Scandal in Spring Page 75

And a new voice—

“Not after all these years. I won’t chance the possibility of his escape.”

The speaker was Mr. Wendell Waring, the patriarch of a wealthy New England family. The man Matthew despised second-most in the world, the first one being Waring’s son Harry.

It was strange how a sound or a scent could bring back the past so damn easily, no matter how Matthew would have liked to forget it.

“Just where,” Westcliff asked acidly, “do you expect him to flee to?”

“I have permission to secure the fugitive by any means of my choosing. You have no right to object.”

It would have been a massive understatement to say Wescliff was unaccustomed to being told by anyone that he had no right to do something, especially in his own home. It would have been an even greater understatement to say that Westcliff was enraged.

The argument thundered more violently than the storm outside, but Matthew lost track as he felt a gentle touch on his face. He jerked backward and heard Daisy’s quiet murmur.

“No. Be still.”

She was wiping his face with a dry cloth, clearing his eyes and mouth, pushing his damp hair back. He sat with his manacled hands in his lap, fighting to suppress a howl of misery as he looked at her.

Daisy’s face was white but remarkably calm. Distress had brought crimson flags to the crests of her cheeks, the color standing out in stark relief against her pale skin. She lowered herself to her knees on the carpet beside his chair to examine the metal cuffs on his hands. A single iron band was closed around his wrist and fastened with a lock-case attached to another, larger loop that a constable would use to lead him.

Lifting his head, Matthew registered the presence of two oversized officers dressed in the standard uniform of white summer trousers, black high-collared tailcoats, and hardened top hats. They stood by in grim silence while Wendell Waring, Westcliff, and Thomas Bowman argued heatedly.

Daisy was fumbling with the lock case of the cuffs. Matthew’s heart twisted painfully as he saw that she was prying at it with a hair pin. The Bowman sisters’ lock-picking skills were infamous, garnered over years of their parents’ foiled attempts at discipline. But Daisy’s hands were trembling too badly for her to manage the unfamiliar lock—and it was obviously pointless to try and free him. God, if only he could spirit her away from this ugliness, from the wreck of his past…from himself. “No,” Matthew said softly. “It’s not worth it. Daisy, please—”

“Here, now,” one of the officers said as he saw Daisy’s meddling. “Step away from the prisoner, miss.” Realizing she was ignoring him, the constable stepped forward with his hands half-raised. “Miss, I told you—”

“Don’t you touch her,” Lillian snapped, her voice containing a ferocity that caused a temporary silence in the room. Even Westcliff and Waring paused in momentary surprise.

Glaring at the dumbfounded constable, Lillian went to Daisy and nudged her aside. She spoke to the constables with stinging scorn. “Before you take a step in my direction, I’d advise you to consider what it will do to your careers when it is made known that you manhandled the Countess of Westcliff in her own home.” She extracted a pin from her own hair and took Daisy’s place, kneeling before Matthew. In a matter of seconds the lock clicked open and the loop fell from his wrists.

Before Matthew could thank her, Lillian stood and continued her tirade against the constables. “A fine pair you are, taking orders from an ill-bred Yankee to abuse the household that offered you shelter from a storm. Obviously you are too dull-witted to be aware of all the financial and political support my husband has given the New Police. With a lift of his finger, he could have the Home Secretary and the chief magistrate of Bow Street replaced within a matter of days. So if I were you—”

“Beg pardon, but we ‘as no choice, milady,” one of the beefy constables protested. “We’re under orders to bring Mr. Phaelan to Bow Street.”

“Who the bloody hell is Mr. Phaelan?” Lillian demanded.

Appearing awestruck by the countess’s fluent swearing, the constable said, “That one, there.” He pointed at Matthew.

Conscious that all eyes were on him, Matthew made his face expressionless.

Daisy was the first one in the room to move. She took the jangling handcuffs from Matthew’s lap and went to the door, where a small coterie of curious servants had gathered. After a quick whispered exchange she returned to occupy a chair near Matthew’s.

“And to think I predicted it would be a dull evening at home,” Lillian said dryly, taking a chair on Matthew’s other side as if to help defend him.

Daisy spoke gently to Matthew. “Is that your name? Matthew Phaelan?”

He couldn’t answer, every muscle of his body tensing in rejection of the sound.

“It is,” Wendell Waring shrilled. Waring was one of those unfortunate men whose high-pitched voices were inadequate to match their lofty physical proportions. Other than that, Waring was distinguished in bearing and appearance, with a thick ruff of silver hair, perfectly groomed side whiskers and an impenetrable white beard. He reeked of Old Boston, with his old-fashioned tailoring and expensive but well-worn tweed coat, and the air of self-assurance that could only have been produced in a family boasting generations of Harvard scholars. His eyes were like unfaceted quartz stones, hard and light and completely without luster.

Striding to Westcliff, Waring thrust a handful of papers at him. “Proof of my authority,” he said venomously. “There you have a copy of a diplomatic requisition of provisional arrest from the American Secretary of State. A copy of an order from the British Home Secretary Sir James Graham to the chief magistrate at Bow Street, to issue a warrant for the arrest of Matthew Phaelan, alias Matthew Swift. Copies of sworn information attesting to—”

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