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In the Land of the Long White Cloud

In the Land of the Long White Cloud

Titel: In the Land of the Long White Cloud
Autoren: Sarah Lark
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    “Unbelievable. What sort of breed are they? English sheepdogs?”
    Terence nodded. “Border collies. They have herding in their blood and hardly require any instruction. And that was nothing. You must see Cleo in action—an amazing dog. She’s won one award after another.” Terence looked around searchingly. “Where is she hiding anyway? Actually, I wanted to take her along. I promised my lady I would. So that Gwyneira doesn’t once more…oh no!” The lord had been looking about, searching for the dog, but now his gaze rested on a horse and its rider, approaching quickly from the living quarters. They did not bother to use the paths between the sheep paddocks or to open the gates and ride through. Instead, without hesitation, the powerful brown horse cleared all of the fences and walls that bordered the paddocks. A dog accompanied them, leaping over obstacles, hopping up and over walls like they were steps, and ducking beneath fences. The energetic, tail-wagging creature was finally ahead of the rider in the sheep paddock, in the lead of the trio. The sheep seemed almost able to read the dog’s thoughts. As though responding to a single command from the bitch, they formed a tight group and stopped obediently in front of the men, without getting worked up for even a moment. Unperturbed, the sheep’s heads sank once more into the grass, attended by Terence’s three sheepdogs. The new arrival approached Terence at his command and seemed to beam at him from her whole friendly collie face. However, the dog did not look at the men directly. Her gaze was focused on the brown horse’s rider, who slowed the horse to a trot and then came to a complete stop behind the men.
    “Good morning, Father!” a bright voice said. “I wanted to bring Cleo to you. I thought you might need her.”
    Gerald Warden looked over at the boy, about to say a few words of praise about his elegant full-speed ride. He stopped short when he noticed the lady’s saddle, the worn, dark-gray riding dress, and the rider’s mass of fiery red hair carelessly tied at the nape. It was possible that the girl had pinned her locks up primly as was customary, but she couldn’t have spent much time on it. Then again, during that wild ride almost any sort of braid would have come undone.
    Terence Silkham looked on, less impressed. Then he remembered to introduce the girl to his guest.
    “Mr. Warden—my daughter, Lady Gwyneira. And her dog, Cleopatra, the excuse she has given me for her presence here. What are you doing here, Gwyneira? If I recall correctly, your mother spoke of a French lesson this afternoon.”
    Usually Terence did not have his daughter’s schedule committed to memory, but Madame Fabian, Gwyneira’s French tutor, suffered from a severe dog allergy. Lady Silkham therefore always reminded her spouse to keep Cleo away from his daughter before her lessons, not an easy task. The dog stuck to her mistress like glue and could be lured away only by particularly interesting herding tasks.
    Gwyneira shrugged charmingly. She sat impeccably straight, but loose and confident on her horse as she held her small, powerful mare serenely by the reins.
    “Yes, that was the original plan. But poor Madame Fabian had a bad asthma attack. We had to put her to bed; she couldn’t say a word. Where could it have come from? Mother is so careful that no animal comes near her.”
    Gwyneira tried to look indifferent and feign remorse, but her expressive face couldn’t help but reveal a certain triumph. Warden now had a chance to observe the girl more closely: she had a very light complexion that tended to freckle and a heart-shaped face that would have appeared sweet and innocent if it weren’t for her somewhat large mouth, which lent a certain sensuality to Gwyneira’s appearance.More than anything else, though, her face was defined by her large, unusually blue eyes. Indigo blue, Gerald Warden thought. That’s what that color was called in the paint box that his son frittered away much of his time with.
    “And Cleo did not, by chance, have another walk through the salon after the maid had removed every dog hair one by one, so that Madame Fabian might dare to step out of her room?” Terence asked sternly.
    “Oh, I don’t believe so,” Gwyneira said with a soft smile that lent a warmth to her blue eyes. “I brought her to the stable personally and made sure she knew that she was to wait for you there. She was sitting in front of
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