Dangerous Escapade

Dangerous Escapade by Hilary Gilman Read Free Book Online

Book: Dangerous Escapade by Hilary Gilman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Hilary Gilman
to the colder, if more
magnificent, regions above stairs, where she found solace in exploring the Earl's
excellent library until dinner time.
    She dined in
solitary state, rather enjoying the unaccustomed sensation. But it was dull work
when all was said and done, and it was with relief that she retired to her chamber
that night hopeful that the morrow would bring company in the form of the
masters the Earl had promised her.
    Kitty arose
betimes the next morning to take a refreshing gallop before breakfast. The
beautiful mare of Debenham's providing was fresh and playful and as eager for the
exercise as her mistress. Clad in an excellently tailored coat of claret
broadcloth, her tricorne perched at a jaunty angle over one eye, she looked the
very picture of a dashing young gentleman, and knowing it, she revelled in the
freedom her imposture gave her. The morning sunshine bathed the meadows in a
hazy golden glow as she rode briskly out of the park and down the narrow lanes,
which, she had learned from a groom, led onto long grassy stretches where she
could allow the mare her head.
    About an hour
later, she judged by the position of the sun overhead that it was time to turn
back. The mare wheeled round willingly enough, and they began to trot back
towards the house whose chimneys could just be seen above the trees before
them. As they came abreast of the trees, Kitty suddenly became aware that she
was not unobserved. A dark figure, splendidly mounted, detached itself from the
shadows and placed itself squarely in Kitty's way.
    Kitty was a
courageous girl and, as she carried no money and other reasons for this molestation
were clearly ineligible, it was with more curiosity than fright that she faced
the stranger.
    “Good day, Sir,”
she addressed him coolly enough. “I think perhaps you wish to speak to me,”
    The stranger smiled,
unpleasantly, she thought. “You are very right, my sweet,” he replied.
    She flung up a
hand as though to ward off a blow. “Why do you call me so, Sir, is it thus that
one gentleman addresses another in England?”
    “No, nor in
any country, but then I make no claim to be a gentleman — and
neither, despite those very fetching breeches, can you.”
    “How do you
know!” she cried incautiously.
    The stranger changed
his tactics abruptly. “Forgive my seeming insolence, my dear,” he said,
attempting to take her hand. “Alas, my levity is merely a mask circumstance has
forced upon me. A man who must watch his greatest friend die and be unable to
show his feelings, to appear unmoved by that friend's great suffering, cannot
at will show his true self, even to the daughter of his friend.”
    “You knew my
father!”
    “Indeed, and
was with him when he died. His last words were a message, which, with his dying
breath, he begged me to carry to you.”
    “Oh what did he
say!” she whispered, her lovely face drained of colour.
    “He wanted you
to know that he was right in his suspicions. He was betrayed, and by the man in
whom he believed he could trust the most, the man indeed to whom he had entrusted
his most precious possession — yourself. Your
father, Mistress Clareville, was betrayed by the Earl of Debenham.”
    “No, no, I
will not believe you! It must be a mistake! It cannot be true!” Tears started
to her eyes as, once again, her world came tumbling about her ears.
    “You do not
believe me. How could I expect you to? I see I must explain.” He paused, seeming
to gather his thoughts. “It is a long story, my dear. Your father and Debenham
served together, as you know. But there was already a connection between them.
One of which Debenham was initially unaware.''
    “I do not
understand you, Sir,” Kit frowned. “How could this be?”
    For an answer,
he pointed to a large extent of woodland some two miles distant from which rose
the towers of what appeared to be an ancient and imposing mansion.
    “Do you know
the name of that house?” he demanded.
      “How could I, Sir

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