Looming disasters on WIP Wednesday

curricle raceIn the last few weeks I’ve written a warehouse explosion, a social nightmare, and a near traffic accident. Disasters are good for stories.

This week, how about sharing with me those moments when all looks grim, and perhaps even the instant when hero or heroine steps in to save the day.

Here is my hero James Winderfield, from The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, and the moment he meets his heroine.

The racing curricles had negotiated the bend without disaster and were now hurtling towards the village. Long habit had James studying the path, looking to make sure the villagers were safely out of the way, and an instant later, he put Seistan at the slope.

It was steep, but nothing to the mountains they had lived in all their lives, he and his horse, and Seistan was as sure-footed as any goat. Straight down by the shortest route they hurtled, for in the path of the thoughtless lackwits and their carriages was a child—a boy, by the trousers—who had just escaped through a gate from the village’s one large house, tripped as he crossed the road, and now lay still.

It would be close. As he cleared one stone fence and then another, he could see the child beginning to sit up, shaking his head. Just winded then, and easier to reach than lying flat, thank all the angels and saints.

Out of sight for a moment as he rounded a cottage, he could hear the carriages drawing closer. Had the child recovered enough to run? No. He was still sitting in the road, mouth open, white-faced, looking as his doom approached. What kind of selfish madmen raced breast to breast, wheel to wheel, into a village?

With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child, and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.

One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, so close to the racers that James could feel the wind of their passing.

They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.

The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted.

“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.

The woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding towards them, but he couldn’t take his eyes off hers. He was drowning in their chocolate brown. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.

“James!” His father’s voice broke him out of his trance. “James, your grandfather expects us in London.” The earl lifted his top hat with courtly grace to the woman, and rode on, certain that James would follow. Not the woman; the lady, as her voice and clothes proclaimed, though James had not noticed until now.

A lady, and by the rules of this Society, one to whom he had not been introduced. He took off his telpek, the large shaggy sheepskin hat.

“My lady, I am Elfingham. May I have the honor of knowing whom I have served this day?”

She seemed as dazed as he, which soothed him a little, and she stuttered slightly as she gave him her name. “L-L-Lady Sophia. Belvoir.” Unmarried then, or she would be known by her husband’s name or title. And a lady. He beamed at her as he remounted. He had a name. He would be able to find her.

“Thank you, sir. Lord Elfingham.”

“My lady,” James told her, “I am yours to command.”

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4 thoughts on “Looming disasters on WIP Wednesday

  1. Oooh, good stuff. Hope James’s shoulders don’t hurt too much!

    Mine involves horses too, although in this case my hero is actually the one who needs the rescuing. 😉 From The Long Shadow.

    ***

    Mary was about to apply her pen back to the page and finish her letter when the commotion began. First she heard shouting, then neighing and a horse’s hooves striking the road in an irregular tattoo. The shouting grew louder.

    She looked out of the window and gasped. Her husband’s carriage stood in the street, the compartment door hanging open. Both horses attached to the traces reared and plunged in a desperate attempt to break free. The coachman and postilion clung to the reins, John alongside them in his Covent Garden finery. Two other servants raced out of the house to help.

    Mary stood. Her skirts knocked her étui and several sheets of foolscap to the floor, but she barely noticed, for at that moment one of the horses gave a sharp kick and knocked John backwards.

    Mary had no memory of leaving the room or going downstairs. The first thing she was aware of was running across the pavement and sinking beside her husband in a flurry of silk skirts. Some passers-by hurried over, two liveried footmen and a gentleman in a brown coat. Mary was vaguely aware of them, and of the horses still plunging and foaming on the road, but mostly her attention was focused on John’s bloodless face and rigid jaw. ‘What happened?’

    His breathing came in shallow, irregular gasps, but he managed to reply. ‘Not sure… a bee sting, perhaps. One horse reared, then the other. I got too close.’

    ‘What is going on? Mary?’ Mary looked up at the sound of her name. It was Georgiana, wearing a blue gown with pink ribbons and a straw hat on her head, her eyes wide. For a moment Mary wondered what her sister was doing here, then remembered she and Georgiana had meant to go canvassing. All that seemed a world away now, and completely unimportant. She did not rise or let go of John’s hand but said,

    ‘George, go home. There will be no canvass today.’ Georgiana looked uncertain. A sudden epiphany struck Mary. ‘On second thoughts go and tell Wood to send for Dr Warren.’

    ‘We need a surgeon,’ the groom muttered. Georgiana’s eyes widened and Mary felt her skin burst out in sweat, but she forced her voice to remain calm.

    ‘A surgeon, then. Just go.’

    Georgiana pulled up her skirts and sprinted into the house. In the street the coachman had finally managed to quieten the horses. They stood trembling while the coachman crooned softly to them. Mary’s eyes kept being drawn to John’s leg. The blow had knocked his knee-buckle deeply into his flesh; the skin she could see through the torn fabric of his stockings was mottled and swollen. She knew without having to be told that the limb was broken. Only the surgeon would be able to tell her how badly.

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