Her Secondhand Groom(2)By: Rose Gordon
“Aye,” Cruxley agreed, moving to unhitch the horses.
While Cruxley went off to go tie the reins to a nearby tree, Patrick eyed the wheel and silently prayed they had a spare. If not, it was going to be a long walk to the nearest place that was likely to have one. Sure there were houses close by, they were on the outskirts of a village, but this side of the village didn’t have the type of tenants who were likely to have a spare carriage wheel―if they had one at all.
Cruxley came back, folded his arms across his chest, and stared at the wheel. “I says we jist break it,” he suggested with a shrug.
Patrick shook his head and refused to roll his eyes at his coachman’s wasteful suggestion. He reached forward and grabbed onto the carriage, gently rocking it to see if the carriage could rock to the side or roll forward at all. It couldn’t. He didn’t like the idea of intentionally breaking the wheel more than it already was though. The wheel was broken, but not beyond repair. He might be a viscount, and a wealthy one at that, but he had no intention of purposely being wasteful when so many others had far less than he did. He knew how fortunate he was to be titled and wealthy. After inheriting his title at two and being forced at thirteen to take over the running of his estate to ensure its profitability, he took nothing for granted.
“Let’s try something else first,” he said, using his toe to check the softness of the ground around the rut. It wasn’t quite soft enough where it would be possible for one to rock the carriage while the other tried to push it, but it wasn’t so hard they couldn’t try to dig out the wheel.
“Eh?” Cruxley fairly shouted, cupping his hand around his ear like a giant shell.
Patrick glanced at his girls who were giggling and screaming playfully as they continued to chase each other around. “I think we should try to free the wheel without breaking it first,” he said loudly.
Cruxley nodded but didn’t look too convinced.
Ignoring his overly opinionated coachman, Patrick went inside the carriage and lifted up the seat cushion to see what tools might be stored there, hoping to find a shovel or something that could be used like one. Not finding what he was looking for, he selected a gardening tool he’d often seen his tenants use for cropping. It wasn’t perfect, but it would work. Scowling at Cruxley’s laziness, Patrick started swinging what he was certain was called a hoe at the ground in an effort to break up or beat down the earth that seemed to have swallowed the bottom fifth of the carriage wheel.
Juliet Hughes looked down at her lot of younger brothers and sisters and forced a smile. “How about if we go for a walk?” she suggested, her smile turning genuine as her siblings nodded their heads in excitement. For the last year she’d taken to teaching her younger siblings to read, write, and any other academic she could think of as a way to earn her keep.
Her father was the son of a second son of a baronet, the only claim to gentry her family could cling to. And cling to that scrap of prestige they had. At twelve, Juliet’s parents borrowed enough money to send her away to Sloan’s School for Young Ladies in an effort to allow Juliet a chance to mingle with the more eminent members of Society and snag a titled and wealthy husband. That, however, did not work out so well.
Instead of fulfilling her mother’s dream of being the most sought after debutante, Juliet went virtually unnoticed. Not completely unnoticed, mind you. She was noticed by several unsavory sorts, usually lecherous older men or beautiful young ladies who couldn’t spare a kind word if their lives depended upon it.
After one Season that ended with nothing more than two carriage rides in Hyde Park accompanied by men old enough to be her grandfather, her parents insisted she return home. Since she’d come home bearing the shame of not having found a suitable husband, she’d taken to teaching her younger siblings to read, write, and do sums as best she could. Some days were challenging, but it made it all worthwhile to see her brothers and sisters finally make sense of something she was trying to teach them and grin with a sense of accomplishment.