I knew I must escape, but I had nowhere to run. The letters lying on the desk beside me had proclaimed it. How I wished at that moment that I had taken Mr. Clapham’s clammy hand instead of making myself available for Malcolm’s trap.
“I know this is sudden dear, but father and the minister are on the way. You should go with Mrs. Kerr and get ready.”
“I can’t get married in this.”
“Darling, it’s just the family.”
“We must do this properly, please there is just the dress I need in the attic.”
“I shouldn’t indulge you so, it sets a dangerous precedent, but go ahead.”
As we made our way to the attic, I tried desperately to think of what I should do now. I knew I could not take vows. I knew Gideon was waiting for me to return with Jasper. I hated to think of what Gideon’s family would do to him if he was discovered. I also shuddered to think what sort of man Jasper would be if he stayed. I had already seen the beginnings of what he might become. If it were not for Jasper and Gideon, I might have given into Malcolm and my despair.
The attic was as dark as it always was, dimly lit by Mrs. Kerr’s solitary candle. We both knew the dress we were looking for. I sank down on the sofa, if front of the last forlorn bride in this place. My foot struck the stub of the candle I had left here last time. I now knew what I would do.
I slipped into the white dress and stood patiently while Mrs. Kerr laced me into it. I made a grab for her candle and she slapped me away from it. The taste of blood in my mouth kept the smile from my lips. Mrs. Kerr had acted just as I had hoped. She thought what I wanted was the candle, so she took no notice that one of the matches that had lain on the lip of the candleholder was now missing.
Mrs. Kerr had already moved to stand next to the door. I loosed an earring and dropped it to the floor. I bent down to retrieve it. I struck the match underneath the sofa and thrust the match and candle stub into a pile of fabric as quickly as I could.
“Hurry up,” Mrs. Kerr barked.
I hoped that I had been able to set a fire and not it would not be smothered out before it caught. I was careful not to look behind me as we left the attic.
As we descended the staircase I saw that the minister and man I had no doubt was Malcolm’s father, the resemblance was too strong, had arrived. We began the vows without preamble. I prayed for an interruption. I cared not if it came from my handiwork or God’s intervention. The huge oaken doors slammed open.