Her Secondhand Groom(4)

By: Rose Gordon

Once when Edwina invited Juliet to Watson Estate (which, it should be noted, she only agreed to go at her parents urging), she was bored nearly to the state of tears listening to him prattle on about his latest science experiment. Good thing he hadn’t shown any genuine interest in her. Her parents would have leapt at the prospect of the match. She snorted. Her parents would have leapt at the idea of a match to just about anyone. Thank goodness the smithy who lived two villages over suddenly decided he’d like to emigrate to America. If he hadn’t, Juliet could have been Mrs. Saxon. She shuddered at the mental image that created and quickened her pace.

“All right, Juliet, what droll facts do you have to knock into our heads about the fungus we’re passing?” Samuel grumbled.

“Actually, none.”

“None?” three of the six echoed in unison.

“None,” she agreed. “Now, do your best to snap your mouths closed so I can tell you all I know about the fauna.”

A chorus of groans followed and Juliet beamed at the group. Apparently something Lord Watson droned on about had stuck in her brain. Unfortunately, she really didn’t know if they were passing fauna or flora, or if they were one in the same. But her siblings didn’t need to know that. Instead, she regaled them with her knowledge of the greenery they were passing, only fibbing or throwing in what she knew to be blatantly unrelated information occasionally.

“What’s that?” Jane asked, her brows puckering together.

“I have no idea,” Juliet admitted, all thoughts of fauna, or flora, or whatever it was they were passing vanished as her attention was caught by an onslaught of noise that could rouse the dead.

“It sounds like a buncha banshees to me,” Lucas said, his eyes growing wide with wonder.

Peter puffed out his chest. “You don’t worry, Juliet. Us menfolk will go take care of it. Come on, Lucas, Samuel, Joseph we gots to go protect the helpless lasses.”

Juliet fought the urge to laugh. Leave it to Peter to try to act defensive. He was only trying to get out of doing lessons. Besides, those screams sounded like squeals of joy and giggles, not blood curdling screams of terror and death. Taking note of the four boys’ looks of determination to “protect the helpless lasses” she smiled and said, “All right, run along.”

A second later all four boys scampered down the road at a hell-for-hide speed, disappearing just beyond the bend.

Juliet chuckled at their chivalrous streak as Jane and Dara each grabbed one of her hands. “Y-you don’t th-think they’re going to g-get h-hurt, d-do you?” Jane asked, her lower lip quivering.

Bending at her knees, Juliet looked into Jane’s blue eyes and squeezed her hand. “They’ll be fine. There’s nothing to worry about. If I had to guess, I’d say that noise is just a group of―”

“Girls!” Peter wailed from down the lane. There was no denying the disappointment and disgust filling his tone.

Juliet grinned and her sisters both giggled. “See, nothing to worry about,” she said, choking on a giggle of her own.

The three walked down the road and around the bend only to find Peter, Samuel, Joseph and Lucas standing in a row with their arms across their chests, sneering at the trio of frolicking girls. “You four look like a mighty line of defense,” she teased, roughing up each one of their scalps as she walked past.

She halted and watched as three young girls ran and screamed and giggled, carelessly running all over the road.

“I bet you can’t catch me,” a girl wearing an atrociously dirty, but pretty pale pink dress hollered before running away from her companions and closer to where Juliet stood by her siblings.

Not to be put off, the girl’s two younger companions chased after her, and together the three of them created a huge plume of brown dust that filled the air and Juliet’s lungs.

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