Chapter Forty-One

Of my journey to Tottenham

The weather was bright, but cold. I had taken care to wear a riding habit for warmth, which I had borrowed from Mother Shadbolt’s wardrobe. I was not looking forward to our drive north. It seemed odd that Lord Appleby would wish to continue with the trip, when the fate of his son must surely press on his mind, and, though I am not given to guilt, something else worried me too; my liaison with Westman. I harboured vexatious thoughts that Lord Appleby, knowing his brother’s temperament, would intuit the nature of our relationship. That being the case, I smiled graciously and said very little.

Disconsolately, Lord Appleby offered his hand to help me into the carriage. He pecked my cheek before he settled back down in his place. I had thought Selina, at least, would be pleased to see me, given she was the one who wanted me to go with them to Tottenham, but she appeared morose and uttered not a word. I wondered if they had second thoughts about Oliver. How does one broach the subject of death without appearing ill mannered? I had already shown my hand in that respect. I did not wish to give further offence. I could not make eye contact with either of them, and so looked out of the window, as we made progress through the London streets. In this manner we soon reached Hoxton, which is, for the most part, given over to vegetable gardens. I was pleased to be reminded that all was not entirely paving stones, cobbles and excrement. 

We continued along the Kingsland Road, and made good time to the crossroads. Hackney lay to the East and Stoke Newington to the North. I had never been this far out of London, save for my childhood home in Norfolk, so I was quite engrossed in observations of country life. A great many fine houses lined the road, interspersed with inns and other properties. I thought it would not be such a terrible thing to be the mistress of a beautiful house in such surroundings. It was within easy reach of the city, and yet one could walk the fields and enjoy the fresh air. One day perhaps, when I am too old to make money on my looks, I will retire to a place like this. Thus, we passed a good hour in almost total silence until, eventually, Lord Appleby ventured to tell me about the person we travelled to see.

“He is James Townsend. A very fine man who has married into money and land. Not that he did not have the wherewithal, but it always helps to find a wife with ample estates at her disposal. His father is a Member of Parliament and James too. He was elected quite recently to some distant part of the West Country.”

“I do not understand politics,” I said. “What of his wife?”

“Henrietta. She was Lord Coleraine’s natural daughter,” he said.

I glanced at Selina, but she remained down at the mouth. I vowed to talk to her about her brother when we found an opportunity to be alone together.

“Natural daughter?” I said. 

“Born out of wedlock in Italy.  Townsend had a devil of a job to get her estates signed over, but he managed by Jove. He managed it. For this reason, I know I can introduce you and no one will mind your being…” He fluttered his gloved fingers.

 I noticed the cuff on his coat was threadbare. I nodded. It was difficult for a gentleman to pass off a whore as a very proper mistress. Many did, of course, but it was often not without some trouble. Our carriage bumped and threw us from side to side. We passed through Stoke Newington, over a rill (there are many such streams along this road, for the ground is quite marshy to the east), and up a long slow incline.

“We approach the turnpike at Stamford Hill,” said Lord Appleby. “It is not far now. For goodness sake Selina, brighten yourself. Townsend’s wife is a dear young thing, but quite without wit.” 

Selina let out a long sigh. I turned to her and placed my hand over hers as it rested on her lap. She looked up into my eyes and an unspoken communication passed between us, of such sadness on her part, I felt as if my heart might break there and then. She believed her brother dead and mourned his passing, as would any true sister.

The carriage slowed and the driver spoke to the gatekeeper. After a short while, the horses took up the strain once more and pulled through the gate. Selina removed her hand from under mine. The spell was broken. I sat back in my seat and watched the wooded landscape.

Not half a mile from the turnpike, the carriage shook in such a terrible manner I was almost thrown to the floor. As we came to a standstill, there came shouting. I tried to see what had happened, but Lord Appleby pushed me back into my seat. He opened the door and had barely set foot on the step, when a shot rang out and he fell to the ground. Both Selina and I screamed. Selina rushed to attend to her father, and would have placed herself in danger too, but I sent her back and tumbled to the ground beside Lord Appleby’s body. 

He groaned with pain. At least he was still alive. I whirled round to find myself before a masked man on horseback. He held Lucius at gunpoint, the driver having fallen from the carriage and run away. Our attacker holstered one of his pistols, which I took to be the one he had used to fell Lord Appleby. The highwayman’s horse stamped back and forth over the muddy road. Breath steamed from its nostrils. I stepped forward, my eyes screwed to focus more clearly on our attacker’s features. I thought I recognised him, but I could not be sure.

“William? Is that you?” I said. I thought it was Westman come to carry out the foul deed and murder his brother.

“Get back or I will shoot him,” he shouted, gruffly. 

He meant to kill Lucius also. The Blackamore warned me off with a shake of his head. I stepped back. I could see nothing of the highwayman’s face, save his eyes, which burned like hot coals. It was Westman. I was sure of it. Selina fell at her father’s side and cradled his head.

“You’ve killed him,” she cried.

I threw my reply back at her. “He lives yet,” while to our attacker I shouted, “you are a murderous liar.”

The horse jumped and turned. The highwayman twisted in the saddle, the pistol still held at Lucius. Then, in an instant, he took aim again and fired at Selina. I saw smoke explode from the pistol as the shot rang out. I screamed “No,” and fell on Selina. I pushed her roughly beneath me, sheltering her from further attack. When I turned back, our attacker urged his horse forward and galloped away. Only then could Lucius come to our aid.

Selina had naught but a scratch on the temple. She was lucky. Lord Appleby though, bled profusely from a wound to the upper chest. I did not think him long for this world, but I did not mention this fact. Instead, I asked for Lucius’ help to get him inside the carriage.

“Can you drive the horses?” I said.

“Yes,” replied Lucius.

“And you know where this man Townsend lives?”

“I do,” he said. “We’ve been there before.”

“Very well. Then take us as fast as you can. Selina, help me with your father.”

I tore at my underskirt to make a wad of material to staunch the flow of blood.

“Here, hold this tight against the wound,” I said to Selina.

We rested Lord Appleby on the floor of the carriage and between us made him comfortable. Lucius took up position on the driver’s seat and drove the horses until they were foam-flecked.  In this way, it took it took little time to reach our destination, which appeared on the crest of a low hill as an old red brick mansion house, with a curious tower. As we pulled into the stable yard, our host ran from the house, closely followed by his wife and two servants. 

“We saw you coming. Do you have the Devil at your back? What has happened?” said Townsend. 

He opened the door to let us out and gasped as he saw Lord Appleby lying on the floor of the carriage.

“We were attacked on the road, not half a mile from here,” I said. “Our driver ran off.”

The servants lifted Lord Appleby out. 

“Take care,” I said. “He has lost much blood.”

“Take him to the parlour. Then send for the surgeon,” said our host. 

Lucius would have accompanied Lord Appleby but Townsend’s wife gave him a look which said ‘remain here’ and he acquiesced. Not everyone is happy to have a Blackamore in their house, though Townsend had a black boy that attended the family, for I noticed him peering out of the window. When he saw me looking at him, he jumped back, out of sight.

Henrietta put an arm around Selina and helped her inside. I followed behind them. The servants settled Lord Appleby in a small parlour, and one of them ran for hot water. The mistress of the house ordered the fire built up and food and drink brought for Selina and me. She then unbuttoned Lord Appleby’s coat and tore his shirt away from the bloody wound to his chest. 

“If the shot is still inside, then it will have to be cut from him. I can do little more for him than make him comfortable.” She gave a sad smile.

I knelt beside Lord Appleby, took one of his hands in my own and pressed it to my lips. He opened his eyes briefly, but said nothing. Selina took his hand from me and held it tight. Tears streamed down her face. I rose and turned to Townsend.

“We must fetch the constable,” he said. “The scoundrel that did this cannot have got far. Someone may have seen him.”

“Do you have a horse we can borrow?” I said.

“Yes, but you cannot think you will go after him yourself?” 

“Lord Appleby will not survive the day. It is imperative that we ride for London.”

“But this is madness. You have only just arrived, and you are woman.”

“Tell me Sir. What was the purpose of Lord Appleby’s visit here?” I decided to be bold. Nothing would be gained by being a simpering female.

“A business matter,” said Townsend. He was guarded.

“Yes, but what manner of business? Was it about the East India Company?” I said.

“Yes, but how…”

“He means to break your company does he not?” I said.

“He will never do that. The East India Company is too powerful,” said Townsend.

I gave Lord Appleby a worried look. I had to catch up with Westman, whether on the road, or hiding in some shabby den in London. Purposefully, I walked back through the house. I found the stable yard and our carriage-and-four waiting where we had left it. Townsend followed me. I could not very well take the carriage - Selina would need it. The stable boy brought out a bucket of water for the horses. James Townsend’s own mount stood ready saddled. 

“This one?” I said, and took up the reins.

“If you think you can handle her,” said Townsend. “But, I do not understand… do you not want to tend to his Lordship’s wounds? To make sure he is all right?” 

Clearly, Townsend was confused by my intentions.

“There is no need. Forgive me if I sound harsh, but we are on the heels of a man who has killed twice already, and now, I fear, a third time. Take care of Lady Selina, for she is all that stands between a mad man and an inheritance.” 

Not that there was much of anything left to inherit – a title, a rundown country seat perhaps, and the property in Cavendish Square - if it was not already set against debts. The Devil must be stopped. I beckoned Lucius forward. 

“Do you wish to remain with his Lordship?”

“How is he?” he asked.

“If truth be told, he is at death’s door.” I spoke with a low voice. “There is nothing the surgeon or anyone can do for him. Trust me. I have seen this before. The shot penetrated his chest, very close to his heart.”

 I hoped my words did not hurt Lucius too much. He was close to his master. He took in a deep breath and thought on the matter. I could not allow him long. We needed to be away.

“What do you say?” I asked him.

“My orders were to remain by your side,” he said. “If you wish to go off on this foolish errand, then I must make sure you reach your destination safely.”

“They will take good care of him. You know that?” I said.

“I know,” he replied. 

He took the reins from my hand, mounted the horse and reached down to me. I had ridden many times when growing up on my father’s farm, and it came as second nature to me to be once more on horseback. I sat before Lucius, and he reached around to hold me and the reins both.

 “I will send my man here back with your horse in the morning. He can then attend to Lady Selina’s needs,” I said to Townsend. “Whether she wishes to return to London, or rest here awhile… I trust you will accommodate her?”

 “Of course. My dear, I do not know you, but you are either very brave or very foolish,” said Townsend.

“It makes no difference which,” I said. “Come, Lucius, we must hurry.”

He kicked the horse and it leaped forward. 

“You are welcome to visit us at any time,” shouted out Townsend.

We were out of the gate in an instant and bound for London, back the way we had come.

“You will not catch him,” said Lucius as we galloped down the muddy road.

“I don’t intend to,” I returned. “Craddock will do that for us.”


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