‘Speaking of Miss Cavenhurst, my lord. I was on my way back when I saw the lady running down Ludgate Hill pursued by a young fellow in a black suit, shouting, “Stop, thief”. I think they had just come out of the jewellers.’
‘You must be mistaken.’
‘I don’t think so, my lord, I am sure it was she. You don’t think...?’
‘No, of course I don’t,’ he snapped. ‘Did he catch up with her?’
‘No. A carriage drew up beside her and she was bundled inside.’
‘I do not know, but I fancy I have seen it somewhere before. I could not follow, being on foot. It could have been an accomplice—’
‘As you say, my lord.’
‘I hope to God she has not been abducted. Heaven knows what her aunt will do if that is the case. I must go to Mount Street at once.’
‘My lord, should you? Your face... And that villain may still be out there.’
‘I am not hiding myself away indoors on his account, Farley. I recall I had a black eyepatch once before.’
‘Aye, you did when you indulged in fisticuffs with that troublemaker at the mill. He didn’t expect that.’
Adam smiled. ‘He looked a whole lot worse than I did after it.’
‘True. Shall I go and obtain such a patch?’
‘If you please. And while I am out, you may start to pack. We are leaving.’
‘Very well, my lord.’
‘Then hire a chaise for tomorrow morning. We will be on the road betimes.’
‘Yes, my lord. Back to Saddleworth, is it?’
‘No. Hadlea in Norfolk. You can go over the route and decide where we will need a change of horses.’
If Farley was surprised at that, he did not comment, but went away to procure an eyepatch.
* * *
Sophie was seated by the window pretending to read, though her thoughts were elsewhere than on her book, and her aunt had gone back to her newspaper, unaware of her niece’s seething emotions. If it had not been for Lord Gorange she could be in prison, accused of stealing her own necklace. She supposed the prison authorities would have allowed her to contact Lady Cartrose, who would have had her released. But, oh, the shame of it! She would have had to explain what she was doing in Ludgate Hill without any sort of escort. Word would have gone back to Jane and Mama and Papa, and they would be so hurt, not only by her behaviour, but Teddy’s, too. As it was she had to rely on Lord Gorange not to tell anyone the real truth. To ensure that she had been forced to say she would think about his proposal.
She was thinking, and the more she thought, the more repugnant the prospect became. And if word got out of this latest escapade, how was she ever going to live it down? Viscount Kimberley would be disgusted with her. And somehow that mattered.
As if her thoughts had summoned him, the footman tapped at the door and entered. ‘My lady, Viscount Kimberley enquires if you are at home.’
‘Yes, of course, show him in,’ Emmeline told him.
His lordship was right behind the servant, who stood aside to allow him to enter. He bowed to both ladies. ‘I am heartily glad to see you both here,’ he said. ‘I hope I find you well.’
‘As you see,’ her ladyship answered while Sophie’s heart began to beat uncomfortably fast. She really would have to discipline herself not to react in that way at the mere sight of him. And why had he said he was so pleased they were both there? Did he expect them not to be? Surely he did not know... No, he could not have. Word did not travel that quickly, not even in London.
‘My lord, please be seated,’ her aunt said, remembering the niceties even if Sophie could not. ‘You have just missed Lord Gorange. I do declare that man is forever on our doorstep. Would you like some refreshment? Tea or coffee, perhaps?’
He flung up his tails and took a seat. ‘No, thank you, my lady. I have but recently breakfasted.’
‘What happened to you?’ Sophie asked. She had been looking at the patch on his eye and the cut just above it. He looked as though he had been in a fight. The very thought of it made her tremble. ‘You look like a pirate.’
‘I had a little altercation with a door.’
Why didn’t she believe him? ‘Is that why you did not attend the ball last night?’
‘Yes. Unfortunately I was not fit to be seen.’
‘It looks painful.’
‘It is nothing.’
‘Miss Malthouse was very disappointed.’