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The High And The Humble Chapter Three

"Jack and Becky get closer, as Jack prepares Rascal for the race"

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Author's Notes

"The reading of earlier chapters will help the understanding here, and aid what is to happen later"

Early Wednesday morning, Alf and Jack made their monthly wagon trip into Merevale village to collect sacks of feed and three new saddles.  

Alf insisted that they pay a quick visit to see Vic, the village blacksmith. Jack smiled as he guessed Vic’s reason. Because of the coming Saturday race, Vic was very busy as they walked into the clash of metal on metal inside the shop.

The smithy turned to them, his smiling face as red as the coals burning in the tray, sweat pouring through the facial grime and bare upper chest into his leather apron.

Vic nodded and was immediately talking about the prospects of the race, telling them that a map of the proposed course was on show outside the chapel. “Couple of variations from last year,” he said. “Manford Cleese is allowing access to the upper part of his top field. Altogether maybe a couple of furlongs further.”

“I suppose he’s entering his Brigand again this year,” Jack said, already knowing that if Cleese was adding some of his land, he would be fancying his chances.

Manford Cleese was a wealthy farmer, owner of several horses and extensive grain fields. His son, John, had ridden their stallion Brigand in the previous year’s race and beat Rascal by just half a length, when Jack had done little real training with Rascal.

Leaving the two older men chatting, Jack went to where the chapel lay at the end of the village.  Looked at the posted map, Jack saw that, as usual, the main street was the beginning and ending of the race.

Basically, the rest of the course was as before, but Jack noticed where the extra two furlongs of Cleese land had been clearly added.

The chapel vicar, the Reverend Allan had banned any gambling on the race, but most folks knew that a number of surreptitious wagers were laid by villagers.

Vic the blacksmith ran a secret wagering service and had told them that Cleese’s horse Brigand was odds on, and Rascal was being given at three to one. Another horse was second favourite. “Pure white, he is. Called Snowy. Not surprising, eh.”

Jack had no doubt why Alf had been keen to see Vic and Alf confirmed it as they rode from the village, “I’ve had a couple of pounds on this fellow.” And he leaned across to pat Rascal on the neck.

“Two pounds? Can you afford it?” Jack asked, quite amazed.

“I can if the bugger wins,” Alf laughed.

They were back at the stables in good time, and prepared Charger for his daily ride under Sir Oswald.  With some resentment, Jack saddled Ebony in preparation for Rebecca’s ride.

Alf  glanced at Jack’s sullen looks as he mounted the horse. “Oh, straighten your face, lad. She has to be told you’re not available. You’ll see I’m doing you a favour.” And he rode off, leaving Jack totally despondent. How would Rebecca take his absence? She would be   expecting him, and he had hoped that another of those special kisses might have been on offer.

But there was still work to do, horses to be groomed, bundles of hay to move and many of the normal daily tasks. He was replacing a broken section of fencing, when Alf came strolling back, and approached Jack rather diffidently, as he said, “Well, now she knows. I told her that you had too much work to do.” He chuckled, “That wiped the smile off her pretty face.” His old brow wrinkled further as he added, “Aye, and it is a pretty face. Proving your best out of the way of trouble.” But Jack only wished he could see that lovely face again.   

Alf made no further comment about Rebecca but went on to tell Jack. “Finish that fence and then you’d best give Rascal a good run.” He added with a cackle, “He’s carrying greater responsibility now. My two pounds”

Jack shared his laughter but could not forget Rebecca. Her face, that kiss, and the very aroma of her remained solid in his mind.

In the late afternoon sunshine, he gave Rascal a really fast work-out. He reckoned that the flat stretch above the lake, where he’d halted Rebecca’s gallop, was maybe a quarter of a mile. By galloping Rascal four stretches it was almost a mile at a very fast pace. What he would need for the closing stages of the village fayre race which was over three miles. The full course trial would follow on the following day.

Completing that rigorous exercise left Rascal coated in sweat and Jack was equally steamed up. Rascal had his customary wash down along the lakeside before being tethered under the shelter of trees.

Jack stooped under an arch of shrubs, stripped off his sweated shirt and breeches, and raced into the lake until it was deep enough for him to dive and swim out.

Ah, that was well worth getting sweated up for, to feel that sheer relief of the refreshing dip. With limited time he restricted himself to twenty strokes, before lying, naked, in the sun to dry off.

That didn’t take long, and his thoughts had just turned to the many horse duties he had to attend to, when there was a rustling in the nearby shrubs. Someone was coming!

Within seconds he was on his feet, hurriedly hauling on his breeches. He was buttoning up his shirt as the shrubs parted. Half thinking that it was only Rascal that had broken loose, he turned his head in the direction of the sound.

What he saw stopped his breath and gladdened his heart.

It was Rebecca!

He hardly dared believe the truth of her unexpected appearance. This high-class lady had sought him out. He had been longing to see her, but it was she who had come looking for him.

Wearing a loose-fitting thin pale blue gown, she had a blanket and towel over her arm and carried a green-backed book. She looked ravishing. The ready smile she had been wearing, faded as she said, “Oh, I’m too late. You’ve had your swim. I must hit on the right time.”

Alf’s warning intruded on the glow of her unexpected presence. He tried to bury the thought as he continued to button up his shirt, while admitting, “I was about to leave. But this is a pleasant surprise.”

She had moved very close to him. “I’m glad.”

The urge to kiss those lovely lips was strong. He wondered what her reaction would be. Would she be offended? After all, she was a member of the upper class. Again, Alf’s warning impinged on his thinking. But that first kiss, their only kiss, had been at her suggestion.

“Let’s be comfy,” she said, with just a trace of huskiness in her voice as she bent to spread the blanket.

Her eyes came up to look at him as she gestured him to sit beside her. Her pink tongue traced over her upper lip. “Well, here we are,” she said simply as he sat next to her, “You look worried.”

“I should be back at the stables. Alf will---”

“Oh, that Alf. You should have seen the joy he took in telling me that you wouldn’t be there.”

For Jack the situation was beyond anything in his limited experience. He was unable to lose the implications of their social gap and that led back to Alf’s warning.

“You’ve kissed me once. Have you no wish to do it again?” Rebecca  asked, with just a hint of leaning closer.

Jack gulped in a huge breath of air. God, could this really be happening? A lady wishing to kiss a commoner! Surely this beautiful lady couldn’t be giving substance to Alf’s warning?

His own voice displayed his uncertainty, as he said, “You know I would, but-” And he told her of what Alf had told him.

To his surprise, Rebecca threw back her head, laughing delightedly, as she said, “He’s absolutely right.”

Her response shocked Jack, “He is?”

“I’ve seen it all my life.”

“Honestly?”

“Haven’t I told you? Privilege and debauchery go hand in hand. Our impeccable males will tup anything that moves, be it chambermaid or duchess. And the women are no better. They play so refined but will react for whoever offers a thrill—a cheap one, when a so-called underling fills their curiosity.”

All the time she had talked Becky had been moving closer. Jack just had to know. “But tell me,” he began cautiously, “what brought you looking for me?”

Rebecca smiled, “Oh, simple, our unexpected meeting yesterday.” She giggled and it warmed him further. “At first, I thought you were some kind of horse thief or worse.”

She paused and her wide brown eyes held so much honesty, and something else that Jack could not define. Was it promise? Then she went on, “But as we rode and talked, I had a strange feeling. A feeling I’ve never experienced before.”

She glanced away, as though gathering her thoughts, and then, as she turned back to face him, she went on, “Jack, I’m not in the habit of offering kisses freely, if at all.  I wanted-- no, needed to spend more time with you. And our only kiss was—well, so surprisingly pleasant. I wanted to repeat it—and more. So here I am.”

Rebecca’s frank admission quickened his breath. Emboldened, Jack moved against her, and murmured, “That kiss has stayed with me.” Did her offer of ‘more’ mean what he thought it did? “Your offer is very appealing.” And their lips met, gently at first, but with increasing involvement.

As they broke away, she whispered, “That increases my need even more.”

Jack, fearing any control slipping away and knowing she was getting to him, began to scramble to his feet. In standing, and out of curiosity, he picked up her book, looked at the front cover and read out loud, “Sense and Sensibility. By A Lady.” He looked at Rebecca who showed some surprise on her face,

“You can read,” her voice revealed her amazement.

Very quickly, Jack explained about his father being a teacher, “Could have been in a rich private school but chose to teach in a church school with ---the less well-off children. I could read by the time I was eight.” He didn’t want to linger too long on the subject and held up the book. “'By a Lady'. Is she a secret?”

Rebecca shrugged. “Just another indication of our lop-sided society. Publishers are very cautious about publishing a lady’s name. That one’s very recent. Lady Brandling likes purchasing the newest editions.”

Rebecca pushed her lips towards him, “One more?” Jack, despite all his reservations, had to admit, at that moment, he was prepared to risk such dangerous living.

Their lips met, slightly parted, moist, in a very long kiss. As their tongues briefly touched, the tingle of it made his legs tremble. Jack really so difficult to believe that this was all happening.

Along with that thought came the inevitable worry that he did not want it to end. Could they ever meet without someone observing?

Breaking the kiss, she repeated, “That makes my need for more most definite.”

Jack snorted, “It does?” Be bold, “Rebecca, I thought that the needs were mine alone.”

Her face, and the warm aroma of her came very close, as she said, “And I do believe that we should begin appeasing our needs by me becoming simply Becky.”

Jack felt the blood rush into his face. What future lay in those words. Jack thought of what he’d first heard about her. Wild? Hardly. Bold? Maybe. But, eager to live? Most definitely. “Will I need more practice?” he mumbled lamely.

She giggled, “Oh, yes, but only with the present company.” She put her arms around the back of his neck.

Oh, the promise in all of this.  “But what chance is there?”

She smiled. “We must go on meeting.”

“Oh, definitely,” Jack said, laughing, “so we’re together when that appeasement happens.”

She clapped her hands, laughing with him, and she said, “Certainly. It may not be today. Or tomorrow. But soon, and for---” She didn’t complete what she was going to say, as her expression became serious, as she acknowledged, “I know caution will be essential.”

Jack could see Becky’s thinking ran parallel to his own. That fear of being discovered, separated, and certainly in Jack’s case, punished. But all he said to Becky was, “I’d pay a King’s ransom just to see you every day.”

“Oh, that is so pleasing.” Her eyes lowered as she added, “Unfortunately, on Friday I’m compelled to accompany my uncle and aunt on a visit to Lord Fotheringham who lives on the coast.”

“And I’ll be involved all afternoon tomorrow giving Rascal his final full run over the whole route of the race before Saturday.”

Jack almost felt pleased that Becky would look so disappointed at that news. Then the idea struck him, as he reckoned that he would be passing this very spot late afternoon. He asked her, “Could you be here about this time tomorrow afternoon?” And he told her he’d be bringing Rascal back at about this time.

Rebecca’s eyes showed she had picked up on his enthusiastic idea, “I have no restrictions.”

“It’ll be a very short time, mind.”

Becky gave a little chuckle, “Oh, yes, we can’t upset old Alf. There’ll be time for a quick peck on the cheek though, won’t there?”

“I’ll even look forward to that.”

~~~~   ~~~~   ~~~~    ~~~~   ~~~~

The Thursday afternoon run could not have gone better. Rascal seemed to realise the importance of the occasion and responded to every demand that Jack made of him, leaving Jack fully satisfied. No doubt in his mind, Rascal was as ready as he’d ever be to show his mettle.

But now, as Jack trotted him quietly alongside the lake, Becky was very much on his mind. Would she be waiting among the bushes? Or had she been and gone?

He soon found he needn’t have worried. As he dismounted Rascal and tied him to the bushes, Becky, ever-radiant in a lemon gown stepped out from behind a tree and was immediately in his arms, as he guided her into the shadows.

Her kiss that followed was warm and hungry and lasted for a long time, setting Jack’s blood on fire with the sheer joy of it. He both hoped and feared that his response could be matched be her own.

But as their lips parted, she sighed, “Oh, wonderful, Jack. I have never had these feelings. And it’s only been three days.”

Her words were so akin to the way he was feeling, as he told her, “I’ve never been this way.”

 “Can’t we just enjoy it?”

Jack was so glad at what she said, “That was a good, quick peck on the cheek,” he panted, their faces very close.

Becky giggled, “Has to last us at least two days.”

They did peck some more, as they talked about their next meeting. They couldn’t decide how the Fayre might go but Jack had one extra thought, as he told her, “There may be a way of being together, for an hour, at least.”

Becky’s eyes brightened. “What is it?”

Jack bent and kissed her moistened brow before asking, “How is the morning riding program developed?”

Becky frowned as though in deep thought, and Jack could see something dawning behind her eyes, “When I come back from my ride, Alf goes off with my uncle, and--Oh, Jack, you mean-?”

Jack kissed her again, and nodded. “From then, I’m all lonely in the stables.”

Her excitement and enthusiasm gave him such a lift as she said, “I could just take a casual stroll that way.”

“I could introduce you to fresh hay.”

“And maybe explore that ‘more’ that we’ve talked about.” Her beautiful face was lit by the thought of it. “Oh, Jack, it sounds so exciting. I have only one question.”

Jack knew, from the crestfallen expression that overtook her, that she was going to ask about that matter that troubled both of them. “Can we avoid being discovered, Jack?”

“That would mean being separated.”

Her eyes moistened, “Oh, Jack, I can’t bear such a thought. But it would be wonderful to break that damned social barrier.”

“Well,” he told her honestly, “I’m prepared to fight to keep you.”

Their eyes held, knowing it was merely bold talk.

“Time’s up for now. I must get back,” Jack said quietly.

Leading Rascal, Jack walked alongside Becky towards the manor. He just could not decide how their problem could be resolved. They parted with a farewell kiss among the trees, gentle with just a touch of desperation.

And Jack went on towards the stable thinking, ‘So much promise, so much worry.’ All enclosed in just three days. He knew that while thrilling at the touch of Becky’s lips, he would be treading dangerously thin ice.

Published 
Written by redwriter
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