One of the most painful of lessons, often forgotten, is that we tend to reap what we sow.
“So, we meet again under better circumstances this time, Miss Charlotte Morton.” He emphasized her name, as he trapped her from escaping. “I had hoped that you might be your sister, Anne, but you will serve just as well. I knew it would be one or other of you.”
She might have known. No one else would have dared do any such thing. She was more annoyed than afraid.
“Not wise of you to be on this estate. You know what happened the last time, and what was promised you if you dared to show up again.”
“Yes, I do remember.” It had been a painful lesson for him at Oliver’s hands. “But then, there is only you and me now, isn’t there, and no one to interrupt us this time.” She felt him move his head into her neck at the side and kiss her there, even as he seemed to be laughing. He had her arms trapped as he moved his arm to clasp her wrist of her other arm, as he then brought his free hand up to touch her familiarly on the neck, as a lover might. She could smell the drink upon his breath and recognized that he was probably drunk, which had been his preferred state of late, in a village beyond their own, until he had been refused entry to the inn.
She tried to break free of his hold, but he held her too securely for that. He must have watched her for some time and waited for a suitable moment. She felt his hand begin to move across her dress, intent on unbuttoning it, and recognized that he was caught up in a sudden passion that would not end well for her, and then not for him either, but he had obviously not thought it through quite that far, but would, once he had sobered up and begun to realize what would surely follow. He would die this time, for his stupidity.
Oliver had shown her how to deal with such an assault—for they both had Enright in mind at the time—and she was thankful that she had practiced it more slowly upon her brother than she did on this occasion. She bent forward slightly and then quickly whipped her head back into the face immediately behind her. As his grip loosened at the unexpected violence upon his face, she repeated the act harder, and with even more effect. It did not cause her any serious pain because of the cushion of auburn hair upon her own head, but her head would not feel so well cushioned to the man behind her, especially if any of the larger hat pins were not well buried in her hair. He fell back from her, holding his nose from which blood was even then beginning to stream. His eyes were watering too.
His anger at that, would inflame him even more if he were given the opportunity, and if she could not clamber aboard her horse and escape as quickly as she might before he recovered, but she knew better than to try and run. She followed her advantage with her crop across his hands and his neck, as hard as she might. It was a solid crop and would do enough damage by itself as well as stinging, painfully, for she did not use it as a gentle reminder as she might with a horse. She focused upon angrily defending herself any way she might, and the crop was now her best weapon, with nothing heavier or larger to hand.
He fell back into the brambles, getting scratched up there too. As she turned to walk away, he reached out and took hold of the bottom of her riding skirt to stop her and then her ankle and then clambered up her dress and her arms. He began to wrestle her to the ground with him and to take possession of the crop she still attempted to use upon him, intending to use it upon her in a similar fashion. He was stronger than she was, and angry as well as drunk, and more wise in the ways of subduing those of lesser strength. He dragged her down into the brambles with him. With his weight now lying across her and his arm across her throat, he knew he had the upper hand now.
“You do not make it easy for a man to show you his affection, Charlotte.” As he spoke, she still struck at him with her crop, though her blows were none too effective and landed only on his shoulders and upper arms rather than his face.
She spat into his face, ready to sink her teeth into any part of his hand or arm that came within her range. “You do not know the meaning of the word, affection. My name is also Miss Morton to you, if I ever give you permission to address me.”
There was a look upon his face that suggested that whatever might have been his initial intentions toward her, unlikely to be kind, anyway, they were now worse. He leaned away from the hand endeavoring to bring the crop into play again and brought his knees up under him to kneel across her, and then trapped her other arm beneath his knee so that she could not scratch him again as she constantly tried to do. She beat futilely against his side now with the limited use of her crop and kicked, now that her legs were mostly free. His face was bleeding, and one eye was closed and watering where she had damaged it in some way or where a branch of the brambles may have raked across it.
She felt his hand grasp her chin cruelly to hold her head still, in response to the pain she had caused him. He intended to cause her pain in return. With her face in his grip, he attempted to kiss her. He might risk being bitten, but he knew that with enough pain, she would eventually desist. As he brought his face close to hers, she spat into his face as it descended upon hers; and then, wrenching her head free for just an instant, she bit him beside the mouth to bring more blood to his face and to add to the scratches she had already inflicted upon him. She did not make it easy for him, though she could not kick as she might have liked, with her heavy dress stopping any effective defense from her legs.
This was not going quite as easily as he had hoped and believed. He swore at her and removed his other hand from her throat and reached down behind himself as he grasped her dress, pulling it up and intending to raise it over her to get it out of his way and possibly to trap her hand wielding the crop in the folds of that too, or more likely both of them.
Before he had quite achieved his intent and had trapped both of her arms, she noticed that the crop blade had come free of its sheath and that the steel was now in her hand, still not yet smothered by her dress, though it soon would be with his weight upon her and limiting her movements. She put the point to his side, pushed, and let him feel the unmistakable point of the blade in his ribs as she continued to push it resolutely into him. He gasped at the sudden sharp pain of it and forgot what he had been intending. She had not yet driven it as deep as she might have done, or it would have reached his heart. She knew she had drawn blood, but she did not care. At least she now had his attention and his total compliance, unless he had a desire to see if she dare do more. He was not about to test her resolve thatfar, however, considering what he had intended and what he had already done, but rolled off her as quickly as he could then, and out of her way, to stop being killed. She followed him, to stay within striking distance. He saw the intent to kill him in her eyes.
She was breathing hard at her sudden exertion and was feeling exceedingly angry and not inclined to be gentle in any way. “I have never killed anyone yet, but you could be the first.” She pushed the steel deeper into his body, seeing him move further away from her. She had the satisfaction of hearing him cry out with pain and felt him respond quickly, as he must, by rolling further away from her even more, if he wished to survive. He could not wrestle the blade from her, for her entire body was now poised above it as she rolled with him, and she would be able to drive it to the hilt into his chest, and possibly into his heart, before he might be able to take it from her. Whatever it was that had caused her to hesitate to do that,she later regretted so many times.
She noticed with some satisfaction a growing spot of blood on his shirt, though it would not be too serious of a wound; at least not life threatening. She found she did not care. She quickly put the blade lower to his abdomen. He lay still, rather than invite a more violent response. She moved away from him and back onto her heels as she knelt there, recovering her breath, not caring that in her unsteady condition, her knife entered there also, and drew blood. She was wary of his legs and feet, but the pain seemed to have sobered him and cleared his mind as to the folly of what he had intended. It was certain that he would soon recognize that there would be other repercussions from all of this. She was pleased to note that the eye she had scratched at earlier was now almost closed and showing signs of blood.
She regained her feet quickly and stepped away, keeping the knife between them. If he tried to kick, his feet or legs would find her knife in the way, and he still nursed the memory of the pain of it at his side. He knew by then that she would not hesitate to use it with greater finality upon him if it were necessary. This time, he would not be able to reach out for her, for she removed herself some distance as she recovered her breath and composure; straightening her clothing and bringing her skirt down. She was trembling, but not with fear—with her own anger. She wished she had brought a pistol with her. She would not have hesitated to use that, on him, as others should have done before now, but a knife was too personal, and one needed to be rather close to use it effectively; although in her anger, she had almost notheld back.
She watched him carefully, as she straightened her dress once more as it should be, recognizing that there were now some soil marks upon it as well as small purple stains from crushed brambles and even small bramble branches clinging to it. She felt as though she had also been scratched on her legs too, with her kicking as she had, though she would wait until she got back home to find out the extent of that. She resisted the impulse to inflict greater pain and damage by driving the blade into the knee closest to her. Thatmight put her within his reach, and he might still be a force to be reckoned with in his anger and pain, though his previous mood had obviously subsided.
She held her knife at the side of his knee and wrenched off first one shoe and then the other. He knew better than to try and kick at her with that knife between them. He was lucky to be allowed to live, and he knew it. She stepped away from him and threw them deeper into the brambles where they would be inaccessible to him.
Keeping a wary eye upon him, she picked up her basket and the lower part of the crop that lay on the ground, returned the blade to its sheath, and turned to her horse, recognizing that her attacker was helpless for the moment, caught up in the brambles, with their vicious thorns, and in some pain from the small wound she had inflicted on his side.
Her intent toward him was also obvious, and he did not wish to invite a further visit from that damned knife, as she protected herself. She mounted carefully and rode toward home. If he had any sense, he would be gone from the county before morning, and he knew it; but then, he was not known for being sensible, or he would never have returned after the first encounter with her brother some two years earlier.
Next time, she would make sure to be carrying a pistol on her or on her saddle, for all the good thatwould have done her on this occasion. If he ever dared set foot on Fallowfield grounds to approach her again, she decided that she would shoot him out of hand. Her conscience would not trouble her now. She would be sure to relate some few details of her encounter to both her brother and her gamekeeper, but not her mother, who would be inclined to become emotional, and to say—correctly for once—that she had told her so. However, she would be careful not to place too much weight upon what his obvious intentions had been, or what he had done with her and tried to do—much as he had done with other women in the area—or there would undoubtedly be worse trouble, though Enright deserved no leniency for what he had intended. She would consider carefully what she would say to her brother about it, if anything. He would not hesitate to kill Enright when it involved his sister, and might even lay in wait for Jasper on the drive up to the Enright house to do so.