02-04-2012 12:00 AM
As a girl, for one can no longer call her little, although she is still quite small, she knew a great many things; secrets gleaned from an innocent face and whispering stars, a rumor carried by a mouse, a riddle of thorns, a verse written by the nightingale, the mysteries of the rain; one and all and all and one, know them, she did...Such was Violet's way.
02-06-2012 10:22 AM - edited 02-06-2012 10:27 AM
As a girl, for one can no longer call her little, although she is still quite small, she knew a great many things; secrets gleaned from an innocent face and whispering stars, a rumor carried by a mouse, a riddle of thorns, a verse written by the nightingale, the mysteries of the rain; one and all and all and one, know them, she did...Such was Violet's way. It was a quiet, gentle way that had saved Taggin, but change was coming, more swiftly than any of them knew. But for now, she was entitled to one last perfect summer afternoon.
Violet lifted her face to the fading rays of the warm sun before casting a roguish grin at brick manor house, tinted in summer gold, behind her. With drawing pad and supplies tucked into a battered wicker basket, she stepped out swiftly, moving with a soft grace that had caused many an observer to pause in wonder. She flowed like water, walking along with the merest whisper of sound, her feet scandalously bare. The grass was a lush, scythed expanse beneath her tender toes as she made her way toward the Homewood and Speaglewood pond. The breeze kissed Violet's sweet, upturned face as she broke from a brisk walk into a gamboling bound, her muslin skirts bouncing up to her knees as she lengthen her stride, tossing all ladylike inclinations to the freshen wind.
Slight of frame and small of stature, she had been likened to a little brown wren on more than one occasion. Violet was in no way plain or unremarkable, quite the opposite in fact. With enormous, dreaming eyes the colour of her name dominating her gamine little face and cameo like features, she was a sight to behold. The problem was most people had a tendency to look directly over the top of her, glance right through her, or not even see her to begin with. Part of Violet's invisibility, much bemoaned by her beloved mother, was the fact that Violet, herself, was so unassuming and even tempered, so seldom causing a stir, that she blended in with the household routine too well. She never upset Cook or set Hamish into a mad dither with a plethora of outrageous demands like her older sister Susan. Lady Susan was the other major contributing factor to Violet's nearly anonymous existence.
Where Violet was even tempered with a gentle smile for even the lowliest of scullery maids, Lady Susan was as volatile as black powder in a lightning storm. A diamond of the first water and spoiled since birth, Lady Susan knew how to gain and keep the attention of the entire household. Possessed of hair rivaling the fabled spun gold and speaking pansy brown eyes designed to melt the hardest of hearts, she twisted all and sundry around her plump, pampered fingers with two notable exceptions. Her mother, Lady Lucy Dappleworth, Duchess of Attenberry, formerly Dowager Countess of Parrington and her younger half sister, Violet. Both knew the reigning beauty's wiles and the flinty heart concealed by her bountiful charms. And so it was against Lady Susan's blinding golden beauty, shy Violet was measured and as such was always found wanting, until one slowed down enough to actually look.
Violet, for all her smallness was quick-witted, graceful, and just plain fast when it came to running, a rare treat she indulged in when no one else was about to catch sight of her. Such was the case on this late summer day as she pelted along the path ending at the deep forest pool. Her nut brown hair, a long smooth curtain that curled at the ends, came free of its frayed green ribbon and flowed like silk down Violet's back, offering some protection to the child's luminously delicate skin. A hint of rose tinted her cheeks as she floated along the path, a hint of colour that had been missing for far too long, in faithful Taggin's estimation.
02-10-2012 11:29 PM
It's nice to know I'm not the only invisible one.
I like your descriptions. You know who these people are just by these few short paragraphs alone. Even their mother, without much description, you can kind of tell the kind of character she will be. Is this part of the Darkkin Chronicles or have you moved on? It's been a while for me.
One thing I would say, because I must: The first sentence is pretty long. You know how I am about that. On an unrelated note, it sounded kind of Yoda-like at the end of that sentence. It's not a bad thing, just something I noticed.
02-17-2012 08:11 PM
It was the family's first week back home from London, having spent the late winter and early spring in the midst of the ton for the Season with the hope of successfully firing off Lady Susan. Unfortunately none of her numerous swains had been brought up to scratch; the reigning belle of Appleton Downs had returned home without a ring or any hint of one. Lady Susan's marital woes were meted out any and all that crossed the petulant beauty's path; it was a path Violet and Taggin were careful to steer clear of, but fate had other ideas. Such was the way of things this soft summer day as Violet loped across the back paddock with her paints and spaniel at her heels.
Several dozen cattle, residents of the lush field, paid little heed to the half grown girl and her black speckled cocker. Violets, clover, and dozens of other flowers lifted their faces to the golden warmth of the day; birds twittered and flitted on the billowing grass stems and in the hedgerows. A hedgehog peeped out of the shadows and a wily old vixen watched Violet's progress from the edge of the woodland. Trillium and ferns waved in a gentle dance with the teasing wind. Violet grinned down at Taggin, her enormous eyes made even darker by the blue tinted shadows beneath them and for a single, finite moment the world was perfect.
Her skirts and petticoat frothed like sea foam about her knees, the basket bouncing against a thin hip as she bounded along; a hare startled by the flashing whish of Violet's skirts bolted out of the thicket straight at Taggin. Although loyal to a fault, Taggin was a hunting dog through and through; the sight of fleeing prey was too much for the spaniel to ignore. With a shrill, happy bark he went racing after the hare, his long speckled ears flying out behind him. The hare was making straight for the heart of the cow herd..."Darn it all!" Violet swore as she went haring after her beloved idiot of a dog.
She knew what Taggin's fate would be if anything happened to disturb her father's precious livestock. A meeting with the business end of John Coachman's pistol. Swallowing an oath that would have sent her sainted mother into strong hysterics, Violet dropped her basket, caught up her skirts and ran for all she was worth. Taggin was a black and white blur against the lush green back drop pressing close on the heels of the witless hare. Left and right and right then left, zinging and whirling like a Maypole ribbon in a wind storm, hare, dog, and girl wound ever closer to the placidly grazing cattle herd.
Unfortunately for Violet, however, Taggin's hysterical barking hadn't gone unnoticed. Angus, Caesar, and Heidi, the family's three mastiffs heard the gleeful shrieks of the little cocker and came charging to help. Black, brindle, and fawn mountains of fur came crashing through the hedge along the rear flank of the grazing herd. The deep baritone barks of the huge dogs drew way more attention from the cows than Taggin.
A calf began to bawl and broke into an ungainly sprint, spooking other calves and their mothers. Panic took hold as the mastiffs closed from the south and Taggin and Violet bore down from the north. The hare dodged, spinning hard to the right, the cocker on its heels. Violet made a dive for the dog and went down, skirts flaring. An old cow startled by the dancing fabric bellowed and broke into a run.
02-19-2012 11:58 PM
Poor Violet and Taggin. Run over by a stampede of cows is so not the way you want to go.
I noticed a couple of things in the first paragraph:
having spent the late winter and early spring in the midst of the ton for the Season with the hope of successfully firing off Lady Susan. Is it town? The wording messed me up.
Lady Susan's marital woes were meted out any and all that crossed the petulant beauty's path. The wording here is throwing me off. Is there a word missing?
05-04-2012 01:26 AM
A calf began to bawl and broke into an ungainly sprint, spooking other calves and their mothers. Panic took hold as the mastiffs closed from the south and Taggin and Violet bore down from the north. The hare dodged, spinning hard to the right, the cocker on its heels. Violet made a dive for the dog and went down, skirts flaring. An old cow startled by the dancing fabric bellowed and broke into a run. All four dogs zeroed in on the plunging bovine, barking with abandon. They were now chasing for the sheer joy of it. The cattle broke formation and began to run.
It was the beginning of an unmitigated disaster as Violet plowed headlong into the grass. Hampered by her narrow skirts she was struggling to regain her feet when she suddenly felt Taggin pressing tight against her knees. A deep, guttural growl echoed in the spaniel's throat. Violet froze, sensing a huge, raging presence behind her. Slowly and carefully she straightened, her skirts now swinging freely about her ankles, as she finally peered over her shoulder. A bloodcurdling scream wrenched free of her thin, heaving chest. A domesticated monster stood before her, riled and ready. It was Caligula, her father's much prized and pampered dairy bull.
Already the Guernsey herd was a fading patch of fawn down the paddock. Caligula's massive cloven hooves ripped huge gouges in the dense green as he bellowed and prepared to charge. Violet didn't hesitate, kicking her fear frozen wits into action, she seized hold of Taggin's collar heaving the little spaniel into her arms as she like the departing herd, broke into a dead run, her skirts once more flying up. She knew she had only one chance at escape and that was the hedgerow separating the Homewood from the paddock. In order to reach it she had to get around Caligula, but she knew she stood a better shot at escaping the enraged bull if she surprised him.
So inspite of the fear threatening to suffocate her, Violet pivoted hard and sprinted for the hedgerow. Caligula, taken unaware, missed his small, agile target as she dodged around him. With shocking dexterity the bull corrected his course and pounded after Violet, his massive strides consuming the slight gain, Violet had achieved through sheer speed. Two more strides brought the brute within striking distance. Caligula lowered his head and prepared the charge again. Violet pulled in a desperate breath and reached deep for reserves she never knew she possessed. Her strides lengthened, her feet barely touching the ground as she pelted along.
Taggin's speckled head and flyaway ears appeared above her shoulder. He felt the hot breath of the bull before Violet and knew her efforts were going to fall short. Keeping Violet safe and well; it was all that mattered and all that ever would. He had to do something. He went with his instincts. Launching himself over his mistress's shoulder, ears and jowls flying, Taggin aimed for the tender flesh of Caligula's nose. The cocker's teeth found their mark. Caligula's roars of pain drown out the savage growl of the foolhardy spaniel. But the dog's efforts had the desired affect; the bull stumbled and went down, Taggin clinging to the bloody flesh like a terrier upon a rat.
Violet knew she couldn't turn back to collect Taggin. He would do everything in his power to keep her safe even if it meant his life. She kept running, not daring to look back lest she trip in one of the countless rabbit holes dotting the paddock. The roar of blood and wind in her ears nearly drowned out the infuriated bawls of the bull and what sounded like an oncoming rush of thunder. Had Caligula broken free of Taggin's hold? Violet didn't wait to find out and began to run even harder.
Lord Greydon Myles Fredrick Storyakian, Duke of Wyford, drew his green bay hunter to an abrupt halt as a terrorized scream rent the cool stillness of the woods. With a speaking glance back at his older cousin, Myles, Grey wheeled Tenor about. Giving the young gelding his head, the young duke urged Tenor to an all out gallop in the direction of Attenbury Downs, the small estate that run parallel to Storyakian Abbey, Grey's ancestral pile. The fledgling peer had a good idea who had voice the scream and if he was right then something was terribly wrong. He hoped for the best, but his gut was telling him otherwise.
"Dammit, Grey!" Myles hollered at his cousin's departing back. "Wait!" There was no catching up with the stripling as he rode flat out hell for leather toward the neighboring estate. The only thing Milo could do was keep his idiotic young cousin in sight. If anything happened to the youngster, it would mean Myle's head.
The familiar paths of the Downs' Homewood appeared before the duke with reassuring speed. Tenor was holding his own. Grey set his quirt lightly to the bay's flank, urging him to an even greater pace. The Thoroughbred caught the bit between his teeth and surged, holding nothing back. The stone fence separating the western boundary of the Homewood from Lord Attenbury's paddock loomed. The trees broke giving the advancing rider a clear view of the chaos consuming the paddock. Cattle bellowed in fear, calves bawling in a blind panic as the Attenbury Guernsey herd came stampeding over the hill straight at Grey. Deep, rolling barks punctuated the air above the lowing of the stricken dairy herd. The huge bounding forms of the Down mastiffs were unmistakable, racing across the lush swath of green, teasing the heels of the cows.
It wasn't the dogs and the seething herd that riveted Grey's undivided attention, however. It was a ribbon of sleek brown hair and a massive, maddened bull spinning like a top at the far side of the pasture. Violet. There was no doubt in Grey's mind. And Caligula. The young duke had heard whispers of the bull's ferocity, but had never actually seen the beast until now. It was a sight that sent his heart sinking into his boots. Caligula was after Violet.
Grey's heels sunk deep into Tenor's heaving sides; the gelding surged, making a beeline for the fleeing girl. "Grey!" Myles's bellowed from the depths of the woods. The duke ignored his cousin and focused on the task at hand, melding into Tenor's powerful strides with seamless grace. The big bay cleared the stone fence separating the bridle path from the pasture with ease. Now free of the trees, Tenor lengthened out, his shod feet flinging up huge clods of loam as Grey closed on Caligula and Violet.
"Violet..." Grey called above the ruckus. "Violet!"
The smooth flow of hair flipped about as Violet cast a fleeting glance over her shoulder. Grey. Someone had heard her. Slowing slightly she watched as Grey's big blood red bay flashed past the whirling Caligula, whom Taggin still held by the nose. "Give me your hand," Grey yelled as he bore down upon her. Violet didn't need to be told twice; she raised her hand, but kept running.
Grey came up from behind, catching hold of the outstretched fingers. Trusting Tenor not to bolt, the duke released his reins, locked his grip on Violet's wrists and heaved her, unresisting onto the bay's broad back. Grey looked ready to read her a lecture, but Violet shook her head. "We need to turn around."
"What!" Barked Grey. "Have you run completely mad, Vi?"
"Please Grey." Violet pleaded her heart in her enormous dark eyes. "It's Taggin. I can't abandon him to the mercy of that demon."
"Damme, Vi, but you have a way about you." Grey muttered half to himself as he gathered his reins and wheeled Tenor about. The gelding whirled, resuming his ground consuming stride in the direction of the dervish bull.
Grey pressed the reins into Violet's slim hands. "Keep him steady, Vi."
"What are you going to do?" Violet pressed.
"Just trust me, poppet, and keep Tenor on course." Grey replied through gritted teeth. Violet nodded. "Vi, set your heel; I need a little more speed." Blood thundered in Violet's ears as she nudged a bare heel into Tenor's side. Caligula's enraged bellows became the voices of hell as the gap between the riders and the spinning bull disappeared. Grey raised his quirt. Aiming for the bull's mauled nose, the duke brought the whip down with all his strength.
05-24-2012 12:04 AM
Caligula bawled in agony as if a pack of wolves were rending him to ribbons. It gave Violet the brief moment she needed to pry Taggin's jaws free of the bovine's bleeding flesh. With the speckled, blood spattered cocker draped across her knees, Violet, reins in hand, and wheeled Tenor about, giving the gelding his head. Tenor didn't need any further urging and bolted for the western edge of the Homewood, just as Myles emerged. Grey waved frantically at his cousin, motioning him out of the way, so Tenor would have a clear place to land. Myles, no fool by any stretch of the imagination, forced his mount back into the trees.
By this time the brouhaha had drawn the attention of the tenant families and stable hands. Men rushed from the stables and the dairy. Two lithe black and white forms cleared the stone fence separating the paddock from the dairy. Zigg and Zagg, the estate's Border collies. They hit the ground running and soon brought the panicked Guernsey herd back under control. But the damage was done. There was no undoing the carnage wrought upon Caligula.
"Grey what am I going to do?" Violet murmured as he and Myles made their reluctant way back toward the Attenbury stables. "John Coachman is sure to put a bullet through Taggin, even if he did risk his life to save my own."
Grey wanted more than anything to promise Violet that everything would work out, but he knew the Duke of Attenbury well. The man's will was iron bound, his heart not much warmer when it came to his only child, Violet, the child, who by the duke's thinking should have been a son. Attenbury had never forgiven Violet for being a girl. He viewed the shy, retiring child as little more than a blight, while like the rest of the world; he doted on the golden perfection of her half sister Lady Susan.
Young Wyford drew Violet close, resting his chin on her silken hair. "You will just have to hope for the best, Vi. Maybe your father will take pity on your nodcock cocker, seeing as it was because of Taggin's interference that you weren't gored."
Violet shook her head, her denial clearly written on her face. "No, Grey. You know as well as I do that there is no changing his Grace's mind. And as for the fact that I came away from this mess unharmed, well, he will see it as an opportunity lost."
Grey's dark brow lifted in an unspoken query. "A chance to finally be rid of me." Violet muttered her voice laced with hurt.
"Surely you jest, Lady Violet." Myles interjected, his disbelief written on his face. "No parent can be that uncaring."
Violet swallowed the tears threatening to choke her. "Most parents don't hold a grudge against their children for being who and what they are."
Grey's eyes were a bleak reflection of the truth. "She's right, Myles. Old Attenbury has vented his opinion of Violet often, uncaring of whose ears might be flapping. He has never forgiven Violet for being born a girl, denying him his much desired heir."
The time for private conversation ended as the two riders and Violet entered the stable yard. A boy came running to take charge of Grey and Myle's mount as the horses clattered across the cobbled yard. Tenor sidled as Grey drew to a halt and tossed the reins to the waiting lad. Swinging down with the grace of a natural athlete, he reached up and plucked Violet from the saddle.
05-29-2012 03:56 PM
Although Grey was only sixteen he already towered over most men at a height of six feet three inches. He was still possessed of the gangly leanness of a boy who had recently added to his inches. But inspite of the growth spurt, the young duke moved with a dark, fluid grace, a grace that was innate, not learned.
For the first time Myles could actually see the man his younger cousin was rapidly becoming. For youngsters like Grey the change from boyhood into manhood was often swift and shocking. In a matter of months the soft edges of childhood were shed, revealing the chiseled planes and austere bone structure of their kind. Raw power gathered and condensed, rolling in palpable waves. Sinuous strength developed, often leaving the youngsters unaware of their own power. On more than one occasion a halfling accidentally wrought havoc.
05-31-2012 08:03 PM - edited 05-31-2012 08:03 PM
Yet with Grey there was a subtle difference, he didn’t seem to struggle with the change as Myles himself and countless others had. The young duke didn’t so much grow as morph. It was an eerie wonder, and a telling one; Grey was a quiet incarnation of lethal power. The time for games and larks was at an end. The world was becoming a darker place and all around shadows, amorphous threats were looming. The blood of the tribe would soon be burning hot in the veins of the fledglings.
Myles knew from the look in his cousin’s eyes that he wouldn’t leave Violet to plead the case of her lunkhead cocker. The Duke of Wyford was spoiling for a fight and the tyranny Attenberry wielded over his wife and daughter provided a tempting target. Whether she knew it or not Violet had a champion in her corner and Myles intended to remain on hand to make sure Grey’s back was covered.
Although five years his junior, Grey was the closest thing Myles had ever had to a brother. The clear bonds of affection between the two orphaned boys were part of the reason the Dowager Duchess of Glostonberry placed Grey under Myles’ charge. Myles had taken to the duty like a duck to water, keeping a weathered eye on the younger peer. There were few doors at Eton that were closed to the Dukes of Glostonberry and Wyford. Both boys had excelled at school with Myles paving the way for Grey.
Now Myles was in his third year at Oxford, while Grey was nearly done at Eton. With the coming of fall the pair would be going their separate ways again, but until then they had been spending their time at Storyakian Abbey under the supposedly watchful eye of Mr. Hibbington, the guardian appointed by the High Council. If there was one attribute of Mr. Hibbington that both Grey and Myles like it was the fact that the gentleman seemed to become perpetually lost within the confines of the immense Storyakian library. Thus enabling Grey and Myles to wile way the golden summer hours as they saw fit.
The two young peers had spent the majority of the time riding the paths bisecting the woods and fields around Storyakian and Appleton Downs, the village bordering the massive Wyford estate. Speaglewood Pond was a favorite stop along these rides, with its deep, clear waters and cheery brook it was a perfect place to fish and swim. It was a spot frequented by Violet as well. She often turned upon with her paints, pencils, and Taggin in tow. Indeed, it was where she first met Grey some five years prior during an ill fated rescue attempt of a gun shy, black mottled cocker pup.
That day, a late golden summer afternoon much like today, Violet had once again managed to elude the clutches of her governess. Stealing out a side door, she had taken her watercolors and disappeared down the warren of paths in the Homewood. At the age of seven, she knew her way around the lush, cool glade. Bluebells, woodbine, trillium, Queen Anne’s lace, and countless other flowers abounded, scenting the air, turning the woods into a faeryland.
Knowing it would be cooler by the pond, Violet followed the path down, unaware that James, an undergroom at Attenberry Downs, had passed along the same route just moments before. Violet rounded the slight curve leading to Speaglewood Pond just as James tossed a small, writhing sack of burlap into the deepest part of the woodland pool. She spotted the struggling bag just as it hit the water. A pathetic yelp broke the summer stillness; Violet dropped her paints and dove after the rapidly disappearing bag without a though for her own safety.
James, too surprised by Violet’s sudden leap, froze. In abject horror, he watched the little girl’s form disappear beneath the stilling waves. A small hand reached out and grabbed the bag before it sank completely, but Violet didn’t reappear, she continued sinking. The young groom didn’t know how to swim, and clearly neither did young Violet. James remained riveted to the shore, staring after the child, when hoof beats came thundering up from behind.
In a blur, the young Duke of Wyford darted passed, calling James every kind of fool as he bound into the pond after Violet. A well placed kick and a few strokes brought Grey within reach of the little girl. Ducking beneath the teeming surface, Grey dove, reaching out in the cold water, hoping to find Violet; he found nothing. With lungs bursting he surfaced, drew a quick breath, and plunged back in.
This time a flicker of movement caught his eye, a ghostly sable dark wraith. Grey followed it down. The flickering ghost was Violet’s waterfall of hair drifting with the current. She and the bag she had risked her life for were nearing the bottom of the pool. Wyford knew time was short and roughly seized hold of the child’s arm. She wasn’t moving, her fingers were clenched around the rude burlap bag. Grey’s feet hit the stony bottom; he shoved off, kicking toward the surface. His lungs ached and the little girl was a dead weight in his arms, but he kept swimming. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, he breached the surface.
James, who at long last managed to gather his wits, waded into the pool, water rushing past his hips. Grabbing Grey by his shirt collar, the groom pulled both the young duke and the seemingly lifeless child back to shore. Grey coughed and sputtered, taking in ragged, greedy gulps of air as James laid the little girl down on the stones. The bag in her hands writhed and whimpered. Comprehension dawned in Grey’s dark eyes as he looked at the bag.
06-16-2012 08:27 PM
Is it done?
This is really good.
I want to know what happens next!!!
― Dr. Seuss
"It's your decision:
are you going to do the right or the wrong?"
06-19-2012 12:12 AM
“Come on, little one…” He whispered pushing Violet’s drenched curtain of hair away from her small, still face. “Breathe, please.” Instinctively the boy pressed down just below the little girl’s rib cage, tipping her onto her side as she began to cough and sputter. After a moment of retching, Violet finally regained her wind and senses.
06-19-2012 04:50 PM
“Was I too late?” a soft voice pleaded. Deep violet eyes locked with Grey’s bluish-black gaze and for the briefest of moments the young duke forgot where he was. He was plunged back into reality by the pathetically waterlogged barks coming from the bedraggled bag.
With a sudden grin Grey pulled back. “Does that answer your question?”
Violet shifted her spectacular eyes away from her rescuer disheveled rescuer, focusing instead on working to free the knot of burlap that held the pup bound. When the child didn’t reply, Wyford pressed. “What possessed you to do such a baconbrained thing, brat? Diving into a pond when you can’t swim.”
Violet blushed. A black mottled cocker pup tumbled into her lap. “It didn’t seem buffleheaded at the time. Would you have stood by and let this poor thing drown?”
Grey scowled. “It was an idiotic thing to do, brat. You nearly drown along with that wretched animal, but no, I would not have let the poor beast drown.” He cast a slightly disgusted glance at the marbled puppy. “Even if it is as ugly as Old Toby.”
The little girl shot to her feet, her huge eyes spitting fire. “You take that back, you brute.” The soggy mass that was the cocker took up a protective stance in front of his newfound savior and idol. Issuing a feeble growl he seemed determined to defend the child to the best of his meager ability.
Wyford’s scowl vanished as he took in this oddly endearing pair. “Pax, brat. What your pet looks like matters little; it is the heart that counts, and your friend here has the courage of a dragon.”
Somewhat mollified, Violet glanced down at the dog. “Maybe he isn’t the prettiest of dogs, but you are right about him having a good heart.”
“What are you going to call him?”
Violet shrugged. “I don’t know; I’ve never had a dog before. What are good names?”
Grey’s brow scrunched in concentration. “How about Brutus or Nero?”
Violet shook her head, negating both names. “Too distinguish…Even with his noble head and heart; those ears make him hard to take seriously.”
“Both you young pikers is mad…” The groom stated flatly. “Taggin’ along after a pup that is no better than he ‘ought to be.”
Violet grinned at Grey; Grey mirrored her smile back. “Taggin it is.”
James shook his head, exasperated and relieved that all was well. “Come along, Miss Violet. We need to be getting you home. Miss Pillings will be wondering where you got off to.” The little girl pulled a face, obviously not thrilled with the prospect of returning to Attenberry Downs. Miss Pillings could try the patience of a saint.
The groom knew Miss Violet could be bullheaded on the rare occasion, and this looked to be one of them. Well used to dealing with recalcitrant, spirited youngsters, James set to soothing the little girl’s ruffled feathers. “It won’t do neither you nor his lordship a lick of good to stand about here jabberin’ and drippin’. Most likely you’ll take cold and that will be the end of it…”
With negligent shrug continued. “O’course now that you know young Master Grey there ain’t no reason why he can’t call upon you again.” Casting a pleading look at the perceptive duke added. “Ain’t that right, your grace?”
Grey swallowed a grin, his face as solemn as Vicar Bishop’s. “Of course, James. It would indeed be an honor to see how Miss Violet and the redoubtable Taggin continue to fare. I am even inclined to demand Violet accept my tutelage in the art of swimming.” A faint blush crept up the boy’s cheeks. “Just so we can avoid any repeats of today.”
What little color there was in Violet’s thin cheeks faded. “When my father hears about this tangle I will be lucky to see the outside of the schoolroom again. Miss Pillings doesn’t even know that I’m gone.”
Grey’s disappointment was written on his pleasing aquiline features. The sense of loss left him a bit bereft. “I’m sure James won’t squeak beef on us.” The duke pinned the groom with a speaking dark gaze. “Will you James?”
“No, your grace.” He agreed. “Your secret is safe with me, but how will you explain the pup?”
The Duke of Wyford smiled his knowing grin. “Just leave that to me. Now get Miss Violet home before someone misses her.”
“Well that is hardly likely to happen,” Violet muttered to herself.
An autocrat down to his toes, Grey turned to his newfound friend. “Stubble the backtalk, infant. Give me Taggin and I’ll see you in a bit, all right?”
Reluctantly Violet surrendered the rescued cocker to the duke and accompanied James back to Attenberry Downs. True to his word, the young groom smuggled the bedraggle child in through the kitchens, placing her in the dotting Mrs. Breese’s hands.
With no one the wiser, Violet was reinstated in the schoolroom, clean and dry, less her art supplies. If Miss Pillings noticed her pupil’s change in attire, she made no mention of it, clearly mellowed by an uninterrupted nap. Violet paid for her unapproved decampment with a forfeiture of art lessons until the missing supplies could be replaced.
The Duke of Wyford, Grey, as he was known to his friends, was as good as his word. After a quick change of clothes, he snabbled the company of his cousin Myles. Together the youngsters rode up the immaculate drive of Attenberry Downs and made the acquaintance of Her Grace, Lady Lucy Dappleworth, Duchess of Attenberry. Violet’s mother was delighted with the pair and forced a disapproving Miss Pillings to present Violet.
Miss Pillings produced the child, a sparrow with curtain of faun colored hair and huge violet eyes. When presented with such august company, Violet became as shy and withdrawn as her name. Grey’s eyes, a conspiratorial twinkle lurking in their dark depths, met Violet’s. He drew a squirming basket from behind his chair.
Violet’s somber demeanor evaporated as she sank to her knees to see the contents. Lifting the lid, a bathed and groomed Taggin bound out and into her arms. The Duchess smiled, relieved to see a hint of joy return to her daughter’s small face. Adrian had done everything in his considerable power to quash that joy. The pompous boor.
From that day forth whenever Grey and Myles were home from school they called at Attenberry Downs, taking Violet and Taggin with them on any number of excursions. From boating on the various lakes to visiting distant ruins to swimming lessons in Speaglewood Pond to fishing expeditions, she was always included. Away from the icy shadow of her half-sister Lady Susan, Violet blossomed in her quiet, sweet way.
06-19-2012 05:55 PM
Now Violet, who had learned to become a graceful ghost, was up to her eyebrows in a bumblebroth. Her father, Adrian, Duke of Attenberry was in residence. A rare occurrence at the Downs and an unfortunate one. The Duke was a harsh, unforgiving man with a face craved from granite and a heart as cold. Taggin’s fate was sealed.
The only question that remained was who would do the deed? Attenberry or John Coachman. Violet rather thought that given her father’s obsession with his dairy herd he would relish putting a bullet through the cocker’s skull himself. There was no putting it off.
Entering via their old route using the kitchens, the somber trio met Mrs. Breese, who was all atwitter, wringing her starched apron. “Mercy upon us, Miss Violet. The old bull…I mean…that is…His Grace is bellowing the roof down. He is looking fit to blow a vessel, he is, Miss Vi. Take care to keep that idiot cocker close.”
Violet didn’t get a chance to reply as Grey and Myles hustled her out of the kitchens toward the library. Grey hoped that her bedraggled and bruised state would at least buy the child a little sympathy. He had not counted on Attenberry’s bitter temper and damaged ego. As they passed through the baize door that gave onto the servants’ wing and kitchen, the door to the library flew open, cannoning into the wall with an explosive bang.
The Duke of Attenberry charged through, steam pouring from his ears, his craggy face contorted in rage. “Where is she?!” He howled, highly reminiscent of Caligula. “Where is that confounded brat and her wretched dog?!” Attenberry drew up sharply as he caught sight of Violet’s distinctive silken head.
Altering his course he bore down upon the small group. Grey and Myles stiffened, Violet pressed closer to the formidable shield of her friends. “By damned and all that is mighty, you are going to pay for your tricks this time Violet.” Attenberry roared.
“I say…” Myles burst out. “That’s no way to talk to a lady.”
“Lady, ha…” Attenberry sneered. “Give over you young fool.” He made a lunge to grab Taggin, but
Violet, shielded by Grey and Myles, sidled out of reach.
“It was an accident…” Violet pleaded. “Please…Your Grace.”
Attenberry stilled for the briefest of moments, astonished that she had actually had the courage to address him. Outside a pistol shot sounded, then another, and another. The old Duke smiled in malicious glee. “Three down, one to go. John Coachman did well. ”
He stretched out an imperious hand. “Give me the dog, Violet. Now.”
Violet’s head came up, her eyes bright with fury. “No.” Stamping a barefoot upon the tiles, she held her ground. “It was an accident. Caligula could have killed somebody. You have to understand.”
“Understand!” Attenberry bellowed, infuriated beyond endurance by this sudden show of fire in his usually timid, tractable child. “There is nothing to understand. That idiot dog of yours mauled my prize bull. It will take weeks for the damage to heal.”
“Hand the beast over…Violet…or I’ll…”
“Or you’ll what?” Violet goaded.
Attenberry’s temper could take no more. Shoving Myles and Grey aside, he caught hold of Violet’s shoulder, shaking her like a dog would a rat. She dropped Taggin. The little cocker snarled and again leapt to the defense of his beloved mistress. The Duke released Violet as Taggin went after his booted ankles. The dog was quick, but Attenberry was quicker. A well placed kick caught Taggin in the side, sending him tumbling across the tiles. The Duke pulled out a dueling pistol and took aim.
Violet once again plunged into the breach to defend her faithful friend. “No, Vi…” Grey screamed as she threw herself across Taggin’s small form just as her father pressed the trigger. The explosion left them all reeling and shaken. As the smoke cleared, people came rushing from every corner of the manor. Violet didn’t stir.