61. Cosy Little Coach Ride

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"Why did you do it?" I demanded. "Why did you try to make me believe that you were in love with Miss Hamilton?"

Silence. Icy silence, which filled the space around us completely and absolutely.

There wasn't much space to fill, in any case. We were stuffed into a chaise, Karim, Mr Ambrose and I. Or rather Mr Ambrose and I were actually in the chaise, while Karim's huge form sat, perched precariously at the edge. He was propelling us forward, yelling and wielding the whip, making the little chaise jolt and swerve insanely.

Why? Why have we taken such a miserable little ride?

I had dared to ask that question before we got in, and it turned out that this, apparently, was the only coach actually owned by the unimaginably rich Mr Ambrose: a creaky old chaise, drawn by one shaggy little grey beast of a horse.

"Why do you own this? Why not a proper coach?" I had asked.

"Because it's cheap and fast. But if you prefer to wait for the queen's carriage, by all means, stay here."

Ignoring him, I had clambered into the chaise and Karim, not paying the slightest attention to the light rain that had begun to fall, had swung himself onto the precarious strip of wood that, in a bigger coach, would have been a real box to sit on. Besides being his loyal bodyguard and sabre-carrying scarecrow, he appeared also to fulfil the function of Mr Ambrose's coach driver.

Now we were rattling through the darkening streets of London at an alarming speed, swaying from right to left in a way that never let me forget we only had two wheels under us, and the beast of a horse at the front was all that was keeping us upright. I hoped with all my heart it wasn't as mean as it looked.

The chaise swerved around a corner, and a shower of rain hit me in the face. I shuddered. The thing had only half a roof and one wall. It was meant for driving through the park on a nice Sunday, not racing through the pouring rain in the middle of the night! But did that stop Mr Thick-headed Stinginess Ambrose? Of course not!

"Why did you try to make me believe that you were in love with Miss Hamilton?" I asked once again. I had already asked that question about half a dozen times since we left Empire House. So far, I hadn't gotten an answer. Mr Ambrose just sat in his corner of the chaise and brooded, silently. Say what you will about his other traits, but he was an expert at silent brooding. Disapproval at my incessant questions, and at my presence, gender and existence in general radiated off him like heatwaves. Unfortunately, unlike heatwaves, it did nothing to warm my soaked clothes.

"Tell me!" I insisted. "You're about as likely to be in love as the doorknob of my privy door back home! Why did you pretend to be in love with her?"

With a cold look in my direction, Mr Ambrose leaned out of the window. "Karim!"

The big Mohammedan shifted, turning around. His weight made the little vehicle lean to the side in a dangerous way, and I had to work hard to stifle a scream. Only the knowledge of the way Mr Ambrose would look at me if I screeched like a silly damsel in distress kept my teeth firmly clamped together.

"Yes, Sahib?" our driver enquired, calmly, not at all bothered by his masters cold look.

"Karim, is there any particular reason why this... individual is accompanying us?" He pointed to me.

Karim shrugged. "She wanted to get in the coach. So, she got on into the coach, Sahib."

"Just in case you didn't notice, I'm sitting right next to you," I pointed out, staring daggers at Mr Ambrose.

He ignored me.

"I know she got into the coach, Karim. I want to know why. Did I give orders for her to accompany us?"

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