89. Lessons in Power

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"The centre of the world is a canal. A canal in Africa."

It took a few moments for his words to register. Had he really... had he really just said that? That couldn't have been the truth! He had to have told me a joke just now, right?

Stupid question. This was Mr Ambrose.

He had been serious. Absolutely serious.

My hands flew up to grasp his collar, and not with the intention of kissing him. I started shake him like a rattle.

"What? A canal? I have been risking my life for a bloody irrigation ditch?"

His hands shot up to grasp mine, and ripped them off his collar. There was the sound of tearing cloth.

"That tailcoat was almost new, Mr Linton!"

"It was ten years old, you blasted miser! Ten years old is not almost new!"

I tried to kick out at him, but he captured my well-aimed knee between his legs. Next I tried to butt heads, but he ducked to the side.

"That is a matter of opinion, Mr Linton. I shall deduct the cost for repairing the collar from your wages."

"You're never going to pay me any wages, you son of a bachelor, because we'll never get out of this alive! And for what? A bleeding, stinking irrigation ditch!"

"Mind your language, Mr Linton! You have been warned that you will have to address me respectfully."

"You can take your respectful address and stuff it respectfully up your..."

"Mr Linton!"

With all my might, I shoved against him, and somehow managed to haul him to the side, slamming his back against the wall of the crate. Wood wool flew around us like snow in a blizzard. Only that things were not cold here. Oh no. They were just about to get hot.

"Mr Linton!"

"My name is Lilly! Do you hear me? Lilly!"

"Mr Linton, I forbid you..."

I tried to bite him. To my credit I must say that I only missed by inches. My teeth sank into the cloth of his precious, nearly-new-10-year-old tailcoat and probably left a good set of teeth marks. Hopefully they would be expensive to remove, or better yet, permanent!

"Mr Linton! Be rational."

"Rational? Don't you dare tell me to be rational! It's you who is crazy crazy enough to risk your life and mine on this damned adventure! And for what? For a bloody irrigation ditch!"

My hands were still firmly caught in his grasp. I tried to bite again, but this time caught only air between my teeth. We rolled around in the little, dark space we had, bits of wood flying all around us, and I flatter myself that I got a few good kicks in now and again. But I didn't manage to free my hands, which was a pity. You need hands for strangling someone.

"You... you.. I'm going to kill! Do you hear me! I'm going to–"

Suddenly, he pushed against me with unbelievable force, and I realized that he had been holding back up to that moment. In a flash, he was on top of me again and pressing my arms down at my sides. His legs snaked around me, trapping mine, and preventing me from delivering any more kicks. He had me. I could not hope to escape from his stone-hard prison.

"Firstly," he said, his voice as cold as a winter solstice night, "Nobody made you to risk your life. In fact, I seem to remember locking you up to prevent that exact possibility."

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