All three of us slept in the coach that night. By the time morning came, we were all surprised. It was sunny and clear out. It was absolutely beautiful and they moved to the side so I could sit up there with them. The roads were still muddy, though, so it was slow going.
“What state are we in?” I asked as we switched the horses.
“Georgia,” one of them answered and I whistled.
“Wow. We really did take quite the detour, didn’t we?”
“Sorry, Mr. Partridge,” he said but I waved my hand.
“Ah, don’t worry about it. I enjoy traveling. I just hope we get there in time.”
“It doesn’t look like it should rain too much more,” the second one said. “These horses are faster and, thankfully, broke for humans just in case.”
I frowned. “They don’t break all horses for humans?”
“Not necessarily,” he answered. “The ones we just dropped off were my brother’s. He broke ‘em to pull coaches and that’s it. He thought he’d make more money. Fool. If anything, he’s losing out.”
“How is he losing money?”
“Renting a coach is pretty pricey, as you know,” he explained while I passed around some food. “However, that’s a one-time payment and really it’s just the richer folk or those that can’t ride that rent a coach. Others will just rent the horse. If they do that, they pay when they leave and when they get back. They also pay for the feed. If my brother had broke for both, he would be making much more money.”
“I suppose that makes sense,” I said. “How far are we from Riverwalk?”
“About a day and a half if everything continues as it is. You got a woman that’ll be following you?”
I laughed a little. “No, with that I’ve been unsuccessful, I’m afraid.”
The second coachman frowned. “But why? You’re a handsome lawyer!”
“That’s the problem,” I said. “All the women have been interested in is my money. It’s hard finding one that’s sincere….”
“Just wait until you meet Lady Lydia Jones,” the first one said with a smile.
“Is she the High Judge’s daughter?”
“Yes sir and she’s the prettiest young woman I’ve ever seen. If I were 40 years younger, I’d consider movin’ to Riverwalk, too.”
I laughed. “How old is she?”
He looked at the other coachman. “Twenty-two, right?”
“Yup,” he said. “Dead beautiful.”
“Ah, the beautiful ones are the hardest to trust,” I sighed. “At least that’s been my experience.”
“But Lydia is different,” he said. “She’s a kind soul. I don’t know much about her life before her father became the High Judge, but I do know she was quite the rebellious child. I saw her two months ago.” His voice got sad. “Poor thing is trying to be like she was but she can’t that much anymore.”
He shrugged. “I can only assume it’s because of who her father is. But that whole family…. They’re the nicest folks you’d ever hope to meet. Oliver always makes sure we’re taken care of. Is that where we’ll be dropping you off?”
“After I get my trunks to my house, yes,” I said.
“You might want to get some more rest there, Mr. Partridge,” the coachman said about three hours later.
I got back in the coach and yawned. I did my best not to fantasize about this Lydia Jones. I wondered what she looked like…. Perhaps she and I could-
“No,” I said, getting in a place where I could sleep comfortably. “Romance is not priority anymore, Simon. So stop it.”
I closed my eyes and my mind turned to the weather. I hoped it was like this the whole trip.
I should’ve known better.
The carriage jerked to a stop again and I sat up, hitting my head on the top of the coach. I winced and moved the curtain back. It was raining again but the two men were yelling at each other.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, getting out.
The road was paved but they were still shouting at each other.
“I told you to make sure the wheel was on steady!” the first shouted.
“You were supposed to check it!” the second argued.
“Gentlemen, calm down!” I said, running over. “Now what happened?”
“Damn carriage wheel broke in a pot hole.”
I walked over and groaned. Sure enough. Our front left wheel was snapped off almost completely. I looked around us as thunder rumbled.
“How busy is this road?”
“Not busy enough,” the first one sighed. “We’re ten miles out, though.”
“Okay. How long will it take to walk there?”
“About two hours since we have to carry your stuff.”
I looked at my pocket watch and swore.
“I’m supposed to be there in half an hour! Damn it!”
“Here, Mr. Partridge,” the coachman said and unhooked a horse. “If you take Pepper here, you’ll get there in time.”
“What about you?” I asked.
“We’ll take the other three to get your stuff to your house. Just tell us where it is.”
“Thank you so much,” I said in relief. I told them. “There are stairs with space under them, I think, where you can put my trunks. I don’t get the key until this evening.”
“Be safe there,” the coachman said. “Do you know how to ride?”
I smiled, mounting without a problem. “I grew up on a farm. You gentlemen stay safe as well.”
They just waved and I urged the horse onward. It had been a while since I rode bareback but I had to get there on time. The rain came down harder and I tried to get the horse to go faster. It was tired, though, and could only go at a slow trot. I groaned quietly. This was not how I wanted to arrive at the High Judge’s estate.
My glasses were starting to fog up so I took them off and tucked them into my jacket. The trees around me started to thin out and a few buildings came into view. It just occurred to me that I didn’t now where the High Judge’s estate was. I highly doubted there would be a sign.
When I got to the outskirts of the city, I squinted my eyes. There was a large home a few blocks down and people were walking to it. Perhaps those were the dinner guests? The horse finally picked up speed and I slid off of her.
“Is this the High Judge’s estate?” I asked a passing man.
He blinked at my appearance. I’m sure I looked ridiculous in my fancy black suit and dripping wet.
“Er- Yeah, it is,” he said. “You okay, sir?”
I smiled. “I’m just fine. Thank you.”
I jogged up the stairs and took a few deep breaths. I hesitated but it started to rain harder and the gutters flooded over, splashing right into my face.
“Good Lord,” I groaned.
I knocked frantically, ready to get out of this deluge.