General Fiction posted April 29, 2017 Chapters: -1- 2... 

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Prose/Storm approaches

A chapter in the book Briarly Hall


by zanya

Squire Alfred gathered his great coat tightly around him and settled comfortably into the carriage.

Though the Yorkfield Church Tower clock had just struck noon, the sky grew increasingly dark.

An easterly wind was blowing. Frost crackled underfoot on the cobblestones.

'Harry, Harry,' Squire bellowed through the carriage window, 'Get a move on if we are to make the 4.05 train to 
London. We don't want to get delayed in this weather.'

Harry, now more than three decades as coachman to Briarly Hall, shivered, tugging his hooded cape closer to his frost bitten earlobes.

'At your service Squire, at your service,' Harry responded.

The four Cleveland Bay horses stomped the ground intermittently. Breath from their nostrils swirled like smoke in the frosty air. An occasional whinny was heard. A north east wind was rising rapidly.

With a measured crack of the whip, Harry  soon had the horses cantering at a regular trot. Lights of Briarly Hall were soon  left behind in the distance.

Flurries of snowflakes melted against the carriage window, morphing into tiny rivulets.
The howling wind rattled the carriage door.

Squire Alfred reached to his inside greatcoat pocket and pulled out his whisky hip flask. Unscrewing the cap he drank a long draught. Releasing a weary sigh he mumbled, 'eau de vie. It stirs the blood.'

He held the flask in his hand and examined the inlay. He touched the lettering with his forefinger and thumb. 'Alfie' it read in raised lettering. No one but her, all those years ago, would have dared to call him Alfie.

For him it was a fond young man's memento. His wife, Lady Betsy, considered it to be a mere trinket.

A blizzard was now blowing over the hills and dales. Bare winter trees were bending in the strong wind. A large unwieldy branch narrowly missed the carriage window.

The swish of Harry's whip could be heard as he urged the horses forward. The Cleveland Bays struggled in the  blizzard.  conditions.

Harry, though familiar with this terrain, became alarmed at the dramatic change in the weather.

The 'Highway Inn,' though a mere quarter mile away, was indistinguishable in the stormy conditions. Knowing his master's distaste for common boarding houses, Harry was now faced with a dilemma.

The journey to the train station would be hazardous and he was responsible for his master's safety.

Approaching the 'Highway Inn,' he guided the horses towards the entrance.
Squire Alfred banged his fist on the carriage window.

 'Harry, Harry  have you taken leave of your senses man, this is not the Train station,' the Squire yelled.
'No, Squire,' Harry  replied, 'it is not the station, but consideration for your safety in this blizzard requires that we discontinue our journey on this winter evening and secure lodgings for the night.'

'Harry ', Squire continued, 'how on earth do we pass the evening at this  inn? Do they have a card table? It has a rather tawdry appearance.'

'Tawdry it is not sir,' Harry replied, attempting to placate his master's ire.
'King Henry VIII himself, is reputed to have spent an evening at the Highway Inn during his regal tenure,' Harry continued, attempting to humour his irate master.

'Poppycock, Harry ,' Squire Alfred  continued. 'It is not possible, that was three centuries ago.'
'Squire, they serve the best ale in all of England,' Harry  responded.

On reaching the entrance, Sir Alfred descended from the carriage. Snow was already piled high on the entrance steps. Harry  attended to the horses.

Many disappointed travellers stood inside the entrance door, contemplating the inconvenience which obliged them to abort this stage of their journey.

Squire Alfred, uncomfortable in these less than salubrious surroundings, demanded a room, away from the howling northeasterly winds.

'We canny provide the Squire with a room away from the northeasterlies, sir, as all our rooms are already taken on the west side,' the innkeeper explained.

Sir Alfred's  patience was wearing thin.
Sir Alfred raged, 'I've already missed my train to London this afternoon and now I must pass the night in this draughty boarding house.'

'We hope to make your stay as pleasant as possible under the circumstances, Sir,' the innkeeper continued.

Sir Alfred agreed to take the remaining room. As he made his way towards the east wing, his attention was drawn to the lady, waiting by the bay window.

Her dark curls, graying at the temples, together with her heavily accented English, drew Alfred's attention.
A tall man of similar vintage was close by her side.

'No,'  Alfred mused to himself', 'it's simply not possible, that La Marquise would be in this hostelry on this winter's night.'

The wind whistled around the eaves of the 'Highway Inn.' Snow was piling up on the window sills. Timber beams in the ceiling creaked loudly.

Taking his candlestick from the innkeeper, Squire Alfred  unlocked the door to the small bedroom. Embers glowed in the grate. Draughts stirred the window drapes.

Unable to make out the lady's features in the inn's half light, he could not be sure if indeed it  was La Marquise.

Why would La Marquise exchange the warmth of southern France for a cold inn deep in the heart of the snowy English countryside?. And within earshot of Briarly Hall. And who was her companion male traveller?

On this January night a storm raged, not only without but within his divided heart.


Storm Approaches writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a short story where a storm is approaching. Minimum length 700 words. Maximum Length 4,000 words.

Thanks to pennedup for Blizzard
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