I had only been away from London for a few weeks, but I already felt as if I were a stranger there. It did not help that Jasper’s actions had unsettled me. I had returned to the attic and found something I hoped was suitable for the occasion. I had also hoped to see Gideon, but he was no where to be found. On the long train ride back to London I had begun to wonder if he hadn’t simply been a dream. The one thing that I was certain of, I had to talk to Malcolm about his nephew, no matter how distasteful he found the conversation.
I had always found dinner parties to be tedious affairs, but not this one. I spent most of the evening trying to either avoid being noticed by acquaintances or trying without much success to gain Malcolm’s attention. It wasn’t until I heard the unmistakable sound of my mother’s laugh that I panicked and bolted for the nearest empty room.
My fortunes seemed to have changed. There was Malcolm, standing by the fireplace. He noticed me and dismissed the man he was talking to. I knew we might not have much time to speak privately, but before I could begin, Malcolm took me by the elbow and led me into a corner.
“I am so pleased to see you Miss Warne.”
“I must speak to you about Jasper.”
“I am disappointed, you have forgotten my rules.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in following rules.”
Malcolm laughed at that.
“Are you unhappy Lucy? I could always fetch your mother or look, it is your Mr. Clapham.”
Malcolm said it loudly enough that Mr. Clapham did join us. I knew it was impossible, but the man seemed even shorter and sweatier than ever. Malcolm winked at me. He was enjoying this. He placed his hand at my waist.
“So this is the man who might have stolen you away from me.”
Mr. Clapham looked at both of us, as if trying to ascertain our relationship.
“I had no idea, your mother never mentioned your engagement.”
“We are keeping it quiet until I am less consumed by my commercial duties.”
The two started discussing business and I used that as my opportunity to slip away. I found a handsome to take me back to the train station, trying to hold back the tears until I had some measure of privacy.
I saw now even more clearly than I had before that I was trapped. I could not go back to my mother’s house and there was to be no help from any quarter in the situation to which I was returning. The worse part was that I was in a snare of my own designing. As I boarded the train to return to the manor I resolved to discover the truth of what was going on there with or without the help of the elusive Gideon Pritchard, whoever he might truly be.