Wild Stallions or Gentle Fillies

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The gentlemen smiled in good humor, and the ladies began to speak quietly among themselves. Mr. Pearce asked John how the Ellsworth estate was getting on in their renovation of a certain fence along their border, and they shared a few neighborly concerns for a moment.

"It would not bother me if some of the fence fell down and your fine horses ended up at Burley," he added. "I would benefit greatly from a new team of carriage horses."

"Are you a horse breeder?" Sir Lloyd asked, turning toward the vicar with marked interest. "I have a critical eye for horseflesh."

"Our horses are the finest in the county," Rachel blurted, and Sir Lloyd turned back with a surprised look. His surprise grew as she continued. "Indeed, we have raised many carriage teams, but lately we have tried a new cross. Our sire, Jalap's Joy, and a good Cleveland Bay mare, has yielded fine, long-legged colts."

"But of course." He turned back to the vicar and cleared his throat. "I have heard of the Yorkshire variety of half-thoroughbred. I prefer the Lincoln Black Horse myself. Black coats with such a sheen that they turn heads at each street."

Rachel scowled as Sir Lloyd moved the conversation away from her and back to the gentlemen. She felt the snub vividly, and only a discreet nod of her father's head, urging her to step back toward the ladies, made her retain the further comments that might have spilled from her lips. They would not have been comments typical of parlor-fare, either.

She sat down with an icy stare at the back of Sir Lloyd's head, then dropped her head to sip her tea. The chatter between Amanda and Phoebe, who were close in age and dear friends, to her seemed trite and boring. She looked back at the knot of gentlemen. As she did, John leaned back slightly, and with a turn of his head, sent her a wink before returning his attention to the long monologue of Sir Lloyd. Rachel grinned behind her teacup.

"But what are you doing now?" asked her father. "We could walk out to the stables, take a gander at the fillies."

"Alas, my mother expects us for dinner," John replied. "But we should return. Dabney is itching to get a phaeton, and a finely matched pair of bays would be ideal for his new trap."

"Think of how far we could travel in a day with such a team!" Mr. Dabney exclaimed. "We'd cover 40 miles, at least, and could even be to the shore and back in an afternoon."

"The shore!" called Phoebe, arising and coming to cling to her brother's arm. "We could follow the road past Ayton, and all the way to Whitby!"

"Even better," added John, "we skip the shore, where the wind will toss your bonnet into the waves, and go see something of real beauty, that of Rieveaulx Abbey or Helmsley Castle."

All the ladies twittered at the thought of such an outing.

"Unfortunately, there is not yet such a team or curricle," he said dramatically.

Vicar Pearce chuckled. "Return again, anytime this week. We will see if our stables or pastures hold any interest for you."

"Certainly," said John. The ladies embraced Phoebe again, promising a longer visit in the upcoming week. Mrs. Pearce thanked them for their visit and echoed her husband's invite to return.

"Send our greetings to your mother and father. And invite them to come as well."

"Well, if they can break away from the Lloyds, perhaps," John hedged. "We wouldn't want to overwhelm you, either, with so much company."

"Our vicarage is not so small that we can't see them all," she protested. "We insist they visit."

He smiled at her indulgently. "We will be back sooner than you expect, I'm sure."

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