All my alpha readers are special people, giving generously of their own time, but a very special thank you to Louise Sorensen, for invaluable advice and guidance on the 'horsey' content.
For all you Alfies out there, wondering what it's all about, here's an excerpt, or you can download a sample from Amazon - the first ten percent is free as always!
Physic or Sinner? extracted from The Bridle Path.
Matilda's not so certain about Sebby's new friend though - Winny is the only child of local farmer Greg DeSilva - and she's precocious! In this excerpt, Winny's invited herself on a shopping trip to the city of Truro, along with Matilda, Sebby and Matilda's best friend, Bib.
Matilda's BMW Estate car cruised into Truro just as the cathedral clock chimed twelve. Leaving Sebby and Winny to their own devices, the two women began to investigate the maze of lanes spiralling from the town centre. Bib flitted from clothes shops, to shoe shops, to shops selling clotted cream, nougat and chocolate, like a child let loose in Santa's Grotto. Hearing a clock chime, Matilda dragged Bib away from a pair of shoes she was cooing over, but would never wear.
'I told Sebby not to be late, or else – and now you've made me late!' Matilda scolded. Arm in arm, they hurried back to the floating restaurant where they'd pre-arranged to meet up with the youngsters for a late lunch.
The converted longboat was cramped inside, with lanterns in the shape of oil lamps dangling from a low roof and a too narrow aisle, which meant waitresses and customers danced a continual "dozy-doe" in their efforts to avoid each other.
Bib commented sotto voce, 'I don't trust skinny waitresses' as blue and white uniforms bobbed between tables. Matilda whispered back, 'They're all tiny, around a size eight. Maybe it's in their contract "skinny and lanky, or walk the planky."'
Sebby grimaced, Winny gave him a sympathetic look, as though to say, "Yeah, I know. Embarrassing aren't they?"
In an obvious effort to make conversation, Winny asked Bib what she thought of the cathedral.
'Oh, we didn't get the chance to see it, Tilly spotted a flea market in the town hall, and we got side tracked.'
Matilda gasped – it had been Bib who'd dragged her around each and every shop – but before she could protest, their waitress arrived. A teenager plumper than Bib, so destroying Matilda's theory. In a thick Cornish accent, the waitress recommended the house speciality "moules marinieres". Sebby winced and asked for battered fish and chips, but Winny and Bib happily agreed, leaving Matilda dithering.
'Fish and chips please,' she said finally, just because a little queue had formed behind their waitress, and were huffing to get by.
'You should attend the cathedral one Sunday, their choir is out of this world,' Winny continued, as though there'd been no interruption.
'Heavenly?' Sebby asked smiling.
'Heavenly. Better than our efforts anyway. Have you been to church yet, Mrs Pendance?'
Sebby frowned, and Matilda hurried to say 'My name's Matilda, and Bib's Bib.'
'Have you been to church yet, Matilda?' Winny had deep brown eyes, and Greg's trick of keeping a dead pan face. It was difficult to know if she were serious or not.
'No, I'm afraid I haven't attended a service in a long time,' Matilda said. Not for two years in fact, when she'd stood at a graveside and found no comfort. While she cast around for a different subject, their meals arrived. The fish and chips looked ordinary, but the moules marinieres were chased with a red and white sauce and came with a side salad. Matilda's mouth watered at the sight.
'You'll have to come one Sunday. The vicar used to go to school with Dad, he can't bear being in church either, he always chooses the shortest sermons, and we only ever get to sing the first and last verses of hymns.'
For a moment Matilda felt confused, then realised Winny was talking about the vicar, not Greg.
'The church is twelfth century, there's gargoyles and that, and some interesting graves.' Winny scooped the flesh from a mussel shell, popped it in her mouth and chewed blissfully. Sebby watched wide eyed. 'There's this pair of graves like this,' laying down her cutlery, Winny demonstrated, holding her hands together and out flat, palms down, dipping her thumbs to form a valley. 'What happened was the husband was murdered, and the wife died of a broken heart soon afterwards. They buried them separately, with a memorial slab over each grave. Within a week the graves had slanted together. Weird eh?'
'Umm.' Matilda's neck hairs shimmered, then stood up on end, as Winny continued 'Even weirder, the man's brother was mid-Atlantic, and he dreamt that his brother was set about and robbed and left for dead, and he woke the captain and made him record it in the ship's log. His dream I mean.'
'That is weird,' Bib agreed.
Sebby laughed. 'The only way that could have happened was if the brother already knew the man was going to be attacked. And made certain of his alibi.'
Winny smiled grimly. 'All right, smart arse. Laugh this one off. Only me knows about this. One hundred years ago, a kid drown dead. But a hundred years before that, another kid drown dead. And guess what?' she widened her eyes.
'Oh big deal – there's plenty of water in Cornwall,' Sebby jeered.
'Yes, but get this,' ducking her head, Winny gave a conspiratorial glance around the table and lowered her voice. 'The dates on the gravestones; I've done some calculations, and they both drowned at twelve years old. Both exactly one hundred years apart.'
Bib winked at Matilda, trying to lift the tension. The boat rocked just then, in response to a passing swell. Matilda shivered, and wasn't quick enough to clutch at her plate, which tumbled to the floor and bounced.
'Plastic crockery,' Winny said, in response to Matilda's astonished expression. Their waitress rushed to clear up the mess, asking if madam wanted a replacement.
'No, thank you,' Matilda had lost her appetite.
'Now see what you've done,' Sebby hissed at Winny, who didn't look at all contrite.
'Don't flatter your friend. Winny, next time save it for Halloween,' Bib said sharply. 'Shall we go?'
Winny's eyes sparkled with mischief as they prepared to disembark.
'Check it out if you don't believe me,' she said, a note of glee in her voice.
'You're just looking for co-incidences, people love to find patterns where they don't exist. In fact I bet any money you like hundreds of twelve year olds died, but you only noticed the ones that suited you. What you've done is ....' They were walking along the gang-plank single file, Bib was behind Sebby and nudged him to shut up, to Matilda's relief.
On the drive home, Winny produced a bag of jelly beans and shared them out, Bib showed off the material Matilda had bought to make curtains, and no-one said another word about churches or graveyards.
From "The Bridle Path" ... and of course, Winny's telling the truth about the physic sailor; his brother the murdered victim, and his heart broken wife. Sebby's a little too sceptical!