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The Elusive Miss Wakefield

By johnksutherland All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Adventure

An Inevitable Confrontation

Almost a week later, Henry, the boys, and their nanny were collecting pine cones from the ground beneath two of the giant trees which grew at the edge of the lawns, when they heard and then saw a carriage coming up the driveway.

Their nanny was the first to see it and immediately recognized it. “It’s that man again. I am sure of it. Davis described the carriage to us, and it is the same one. We must not be here—not with the boys.” They all moved back, out of sight. They would not be seen until the carriage got closer to the house. Henry was aware what was likely to unfold. It would be better if the women did not witness it.

“We should go.” Henry lifted James into one arm and then did the same with Oliver in the other and walked quickly across to the side door closest to them and went in through it, giving both boys into their nanny’s care, with instructions for them to wait for him in the library and to get started on that atlas in there as they had earlier planned. He would join them when their visitor had gone.

He walked quickly through the house, while the boys were getting rid of their coats and to be washed, and intercepted the butler, who had also become aware of an approaching carriage and was on his way to answer the door, but with a sinking heart. He had also recognized who it might be that was approaching; that troublesome Enright. No sooner had the area get rid of one troublemaker—the mother—than another pops up, like sowing those damned dragon’s teeth.

“Davis!”

“Yes, sir?” He watched as Henry picked up his gloves from the hall stand and pulled them on. It was warm enough, he did not need them. Undoubtedly, Master Henry had something else in mind. There was a grim look on his face and a look in his eyes he had never seen in the eyes of any man. He could feel the cold anger emanating from him. Had he been a dragon, there would have been flames coming from his nostrils.

“Is this the man that was here the other day? The one who upset Mrs. Morton?”

“Yes, sir. One and the same. Jasper Enright! Nothing but trouble from that family. Except for Charles, of course. How two boys could turn out to be so different I cannot understand.” It seemed that he may not be aware of what Anne had disclosed to him about Jaspers origins. Family secrets!

“Then I will deal with this. Respond to the door as you usually would. Open it just enough so that you can see him, but no further, and do not invite him in, or allow him in. Tell him that he is not welcome, and in any case, no one is home. I doubt that he will be easily put off, so I shall see to it from there when it begins to get out of hand.”

Davis could see that he was prepared for trouble, thank the Lord.

“I shall be here out of sight. If things become argumentative after that, do not worry, keep your foot planted firmly behind the door and your weight on it to make it difficult to push in. If he does not behave as he should and leave, though I don’t think he will, after the provocation of being refused entry, then I shall handle it from there if you will then step well out of the way!”

“Yes, sir!” He was not looking forward to dealing with that Enright man, but he was curious to see how Mr. Henry—as he had become known—might. Davis had seen his rough hands and his muscular forearms, and had not been misled by Mr. Henry’s mild manners.

“After the trouble begins, you can make sure that no one else comes near the front of the house. If they ask about the noise, I am sure you will be able to think of a suitable response. If you know where Mrs. Morton is, then keep her away too—occupy her in some way, and do that in whichever way you might, but do not let her or anyone else approach this part of the house for a while. Ladies should not witness men disagreeing with each other, as I fear we are about to do.”

“Yes, sir.” He knew trouble was in the wind. With a sinking heart and no certainty of anything but trouble, he went over to answer the peremptory summons of someone at the door, beating at it with the head of his stick. “Watch out for his stick, sir! He means trouble after he discomforted the mistress when he was last here, but she stood up to him as best she might.” He continued to mumble under his breath. “Thank God Miss Charlotte is not here to see this. I wish I were twenty years younger.” He muttered a quick prayer, took a deep breath, and opened the door as he had been directed to do. He hoped that that stick would not then be directed through the gap at him for what he was going to say. “Yes, sir. How may I help you?” He was not encouraged by the look on Mr. Enright’s face, but it did not come close to matching the feelings he had seen on the face of the man somewhere behind him. He felt the door pushed a little, but he had his foot behind it as Master Henry had told him.

“You had better let me in! I am here to see Mrs. Morton again. I told her I would return.”

“I am sorry, sir, I have my instructions. Not only are you not welcome here”—he gulped at daring to say that, but knew that Master Henry was behind him and would be sure to intervene if it got out of hand for him, he hoped—“but you were also told never to visit again for any reason. Besides, no one is home!”

Henry heard a curse from outside the door. “Insolent fellow!” The stick sliced down the space that Davis was no longer in. After that, much more force was applied to it, to move past the butler, temporarily blocking his way. He had every intention of beating the man for his intransigence once he had gained access. The butler was thrown back as the door was suddenly pushed open with the full weight of the intruder against it. The door slammed up against the wall as Jasper strode into the house with his stick ready to descend upon whoever stood in his way, and certainly upon the older man.

Mr. Enright was not fully sure what happened next, but Davis saw it all clearly enough. Mr. Stavely had said nothing by way of warning, but he moved fast for such a relatively large man and had moved even as the butler had been thrown back from the door.

Davis winced, as he mentally felt the blow, driven by the full force of fourteen or fifteen stone of solid muscle moving angrily fast, and with the force of Mr. Stavely’s arm behind it too. Moreover, Master Henry had a powerful arm on him, as Davis had noted before. That blow landed square on Mr. Enright’s nose, driving him back through the doorway. No resisting that! It was followed by another, driving the Enright man off his feet and sending him to land on his back in the driveway. He did not move. He lay there, stunned, his eyes closed. He had dropped his stick in the hallway at the surprise of that first assault.

Mr. Enright’s face was unrecognizable at that moment. His nose was nothing less than a bloody flattened mess. His cheeks were split and bleeding, and he was moaning in pain, but he did not move. He certainly had a broken nose, and probably other bones broken in his face too. He might even be dead, except for various noises he was making. His eyes would both be black and swollen by evening. He would think he had been kicked by a horse when he was able to think about it. Master Henry followed him out of the house, seemingly intending to continue the painful interview further. He pulled the door behind himself as Davis padded off back through the house to keep others away, as Mr. Stavely had told him, though he would have preferred to stay and see the rest of it. Mr. Stavely was indeed a man who did not waste time discussing niceties when a more solid approach was needed, but then Miss Anne had already warned him of that, and had told him of an earlier confrontation between the two men that she had witnessed. Davis picked up the stick from the floor, put it into the hall stand (he liked things to be tidy), and then took himself off, as instructed, to calm whomever may have heard the commotion from the door, and to reassure them that it was but the wind that had blown it wide. It did not matter to him that there was barely a breeze outside.

Davis swept up the nanny, with James and Oliver, from the back of the hallway, where they had watched in breathless amazement—they should not have been there—and ushered them back into the depths of the house. They had inadvertently seen what had transpired as the door had been pushed in, just at the moment as they were passing. He told her to please go about her business with the boys and say nothing of this to upset Mrs. Morton, or anyone else either. “It is all being looked after.”

She could see that for herself and would like to have stayed to see more, but she had to shelter both boys from witnessing more than was good for young boys to see. She rushed off to go to the library, with James and Oliver almost pulling her along; all three were aware that the windows at the end overlooked that section of the driveway, and they would see what might happen further, from there. She doubted that Mr. Enright—if that was who it was—would be able to do anything after what she had seen, but then men were such brutes, and who might know what would unfold? Rather than be left in the dark about it, she was determined to see what she might and report what she had seen to Miss Anne, when she might return. At least that could be her excuse for intending to see more of what might happen.

Meanwhile, Henry had lifted the unconscious man by his trousers at the waist, carried him to his carriage and tumbled him over into the bed of it. When he came to, he could get himself out of there.

Nanny and the boys had missed almost everything up to that point, though they could see Enright beginning to stir himself and then saw him raise a pistol from the pocket of the carriage and watched him take a shot at Henry as he walked away. They noticed that the ball caused Henry to falter, though it appeared to have passed through his shirt sleeve next to his body. The punishment Enright had received had affected his equilibrium, and with only one good eye, and the damage to the rest of his face, it was impossible to see his target well. Jasper snatched another pistol from the coach pocket, even as Henry turned and ran toward him. Jasper’s next shot, hastily taken, though at closer range, was at a still indistinct and moving target. Seeing what amounted to certain death coming at him, Jasper wasted no more time but shouted for the horses to go and snatched at the whip to send them along and back down the driveway before his attacker might get to him. His eyes might be almost closed, but he had been able to see someone coming at him that he had believed was still abroad, and there was murder in that man’s face. The horses took off before Henry might get close enough to the carriage to do any further damage to the intruder.

The butler, who had heard the shots and had returned to his post, was standing in the doorway as Master Henry entered. “The one and only time I neglect to carry a pistol—and it shall be the last—and a ruffian like him decides to try and kill me by shooting me in the back.” His coat and trousers showed some signs of damage where both shots had done little more than graze him, fortunately. He calmly stripped off his gloves, surrendering them to the butler, and walked off into the house.

He was a cool one right enough. Davis noticed blood slowly staining his coat sleeve and another bloody stain spreading on his trousers above the knee. Neither shot had hit anything major, for he was able to walk and did not seem to be too distraught, but they should be tended to. He was being hard on his clothing. He would alert Miss Anne to dig out some more of Master Oliver’s clothes for their guest.

Nothing was said of any of it over dinner that evening. There seemed to be an unusual silence about it all, as though something momentous had happened, but no-one dared to discuss it. There were a hundred questions that the boys wanted to ask, about who that man had been, and why had he shot at their father, but had been told that if they did so, they might upset their grandmother. They would corner him, when he read to them after they were in their beds, and might then ask what they dare, without nanny trying to hush them.

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