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Saint Abby was in a crummy mood. It was a pathetic world to live in. All the fun was exclusively reserved for princes, princesses and others of their ilk. They rescued damsels in distress, fought dragons nay, slew them. Those dashing souls could wield a sword and sing a sonnet. Perchance, do both at the same time.
Saint Abby lacked all of the above mentioned qualities.
A sword was a heavy thing and could really hurt if one was not careful. The existence of dragons was a much debated issue. While Saint Abby alias Lady Abigail Heyer could write a sonnet if hard pressed; the good Lord had not seen it fit to bless Abby either with a good singing voice or the ability to carry a tune.
The village where Heyer family ancestral home was located was insulated from the rest of the country because of treacherous mountain terrain.
The most prominent feature it possessed was perhaps the quaint church that also housed a public library. Abby had read and re-read all the books by the time she was fifteen and that had been five years ago.
Hence Saint Abby sat in the aforementioned library that spring day and wished with all her heart she was a knight errant if not a princess, who could embark on a grand adventure. It was not that dear Papa or Maman was to blame if nobody could cite the faintest shadow of royalty on their family tree. Maman often joked that she had tried. Maman had a precious sense of humor.
The ennui might have been bearable if Abby could have fallen in love. But Saint Abby had inherited her mother’s sense of the ridiculous along with her mother’s intellect and that fatal combination in a beautiful lady, Papa said, always made her impervious to love.
Papa as usual was right.
Abby paradoxically enough was an intuitive counselor when it came to matters of the heart. The local men who abided by her wisdom had coined an unusual sobriquet for her- Saint Abby.
“Saint Abby,” Beth’s voice called out gaily, “would you step out a minute please?”
“Not again,” Abby grumbled loudly, “Beth DO NOT tell me you have fought with Peter again…”
Beth giggled a coy giggle, “indeed I have not. Ever since you told him to kiss me…”
“Hush, you crazy girl,” Abby chastised. “If Father Anthony were to hear I would be declared persona non grata which is Latin for…” Abby froze on the library door.
A tall man, make that a very tall and a very menacing looking lean man sitting astride a black charger, waited beside Beth.
With his slashing dark brows, high cheekbones and patrician nose he looked compelling but it was his obsidian eyes that arrested Abby. Glittering black eyes that raked from head to toe. His lips were compressed in a thin line as if he disdained what he saw but still the dark all knowing gaze was too forward for a man Abby had not even been introduced to.
Abby had lived all her life in the village and never had she stepped out of its boundaries in the twenty-four years of her insignificant life. She had never met a stranger for she had known everyone by the accident of their being born before or after her. The toplofty man was the first stranger she had ever met and he was a stranger Abby would not have liked to meet, thank you very much for the trouble.
Abby had been reading the Frog Prince for the one thousand and third time so when the stranger looked down his nose at her (and he could for he sat on a horse and she was merely five feet two and a half inches high), she in turn flared her nostrils and returned the compliment by giving him a truly black look measure for measure as the snooty princess featured in that fairytale would have.
He stiffened and immediately straightened as if he were made of a flat plank of wood.
“Are you a Heyer?”
His voice was deep and so achingly beautiful that a shiver ran up Abby’s spine. Beth heard the well modulated tones and giggled inanely.
“I believe sir; you wish to meet my father?” Abby suggested a touch of hauteur in her voice. She did not care for the first impression the man had made and she did not care for the rude manner. A Heyer, indeed! As if it was the scientific name for a new species of mosquito or housefly.
Who did he think he was? Anyways what could the man want from her Papa?
“Indeed,” he agreed with a military man like demeanor, “where can I find him?”
“A misunderstanding Beth, of course.” Abby turned to Beth with a vacuous, wide eyed look the other had no difficulty interpreting.
She told the man with a confidential air, “Papa and Maman do not read books. Maman insists they would ruin her eyesight and she is very particular about her…”
“Where can I find them?” He interrupted.
“What day of the week is it?” She asked thinking hard.
“Tuesday.” His tone was clipped. Not a man who cared much for conversation.
“On Tuesdays they visit the squire and his wife Lord and Lady Foxglove for tea. If you take the road east as the crow flies it should take you to the manor. You may ask any farmer for directions if you are confused.”
“Tell them Saint Abby sent you.” Beth helpfully contributed.
The most predictable thing if one lived in the mountains was the rain. If not in the afternoon then in the evening or, late at night. But, inevitable as taxes or death.
Abby smiled with smug satisfaction at the streak of lightning that flashed illuminating the dark heavens.
Abby found her mood particularly uplifted by the downpour when she returned home with three fairytales and just in time to sit down with Papa and Maman for a hearty dinner.
After dinner Papa and Maman played chess and Maman trounced Papa soundly again. Abby lay back in her chair and read aloud to them…
“Abby girl what is the matter,” Papa turned to ask. “You are somewhat distracted tonight.”
“Distracted? Me? Oh no,” Abby denied vehemently but in her heart she wondered, ‘where the devil is he?’
The idea had been to send him on a wild goose chase so he could reach the Heyer home wet, dirty, disheveled, tired and hungry but in time for supper.
Had the fellow gone and tumbled into a ditch?
“Abby,” her mother yawned, “I am going to turn in for the night. Good night, dear.”
“Er Papa, were you expecting someone?”
Henry Heyer turned, “No. Why?”
“Um nothing,” Abby smiled innocently.
“Abby,” Georgiana’s eyes narrowed, “I am your mother.”
“I stand reminded, mama,” Abby grinned and got up from her chair to kiss her mother’s cheek affectionately, “goodnight.”
If the man had fallen in a ditch well he must have had it coming to him, Abby shrugged philosophically and headed to her bed.
Saint Abby was not a worrier. She particularly did not lose sleep over men she sent traipsing round the countryside on a merry wild goose chase.