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Heiress in Hiding 16-18

January 09, 2018 06:03PM
Chapter 16

Miss Merritt soon settled in, and reported that Polly Eade was a more able student than she had realised.
“To be honest, my lord, I had expected a rough country girl who could read and figure after a fashion, but her reading is fluent, and she writes as legible a hand as any gentleman’s daughter, and her understanding of the rules of number is more than sufficient to make up simple household accounts,” she said. “Apparently the village dame school had a globe, which I suspect, my lord, is down to your generosity, so the girl even has some idea where most places she may read about in the news may be, and she is willing to spend time looking for places she has not previously heard of. Her knowledge of history is sketchy at best and involves rather lurid stories in which the Brandon family feature heavily.”
Adam laughed.
“Half are true, and of the rest, half are exaggerated and half are underplayed, but it does help the schoolmistress to keep the children interested in history if she involves the Brandons.”
“I quite understand that, my lord, and for a basic understanding of history such as most sons of the toil need, it is sufficient, but I need to unravel Polly’s beliefs that history only happened if a Brandon was present,” said Miss Merritt with some asperity.
“I have no doubt you’ll manage,” said Adam. “Introduce her to Robin Hood and to Greek mythology, and debate with her myth, legend, history and where exaggerated local folklore gets intertwined with history. You can use the famous ride of Dick Turpin and the superhuman ...er, superequine ... abilities of Black Bess. She knows her horses and she has a shrewd idea of distances between London and much of Suffolk and Norfolk.”
“An excellent idea, my lord, I think it will help to graphically demonstrate the lesson, thank you. Did you know she is quite capable of dropping the Suffolk burr if asked to do so?”
“I did not,” said Adam. “Minx!”
“I second that, for she left me quite confused at times,” said Madelaine. “Why, I shall have to tease her about making a May game of me!”
“And doubtless she will smirk, unabashed,” said Adam.
“Undoubtedly,” said Madelaine. “She is cheeky, but there is no vice in Polly, a far cry from Alice who was insolent and sly and a sulker.”
“She sounds a most unpleasant girl,” said Miss Merritt. “However Polly is willing and able, and I have no doubt that by the time she is a few years older she will be able to teach a gentleman’s daughter without any rough manners rubbing off.”
Madelaine flushed.
“Better than I, no doubt.”
“Oh, my dear, you had a forceful mother who had never learned to hide her origins, and had no idea she was not doing so,” said Miss Merritt. “You cannot be held responsible for assuming your own parent knows what is right. Will you permit Polly to dine with you at times when she is a bit more polished?”
“Yes, certainly,” said Adam.
Miss Merritt hesitated.
“Lydia said something about Mama and Papa; are you happy for her to call you Mama and Papa?”
“Yes, it is the choice she made, and I have adopted her legally as my daughter,” said Adam.
“And it is nice to be ‘Mama’ for her,” said Madelaine. “It would be too awkward, too, to explain to any other children that their big sister is not their sister. They will need to learn the truth when they are older, before others tell them with malice in mind, but when they are small it is foolish to make a distinction.”
“Oh, my dear, am I to take it that you are in an interesting condition?” asked Miss Merritt, blushing at her own temerity.
Madelaine blushed as well.
“It is too early to be sure,” she murmured.
“A bit like the Bourbon succession,” said Adam, cheerfully. “The French king may be back in Paris, and Bonaparte’s adventures now dismissed merely as ‘les cent jours’, but I confess I have little confidence that they will manage to establish a viable monarchy any better than they did last year, or in the abortive counter-revolution of 1797.”
“Each attempt has lasted longer than the last, so perhaps it will be Christmas before they are overturned,” said Madelaine. “I strongly suggest we do not make plans to visit France in the foreseeable future.”
“My thoughts precisely,” said Adam. “I have no doubt that it will be the Terror all over again, but Royalists terrorising any who supported Bonaparte. France will not be a good place to live for many years, I think.”
Madelaine laughed a rather brittle laugh.
“Mama’s erstwhile lover does not think so,” she said. “Mama wrote to me that he had communicated to her that he has gained what he called his ‘rightful position’ as the Comte de Boisvallonné, apparently he was believed when he claimed to be the youngest legitimate son.”
Adam shrugged.
“That is the problem of the French administration,” he said. “I expect your mother feels the same way.”
“My mother said that if the French King is stupid enough to be taken in by a slipper maker, even if he is the illegitimate son of the old comte, he deserved him,” said Madelaine, laughing over the fact that her mother, wise after having been taken in, was now ready to condemn another for her own mistakes.
“To be honest,” said Adam, “Had not Bonaparte been so rapacious and ambitious to rule all of Europe, I would have said he has been the best ruler France has ever had, but because he had vaulting ambition, it was necessary to bring him down. France is a sad, beleaguered land, and I fear may always be so. I cannot think of a time when she was not fractured since Charlemagne. And as such, a slipper maker may even be as good as any other as a comte. From what little I have seen of the rump of the French aristocracy, they have learned nothing from the revolution, and intend to be as arrogant and despotic as ever they were before. The slipper maker might even be closer to the people.”
“He was pretty arrogant and despotic to servants,” said Madelaine, “And now I know it was like Mama, who thinks that a sign of being of elevated was to order people about and not to listen to reasons, excuses or suggestions. He will be worse than the former comte, because he will be looking for slights, real or imagined, and suggestions that he is not who he says he is.”
“Surely he will not betray former friends?” Miss Merritt fluttered.
“Alas, I think Elaine has hit the nail on the head, for her words have wisdom,” said Adam. “I had not considered it, but I agree, he would turn first on former friends in fear that they would recognise him. Sad, but again, probably hardly worse than any other aristocrat returning with vengeance in his heart. At least he is now far away from you, my love.”
Madelaine shuddered.
“And the chance of meeting him in society is another reason I do not wish to go to France,” she said.

Adam was glad that most of Marjorie’s worries seemed to be over, with her husband’s death. She wrote fondly of the Rector, and when she wrote to him her thanks for buying Deepwells Manor for herself and her reverend suitor, she admitted her feelings for him. Adam smiled at her letter of heartfelt thanks; she deserved some happiness, and the vicar did too, and combining their progeny in one marital home made sense.
It was less heartening to receive a missive from Daphne about a body found in an old concealed well. The vicar’s son had fallen in, but had fortunately no more injuries than a few bruises. The body was that of a maidservant of the former, licentious owner, who had, it seemed, got her with child. Adam had some forebodings about the fellow being called to the inquest, and his worst fears were realised when he received an almost hysterical letter from Marjorie, enclosing a note from Farringdon, in which he obnoxiously both made it clear that he assumed Marjorie was a cast off mistress of Adam’s, and that she would be eager to fall into his, Farringdon’s, arms.
Adam wrote to Knightley, enclosing both letters.
Farringdon was virtually ruined already; the suit of libel against him should complete that process, and with luck he would blow his own brains out. He had insinuated that Adam had somehow cheated him out of his former property, and if he planned on making himself insufferable, Adam wrote to Knightley, then his expectations might as well be fulfilled in using any and all means within the letter of the law to ruin the fellow.
“The thing about an English gentleman is that he knows when to stop being one,” he said, when he told Madelaine all about it.
“It needs kissing better,” said Madelaine, which train of thought, Adam was more than happy to follow.
Daphne wrote a rather more cogent letter about the circumstances, which Adam read out to Madelaine for her amusement.
A week passed, before Adam opened a letter at breakfast and started cursing comprehensively and fluently in terms Madelaine had never heard him use before. She regarded him with some apprehension. He felt her regards and stopped abruptly.
“My apologies, my love, for the use of such intemperate language in front of you,” he said. “Here, read this,” and he tossed the letter to her. Madelaine read through the unfamiliar hand.

The Blue Boar Public House
Deepwells village, Suffolk
31st July 1815.

My Lord,
It has come to my attention that despite placing a careful watch on your niece, your sister and brother-in-law have been grossly deceived by the duplicity of the local clergyman and your niece. I have been informed today, the 31st inst., that they are betrothed.
I felt certain that you would wish to know of this right away, in order to prevent such monies as she has accrued to date as part of her portion from going away from the family and into the pockets of some nobody.
Your niece also plans to go junketing off to Leeds, though I cannot see what need she has to do so; no woman, after all, can understand business, so there is nothing for her to do there.
My father is one of the trustees, and I assure you he will do all in his powers to prevent your niece from being profligate.

Yours sincerely, Tobias Craven.

“Whatever does he mean?” demanded Madelaine. “You want her to marry the vicar and be happy, do you not?”
“I do, if she wants him,” said Adam. “Reading between the lines, and judging from the letters I have also had from Marjorie and Daphne, this ... person ... feels slighted because he thought he would be seen as an adequate suitor to Marjorie, and believes we trammel her closely. His attitudes to women I do not like.”
“No, he sounds most unpleasant,” said Madelaine. “What are you going to do?”
“Nothing; I will not dignify it with a reply,” said Adam. “Val is already investigating him for fraud, so I shall leave my very able nephew-in-law to carry on with that. I’ll write a brief note to Charles, the vicar, so he knows what is going on, and then ignore his infernal cheek. Thus, the relatives and associates of those my father thought it appropriate to bestow on my sisters as husbands,” he added bitterly. “Well, Copley is a decent sort, and Sir Swithin and Braithewaite are dead, so the Brandons must be doing something right, mmmh?” he made his tone light again.
“You sound as proud as if you arranged it,” said Madelaine, cheerfully.
Adam smirked.
He had not arranged it, but he was pretty certain that Val, who might not be a Brandon but he was an excellent in-law, had managed to make sure Sir Swithin had not escaped justice on a technicality. He was equally sure that Edward had left specific instructions with his men to arrange an accident for Solomon Braithwaite. Brandons took care of their own. He had not needed to arrange it.
It was why the family had survived for eight hundred years and had been, on the whole, increasingly successful.
And if Madelaine was uncertain about whether she was continuing the succession, Adam was fairly certain that there was a glow to her which could not be entirely accounted for by her love for him, the secure knowledge that he loved her, and the self-confidence she had gained. He gazed on his wife in deep contentment. Beth had done an excellent job of picking good colours to suit her friend, and Madelaine looked very fine in a half-gown of burgundy coloured lace over a rose petticoat, with rose satin ribbons trimming the bodice and catching the multiple puffs of her Mameluke sleeves. One day, Madelaine would want to go into society again, and show off how the gawky girl had grown into a lovely and elegant woman. She was reluctant at the moment, and Adam had no objection to that, since he disliked society. He was enjoying his honeymoon, though technically the first month was over, now. How time had flown! But he would go into society with her in due course, to let her gloat a little at former detractors, and he would enjoy being the envy of those who had not had the wit to realise what a fine woman she was.
Adam would never stop loving Lucy, but he was supremely happy with Madelaine, who was so much more than an attractive woman, but one who could converse with him, and was happy to learn those things she did not know.
He only hoped that there was nothing on the horizon to spoil that happiness.

Chapter 17

Adam was happy to leave Marjorie to the care of her vicar, with Daphne and Giles in the vicinity as well. Summer, such as it was, was technically over, with August, and in truth, some time even before the traditional ‘honey month’ had been over, Adam and Madelaine had slipped back to most of the habits they had followed prior to the wedding. Both had missed riding out with Lydia, and by tacit consent the habit was resumed, weather permitting, much to Lydia’s approval.
In the next month, Adam hoped to show the little girl such things as where nuts were forming, where flowers had once been, and then in September to go nutting with her. The whole village turned out to go nutting on September 14th, which was a holiday for his tenants, and which few of them realised was a commemoration of the old Catholic feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; only the tradition of nutting remained.
It was with no thought of anything more serious than such yearly traditions that Adam rode out with his wife and their adoptive daughter. He was taken entirely by surprise when a figure arose out of concealment, behind a hedge, and shot him.
The horse reared, throwing Adam’s bloodied body from the saddle. Somehow, Madelaine managed to grab Lydia, before the child fell amongst the plunging hooves, and slithered to the ground in more haste than decorum.
“Adam!” her voice was raw. There was blood all over his neck, soaking into his neckcloth, spattering his face.
“He’s dead, or soon will be, my fine widow,” sneered their assailant.
“You! Louis the slipper-maker,” Madelaine turned to fix him with a glare. He went a dull purple.
“I am confirmed as M. Le Comte de Boisvallonné by my king!” he almost gobbled.
“Well, congratulations, you will hang with a silken rope, not a hempen one,” snapped Madelaine, turning back to her husband, sobbing.
“Come away from him or I will shoot you, too,” said the comte.
“Shoot me then; why should I care when you have killed my husband?” Madelaine choked out the words.
This was a quandary for Louis Fournier. He had supposed that Madelaine had married the first person whom she did not dislike and who was willing. He had not supposed that any deep affection was involved.
The English, however, were sentimentalists.
“Come away or I will shoot the child,” he said.
She turned.
“You would not! She is an innocent!”
He brought up the second pistol, snapped off the safety, and aimed it at Lydia, who was clinging to Adam, sobbing.
“You beast!” Madelaine rose. “Let me at least say farewell to my husband.”
“You have one minute,” said Fournier, as Madelaine knelt by Adam, to kiss his lips.
His lips moved! And his eyelids flickered.
She touched his lids as if making sure they were closed, whispering as she clung to him,
“It is Fournier, he thinks you dead, he threatened Lydia.”
Adam might still die, but he would know she did not leave him voluntarily, and she might at least reach into her reticule for her lip salve and use a toothpick to write ‘Fournier’ on Adam’s neckcloth, and then fold it over. If he was taken up unconscious, someone would see it.
“Get up, you’ve had enough time.”
Madelaine rose, and kissed Lydia.
“I cannot see what you will gain from this,” she said, coldly. “But I assure you, I will find a way to avenge my husband.”
“You? You can scarcely make decisions for yourself of whether to use the Jordan without your mother’s or your husband’s permission,” said Fournier. “I know the habits of the Brandons; they leave dowries and moneys tied up so the widow gets it all back. Don’t flatter yourself that it is you that I desire, you are too tall and your eyebrows are ugly and you are as graceless as a Spanish cow. But I do desire your fortune, as there’s nothing to be had from the despoiled lands of my demesne, and when you are my wife, I’ll have it. Now come: I have a carriage. I can still hit the brat from here, you know.”
Madelaine went with him, fear for Lydia making her do what he commanded, knowing nothing of guns, but aware that some men shot out candle flames for bets. Her ears were roaring, and she moved like one in a dream. Would Adam survive? What if he did not? Would Lydia be found safe? Surely Adam’s horse would return to the stable and that would alert people? But she could not risk this horrible man shooting poor little Lydia. She stumbled at his direction, to the road, where a coach was held, a coachman on the box, and a man in livery at the door to hold it open, and to give Madelaine a none-too-gentle hand up.

The coach into which Madelaine found herself bundled was luxurious and comfortable, but she scarcely noticed. She was wondering if she could manage to kill Fournier; she had heard that there were often pistols kept in the pockets on the inside doors of coaches, and he was busy reloading his pistols. He looked up, and saw her glancing at the door pocket nearest, and laughed.
“Don’t bother to try, Madelaine,” he said. “There are no pistols there, only mine in my own hands. You will not be rid of me as easily as I am rid of your late husband. I will marry you as soon as we are on French soil.”
“Yes, please do, for if he lingers and does not die immediately I will be able to denounce you as an adulterer,” said Madelaine.
He narrowed his eyes.
“You would, too, I think,” he said. “Then I will wait until the notice of his death is published; it is of little moment to me, for I have a licence, and he will not linger many days if, indeed, he yet lives.”
“I would rather kill you than marry you,” said Madelaine.
He laughed again.
“You are a silly, melodramatic girl,” he said. “You do not have the courage to kill anyone.”
Madelaine thought, I might not have had the courage to kill someone when you knew me before, but I am Madelaine Brandon, Baroness Darsham now, and I wish to avenge my husband and the threats to my daughter. She must not let her thoughts show, she must not let him see that she was anything but cowed, for if he thought her in his control she had a better chance of escaping, and better yet, of killing him. Oh, if only Adam had been found, and that he might not be fatally wounded! But most people who had been shot, died of it. It did not take much to permit her eyes to overbrim with tears, tears for her husband, for herself, and for Lydia, outside alone.
Fournier finished loading his pistols and sneered. A tearful wench was the very devil, but then, at least it showed he had mastered her.

The drive was interminable. At last they stopped at an inn.
“If I let you out, will you behave yourself?” asked Fournier.
“You mean, not tell all and sundry that you are a murderer who is kidnapping me? Why would I ever fail to let people know what you are like?” said Madelaine.
He hit her.
Madelaine fell off the seat with the force of the blow, and wept in as much shame as pain as the discomfort in her bladder emptied itself in the shock.
Mon Dieu! Filthy woman, I will not stay here with the stench of your fear, you will have to live with it, and my coachman will clean up. You will go without food and water until we are in France. Then I will not have to live with the stink of what goes through.”
“Good, then I will die and will be with my husband,” said Madelaine. He slapped her again, and left her.
Madelaine waited, then peeked through the blinds on the road side of the coach. She could see nobody, and tried the door.
It was locked.
She sobbed in earnest.
If he meant what he said, she feared being ill. When she was fourteen, she had barricaded herself in her bedroom over some argument with her mother, in the days when she still argued, and had been so very thirsty. She had come to after eventually passing out, recalling terrible dreams, and found that someone had been sent to climb a ladder to her window, and that she had been ill from what the doctor called ‘dehydration’. He had said she was lucky not to have died, and chided her for her naughtiness. It would be worse nightmare than it already was. Perhaps she should pretend compliance, and might manage to leave a letter for someone to find.
The coachman came in with a bucket of suds and a scrubbing brush; another man stood outside. The coachman addressed her in a torrent of French which Madelaine had trouble following, but he seemed angry with her.
“I don’t like you, either, you murdering Frog,” said Madelaine. “I hope they send you to the guillotine for being complicit in killing my husband.”
Apparently he understood enough of that to snarl at her. Madelaine smiled brightly.
“While you are helping your pantoufflier to steal other men’s women, your wife is comforting herself in bed with the blacksmith,” she said. “All for a slipper maker who pretends he is an aristo.”
He actually raised a hand.
“Oh, have you permission to hit me?” she taunted.
He did not, and hastened out of the carriage. She heard the door lock.

It seemed an age before Fournier came back.
“I could not help it, it had been a long time since I had made myself comfortable,” said Madelaine. “If you will let me have breaks to relieve myself, I will not try to run away, if you will permit me to drink.”
He laughed.
“Ah, your mother was right that you are stubborn but can be persuaded,” he said.
She stared, aghast.
“Are you telling me that my mother is a party to this abduction?” she asked.
He laughed again.
“No, but I learned much about you from her. Very well, we have a pact. I will permit you to drink, but not, I think, to eat. We don’t want you too well and healthy, do we?”
It was better than nothing. Madelaine gritted her teeth and nodded. After all, many of the beggars whom Edward and Beth tried to help went without food, sometimes for days at a time. And perhaps it would be as well not to have a full belly if he truly planned to take her across the channel.

At the next stop, Madelaine was permitted to go into the inn for a cup of tea. She managed to arrange the folds of her riding habit to hide the stain, and while Fournier was paying, Madelaine managed to slide several sheets of the inn’s poor writing paper into her reticule. In the Jericho she wrote a brief note.
“Dear Merry,
I am writing to you in case Adam did not survive and to allay suspicions. Fournier is carrying me south, I think to Dover, to go to France. If Adam is alive, tell him I love him.
Written at the White Hart, in a village with a toll gate and a timber-framed guild-hall across from the inn.

Madelaine planned to leave the letter with sixpence in the Jericho, but a serving maid came in as she was about to leave.
Madelaine showed her the letter and the sixpence.
“Will you mail this for me?” she asked.
“For a whole sow’s baby? I’ll say,” said the maid, pocketing the vail and the letter. Madelaine heaved a sigh of relief. The girl would be unlikely to reveal the vail, which the innkeeper might make her share with him if he knew of it, and therefore she would not reveal the letter. It was a risk that had to be taken that she would keep the money but not mail the letter, but Madelaine hoped that since there was no great difficulty and no risk to the girl, she would carry out her commission.
She got back into the coach, and feigned exhausted resignation by collapsing back against the squabs to hide her euphoric hope. After all, even if the letter got back to Darsham Hall to Merry, Merry would need to alert someone like Edward, if Adam was dead, or dying or very sick. The letter should reach the Hall tomorrow, if the girl remembered and caught the post, but it was as well to assume she might be dilatory. Edward would surely be called anyway, as he was still the heir presumptive, and even if Adam lived, he would be called to his uncle’s side. That problem was sorted out.
What if Edward thought she had gone willingly? Surely he would realise she had not done so? But if he did not ...
Tears welled up under Madelaine’s lashes and ran silently down her cheeks. Hope was in vain, and she felt so nauseous. In truth she had woken nauseous, but a piece of toast and cup of tea had settled it, but the swaying of the coach, and her fears were bringing the feelings back. She could do nothing in any case, and let herself fall sideways on the seat, half swooning.

Chapter 18

Adam felt himself being moved, and heard the hysterical sobs of Lydia.
“Lydia...” he managed. His voice was a croak.
“Lie still, milord, and we’ll soon hev yew back at them ow’ house,” said the tones of Obadiah Foulger, the ostler.
“My wife, that villain took my wife,” whispered Adam.
“Aye, milord, and Bailiff be on follerun un, along o’ all the poachers in the demesne,” said Obadiah. “Do-ant yew go frettin’ yorseln intu a fever, dew yew oon’t be no good to yore missus when her be returned.”
Adam gave up making any vocal expostulations; there was no point arguing with a Suffolk man, having once told you how it was going to be, any attempt to dissuade him was about as much point as Canute telling the tide not to come in. He permitted himself to be carried back to the Hall, in time to see the local doctor’s carriage arriving. Miss Merritt ran out and took Lydia from the ostler carrying the squirming child.
“Where is Madelaine, my lady, I mean?” asked Miss Merritt.
“Abducted, Miss,” said Obadiah. “Yew concentraert on gettin’ th’ maaster well, so he cin goo and give what-for tu the villyun wass took her.”
“My lord, are you sensible?” asked Miss Merritt.
“As much as any man and therefore less so than usual,” said Adam. “I have no desire to see that blasted doctor, but I suppose you won’t get rid of him now he’s here until he has seen me. Do your best, I pray you! I can’t cope with his idiocies when I’m worrying. My lily-maid was abducted by that blasted French slipper-maker, and I think she wrote his name on my neckcloth in case I stuck my spoon in the wall. She knows I was alive when she was taken; the wretch threatened to shoot Lydia if she did not go with him.”
“Oh, the villain!” cried Miss Merritt. “What is to be done?” she wrung her hands.
“Send for Edward and write a letter to Val to bring his boat,” said Adam. “Moyse knows their addresses, he can do it if you tell him.”
“And I’ll see to my patient, now, Miss,” said the doctor, cheerily. “Shot by poachers, Adam?”
“No, damn you, a Frenchman.”
“Ah, really? I’ll have to bleed him if he’s wandering enough to think we are still at war,” said the doctor to Miss Merritt.
“Don’t be ridiculously fatuous, you fool,” said Miss Merritt, tartly. “You should listen to what his lordship said; he said ‘a Frenchman’, not ‘Frenchmen’ and the Frenchman’s name is Fournier and he is an enemy of the Baroness. You will not bleed his lordship, who needs to be in possession of all his strength to deal with the abduction of his lady. He’s lost enough blood to the bullet.”
“Brava, Merry,” said Adam.
The doctor had fallen back half a step.
“Oh, I see, I did not perfectly understand ...”
“I hope you understand your business better; I shall oversee your efforts,” said Miss Merritt. “Someone send for Polly, I am sure Miss Lydia needs a nice cup of hot milk and a nap.”
“I’m here, Miss Merritt.”
Lydia, somewhat pacified over hearing Adam speak, was happy to go with Polly. Miss Merritt marched upstairs to Adam’s room to see the doctor minister to him.

The doctor washed the blood from Adam’s neck and gasped.
“Good G-d!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, he is,” said Adam.
“I cannot see how this happened, my lord,” said the doctor.
“I can,” said Adam. “The bullet hit the emerald pin I was wearing at my throat, and was deflected. I felt it plough through my throat, but there was no sudden spurt of blood, so I knew it had missed the artery. I wager the shards of emerald you pull out of my chin and cheeks will be the most expensive splinters you’ve ever removed in your life.”
“Good G-d!” said the doctor, again, reaching for tweezers to do just that. “Dear me, that has been costly!”
“On the contrary,” said Adam. “What is a bauble in comparison to my life? I consider it very lucky.”
“Yes, indeed, my lord,” said Miss Merritt. “It is better to store up riches in Heaven than to lay up riches on earth where moth and rust corrupt, and thieves break in and steal.”
“A thief has stolen my greatest treasure, so not an entirely apposite quote, Miss Merritt,” growled Adam.
“But because you are not seriously harmed, you will be able to rescue her,” said Miss Merritt.
“Quoting the scriptures to your own end, Miss Merritt? Why the horns and tail would be quite fetching,” said Adam.
“My lord!” said Miss Merritt.
“My lord!” expostulated the doctor. “Your levity is not proper under the circumstances!”
“My levity under the circumstances is the only thing which is preventing me from laying you out, being rude to Merry, and riding out after my Elaine.”
“My lord, you will not be riding out today,” said the doctor.
“I am aware of that; I can see that it’s well past noon and can surmise that I lay unconscious for several hours and that the trail is cold. I heard the wretch tell Elaine that she was a widow and I assume he is after her widow’s portion. Being a comte in a land coming out of a crippling war is presumably not as profitable as he thought. It is fairly common knowledge that Brandon weddings leave a widow with control of what monies she brought to the marriage.”
“Aye, and Brandons well able to do so, for having increased the value of any dowry by putting it to work,” said the doctor. “Except your father who was content to leave his money in the funds.”
“Let’s not bring my father into anything; I am already feeling deucedly unwell without having to contemplate that hop out o’ kin,” said Adam. “If it wasn’t for the hair, I’d wonder if my grandfather ran away to the gypsies because my grandmother played him false. Maybe she did, enough of Peter the Pirate’s get around to provide the peculiar way it swirls at the crown as well as the colour.”
“This is not a healthy line of conjecture, my lord,” said the doctor, severely.
Adam laughed.
“It’s a line of conjecture others have followed, and as my sire was acknowledged one which holds no legal water, so I care not how the succession occurred. Have you finished messing with my emerald?”
“I believe I have removed all the shards which penetrated far enough not to fall out of their own accord,” said the doctor, severely. “I want to stitch the wound on your neck; we do not want it opening, and causing more blood loss. And then I should bleed you ...”
“Listen to yourself, man, you want to avoid more blood loss and yet you want to bleed me.”
“It is a matter of being controlled ...”
“Controlled, nothing. I’m not choleric, and bleeding does nothing but make me faint. It always has done. Stitch me up if you will, and if you will not do so then get out now. I’ve no doubt Miss Merritt’s stitchery is equal to the task.”
“I will stitch you up, my lord, and I will leave you with a warning that if you are not bled, you may be feverish.”
“Leave me with any amounts of warning you like, man, just stitch me up and then leave me any way you like.”
The doctor did as he was bid, grim faced, and stalked out.
“You may have gathered, Miss Merritt, that Richard Watson and I do not get on well,” said Adam.
“I wondered if you were merely cantankerous because of being in pain,” said Miss Merritt.
“No, I am cantankerous because the presence of Watson causes the major pain,” said Adam. “We were at grammar school together, where he decided without proof that I was one of Peter the Pirate’s bastards, and he and his friends set out to make my life miserable. I fought back, of course. I got some leverage on him when he broke my arm and blacked my eye; my father had his father out to me, and I said only that it was a boy in school. My father complained to the Dominie, who threatened a whipping if he found out who it was. Watson dared not say anything to a father who waxed hot about any boy who would set upon a younger boy who was, besides, the baron’s son. I went, of course, by ‘Adam Brandon’ at school. I was able to hold over him the fact that I had not told who it was. I will not have him for Elaine’s confinement when we have her back, if the shock does not make her miscarry.”
“Oh, my lord, do you think ...”
“She was pale and queasy at breakfast, and I’m not so much of a hermit that I don’t know what that means,” said Adam. “That fellow has abducted my wife and child, and I am going to kill him.”
Miss Merritt gave a little squeak, but she could not find anything to say to dissuade his lordship.
She was quite furious enough on behalf of Madelaine to want to do violence for herself on Louis Fournier.

Edward arrived before tea, and ran up to Adam’s room still covered in the mud of travel. Moyse did not attempt to dissuade him.
“Adam!” Edward stared at Adam, sitting up and consuming buttered eggs and tea. “I heard you were shot through the neck and at death’s door! What of Madelaine?”
“The reports of my imminent demise have been grossly exaggerated, and probably just as well,” said Adam. “When that filthy beast realises I am alive and likely to remain so, he is likely to kill Elaine out of hand. You are to insert a notice in the Morning Post that I have been shot, and my wife gone missing. Have the notice say that I am hovering at death’s door but have been able to dictate a will. That should keep him worrying and wondering. It also means he can’t try to marry her until I am dead. You will have to get Knightley to insert daily bulletins, where I rally then fail a little, feverish and rambling about Frenchmen. That should convince the ... fellow that he is free and clear.” He modified his language since Miss Merrit was in the room to encourage him to eat.
“Dammit, Adam, I’m amazed you aren’t riding after her!”
“Edward, when did you begin to think me senile?”
“Never! But ....”
“If I ride after her, weak from blood loss, I will doubtless fall from my horse and make her a widow in sooth. While there are reports of me being alive, he will not lay lewd hands on her; he will hope to make her wed him, if not willingly, at least not denouncing him at the altar when she thinks there is no other hope. I need my strength and my wits, and I have had Moyse send for Val and his ship, the ‘Foam Dancer’ down to Blytheburgh. We can sail from there to France, and though it will be a more horrific ordeal for my poor Elaine, at least she shall have a live husband. And we might even intercept the fellow’s vessel.”
Edward nodded.
“I see, I am sorry I doubted you, Adam. I half wondered if you believed she would have gone willingly, having been betrayed once.”
“You were not there, so I forgive the calumny to my bride. Her tears washed blood from my face as she told the fellow indifferently that he might as well shoot her as well, as he threatened to do, as she had nothing to live for.”
“Monstrous!” cried Edward.
“Worse, he got her to go with him by threatening to shoot Lydia,” said Adam, grimly. “At least he had not the wit to take Lydia with him, to have a continuing threat.”
“She ain’t like Beth, sir; she’s not the sort to wriggle out of a window and climb down a tree in an inn if guarded outside her room, as I wager Beth would do.”
“No, she isn’t, and I also anticipate that she is not likely to cause him enough ire to hit her about. I hope so, anyway. However, as you are here, and have more energy than I, as well as writing all to Knightley and sending a boy to ride to London faster than the mail can go, I want men out along the road south, calling at every inn after ... oh, twenty miles from here. He has to go by Ipswich; but have men go into the town and see if there has been a French ship in the port. It’s the way I would go, unless I could find convenient smugglers who know this coast better, but I cannot see him riding and making her ride. He is more likely to have hired or brought a carriage. And he is a landsman.”
“So are you.”
“Aye, but I’ve been raised on pirate tales and I know that once you take ship distances which are tedious and lengthy on land become relatively as nothing. We can ride to Blytheborough inside an hour, for it is but eight miles away, and there’s a deep estuary for the ‘Foam Dancer’. Thence we could be in Calais the next day if the tide is right. How long would it take for a coach to get to Dover from here? For I wager, he will be fixated on the shortest crossing time, not the shortest travelling time.”
“Egad!” said Edward, much struck. “This is why you need to breed those brains of yours, not turn up your toes and leave it to me. If he has a team of six, or a particularly good team of four, and has bespoken other teams on the way, it will take him between two and three days to even get to Dover. The Ipswich road is not exactly one of the best to be found; you won’t do sixteen miles an hour along it even with a team of four short-steppers and a curricle.”*
“Quite,” said Adam.

Heiress in Hiding 16-18

Sarah WaldockJanuary 09, 2018 06:03PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 16-18

Agnes BeatrixJanuary 09, 2018 10:12PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 16-18

AlidaJanuary 09, 2018 09:16PM

Aaack! Such angst! nfm

KarenteaJanuary 09, 2018 08:40PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 16-18

NickiJanuary 09, 2018 07:04PM

Re: Heiress in Hiding 16-18

ConnieRJanuary 09, 2018 06:56PM


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