The Reluctant Widow

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer Read Free Book Online

Book: The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Georgette Heyer
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
the matter. She took Carlyon’s hand, which he had stretched down to her, and mounted into the carriage beside him. His horses were fidgeting, but he kept them standing. “You will be cold, I am afraid,” he said, critically surveying her pelisse. “Barrow, fetch out a greatcoat to me directly, if you please! One of Mr. Cheviot’s; it does not signify which. Tuck the rug well round you, Miss Rochdale. Fortunately we have only some six miles to travel, and the night is fine.”
    She did as he recommended, torn between amusement and vexation. His manner showed neither relief nor triumph at her capitulation. She suspected that it had not occurred to him that-she might not do as he desired, and began to be strongly of the opinion that he stood in urgent need of a sharp setdown.
    The servant came out of the house again with a heavy driving coat, which he handed up to Carlyon. Miss Rochdale was huddled into it; the horses sprang into their collars, and the curricle rolled forward at a smart pace. Once they were beyond the gates, the pace quickened rather alarmingly. Carlyon said, “You will not object to driving rather fast, I hope. It is quite safe: I am only too familiar with this road.”
    “Yes, that is very pretty talking,” said Elinor, “when you know very well you have no intention of slackening this shocking pace, whatever I may say!”
    She thought he sounded as though he were amused “True. You have really no need to be anxious, however. I shall not overturn you.”
    “I am not anxious,” she said coldly. “You appear to me to be a competent whip.” “You should certainly be a judge, for your father was one,”
    She was taken off her guard, and replied wistfully, “He was, was he not? I remember—” She checked herself, feeling unable to continue.
    He did not seem to notice her hesitation. “Yes, what we call a nonpareil—quite a nonesuch! As I recall, he was used to drive a pair of grays in a perch phaeton he had. I have often coveted them.”
    “All the driving men did so. I believe Sir Henry Peyton bought them when—You are a member of the F.H.C. yourself, I dare say?”
    “Yes, though I am not very frequently in London. To own the truth, to be continually driving a barouche to Salt Hill and back becomes a trifle flat.”
    “Yes, indeed, and always at a strict trot!” “You drive yourself, Miss Rochdale?”
    “I was used to. My father had a phaeton built for me.” Again she turned the subject. “You are a hunting man also, sir?”
    “Yes, but I rarely hunt in Sussex. It is indifferent country. I have a little place in Leicestershire.”
    She relapsed into silence, which was unbroken until she suddenly said, “Oh, this is absurd! I must surely wake up soon, and find that I have been dreaming!”
    “I am afraid you must be tired indeed,” was all he replied.
    She was so much provoked that she sat for some time cudgeling her brain to think of some remark that might disconcert him. She found it. “I am sure I do not know why you have forced me into this carriage, or why you are in such haste to bring me to your cousin, my lord,” she said, “for without a license I cannot possibly be married.”
    “No, you are very right,” he replied. “I have it in my pocket.” In a shaking voice she uttered, “I might have known you would have!” “I dare say you may not have thought of it before.”
    No adequate words with which to answer him presented themselves to her. She could only say, “I suppose you have even provided for the necessary clergyman to perform the ceremony?”
    “We are going to halt at the parsonage on our way,” he said. “Then I hope very much that the parson may refuse to go with us!” she cried. “He will certainly crowd us,” he agreed, “but it will not be for very many minutes, after all.” Her bosom swelled. “I have a very good mind to tell him that I am being constrained against my will, and have no desire to marry your cousin!”
    “You have not the

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