Read The Dollar Prince's Wife Online
Authors: Paula Marshall
âI can give you one, though,' he told her. âIt's fun getting there, isn't it? What about a bath? I feel sticky.'
Dinah said, âI'm sticky, too. I suppose I'd better go to my room, and ring for Pearson to run one for me.'
âI'll run one for you,' he promised, beginning to play the banjo again, and singing soft words which she could not distinguish in the gaps in his conversation with her.
âNo need to trouble Pearsonâor anyone else. We could have one together.' Now he was playing a music hall song, ending with the words, âIf you want to know the time, ask a policeman.'
Memory stirred in her. âThat's what that man we bumped into this morning looked like. A policeman.'
âClever girl,' drawled Cobie lazily. âExactly what I thought myself. Who was he there to arrest? The lionsâor the tigers? You, me?'
Dinah remembered what he had been saying before policemen walked into the conversation, âDo you meanâ¦have a bathâ¦together?'
âWhy not?' he told her idly, running his toes down her calf. âWe could discuss the meaning of life in it.'
âDo you think that he was there to arrest someone? I've never seen anyone arrested.'
Dinah had never engaged in such ridiculous conversations in her life as those she had with her husband. He seemed to encourage her to flit about verbally, not say, âOh, Dinah, don't be
,' as everyone but Faa did when she let her imagination rove loose.
He rose with one agile movement, and made his way to the door which opened on to the splendid bathroom which he had had installed after he had bought his Park Lane home.
âTell me,' he asked, putting his head around the door after he had started the taps running, âwhat is your opinion of the notion of the transmigration of souls? That should do for starters.'
Dinah was still occupied with thoughts about the policeman. âHe certainly wasn't there to arrest me.'
âWho? Oh, the policeman. Come on, Dinah, we mustn't waste all this lovely water, or he will be after you.'
Cobie bent down, scooped her up and, before she could say any more, deposited her, kimono and all, into the deliciously warm bath, before following her in.
âIt was lucky that I ordered a big one,' he told her. âI must have had you in mindâ¦ Let me do dreadful things to you, Lady Dinah,' and he proceeded to do themâ¦
There was a great deal of splashing, water flew everywhere, and Dinah found herself squeaking, âI'm upside down, Cobie, I'll drown!'
âNo, you won't,' he said breathlessly, lifting them both a little so that she surfaced to cry, âOh, oh, no, don't stop, pleaseâ¦'
âShan't,' he gasped. âExciting, isn't it?'
More water flew into the air, and by the time he had finished with her Cobie had to put a gentle hand over her mouth to silence her when she shrieked in ecstasy.
Later she said, a little timidly, for it was not the sort of question one ought to ask perhaps, even of one's husband, âOh, Cobie, have you ever done that before?' Then she laughed a little. âHow silly I am. Of course you have. What a question.'
âYes,' he said gently, stroking her damp hair, and kissing her ear.
âWith Violet,' she couldn't help asking, thinking, Oh, please, not with Violet.
âNo,' he said, holding her close, âNot with Violet. Only once beforeâlong ago. When you were still a little girl.'
He was remembering Jenny, the madam who had run the girls at the brothel at Bratt's Crossing, and knew that even the man he had become had never valued her properly. For whatever reason, she had given him back his manhood after Greer had tried to beat it out of him. She had skilfully restored his self-respect, and her only reward had been to
be half-forgotten until some impulse had made him pull Dinah into the bath with him.
âLong ago,' she repeated, and then, as though some psychic current had passed between them, she said, hesitantly, âWhen youâ¦when your back was hurt?'
Surprised, Cobie's hand stopped its stroking. He looked down at his young wife who was beginning to show a measure of intuitive understanding for which he could never have hoped.
âYes,' he said, slowly. âIt helped to heal it.'
âOh.' Dinah sat up, her face alight, her eyes like stars. âYou are to lie still now. You must be exhausted, holding me up like that. Now, it's your turn to be loved.'
It was the first time that she had initiated love play between them, taken the lead. She rolled over on top of him, kissed him gently on the lips, and began to use her hands and body to pleasure him, as he had pleasured her. She took her time, laughing at him, and teasing him, and he marvelled at the change in her from the timid girl he had first met at Moorings.
Then thought stopped, and this time it was Dinah who put her hand over his mouth to stifle his cries.
Pleasure over, they climbed out of the cooling bath water. Cobie pulled dry towels around them and they went to sleep, there on the bathroom floor, the happy, sated sleep of those who have shared great physical joy.
Cobie's valet, Giles, glanced at the clock. His master had told him earlier on that he and Lady Dinah would be dining at Mr Van Deusen's and that he should be ready to present himself at six of the clock. But Giles was discreet. He knew that his master and his lady had gone up to their bedroom when they had come in, and had not come down for the
tea which had been laid out for them in the drawing room. Tea in the servants' room had been eaten to the accompaniment of nods and winks.
Six o'clock came and went, and still Mr Grant had not rung his bell. Hortense was sent upstairs to Lady Dinah's room, âBut she is not there,' she said, returning downstairs. âShe must be with him. They will be late.'
âI don't think they'll mind,' sniggered Boots, to be reprimanded by senior staff.
At half past six Giles put his head into his master's bedroom. The bed and the room were empty, and all was quiet. He crept over to the bathroom door, opened it as quietly as he could, and looked in. They were lying asleep on the floor, swathed in towels, water everywhere. His grin, when he tip-toed out, was knowing, but kind.
So, Milord, for that was his nickname for his American master, had been having his wicked way with his lady as vigorously as with his whores, had he? Well, he would have to think of some way of waking him up, otherwise, if Milord's track record with women held good, it might be midnight before anyone would see them again.
Cobie, who since his days as an outlaw in the Territory had always slept lightly, heard the door shut quietly behind Giles. He sat up, looked down at his sleeping wife, who was learning the game of love so rapidly that he would have to run to keep ahead of her, and kissed her awake. âTime to wake up,' he told her, âthe world is waiting for us.'
âS'all a waste of time, guv,' Bates said. âHe's laughing at us, and he isn't doing anything. Jumped on me with his lady wife on his arm today, he did. At the Zoo. Thinks it's all a joke. He won't do anything while we watch him.'
Walker stared morosely at him. Only that morning the Commissioner had sent for him and had said, severely, âI know you're still having that feller who bribed us followed, Walker, but you haven't found anything solid yet, have you? I'm giving you an order. You're to let it go.'
Walker considered for a moment telling the Commissioner that he knew who the feller was, but he had no real proof that Horne/Dilley/Grant was doing anything criminal, and gave that idea up.
âLet me have until the end of the week,' he said at last. âThen I'll forget him.'
Which was a lie, of course. He wasn't going to forget Mr Dilley in a hurry.
âNo, Walker. Today. You hear me, Walker. I will be obeyed on this.'
Walker heard him. More morose than ever he went downstairs and gave the news to Bates and Alcott. âNo more unexpected presents,' muttered Bates, âbut no standing about in all hours and all weathers, either.'
He and Alcott were not the only ones who had received gifts. Walker had gone home one night to find his wife cutting up a great pineapple, a rare treat. The message on the basket of fruit which had arrived that afternoon simply said âFrom an admirer'. His wife was so delighted that Walker was compelled to accept the pineapple and eat itâgall in the mouth as it was.
âBesides, if he's that clever,' Bates told Alcott before he found out what his new duties were, âhe'd lose us if he wanted toâonly he don't want. And for why? He ain't doing nothing.'
He had tracked Mr Dilley round London two nights ago. He was having an evening out with his friend, Mr Van Deusen, and they had visited several clubs and dives in and
around the Haymarket, Mr Van Deusen having a mind to sample London's demi-monde. Now, he was going to have a night at home for a change, and forget Mr Dilley who took a delight in trailing him round London, letting him know every now and then that he was quite aware of his shadow.
He wasn't going to be shot of Mr Dilley as easily as that, no, indeed, for when he arrived at the Yard early the next morning it was to find Walker waiting for him, his face alight.
âSomething's broken, Bates, and if that damned fool upstairs hadn't pulled us off Dilley's case we might know more than we do. What's happened isn't niceâand what
happen might not be nice, either, if I know Mr Dilley. Something tells me he's not going to like what's happened.'
He laughed loudly, rubbing his hands together.
âWell, what has happened?' Bates asked. Walker had a habit of not telling you, keeping you on tenterhooks.
Walker told him the unpleasant news.
Bates nodded, and said, âNo, he's not going to like that, sir.' He hesitated. âCan't say I like it much meself.'
âNo more do I, Batesâso what price him, eh?' said Walker. âWe might flush him into the open yet.'
Cobie was spending the morning at Southwest Mining's sumptuous new offices in the City. He was plainly dressed, little of his society splendour showing.
He was reading a report from one of his managers when his secretary put his head around the door.
âThere's a man downstairs wishes to speak to a Mr Dilley. He says that he was told that if he wished to speak to
him urgently he could leave a message here. You said that you wished to be informed if such a request were made.'
âUrgent? You're sure he said urgent, Rogers.'
âHis exact word, sir.'
âWhere have you put him?'
âIn the small office off the main hall.'
âGood. Tell him I'll be with him shortly.'
Urgent. He needed time to think what might be urgent. Something told him what it might be, but he pushed the thought away. Useless to speculate: he must be ready for anything.
In the downstairs office the clerk he had hired in his persona as Mr Dilley stared at the man walking towards him. There was something so cold and hard about him, so unlike shabby and cheerful Mr Dilley that he swallowed, and said, a trifle defensively, âI wouldn't have come, only you did say to do so if it were urgentâ¦'
âQuite right. But I trust you to be discreet on such visits. That is why I chose you. To forgetâas well as to remember. And that is why I pay you well. What is it?'
âIt's the child, Mr Dilley. The little girl, Lizzie Steele. The one you put in the home whose affairs I look after for you. It seems that she disappeared yesterday. The Salvation Army Captain, Bristow, was waiting for me at the office when I arrived there today. Theyâ¦the policeâ¦he alerted the policeâ¦think that they've found her. About six o'clock this morning, they said, a girl child was taken from the Thames. They're pretty sure it's her. Heâ¦Captain Bristowâ¦thought you oughtâ¦would want to knowâ¦'
âShe's dead.' Cobie heard his own voice as though it were someone else's. The rage had begun to rise in him. He repressed it and asked, âThat man, Hoskyns, the one
whom you've been keeping tabs on for me, since he left Madame Louise's. Have you any information about him?'
The clerk nodded, unsurprised by this apparently irrelevant request. He had begun to know Mr Dilley, and nothing could now surprise him.
âI've had a man on him, sir. He's started up again in a tenement near the river. The old trade. Very discreetâa few fine gentlemenâand some as aren't.'
Cobie nodded. âGive me a minute,' he said coolly. There was little outward sign of the inward rage which was consuming him. He had learned to control it. When he was younger it had been written on his face like a flag, causing men to fall away from him frightened. Now it was burning hotly inside him, but invisible.
âWhere have they taken her?'
âThere's a morgue at Limehouse, down by the Thames. They fetched her out of the river not far from there. She'd not been in long, they said.'
Cobie walked to the door and ordered curtly, âWait here for me.'
He took the stairs back to his room two at a time, calling for Rogers once he reached the top.
âRogers! Lend me your old coat, the one you use for working in the basement. Send a note to Park Lane, to Lady Dinah. Present my apologies to her, and tell her that I shall be out on business all day. I may be back this evening in time to take her to Lady Kenilworth's for supper, but if not, she may have the carriage to go alone.'
All the way to the morgue, wearing Rogers's old coat over his own finer clothes, he was cursing inwardly that he had not kept a better eye on Hoskynsâor on the child's stepfather or on Sir Ratcliffe Heneage. He could not believe that her death was an accident. She knew too much. He
should have been more carefulâsent her into the country, but he had done what he thought was best, leaving her where she felt happy among all that she knew.