A Knight in Shining Armor: Chapter 7


As Dougless walked with him toward the ice cream shop, she pondered the question. What would make her believe? she asked herself. But she could think of nothing. There seemed to be explanations for everything. He could be a fabulous actor and merely pretending that everything was new to him. His teeth could have been wrenched out while playing rugby in school. Since she could verify nearly everything he’d told her, that meant he could have found the information previously, then used it in his charade.

Was there anything he could do to prove to her that he was from the past?

In the ice cream parlor she absently ordered herself a single cone of mocha ice cream, but for Nicholas, she ordered a double cone of French vanilla and chocolate fudge. She was considering her question so hard that she didn’t see his face when he took his first licks, so she was startled when he leaned over and kissed her quickly, but firmly, on the mouth.

Blinking, she looked up at him and saw the sublime happiness on his face as he ate his ice cream. Dougless couldn’t help laughing.

“Buried treasure,” she said, and startled herself with the words.

“Mmm?” Nicholas asked, his attention one hundred percent on his ice cream.

“To prove to me that you’re from the past, you have to know something no one else does. You have to show me something that isn’t in a book.”

“Such as who the father of Lady Arabella Sydney’s last child was?” He was down to the chocolate scoop and looked as though he might melt from happiness. Placing her hand under his elbow, she ushered him to a table.

Sitting across from him, looking at those blue eyes and thick lashes as he licked his cone, she wondered if he looked at a woman like that when he made love to her.

“You gaze at me most hard,” he said, then looked at her through his lashes.

Turning away, Dougless cleared her throat. “I do not want to know who fathered Lady Arabella’s kid.” She didn’t look back when she heard Nicholas’s laugh.

“‘Buried treasure,’” he said as he crunched the cone. “Some valuable trinket that was hidden, but is still there after four hundred and twenty-four years?”

He can add and subtract, Dougless thought as she looked back at him. “Forget about it. It was just an idea.” She opened her notebook. “Let me tell you what I found out at the library,” she said as she began to read her notes about the houses.

When she looked up, Nicholas was wiping his hands on a paper napkin and frowning. “A man builds so that something of himself lives on. It pleases me not to hear that what was mine is gone.”

“I thought children were supposed to carry on a person’s name.”

“I left no children,” he said. “I had a son, but he died in a fall the week after my brother drowned. First his mother, then the child.”

Dougless watched pain shoot across his face and suddenly felt how easy and safe the twentieth century was. Sure, America had rapists and mass murderers and drunk drivers, but Elizabethans had plague and leprosy and smallpox. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Sorry both for you and for them.” She paused a moment. “Have you had smallpox?” she asked softly.

“Neither small nor large,” he said with some pride.

“Large pox?”

He glanced about the room, then whispered, “The French disease.”

“Oh,” she said, understanding. Venereal disease. For some reason she was glad to hear that he’d never had “large pox”—not that it mattered, but they did share a bathroom.

“What is this ‘open to the public’?” he asked.

“Usually the owners couldn’t afford the houses, so they gave them to the National Trust, so now you pay money and a guide takes you through the house. They’re great tours. This particular house has a tea shop and a gift shop and—”

Nicholas suddenly sat up straight. “It is Bellwood that is open?”

She checked her notes. “Yes, Bellwood. Just south of Bath.”

Nicholas seemed to be calculating. “With fast horses we can be to Bath in about seven hours.”

“With a good English train we could make it in two hours. Would you like to see your house again?”

“See my house sold to a company, with tallow-faced apron-men marching through it?”

Dougless smiled. “If you put it like that . . .”

“Can we go on this . . .”

“Train.”

“Train to Bellwood now?”

Dougless looked at her watch. “Sure. If we leave right now, we can have tea there and see Bellwood. But if you don’t want to see the tallow-faced . . .”

“Apron-men,” he said, smiling.

“Marching through the house, then why go?”

“There is a chance, a small chance, that I could, mayhap, find your buried treasure. When my estates were confiscated by your”—he looked at her mockingly—“your Virgin Queen”—he let Dougless know what he thought of the absurdity of that idea—“I do not know if my family was given permission to clear the estates. Perhaps there is a chance . . .”

The idea of an afternoon spent looking for buried treasure excited Dougless. “What are we waiting for?” she asked as she picked up her new handbag. This time, she’d packed it full of travel-size toiletries, and she wasn’t going anywhere without it.

The train system was another thing Dougless loved about England. Nearly every village had a station, and, unlike American trains, they were clean, with no graffiti, and well kept. When Dougless bought their tickets, she was told that a connecting train to Bath was just about to leave the station, which was not an unusual occurrence since the English trains were wonderfully frequent.

Once seated on the train and it started to move, Nicholas’s eyes bulged at the speed. But, after a few nervous moments, like a true Englishman, he adjusted to the speed and began to walk around. He studied the ads high up on the walls, smiling in delight at one for Colgate, recognizing the toothpaste she’d purchased. If he could recognize words, perhaps it wouldn’t be so difficult to teach him to read, she thought.

In Bristol, they changed trains. Nicholas was aghast at the number of hurrying people in the station, and he was fascinated with the ornate Victorian ironwork. She purchased a fat guidebook to the great houses of southern England at the newsstand, and on the ride to Bath, she started to read to Nicholas about his houses that were now in ruins. But when she saw that hearing of such waste and destruction made him sad, she stopped reading.

He looked out the big windows and now and then would say, “There’s William’s house,” or “Robin lives there,” when he saw one of the enormous houses that dotted the English countryside almost as frequently as did the cows and sheep.

Bath, beautiful, beautiful Bath, was a wonder to Nicholas. To Dougless it was old, since the architecture was all eighteenth century, but to him it was very modern. Dougless thought that New York or Dallas with its steel and glass buildings would look like outer space to him. He would act as though they looked weird, she corrected herself, then noticed that she was correcting herself less often with each hour she spent with him.

They had lunch at an American-type sandwich shop, and Dougless ordered club sandwiches, potato salad, and iced tea for both of them. He thought the meal was tasty but lacking in quantity. It took some fast talking, but Dougless managed to drag him out of the restaurant before he started demanding a boar’s head or whatever.

He was so fascinated with the crescent-shaped rows of houses in Bath that Dougless hated to get a taxi and take him out of town. But getting into an automobile took Nicholas’s mind off the buildings. The taxi drivers in England are a different breed from those in America. English drivers don’t yell when someone takes “too long” to get into a car, so Nicholas was given time to look at the vehicle. He examined the door and the door lock, opening and closing it three times before getting in, and once in, after examining the backseat, he leaned forward and watched the driver steer and shift gears.

When they arrived at Bellwood, the next tour didn’t start for half an hour, so they had time to walk around the gardens. Dougless thought they were beautiful, but Nicholas curled his lip and barely looked at the flowering plants and the ancient shade trees. When he walked around the big, sprawling house, he told her what had been added to the house and what had been changed. He thought the additions were architecturally dreadful and minced no words in telling her so.

“Is the treasure buried in the garden?” she asked, annoyed at herself for asking; she sounded like an excited child.

“Ruin a garden by putting gold at the roots of my plants?” he asked in mock horror.

“By the way, where did you put your money? Where did they put their money, I mean?”

Nicholas clearly didn’t understand her question—or didn’t want to—so she dropped it. Since the gardens seemed to be making him angry, she led him to the gift shop, and for a while, he was happy in the shop. He played with the pens and some plastic change purses, and he laughed aloud when he first saw a tiny flashlight with “Bellwood” stamped on it. But he didn’t like the postcards, and Dougless couldn’t figure out what had so upset him about them.

He removed a tote bag with a silk-screened photo of Bellwood on the front from a rack. “You will need one of these,” he said, smiling; then he leaned forward and whispered, “For the treasure.”

Dougless did her best not to look thrilled at his words. As calmly as she could, she carried the tote bag and the flashlight to the register, where she paid for them and tickets for the next tour. She tried again to look at the postcards, but Nicholas would not let her. Every time she got near the rack, he forcibly clamped his strong fingers on her arm and pulled her away.

When the next tour was called, Dougless and Nicholas followed a dozen other tourists into the house. To Dougless’s eyes, the interior of the house looked like a set for a play about Elizabeth the First. The walls were paneled in dark oak, there were Jacobean chairs scattered about as well as carved chests, and armor was hanging on the wall.

“Is this more like what you’re used to?” Dougless whispered up to Nicholas.

There was an expression of disgust on his handsome face; his upper lip curled upward. “This is not my house,” he said in distaste. “That what I did should come to this is most unpleasing.”

Dougless thought the place was beautiful, but didn’t say so because the guide had started her lecture. It was her experience that English tour guides were excellent and knew their subject thoroughly. The woman was telling the history of the house, built as a castle in 1302, by the first Stafford.

Nicholas was quiet as she spoke—until she came to Henry the Eighth’s time.

“A medieval woman was the chattel of her husband,” their guide said, “to be used as her husband saw fit. Women had no power.”

Nicholas snorted loudly. “My father told my mother she was his property—once.”

“Sssh,” Dougless hissed, not wanting to be embarrassed by him.

They moved to a small, oak-paneled room where the darkness was oppressive. “Candles were very expensive,” the guide was saying, “so medieval man lived his life in gloom.”

Nicholas again started to speak, but Dougless frowned at him to be quiet. “Stop complaining, and, by the way, where’s your treasure?” she asked.

“I cannot seek treasure now. I must hear how your world thinks of mine,” he said. “Pray tell me why your people think we had no mirth?”

“With all the plague and big pox and small, plus trips to the barber to have your teeth torn out, we think you didn’t have time for fun.”

“We made use of the time we had,” he said as the group moved into another room. As soon as they entered, Nicholas opened a door concealed in the paneling, and as soon as he did, a loud buzzer went off. Dougless slammed the door shut, then gave a weak smile of apology to the tour guide, whose quelling look made her feel like a child caught with her hand in a cookie jar.

“Behave!” Dougless hissed at him. “If you want to leave, I’m ready.” His actions were embarrassing, and she feared that he just might start telling the guide that he had built this house, and he had lived here.

But Nicholas didn’t want to leave. He followed the guide through room after room, snorting now and then in derision, but saying nothing.

“We now come to our most popular room,” the guide said, and by the little smile she gave, her audience knew something amusing was coming up.

Nicholas, being taller, saw into the room before Dougless did. “We will leave now,” he said stiffly, but he said it in a way that made Dougless very much want to see what was in the room.

The guide began to speak. “This was Lord Nicholas Stafford’s private chamber, and, to put it politely, Lord Nicholas was what is known as a rake. As you can see, he was a very handsome man.”

When she heard that, Dougless pushed her way through the group to the front. There, hanging over the mantel, was a portrait of Lord Nicholas Stafford—her Nicholas. He was dressed just as she’d first seen him, wearing the beard and mustache she’d first seen, and he was just as handsome then as he was now.

Of course he wasn’t the same man, Dougless told herself, but she was willing to admit that the man she knew had to be a descendant.

The guide, smiling at what she felt was an amusing story, began to tell of Lord Nicholas’s exploits with various ladies. “It was said that no woman could withstand his charm once he set his mind to have her, so his enemies were concerned that if he went to court, he might seduce the young and beautiful Queen Elizabeth.”

Dougless felt Nicholas’s fingers biting into her shoulder. “I will take you to the treasure now,” he whispered into her ear.

She put her fingers to her lips for him to be quiet.

“In 1560,” the guide said, “there was a great scandal concerning Lady Arabella Sydney.” The guide paused.

“I wish to go now,” Nicholas said emphatically into her ear.

Dougless waved him away.

The guide continued. “It was said at the time that Lady Sydney’s fourth child was fathered by Lord Nicholas, who was some years younger than she. It was also said”—the guide’s voice lowered conspiratorily—“that the child was fathered on that table.”

There was a combined intake of breath as everyone looked at an oak trestle table standing against the wall.

“Furthermore,” the guide said, “Lord Nicholas—”

From the back of the room came a very loud buzzer. It went on then off, on then off, making it impossible for the guide to continue speaking.

“Would you mind!” the guide said, but the buzzer kept going on and off.

Dougless didn’t have to look to see who was opening and closing the alarmed door—or why he was doing it. Quickly, she began to make her way to the back of the group.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the guide said sternly, looking over the heads of the tourists to the back of the group. “You may go out the way you came.”

Grabbing Nicholas’s arm, Dougless pulled him away from the buzzing door and back through two rooms.

“What trivial knowledge is remembered through these hundreds of years,” Nicholas said in anger.

She looked up at him with interest. “Is it true?” she asked. “About Lady Arabella? About the table?”

He frowned at her. “Nay, madam, such did not happen on that table.” Turning, he walked away.

Smiling, Dougless was relieved that the story wasn’t true—not that it mattered, but still . . .

“I gave the true table to Arabella,” he said over his shoulder.

Dougless gasped as she watched him walk away, but she hurriedly followed him. “You impregnated—” she began, but when he halted and looked down his nose at her, she stopped speaking. He had a way of looking at a person that could make you believe he was an aristocrat.

“We will see if these sottish people have violated my cabinet,” he said, again turning away from her.

Dougless had to run to cover the distance his long legs were eating up. “You can’t go in there,” she said as he put his hand on a door that had a NO ADMITTANCE sign on it. Ignoring her, Nicholas pulled on the latch. For a moment, Dougless closed her eyes and held her breath, waiting for a buzzer to go off. When there was no sound, tentatively, she opened her eyes and saw that Nicholas had disappeared behind the door. With a quick look around to see if anyone was watching, she followed him, expecting to walk into a room full of secretaries.

But there were no secretaries in the room, nor any people at all. There were just boxes stacked to the ceiling, and from what was printed on the sides, they looked to be full of paper napkins and other items for the tearoom. Behind the boxes was beautiful paneling that Dougless thought was a shame to hide.

She caught sight of Nicholas as he opened another door, so she ran after him. She followed him through three more rooms and got to see the difference between restored and unrestored. The rooms not open to the public had broken fireplaces, missing paneling, and painted ceilings spoiled by a leaky roof. In one room some Victorian had put wallpaper over the carved oak panels, and Dougless could see where workmen were painstakingly removing it.

At last Nicholas led her to a small room off a larger one. Here the ceiling had leaked until the plaster was a dirty brown, and the wide floorboards looked to be dangerously rotten. Standing in the doorway, she saw Nicholas looking about the room, sadness in his eyes.

“This was my brother’s chamber, and I was here but a fortnight ago,” he said softly, then shrugged as though to block the regret from his mind. He walked across the rotten boards, went to a section of the paneling, and pushed at it. Nothing happened.

“The lock has rusted,” he said, “or someone has sealed it shut.”

Suddenly, he seemed to become enraged and began hammering on the paneling with both fists.

Mindless of the disintegrating floor, Dougless ran to him, and not knowing what else to do, she put her arms around him, pulled his head to her shoulder, and stroked his hair. “Sssh,” she whispered as she would to a child. “Quiet.”

He clung to her, held her so tightly she could barely breathe. “It was my intent to be remembered for my learning,” he said against her neck, and there were tears in his voice. “I commissioned monks to copy hundreds of books. I began building Thornwyck. I have . . . Had. It is done now.”

“Sssh,” Dougless soothed, holding his broad shoulders.

He pushed away from her and turned his back, but Dougless saw him wipe away tears. “They remember a moment on a table with Arabella,” he said.

When he looked back at her, his face was fierce. “If I had lived . . .” he said. “If I had but lived, I would have changed all. I must find out what my mother knew. She believed she had knowledge that would clear my name and save me from execution. And once I know this, I must return. I must change what is now said about me and about my family.”

As Dougless looked at him, it was at that moment that she knew he was telling the truth. It was the way she, too, felt about her family. She didn’t want to be remembered for all the idiot things she’d done. She wanted to be remembered for her good deeds. Last summer, she’d volunteered to help children who couldn’t read. For four summers in a row she’d spent three days a week at a shelter where she worked with children who, for the most part, had had very little kindness in their lives.

“We’ll find out,” she said softly. “If the information still exists today, we’ll find it, and when we have the information, I’m sure you’ll be sent back.”

“You know how to do this?” he asked.

“No, I don’t. But maybe it’ll just happen once you know what you were sent here to find out.”

He was frowning, but, slowly, his frown changed to a smile. “You have changed. You are looking at me in a different way. Do you not tell me I am lying?”

“No,” she said slowly. “No one could act this well.” She didn’t want to think about what she was saying. A sixteenth-century man could not come forward in time, but . . . but it had happened.

“Look at this,” she said as she touched the section of paneling he had been pounding. A little door stood open about an inch.

Nicholas pulled the door open. “My father told only my brother of this hidden cabinet, and Kit showed me but a week before he died. I told no one. The secret of its existence died with me.”

As she watched, he stuck his hand in the hole and pulled out a roll of yellowed, brittle papers.

Nicholas looked at the papers in disbelief. “I but put these in here a few days ago. They were new-made then.”

Taking the papers from him, she unrolled them a bit. They were covered top to bottom, side to side, no margins, with writing that was incomprehensible to her.

“Ah, here is your treasure.” He showed Dougless a small yellow-white box, beautifully carved with figures of people and animals.

“This is ivory?” she asked in wonder as she handed him the papers, then took the box. She had seen boxes like this one in museums, but she’d never touched one. “It’s beautiful, and it’s a wonderful treasure.”

Nicholas laughed. “The box is not the treasure. That lies inside. But wait,” he said as Dougless began to open the lid. “I find I am greatly in need of sustenance.” He shoved the papers back into the cabinet as though he never wanted to see them again. Then he took the box from her, opened the tote bag she’d purchased, and slipped the box inside.

“You’re going to make me wait until after you’ve eaten before I can see what’s inside that box?” She was incredulous.

Nicholas laughed. “It pleases me to see that the nature of woman has not changed these four hundred years.”

She gave him a smug look. “Don’t get too smart, or did you forget that I have your return train ticket?”

She thought she had bested him, but as she watched, his face changed to softness, and he looked at her through his lashes in a way that made Dougless’s heart beat a little faster. He stepped forward; she stepped back.

“You have heard,” he said, his voice low, “that no woman can withstand me.”

Dougless was backed against the wall, her heart pounding in her ears as he looked down at her. Putting his fingertips under her chin, he gently lifted her face upward. Was he going to kiss her? she wondered, half in outrage and half in anticipation. Anticipation won out; she closed her eyes.

“I shall seduce my way back to the hotel,” he said in a different tone that made Dougless know he’d been teasing her—and he’d known exactly how his warm looks would affect her.

When her eyes flew open and she straightened up, he chucked her under the chin as a father might do—or as the gorgeous private eye might do to his soppy secretary.

“Ah, but mayhap I could not seduce a woman of today. You have told me that women now are not as they were in my day,” he said, shutting the little secret door. “Alas, this is the day of women’s . . .”

“Lib,” she answered. “Liberation.” She was thinking about Lady Arabella on the table.

He looked back at her. “I am sure I would not be able to charm a woman such as you. You have told me that you love . . . ?”

“Robert. Yes, I do,” Dougless said firmly. “Maybe when I get back to the States, he and I can work things out. Or maybe when he gets my message about the bracelet, he’ll come for me.” She wanted to remember Robert. Compared to this man, Robert seemed safe.

“Ah,” Nicholas said, starting for the door, Dougless inches behind him.

“Just what is that supposed to mean?”

“No more, no less.”

She blocked him from leaving the room. “If you want to say something, say it.”

“This Robert will come for jewels but not for the woman he loves?”

“Of course he’s coming for me!” she snapped. “The bracelet is . . . It’s just that Gloria is a brat and she lied, but she’s his daughter so of course Robert believed her. And stop looking at me like that! Robert is a fine man. At least he’ll be remembered for what he did on an operating table instead of on a—” She stopped at the look on Nicholas’s face.

Turning, he strode ahead of her.

“Nicholas, I’m sorry,” she said, running after him. “I didn’t mean it. I was just angry, that’s all. It’s not your fault you’re remembered for Arabella; it’s our fault. We see too much TV, read too much National Enquirer. Our lives are filled with too much sensationalism. Colin, please.” She stopped where she was. Was he going to walk away and leave her too?

Her head was down, so she wasn’t aware that he’d walked back to her. Companionably, he put his arm around her shoulders. “Do they sell ice cream in this place?”

When she smiled at that, he tipped her chin up and wiped away a single tear. “Are you onion-eyed again?” he asked softly.

She shook her head, afraid to trust her voice.

“Then come,” he said. “If I remember rightly, there is a pearl in that box as big as my thumb.”

“Really?” she asked. She had forgotten all about the box. “Anything else?”

“Tea first,” he said. “Tea and scones and ice cream. Then I shall show you the box.”

They walked together out of the unrestored rooms, past the next tour, and out the In, which the guides did not like at all.

In the tea shop, this time, Nicholas took over. Dougless sat at a table and waited for him as he talked to a woman behind the counter. The woman was shaking her head about something Nicholas was asking, but Dougless had an idea that he’d get whatever it was that he wanted.

Minutes later, he motioned for her to come with him. He led her outside, then down stone stairs, across an acre of garden, to at last stop under the dappled shade of a yew tree with bright red berries. When Dougless turned around, she saw a woman and a man carrying two large trays filled with tea, pastries, little sandwiches with no crusts, and Nicholas’s beloved scones.

Nicholas ignored the two people as they spread a cloth on the ground and set out the tea things. “There was my knot garden,” he said, pointing, his voice heavy with sadness. “And there was a mound.”

After the people left, Nicholas held out his hand to help her sit on the cloth. She poured his tea, added milk, filled a plate full of food for him, then said, “Now?”

He smiled. “Now.”

Dougless dove into the tote bag and pulled out the old, fragile ivory box, then slowly, with breath held, opened it.

Inside were two rings of exquisite loveliness, one an emerald, one a ruby, the gold mountings cast into intricate forms of dragons and snakes. Nicholas took the rings and, smiling at her, slipped them onto his fingers, where, she wasn’t surprised to see, they fit perfectly.

On the bottom of the box was a bit of old, cracked velvet, and she could see that it was wrapped around something. Gingerly, Dougless removed the velvet and slowly opened it.

In her hand lay a brooch, oval, with little gold figures of . . . She looked up at Nicholas. “What are they doing?”

“It’s the martyrdom of Saint Barbara,” he said, his tone implying that she knew nothing.

Dougless had guessed it was a martyrdom because it looked as if the gold man was about to cut off the head of the tiny gold woman. Encircling the figures was an abstract enamel design, and around the edges were tiny pearls and diamonds. Hanging from a loop below the brooch was indeed a pearl as large as a man’s thumb. It was a baroque pearl, indented, even lumpy, but with a luster that no years could dim.

“It’s lovely,” she whispered.

“It is yours,” Nicholas said.

A wave of avarice shot through Dougless. “I cannot,” she said, even as her hand closed over the jewel.

Nicholas laughed. “It is a woman’s bauble. You may keep it.”

“I can’t. It’s too valuable. This pin is worth too much and it’s too old. It should be in a museum. It should—”

Taking the jewel from her hand, he pinned it between the collar points of her blouse.

Dougless took her compact from her purse, opened the mirror, and looked at the brooch. She also looked at her face. “I have to go to the rest room,” she said, making Nicholas laugh as she rose.

Alone in the rest room, she had some time to really look at the pin, and only left when someone else entered. On her way back to Nicholas, she couldn’t resist slipping into the gift shop to look at the postcards. It took her a moment to see what Nicholas had not wanted her to see. There, on the bottom of a rack, was a postcard of a portrait of the notorious Lady Arabella. Dougless took one.

As she was paying, Dougless asked the cashier if there was anything in any of the books for sale about Nicholas Stafford.

The woman smiled in a patronizing way. “All the young ladies ask after him. We usually have cards of his portrait, but we’re out right now.”

“There’s nothing written about him? About his accomplishments other than . . . than with women?” Dougless asked.

Again there was that little smirk. “I don’t believe Lord Nicholas accomplished anything. The only thing of importance that he did was to raise an army against the queen, and he was sentenced to be executed for that. If he hadn’t died beforehand, he would have been beheaded. He was quite a scoundrel of a young man.”

Dougless took the single postcard and started to leave, but she turned back. “What happened to Lord Nicholas’s mother after he died?”

The woman brightened. “Lady Margaret? Now there was a grand lady. Let me see, I believe she married again. What was his name? Oh, yes, Harewood. She married Lord Richard Harewood.”

“Do you know if she left any papers behind?”

“Oh, my, no, I have no idea of that.”

“All the Stafford papers are at Goshawk Hall,” came a voice from the door. It was the guide whose tour she and Nicholas had so rudely interrupted.

“Where is Goshawk Hall?” Dougless asked, feeling embarrassed.

“Near the village of Thornwyck,” the woman said.

“Thornwyck,” Dougless said, and nearly gave a whoop of joy, but caught herself. It was all she could do to thank the women before she ran from the shop into the garden. Nicholas lay stretched out on the cloth, sipping tea and finishing the scones.

“Your mother married Richard, ah . . . Harewood,” she said breathlessly, “and all the papers are at . . .” She couldn’t remember the name.

“Goshawk Hall?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s it! It’s near Thornwyck.”

He turned away from her. “My mother married Harewood?”

Dougless watched the back of him. If he’d died accused of treason, had his mother, in her poverty, been forced to marry some despicable despot? Had his old, frail mother been forced to endure some man who treated her as no more than property?

When Nicholas’s shoulders began to shake, Dougless put her hand on his arm. “Nicholas, it’s not your fault. You were dead, you couldn’t help her.” What am I saying? she thought.

But when Nicholas turned around, she saw that he was . . . laughing. “I should have known she would land on her feet,” he said. “Harewood! She married Dickie Harewood.” He could hardly speak for laughing so hard.

“Tell me everything,” Dougless urged, eyes alight.

“Dickie Harewood is a tardy-gaited, unhaired pajock.”

Dougless frowned, not understanding.

“An ass, madam,” Nicholas explained. “But a rich one. Aye, he’s very rich.” He leaned back, smiling. “It is good to know she was not left one-trunk-inheriting.”

Still smiling, he poured Dougless a cup of tea, and as she took it, he picked up her little paper bag and opened it.

“No” she began, but he was already looking at the postcard of Lady Arabella’s portrait.

He looked up at her with such a knowing look that she wanted to dump the tea over his head. “Did they not have a picture of the table too?” he mocked.

“I have no idea what you mean,” she said haughtily, not looking at his face as she snatched the card out of his hands and put it back into the bag. “The picture is for research. It might help us . . .” For the life of her, she couldn’t think what a picture of the mother of Nicholas’s illegitimate child could possibly help them find out. “Did you eat all the scones? You really can be a pig sometimes.”

Nicholas gave a snort of laughter.

After a moment he said, “What say you we stay in this town this night? On the morrow I shall purchase Armant and Rafe.”

It took Dougless a moment to understand what he meant, but then she remembered the American magazines he’d seen. “Georgio Armani and Ralph Lauren?” she asked.

“Aye,” he said. “Clothing of your time. When I return to my house in Thornwyck, I will not be one-trunk-inheriting either.”

Dougless bit into a little sandwich. Unless she found Robert and got her suitcases back soon, she was going to have to buy more clothes too.

She looked at Nicholas, his hands behind his head. Tomorrow they’d go shopping, then the next day they’d go to Thornwyck, where they’d try to find out who had betrayed him to the queen.

But tonight, she thought. Tonight they’d once again spend alone in a hotel room.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset