A Justice of Revenge

A STORY OF THE REGENCY PERIOD:

I slowly parted the thick underbrush, peered across the chasm of water, and stared at the young man watering his horse at the small stream's edge. "Please, sir, would you help me."

The man looked in my direction. "Who is there?"

I let go the leaves and they snapped back into place. What I had just done went against every fiber of learning in my body. It was June of 1818, and I had just completed finishing school for my father last month, and now I was violating the golden rule of caution: A lady should never accost a strange man alone.

"Is someone on that little island?" the man called out. I could no longer see him for the underbrush spread its veil of opaque security between us. The seventeen-year-old girl in me wanted to scream for help like the damsel in distress that she thought she was, but the primly trained lady in me won out for the moment. I remained silent.

"I heard tell there were pixies round the woods of Hertford." The man laughed. "I daresay I have just heard one, or else I am still a prisoner of last night's sleepy, slithery shadows."

I pulled the underbrush apart once again and thrust my face through the temporary opening. "I can assure you, sir, that I am neither a pixie nor a nightmare. But just a damsel in distress." Oh, well -- the girl seemed to have recaptured the moment.

"Pray, what have we here?" the man said, putting up one hand to shade his eyes from the late afternoon sun. "How on Earth did you ever get yourself on that island?" He was only fifty feet away, not far enough to keep me from easily making out his handsome features. Dressed in appropriate riding attire, he appeared to be in his mid-twenties. His steed, a black Arabian, was a magnificent animal still in the waxing moon of its youth. The man's night-black straight hair was longer than normal for someone of his apparent high station, and a small mole on his left cheek stood out as an exclamation mark to his handsomeness.

"I arrived here quite by legitimate means," I scolded him lightly. "Of that you can be assured. I did have a small boat when I arrived. However, after my reading session, I discovered that it had drifted away."

The man paused for the longest time, stroking the mane of his fine animal. After a long pause, he dropped his hand and looked my way again. "I say, this is quite an unusual predicament. I do not know really what to make of it."

Flustered, my shyness overtook me, and I let go the bushes to re-conceal my embarrassment. "Sir," I spoke from behind the green veil. "I have said far too much to a strange man already. So, would you please do the gentlemanly thing and rescue me from my dire situation?"

"You are correct on that account. We are strangers and have not been properly introduced. So, for fear of violating that social etiquette, I bid thee a fond farewell, madam."

I heard the clopping of the horse's hooves against rocks and peered through the underbrush again to see the man leading his steed up the embankment toward the dirt path. A panic, fuller than the moon, overtook me.

"Sir! Do not leave me here. I implore you!"

The man stopped, looked my way, and laughed aloud. Then he led his horse back to the water's edge. "Oh, are we about to invent a new manner of etiquette?"

"Posh on etiquette. Just get me off this blasted island!" I was very nearly ready to cry, and made no pretense at all trying to figure out what this man was up to. I thought him not very gentlemanly, else he would not be having so much fun with my situation.

"I can assure you, miss, that I cannot proceed without a proper introduction. High society simply forbids it."

"Will you stop playing mind games? Can you not see that I am in dire need of help?"

"Trust me, miss. Your predicament, although seemingly precarious to you, is by no means a distressful one. For you have the means to affect your own escape from that island simply by wading across the water. I daresay it is no more than waist deep."

I bit my lip in frustration and looked down at the hem of my afternoon dress, imagining what it would look like wet. Why was this man enjoying my situation so much? I looked at him again. "I know that getting wet is a small thing to you, but it is rather a large inconvenience for a lady." I hesitated going further. The lady in me was trying desperately to restrain the seventeen-year-old, but the youngster was just far too verbally agile. "Particularly at certain times of the month."

"Oh, my. You mean that..."

"Please, sir," I stopped him from publicizing my hidden dilemma. The lady in me then thrashed the seventeen-year-old for being so foolish as to mention a problem unique to the feminine gender. What could she have been thinking? Oh, well -- it was too late. The child spoke before the lady could censor. The bag was removed from round the cat, and it only remained for me to be red-faced for the next half-hour or so. "Would you just affect my rescue? I would be eternally grateful."

"Wait one moment. Are you suggesting that getting wet is of no inconvenience for a gentleman?"

"Sir, you are no gentlemen. So, what does it matter?"

"If that is your line, madam, then perhaps I should just be on my way."

"Miss Regina Kettering," I said quickly.

"That is more like it. "

"Now will help me?"

"And I am Henry Julian."

"Now will help me, Mr. Julian?"

"No, I want to know more first."

"Please, sir, I implore you to assist me."

"When I know more."

I made a disgusting sound that luckily did not carry across the water. Had he known what I was thinking; the murder I was planning, he would have jumped on his horse and rode off forever.

"I am staying with my father, Colonel Alford Kettering, at our summer cottage in Hertford. I have only just completed finishing school last month. In July, my father is having a coming out ball for me at our home near Regents Park in London. Is that enough for you to affect an appropriate rescue?"

"Your father is in the military?"

"Retired; after the Napoleonic Wars."

"And what does he do now?"

"Must we go into such detail?"

"What does he do?"

I felt my eyes bulge with anger. "He holds a seat in the House of Commons and runs a publishing business."

"Yes. That will do nicely."

"Very well. Now come at once."

"Not so fast."

"What do you mean? Damn it, man, get over here and remove me from this dreadful island!" whimpered the little girl in me.

"My, my. What a temper. Are finishing schools instructing young ladies in the art of swearing these days? What will be next, expectorate?"

"Sir!" I said, filled with revulsion, " I would never dare spit. The very thought is ghastly."

"And swearing is not?" he rebutted. My lady had no answer for that, but the girl did, however the lady won out this time and shut the brat up double-quick. "I am sure," Mr. Julian continued, "that you felt the island was not dreadful when first you landed upon it. It was your reading haven...your solitude for an imaginary escape into the privacy of your own vicarious world."

"Your attempt at being poetic is resulting more in your looking pathetic. Now help me!"

He laughed in spite of my mood. "You gave me information about yourself in your introduction. So, it is only fair that I return the favor."

"Sir...Mr. Julian...believe me when I say that it would be no favor returned. I will be very glad to hear your entire autobiography once I am safely on shore."

"No, that will not do. I should think it proper that I give a little information about myself before the rescue."

"Well then...just do it, man!" the little girl won out.

Mr. Julian bent over in fits of hearty laughter as my blood pulsated against its arterial boundaries wanting to jump out, cross the stream, and drown him with every ill-intention imaginable.

"Miss Regina Kettering, I am the eldest son of my father, Mr. Burton Julian, the owner of Parkshire Manor."

"That is all well and good. Now will you come to my assistance?"

Ignoring me, he went on, "I lived in Hertford all my life...and we do not have a summer cottage in London." He waited for me to be amused, and then went on when I failed to placate him. "Nor does my father care to have anything in London other than the docks that house his fleet of ships."

"Yes, yes. That is very nice. Now come!"

"I am sure you can extrapolate from the fact of our owning ships that we have a shipping business."

"Yes, of course. Now hurry!"

"What is not in evidence is that we import exclusively from the Far East."

"Sir!" I looked away again as the little girl's mental powers killed him in effigy repeatedly.

"I have told you enough."

I looked away fighting back a tear. When my anger subsided enough to look at him, I saw he had left his horse and was wading into the water.

"Sir? What on Earth are you doing?" He was about twenty feet into the water, and already it was halfway up his thigh. "Your horse, sir. Fetch me with your horse."

The man stopped suddenly. "Well, I cannot, you see. Mephistopheles is afraid of water once it goes above his knees. I am afraid if you want to be rescued, I will have to carry you across."

"But how can you keep me dry?"

"I daresay the water is not much over my waist, and I do have good upper-body strength."

"I cannot get this dress wet. My mother will pitch a fit."

"Would you prefer that we stand here and talk about it for the remainder of the afternoon, or should I just come over there and execute the rescue?"

"By all means, Mr. Julian."

" 'By all means' what?"

"Just do it!"

"If one did not know better, one would think you were ungrateful." After letting out a rather lengthy guffaw, he continued across the stream. I noticed very vividly how high the water rose on his torso. It went very nearly halfway up his chest. How he was going to keep me dry was not clearly in evidence. The closer he came to me, the higher out of the water he rose until he was standing before me ankle deep.

"Well, Miss Kettering, we meet at last...face-to-face."

"I shan't step out, else I will get my feet wet. Here." I handed him a book.

He took it and looked at the cover. "My, interesting choice for a refined young lady, would you not say?"

"Are we here to discuss the literary worth of Jane Austen, or to see me safely to the shore?"

"Emma," he scowled with his inflection. "I have heard of that debacle of matchmaking nonsense. I would love to discuss how a charming young lady came upon such a raucous author."

"Fine. Once we are ashore, we can have a debate." I thrust my arms out towards him. "Now if you will..."

"Point of verification: how am I to carry you and the book at the same time?"

I glared at him, realized my mistake, and snatched the book away from him. He stepped into the underbrush and picked me up in his arms. I reluctantly put my arms round his neck as he adjusted my weight, which drew my face closer to his. Pulling it away, I gave him a distasteful expression.

"Pardon me," he murmured. "I was just trying..."

"I know what you were trying. Just try not to try it. Now move along."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, as though he were a mischievous boy having just been reprimanded by his mother.

He stepped out into the water again and began to move off slowly. I looked down at the water and watched its agonizing rise until it invaded his waist. When my skirt hem became too near the water, I started to panic. Looking at the wet mark on his side, I could still see the water had several more inches to go. It was not hard to calculate that very shortly more than just the hem of my dress would be under water. I yanked on his neck to get his attention.

"Mr. Julian, do be careful of my skirt. It is about to be submerged. Would you be so kind as to grab its edge and pull it up?" He ignored me and kept walking. "Please, sir. Will you take care of the matter?"

When he ignored me a second time, I reached over for my skirt hem, which caused an imbalance in our precarious equilibrium. He staggered a bit and nearly fell. I leaned back against the stagger, grabbed his neck, and squeezed tight.

"Miss Kettering, will you be careful? If you insist on keeping the hem of your skirts dry, we may wind up in the drink; the both of us."

"Sir, if you were a true gentleman, you would see to it that not one drop of water would affect my person."

"Madam, if I were gentleman, at least the kind that are round these parts, I would have waved a friendly hello, a quick good-bye, got on my horse, and rode off to leave you to your own devices."

Again I reached for my skirt hem, and again we nearly toppled over. I pulled back, and that caused him to topple backwards where he was barely able to keep from falling.

"Will you please!" he said. After regaining his balance, he stood there for several seconds. "Once we get past the deep part, we will be all right. If your hem gets a little wet, it is far better than the rest of you getting wet. Now hold me more securely." I drew my arms tighter round his neck. "A little tighter, please." I squeezed my arms a little tighter drawing my head closer to his. "Ah, that is nice. Why do we not wait here for a few minutes and discuss the strategy of our crossing."

I transferred the evil from my eye to his. "Are you a rake, sir? I am very nearly eighteen, and I know what you are up to."

He plodded off again. Things were going along rather smoothly when suddenly he lurched to the right and we both went under the water. I floundered, trying to find the bottom. When I did, I stood upright and then realized that my book was still under the surface in my hand. I quickly thrust it up into the air.

"Sir, look what you have done! Not only have you successfully gotten me wet, but you have ruined my book! How dare you, sir! How dare you!"

He looked at me and laughed until the red in my face spread from the top of my brow to the bottom of my chin.

"How dare you laugh at the situation. I could have done just as well myself and crossed the water on my own. In fact, I could have done even better, as I would have at least been dry from the neck up."

He continued to laugh as I snorted and started walking towards the shore. When I got out of the water, I discovered a pitiful sight. My dress was dripping wet. Opening the book, I found it drenched through and through. Mr. Julian walked up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned round, and the little girl in me put a quick image in my head of spitting in this face, and then slapping him, first with my right hand and then with my left -- and the lady in me, for the first time that afternoon, agreed with the little girl. I slapped him across the cheek.

He quickly put a hand to his face, but grinned through it. "I am terribly sorry, Miss Kettering," he said, with little conviction. "I seem to have stumbled upon a rock and lost my balance. I am terribly, terribly sorry. Please forgive me."

"Oh, Mr. Julian, it is not as simple as that. I daresay I will never forgive you, but then if I never see you again, it is a moot point, is it not?"

I started to make my way up the bank and onto the dirt path. Taking a few steps down the path, I suddenly realized I had no idea where in the world was I going? I stopped, turned to Mr. Julian, and watched him as he continued to laugh.

"Good of you to stop," he said. "You need a plan. I should come up there, and we can talk about it."

"I have had enough talk for one day, thank you very much. But I do need more help with my predicament, and I think you owe it to me to bring it to a successful conclusion. When my mother sees me in this conditioned, she will be awfully mad."

He walked up the bank and stood next to me. "Then after we procure your boat, why do not I come along with you? I can explain to your mother what happened, and take full responsibility. Then she can slap my face."

"You need not get flippant. This is not a trifling matter."

"I am sure you will be laughing at this situation one day."

"Well, I can assure you that it will not be this day, nor any day in the very near future." I flicked my fingers towards his face, and satisfyingly watched my revengeful water drops pelt against his deserving face. "At any rate, your plan is the least you can do to assist me, especially getting my mother to slap you."

"And what of your other dire situation?" he said.

I looked at him baffled for a moment as his eyebrows batted up and down, then it dawned on me what he meant. The shade of my embarrassment turned carmine as I looked away from him.

"You ought not to talk of such things," was all I could manage.

"I think what is needed now is more than talk. I have some cloth in my saddlebags." I turned to him, and after delighting in my turning redder still, he made his way down the bank towards the water. It was then that I noticed it.

"Mr. Julian!" I pointed to the stream as he turned to face me. "Your horse!" He looked out into the stream to see what I had already noticed. Mephistopheles had waded out into the water and was well above his knees, drinking heartily. "You said he was afraid of deep water!"

Looking back at me he just shrugged his shoulders and waded out to his horse. In a few minutes he was standing by me again handing me some clean white cloth. Not daring to look into his face, I held out my hand to receive them. When they were not placed in my hand, I looked at him quickly. He was smiling while holding his hand out where he had first thrust it. There was no intention whatsoever to place it in my waiting grasp.

"Correct me if I am wrong, Miss Kettering, but at certain times of the month do not women, and in particular young women, stay at home and just rest?"

I pumped as much hatred into my glare as I could, snatched the cloth from his hand, and made my way into the woods. It was just going to eat me alive to know that this rude young man would be hanging about knowing exactly what I was doing behind the bushes. Life could be very crude, rude, and disgusting sometimes.

Fifteen minutes later I came out of the bush and went up to him.

"Now, Miss Kettering, I do believe we are to go over my autobiography first, and then debate the merits of your book."

The little girl in me mentally spit at his grin while the lady in me said, "I already know more about you than I care to, and as for the volume..." I held up the soggy thing, "its merit need not be debated beyond its aquatic condition."

"Many would have said the author was all wet at any rate."

"You speak solely from a man's point of view."

"And what other view is there?" he reached out and adjusted my bonnet.

I snatched it off my head and thrust it behind my back as I glared angrily at him. "There is humanity's point of view, of which, I daresay, you are not a member."

"Well, this conversation is all very well and good, but I think it is time to see about getting you home again." He climbed on Mephistopheles and offered me one arm. I just stared up at him in amazement.

"And just how to you propose I ride with you?"

"Why, madam, you may ride behind me. Let me help you up."

I handed him the book. "But, sir, I am a lady."

He transferred the book to his other arm and looked down at me. "Ladies do not go round swimming in their afternoon dresses."

"And you, sir, are no gentleman. A man I will give you, and that is why you do not ride sidesaddle."

"Well, Miss Kettering, I do believe the urgency of the situation to make you dryer calls for a bit of unconventional procedure. You have my word that on no account will I utter anything about your compromise with feminine decency."

I hissed under my breath. "You are playing with me, my good man. Now, stop it. Help me up and I will sit in front of you with my legs to one side. But you will have to come down here first."

He got down, handed me the book again, and thrust me up on Mephistopheles so that my legs were to one side. Then he mounted behind me, put one hand on the reins, and wrapped his free arm round my waist. My first impulse, from the girl, was to immediately tear it away, which I had to fight knowing that, no matter how uncomfortable, I had to be secured against falling off once the horse was in motion.

He allowed Mephistopheles to clop his hooves up-and-down in anxious anticipation of being turned round to start the journey downstream. But Mr. Julian hesitated as he pulled his arm tighter round my waist.

"Mr. Julian, are you taking liberties?"

"No, miss, I was just..."

"You were just going to loosen your grip round me, were you not?" I immediately felt his hold give way enough to make me feel more comfortable. Then we were away.

After procuring my boat and tying it to a tree, he then rode back to my father's house. It was a Sunday afternoon, and my mother and father were off visiting some friends. Upon arriving, he quickly dismounted and helped me down. Then he got on his horse, leaned forward in his saddle, and looked down at me condescendingly.

"Well, Miss Kettering, I think some sort of reward is in order, would you not agree?"

I stared up at him not knowing what to say to such total unwarranted absurdity. "Mr. Julian, causing me to swim in all my attire hardly merits a reward. You placed me in a rather bad situation, and you were obligated to...obligated, sir, to see me out of it since you are the one responsible for putting me in it. No, sir, I do not see the necessity of a reward. The only reward to be had is for me to see you ride out of my life forever."

"Miss Kettering, have I told you yet what a marvelous time I had with you today. We should do this more often."

"Certainly not, sir. It is my fondest wish that once I walk away from you in this spot, that I may never lay eyes on you again. Is that clear?"

"Very clear," he said. "In that case I very much hope we meet again. Perhaps the circumstances will be in your favour." He pulled on the reins and was off down the road, and I could swear that I saw a bit of arrogance in the gait of Mephistopheles.

"If they are in my favour," I said aloud when he could not hear me, "then I will leave you to rot."

Six weeks later, I was out in a rustic area near Hertford riding in my Curricle strictly for pleasure when I came across a lone elm tree at a fork in the road. I brought signaled both my horses to bring my carriage to a standstill and stared at the unusual sight. Under the tree were half-dozen geese. They were flapping their wings and honking prodigiously while stretching their necks to reach the lower-most branches. Grazing in a field nearby was an Arabian horse that looked very familiar indeed. After doing the math, I brought my carriage to a halt under the elm. When I looked up into the tree I very nearly toppled from my carriage seat into the geese, who were so anger, they probably would have torn me to pieces.

"Damn Geese," a male voice announced. "Would you be so kind as to draw your carriage a little closer so that I may affect a successful escape from these damnable, daft birds?"

"Why Mr. Henry Julian," I said blushing with a revengeful smile. "It is so nice to see you again."

"Miss Kettering? Is that you?"

The little girl in me cried out for revenge, and the lady turned away and refused to intercede. "Much to your chagrin, I am sure. You remember our little swim together in the stream many weeks back?"

Mr. Julian bent forward to better see through the foliage. "How could I forget it. It was one of the finer days of my life."

"As this may be one of your less finer," I retorted.

"Surely you will not hold it against me."

"We did go into the drink together rather unnecessarily," I reminded him.

"But it was only in the attempt of prolonging our conversation. Had I rescued you straight away there would have been little time for discourse."

"As it was, Mr. Julian, what time was made was spent in the pursuit of our predicament...which you manufactured, sir."

Mr. Julian stood up on the branch he was on. "Well, then it is good that it is in the past and that we may appreciate the humour in it. Being behind us, we can move on now, Miss Kettering. Now, draw your horse closer."

"I think I shall sit a minute and think on it. Can you give me one good reason why I should help you procure your escape, for I can rescue you and make but one happy, or I cannot and make six so? Do you not think it better that six beings enjoy happiness over one?"

"But geese are lesser beings. Surely six of them do not equal one of me."

"I think they are superior, sir. Indeed the six are twelve in my opinion,"

"And your opinion is but one."

To my enjoyment, he made no more explanation, so I let him stew in the emptiness of the verbal vacuum he created.

"Nothing to say to that, Miss Kettering?"

"Mr. Julian, I have all the time to reply. It is I who is free to talk, to ponder, to fly away and leave you to a deserved fate. I see no reason to hurry."

"It is revenge you seek, then."

"Revenge? It is revenge you speak? Why, ‘Blood will have blood' and ‘Revenge should have no bounds.' "

"This is not the time for a lesson in Shakespeare, though you be a champion of his."

" ‘How all occasions do inform against me and spur my dull revenge.' "

"King Lear?"

"Hamlet."

"Pray, I do hope you know little more on Shakespeare's revenge."

" ‘My bloody thoughts, with violent pace, shall never look back, never ebb to humble love, till that a capable and wide revenge swallow them up.'"

"Hamlet?"

"Othello."

"You do give a most useful education in literature, Miss Kettering, pray, though I cannot say your timing is impeccable. However, I do hope it is short in duration."

I laughed. "Shakespeare wrote volumes on revenge, Mr. Julian. And, though light on brains and manners, you do appear to be heavy with time. Shall I continue?"

"Would that David had been given the choice, I think he would have thrown himself to the geese."

"Then, pray, let me watch. For with every scream of pain you utter, a stitch will be created to heal my former humiliation."

"That was not Shakespeare. You are cheating, Miss Julian."

" ‘If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the grudge I bear him.' "

"Merchant of Venice."

"Right you are, Mr. Julian. I think you are at last attuned to the gist of the game now. Pray, let us have more."

"Pray, let us not."

" ‘Vengeance is mine.' "

" ‘Sayeth the Lord.' You are cheating again."

" ‘Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, blood and revenge are hammering in my head.' "

"Oh...that is a hard one. Let me see...Tom Jones."

"You mock me, sir. Titus Andronicus."

"A lesser known work."

" ‘Can vengeance be pursued further than death?' "

"Romeo and Juliet."

"Right again, sir. Not bad...for a novice."

"Well, Miss Kettering. All your quotes have been most dismal, expressing but one point of view. Allow me to quote something of a different vein. ‘Kindness, nobler ever than revenge.' "

"And so it is, Mr. Julian. As You Like It. Very good." I drew my horses closer to the trunk of the tree. The geese started to divert their attention to my carriage, but I was too high up for them to reach. "I think that I will affect your rescue now."

"A very good decision, Miss Kettering."

"After you listen to a poem I wrote for my coming out ball this month in London. You remember I mentioned it when last we were neck deep in water?"

"How well I do, for you refused me an invitation, but you never mentioned a poem."

"Perhaps, Mr. Julian, a little poetry is in order to cure your ears of revengeful words."

"Perhaps you may continue with your discourse on revenge while I find another way out of my predicament."

"As you prefer, but you shall hear my poem. I wrote it in kyrielle form."

"Sphere
When gaseous clouds do congregate,
and form a swirl to propagate,
a planet's mass begins to tier.
Power to the prevailing sphere."

"That is very nice, Miss Kettering. Now, a little closer if you do not mind."

"Oh, but I do. My poem is not yet finished."

"As degree in space does form swirls
to meet and dance with well-forged curls,
the circle Sun does burn quite clear.
Power to the prevailing sphere."

"One more verse, Miss Kettering?"

"Pray, if you interrupt once more, I may have to read the whole thing through yet again."

"Continue, I will not interrupt."

"As liquid mass does move to brink,
and water falls from heights in sync,
the drops break free and shapes appear.
Power to the prevailing sphere."

I waited for Mr. Julian to reply, but he was waiting for me to continue the poem. "That is all, Mr. Julian. The poem is finished."

"I was not aware the kyrielle was a form still in fashion."

"I am making it so."

"Do tell. Then I hope you have a...sphere of influence."

"Mr. Julian, if you have a sphere of influence it is in humour," I said, riding under the branch he was on. "Is this close enough, Mr. Julian?" I stood up.

"It will do fine. Now, move aside a little so that I may hang down and let go."

He hung down, but I moved closer to him, making it impossible for him to drop into the carriage.

"Pray, Mr. Julian, what if I jostle my horses with the reigns and leave you to hang."

"Then I will be...hanged...and fall into the pecking clutches of those geese beasts. Is that your final revenge, over and above the Shakespearean quotes? Now hurry, make up your mind or I may fall and take you with me, not that it would be my intention."

I smacked the reigns down hard on my horses and they lurched forward. Forgetting to secure myself first, I tumbled backwards and the horses took off away from the tree leaving me to tumble into the geese. Rolling over once and hitting my backside on the ground, the geese were on me. It was all I could do to put up my arms to protect my face. A second later I was scooped up off the ground in Mr. Julian's arms and he raced toward Mephistopheles trying desperately to stay ahead of the geese.

On reaching the horse, he threw me up behind the saddle, and then jumped on. The geese were right behind him nipping at his horse's legs. Mephistopheles reared up sending me backwards again, this time landing on my back and the geese were upon me once more. One by one the geese were snatched up and hurled back by Mr. Julian. Then he pulled me up, put me on the horse again, jumped up, and we rode away.

Sitting behind him with my arms round his mid-section I could hear him pant with the horse.

"I am going to retrieve your carriage. Hold on tight."

Several minutes later we were well away from the enraged geese. I was back in my carriage and Mr. Julian was on Mephistopheles next to me.

"Well, Miss Kettering, thus plays out the justice of revenge."

I looked him over and saw several bite marks round his neck and on his forehead. "How very foolish of me, Mr. Julian. Pray, I have ruined your day."

"On the contrary, Miss Kettering. I cannot remember a time when I so thoroughly enjoyed myself. Why, I daresay that was the most exciting event that ever happened to me. The second being your rescue from the island in the stream. I do not think I have ever had such a delightful time with a lady before."

"Thank you, sir...I think."

"If you are as much fun at parties as you are in a bucolic setting, then I daresay I would love to have you over for a party. What say you to a week from Saturday next? I will send a carriage round to fetch you to Parkshire Manor."

"I would be most pleased."

"Done then. Now, what say we find a shady tree so I may pick more Shakespeare from your brain? "

"I could not think of a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I would be most pleased to instruct you further. But where, sir?"

"Any location, as long as it is without geese."

"Let us go to the stream where I was first stranded. We can sit with our feet in the water and rusticate."

"Let's"

We rode off together, he on Mephistopheles leading my carriage -- and that is how I met my husband.

 

THE END

 

© 2001 Copyright held by the author.

 

 

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