The horse walked slowly across the ford, the water reaching nearly to its rider’s feet and confirming Brian’s suspicions about the depth. However, he was more concerned now with the strange remarks made about an alternate world and the fact that Jennifer Jane Bell appeared to be known locally. Brian was also trying to reconcile the countryside about him, with what he could remember of the lie of the land around the market town he’d left behind.
There was certainly an area of open land on the hilltop, but access was only obtained by taking a side path before reaching the charcoal burner's site. Somehow or other he’d gone past the charcoal site without leaving the path, which was impossible, then followed it for a mile or two before coming out in open country. This far out of town there was no open country and certainly no river!
He was finding it rather difficult to think while the horse was jogging him up and down as it trotted along the bridleway. Even so, it didn’t seem too long before they turned into a driveway leading towards a medium sized country mansion of the type Brian occasionally visited on his holidays. The rider stopped under the column-supported roof of an impressive entrance and helped his passenger down before dismounting himself.
“I trust you had a pleasant ride sir?” asked a man as he came down the steps to meet them.
“Thank you Saunders, I did indeed and as you can see I have brought a guest who will be taking some refreshment with me in my study. Make sure you tell one of the grooms to give the horse a good rub down before asking cook to send up some light refreshments.”
Brian followed the owner of the mansion up the steps and into the building eventually arriving in a room with a bright fire in the grate, which he assumed to be the study.
“Now then young man allow me to introduce myself, I am George Manners Squire of Lurbridge. How should I address you?”
“My name is Brian Taylor editor of the Holmwood Advertiser. To be perfectly honest I have no idea where I am and I’ve never even heard of a village round here called Lurbridge! You’re certainly not on our circulation lists.”
“I must apologise Mr. Taylor, you appear to be rather cold and wet, please feel free to warm yourself by the fire.”
Brian gratefully went over to the fire and stood with his back to it, looking round the room as he warmed himself. Two things struck him almost immediately. A wooden framework at each window appeared to be supporting what he could only assume was a second sheet of glass to provide rudimentary double-glazing. Then across the room from the fireplace he spotted a display cabinet containing ivory carvings that appeared to be similar to those that had turned up in Holmwood.
At that point there came a knock at the door and a girl in a long dress reaching nearly to the floor came in carrying a silver tray. She placed it on a small table and bobbed a little curtsey to the squire.
“Thank you Joan that will be all, I shall look after our guest myself.”
He poured the tea into elegant cups through a strainer. “Sweetener Mr. Taylor?” he asked.