Chapter 1: Richard
The first drops splattered my goggles; the rain that had been threatening all day had ceased being a threat and was now to become reality. It was one of those typical English summer days with the early morning promising blue skies and sun. At midday small clouds flirted in the slight breeze and by mid-afternoon the clouds gathered and roiled; dark grey and angry in the sky. I could hear thunder, but there was no flash of lightening to give some idea of its distance. The pleasant warmth of the day became a humid cloying heat. I sighed heavily knowing I would probably be soaked long before I arrived home. I had a choice. I could stop and shelter under one of the trees that infrequently lined the lane or carry on. I opted to carry on. The cloud cover suggested that when it started it would rain for quite some time so I thought it better to press on and try to beat the rain although getting wet loomed large as a possibility. Even so that would preferable than sheltering for possibly hours and be late for the evening meal. My mother would be dishing up at six-thirty and would frown upon anyone who was late for the meal particularly me. "You're a growing boy." She would say, "You need your meals." She obdurately ignored that at nineteen I was probably done all the growing that I would. Like most mothers I would always be her little boy. The thoughts of that meal started my stomach rumbling. I opened the throttle and the puny engine roared but did not add much to the speed. The BSA Gold Star was a speedy machine when new; today after many years of knocking around our agricultural environment and little or no service its performance was less than mediocre.
I had found the machine in one of the barns as I was moving old bales of hay. An unpleasant task my dad had asked of me, the hay was old, friable and dusty, crumbling when moved and emitting the dry taste of rot. Neither my dad, nor anyone else was able to enlighten me as to its owner. I was delighted when after many trials and much tinkering I got it going again. It remained a temperamental machine even so and there were many times it wouldn't start. No one else used the bike and I was away at college most of the time. Because of this infrequent use, I had not bothered to tax the bike nor did I have insurance. In the depths of our rural habitat it didn't seem to matter; anyway much of the time I was riding over private land. The spattering rain had ceased for a moment a hiatus, gathering itself before the deluge that was bound to come. Heavy fat globules did splash occasionally exploding like liquid grenades presaging a downpour of Olympic proportions. Then I saw her.
The first impression was that she was hobbling. Dressed as she was in a summer dress and high heels, I doubted that she had intended to walk that day. As I got closer I understood the reason for her ungainly steps. One of her heels had broken off! I slowed and applied the brake. The back wheel slipped on some mud; an ever-present problem on lanes, which saw more tractors than cars. I put my leg down, preventing the sideways slide, and stopped. I turned round and watched her walk slowly towards me. I recognized her immediately. "It's going to be a long and wet walk to Broughley, especially with your heel missing." Broughley, in that quaint idiosyncratic fashion of the English was pronounced Broolee.
"How do you know I am going to Broughley?" She queried testily.
"Let's say it's an educated guess. Lady Andrea." She was rightly styled the Honourable Andrea Seddon. However most people around here would invariably refer to her as Lady Andrea. Her father was Viscount Seddon.
"Oh! You know me." She asked cautiously.
"I would imagine that everyone in Broughley knows you." Lady Andrea would often be seen around the village, usually on horseback.
"I don't know you. Who are you?"
"I'm Richard Carter."
"Are you related to Mr. Carter the Estate Manager?"
I grinned. "Yes. I'm his son."
Her face cleared. "I knew that Mr. Carter had a son, but you don't seem to be around much."
"I'm away at college most of the time. I can offer you a lift, unless you think riding on the back of a motorcycle is undignified."
"I don't really know. I could be soaked if it rains."
"It is starting to rain even now and you will be soaked in any case. I may be able to get you home before it rains too heavily."
She thought about that and looked up to the clouds trying to decide. "Ok. How do I get on this machine of yours?" I had visions of her skirt flying up which would have been good for me but I doubt that she would view it in the same context. "May I suggest you tuck your skirt between your legs and sit as if you were in the saddle?"
She smiled for the first time and transformed from haughty aristocrat to happy teenager. "I can do that. Do I have to cling on?"
"It's probably best if you hold me around the waist."
I averted my gaze as she gathered up her skirt and I steadied the bike. I reached back and flipped down the footrests for her and she cocked her leg over the pillion seat and settled down. She made herself comfortable and put her arms around my waist. "O.K.?" I asked.
"Fine. Let's go." I pulled the hand clutch in and kicked the gear lever up with my toe. I opened the throttle quite a lot as the bike needed quite a few revolutions to move, and with two on board would need a lot of power. With a wobble to start, the bike picked up and we were off. I would imagine she was quite concerned at first and I could feel the tension in her arms. However, she settled down and after a while, she relaxed. Then the rain started in earnest. It did not begin slow and build; the heavens just opened and in less than a minute the dry lane became just a wet slicked crown with rivers running in the gulley's either side. The rain bounced as it hit the tarmac, creating a screen of water about six inches high. I rode along the crown of the lane, hoping that there was nothing coming the other way as keeping over to the left would entail my riding through a torrent of run-off water. At first I thought Lady Andrea was frightened; she was shaking so much but then I realised that she was laughing, giggling for all she was worth.
I doubted that I went more than twenty miles an hour as visibility was so poor and the road conditions were terrible. I had not bothered to replace the worn out tyres when I resurrected the bike so I was concerned about the bikes' grip on the road. Nonetheless, we made it back to Broughley in reasonable time but not quickly enough to prevent us being soaked. I steered into the drive that led to Lady Andrea's home, Broughley Manse, although no cleric had lived there for years. It was a surprise for most people seeing the place for the first time. I was sure that most would think that a Viscount would have some palatial semi-palace. Viscount Seddon for all his title never came across as aristocracy. He owned and ran a working estate and the manse had been built in Edwardian times. It was bigger by far than any other home in Broughley but it wasn't huge. I pulled up to the porch and stopped. I steadied the bike as Lady Andrea climbed off the pillion and looked at her to see if she was all right. I needn't have worried she was smiling broadly even as she stood there soaked through. I averted my eyes quickly as her dress was completely wet and clung to her skin, in addition, she wasn't wearing a brassiere so the shape of her breasts were outlined perfectly. "Thank you, Richard. That was an experience." She looked down at her sodden dress. "I look like a drowned rat."
"The best-looking drowned rat I have ever seen."
She seemed to find that amusing. "Do you want to get dry?"
I shook my head. "Thank you Lady Andrea, but I shall get back home, I doubt I can get any wetter than I am now and I will dry off there."
"Don't call me Lady Andrea, just Andrea is fine. Thanks again Richard and I'll see you around." She waved slightly and ran in.
I had kept the motor running as at times it sounded as if it would expire. It lived long enough for me to get back out onto the lane then with a significant pop, it lost all power. I knew immediately that the cylinder head gasket had blown. I switched off the magneto and prepared to push the bike the half-mile home. The Gold Star was described as a lightweight, it certainly did not feel like that as I trudged squelching wet for that last few hundred yards. We lived in the estate yard. It had many barns for produce coming in from the various farms that formed the estate and it was where deliveries of fertiliser, seed and all the other commodities that the estate would need were delivered. The cottage that went with the position of Farm Manager was larger than most cottages around here and reflected my dad's position. I dumped the bike in the tractor shed. I would not attempt a repair of the bike until I was next home. I dragged my weary feet towards the cottage and surprised my mum in the kitchen where she was just about to dish up dinner. She took one look at me and told me sharply. "Go and have a shower, then bring those wet clothes down here and I'll put them straight into the washer."
Authors note: Reference to Cirencester. The Royal College of Agriculture is sited in Cirencester.
The day had turned out to be very different than I had anticipated. I had arranged to go out for lunch at a pub a few miles away with a friend, Adrian. He was a recent acquaintance and had been introduced by another friend. The lunch was very pleasant except we were joined by a couple who were friends of Adrian. They came to our table just after we had lunched and without invitation joined us for coffee and then drinks. They stayed until late in the afternoon. I needed to go to the ladies room and it was when I was returning that I overheard Adrian in conversation with his friend Leo. They were standing at the bar ordering more drinks and the passage to the ladies room was just adjacent to the bar; also Adrian was speaking in quite a loud voice. "I think it's about time that Lady Andrea should be in receipt of a large male member and I have the member to do that. I am sure she has not been knobbed before."
"She doesn't seem to have made any gestures that would indicate that she wants that." Leo replied.
"Ah! I have been working a plan that will overcome any resistance. Every vodka and tonic she has will be a double vodka and light on the tonic"
I heard his words quite plainly and I wasn't going to hang around to see if he tried to put his theory into practice. He was stupid twice over, first for boasting before the event, and second for boasting where anybody could hear him. Luckily, I had taken my bag with me, so as soon as he paid for the drinks and went back to where we were sitting in the garden I slipped out of the front door of the pub. I had forgotten to bring my mobile phone with me so unable to call a taxi I started to walk. It would be about three and a half miles, quite a walk. However, my thoughts preferred that to the fate that awaited me if I had stayed. Those thoughts set in train another possibility. When he realised that I had walked out on him would he come after me in his car? I left the road and took to a bridle path. As I rode frequently, I knew the bridle paths in the area. High heels and bridle paths are not intended for each other and I hadn't walked more than a few hundred yards when my heel snapped off. Great, I thought. Calamity is piling upon calamity. I slipped both shoes off and was able to walk at a reasonable pace, walking on the grass as much as I could. My stockings were ripped and snagged after a while so I took them off throwing them under a bush. The bridle path crossed a lane, which would bring me to Broughley eventually. The gritty surface hurt my feet so I replaced my shoes and hobbled as best I could. That was when the first drops of rain fell and my spirits fell. What else was going to happen to me? I would have cried, tears of frustration and anger, but I was the daughter of a Viscount and as such couldn't bemoan the trials of life.
I heard the motorbike long before it came up alongside of me. The rider turned his head to look and immediately brought the bike to a stop, even correcting the machine as its rear wheel slipped on a cowpat. The offer of a lift was tempting and I accepted when I knew who he was. Broughley was a relatively small village, and everybody knows everybody else even if they have no regular conversation. It wasn't surprising that Richard Carter was almost unknown to me, I was boarding at Cirencester Ladies School and he was away at college; however he was a more of a gentleman than Adrian. He averted his gaze as I straddled the pillion seat with my skirt tucked high between my legs. I was nervous at first then as I became confident with my seat and the motion of the bike something most peculiar happened. At first, I held onto his waist, and then I had this urge to hold myself closer to him. My excuse was the rain, which was now very heavy, and by hugging him tightly, I may have kept a little drier. Later I told myself the truth. He was solid and smelt good, he gave off an aura of security. My hugging him closer didn't prevent me getting wet, my hair, so carefully brushed and curled that morning hung down like rags. My dress, freshly washed and pressed soaked up the rain like a sponge. I should have been as miserable as sin, but I wasn't. I was elated for some reason and I began to laugh, especially when my nipples took on a life of their own, tightening and elongating to two sharp points, aching for someone's touch. I was wet through from cool rain yet had an inside warmth I didn't understand. It was a great disappointment when we turned into the driveway of Broughley House, because I wanted this to go on and on, seeking new experiences and thrills.
I was aware that my dress being so wet was close to being transparent. I also saw his quick glance and his averting his eyes. An inner voice said. "Look! I want you to look." However, as so often with inner voices he didn't hear and was too much the gentleman to embarrass me. His comment about my being the best-drowned rat he had ever seen was tucked away in my memory. Something that some girls would write down in their diary, instead I memorised his words, the sound of his voice and the picture like a video. To be replayed whenever I wanted to feel that warmth again.
Two days later, whilst I was riding Warlock, my horse, I passed the 'The Gate', our village pub. Richard was standing in the forecourt with a suitcase beside him. This was where villagers would wait for the bus, so I assumed he was going off somewhere. "Good morning, Richard." I called.
"Good morning to you, Lady Andrea."
"Oh don't go all servile, it's Andrea. Are you going off somewhere?"
"Yes, it's back to Bristol."
"Why Bristol, I would have thought you would have gone somewhere like Cirencester."
"I'm not doing agriculture, if that's what you thought." He smiled. "I am doing Drama at Bristol Old Vic."
Now that threw me completely. "Drama?" My surprise communicated itself to Warlock who skittered a little.
He nodded. "Yes. I prance around on stage wearing make-up and funny clothes."
"Somehow I could not see you as doing that."
"Well it takes all sorts." He turned to look down the road. "The bus is coming. Should you bring the horse away from the road?"
I looked towards the bus. "Yes, I suppose I should." He took hold of the bridle and coaxed Warlock into following him. Now Warlock as a rule didn't like men, but he didn't seem at all unhappy to follow Richard and nuzzled him as well. What was this thing about Richard that people wanted to hug him? The bus came to a halt and the driver got out, walked over to the pub and went inside. No one turned a hair. He wasn't going for a drink; he was going to use the gent's facilities. Richard picked up his case and prepared to board the bus.
"Perhaps I will see you in about three months." He said to me.
"Yes. Do enjoy your prancing." He grinned and boarded. The driver returned and collected the fare from Richard and the bus drew away to continue the journey to Gloucester. Warlock stood stolidly head down seemingly mournful that his new friend had left. For some reason that I couldn't fathom I felt like weeping.
If Richard had returned to Broughley after three months I wouldn't know, for shortly after that my father decided that I should go to Switzerland and be finished. This was a peculiar habit of the English aristocracy that their daughters needed to have a final polish before they could be let loose on society. It appeared to me that this could be similar to the final fettling of a new car before it rolls off the production line. The school although in Switzerland was decidedly English. We were taught deportment, how a dining table should be laid out, correct address of the various layers of British aristocracy and a good knowledge of French. It was all very passé and to be perfectly honest completely out of date. We also learned other lessons; how to make a spliff, what brassiere would give us the most cleavage although that lesson was one I couldn't employ as my pancakes would never be able to get anywhere near cleavage. The most positive aspect was making friends with other young women who it seemed had the same attitude to this education as mine.
I was there for a year and didn't return to Broughley at all in that time. In the term breaks, I was invited to stay with my new friends in the south of France, Spain and Italy. I do believe that there was a time when I didn't speak my native language for at least three months. I returned home to England in my twentieth year and within twelve months was married. Charles Anstruther was 'something in the City'. Quite rich at twenty-seven and bound to be even richer as the years went by. He was charming throughout our courtship, which was why I said 'yes'. He continued to be charming for the first six months of our marriage. I lost my virginity on the first night of our marriage and despite being quite sore was required to submit on every night after for the whole of our month-long honeymoon. The exception was when I 'came on'; Charles would not even sleep with me let alone take his marital pleasure with me. When we returned to London and moved into the townhouse he had purchased in Bloomsbury I was surprised that he intended we had separate bedrooms. The activity of the honeymoon was forgotten and he would visit me about once a week for his 'rations'. It was obvious that he was doing his duty, which of course was to get me pregnant as he never used any protection and I was forbidden to go on the pill. I was in all respects 'the bird in a gilded cage'.