“It is settled,” her father bit off, “and you should get down on your knees to thank Sir Charles that he has been so generous.”
“You will leave this town,” Sir Charles said sharply, “and you will never return. You will have no contact with my son or any member of my family. You will have no contact with your family. It will be as if you never existed. Do you understand?”
She shook her head in slow disbelief. She did not understand. She could never understand this. Sir Charles, maybe, but her own family? Disowning her completely?
“We have found you a position,” her father said, his voice curt and low with disgust. “Your mother’s cousin’s wife’s sister needs a companion.” Who? Annelise shook her head, desperately trying to folow. Who was he talking about?
“She lives on the Isle of Man.”
“What? No!” Anne stumbled forward, trying to take her father’s hands. “It’s so far. I don’t want to go.”
“Silence!” he roared, and the back of his hand came hard across her cheek. Annelise stumbled back, the shock of his attack far more acute than the pain. Her father had struck her. He had struck her. In all her sixteen years, he had never laid a hand to her, and now . . .
“You are already ruined in the eyes of all who know you,” he hissed mercilessly. “If you do not do as we say, you will bring further shame upon your family and destroy whatever chances your sisters still have at making any sort of marriages.”
Annelise thought of Charlotte, whom she adored more than anyone else in the world. And Marabeth, to whom she had never been close . . . But still, she was her sister. Nothing could have been more important.
“I will go,” she whispered. She touched her cheek. It still burned from her father’s blow.
“You shal leave in two days,” he told her. “We have—”
“Where is she?”
Annelise gasped as George burst into the room. His eyes were wild, and his skin was covered with a sheen of sweat. He was breathing hard; he must have raced through the house when he heard that she was there. One side of his face was covered with bandages, but the edges had started to wilt and droop. Annelise was terrified they would simply fall away. She did not want to see what lay beneath.
“I will kill you,” he roared, lunging at her.
She jumped back, instinctively running to her father for protection. And he must have had some shred of love for her left in his heart, because he stood in front of her, holding up one arm to block George as he surged forward until Sir Charles puled his son back.
“You will pay for this,” George railed. “Look at what you have done to me. Look at it!” He ripped the bandages from his face, and Annelise flinched at the sight of his wound, angry and red, a long, diagonal slash from cheekbone to chin.
It would not heal cleanly. Even she could see that.
“Stop,” Sir Charles ordered. “Get a hold of yourself.”
But George would not listen. “You will hang for this. Do you hear me? I will summon the magistrate and—”
“Shut up, ” his father snapped. “You will do no such thing. If you call her up before the magistrate, the story will get out and the Hanley girl will cry off faster than you can say please.”
“Oh,” George snarled, waving his hand before his face in a gesture of grand disgust, “and you don’t think the story is going to get out when people see this?”
“There will be rumors. Especialy when this one leaves town.” Sir Charles shot another scathing glance at Annelise. “But they will only be rumors. Bring in a magistrate and you might as well put the whole sordid mess in the paper.”
For several moments Annelise thought that George might not back down. But then he finaly yanked his glare away, snapping his head so fast that his wound began to bleed again. He touched his cheek, then looked down at the blood on his fingers. “You will pay for this,” he said, walking slowly toward Annelise. “Maybe not today, but you will pay.”
He touched his fingers to her cheek, slowly drawing a slash of blood in a diagonal, from cheekbone to chin. “I will find you,” he said, and in that moment he almost sounded happy. “And it will be a fine day when I do.”
Daniel did not consider himself a dandy, or even a Corinthian, but it had to be said—there was nothing like a wel-made pair of boots.
The afternoon post had brought a missive from Hugh:
As promised, I visited my father this morning. It is my opinion that he was genuinely surprised, both to see me (we do not speak), and also when he was informed of your misfortune yesterday eve. In short, I do not believe that he bears responsibility for your attack.
I concluded the interview with a reiteration of my threat. It is always good to be reminded of the consequences of one’s actions, but perhaps more pertinent was my delight at watching the blood drain from his face.
Yours and etc.,
H. Prentice (alive as long as you are)
And so, feeling as assured of his safety as he supposed he ever would, Daniel headed out to Hoby’s of St. James’s, where his foot and leg were measured with a precision that would have impressed Galileo himself.
“Do not move,” Mr. Hoby demanded.
“I’m not moving.”
“Indeed you are.”
Daniel looked down at his stockinged foot, which was not moving.
Mr. Hoby’s face pinched with disdain. “His grace the Duke of Welington can stand for hours without moving so much as a muscle.”
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