Chapter 10

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Bollard opened the door on my knock and gave a formal, curt bow. When he straightened, he raised his eyebrows in question, but did not step aside.

"I need to speak to Mr. Langley," I said.

"She may enter," came Langley's voice from within.

Bollard opened the door wider and I went through. It took me a moment to realize Langley wasn't in the immediate part of the room furnished as a parlor, but in the end that served as a laboratory. He sat at a low table, his head bent over a microscope.

"Mr. Langley, I—"

He held up his forefinger for silence, and I dutifully shut my mouth, biting my tongue in the process. I waited as he wrote something down then wheeled his chair out and turned to look at me.

"I'm glad you've come to see me, Violet," he said. "We need to speak about London again. It'll be easier without Jack here." He moved his chair forward, pushing the wheels with his hands. It looked arduous and progress was slow until Bollard rescued him. Once he was near me, Langley indicated I should sit.

"Refreshments, Bollard," he said. When the servant hesitated, he added in a softer voice, "I'll be all right."

Bollard left, but the exchange piqued my curiosity. It was almost as if Bollard's concern went beyond that of a master for his servant. I supposed they'd been together a long time, and Bollard did do more than a mere valet or laboratory assistant. He was Langley's legs too, and, it seemed, his eyes and ears. Why he thought I'd hurt Langley was a mystery though.

"I'm sorry the hypnotist couldn't help," Langley said. "Truly sorry. We'll have to continue your training. Is Jack making progress?"

"A little," I hedged.

"Good. It was a shame you had to witness his temper, Violet. Jack can be very...passionate. I do hope you realize that it was entirely directed at me and had nothing to do with you."

"Why does he dislike you so?"

He rubbed the palm of his hands along the arms of his wheelchair. "You would have to ask him that."

"I find it strange considering you rescued him from the streets and have given him a comfortable life here at Frakingham. Shouldn't he be grateful?"

"To repeat: you should be asking him."

"I followed him into the slums of London, although I suspect you know that already." He blinked slowly and I took that as confirmation. "He knew his way in the darkness, which is remarkable since my escort and I got lost on the way back to Claridges."

"What are you getting at, Violet?"

It was difficult to speak of the matter without implicating Tommy. I needed to tread carefully. "Is Jack originally from that very slum where he met the man named Patrick?"

He didn't answer.

"He's not your nephew, is he?"

"Isn't he?"

"Mr. Langley, I have agreed to remain here until Christmas, against my better judgment. If you continue to evade sensible questions, then I may not be able to keep that promise." I don't know where I got the courage to speak so boldly to such a man as August Langley. The fact that I had seemed to trouble him less than me. I swallowed and hoped I hadn't overstepped the mark.

"If you want to find out about Jack's past, ask him. Now, if you came here to waste my time then we're finished. You may go. It seems we don't have much to say to one another after all." He shifted his wheelchair backwards, away from me. He was dismissing me as casually as he'd dismissed Bollard. It irked me that he could disregard such an important point.

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