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Escapade by Naomi Rankin

Escapade by Naomi Rankin

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The Crown and Anchor was not the earl's favourite retreat, and he
had not intended to linger there after dispatching his letter to
Amelia. He was on the point of issuing from the threshold when
Escapade by Naomi Rankin Page 129
he was accosted by the Honourable Freddy Inglenook.

―Jack! 'Pon my soul, I'm dashed glad to see you!‖
―Hello, Freddie. What brings you to so unfashionable a den?
Thought you never stirred from St. James' before dinner, sir.‖
―My lord, have you not seen the delectable Kate?‖
―I fear I have not, sir. Who is the delectable Kate?‖

―The bar maid, of course. Come, drink a glass with me. She is
well worth seeing I promise you.‖ The Hon. Frederick Inglenook

swept the earl into the tap room.
―There!‖ he said, when they had seated themselves and been
served by the blushing Kate. ―Is she not delicious, my lord?‖
―Well enough, sir, well enough,‖ the earl said.
―Well enough, he says. I'd think you were growing old, Jack, if I
hadn't heard about your Amazon.‖
―I do not take your meaning, sir,‖ the earl said.
―Oh, come, my lord. Half a dozen of the fellows saw you last

night, on horseback with a lass riding astride beside you. By what
Frank Weatherby said, it was a servant girl, but as comely as an
actress and sat a horse as well as a goddess. I'd heard no inkling

before of any new intrigue of yours. Who is this Amazon?‖

The earl threw himself back in his chair and laughed ruefully.

―Oh, Freddie, you don't know the half of it.‖
―Then I pray you, enlighten me, my lord.‖
―No, sir. Honour bids me be silent.‖

Escapade by Naomi Rankin Page 130

―Why? You've no other mistress in keeping at the moment, to be
made jealous, I'll wager.‖
―Who was it witnessed this edifying spectacle?‖ the earl

demanded.
―Faith, I don't know, except Weatherby who told me of it. But half
the town must know by now.‖

The earl frowned and swore under his breath. Mr. Inglenook
continued to press him for information, but the earl scarcely heard
him. He was not recalled to a sense of his company until a letter
was presented to him. He tore it open and read.

―Damn!‖ said the earl, scowling dreadfully. Mr. Inglenook was
abruptly silenced. ―Your pardon, sir, I must leave you.‖ He

departed abruptly and made for Mrs. Catchlove's residence.
Part way there he bethought himself that he had no cards, except
those which styled him Earl of Creasy, and he stopped in at a
coffee house to write a note. Then he proceeded to Mrs.
Catchlove's door and boldly knocked. To the servant who
answered he said,

―Is Mrs. Catchlove within?‖
―Mrs. Catchlove is gone to Lady Wickham, sir.‖
―Is Miss Loftus within?‖
―Yes, sir.‖
―Would you be so good as to take her this note?‖

The servant disappeared. Amelia, sitting quietly at home with
Miss Smythe in punishment for her distracted mien, tore open the
single sheet and read that Mr. Warwick craved the honour of an
interview.

Escapade by Naomi Rankin Page 131

―Oh, yes, admit him immediately,‖ she said. She jumped up and

walked back and forth across the room, sat down again, rose again
and sat again, seeming more breathless that warranted by so little
exercise.

―Who is it, Amelia?‖ Miss Smythe said.
―It is Mr. Warwick.‖

Before Miss Smythe could protest the visitor was in the room.

―Oh, Mr. Warwick, how thoughtful of you to come. Now we may

talk over my plan at leisure. Miss Smythe, may I present Mr.

Warwick?‖

Miss Smythe nodded coldly without rising from her chair.

―Your servant, ma'am,‖ the earl said automatically, making his

bow. Then he turned to Amelia.
―I have not come to talk over your plan at leisure. I have come to
insist that you immediately abandon such a wild scheme. I assure

you, madam, I shall have nothing to do with it.‖
―But, sir, your part in it is essential,‖ Amelia said. ―It will do us no

good to spirit Dick out of Newgate if there is no one to ensure he
gets out of the way of being re-taken.‖
―Precisely, madam. And I promise you I will not lift a finger to

assist you to place yourself in such a position, not even for Dick's

sake.‖
―Really! 'Tis hardly honourable in you, sir, to abandon your friend,
when Miss Smythe and I are prepared to save him.‖

The earl turned his displeasure on Miss Smythe.
―I can hardly believe, madam, you could be so shatter-brained as to
second Miss Loftus in such a dangerous undertaking.‖

Escapade by Naomi Rankin Page 132

―I think as you do, sir,‖ Miss Smythe said. ―You have no idea what

threats Amelia has used to force my compliance. She declares she

will marry Sir Lancelot if I do not assist her.‖
―Marry Sir Lancelot! You abandoned little hoyden!‖ the earl said.
He strode up to Amelia, very obviously requiring a considerable

effort to refrain from shaking her. ―You would not do so mad a
thing!‖
―Indeed I would, Mr. Warwick, if I was driven to it. But Miss

Smythe, you see, is too reasonable to resist, and so I hope you will

be.‖
―Do not think to frighten me with empty threats, my girl,‖ said the

earl.

―It is not an empty threat,‖ said Amelia. In token of which, she sat

down to her aunt's writing box, scrawled out an acceptance,
directed it to Sir Lancelot and rang the bell.

―William, convey this letter to the post, please,‖ she said to the

footman who answered. She held out the letter. William received

it from her and bowed himself out of the room. Miss Smythe, the
earl and Amelia all stood unmoving.

―Stay,‖ the earl said, as if it was forced from him. Amelia smiled

delightedly and ran to recall William.

―I knew you would be reasonable, Mr. Warwick,‖ she said.
―Reasonable! I must be mad!‖ the earl replied.

They began a lengthy quarrel over the details of Amelia's scheme.
Having finally adjusted it to their mutual satisfaction, the earl
angrily took his leave. He strode fiercely through three streets
before he stopped suddenly, threw back his head and laughed until
the streets echoed with it.
Escapade by Naomi Rankin Page 133

―Utterly mad!‖ he confirmed cheerfully.

To reach his own house, the earl had to negotiate a narrow
passageway into the square. His footsteps rang out in the dark as
he went through this deserted alley. With only a fraction of a
second's notice in the form of a scuffling sound behind him, he was
set upon.
The earl had not entirely forgotten Nell Kelly's warning and had
selected one particular walking stick to assist in his
perambulations. As quickly as they were on him, he whipped the
thin blade from its concealment and brought his assailants up short
with a slashing flurry. He had the satisfaction of feeling the sword
rip through one man's sleeve before the rogues turned and fled.
The earl laughed sardonically and proceeded on his way, his sword
still ready until he came to his own door.
The footman who saw him sheath the weapon as he entered made
no comment.

―Is Mr. Newcombe within?‖ the earl asked.
―In the library, my lord.‖ The earl went to his secretary.

Newcombe looked up inquiringly.
The earl flung himself down in a chair and laughed, this time
ruefully.

―I have not made any great success of anything today,‖ he

confided.

―I am sorry to hear that, my lord. Did you see Mr. Gamble in
Newgate?‖
―I succeeded in that, at least,‖ said the earl and launched into an
account of what he had done for Dick.

―I do not perceive how you might have done more, my lord,‖

Newcombe said. The earl looked positively mischievous.
Escapade by Naomi Rankin Page 134

―But I am going to do more,‖ he said. ―And so, Henry, are you!‖

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