The Earl of Diamonds
Elise awoke early the next morning with puffy eyes, swollen from crying all night. She had a headache from thinking so much. Yet, she did not want to stay in the house for fear of having to face Stephen. Ringing for Agnes, she got up to wash her face and get dressed.
"Aye m'lady? Will ye be wantin' 'ot chocolate now?" she asked, surprised her ladyship was up so early after going to the ball last night.
"No, Agnes, I am going down to breakfast, so would you notify the cook? Also, have the nurse get Anthony up for breakfast too. I would like to get an early start to the park," Elise said as she held the cool cloth to her eyes.
"Beg pardon, m'lady, 'tis awful early to be a goin' to the park. 'tis foggy out this time a mornin'. Why, the sun's barely peepin' thru!" she said.
Sighing, Elise sat back down.
"You are right, Agnes. I had not realized it was that early. You may bring me the hot chocolate . . . and I think I will have breakfast here instead of going down stairs. But will you get prepared? I do want to start earlier than usual," she said.
"Aye, m'lady. Ye look like ye might be needin' somethin' fer a 'eadache," Agnes concerned.
"Thank you, Agnes, I would like something," she said lying down on
the chaise in the corner by the window.
When the fog lifted, it was nearly the same time as they usually left. Elise pulled on her gloves, as Martin helped her with her pelisse, then he moved to open the door for them. Anthony, was as energetic as ever, while holding Agnes's hand.
As they were walking out the door, Raynhurst came to the top of the stairs.
"Elise! Wait!" he called, as he hurried down the flight of stairs.
Elise looked up at him, at his disheveled clothes, and haggard face. She couldn't help but feel concern at his look, and afraid that she might listen to his lies, she turned to walk out the door.
He caught up with her on the sidewalk, taking hold of her arm to stop her, not caring how he looked or that they were the objects of interest to those passing by.
"Elise, you've got to listen to me! We cannot leave it like this," he pleaded. Turning her toward him, he looked into those violet-blue eyes that had the same heartbroken look he remembered from their last time in Spain.
"Oh, Elise, I love you," he whispered, raising his hands to her face, and caressed her cheeks with his thumbs. "Please come back in the house and let me explain," he said in a trembling voice that she had never heard before, and the tears began to roll down her cheek unchecked.
At last knowing that he would be able to converse with her, he put his arms around her, and with his lips at her temple, he breathed "I would die if you left me Elise, I need you so much."
Giving in, Elise wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in his shirt, while she cried.
Agnes holding Anthony's hand, sighed at the romantic scene.
Raynhurst, looked over at them, suddenly aware that they were still standing on the public walkway.
"Agnes, why don't you go ahead and walk Anthony to the park, and I will have a footman follow after you. The Countess and I will be along shortly," he said quietly.
"Aye, yer lordship," she said grinning, as she turned to walk Anthony to the park. Anthony hopping as much as walking, pulled Agnes over to look at flowers growing along the walkway.
With his arm around her, holding her tightly to him, Raynhurst escorted Elise back up the stairs to the front door. Now that he finally succeeded in having her close after a fearful night, he was afraid to let her go.
As he started up the staircase to their bedroom, he turned to Martin, and said, "Will you have a footman, follow after Agnes and Anthony? They are on their way to Green Park, near the Picadilly entrance."
"Yes, milord," he answered, and went down the hallway to find one of the footmen.
When they reached their room, Raynhurst closed the door, and pulled her into his arms.
"I wanted to tell you about this for the past week, Elise, but it was so hard to explain, and I was afraid you would not understand. There is more than just that bracelet Caro had on," he said, and he felt her stiffen and pull back, looking up at him.
"Caro? That is what you call her? Then there is an intimacy between you?" she asked.
"No, No! There is nothing between us. What happened was before you came back into my life," he said pulling her back into his arms.
"Just listen, Elise, it is a long story that has been exaggerated beyond belief. The rumors that have been circulating are incredulous, and I was as shocked as you when I heard them. Your Uncle Michael told me what he had heard, and I could not believe that this could get so out of hand," he said leading her to the sofa by the fireplace.
"The bracelet . . . your bracelet, is still here locked up in the safe. I did not take it to the jewelers, I was just trying to prevent you from wearing it until I could bring myself to explain to you," taking a deep breath, and leaving it out shakily, he continued, "Before I met you, Elise, I was an out-and-out scoundrel. Living it up, because being in the army, you didn't have much time to think of a future. When I had inherited the title, I had these bracelets designed. At the time it was just an amusing whim, and I really did not care what people said about me. There are twenty-five bracelets, Elise. You have number twenty," and she nodded slowly, while she was absorbing all that he was telling her.
"Which means after you, there were five left. I have three in the safe with yours. When I came back from the war, and recovered from my wound, I more or less celebrated, you might say, and gave one out to the first girl I met, an actress at the Covent Gardens theatre. The other is the one you saw on Caro," he said as he looked at her anxiously, hoping she was taking this well.
Looking at him, still confused, "There are not fifty mistresses wearing bracelets?" she asked.
"You heard that?" he asked surprised, thinking she only knew about Caroline having a bracelet like hers.
Nodding, she said, "There were two ladies in the retiring room at the ball, and they did not know I was there when they were gossiping about you. They said you had fifty mistresses, and bracelets were stolen . . . and a girl murdered," her voice faded as she looked down at their hands clasped together.
"No wonder you would not see me!" he said amazed. He should have realized that at a ball that large, she would be certain to overhear the gossip.
"Was there a girl murdered? Is that why the detective was here to see you?" Elise asked fearfully.
"I'm afraid so. She was an actress at the Drury Lane Theatre, and she was the very first person whom I had given a bracelet," he said sadly. "The person who is stealing the bracelets has now committed murder.
"The reason that Mr. Davidson came to see me was that he had a lead on the thief, and was hoping to arrest him soon," he finished, glad that it was finally out in the open between them.
"It does not sound so bad when you tell it, Stephen. I was shocked at what I heard, and felt that you were turning to all these other women because you did not love me. Lady Caroline is so beautiful, I am not surprised that you would love her," she said.
"I do not love her Elise, she was just a woman who happened to be there when I was frustrated thinking about you. There is no woman to compare with you," he said taking her face in his hand and kissing her.
When the kiss ended he took her hand, and rose from the couch leading her toward the bed.
"Let us make up properly, Elise, so you will know I love only you," he said smiling, then paused to kiss her again.
"I would like that, Stephen" She sighed, happy that the heartbreak she felt was over.
Afterwards, when they were comfortably entwined on the bed, Elise looked at him with love in her eyes and smiled.
"Stephen? I would like to have my bracelet back. Not to wear when we go out . . . but to have as a remembrance of our first time together."
"I will have it fixed, my love, and you can wear it here in the privacy of our room . . . just as you did the first time, when I awoke and that was all you were wearing," he answered as he kissed her again.
Agnes, daydreamed as she sat on the grass watching Anthony following a crippled bird, that kept hopping out of his reach. She thought that her ladyship was so lucky to have a wonderful man like Lord Raynhurst, who truly loved her, and wished someone would love her that way. Her mind drifted to Robert, the nice looking footman who came with them from Bath, and his pleasant smile, whenever he would look in her direction.
When Anthony wandered further away, Agnes got up to go after him. As she approached, a brawny, shabby looking man appeared from the side of a tree and started to grab for Anthony.
Surprised, Agnes screamed and rushed at him. He turned and gave her a shove, as he picked Anthony up. Anthony scared, started to cry. Agnes got up and ran at him again grabbing at his coat sleeve, trying to loosen his grip on Anthony, while she yelled for help. Reaching in his pocket, with his other hand, Bigley pulled a knife and with a quick thrust stabbed Agnes in her upper arm.
Agnes with a cry of pain let hold of his sleeve, and crumpled to her knees.
Robert, the footman, sent to escort Agnes, had just entered the park. He ran his hand over his dark curly hair, smoothing it into place, and straightened his jacket. He liked Agnes, and was hoping this time alone with her, away from the others, he might be able to make an impression on her.
While looking for Agnes and Anthony, he was deep in thought of how pretty she was and what he would say, when he heard Agnes's cry for help. Running in the direction of her scream, he had just caught sight of her as the man stabbed her, and took off with Anthony across the park.
When he got to Agnes, he was hesitant whether to follow the man with Anthony, or take care of Agnes. Agnes decided for him when she looked up at him and yelled, "Git 'im!"
Without further thought, he raced in the direction the man went, and saw him heading for a carriage parked on the street. By the time Robert reached the spot where it had parked, the carriage was speeding away at a reckless pace. Stopping to get his breath a moment, he ran back to Agnes.
Cedric, watching from a safe distance to be sure Bigley carried out his plan, waited until he saw the carriage pull away with Anthony, then turned his horse and galloped back to his town house.
Agnes, lay on the grass passed out, with the blood soaking her dress. Robert knelt down and pushing her dress up a bit, he tore off a large strip of her petticoat to wrap around her arm. Picking her up in his arms he carried her, when he got to Picadilly he hailed a hackney to take them the rest of the way to the Raynhurst's house in Berkeley Square.
Raynhurst and Elise, were coming down the front steps on their way to the park when the hackney pulled up in a rush. Seeing the footman, Raynhurst hurried to the door of the carriage, and saw Agnes.
"My God! What happened?" he cried, helping Robert ease Agnes out of the carriage. Martin, standing in the doorway, yelled to Mrs. Reese, the housekeeper, then came running to help get Agnes in the house.
Terror struck at Elise when she saw Agnes without Anthony in the carriage. "Anthony!" she screamed "Where is he!"
Raynhurst startled looked at Robert with alarm, dreading his report.
Robert nervously told him what happened, as they were getting Agnes inside.
" 'e 'ad a carriage waitin', an 'e takes off. 'e was a big burly, nasty lookin' rogue."
While the housekeeper took over the care of Agnes, Raynhurst sent Robert for Doctor Warner, and another footman to Bow Street. Then he turned his attention to Elise.
Elise was sitting on a chair in the front hallway, crying, rocking back and forth with her arms folded across her stomach, saying Anthony's name over and over.
Lady Marion and Elise's grandmother were just coming down the stairs when they heard the commotion. Seeing Agnes being carried away and Elise sitting in the hallway sobbing. They hurried to her side, to be of assistance.
Raynhurst walked up, looking grief-stricken, and tried to tell them what happened. Horrified, the two women held back their own distress, taking the arms of both Raynhurst and Elise, led them into the parlor. Marion rang for the servant to bring brandy.
Raynhurst paced the floor, not knowing what to do next, hoping Mr.
Davidson would have plenty of Bow Street runners with him.
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