The Dangerous Lord Darrington(3)

By: Sarah Mallory

Davey led the way through the winding lanes for another mile before turning off on to a narrow track. As they left behind them the little villages that lined the main highway the country became ever more barren and soon they were riding across a wilderness with no houses in sight. Guy glanced up at the sky. The sun had disappeared behind thick clouds the colour of lead and the air was heavy with the threat of rain.

‘How much farther is it?’ he asked as they slowed down to a walk, resting the horses.

‘About another five miles,’ replied Davey. ‘I am sorry we did not think to bring our greatcoats. If this rain comes down, it will be heavy, I fear.’

Guy shrugged.

‘No matter. We may yet beat it.’

‘We may indeed. We can at least cover the next mile or so at speed, if we cut across the fields.’ With that Davey spurred his horse and they were off again, galloping across the large, rectangular fields. Guy’s powerful hunter took the dry stone walls in his stride, but he silently cursed his friend’s recklessness as they scattered sheep and a herd of milch cows in their headlong flight. The daylight was reduced to a gloomy twilight and a soft rain had started to fall as they thundered towards another grey stone wall. It was not particularly high, but as they approached it Davey’s bay mare stumbled. They were too close to stop and she made a valiant effort to clear the wall, but a trailing hoof caught one of the topstones, sending horse and rider tumbling to the ground.

Guy did not hesitate. He put his own horse to the jump, but reined in as soon as he could, turning back to help his friend. His heart sank when he saw the mare on the ground, legs flailing, and Davey trapped beneath her. Quickly he dismounted and dashed across to the stricken pair. The bay rolled over and clambered to her feet. She stood, trembling and snorting, but appeared otherwise unhurt as Guy dropped to his knees beside his friend.

Davey’s face was ashen and one leg was twisted in an unnatural position. He opened his eyes and looked up at Guy.

‘Pushing…too…hard,’ he gasped.

‘Don’t talk and keep still,’ barked Guy. ‘I need to see just what damage you have done to yourself.’

‘Damned fool,’ muttered Davey. ‘Light was going…didn’t see the rabbit hole…’

There was the thud of heavy boots as two farmhands ran up.

‘We saw the fall from the road, sir,’ called the first, grimacing as he gazed down at the injured man. ‘’Owt we can do?’

‘We need a doctor,’ said Guy. ‘And somewhere to take him out of this rain.’

‘There’s the barn on t’other side o’ beck,’ offered the second man, coming up. ‘Or t’owd Priory just over there.’

Guy followed his pointing finger and noticed for the first time the outline of a steeply roofed building in the distance.

‘The Priory would be best, if it is inhabited.’

‘Oh, aye, Lady Arabella will be at home. She never leaves the place these days.’

Guy nodded. Quickly he gave instructions for the men to fetch help while he removed his jacket and threw it over Davey. He sat by his friend’s head, leaning forwards to shelter him from the worst of the drizzling rain.

‘This is a damned nuisance,’ muttered Davey, wincing.

‘Don’t try to move. We will carry you to that house yonder and soon have you comfortable again.’

‘Comfort, hah! Didn’t know my legs could hurt so much.’

‘You are growing soft, then,’ retorted Guy, secretly relieved to know his friend could still feel pain. He was no doctor, but he suspected at least one leg was broken, but he hoped there would be no more serious damage. He took his friend’s hand. ‘Don’t worry. Help will be here soon.’

Davey gave a slight nod and squeezed Guy’s hand, then his eyes closed and his head fell to one side. Only the tiny pulse throbbing at one side of his neck told Guy his friend was still alive.

Guy had no idea how long he had sat beside Davey, the sky growing ever darker and the rain falling steadily. It felt like eternity, but he guessed it was less than an hour later when he heard the welcome sound of voices. Half-a-dozen men arrived with a donkey pulling a small cart. Guy tried to ensure that Davey was lifted as carefully as possible into the cart, but he was profoundly thankful that his friend was still unconscious. He winced when the cart rocked on the uneven field; by the time they reached the gravelled drive leading to the old Priory he felt as if he had been walking for miles.

The stone building towered over them, a black, looming shadow against the leaden sky, but the warm glow of lamplight shone from several of the windows and an oblong of light spilled out from the open doorway and illuminated the steep stone steps leading down to the drive. As they approached, the black outline of a woman could be seen in the doorway. She hurried down the steps and handed a blanket to one of the men.

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