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Authors: Hazel Statham

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BOOK: Dominic
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“It was
m
y brother, sir...”

“My
God,”
he
expostulated. “
W
hat
brother
would
do this?
He has thrashed you sha
m
e
f
ully.”

“It was
m
y own fault—
t
hough I cannot regret it.”


W
hatever
could
you
have
done
to
bring
about
such
retribution,
such
dire
result
s
?”
and
he
rose
to
pace
the roo
m
.

“My brother wishes to be rid of me and pledged
m
y innocence
o
n
a
bet
a
g
ainst
a considerable
sum of
m
oney. Needless to say, he lost the wager and I cannot accept t
h
e consequences of the situation. He would force
m
e
to go to his so called friend but there is no way that I could co
m
ply.”


W
hat of your parents in this situation?” he asked, halting
his
pera
m
bulations
to stand
incredulously
before her.

“They
are
both
dead,
sir.
My
brother
is
m
y
guardian. He
was
ever
a
vi
o
l
ent
m
an
but
m
y
m
other
al
w
ays
stood
between
us
when
she
was
alive,
she
at
least
co
u
l
d
wield
so
m
e
control
over
h
im, until
he started
to drink. The situation ca
m
e to a head over breakfast this morning and then he thought he could beat
m
e into sub
m
ission. Once I had
lost
m
y
senses,
he
locked
m
e
in
m
y
room,
intending to
try
to
c
oe
r
ce
m
e
later, but
m
y
younger
brother
unlocked the door. These are his clothes, though not the coat,” she said
, eyeing the offending garment and giving a wan
s
m
ile.
“That
belongs
to
the
groo
m
,
which
I
suspect
you can
guess
from its
state.
I
left
the
house
and
hid
in
the grounds until
I
was sure
that
m
y brother
had
gone
out,
and then
I just
ran
through
the
streets. I had nowhere to go. I wandered
until
the
light
began to
fade
and
then
I
sought shelter
in
your
portals where
you
found
m
e.
I
beg
your pardon, sir, I would not have involved
y
ou in this coil, and if you would but let
m
e go, I will
b
e
o
n
m
y way.”

“To where and at this ti
m
e of night?”

“I
don’t
as
yet
know,
but
I
will
e
v
olve
a
plan. I
will trespass on your hospitality no longer.”

“You
cert
a
inly
will.
T
h
ere
is
no
w
ay
that
you
could find shelter at this hour. How
m
uch money do you have
?

“None, sir.”

“Exactl
y
! You will
r
emain he
r
e until
m
orning and we will see w
h
at is to be done. In the
m
eanti
m
e, your face must be bathed and a cold compress applied to the swelling.
N
ow wait
here
and
I will
find
so
m
e
cloths
and salve.
Th
er
e
is
no
n
e
ed
to
di
s
t
u
rb
m
y
m
an,
we
will
m
anage quite creditably.”

 

*****

 

Returning a
short
while later
with the req
u
ired o
b
jects, the
e
arl
set
about
bathing
Jack’s
face.
She
said
nothing, but
he
could
see
by
her
expression
that
she
found
it pain
f
ul.

“Thank you, sir,” she said qu
i
etly, when he eventually laid
aside
the
cloths.

B
ut now
you
m
ust
let
me
leave.
I have encroached on your kindness long enough. It is not right that I re
m
ain here.”

“You cannot be left to wander
t
he s
t
ree
t
s,” said Va
l
e, reasoning. “Who knows what kind
of
ruffians
you
will
co
m
e
up
against
and
what
their
treatment
will
be
. Although
this
is
not
a
situation I
would
have
wished
to
be involved in, it is not one that I can ignore.”
Or take advantage
o
f
,
he
said
beneath
his
breath,
a
thought
those of his acquaintance
would not
have
believed
him capable
of; his reputation
a
m
ong
s
t the fairer sex rivaling that of his father.

“I have been thinking,” he continued. “The
m
ost reasonable course open to
m
e is to place you under
m
y mother’s protection.
N
ow don’t look at
m
e with those frightened
eyes;
I assure you, s
h
e is the soul of discretion. You will find her
m
ost understan
d
ing and sympathetic to your
cause.
I
can
think
of
no
one
better
to
whom
you could be entrusted. I have t
w
o younger sisters so you will have
so
m
e
co
m
pany
whilst
under
her
roof.
I
am
convinced she will know exactly what is best to be done, she always does.”


The
Duchess
of
Lear
will
not
welcome
my
being
thrust
upon
her,
sir;
espec
i
ally
if
info
r
m
ed
of
the
circu
m
stances of our
m
eeting. She will not belie
v
e
m
e bla
m
eless, I am
sure. Perhaps if you would but lend
m
e so
m
e
m
on
e
y
I
could
make
m
y
departure
from London.
I pro
m
ise to repay you as soon as I can find suitable e
m
ploy
m
en
t
.”

“As what?” he
m
ocked skeptically.

“I
know
not,
sir,
but
I
am sure
something
will
present itself.
I
am
not
without
res
o
lve,”
she
said,
straightening her shoulders as if to prove the fact.

“I
can
well
believe
it,”
he
said, s
u
ppressing a
s
m
ile. “But consider,
m
y
dear,
e
m
ploy
m
ent is not easily found and you have no experience to offer a would-be e
m
ployer. Who
knows
what
will
befall you
should
you
fail
in
your efforts.
I would gladly
gi
ve
you
m
oney
but
m
y pockets
are to let. No, the only course
open to you is to seek
m
y mother’s
protection.
Indeed,
I
insist
upon
it.
You
do
her an injustice to suppose that she would not believe your plight.”

BOOK: Dominic
6.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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