In the foggy pre-dawn light, the sleepy groom of The Cock and Hens watched as the young man gently nudged the delicately stepping brown mare over the cobbles of the innyard and out onto the Dorchester road. The day promised to be warm but there was not light enough to examine closely the gratifyingly heavy coin he found in his hand. With the inn not yet stirring, he could not share his reflections with his particular friend, the boots, but he muttered a private remark on bleeding beginners and flaming luck. For the mere youth who had descended from the slow coach in clothes that did the inn no particular credit was riding home on Lord Bolton's own mare, an animal descended from the Darley Arabian itself!
As the freshening wind of dawn met him on the high road, Jack Aubrey no longer suppressed the urge to burst into full throated song:
The bailey beareth the bell away
The lily, the lily the rose I lay
he sang to an audience of dim sheep.
Such devilish good luck he had had with the cards! He stroked the mare's warm neck. Perhaps his genius lay in being lucky and his prospects were not so very bad after all; it may be that the tide had turned for him. Why, even now a summons may be awaiting him at home from the Admiralty and perhaps this weary stay at Woolcombe with an all too predictable parent...but no, rather than indulge a mean sentiment or tempt fate, Jack turned his attention to the mare, urging her at last into a canter - straight into the face of the rising sun.
© 2000 Jenspen