I turned, expecting to see that Gideon had come to my rescue. Instead Jasper stood, laughing. No one else seemed pleased to see him.
“I thought you didn’t want to marry my Uncle, Miss Lucy?”
“Go upstairs, change your clothes,” Malcolm said
“Should we-“the minister began.
“No,” the elder Mr. A- said. It was a voice one didn’t argue with.
I tried to resign myself, I was to be married. I had failed and there would be no rescue. Lost in my self pity I did not notice that everything around me had stopped. I finally turned to see what the others were gawping at.
My heart leapt as I saw Gideon. It only took a moment for Malcolm’s shock to turn to a sneer.
“I’ve come for my son.” Gideon said in a voice much like his father’s.
“Jasper. Jasper, come here.”
Malcolm began to laugh. “You’ve come here for nothing. That little tart, the one who loved you was sleeping with anything in trousers.”
Jasper came calmly down the stairs.
“Excuse me, Uncle, but I think the house is on fire.”
Mrs. Kerr made the sound of a wounded animal. She flung herself towards the staircase. I ran for the door, grabbing Jasper’s hand as I went. There was a great tumult behind us, and then Gideon was by our side. His nose had been bloodied and his shirt torn.
The three of us managed to shut the doors just as the hall began to fill with smoke. Jasper produced a key from his pocket and locked the doors.
“You can’t, they might die,” I protested. “What if they can’t find their way out?”
“Then everything is mine.”
Gideon and Jasper exchanged a look.
“It’s time to go,” Gideon said as turned away from Jasper and walked towards the stables.
“He’s lost. I was too late.”
I stood and watched smoke and flame begin to rise. Gideon returned with a simple cart. As we drove away , I thought I heard Jasper laughing. I started to turn to look. Gideon put his hand on my arm.
“Don’t look back.”
A week later, we boarded the ship for America, I tried to convince myself that all that had happened was a nightmare. I was truly free this time, but as we pulled away from the shore I could hear Jasper’s laughter on the wind.