Thursday, 30 March 2017

At The Swan at Alresford

  
File:John Cordrey - A Gentleman with His Pair of Bays Harnessed to a Curricle - Google Art Project.jpg

Driving in Giles' curricle behind his splendid matched horses, Anna cannot help enjoying the ride. They stop in Alresford at The Swan.


 ' He swept under the archway and through to the yard of The Swan. Ostlers came running to attend to the horses. Giles jumped down, and helped her descend. He noted how gracefully she managed this.
            'Do you always stop at hostelries called The Swan?' she asked as they approached the open door where the landlord stood waiting.




'Anna was impressed by the ease and speed with which Giles whisked her into a private parlour. She was even more impressed when a meal started to appear almost immediately. The drive had made her hungry. She removed her bonnet and came to survey the food on the table. The serving boy was hurrying in with a large dish of vegetables. Anna sniffed appreciatively. 'That smells delicious.'
            The young man looked up, gaped at her and set the dish down too close to the edge of the table. There was a mighty crash, which brought him back to his senses. 'Sorry, sorry, miss…sir…' He fled.
            Giles shook his head, his mouth thin with annoyance. Anna smiled uncertainly. 'That was a silly thing to do-' she began but stopped as the landlady bustled in and quickly cleared up the mess. She gave the floor a last wipe and straightened up. She glared at Anna then turned her fearsome gaze on Giles before sweeping out. The serving boy came back in, eyes lowered and bashfully set another dish of vegetables down carefully before scuttling out and closing the door behind him.
            Giles sighed as he carved the sirloin. 'I must remember not to come here again for some considerable time.'
            'Why ever is that?' Anna inspected all the dishes eagerly and helped herself to a generous portion of vegetables. 'Mmm, carrots, my favourite.' When there was no answer to her question, she eventually looked up. Giles was leaning back in his chair, watching her.
            'Are you not hungry?' she asked, eager to begin her meal but making herself wait until he had served himself.
            He shook his head slowly. There was a strange little smile on his face. 'Miss Lawrence, you are an education. I begin to perceive that I have taken on a new role in life. Perhaps it's doing me good.' He poured some lemonade into her glass. 'Behold me in the position of chaperon!'
            Anna frowned over this. 'Surely we are only two travellers, whose paths go together for a short while?' 

            He laughed. 'You just do not understand, do you? You have been too sheltered from the real world. You bewitched that poor mooncalf of a serving boy. And you're not aware of why, are you?' He set his glass down abruptly. 'And the landlady evidently thinks I'm running away with you.'

excerpt from The Rake's Challenge



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