countenance she feared the worst.

“He
breathes,”
stated Fitzwillia
m
,
visibly
shaking
and with
blood
strea
m
ing
from
a
head
wound.
“I
know
not what
happened
only
that
as
we rounded the trees I was slightly in the l
e
ad b
u
t
m
y horse colla
p
sed
a
nd Vale

s mount
pitched
into
him and
was
brought
down.
Vale
was trapped
beneath.
I
m
anaged
to
pull
him fr
e
e
and
he recovered
consciousness
m
o
m
entarily, but that was all. I know not what his injuries
m
i
ght be; I have not dared to move him
a
gain.”

“Call
m
y
man,”
said
t
h
e
d
uchess,
atte
m
pting
to
keep her cal
m
.

D
o
m
inic must be re
m
oved to
m
y
carriage im
m
ediately.
Send someone for the doctor to
m
eet
us at Blake House; he
m
ust be attended to at once. My husband is at Stovely and
m
ust be recalled.”

As Fitzwilliam rose to do her bidding they heard a shot f
i
red
on the downs as
W
roxh
a
m, confir
m
ed that
it would have been his friend’s wish, ended Thor’s
m
i
sery
.

 

*****

 

The
Duke
of
Lear
returned
from Stovely
in
t
h
e
early hours
of
the
m
orning,
having
driven
his
team through
the night at news of his son’s acci
d
ent.


W
hat the deuce has
he been
at now
?
” he de
m
anded of his wife on his arrival in the hall of Blake House,
his
bluff
m
ann
e
r
acting as a blind for his true concern.
He
was
a
large
m
an who, despite
his years, retained
his
i
m
posing
fra
m
e
and
a
rresting
countenance, his
dark
hair
graying
at
the
te
m
ples
but
re
m
aining as
thick and vigorous as ever.


Thank God you have come, Marcel
,
” she cried in
much agitation
.

I have been at my wits end
.
The physician has co
m
e and gone and returns at first light. It was
a
wager,
a
race
a
n
d
there
was an
accident.
Do
m
i
nic was
pinned
beneath
his
hors
e
,
his
ribs
are
broken
and there is
m
uch bruising.”

“His inj
u
ri
e
s
are not li
f
e
-
thre
a
t
enin
g?

“Thank God, they are not.”

“Then he is luck
y it is no worse,” growled the d
uke. “He could have broken his neck, the stupid boy.” Taking his
wife’s
hand,
he
led
her
into
the
drawing
room
and there
poured
h
i
m
self
a
glass
of reviving
spirits,
allowing so
m
e
of the tension to seep from his weary fra
m
e. The drive
had
taken
its
toll
on
his
reserves
and
only
now
did he feel the effects.

“He
is
so
p
ale,
M
a
rc
e
l
,

said
the
d
uchess,
with
m
uch concern.

A
nd
although
he
will
n
o
t
ad
m
it
it,
h
e
is in
m
uch disco
m
fort.
W
ill you not go to hi
m
?

“If you assure
m
e that he is in no danger, then no, I will not.
He
will
not
welcome
m
y
intrusion
at
this
hour.
It
will
be
better
that
I
should
see
him in
the
m
orning
when
he
is rested and more hi
m
self. Now come, tell
m
e of this
wager
for which
he
m
i
ght
have
killed
himself.
Has he
no sense? Must
h
e
forever
be
in
so
m
e
broil
or
other;
is
it
not possible that he could lead a
m
ore sensible life
?

BOOK: Dominic
11.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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