Chapter Sixteen

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"Tilly! Tilly!" I was perched cross-legged atop a bundle of hay in the barn when I heard Isabella frantically calling me from outside. Robbie and I were chatting about yet another book, and we exchanged confused glances, hoping it was nothing serious.

"In here!" I called out, uncrossing my legs. I could hear the slapping of her shoes on the ground getting closer, and before I knew it, she was running up towards me, arms wildly flapping about. "What's wrong?" I asked.

As though she had just run a marathon, she gasped for breath a few times before answering. "I just received the worst news ever!"

I got to my feet, ready to run towards the emergency.

"What's happened? Are the children all right?" I asked in a panic, unsure how you call for an ambulance in this time.

"Yes, of course they are," she replied, as though wondering why I asked such a stupid question.

"Oh. So nobody's in danger or hurt?"

She shook her head. I sighed heavily in relief.

"Father needs the buggy for the next few days!" she exclaimed. "He said he has some things to organise for the ball." She paused, waiting for my reaction.

"And?" I asked.

"We need the buggy to go to Hobart Town! We're running out of time! If we leave it any later, the dressmaker won't be able to make our gowns in time for the ball!" She was still out of breath and I wasn't sure if it was from the run here or if she was simply working herself up in a panic.

I stifled a laugh. This was the worst news ever?

"Okay, first you need to breathe. It's not the end of the world." She followed my instruction and took a few more deep breaths. "We'll just buy gowns already made." She gasped, the look of shock horror upon her face.

"Already made? And risk wearing what somebody else is wearing? Absolutely not, Tilly. I would be embarrassed for the rest of my life."

"Well, doesn't Mr. Valentine have another buggy?" I asked. He was rich, after all.

"The other one is being repaired. It needs a new wheel," Robbie piped up. "And Mr. Clay has borrowed the third one." Third one?

Isabella turned her head at the sound of Robbie's voice, as though only realising until now that he was standing there. He smiled at her and she smiled back, resulting in Robbie looking away to hide his pink cheeks.

Definitely something going on there. He doesn't blush when I smile at him.

"Would we be able to borrow a buggy off someone else?" Isabella asked.

"Possibly. But you'll still need someone to escort you," Robbie replied. "You can't go all that way to Hobart Town and back on your own. I'd offer, but you'll be gone a few days and I have a lot of work here to do before the ball."

Isabella pouted. "So who with a buggy would be willing to take us, then?" She looked at me, hoping I'd have all the answers.

I shrugged. What I was more interested in, was why did Nicholas need to borrow a buggy from Mr. Valentine?

"Mr. Clay," I heard Robbie say.

I looked at Robbie. "Are you suggesting Nicholas take us? Because I don't think-"

"No," Robbie interrupted me. "Look. Mr. Clay is coming down the driveway in Mr. Valentine's buggy."

I looked outside the stables and there he was. It was almost as though we'd conjured him up out of nowhere.

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