Lilly suggested that the other employees should be told Jason had left, but nothing would be said of his deception. Upon Sir Vincent's arrival, it was agreed that Jacques and Marcus would stay at their posts, and Karl would be with Lilly. A credit voucher would be made out for the amount Sir Vincent had taken, that he would sign or pay the money back tonight.
Later, when Sir Vincent arrived, Karl asked him to step into the office. Sir Vincent looked at the towering man, and did not argue as he followed Karl, wondering if Jason had talked.
"Ah, Madame Monainge. This is a delight to be greeted by the lovely owner," Sir Vincent said courteously as he entered.
"Have a seat, Sir Vincent. We have some business to discuss," Lilly said as she motioned to Karl to lock the door, and stand behind Sir Vincent.
Hearing the lock click, Sir Vincent started to get up when he saw Karl standing behind his chair. He slowly sat back down again, and turned to Lilly, "What is going on here, Madame?" he demanded.
"That is what I would like you to tell me, Sir Vincent. It seems you have picked my place to do your fleecing. I do not appreciate that, and of course, will not condone it. You owe me quite a bit of money from the past few days, and I intend to have you repay it," glancing at the paper on her desk, she said, "You owe me thirty-five thousand pounds. Do you have it with you?" she said firmly.
"Absurd! You insult me, Madame! If you were a man, I would call you out. Who has been telling you those ridiculous lies?" he blustered.
"They are not lies, Sir, we have proof. Now, do you have the money with you?" she asked again.
"Of course not! I do not carry that much on me. This is outrageous. I refused to be treated like this!" he answered, getting to his feet.
Nodding to Karl, Lilly sat back as she watched Karl step forward and began searching Sir Vincent's pockets, ignoring the gentleman's indignant complaints. A moment later, Karl passed the money he confiscated to Lilly. Sir Vincent loudly proclaimed his abuse as she counted it and laid it aside.
"There is five thousand toward your debt. You now owe me thirty thousand." She made out a voucher and passed it to him to sign.
"I will not sign anything!" he hissed. His face turning almost purple with anger.
As Lilly put the confession in front of him to read, Karl held Sir Vincent's hands behind him so he could not reach out and tear it up. As he read, his faced grew pale and his lips tightened. Then recovering, he straightened into an arrogant stance.
"These are all lies! Where is he? Bring him in, I want to see him and hear him accuse me to my face of these things!" he growled.
"Sorry, we cannot accommodate you, for Jason is no longer in England. Although we disliked his cheating, we did not want you to send him to Newgate or to the gallows. Which, you will note, is also in the confession. If you will read further, Jason states how you intimidated him leaving him no choice but to do as you asked."
Sir Vincent struggled to get his hands free, but Karl had a firm grip. "I am a member of Parliament, no one will believe that lying bastard," he said as he nodded to the written confession.
"Oh, it is not only his word, you see, we had the proof before we called him in to write his confession. We have witnesses, and our account records prove it. So, if you do not want all of your friends of the haute ton to know what kind of a cheat you are, especially since some of them were sitting at the same table as you on those nights, and no doubt losing while you were winning, then I think it would be to your advantage to just sign the voucher. If you do not sign, believe me, I will certainly enjoy spreading the word of your nefarious activities. Oh yes, I expect you to have the money here in my office before noon tomorrow," she said smiling sweetly, as she put the confession away. Pointing to the pen and voucher, she nodded to Karl, and he freed Sir Vincent's hands.
Glaring at her, Sir Vincent picked up the pen, quickly scribbled his signature on the voucher, and threw the pen on the desk.
"Thank you, Sir Vincent. Now, one more thing. After you pay me the money tomorrow, you are never to set a foot in this place again," Lilly said coldly, then turning to Karl, she said, "Escort him to the front door."
Sir Vincent started toward the door, then turned back to Lilly with a taunting smile.
"Well, Frenchy . . . I might have the last laugh on you! Did you know there was talk in the Parliament about having your place closed down?" Seeing Lilly's eyes grow alert, he laughed, "I thought not. They are saying what an immoral place you run ever since you opened in their midst. Furthermore, I think you should know that I hold sway over quite a few members, who would definitely vote with me for closure of your business when the occasion arises."
Lilly sat back in her chair surveying the fat, arrogant man and wished she had never met him. Then with a smug smile she gave him an answer.
"Merci Monsieur, for the advance notice of your intentions! It will give me time to gather together all the vouchers of your fellow members, and have them ready when that occasion does arise! We certainly would want the good people of Britain to know how members of Parliament spent their time in this terribly immoral place. Also, you might consider the fact that, I too, have friends with influence, and they would be very upset if you caused problems for me," Lilly said coldly.
Sir Vincent stifled his anger at setting himself up for her parting shot, and hurried out the door. As his carriage pulled away, Sir Vincent fumed while silently cursing Jason, and Lilly with her bloody accounts. Jason insisted that some idiotic country chit was keeping the accounts and not to worry! Then suddenly he sat up straighter and remembered what Jason had said. "The girl taking care of the accounts, the redheaded one named Sarah, was related to an Earl . . . the Earl of Cranleigh . . . that's right!" he laughed. "Now I will get my revenge on that country chit, and blackmail the Earl . . . make him pay for the money I just forfeited. He would certainly want to pay enough to avoid a scandal about his relative working in a Gaming Hell."
Sarah was working on the accounts when Lilly came into her office at noon, and she looked up in surprise.
"You are up early this morning, I did not expect to see you until after two," Sarah said.
"I have not been to bed yet, I had to take care of some business this morning first. Most likely, I will sleep the rest of the day away, since we are not open tonight," Lilly said wearily, as she came over to the desk. Handing the paid receipt for Sir Vincent's voucher to Sarah, and a receipt for the money she had taken from Jason, she said, "This is to replace the losses, for the past three days. I have recouped the money. We should not have that problem again, now that I have you watching my accounts for me."
Looking at the receipts in surprise, Sarah said, "I really did not think you would be able to collect such a large amount so soon!"
"Well, we have our methods of making our customers pay their gambling debts. You have to be firm, or they will keep putting you off for years and that certainly in not how to run a business!" Lilly said as she turned to leave, then stopped. "Oh, Jason is no longer with us, he left last night."
"Jason was the one that had been cheating?" Sarah asked, feeling guilty that she had been the one to get him in trouble.
"Yes, he was working with one of the customers, Sir Vincent Hargrave, but that is all over with now. I would appreciate your not mentioning this to the others. As far as their concern, Jason left on his own."
"Oh! Yes, of course. I had no intention of saying anything about this to anyone," Sarah answered.
"Do you not think you should be getting ready for your drive with Lord Townsend? Lilly asked, anxious to change the subject. She noticed the regretful look on Sarah's face and she did not want her to feel responsible for Jason losing his job.
"I will get ready shortly. I wanted to finish this before I left," she answered, placing the receipts next to the ledger.
"Well, you won't have any work until Tuesday morning, so enjoy yourself. If he wants to take you out in the evening you should consider it. You are always stuck up here at night and never go anywhere. With such a handsome man to escort you, you should take advantage of it," Lilly chuckled.
Sarah blushed, as Lilly left the office. Lord Townsend was a handsome man, she thought, who made her heart beat faster when he was near her.
"I hope I do not make a fool of myself this afternoon, and will be able to carry on a conversation without stammering," she muttered, as she entered the receipts into the account ledger.
Lord Townsend was waiting for Sarah by the back entrance as she came out and down the short flight of steps. He gazed at her in the amber dress trimmed with ivory lace that accentuated the auburn hair showing beneath a straw bonnet, and thought how beautiful she looked. The night had seemed so long waiting for today to arrive so he could see her again. He would have to be careful in handling this problem of getting her moved out of that place.
"Good afternoon, Lady Sarah, you are looking lovely today," he said, taking her hand and escorted her to his phaeton. He thought she would enjoy this open sports carriage for their drive, and had decided not to tell her where they were going until they arrived at his parents' estate in Kensington.
"Good afternoon, my lord," she said shyly as he helped her onto the seat.
"Since we will be spending the afternoon together, shall we dispense with the formality? My name is Adam," he said smiling.
"Then please call me just plain Sarah," she answered, then fell into an awkward silence. She hated herself when she became tongue-tied like this, but she could not think of anything to say.
"Sarah, it is, but never plain . . . you are much too lovely for the word plain!" he said smiling.
As she blushed he realized the girl was shy, and from what he knew of her, being isolated from society, she was not adept at social conversation. He proceeded to bring her out by commenting on the sights as they drove along. He pointed out historical landmarks, adding bits of gossip of the famous people connected with them. Slowly Sarah began to relax and joined in the conversation, laughing at some of the funnier stories he would tell of the history of a place.
Finally they were pulling into the driveway of the Palladian House in Kensington. Startled Sarah sat up straighter and said, "Where are we? Who lives here?"
"My parents. I told them I was going for a drive today, and they said to stop in and have tea. I hope you do not mind?" he asked with a concerned look.
"N-no . . . it . . . it is that I did not expect to be visiting," she said flustered.
Taking her hand in his, he smiled "It is only my parents, you will like them . . . I promise."
Getting out of the carriage he turned and lifted her down. Still
with his hands on her waist, he looked into her eyes. Sarah stood perfectly
still, mesmerized by his look, and thought her knees would give out. His
hands on her waist were warm, and she could feel the heat of them seeping
into her body. She felt the pressure as he tightened his grip, then suddenly
he dropped his hands, and taking her by the elbow, ushered her to the front
Adam cursed himself for not showing more control. It took all his effort not to draw her into his arms, when he had his hands on her small waist. He could almost feel her skin through the soft material. He wanted to move his hands down across her hips and slide them over her . . . he closed his eyes a moment to banish the thought. Pulling himself together he smiled as the butler opened the door.
They were announced, and shown into the large drawing room. His mother and father were sitting near the open windows that lead to the terrace. His father arose from his chair as they entered. Sarah noticed Lord Lyndmere was an older version of his son, a handsome man with white hair at the temples, and a twinkle in his silver-grey eyes. His mother had chestnut hair streaked with grey, and a graceful figure attired in pale peach silk. Lady Lyndmere's kind, pleasant countenance, made Sarah's anxiety dissipate as the lady welcomed her into the parlor.
"Well Adam, glad you could make it. We were just discussing whether you had forgotten about us," Lord Lyndmere chuckled. Glancing at Sarah, he added, "And I can see why, you would not be thinking of us."
Sarah curtsied, as Adam introduced her.
"Come dear, sit down," his mother said, as she poured the tea.
Adam took Sarah's elbow again and guided her to the sofa where he sat down with her. He handed her the cup, and saw her hand tremble. Leaning over closer he whispered, "Don't worry" and gave her an encouraging smile.
His mother was appreciating her son's attentiveness to this lovely girl. At last . . . one that he is interested in. She looked to be a nice sweet girl, who would make him a perfect wife, she thought, as her mind started planning her matchmaking.
As the conversation went on, his mother asked if Sarah had seen any of the plays at the theaters. Sarah admitted she had not been in London long, and had not seen anything but the sights they passed while driving today.
"Oh my dear! How dreadful! Here in London, and you have not had a tour? We will have to do something about that . . . do you not agree, Adam?" she asked, determined to make sure her son spends more time with this young lady.
Smiling at his mother, knowing she was starting on one of her matchmaking plans, Adam agreed that Sarah should be taken about. For some reason, he did not resent it as he usually did in the past. His thoughts flickered over the scene in Lilly's office, and the man in pain holding his hand as the others stood over him. He dreaded taking her back there today. He would talk to his father, and tell him the whole story of Sarah. It would not be fair to them to bring her into their home, without knowing the facts about her. He felt sure they would do everything they could to help.
"Why do we not make arrangements to go to the Covent Gardens theatre tomorrow evening? Is Edmund Kean there or at the Drury? I would like to see him again, he is such a wonderful actor," Lady Lyndmere sighed.
"He is at the Drury, my dear. Mrs. Siddons is at Covent now. She had come back for one of her special appearances as a favor to her brother, John Kemble, who manages the theatre," Lord Lyndmere answered.
"Personally, I prefer the Covent. Kemble is a better actor than Kean, and if he is going to appear on stage with his sister, I think that should be worth seeing," Adam remarked.
"Well, you choose, Adam, for truly, I like them all. If you and Sarah come here for dinner, then we can all go together in our carriage."
"Oh, I do not think I should go . . . I really do not have anything suitable to wear to the theatre. You see, when I moved here, I only brought a limited amount of clothes," Sarah said embarrassed, remembering she had only the dresses she carried in the portmanteau when she had left her home in the middle of the night, and there was absolutely nothing fitting to wear to the theatre.
"Why then, we will go shopping. You cannot live in London without the proper wardrobe," his mother answered.
Adam had a feeling this was getting too involved, and Sarah probably worried about the cost, so before she could answer, he said, "Now mother, you are rushing her. Give her time to think," he said with a warning look at his mother, to stop pushing.
"Perhaps your right. I did not mean to make you uncomfortable, my dear. We will plan the trip to the theatre at a later date," she said smiling kindly at the blushing Sarah. The poor child must not have any clothes,she thought. Whatever is the matter with Lord Cranleigh that he cannot take care of a relative in need? I will definitely have a talk with my son, and have the girl moved in here. Apparently wherever she is staying now, they certainly are not helping her with her needs. It will be enjoyable helping her shop for a new wardrobe.
"It is such a lovely day, is it not? Would you like to see my garden? It has recently been landscaped with a Grecian fountain in the center," the Countess suggested.
"Oh yes, I would. I have been noticing in through the window," Sarah answered.
When they rose to leave the room, and Sarah paused to talk to his father, Adam pulled his mother aside long enough to whisper a word of caution.
"Please, Mother, do not ask her any questions about her life or where she lives," then he said in a louder voice, "While you are showing her the garden, I wish to speak to father a moment, then I'll join you," he turned, smiling at Sarah as she came up to them, and gave her hand a slight squeeze, before she left.
While Sarah was out of the room, Adam took his father over to the fireplace where he could observe the room and the terrace, to be sure they weren't disturbed. He had always been able to discuss his problems with his father since he was a boy, and respected his advice. Quickly in a low voice he told his father of meeting Sarah at the Jardin de Plaisir on Jermyn Street. Ignoring his father's shocked look, he continued telling him of the promise to Roger that he would look after her. Adam also told him about what he saw in Lilly's office yesterday afternoon.
His father listened carefully without comment, then shaking his head, he said, "I cannot believe Cranleigh would let this happen to one of his relatives. This is a scandalous situation. Of course, you cannot let her stay there. Anything is liable to happen in a gambling place. After meeting her, there is no doubt in my mind, she does not know the type of place, or the kind of people she is becoming involved with, not to mention what this will do to her reputation! She would never be accepted in society, if this gets out." After a thoughtful pause, he continued.
"I will talk to your mother tonight. In fact, I think you should make your excuses to leave soon, before your mother makes a remark that will embarrass the chit. You may tell Sarah that she is more than welcome to stay here as long as necessary," he said with a clasp on his son's shoulder.
Lady Lyndmere guided Sarah to the far end of the garden to show her the new roses she had planted, while casually inquiring if she had attended any of the country assemblies before her parents died, or if she had any special beaux she favored at the dances. She did not consider this asking too many personal questions. After all, how was a person to know if the way was clear for advancing her plans at matchmaking, if she did not ask just a few questions. The Countess was pleased at Sarah's answers, but saddened that her mother died before she had a come-out at a London Season.
Watching Sarah and his mother through the terrace window, Adam wondered why he had kept that foolish promise to Roger. He certainly did not want to become involved with this girl. He had never spent much time with any woman except his occasional mistresses, and then they barely kept a conversation going with other things to occupy their time. He had successfully dodged any attempt at his mother's matchmaking, and dreaded the time he would eventually become leg-shackled, since it would never be for love. Looking at Sarah now, and knowing what a sweet innocent girl she was, he could only worry as to what should become of her if he failed to keep an eye on her. Cursing Roger and his promise, he walked out on the terrace to meet them.
"I am sorry, Mother, but we will have to be leaving now," he said apologetically.
"You will bring this lovely girl back again soon, will you not? I have so enjoyed her company," his mother said as she took Sarah's hand in both of hers, wondering how to broach the subject of her moving in as Adam had formerly suggested.
"Perhaps I will bring her tomorrow evening for supper, if you are still extending that invitation even though we will not be going to the theatre," Adam proposed, then looking at Sarah, added "And if Lady Sarah agrees."
"Oh, we would love to have you tomorrow!" his mother said encouragingly as she looked at Sarah. "Strictly informal, of course, and only the four of us," she added.
"Well . . . if you are sure," Sarah stammered looking helplessly at Adam. She couldn't understand why he wanted to bring her here, it could not be as Lilly had suggested that he wanted her to move in. He had not said anything about it, or the London Season that he wanted her to have in order to meet eligible gentlemen for marriage. Not to include himself as one of those eligible, had hurt her more than she would have imagined. It only meant he was not interested in her other than as an obligation to Roger.
"Then it is settled, we will see you tomorrow evening," he said as
he bent to kiss his mother's cheek. Taking his mother and Sarah's arm he
escorted them back to the house, to say good bye to his father before leaving.
* * * *
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