Thursday morning was characteristically damp and foggy. A general spirit of anticipation hung in the misty air as the horses, hounds, and riders congregated in the courtyard.
The riders spurred their horses into a gallop again. Both were expert horsemen, and the elements of the chase are appealing even to those that have never experienced them first-hand. The blowing of wind and rain across the chase, the baying of the hounds, secluded forest groves, and the muffled pounding of horses’ hooves as they gallop along leaf mantled ground are comparable to nothing else; and both gentlemen relished the hunt.
A stick snapped loudly and they wheeled together.
“Now do you have a taste of what I’ve been experiencing these months?” Lord Bertram muttered between his teeth.
“Are you armed?” hissed The Earl.
“No.” Lord Bertram replied. By a streak of fate, that day was the first he had ventured to go without a sidearm. “You know as well as I that personal weapons are not carried while hunting.”
“Perhaps better so.” Walter crouched behind a log and bent his head to peer over the sights, aiming at the man’s shooting arm. He squeezed the trigger and the bullet struck a tree just beyond his target. The man turned and scanned the underbrush. Walter primed his gun, but he was sighted before he could take aim again.
“You will not impugn Gilbreth’s character!” cried Lord Bertram.
“And you will not impugn my son!” bitterly retorted his father.
“Stop!” The word jumped from Peter’s mouth.
“Peter!” he screamed, reaching out as the bridge sagged beneath him.
“Roger!” Peter grasped at air, as if his arm could reach those fatal feet and seize his brother to rescue him.
“Tom Brown!” Lady Bertram remonstrated, rising as dainty Spode teacups rolled across the lawn and crumbs of sponge and cream and jam spattered over the furniture.
“Speak to me, baby, speak to me.” She sank down in the gravel, her voice crumpling into a sob.
The corners of Roger’s little mouth quivered. “But I’ll never get to see my dog again.” he whimpered, great tears forming in his lustrous eyes.
Lady Bertram had just returned with the children, and she stopped dead in the door, her eyes fixed with Lord Bertram’s. It was all she could do to keep from falling or crying out, but her eyes were saying: “He knows! he knows! Give him what he wants!”
Peter smiled a shattered smile through a blur of unshed tears.
He began to open the pile of mail from the day before that he had never seen, tearing open each envelope and digesting the contents mechanically. He reached the bottom of the pile and ripped open the last piece in the same manner, then stopped utterly. A moment later crumbled forward onto the desk. What sounded like sobs was the noise of his heart breaking to pieces.
APPOINTMENT FOR YOU [STOP] ADDRESS IS LYTTELTON PARK, BAMFORD, DERBYSHIRE [STOP] BE THERE